One of the most recognized sporting figures in the world was born on the 30th June 1966 in Cumberland Hospital Catskill in Brooklyn, New York City and he was christened Michael Gerald Tyson. Lorna Kirkpatrick (born Lorna Smith) was his mother and Jimmy Kirkpatrick was his father, if the surnames have you a little confused don’t worry I’ll explain. Lorna meet and married a man could Percel Tyson. They later divorced and Lorna never remarried, despite falling in love with Jimmy Kirkpatrick, Mike Tyson’s biological father. She took kirkpatrick’s name. Jimmy Kirkpatrick was later hospitalized due to a heart condition and no longer able to work. Feeling worthless, Jimmy’s free spirit urged him to move on and he left his family before Tyson was born, thus keeping his mothers marriage name. A name that would later gain household recognition the world over – TYSON. .
After the departure of Jimmy, Lorna was forced to move her family to Brownsville in the heart of Brooklyn, a place that ranks as one of the most violent Ghetto’s in the United States still to this day. This place made their previous address of Bedford-Stuyvesent seem like Beverly Hills, but Lorna had no choice, her financial situation was hopelessly desperate. It would be here, 178 Amboy Street, in an apartment with no heat or hot water, in the most destitute section of one of America’s roughest cities that Michael Gerald Tyson would be molded
Violence is what was taught on these streets and Tyson was it’s best student.
Once when he was 9 years old, a 15 year old gang member came up to Tyson when he was playing with his pet pigeons and took one of them off him, Mike pleaded with him to give it back; the boy refused and slowly began turning the pigeons head until it snapped off. Tyson flew into a blind rage and attacked like a caged animal pummeling his foe with everything he had. Some locals witnessed this fistic beating of one of the areas most respected gang members and word got around, now he was known to the whole of Brownsville, not as Mike, but as Mike Tyson.
Mike now had a new found recognized notoriety at a very young age and this got the attention of one of the local gangs known as the “Jolly Stompers”; a particularly brutal bunch of hoodlums who specialized in muggings, robberies and burglaries. Mike become the youngest member of this crew and promptly took part in the gangs activities, which continually got him sent to Spofford Juvenile Detention Centre were he had a chance encounter with Muhammad Ali who visited Spofford one day. Muhammad Ali was not the only famous fighter that Tyson would cross paths with before he actually took up boxing. Riddick Bowe lived just a few blocks away from Tyson’s home and attended the same Junior School as him. Now this must have been one tough school, given the fact that it had two future World Heavyweight Champions attending at the same time.
Another tough school was the Tryon School for Boys in upstate New York where Tyson was sent after getting in trouble with the law yet again, his mother Lorna, never disputed this move, she couldn’t control him anymore let alone install discipline. He was violent, depressed, mute; one of the most intractable of the “incorrigible” boys. When he broke loose it required several adults to overpower him one official recalled having seen him dragged away in handcuffs, to be locked in solitary confinement. After another one of his attacks, Tyson asked his councilor if he could meet Bobby Stewart, a former boxer and now a boxing coach at Tryon. Stewart waited for Tyson to cool down before hammering on the door of his cell, “I’m Stewart, what the hell do you want?” Tyson replied tamely, “I wanna be a fighter.” Stewart who feeling it was necessary to show who was in charge shouted to Tyson, “so do the rest of the assholes in here. If you keep your head down and stay out of trouble, we’ll see what happens.”
From that day on a significant improvement in Tyson’s behavior was seen, after hearing of this Stewart agreed to work with Tyson. After a few lessons and noting Tyson’s enthusiasm, Stewart made a deal with him. As long as Tyson tried in his schooling, Stewart would teach him more boxing. Mike tried very hard with his academic studies. He knew he would never get college scholarships, this didn’t put him off. Because he never wanted to be deprived of his boxing lessons from Stewart. Tyson became obsessed with the sport of boxing. He would read on great fighters of the past, practice techniques, and train hard.
Staff at Tryon talked about how it was possible to here grunts and groans coming from Tyson’s room at 3,4 o’clock in the morning. It was Mike practicing his boxing. Bobby Stewart was noticing Tyson’s achievements in the ring. In a later interview, Stewart described how he got hit by a Tyson jab that made him want to take a knee. This was a former golden gloves champion talking about a 13 year old.
Something had to be done, Stewart knew a legendary trainer and manager from Catskill in New York named Cus D’Amato. Mike Tyson and Bobby Stewart drove up to Catskill one spring weekend in 1980.
Tyson and Stewart got into the ring to give Cus a show and try to get the trainer to get an insight into what Stewart was talking about , and why he was being drawn to the attention of this 13 year old. On first seeing Tyson, Cus light-heartedly asked Stewart what do they feed the youngster at Tryon, as Tyson was a solid 80kg’s. Once in the ring, Tyson showed quick hands and powerful punches, he sparred aggressively, even a steady bombardment of well placed punches from the former golden gloves champion did not stop young Mike advancing in repeatedly. Cus D’Amato saw a blueprint for a future World Heavyweight Champion in the 13 year old and happily took him under his wing. The rest is history.