Mike Tyson Wanted Revenge After He Found Out His Mother Had Died — ‘We Never Had Anything, So My Revenge Was Having Everything’

Mike Tyson had a tumultuous childhood growing up. The former heavyweight champion grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn, one of the roughest neighborhoods in New York at the time, and spent the majority of his youth engaging in petty crimes such as robbery and theft.

Tyson lived in intense poverty as a child, and things didn’t turn around for him until he started boxing under his first trainer, Cus D’Amato. At the time, he was solely raised by his mother, who often struggled to provide for the future boxing legend. 

Tyson’s mother died when he was only 16 years old, which led to Cus D’Amato stepping in permanently as his guardian. Looking back on that time in his life, Tyson claimed that he wanted revenge after finding out his mother died. 

Mike Tyson wanted revenge after he found out his mom had died

Mike Tyson speaks onstage during a panel discussion at the 2013 Summer Television Critics Association tour
Mike Tyson speaks onstage during a panel discussion at the 2013 Summer Television Critics Association tour | Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

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Mike Tyson discussed the earlier days of his childhood during an episode of his Hotboxin’ podcast. 

“I wanted to show the world who I was,” Tyson said when asked how he felt after his mother gave D’Amato sole custody of him. “I want everybody in the world to know my name.”

Reflecting on the emotions he felt after his mother died, Tyson could only think of one word. 

“Revenge … When I say revenge, revenge is … we never had anything,” Tyson said. “We never had money, never had food. We never had anything, so my revenge was having everything. People knowing my name.” 

He would often go to sleep hungry as a child 

During his childhood, Tyson often had to find his own methods of taking care of himself. His mother was rarely around, which often resulted in him hanging out with older kids in the neighborhood and robbing people for their money. 

He told Hotboxin’ guest Jim Gray that he often went to bed hungry because his mother had no money to feed him. 

“How often were you hungry?” Gray asked. 

“A lot,” Tyson said. “But sometimes when you’re hungry, [in] your mind, you forget you’re hungry and you go to sleep sometimes. Sometimes people say you can’t sleep ‘cause you’re so hungry, I think that was a lie. When you’re tired you sleep, don’t care how hungry you are. We ran the streets all day. My mother hoped from somewhere, somehow, she’d get some money and bring some money and food home. Don’t know how we’re gonna get it, but whatever you had to do to get it, you got it.”

Mike Tyson had a complicated relationship with his mother

When asked what his mother was like, Tyson didn’t hide any details. 

“She was loving, but she was kind of aggressive,” Tyson recalled. “Never had her life together, never pretty much worked. Wasn’t afraid to really beat you, hit you with anything, pretty much. Drank heavily. She had a lot of boyfriends and stuff. Sometimes her boyfriend would come over and be drunk, I would cut their pockets and rob their money.”

Regardless of their complex relationship, Tyson still had immense love for his mother.