Home » Mike Tyson’s troubled times: After being wheelchair-bound due to sciatica, struggling to overcome his cocaine addiction and being on the verge of dying… the boxing icon, 57, is returning against 27-year-old Jake Paul

Mike Tyson’s troubled times: After being wheelchair-bound due to sciatica, struggling to overcome his cocaine addiction and being on the verge of dying… the boxing icon, 57, is returning against 27-year-old Jake Paul

by Marko Florentino
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The early chapters of Mike Tyson‘s life read like a rags-to-riches fairy tale. Born and raised in the gritty neighborhoods of Brooklyn, New York, Tyson found solace and discipline in the sport of boxing. Under the tutelage of legendary trainer Cus D’Amato, Tyson honed his craft with an intensity and ferocity that surpassed his young age. 

Tyson won his first 19 professional fights by knockout – 12 of them in the first round – and became youngest boxer ever to win a heavyweight title at 20 years, 4 months, and 22-days-old. 

But, with fame came a host of personal demons that would haunt Tyson for years to come. His tumultuous relationships, legal entanglements, and struggles with addiction to cocaine and alcohol became fodder for tabloid headlines. 

Now, Tyson is set to return to the ring at 57 years old to take on YouTuber-turned-boxer Jake Paul in what they are hoping will be confirmed as a sanctioned fight in Arlington Texas.

So, with the above in mind, Mail Sport have taken a look back at Tyson’s tumultuous journey through the ages – dissecting what can only be described as one of the most compelling narratives in sport. 

Mike Tyson (above), 57, is set to return to the ring to face Jake Paul in Texas on July 20

Mike Tyson (above), 57, is set to return to the ring to face Jake Paul in Texas on July 20

Tyson and Paul are hoping will be confirmed as a sanctioned fight in Arlington Texas

Tyson and Paul are hoping will be confirmed as a sanctioned fight in Arlington Texas 

Born on June 30, 1966, in Brooklyn, Tyson’s early life was marked by poverty, crime, and hardship. Raised by a single mother in the rough neighborhoods of Brooklyn, Tyson found himself drawn to the streets, where he quickly gained a reputation for his ferocious temper and fighting prowess. 

He was in and out of juvenile detention centers before finding his true calling at the gym. Under the guidance of D’Amato, Tyson honed his skills with a dedication and intensity that set him apart from his peers. 

By the age of 20, Tyson had become the heavyweight champion of the world, a feat that made him the youngest boxer ever to hold the title.

With his lightning-fast speed, devastating power, and uncanny ability to intimidate opponents, Tyson was a force to be reckoned with inside the ring. His fights became must-see events, drawing millions of viewers and catapulting him to global superstardom. 

But, it wasn’t all plain sailing for Tyson. His personal life was spiraling out of control, leading to a series of high-profile incidents that threatened to derail his career and his life. 

One of the defining moments of Tyson’s career came in 1990 when he faced off against James ‘Buster’ Douglas in Tokyo, Japan. Considered a mere formality by many, Tyson was expected to dispatch Douglas with ease. 

However, Douglas had other plans. In one of the greatest upsets in boxing history, Douglas knocked out Tyson in the 10th round, ending his reign as heavyweight champion and sending shockwaves throughout the boxing world. 

Despite the setback against Douglas, Tyson continued to compete at the highest level, reclaiming the heavyweight title in 1996 with a victory over Frank Bruno. His comeback was short-lived, however, as Tyson’s personal demons continued to plague him, leading to a series of legal troubles and controversies both inside and outside the ring. 

In 1990, Tyson faced off against James 'Buster' Douglas in Tokyo, Japan. Considered a mere formality by many, Tyson was expected to dispatch Douglas with ease

In 1990, Tyson faced off against James ‘Buster’ Douglas in Tokyo, Japan. Considered a mere formality by many, Tyson was expected to dispatch Douglas with ease

However, Douglas had other plans. In one of the greatest upsets in boxing history, Douglas knocked out Tyson in the 10th round

However, Douglas had other plans. In one of the greatest upsets in boxing history, Douglas knocked out Tyson in the 10th round

In 1992, Tyson was convicted of raping beauty pageant contestant Desiree Washington and sentenced to six years in prison, although he was released on parole after three.

Tyson has always stated everything between him and Washington had taken place with her full consent and denied reports stating he had forced himself on her. 

Meanwhile, Tyson’s former wife – actor Robin Givens – said in divorce papers that their late-1980s marriage was plagued by ‘unprovoked rages of violence and destruction.’ 

Describing his time in prison, Tyson explained on an episode of The Pivot podcast: ‘I’m just very grateful – I’m a cool guy, I’m a good person, I treated everybody nice. I had the best three years of my life in prison.’

Tyson revealed how he kept up an impressive training routine while behind bars to prepare him for his return to professional boxing.

‘I was doing running,’ he revealed, ‘Doing eight or nine miles around. And at night time I would run for four hours, just in my room. I would jump and stuff, just jumping up.’

Tyson finished by saying: ‘My cell has a concrete floor, right? I indented it with my feet into the concrete floor. I was 285lbs. I came out 215lbs.’ 

After his release from prison, Tyson fought Peter McNeeley, a 27-year-old American boxer who had 36 professional wins to his name. McNeeley was confident he could beat Iron Mike given the fact he stopped his previous opponent inside six seconds via technical knockout (TKO). 

