During the 20-year span of his career, Mike Tyson’s income exceeded $400 million. Yet, in 2004, before his 39th birthday, this amazing moneymaker was $38 million in debt….
In the mid to late 1980’s, Mike Tyson bestrode the boxing domain like Julius Ceaser once ruled over the Roman empire. No man can stand against this beast of Brownsville and hope to survive.
During this period, Iron Mike Tyson earned over $400 million dollars and seemed invincible. But in less than 10 years, he squandered his fortune, went into debt and degenerated both physically and emotionally.
This article is a lesson for young entrepreneurs based on the rise and fall of the great Iron Mike Tyson.
Mike Tyson was born on June 30th 1966 in Brooklyn New York and grew up in a dangerous neighborhood. By the age of 13, Tyson had already been arrested 38 times. His saving grace came when he was forced to attend the Tryon School for Boys. At the Tryon School, Tyson’s talent in the boxing ring was evident. Bobby Stewart, a juvenile detention center counselor and former boxer, began to train Tyson and would eventually introduce the phenomenon to the legendary boxing manager and trainer, Cus D’Amato. Cus D’Amato quickly took over Tyson’s training responsibilities and would even become Mike’s legal guardian when at 16 his mother died.
THE RISE TO FAME AND FORTUNE
Tyson’s first victory came at the 1982 Junior Olympics where won a silver medal. On March 6th 1985, Tyson made his professional debut against Hector Mercedes. The fight ended with a knock out from Mike. Tyson would go on to win 26 out of 28 professional fights by KO/TKO and began to attract media attention.
Tragically, Cus D’Amato died in November 1985. With the loss of his long time trainer and father figure, Tyson was angry and looking for payback. On February 16th 1986, Tyson had his first televised fight where he easily defeated opponent Jesse Ferguson. At the age of 20, Tyson became the youngest Heavyweight champion in boxing history.
Expectations for Tyson were extremely high, and he embarked on an ambitious campaign to fight all of the top heavyweights in the world. He defeated and won the belts from James Smith, Pinklon Thomas, and Tony Tucker. Tyson had become an American boxing icon.
During this time, Tyson came to the attention of gaming company Nintendo. After witnessing one of Tyson’s fights, Nintendo of America president, Minoru Arakawa was impressed by the fighter’s “power and skill”, prompting him to suggest Tyson be included in the upcoming Nintendo Entertainment System port of the Punch Out!! arcade game. In 1987, Nintendo released Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, which was well received and sold more than a million copies.
Mike Tyson became a money machine, and quickly earned over $400 million dollars.
THE SUDDEN FALL
Sudden wealth can easily destroy a man’s character. Ironically, Iron Mike Tyson was aware of this fact, and said so himself to one of his business friends in his early days. But knowing this did not stop Tyson from being seduced into a destructive lifestyle.
Like most stars and celebrities do, Mike Tyson went on a spending spree.
- Nearly $4.5 million on cars and motorcycles. He owed some 110 cars, which included a Rolls Royce, multiple Bentleys, Ferraris and Lamborghinis, a Range rover and a Mercedes benz 500.
- $3.4 million on clothes and jewelry
- $7.8 million on “personal expenses”
- $140,000 on two white Bengal tigers as pets and $125,000 a year for their trainer. He also spent $1500 everyday to feed his tigers and $4000 monthly for their accommodation.
- $2 million on a golden bathtub for his first wife, actress Robin Givens
- $410,000 on a birthday party
- $230,000 on cellphones and pagers during a three-year period from 1995 to 1997.
The faster money came in, the faster it went out. Stories about his profligacy are already legendary. Tyson employed as many as 200 people, including bodyguards, chauffeurs, chefs, and gardeners.
But this was just the beginning of his problems. Without his mentor and father figure Cus D’Amato, his character also unraveled.
His marriage to Givens was violent, turbulent and full of accusations of spousal abuse. The eventual divorce settlement that came set him back by a whopping $9 million dollars.
He fired his longtime trainer and mentor Kevin Rooney. Without Rooney by his side he began to slip as a boxer.
