Before getting involved with Boxing, Mike Tyson could be described as an overweight and frightened kid from the projects. He was constantly getting into trouble and being sent to juvenile detention. That would soon change when he met the man who would help mold him into the youngest heavyweight champion of all time.
It was at a juvenile home in the Bronx where he met a young Irish amateur boxer who worked there named Bobby Stewart. He eventually started training and sparring with Stewart on a consistent basis. Although Mike started out getting beat up by Stewart, the tables eventually turned and eventually Stewart couldn’t keep up with Tyson anymore.
Bobby Stewart eventually told Mike he couldn’t spar with him anymore and he was worried that Mike would end up dead or in Prison once he got out of Juvie. It was then that Stewart recommended that Tyson should go train with the famous boxing manager/trainer Cus D’Amato. Cus had been the trainer of the legendary boxers Floyd Patterson and José Torres.
-Photo of Cus D’Amato(left) and Mike Tyson from Boxinghalloffame.com
After seeing Tyson spar for just a short period of time, Cus was very impressed and offered Tyson the opportunity to come live and train with him. Cus ensured Tyson that if he worked hard he would become the youngest heavyweight of all time(he did).
Although hesitant at first, Tyson decided that this might be a real opportunity and agreed to go train with Cus D’Amato. Tyson was very surprised that someone like Cus saw so much potential in him.
Cus taught Tyson the fundamentals of boxing and perhaps most importantly, the value of Discipline for an athlete. Not only that, but he constantly instilled a sense of Confidence in Tyson by telling him that he was something special, and he would one day be champ. Being in the Bronx, Cus had access to tons of old boxing footage and the 2 of them would spend a lot of time watching and learning from fighters such as Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis.
With Cus’’s help, Tyson displayed a brilliant amateur career and eventually went on to win 2 gold medals in the Junior Olympic games.
Cus D’Amato trained and managed Tyson all the way up until his 11th professional fight, which D’Amato passed away 3 days after. Almost exactly one year after Cus D’Amato’s death, Mike Tyson went on to defeat Trevor Berbick with a second-round TKO and become the youngest heavyweight boxing champion of all time, just as his trainer promised he would.
Mike Tyson once stated that “Without Cus, I might be living in some crummy apartment building back in Brownsville, or I might be dead”.
Having a strong mentor like Cus is something we see very commonly with famous athletes and successful people in general. Tiger Woods had his persistent father, and Henry Ford learned the secrets of business and technology from the great Thomas Edison. Most successful people credit their parents with instilling them with a strong sense of confidence that they could achieve anything they wanted. I guess this leaves us with an important question, Is believing in ourselves really enough to become truly great at what we do, or is outside encouragement both necessary and crucial to our growth?