DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK
“It wasn’t a good place for me. I don’t think I should have been there. That’s a place where you have no boundaries. You’re restricted, but you lose your moral fiber.”
Tyson hit the ground running with a vengeance when he got out of prison in 1995. He won his first two fights with ease, including an 89-second bout against Peter McNeeley, which grossed more than $96 million worldwide and was purchased by a record 1.52 million households. On November 9, 1996, Tyson fought Evander Holyfield, who was defending the WBA heavyweight title. The bout was six years in the making and billed as “Finally” on the fight card. Audience interest was high; the matchup garnered 1.59 Pay-Per-View buys. The world watched to see if Tyson could reclaim his title as the heavyweight champion. But despite the odds placed on the fan favorite, Tyson was outfoxed by Holyfield, losing the fight in the 11th round by a TKO call from the referee.
Pit against each other seven months later, Tyson took home $30 million, while Holyfield nabbed $35 million, making this the largest single-event payday for any athlete or entertainer. Spectators in 1.99 million households tuned in to see the event, which grossed $102 million in revenue. The fight became one of the most controversial events in sports when Tyson was disqualified in the third round for biting off a piece of Holyfield’s ear, resulting in the boxing commission withholding $3 million of Tyson’s purse.
His next big fight came in 2002 against Lennox Lewis. The bout gave Tyson yet another chance to reclaim the heavyweight title, and generated $106.9 million in revenue. It was purchased for viewing in 1.95 million homes, setting a Pay-Per-View record. Tickets ranged from $500 to $2,400 a pop. Tyson lost the fight to Lewis in the eighth round and had to cough up $335,000 for biting Lewis’ leg during a pre-fight brawl a few months earlier.
After living in a $4.5 million mansion, and spending approximately $400,000 a month, Tyson filed for bankruptcy in 2003. According to The New York Times, the fallen pugilist’s debts totaled over $20 million, for everything from $173,000 diamond chains to having $13 million in back taxes and $51,000 in unpaid child support.