Mike Tyson’s Biggest Career Paydays In The Ring
It’s hard to find a better boxer than Mike Tyson at its peak. He reigned as the undisputed heavyweight world champion, winning his first 19 professional fights by knockout. He also holds the record for the youngest boxer to win a heavyweight title, when he was only 20 years old, four months and 22 days old. In total, Tyson has won 50 of its 58 fights, including 44 by knockout.
It’s no secret that Tyson lived lavishly, and when you see his total earnings, you can see why he spent so freely. He earned a total of $ 413 million over his 20-year career, but still filed for bankruptcy in 2003, with approximately $ 23 million in debt.
Nevertheless, the former heavyweight champion has had huge fights throughout his career. Here’s an overview of Tyson’s first five paydays, adjusted for inflation.
# 5: Peter McNeeley – $ 42 million ($ 25 million in 1995)
In 1991, Tyson was arrested for rape and then sentenced the following year. He spent three years in prison before returning to the ring. Displayed as “He’s Back”, the match against the unknown Peter McNeeley was Tyson’s first fight in more than four years.
The fight brought in $ 63 million then in à la carte purchases (PPV), but did not even last a minute and a half. Tyson dropped McNeeley to the canvas twice; after the second time, McNeeley’s manager, Vinnie Vecchione, entered the ring to prevent his fighter from taking further damage. As a result, McNeeley was disqualified and Tyson won in just 89 seconds.
# 4: Michael Spinks – $ 43 million ($ 20 million in 1988)
It was Tyson’s very first PPV fight. The two men were undefeated and each was in an excellent position to be the heavyweight champion. Tyson already held title belts at the World Boxing Council, the World Boxing Association and the International Boxing Federation.
At the time, the fight was the richest fight in the history of boxing, totaling around $ 70 million. Like the fight with McNeeley, Tyson quickly worked with Spinks. Butch Lewis, the manager of Spinks, noticed a lump in Tyson’s gloves and demanded that his hands be covered. Angered by the delay, Tyson reportedly said to his coach “you know, I’m going to hurt this guy” on the way to the ring.
Tyson immediately jumped on Spinks, attacking him with several punches and dropping Spinks on the canvas. Spinks stood up, but a left-right combination on his head dropped him again. He would not rise this time, giving Tyson the knockout victory after only 91 seconds.
# 3: Bruce Seldon, Evander Holyfield I and II – $ 49 million ($ 30 million each in 1996 and 1997)
In less than ten months, Tyson had three fights that brought him close to $ 100 million at the time. The first fight, a game against Bruce Seldon, was for the WBA Heavyweight Championship. Tyson beat Seldon in just a minute and 49 seconds, winning by technical knockout. Perhaps even more notable than the fight was the presence of Tupac Shakur in the crowd. The rapper was killed just hours after leaving the event, who died six days later.
At this point in his career, Tyson was 45-1. But it will take him more than three years to win again. His next two fights were against Evander Holyfield, the first in an attempt to defend his WBA title. Holyfield was in the middle of his own return tour, having retired in 1994, although he had almost no chance of winning by most commentators and spectators. Instead, Holyfield won by TKO in the 11th round.
The following summer, June 28, 1997, Tyson and Holyfield had their revenge, billed as The sound and the fury. Holyfield actually received more money than Tyson for this fight ($ 35-30 million) and he scored 1.99 million PPV purchases, which was a record for over a decade.
This fight quickly became one of the most controversial sporting events of all time. Tyson bit Holyfield’s ears twice, the first bite being aggressive enough to remove a piece of cartilage from Holyfield’s right ear. Tyson said the bites were in retaliation for Holyfield hitting him without penalty. However, referee Mills Lane stopped the game after the third round, disqualifying Tyson and awarding the win to Holyfield. It was the first time in over 50 years that a heavyweight bout had ended in disqualification. Tyson has received a permanent suspension from boxing and has had his license canceled indefinitely. This decision was overturned just over a year later.
Today, Tyson and Holyfield are close friends. But their rivalry in the mid-90s was one of the most intense the sports world has ever known.
# 2: Frank Bruno II – $ 50 million ($ 30 million in 1996)
Tyson had fought Frank Bruno seven years earlier, with the uncontested world championship at stake. Tyson won this fight, but Bruno would get another crack of his own here, for the WBC championship. Unfortunately, the rematch was even faster for Bruno. Tyson gave Bruno a cut on his eye in the first round, and at the start of the third round, Tyson delivered a 13-punch combo that ended the game by technical knockout.
The fight turned out to be the last in Bruno’s career. He was interested in a potential third fight with Tyson but was warned that he could lose vision in one eye if he continued to fight. As a result, Bruno has withdrawn entirely from boxing.
# 1: Lennox Lewis – $ 148 million ($ 103 million in 2002)
One of the last fights in Tyson’s career, this fight with Lewis lasted several years. Lewis refused a $ 13.5 million guarantee to fight Tyson in 1996, and then agreed to $ 4 million to withdraw and let Tyson fight Seldon. By the time Lewis and Tyson fought in 2002, Lewis already held the WBC, IBF, IBO and Lineal titles.
From the start, tensions were high between the two fighters. Tyson and Lewis fought at their press conference, with Tyson biting Lewis’ leg and shouting desecrations at several journalists. The fight started evenly, but as the rounds advanced, Tyson began to weaken, eventually getting cuts in both of his eyes as his face swelled. On lap 8, Lewis unleashed a heavy right cross, throwing Tyson onto the canvas for the second time on the lap. Tyson was lying on his back as he was counted, giving Lewis the knockout victory. Tyson would only fight three more times in his career, winning only once.