Mike Tyson’s hall-of-fame boxing success came from his dedication, work ethic, and incredible technique, but it also came from somewhere else—his love for street fighting.
Although Tyson was trained by some of the best boxing coaches in the world, he credits a lot of his in-ring success to the 150+ fights he got into as a kid.
Mike Tyson grew up in a rough neighborhood
Tyson grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn, one of the roughest neighborhoods in New York City. During Tyson’s earlier years in the ‘70s, Brooklyn was notorious for its rampant violence and drug use. For many, criminal activity was a way of life, and it was common for life-ending altercations to occur over seemingly-trivial issues.
The former champ has admitted in the past that he gravitated toward criminal activity very early on, and was arrested 38 times by the time he was 13 years old. He frequently robbed people in his neighborhood and was known for hanging out with an older crowd that encouraged his bad behavior.
Tyson’s tough upbringing led to him having many experiences with fighting early in life. He had to learn how to protect himself in the midst of the conflict surrounding him and saw fighting as the only means of resolution.
Mike Tyson got into many street fights before he started boxing
Even as a kid, Tyson had a natural talent for fighting. He previously revealed that at just 11 years old, he became known around his neighborhood for knocking out 20-year-old men.
Tyson credits the nonstop fighting during his childhood with giving him the skills to succeed in boxing. He explained that fighting was a way of life in Brooklyn on a recent episode of his Hotboxin’ podcast, and that he had personally gotten into over 100 fights before he ever boxed professionally.
“I had around 150 street fights,” Tyson admitted. “That’s probably why I didn’t do too bad in boxing. That’s all we did in Brooklyn is fight,” Tyson added. “Fight, fight, fight. ‘You did this, you did that’, ‘I didn’t do it’, fight, fight.”
Tyson’s left hook is his best punch
As the conversation continued, special guest Sugar Ray Leonard asked Tyson what his best punch was during his professional days. Tyson revealed that even though he preferred his right hand, his left hook always knocked out more fighters.
“I knocked out more guys with my left hook, but I always thought my right hand was. You know, I always thought, but the left hook has more knockouts.”
Mike Tyson has an interesting philosophy with fighting
While many people who watch boxing might assume that the sport is almost entirely physical, there’s actually a lot more to it. Tyson explained that fighting itself is a very spiritual experience, one in which the person isn’t even thinking consciously. According to him, it’s all about movement and reacting.
“Fighting is spiritual, it’s unconsciousness,” Tyson said. “When you’re really fighting you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s just movement, pow, it’s action, it’s happening. You know, you anticipate throwing this one, but it’s flowing. When it’s flowing, things happen. [Unintelligible] You might get your ass knocked out. And sometimes it flows when your consciousness may be outside your body, you’re watching yourself fight.”
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