Boxing

The Tragic Death of Mike Tyson’s 4-Year-Old Daughter Changed Him Forever

It’s official, heavyweight knockout king Mike Tyson, at 54, is returning to the ring. His eight-round match against Roy Jones. Jr. is not a serious return to boxing, of course. But the exhibition between two aging legends should prove to be a fun return to Tyson doing the work that made him famous.

It’s possible in part because Tyson spent his post-boxing years slowly getting his life together. The famously temperamental boxer had issues with substance abuse in particular. A tragedy set him in a different direction. His daughter, at just four years old, suddenly died in a terrible accident. It put Tyson’s whole world in a new light.

The accident that set Mike Tyson’s life on a different course

On May 26, 2009, Tyson’s life as he knew it spun in a different direction for the worst reason possible. According to a report by ABC News, it began with an errant wire on a treadmill. His daughter Exodus played around on a treadmill, a seemingly innocuous situation for a high-energy toddler.

This particular treadmill had a wire between the console and the main machine, however. The small child slipped into the loop, which tightened around her neck.

Her seven-year-old brother found her, and asked for help. Her mother called 911 and gave CPR while paramedics were on the way. After spending some hours on life support, she passed away.

Tyson was, of course, devastated. “There are no words to describe the tragic loss of our beloved Exodus,” he said in a statement to the press after his daughter’s death.

How Mike Tyson’s outlook changed after his daughter’s death

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Tyson initially reacted poorly to the tragedy. Standard Media reports that he spent a full week abusing cocaine. In part, it was to deal with his go-to emotion, anger, and how it conflicted with what he saw at the hospital. At first he felt alone, but then he saw other families around him also dealing with loss. That stuck with him.

“Once I got there and saw other people who had children who already died or were dying, they were handling it with dignity,” Tyson said in an interview with Ellen DeGeneres. “I didn’t want to be the psycho parent. I wanted to handle it with dignity as well.”

Tyson resolved to change his relationships to the people closest to him in the wake of his daughter’s passing. He got married just two weeks after the incident, according to the Independent. The two remain together to this day.

He also resolved to cut drugs out of his life, and attempt to become healthier overall. He spends more time with his wife, children, and pets instead of partying.

Has Tyson held to his new lifestyle choices in the intervening decade?

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Some notable boxing figures, like heavyweight legend George Foreman, are worried about Mike Tyson returning to the ring. Their fears might be unfounded. Tyson has spent over a decade dedicated to his major lifestyle changes. The added responsibilities of getting in shape for an exhibition match against another aging boxer aren’t actually adding much to his routine.

In an interview with Men’s Health, Tyson doesn’t appear to have any illusions about his place as an aging boxer. “I want to go to the gym and get in shape to be able to box three or four-round exhibitions for some charities and stuff,” Tyson said.

His main priorities are keeping his muscle mass up, and getting sparring time in the ring to work on his reactions. He won’t be the Mike Tyson of old; he’ll be old Mike Tyson. And if the match turns out to be a fun bout for all involved, that should be more than enough.