Mike Tyson will certainly go down in history as one of those rich and famous sportsmen who went broke due to bad financial management. Despite earning a fortune estimated at $685 million, Tyson filed for bankruptcy in 2003, unable to pay back reported debts of around $23 million. For years, Tyson struggled to maintain his image as one of the greatest boxers of all time, while being unable to meet up with his financial commitments. Although he later recovered from bankruptcy, the episode continued to affect him in many ways. For instance, Tyson, who was known for his extraordinary exploits in the ring, suffered unbelievable defeats in bouts with less rated? boxers such as Danny Williams and Kevin McBride. The fight with Williams was supposed to be easy, but incredibly, with just a few seconds left in the fourth round, Williams knocked Tyson out. This wasn’t good for a boxer of Tyson’s calibre, so he was matched up with McBride. The fight that should have been easy for him, and should have salvaged him in no small way, from the financial burden with which he was struggling. Tyson, frustrated and emotionally broken with everything happening in his life, threw in the towel in the sixth round. It was at this point he retired from boxing. Tyson stated later that his decision to quit was borne out of his love for boxing; he did not want to disrespect the sports that he loved so much by fighting just for money. Retirement for him was about respect and honour for the game, not bowing to the pressure of using the game as a sort of escape from his financial situation and for purely financial gains.
It is admirable to realise that in spite of the number of years that have passed since his retirement, Mike Tyson has retained these core defining ethics.
Recently, the 54-year-old boxing icon came out of fifteen years of retirement to face Roy Jones in a boxing fight intended for charity. The fight ended in a draw as both boxers treated the audience to an exciting match that saw them go the full eight round. Tyson showed glimpses of the brilliance for which achieved worldwide fame as the iconic, ‘Iron Mike’. Speaking after the match, he said, ‘This is better than fighting for championships. We’re humanitarians now. We can do something good for the world. We’ve got to do this again. I would absolutely do this again.’ The match therefore was more than a comeback for Tyson, who insisted that he wouldn’t make a penny from the fight. He maintained that the proceeds from the match would go to charity. He and his rival were guaranteed to make $1 million each from their bout, but in the words of Tyson, ‘it’s going to be for various charities.’ For someone who was once bankrupt and had to fight to financially survive, it doesn’t come as a surprise that many would think that the charity fight had an ulterior motive designed to enrich him. He further clarified that ‘Nobody has to ever worry about not getting rich, or getting jealous, or saying I’m doing (the comeback) for money. I’m not getting anything. I just feel good doing this because I can.’
Although the fight ended in a tie, Tyson was meant to pocket around $10 million, but it is not in doubt that Tyson would live up to his promise. For Tyson, it is about leaving behind a legacy. Mike Tyson maintains that he is happy not to be particularly wealthy, ‘Cause no one can take anything from me anymore. There are no vultures. Nobody out there trying to take anything from me. So I’m just happy.’ His decision to give to charity might just be his own way of ensuring that things stay this way. Tyson feels a sense of fulfilment knowing that people are not after you or close to you because of what you have or possess.
Various sports such as football, basketball, and boxing, rake in so much income for sportsmen. Sadly, only a few sportspersons engage in charitable events or programmes. Mike Tyson therefore sets a good example for the game of boxing by raising awareness about how sports can help raise funds for various humanitarian causes that support the less privileged.
Picture Credit: Boxing Scene