By Dillon Koon
Everyone gets beaten down, but only the ones that continue to get back up make it to the top. Getting up isn’t always so easy when the beat downs consist of abandonment by your father, living in poverty and crime-ridden streets, resulting in constant physical bullying, and numerous arrests before adulthood. The one who survived the beatings and went on to retaliate professionally was Michael Gerard Tyson, Iron Mike.
Economic status and class within a culture only hold the weak back. Socioeconomic status play a huge part in whether or not an individual turns their life around for the better, yet there is always an exception. Tyson defied these odds to become one of the greats, giving everyone hope to hold onto in their worst of times.
A legendary fighter such as Mike Tyson can use their upbringing to serve as motivation, regardless of economic status and criminal history in order to rise to fame in the worst of circumstances. When one thinks of criminal records and poverty, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t always the life of a successful human being. While stereotypes can be very wrong, statistics do not lie; those living below the Federal Poverty Line are more than twice as likely to be victims of violent crimes as those above. You would think that with such a high rate of victimization that not much would come from poverty. However, those that do stand out amongst the rest and Mike Tyson is the perfect example. Not only has Tyson been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame but he has also been seen in local plumbing commercials as well as The Hangover. Tyson found his way out of the dark to become one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time and entertain fans via other mediums as well.
Economic status and upbringing should be factors that hide true athletic potential, but Mike Tyson is a notable exception to this notion. When Tyson was just two years old his father left, leaving his family of him and two other siblings to be cared for by his mother. During his years in school, Tyson was an extremely small and timid young boy, often the victim of relentless bullying. From fear comes retaliation in some, which is where Tyson began developing his street fighting skills. These skills however came at a cost; Tyson committed several gang-related crimes as a young boy, and racked up over 30 arrests by the time he was 13.
Not only do economic limitations play a big role in lifetime success for most, but the lack of education that is associated with poverty-level incomes is hugely important too. “They normally get taken advantage of by really shrewd businesses in that particular field. There’s no federal regulation for that to protect human beings. You’re inexperienced, and you don’t know anything about handling money in that fashion, and you put the trust in people who say they’re your friend, or they say they’re your loved one, and it doesn’t work out the way that they planned for it to work out.”, Tyson said in reference to problems with upcoming boxers. If someone does not know how to read or write (either well or at all), then they will not be able to understand contractual stipulations and other business-related matters. This means, that even if the talent is there and things are beginning to look up from a miserable upbringing, athletes can be completely screwed over by those who they thought they could trust.
While many poverty-stricken individuals get lost in the world of corrupt “friends” when trying to make it out of the life they’ve endured for however long, some such as Tyson manage to overcome the odds. Having been in a reform school for a number of years, Tyson eventually met and was coached by amateur boxing champion, Bob Stewart. Stewart was a true friend, one who saw a raw talent born from ashes of poverty, and taught him everything he could to make the most of Tyson’s abilities. “One of my friends once saw another guy’s (criminal) record and said, ‘Look, this guy is a born troublemaker, just a loser.’ I had to tell him, ‘No, that’s my record—and it doesn’t include my juvenile history,” Tyson said on his trials and tribulations while rising to boxing fame.
Once Tyson had learned everything Stewart felt he had to offer, Constantine “Cus” D’Amato came into Tyson’s life. This relationship evolved beyond a basic trainer-boxer relationship, eventually into something of a father-son relationship, since Tyson had spent his entire life without a father figure. This relationship is what pulled Tyson from his dark past and into the ring more consistently over the coming years. In 1985, Tyson made his professional debut at just 18 years old, and won in the first round. This was the first of many victories, but only the beginning of many losses, both in the ring and outside in his personal life, but Iron Mike has overcome nearly everything life has thrown his way.
Poverty-stricken children who are at the bottom of the economic class in our society see things that nobody should see, hear things that nobody should hear, and often have to do things that nobody should have to do in order to survive the hand life has given them. Mike Tyson was one of those children, having grown up under some of the worst possible circumstances. Thus, class most certainly plays a large part in how successful one may be in life, but when the pieces fall into place, the fists start to fly and circumstances exit the ring.