Mike Tyson is really a man who needs no introduction, as his boxing career made him a household name in the ’80s. While Tyson may be better known today for his flashy antics and his cameos in The Hangover series, the former boxer comes from a much more humble upbringing. Raised in Brooklyn and then later Brownsville, N.Y., Tyson had been arrested on over 30 occasions by the time he was only 13 (via Biography). It can be said that fighting was part of his nature due to his rough upbringing, but Tyson really wasn’t introduced into fighting for sport until he was 14 — when he met Constantine “Cus” D’Amato, who became his first coach and subsequently his legal guardian a couple of years later, to boot.
According to SportyTell, Tyson quickly became a force to be reckoned with — he competed in the Junior Olympics in 1981 and 1982, bringing home gold medals both times. He didn’t make his professional boxing debut until 1985, yet “quickly rose to stardom by winning his first 37 fights,” per Sportscasting.
Since fame and fortune often come hand in hand, Tyson suddenly had more money than he knew what to do with — but he wouldn’t be the first or last celebrity to buy some absolutely ridiculous stuff. While Nicolas Cage spent over $270,000 for a dinosaur skull, Paris Hilton spent $325,000 on a dog villa. Both of those, however, pale in comparison to Mike Tyson’s amusement park of spending habits.
Mike Tyson was bathing in gold
In what can only be described as an unnecessary and exorbitant display of wealth, Mike Tyson gifted his first wife, Robin Givens, the next best thing to literally swimming in gold doubloons. As the first Christmas gift — and ultimately last — that Tyson would give to his wife, he went even flashier than you might expect with a $2 million solid gold bathtub. While bathing in gold may have been saved for the likes of Scrooge McDuck, Tyson wasn’t about to let anything get in his way.
Unfortunately for the boxer, a gold tub wasn’t enough to keep his marriage afloat, and the deteriorating relationship ended in a swift divorce the following year in 1989. In a hilarious story that Tyson recalled to HuffPost Live, he once caught his wife with Brad Pitt in her car after their separation (at the time, Tyson and Givens were still hooking up). “Brad must have been smoking a joint, he must have been drinking [or] something, because he was real close to me in the car, and he had no idea. He didn’t see me.” As Tyson went on, “When he got [out of] the car, he saw me.” Awkward! Luckily for Pitt, no punches were thrown.
So, what was to become of the infamous luxe tub? Iron Mike kept custody of it, and it remained in Tyson’s possession until 2013, when he sold the tub to British billionaire Derwood Hodgegrass for $1.2 million.
Mike Tyson's signature face tattoo
In 2003, Mike Tyson spent some money on a tattoo that is now arguably the most easily recognizable piece of ink on the planet — his tribal face tattoo. Tyson’s tattoo is unmistakably linked to his image. So much so, in fact, that the boxer’s tattoo artist, S. Victor Whitmill, sued Warner Bros. for using the copyrighted tattoo in The Hangover Part II after Ed Helms’ character woke up with the same design in a strange tribute to Tyson (via The Hollywood Reporter).
While spending money on a tattoo isn’t shocking considering how liberally Tyson tends to blow his hard-earned dollars, the decision to go under the needle and get his face inked only days before his fight with Clifford Etienne was shocking, to say the least. What may come as an even greater shock is the fact that the fierce tribal tattoo wasn’t Tyson’s original idea — he had something completely different in mind.
Tyson retold the story while on In Depth with Graham Bensinger, noting that he originally intended to plater his face with, “Some hearts and s**t. I was gonna be the man of hearts, baby.” His artist, however, refused Tyson’s request and told him to come back in a few days so he could draw up a more befitting tattoo. When Tyson returned to the studio, he emerged with the tribal ink we all know and love. Tyson said about his initial idea, “That would’ve been really stupid.”
The story behind those Tyson tigers
What is possibly one of the most iconic splurges of Mike Tyson’s life to date is his purchase of three Bengal tigers, which came with a price tag of about $70,000 each. Tyson went in-depth with Tom Segura and Joe Rogan on The Joe Rogan Experience and explained how he actually arranged to purchase the tigers while in prison.
In a mind-boggling exchange that Tyson had with a car dealer he knew, he was told that he could exchange cars for horses. Tyson recalled this, saying, “I had a lot of cars and thought I could probably get some horses, too. And he said, ‘Yeah, man, you can get cougars, lions, tigers.'” Naturally, Tyson asked if he could get some tigers. “The guy said, ‘Imagine how cool that would be? … Imagine that, man, you’d be in an Aston Martin or a Ferrari. You’d have a tiger right next to you, man.’ And I’m a young guy. I’m saying to myself, ‘Wow, that would be cool, right? Get me some cubs, man.'”
