Say what you want about “Iron” Mike Tyson, but as far as athletes throughout history go, he has one of the more compelling stories. Tyson has done a lot of amazing things. He’s also done some deplorably awful ones. It’s impossible to separate the two sides of the man, and many people have tried to examine his upbringing to determine how he came to be the way he was.
One interesting part of Tyson’s past is looking at his support system throughout his life and career. While Tyson had many bad people around him either giving him bad advice or enabling him, he also had people trying to do right by him.
One of those people was Tyson’s adoptive mother, who stood by him through thick and thin. Here is her story.
Mike Tyson’s relationship with his birth parents
According to the Washington Post, Tyson grew up in the Brooklyn projects. He had a brother and a sister. While he did live with his Mom, he never knew his Dad.
Tyson got into plenty of trouble during his formative years, going in and out of the criminal justice system after committing various crimes like robbery and assault. Due to his bad and sometimes criminal behavior, Tyson eventually ended up in Johnston, New York at a reform school. He was only 12 years old, a seemingly lost cause.
Tyson left the school a year later at the age of 13. While there, he demonstrated quite a propensity for boxing. From there, he was released into the custody of legendary boxing trainer Cus D’Amato. Tyson immediately began training with Tyson, and the future heavyweight champ was well on his way to greatness.
Since Tyson didn’t know his real father, he often referred to D’Amato as his actual father.
Who is Mike Tyson’s adoptive mother?
Living with D’Amato at the time of Tyson’s adoption was a woman named Camille Ewald. According to USA Today, Ewald became an adopted mother to Tyson.
Ewald was fiercely protective of Tyson, often defending him. Here’s an example from the USA Today article of the type of comment she’d make about the boxer, even as he went through many self-inflicted problems throughout his career:
“Mike is a normal, balanced boy and has very good control over himself and his body. He didn’t have an unusual temper. He was very mild-mannered. Now all of a sudden he needs medicine and he has this disease. He wouldn’t take an aspirin for a headache when he was here.”
Ewald lived an incredibly long life, but sadly, she passed away in 2001 at the ripe old age of 98.
The two always had a special relationship
Tyson may have had a volatile personality with many of his opponents and associates. While that’s undeniably true, it was not the case with Ewald.
Tyson treated the woman like gold, during both his ups and downs. In fact, one anecdote stands out as exemplary of how Tyson regarded Ewald in his life.
In 1988, Tyson had a whirlwind marriage to star actor Robin Givens. The marriage was ill-conceived and short-lived. Givens alleged that Tyson was abusive and expressed fear for her safety.
At one point before the marriage dissolved, the Washington Post reported the two had a dispute over whether to go to a concert or not. That’s where Ewald stepped in with some advice for Tyson, and his reaction was telling (per the Washington Post):
“And Mike was really angry…So when Mike was leaving for the concert without Robin, I said to Mike, ‘Go ahead and buy Robin some flowers.’ So he bought the flowers but he wouldn’t give them to Robin. Mike told me, ‘Here, these are for you.’ Then he said, ‘Camille, I never should have gotten married. Marriage is not bliss.’ “
While it’s hard to defend or even know the extent of Tyson’s actions within his marriage, but it was clear how he felt about Ewald. The former Ukrainian immigrant held a special place in Tyson’s life, no matter what else was going on around him.