In the 1990s, Tyson served three years of a six-year sentence after being convicted of rape

In the 1990s, Tyson served three years of a six-year sentence after being convicted of rape

Iron Mike celebrates with all three belts after beating Larry Holmes in Atlantic City in 1988

Iron Mike celebrates with all three belts after beating Larry Holmes in Atlantic City in 1988

However, Tyson knocked McNeeley down inside the first 10 seconds. He did return to his feet, but he looked dazed. After being knocked down for a second time, McNeeley’s manager Vinnie Vecchionie burst into the ring to stop the fight. 

When asked what that victory meant to him, Tyson said: ‘Yeah, it was, “I’m back from prison motherf***ers, y’all didn’t break me. My ego was going crazy and stuff”. Everybody was talking, “Mike is over, he’s in prison, nobody ever came back from prison and was the same guy. I just wanted to change their minds”.’

Nevertheless, Tyson continued to land himself in trouble – especially when he stunned the sporting world by biting Evander Holyfield’s ear twice during their world title bout in 1997.

In his autobiography The Undisputed Truth, Tyson also revealed how he had taken marijuana and cocaine before his fight against Lou Savarese in 2000, and admitted to taking drugs prior to his defeat by Danny Williams in 2004.

It was an addiction Tyson has struggled with for years. He even revealed how he was ‘on the verge of dying’ and admitted to lying about his progress ahead an interview with The Fight Network in November 2020. 

‘I want to change my life,’ said Tyson. ‘I want to live a different life now. I want to live my sober life. I don’t want to die. I’m on the verge of dying because I’m a vicious alcoholic.

Tyson was pictured in a wheelchair at Miami International Airport due to sciatica

Tyson was pictured in a wheelchair at Miami International Airport due to sciatica

Tyson revealed how he's been suffering from an 'old back issue' that flared up again

Tyson, 56, was wheeled through the airport in Miami

Tyson is said to be suffering from an ‘old back issue’ that has flared up again

‘I haven’t drank or took drugs in six days, and for me that’s a miracle. I’ve been lying to everybody else who thinks I was sober, but I’m not. This is my sixth day. I’m never going to use again.’ 

Tyson previously inferred on his Hotboxin’ podcast that he did not believe he had long left to live. Concerns over his health were further heightened in August 2022 when photos showed him wheelchair-bound while also clutching a walking stick.

Shortly after the photographs were published, Tyson revealed he has been suffering with with sciatica – a condition where the nerve which runs from your lower back to your feet, is irritated or compressed. 

‘I have sciatica every now and then, it flares up. When it flares up, I can’t even talk! Thank God it’s the only health problem I have. I’m splendid now,’ he said. ‘Everybody in my house is truly blessed and we’re all very grateful for whatever we have.’

The condition, which usually lasts from four to six weeks, impacts nerve endings in the body with Tyson appearing to be suffering with complications related to his back.

Concerns over Tyson’s back came in 2002 when he blurted out: ‘I broke my back, my back is broken. Spinal!’ after losing to Lennox Lewis. He clarified what he meant during an interview in 2020. 

Tyson told Compubox TV: ‘Well listen right, I have a bad back and since all of the work that I’ve put over the years, the spine in my back just starts shifting. It’s not good.’

The American superstar also told rapper Angie Martinez during an episode of his Hotboxin’ podcast (available on YouTube), that he has a ‘cage’ in his spine.

His wife, Lakiha Spicer, clarified that he had two vertebrae removed from his body and titanium rods inserted. Yet, in 2021 Tyson overcame his back issues to step into the ring for an exhibition against former multi-weight division title-winner Roy Jones Jr. The WBC unofficially called the bout a draw.

Now, at the age of 57, Tyson is set to return to the ring once again, this time to face off against YouTube sensation turned professional boxer, Jake Paul. However, boxing fans are questioning the wisdom of Tyson’s decision to step back into the ring at his age. 

They are concerned about the former heavyweight champion after he admitted to being bedbound following a pads session in preparation for the 27-year-old. 

‘Let me tell you something about that video. I filmed that video and I was in bed for a week. That was 30 seconds and I was in bed for a week. It’s not funny because it made me realise that this is big-boy s***.’ 

A number of high-profile figures in the sport are therefore concerned about Tyson – who is turning 58 in June – taking on a fighter as young and heavy-handed as Paul.

Eddie Hearn believes it will be ‘really sad’ to see Tyson return to the ring against Paul.

‘For me it’s really sad because Mike Tyson was one of my idols growing up, and to see him fighting at 57, 58… but I also understand that a lot of people are going to tune in and watch,’ Hearn told Mail Sport. ‘It’s an entertainment event, Netflix, great to see them involved in boxing. I think it will do really well. But it’s just not really one for me.’

According to combat-sports journalist Ariel Helwani, Paul and Tyson’s bout may not even be classed as an exhibition, with promoters understood to be pushing for a pro contest.

‘They’re still working on a few important details based on the conversations that I’ve had,’ Helwani said on his latest MMA Hour show. ‘Is it pro or is it exhibition? They want pro, obviously that’s up to the Texas Commission. We’ll wait and see.

‘Weight, I’m told heavyweight. Rounds working on that as well.’

Former British heavyweight boxer Derek Chisora recently claimed that Paul and Tyson will be wearing headguards and using 18oz gloves in a sparring-style fight, a rumor which was shut down by Helwani.

Instead, organizers are reportedly keen for the bout to resemble a standard pro encounter – something Tyson hasn’t taken part in since 2005.

The former world heavyweight champion quit in his final contest 19 years ago, with journeyman Kevin McBride forcing him to throw in the towel on both the fight and his career before the start of the seventh round.

However, Tyson is confident he can dismantle Paul – taking to social media to tell the YouTuber-turned-boxer his time is over. 

But, it remains to be seen how Tyson with fare.  



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