• July 24, 2024

Unleashing the Beast: The Day Mike Tyson Sent Shivers Down the World’s Spine

The 13-year-old Tyson was a petty thief in a detention centre when he was discovered by ex-boxer Bobby Stewart, who recognised his raw potential and introduced him to D’Amato. The Italian-American became Tyson’s trainer, brought him into his home and was his legal guardian by the time of his death in 1985.

But while Cus poured his boxing knowledge into Tyson and built his confidence, he was also hyper-critical of his protégé – and one of these moments led Tyson to finding the ferocious attitude that he’d carry into the ring as a professional.

 

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Tyson was short for a heavyweight – listed at an optimistic 5ft 11in during his career – and was overweight as a teenager. As Tyson recalls in his autobiography, ‘Undisputed Truth’, D’Amato once told him out of the blue: “Man, I wish you had a body like Mike Weaver or Ken Norton, because then you would be real intimidating. You’d have an ominous aura. They don’t have the temperament but they have the physique of an intimidating man. You could paralyse the other boxers with fear just by the way you look.”

The fighter admits he got ‘choked up’ at the harsh comparison to two muscular heavyweights but hid his emotions and became determined to build an intimidating presence all of his own.

Tyson responded: “’Don’t worry Cus… You watch. One day the whole world is going to be afraid of me. When they mention my name, they’ll sweat blood, Cus.’

 

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“That was the day I turned into Iron Mike; I became that guy 100 per cent. Even though I had been winning almost every one of my fights in an exciting fashion, I wasn’t completely emotionally invested in being the savage that Cus wanted me to be. After that talk of being too small, I became that savage.”

It’s eye-opening that any trainer could question Tyson’s ‘ominous aura’ – as he became the most feared fighter of his generation – but D’Amato’s tough love clearly had the desired impact.

To this day, Tyson feels a deep loyalty and a debt of gratitude to his first real father figure. But the pair had a complex dynamic. Tyson understood that Cus’s devotion to him was purely because of what he could become as a boxer. As he once put it: “If I failed, Cus would get rid of me” – and Tyson once described their relationship as like a soldier and his general.

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