This truly showed in 1990 where he lost his undisputed championship to Buster Douglas. Tyson was out of shape and overweight when he lost to the underdog Douglas. Mike was then arrested for allegedly raping 18 year old model Desiree Washington. He was convicted in 1992 and sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. Tyson served three in prison then attempted to make a comeback in 1995. He easily won his first two comeback fights and pulled in huge pay-per-view numbers . In 1997, Mike hit a career rock bottom when he bit off a chunk of his opponent Evander Holyfield’s ear.
Even after being fined $3 million for biting Holyfield’s ear, he still went off and spent his dough like it was coming in endlessly. He bought homes in Ohio, Maryland and Connecticut, with gardening bills adding up to $100,000. He also nearly bought a home near Beverly Hills for just under $7 million – backing out of the deal following a second loss to Evander Holyfield.
When Tyson fired everyone working for him and got new accountants in 2000, they prepared a statement showing he started the year $3.3 million in debt, but made $65.7 million. “The problem was that I spent $62 million that year,’ Tyson said,
In 2003 Tyson filed for bankruptcy and announced his retirement on July 11th, 2005. He was in debt to the tune of $38million dollars and also owed the government millions in unpaid taxes.
To help pay off his debts, Tyson returned to the ring in 2006 for a series of four-round exhibitions against journeyman heavyweight Corey “T-Rex” Sanders in Youngstown, Ohio.
In an interview with USA Today published on June 3, 2005, Tyson said, “My whole life has been a waste – I’ve been a failure.” He continued: “I just want to escape. I’m really embarrassed with myself and my life. I want to be a missionary. I think I could do that while keeping my dignity without letting people know they chased me out of the country. I want to get this part of my life over as soon as possible. In this country nothing good is going to come of me. People put me so high; I wanted to tear that image down. Tyson began to spend much of his time tending to his 350 pigeons in Paradise Valley, an upscale enclave near Phoenix, Arizona.
On December 29, 2006, Tyson was arrested in Scottsdale, Arizona, on suspicion of DUI and felony drug possession. On February 8 he checked himself into an inpatient treatment program for “various addictions” while awaiting trial on the drug charges.
On September 24, 2007, Tyson pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine and driving under the influence. He was convicted of these charges in November 2007 and sentenced to 24 hours in jail.
While on the American talk show The View in early May 2010, Tyson revealed that he is now forced to live paycheck to paycheck. He went on to say: “I’m totally destitute and broke.
In August 2013 he admitted publicly that he was on the verge of death from alcoholism.
Today at 50 years of age, the much more humble and grounded Mike Tyson, seems to have learnt his lessons albeit late. Tyson has described his marriage to third wife Lakiha “Kiki” Spicer as “truly a life-saving experience,” which helped him turn his life around.
LESSONS FROM MIKE TYSON
There are many lessons to learn from the life of Iron Mike Tyson. It will be very wrong to describe him as a total failure. Sudden wealth can test any man’s character, especially someone as young as Iron Mike Tyson. You will also remember that he lost his father figure and mentor Cus D’Amato, and thus had no one to caution his excesses.
The absence of his father figure, also gave way to many people who took advantage of his youth and financial illiteracy. Notable among them is Don King who promoted Mike Tyson’s fights. Tyson blamed King for his financial woes, alleging that King stole money from him.
Tyson later sued King and won $14 million from him.
“He’s a wretched, slimy, reptilian motherf****r,” Tyson said of King in the movie Tyson. “He would kill his mother for a dollar.”
But King later said of Tyson, “He’s poor, and he’s telling lies. Give me $400 million and say you robbed me. I loved Tyson. We made a lot of money together. He threw his away. I kept mine.”
It is important that every young entrepreneur should study the life of Mike Tyson, to avoid such tragic mistakes.
Most times, people that surround us are charlatans and hypocrites, and if we do not break away from such crowd, downfall is inevitable, and the same crowd will turn around to mock you.
Financial literacy is also a very critical life lesson, that every young man must master. Many graduates, doctors, professionals, celebrities and stars, are intelligent, but financial illiterates. This is why it is common to see them spraying money today, and begging for money in 10 year’s time.
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