We often hear, “what does not kill you makes you stronger.” For Mike Tyson, these words were true and his hard upbringing largely shaped him into the boxer, and person, that he is.
Mike Tyson was legally adopted by his trainer and wife. When Mike was left without parents by the age of sixteen, his boxing trainer stepped in and legally took over the fatherly role that he had carried for years.
Since Mike Tyson never knew his biological father, his trainer, Cus D’Amato, was often referred to as his “real” father. Their relationship was extremely close, and you can hear more about how Tyson feels about Cus in his interview response using the YouTube link below.
Mike Tyson’s Family Life
Once Mike Tyson’s biological father left his family when Tyson was two years old, Mike Tyson’s mother was left to raise her two sons and her daughter all on her own. Being a single parent is hard enough, but adding the stressors of living in a high crime, low-income area made life difficult for the family.
Both of Mike Tyson’s parents were drug addicts, so that is all he knew growing up. In fact, he claims that the first time he had alcohol, he was less than one year old.
“My mother would feed me liquor and drugs to get me to sleep,” Mike Tyson explains.
It is a heartbreaking reality of his life growing up in a poor Brooklyn home. He reminisces on his childhood home, remembering that it smelled like “sewage and weed” and that it was always full of individuals who engaged in dangerous behavior on the streets.
In a volatile home situation, Mike Tyson was forced to grow up early and learned to fend for himself in the streets. He fought in the streets often, and engaged in petty crime daily.
By age thirteen, Mike Tyson had been arrested 38 times.
By the time Mike Tyson turned sixteen, his mother had died. A few years later, his sister died at the age of twenty-four.
During these times, his involvement in organized boxing gave him an outlet and allowed him to escape the pain that occurred in his home.
His personal trainer, Cus D’Amato, who had picked him from the Brooklyn slums, became his mentor and surrogate father figure. When Tyson’s mother died, D’Amato and his wife, Camille Ewald, formally adopted him.
The couple cared for him dearly, and gave him the home that he had always longed for when he was growing up in the slums of Brooklyn. Even when Tyson was in legal trouble in later years, Ewald and D’Amato were always quick to defend him.
There is an evident bond between D’Amato and Tyson due to their extensive training relationship, but the addition of Tyson to the family’s home gave him a new identity as a son rather than just another professional boxer.
You can find a picture of Tyson, in his younger years, training with D’Amato in the Instagram link provided below.
Paying It Forward
Mike Tyson often becomes emotional when asked to speak on the influence that Ewald and D’Amato had on his life. As both have now passed away, Mike Tyson continues to pay forward the privilege that he had to be given an opportunity by the couple to rewrite the future of his life.
Mike Tyson founded Mike Tyson Cares in 2012, a charity foundation supporting underprivileged children and victims of domestic violence and spousal abuse. Tyson hopes that this foundation will serve kids who come from broken homes like he did, and give them a chance to create a future for themselves.
With all that he has overcome, it is incredible to see what Mike Tyson has made of himself today. His charitable works are an inspiration to young children across the country that no matter what you come from, you have control over what you do with your life.