Photo: Steve Lott
When Mike was 16 years old, his mother died. He never knew his father, so Mike's boxing trainer, Cus D'Amato, became his guardian. Over the years, Cus also became one of the biggest influences in Mike's life.
On the surface, it didn't seem like a black teenager and an older white man would have much in common, but in Tyson, Mike talks about their similarities and common interest—boxing.
"He was from a bad neighborhood. He was a street kid like me. Then, one day, he just said, 'Listen, you have the chance to change your life, your family's life,'" he says. "He said, 'You do what I tell you to do, and if it doesn't work, then you can leave.'"
Cus prepared Mike, mentally and physically, for the toughest fights of his life. Mike says they watched footage of great boxers together every day for years. "All we did was just—this is really megalomania stuff," he says. "We'd watch all the great fighters. I would ask him, 'How do you beat them?'"
Mike's mentor had an answer for every boxer except one—Muhammad Ali. "No one could beat Muhammad Ali, he thought," Mike says. "I agree with him."
By studying boxers like Jack Dempsey and Sonny Liston, Mike says he adopted certain characteristics and started winning championships. "I did everything he told me to do, and I won," he says. "I started believing in this old man. Cus was different with me than he was with his other fighters. Cus trained me to be totally ferocious, in the ring and out."