While every professional athlete earns a good deal of money, everyone spends their income differently. Guys like Shaquille O’Neal and Rob Gronkowski, for example, prefer to save and invest. Not everyone is that financially responsible, though. Unsurprisingly, Mike Tyson did things a bit differently.
While Iron Mike spent his money freely, perhaps no purchase was more infamous than his pet tigers. Those cats cost a pretty penny, though; beyond the initial investment, Tyson had to shell out $250,000 after one of the ferocious felines attacked a woman.
Mike Tyson’s boxing career
During his childhood in Brooklyn, Mike Tyson and his family didn’t have much money. Once he stepped into the boxing ring, however, Iron Mike changed his financial reality forever.
As a teenager, Tyson was shipped upstate to the Tyron School for Boys. There, he crossed paths with Bobby Stewart, a former boxer turned counselor; Mike expressed an interest in the sport and, before long, Stewart introduced him to Cus D’Amato. The legendary trainer was so impressed with the young fighter that he took him under his wing, promising he’d become the heavyweight champ.
Working together, the pair made that a reality. Tyson already had plenty of natural punching power, but D’Amato refined his technique; before long, the teenager developed into a capable defensive fighter. Once Iron Mike turned pro at age 18, he seemed unstoppable.
Tyson would become one of boxing’s most fearsome fighters, but his career was far from a fairy tale. While he excelled in the ring and made millions, he also spent time in jail, bit Evander Holyfield’s ear, and filed for bankruptcy.
Mike Tyson and his famous pet tigers
While Mike Tyson won plenty of money in the ring, he didn’t always spend it wisely. Although he sunk his winnings into things like expensive parties and luxury bathtubs, no purchase is more infamous than his tigers.
As Iron Mike explained on Joe Rogan’s podcast, the idea of owning tigers arose when he was in prison. His car dealer mentioned that he might sell some cars and use the money to buy horses; he then explained he could also buy “cougars, lions, and tigers.” Tyson decided it would be cool to own a big cat and asked the dealer to “get [him] some cubs.”
The boxer eventually came to own three tigers, but things weren’t all happy. While Tyson loved the cats, he learned the hard way that you can never truly domesticate a wild animal.
A $250,000 tiger attack
In 2019, Mike Tyson did a video with GQ, answering questions about himself on the Internet. One of them asked if he had a pet tiger; the boxer explained that he did, but Kenya was no longer with him. “She got too old,” he said. “Her eyes and her hip got bad. And plus, she ripped somebody’s arm off.”
While the video ended there, Tyson recently gave some more insight into the incident. During a recent Instagram Live video, Fat Joe asked if one of the tigers really jumped over a fence and attacked a woman; Iron Mike then stepped in to set the record straight.
“No, no, Joe, that’s not what happened,” Tyson said. “Somebody jumped over my fence where the tiger was and jumped in the habitat, and started playing with the tiger. And the tiger didn’t know the lady, so it was a bad accident.”
Tyson then explained that the woman tried to sue him, but the case fell apart once her trespassing came to light. That didn’t prevent Iron Mike from shelling out a quarter of a million dollars, though. “When I saw what the tiger did to her hand, I had a lot of money back then, so I gave her $250,000, whatever it was, because she was just f—ed Joe.”
Tyson did go on to explain that he learned his lesson about the risks of owning a wild animal and has educated himself about his prior behavior. While it’s better late than never, the boxer could have saved a good deal of money if he never bought those tigers.