Mike Tyson was born and bred on the mean streets of New York. His father abandoned the family when Mike was two and his mother died when he was 16. Tyson spent most of his youth in trouble with the law and was arrested dozens of times as a teen. It was when Tyson was doing time in a reform school that a counselor noticed he had fighting abilities and introduced him to boxing trainer Cus D'Amato, who removed him from the school, took him in and began his formal training as a boxer.
After blazing a bloody trail through the junior ranks Mike Tyson made his professional debut at the age of 18, a fight he won by first round knockout. After that he won 25 of his next 27 fights by knock out or technical knock out with 16 of his KOs coming in the first round. Just 18 months after turning pro Tyson was given a title shot against WBC champ Trevor Berbick. He won the fight by TKO in the second round and became the youngest heavyweight champion in history. Five months later he added the WBA title and five months after that he became the first heavyweight to hold all 3 major heavyweight title belts when he beat IBF champion Tony Tucker in a unanimous decision.
Mike Tyson did not float like a butterfly and sting like a bee he attacked and turned you into a motionless lump on the canvas. There was no pretense of gentlemanly competition in a Tyson fight; when he said he was there to hurt you, he meant it. He was lighting quick, could slip any punch and when he hit people solidly they usually ended up on the mat. But he wasn't just fists of fury either. He was the Bobby Fischer of boxing, destroying opponents mentally before a punch was ever thrown. He brought back alley terror to the ring in a way it had never been brought before and when he stood opposite opponents before the opening bell in his signature black trunks and black shoes with no socks you could almost hear the opponents knees knocking together. Such was the degree of intimidation he radiated at his peak.
A prime example is Michael Spinks, who had won an Olympic gold medal in boxing and had been both undisputed light heavyweight and heavyweight champion himself. But he had never faced someone like Tyson and he completely fell apart mentally in the moments leading up to their 1988 bout. Tyson, sensing blood, attacked at the opening bell and 91 seconds later it was over. Spinks never fought another professional fight.
Toward the end of the decade rot began to set in after Don King weaseled his way into Tyson's corner and in time he'd fall apart completely. But the mid 80s belonged to Mike Tyson who rose from the societal depths to lay undisputed claim to the boxing world. During the 3+ years he was at his peak he was a singular phenomenon: unpolished, unbeatable, unbelievable. Odds are we'll never see another another like him. Whether you think that's a good thing or a bad thing is up to you.
Clip: Mike Tyson knocks out Michael Spinks in 91 seconds.