What Mike Tyson’s prison life was really like

This article contains mention of sexual assault and drug use.

Mike Tyson’s Rise to Fame and Fall is the epic story of an athlete who fought his way to the top of the world, made hundreds of millions of dollars, then spectacularly self-destructed and lost it all. It’s easy to focus on Tyson’s dark side. The manic, grandiose swagger, Evander Holyfield’s infamous ear-biting, his long-standing battle with substance abuse and addiction, the rape and domestic violence, assault, street riots, arrests and imprisonment.

However, there is also Tyson’s tragic real-life story. He was a high school dropout raised by an abusive single mother in then-deprived and drug-ridden Brownsville, Brooklyn. Tyson endured a dysfunctional and violent childhood. Wild beatings from and on his mother shaped his problematic perspective on relationships and women. Tyson recalled screaming and crying with his sister when he was 7 when they saw a man hit their mother so hard she lost a tooth. “But my mother is really smart. She puts on a pot of boiling water. Next thing I know she’s pouring boiling water over Eddie,” Tyson told The Guardian.

Per Biography, growing up, street fighting and petty crime were part of everyday life, and by the age of 13, Tyson had been arrested over 30 times. After being severely bullied as a child, Tyson developed his ferocious fighting skills which ultimately led to him becoming world heavyweight champion at just 20 years old. What was life like for Tyson when he was jailed for rape six years later?

Prison was a safe home away from home

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In November 1986, Mike Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in the world after defeating Trevor Berbick in two rounds. ESPN lists Tyson as one of the 50 greatest boxers of all time, naming his 44 KOs in 50 fights. “The intimidating demeanor and devastating two-fisted knockout power intimidated many opponents before the first bell rang,” they wrote.

However, by 1992, Tyson was out of the ring and behind bars. Indianapolis Monthly reports that he was convicted of one rape, one prison sentence and two counts of deviant conduct after sexually assaulting college student and beauty queen Desiree Washington in his hotel room. Tyson was sentenced to 10 years in prison, suspended after four years.

Given his street intelligence and impressive fighting skills, it’s no surprise Tyson wasn’t struggling with time. “The prison was quite interesting for me,” he told Vlad TV. Tyson said he was placed in an institution during his youth so he was used to being beaten up. “[Prison life] is just part of my barometer,” he explained. Tyson said he had “no bad experiences, only good experiences. I felt very safe there.” He admitted he was thrown into solitary confinement for being “a brat” and fighting with the staff, but said, “They ended up becoming my best friends.” Tyson even went along from a prison counselor after failing his GED. “I started giving her money and did some nasty things to her, and she let me pass,” he claimed.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, help is available to help. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact the RAINN National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

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Mike Tyson has had steamy rendezvous with visiting female fans

Mike Tyson said his celebrity status played in his favor in prison. He received stacks of letters from worshiping women who visited him. Tyson explained during an interview with Opie and Anthony how he managed to get left out with the female fans despite being beaten up behind bars. “I’ve always gotten into trouble [with the guards] because I touched and kissed too much,” Tyson said. He shared that another prisoner finally gave him the facts on how to get in. It included wearing sundresses backwards and crotchless knickers — without going into further detail.

However, in an interview with Larry King while Tyson was still incarcerated, he was serious and philosophical. “Prison is designed to get you used to being an animal,” he explained. “It doesn’t rehabilitate you rather than dehabilitate you because I find myself doing things I never dreamed I could do.”

Speaking about the dehumanization process, Tyson said the worst thing is that prisoners get to the stage where they lose their identity and sense of self. “But I never do that. I always have to rebel,” he claimed. “I’m just doing this to keep my sanity.” Per The US Sun, Tyson was released after nearly three years in prison for good behavior. He was placed on probation, fined $30,000 and forced to register permanently as a sex offender.

Mike Tyson’s demons consumed him after prison

Mike Tyson has always denied raping Desiree Washington and even blamed her for his imprisonment. “She knows [I’m innocent]God knows, and the consequences of her actions are something she will have to live with for the rest of her life,” he wrote in his memoir, Undisputed Truth.

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So it’s no surprise that Tyson has repeatedly landed in hot water given his lack of remorse and accountability. He returned to the ring but anger consumed him, resulting in one of the most horrifying incidents in boxing history. Tyson bit off part of Evander Holyfield’s right ear during the 1997 WBA World Heavyweight Championship fight. “I bit him because I wanted to kill him,” Tyson told Fox News’ Jim Gray, admitting he’d probably do the same thing again. In 1998, after an attack on two men in traffic, he was back in the slammer. According to The Baltimore Sun, Tyson punched one in the face and kicked the other in the crotch.

ESPN reported that he was arrested again in 2006 for DUI and drug possession. “Everything I once knew [was how] Hurting people,” Tyson told The Guardian. “I have surrendered to a higher power. I said, “Help me. I can do nothing more. Lead me. God whoever. I don’t know what to do.'” Tyson told Brendan Schaub in 2021 that he finally quit drinking and using cocaine.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration website or contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).