Mike Tyson Once Offered a Zookeeper a Ridiculous Amount of Money to Fight a Silverback Gorilla

Mike Tyson is widely regarded as one of the best heavyweight boxers of all time. At just 20 years old, he became the youngest boxer to ever win a heavyweight title. Tyson possessed a level of power and ferocity that few other boxers have been able to match. Of course, that brute aggression also caused Tyson a lot of problems over the years.

Exhibit A: Tyson biting off Evander Holyfield‘s ear during a bout in 1997. Exhibit B: Tyson spending time in prison on charges of rape. One story that fewer people know about involves Tyson’s attempt to box a gorilla. Here we look back over Tyson’s career while highlighting this bizarre and little-known incident.

Mike Tyson’s boxing career

Tyson’s first professional fight came in 1985. During the next five years, he strung together one of the most dominant streaks ever seen. In 1985 alone, he fought 15 times, winning every bout either by knockout or technical knockout. Many of those wins came in the first round, virtually within seconds of the match starting.

In 1986 and 1987, Tyson successfully won titles in the World Boxing Council, the World Boxing Association, and the International Boxing Federation. In the process, he became the first boxer to ever hold all three titles simultaneously.

In 1988, Tyson became the lineal heavyweight champion after knocking out Michael Spinks in a mere 91 seconds—a rank he would hold until 1990. When all was said and done, Tyson fought 58 professional matches and won a cool 50 of them.

Even more impressively, 44 of those wins came by way of knockout, making his career knockout rate a staggering 75.86 percent. That number effectively demonstrates just how much raw power Tyson managed to pack into every punch.

Mike Tyson’s life outside the ring

Mike Tyson in a suit looks at camera and shows off his face tattoo
| Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Tyson’s success inside the ring quickly turned him into a celebrity. In 1987, just two years after his debut, he partnered with Nintendo on their NES video game, Mike Tyson’s Punchout!! Tyson soon became one of the most recognized sports personalities, regularly popping up in popular culture books, movies, and television.

All that changed in 1991, when a 25-year-old Tyson was arrested on charges of rape. He was convicted to six years in prison, although ultimately he was released after less than three years.

While in prison, Tyson converted to Islam and claimed to be a new man. However, trouble continued to dog him after his release.

Tyson continued to be occasionally dominant in the ring, also he also suffered some significant losses. Meanwhile, Tyson’s lavish lifestyle was crippling him financially.

In 2003, shortly after getting a wild tribal tattoo on his face, he filed for bankruptcy. Drinking and drug problems dogged him in the intervening years, although now Tyson has managed to rebuild his reputation and brand to a certain degree.

Tyson’s bizarre attempt to box a gorilla

Recently a story came out about how, back in the late 1980s, Tyson attempted to fight a silverback gorilla at a zoo In New York. While on a trip with his then-wife, Tyson saw one irritable gorilla bullying the other gorillas in the pen.

Tyson tried to persuade the zookeeper to let him into the pen to “smash that silverback’s snot box.” Rebuffed, Tyson then offered the zookeeper $10,000 for the privilege of fighting the gorilla.

Fortunately, the zookeeper was wise enough to decline the offer. With the recent success of the Netflix documentary, in which he briefly appears, Tyson recently found himself thinking back to that incident—as well as his broader relationship with exotic pets.

During his heyday, Tyson owned at least two tigers, which he kept at his mansion in Las Vegas. In an Instagram Live appearance with Fat Joe, Tyson expressed regret for that decision.

However, he seemed to be thinking about the issue primarily from his own perspective, saying of the tigers: “They’ll kill you by accident, especially when you’re playing rough with them, you’re punching them back.”

Those words will probably make animal rights activists cringe, even as they congratulate Tyson for giving up on exotic pets.