During his professional boxing career, Mike Tyson won 44 matches by knock-out. While those bouts came in a variety of circumstances, they combined to prove one indisputable truth: Iron Mike was capable of knocking someone out with incredible ease. Not every fight, however, took place in the ring.
While Mike Tyson fought plenty of professional boxers, he was known to occasionally tangle with other opponents, too. In fact, he once punched out a sanitation worker to protect a dead pigeon.
Mike Tyson’s formidable run in the boxing ring
During his professional boxing career, Mike Tyson proved to be one of the best fighters to ever step into the ring. His study of the sweet science, however, began in challenging circumstances.
Tyson grew up in Brooklyn and frequently found himself in trouble with the law; according to Rolling Stone, he had been arrested 38 times by age 13. He eventually landed in the Tyron School for Boys, where he sought out Bobby Stewart, a former boxer working as a counselor. Once Stewart saw the teenager’s raw talent, he introduced him to Cus D’Amato.
While the legendary trainer gave Tyson the stable father figure he sorely lacked, D’Amato also helped Mike take his boxing to the next level. Even as a teenager, he had incredible punching power; working with Cus, however, he learned to temper his aggression using the peek-a-boo style. That combination of offense and defense proved to be unstoppable.
Tyson went on to claim the heavyweight title at only 20 years old. While his career would eventually crumble in dramatic fashion, Iron Mike did plenty to earn his reputation as ‘the baddest man on the planet.’
Iron Mike’s first fight started with a pigeon
While Mike Tyson eventually found himself boxing on pay-per-view television for millions of dollars, his first fight was a much less glamorous affair.
Growing up, Tyson wasn’t anything like ‘the baddest man on the planet.’ If anything, he was a target for neighborhood bullies; that reality led him to find solace among his pigeons.
“As a child, I was very awkward and never felt as though I fit in (anywhere). On the roof, none of my insecurities mattered,” Tyson wrote in the New York Times. “My birds never judged me or made me feel inadequate. I was actually the most important relationship that they had. They were totally dependent on me for food and shelter, and I felt honored to be needed, and this made me feel wanted and relevant.”
The birds, however, also were at the heart of Iron Mike’s first-ever fight. As the boxer explained to Graham Bensinger, a neighborhood bully stole one of his pigeons; when Tyson asked for it back, the other boy killed the bird on the spot. He responded, for the first time in his life, by fighting back.
Mike Tyson also fought a garbage man over a dead pigeon
That bully, however, wasn’t the only person Mike Tyson punched over a pigeon. He also took vengeance on a sanitation worker who threw away one of his dead birds.
“One morning I woke up and found my favorite pigeon, Julius, had died I was devastated and was gonna use his crate as my stickball bat to honor him,” Tyson once explained, according to The Sporting News. “I left the crate on my stoop and went in to get something and I returned to see the sanitation man put the crate into the crusher.”
At that point, Tyson was overcome with rage and lashed out. “I rushed [the sanitation worker] and caught him flush on the temple with a titanic right hand; he was out cold, convulsing on the ground.”
Say what you will about Mike Tyson, but the man sure loves his pigeons.