Mike Tyson on His Immense Fame Early in His Boxing Career — ‘I Was a God, I Just Didn’t Know What To Do’

Mike Tyson has lived a wild life. Thrust into superstardom at only 20 years old, he received more money, fame, and attention than he could have ever imagined after becoming the world’s youngest heavyweight champion in 1986. 

In the years to follow, Tyson lived a reckless lifestyle that led to numerous lawsuits, a rape conviction, and eventually, bankruptcy. He spent money frivolously, buying lions and tigers, $7 million diamond necklaces, and dozens of cars that he’d often give away to friends and family

Looking back on his dangerous lifestyle back in his prime, Tyson now understands that the pressures of fame became too much for him. Unable to deal with the constant scrutiny and attention, he gave in to his destructive habits. 

Mike Tyson didn’t know what to do with the massive fame he had early in his career

Mike Tyson stands in the ring during the fight with Carl Williams at the Convention Cente
Mike Tyson stands in the ring during the fight with Carl Williams at the Convention Center | Focus on Sport/Getty Images

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Tyson talked about his experience as a young icon during a 2020 interview with Tony Robbins, noting that he felt like a god at the time. 

“In one stage, I was a god,” Tyson said. “But I just didn’t know what to do. I was on the clouds, but I just didn’t know what to do [when] I was there.”

Because he’d had relatively little time to figure out who he was prior to becoming famous, Tyson spiraled down a path of indulgence that got him into a lot of trouble. 

“I got sucked into all my vices,” Tyson said. “Women, drinking, parties, spending. It just took a toll on me, took a toll on my self-esteem, took a toll on my whole barometer, so to speak. 

He struggled to transition into life after boxing

After retiring from boxing, Tyson struggled to figure out his purpose and who he could trust. His current wife ended up being one of the only people who showed promise. 

“I’m trying to make some sense out of my relationships with individuals, and eventually, with my wife, I let her understand, ‘This is going to be hell,’” Tyson said. 

His wife has helped him overcome his internal battles

Tyson had to have an honest conversation with his wife, whom he can’t believe decided to stay with him. 

“It appeared that she could understand what I’m talking [about] because she probably experienced some tough cases of relationships. But when she figures out this is really hell… I’m just really … I can’t even find the words, I’m just really … Gratitude is the word I’m looking for. I’m really grateful that she stuck in with me and we have the relationship that we did. We went through hell to receive it, but I’m just so happy that she stuck with me.  Nobody would’ve never stuck with me.”

He’s surprised he’s still alive 

Looking back on all of the decisions he’s made over the course of his life, Tyson struggles to understand how he’s alive today. 

“At that time, that’s what my life was about. Just fighting,” Tyson told Interview Magazine. “Becoming a personality at such a quick rate, I was never prepared for that. I thought I was. I had no idea what I was involved with at that time in my life. It was just so overwhelming. I’m surprised I’m still alive.”