“I never saw my mother happy with me and proud of me for doing something. She only knew me as being a wild kid running the streets…Professionally, it has no effect, but it’s crushing emotionally and personally.”
Tyson was a troubled youth, who sought solace in the hardscrabble streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. His father abandoned the family when Tyson was two-years-old, leaving his mother to struggle as a single parent. By 13-years-old, he was already a juvenile delinquent with a full rap sheet. Tyson was eventually sent to the Tryon School for Boys in Upstate NY. It was at this reform school that he met ex-boxer Bobby Stewart, who introduced him to Cus D’Amato, the man who became Tyson’s first role model, boxing mentor, manager and legal guardian.
Under the tutelage of D’Amato, Tyson began a meteoric rise to stardom. As an amateur fighter, he won a gold medal at the 1982 Junior Olympic games. On March 6, 1985, Tyson held his first fight as a professional boxer—he won all 15 bouts he had that year. The next year, Tyson lost his mentor and father figure to pneumonia, but the promising up-and-comer used his grief to his advantage. He pummeled every opponent who stepped foot in the ring with him, including Trevor Berbick, who lost his heavyweight title to Tyson when he was knocked out in the second round. Soon the Kid Dynamite clinched the coveted World Boxing Council (WBC) belt, making him the youngest heavyweight champion in the history of the sport at 20-years-old.