What may come as an even bigger shock is that the initial investment was really only the tip of the financial iceberg that is tiger-ownership. Tyson paid out $125,000 a year to an animal trainer “to be on call” (via The Seattle Times), and another $250,000 when a woman thought it would be a fun idea to hop Tyson’s fence and subsequently get bitten — pretty generous considering she was trespassing.
Mike Tyson's plethora of pigeons
Mike Tyson has a bizarre history with animals and his spending habits. As he once told The Sun (via Mirror) of a trip to the zoo, “I offered the attendant $10,000 to open the [gorilla] cage and … smash that silverback’s snot box! He declined.” While apes may not be pals of Iron Mike, the fighter has a softer spot for a much less flashy animal: the pigeon.
As Tyson revealed on In Depth with Graham Bensinger, the boxer owns about 100 of the birds that are in habitats in his garage, plus “a few thousand” pigeons in New York City. Tyson noted that pigeons were his “first love” and went into detail about caring for them. “It’s just easy [to look after them], you know?” he explained. “It’s just over and over repetition. They’re like us.”
While anyone who has been to New York (or any large city for that matter) may think that pigeons are a dime a dozen, Tyson’s birds fetch a slightly higher price. Three of the pigeons in his impressive collection are Janssen racing pigeons, which Tyson’s breeder came across at an international pigeon convention (via The Local). As for the price tag for the top racing pigeons in the world? Roughly $17,000 total — which Tyson happily paid for.
Mike Tyson owns a fleet of Bentleys
Mike Tyson’s car collection is enough to make any gearhead salivate. It’s no shock that this multi-millionaire has several luxury vehicles — in fact, by the time Tyson was 22, he owned four Rolls-Royces in his collection worth a whopping $500 thousand. Why, however, so many of the same brand of vehicle? As it turns out, Tyson once had a history of giving them away on a whim after a night out — or even as a bribe to a cop (via Complex News).
Back in the ’80s, when Tyson was married to Robin Givens, the couple was waiting in line at a Burger King when Givens made the mistake of reaching into his pocket, only to find it filled with condoms. Accusing Tyson of infidelity, the duo abruptly left the burger joint and got into their car. As Tyson recalled the following to Complex News, “She rams [the Bentley] into the car in front of us. The car in front of us [crumpled] up.” After the police eventually arrived, Tyson offered his car to a cop on the scene, so that he and his wife could get out of the situation.
Years later, when Tyson got out of prison, he went to a luxury car dealership and, given his penchant for Bentleys, bought a $313,000 Bentley Azure, which he liked so much that he decided to buy three more. We’re hoping that these luxury vehicles didn’t serve as more bribes.
An Ohio mansion fit for the 'baddest man on the planet'
It comes as no surprise that Mike Tyson’s homes were as extravagant as his lifestyle. Per Give Me Sport, Tyson’s Connecticut mansion even had its own recording studio, nightclub, and poker tables. Simply put, it seems like you could take Iron Mike out of Vegas, but you can’t take Vegas out of Iron Mike. After Tyson declared bankruptcy, this property was sold to 50 Cent, who actually went on to complain about the cost of running the sprawling estate — an estimated $65,000 a month.
All things considered, the strangest of the boxer’s homes may be his former Ohio mansion (via The U.S. Sun). Located in Southington, the area alone is enough to raise eyebrows: a small town with a population of just over 3,000. Tyson had the home fitted with tiger cages for his feline friends, and in an almost cartoonish display of wealth, had a custom gate made for the mansion that included his name in wrought iron.
If you’re ever in the neighborhood of Southington and care to visit the property — you actually can. Per Tribune Chronicle, Tyson sold the house in 1999, and after being passed around by a couple of owners, it was donated to the Living Word Sanctuary Church, who took it on as a restoration project. With the tiger cages turned into a pavilion, it’s certainly missing the edge it had while it was home to the “baddest man on the planet.”
Pagers and cell phones galore!
At the height of his career, Mike Tyson was an incredibly popular celebrity with an over-the-top social life. Obviously, he wanted to stay up-to-date and in touch, so how does one do that in the ’90s? Well, with the most tubular devices of the times: pagers and cell phones. While pagers may be antiquated today, they were a must-have back in the day. By 1980 alone, there were 3 million pagers worldwide, which increased to 60 million by 1990 (via GDB).
With a price tag of about $60, pagers were flying off the shelves. Part of the reason for their popularity was due to the fact that they were more accessible than a cell phone. According to Technology.org, the most popular phone of 1997, the Nokia 6110, had a whopping outright price of $900 — or $200, if purchased with a service plan.
