US boxer and world heavyweight champion (1986–90; 1996).
Born into a deprived area of New York City, Tyson became the youngest-ever world heavyweight champion in 1986, when he decisively defeated Trevor Berbick in a WBC fight at Las Vegas. Subsequently he employed his ferocious hitting power to take the rival WBA title from James ‘Bonecrusher’ Smith and the IBF title from Tony Tucker, in 1987. These victories over formidable opponents prompted boxing experts to claim that he was one of the most impressive heavyweight boxers of all time, with a long reign as champion ahead of him. He continued to demolish all challengers to his titles with comparatively little trouble until 1990, when he was unexpectedly knocked out in a fight in Tokyo against the US boxer James ‘Buster’ Douglas. The result was highly controversial, as Douglas had – according to Tyson's camp – already been floored for twelve seconds in the eighth round. The decision went in Douglas's favour, however, and he became the new champion in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.
Far more serious controversies were in store for Tyson. In 1992 he was convicted of raping a contestant in a beauty competition and received a six-year jail sentence. Following his release on parole in 1995, Tyson won a comeback fight with a knockout after twenty-nine seconds, for which, he earned $35,000. He went on to regain both the WBC and the WBA titles in 1996 with easy victories over opponents that many commentators considered unworthy (in the former case, the UK's Frank Bruno). Later that year, however, Tyson lost the WBA championship to another poorly rated opponent, the veteran Evander Holyfield. In a return contest in July 1997 Tyson savagely bit off part of Holyfield's ear, an action that not only lost him the match but also led the boxing authorities to ban him from the ring. The ban was lifted in October 1998.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945) — United States History.