Mike Tyson spent his formative years alternately taking and giving beatings, money and pigeons. And when Cus D'Amato, the legendary boxing trainer, told a 13-year-old Tyson he could make him the "youngest heavyweight champion in the world," Tyson thought he was "a pervert."
"In the world I came from, people do s--- like that when they want to perv out on you," Tyson writes in "Undisputed Truth," his upcoming book. "I didn’t know what to say. I had never heard anyone say nice things about me before. I wanted to stay around this old guy because I liked the way he made me feel."
Tyson's young thuggery (and penchant for pigeons) should come no surprise to anyone who's followed Tyson's post-boxing career, which has included a critically-acclaimed 2008 documentary, "Tyson," scene stealing roles in "The Hangover" movies, an Animal Planet series about his love for pigeons ("Taking On Tyson") and last year's one-man show, "The Undisputed Truth: Live on Stage."
But if the pummeling excerpt published in next week's New York magazine is any indication, the "Undisputed Truth" book, due out Nov. 12, should be a wild, woozy read for anyone interested in the former heavyweight champion's life.
Some other "Undisputed" highlights:
• In 1976, Tyson, then a member of a burglary "team" known as the Cats, was carrying an M1 rifle to a showdown with another gang when his older brother stopped him. "I just kept walking and left the park and went home," Tyson writes. "I was 10 years old."
• Tyson was a "pudgy kid," "almost effeminate shy" and "I spoke with a lisp," a combination that led to him to being regularly robbed and beaten after school. After one memorable beating in which a bully "took my glasses and put them down the gas tank of a truck," Tyson stopped going to school. "I was 7 years old," Tyson writes, "and I just never went back to class."
• Tyson's first "boxing" experience came after a bully tore the head off of one of his pigeons:
“Fight him, Mike,” one of my friends urged. “Don’t be afraid, just fight him.”
I had always been too scared to fight anyone before. But there used to be an older guy in the neighborhood named Wise who had been a Police Athletic League boxer. He used to smoke weed with us, and when he’d get high, he would start shadowboxing. I would watch him, and he would say, “Come on, let’s go,” but I would never even slapbox with him. But I remembered his style.
So I decided, “F--- it.” My friends were shocked. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I threw some wild punches and one connected and Gary went down. Wise would skip while he was shadowboxing, so after I dropped Gary, my stupid ass started skipping. It just seemed like the fly thing to do.
I had practically the whole block watching my gloryful moment. Everybody started whooping and applauding me. It was an incredible feeling even though my heart was beating out of my chest.
After that, Tyson got respect, and started fighting neighborhood borough's bruisers regularly:
"You’re only 11?” That’s how everybody started knowing me in Brooklyn. I had a reputation that I would fight anyone—grown men, anybody. But we didn’t follow the Marquess of Queensberry rules in the street. If you kicked someone’s ass, it didn’t necessarily mean it was over. If he couldn’t beat you in the fight, he’d take another route, and sometimes he’d come back with some of his friends and they’d beat me up with bats.
I began to exact some revenge for the beatings I had taken from bullies. I’d be walking with some friends, and I might see one of the guys who beat me up and bullied me years earlier. He might have gone into a store shopping, and I would drag his ass out of the store and start pummeling him.
After an arrest, Tyson was sent upstate, where he met D'Amato.
I was excited on the ride back to Tryon. I was sitting with a bunch of Cus’s roses in my lap. I had never seen roses in person before, only on television, but I wanted some because they looked so exquisite.
I wanted to have something nice to take back with me, so I asked him if I could take some. Between the smell of the roses and Cus’s words ringing in my ears, I felt good, like my whole world had changed. In that one moment, I knew I was going to be somebody.
Read the full excerpt here.
- Mike Tyson