Tyson managed to spend an outrageous $230,000 on pagers and cell phones in the short timespan of two years, from 1995 to 1997. To give some perspective, that’s over 3,800 pagers or 255 Nokia 6110s, if bought at full price.
Being a Mike Tyson fan club president sure pays well
Mike Tyson was selling out boxing arenas all over the country after becoming the youngest heavyweight champion of all time — and his fame only continued to skyrocket. To say he was popular would be an understatement. Considering the true hallmark of superstardom in the ’80s and ’90s was the fan club, it should come as no surprise that Iron Mike himself had one.
While the concept might be lost today in the age of “stan” culture, all of the biggest celebrities of the day had one. Most of these clubs charged a small fee for a membership card, but they have since fallen out of popularity. In fact, in 2014, Duran Duran even sued their own fan club (via Rolling Stone). Oh, how times have changed.
However, Tyson’s fan club may not have been born out of the same appreciation as that of some of his contemporaries. According to a CBS News article from 1998, the president of the boxing legend’s fan club was actually on Tyson’s payroll to the tune of $1,000 a week. Compare that to the average American salary of $20,000 in 1990, and Tyson was truly paying a pretty penny for a chance to have his own self-absorbed club.
Meet Crocodile, Mike Tyson's hype man
Boxing coaches, personal trainers, and other sports-oriented experts are all standard services that professional athletes like Mike Tyson are expected to be paying for. Even considering that Tyson had an on-call animal trainer for his tigers under his employ, the weirdest staff member out of them all may be the boxer’s personal hype man, Steve “Crocodile” Fitch.
According to CBS News, the main role that Crocodile played was simple: dress in military fatigues, shout “guerilla warfare!” during news conferences, and just generally intimidate Tyson’s opponents. Crocodile was ringside at all of Tyson’s boxing matches, chased across a casino floor for his intimidation tactics, and even yelled out, “It’s time to bite,” just moments before the infamous fight that was Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield (via The Guardian).
As boxing’s most aggressive cheerleader of all time, Crocodile was compensated generously. So much so, in fact, that he could be named the highest-paid cheerleader in the country. For comparison, per The Hollywood Reporter, during a 2013-2014 football season, a former San Francisco 49ers cheerleader claimed she was paid a piddly $1,250 for the entirety of the term — while Crocodile earned a whopping $300,000 in 1996 while working for Tyson (via CBS News).
The Mike Tyson Ranch
For those that keep up with Mike Tyson and his podcast, Hotboxin’ with Mike Tyson, it comes as no surprise that the former boxer is a fan of cannabis. So, how big of a fan is he? Enough to open his own farm dubbed Tyson Ranch, that’s for sure. According to The Sun, “In 2018, Tyson revealed his bold plan to expand his weed empire to a cannabis-themed theme park,” providing things such as “glamping” and “the world’s longest lazy river.” To be fair, it all seems pretty on-brand for a guy who has smoked toad venom as a hallucinogenic.
As far as Iron Mike’s spending habits go, this one seems to be a good investment. Tyson’s already-thriving cannabis empire sells roughly $650,000 worth of marijuana products every month, according to the NZHerald, and would probably sell a whole lot more if he wasn’t personally going through a massive amount of the stuff himself. On an episode of Hotboxin’ With Mike Tyson, the athlete admitted that his personal use and what is used for the podcast adds up to about $40,000 worth of product a month.
Mike Tyson paid a price for a piece of Evander Holyfield's ear
Per Sportscasting, on Nov. 9, 1996, Mike Tyson suffered his second career loss of all time at the hands of Evander Holyfield, who then took the WBA heavyweight title. The following year, on June 28, 1997, “the two went right back at it again.” Little did anyone know that this rematch would become one of the most infamous boxing matches in history.
With Holyfield leading the first two rounds of their rematch, Tyson came into the third with perhaps a bit too much fury when he took a bite out of his opponent’s ear. As The New York Times wrote after the incident, “A boxing commission has suspended him, a district attorney may want to interview him, a doctor may want to do a blood test on him and a certain Evander Holyfield may want to sue him.” Ultimately, Tyson’s stunt lost him a cool $3 million.
That being said, as Tyson argues on his podcast, Hotboxin’ With Mike Tyson, he didn’t really lose much. As he said about the aftermath of the incident, “I think about how much money I made taking pictures of [myself] biting someone’s ear. That superseded the $3 million that I lost.” Uh… right. Regardless of what he says, this may be the most that the legendary boxer (or anyone, for that matter) has spent on a bite.
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