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Mike Tyson: “The Birdman from Brooklyn”
Taking on Tyson is an Animal Planet series that is part biographical, part homing pigeon education.
There are many who did, or still want to, see Mike Tyson as an animal. It is easy to impose a negative judgment onto the life of another person. Once an opinion has formed, it becomes difficult to remove it from the coop someone creates in their mind.
Mike Tyson was born in 1966. He grew up in poverty in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York. During the 1970's he began raising pigeons. Like the birds he is fond of, Tyson has always found peace whenever he has returned to his home.
He openly admits that it was his involvement in criminal activity that generated the money to buy the birds he loves. Those actions led to him spending significant time in a juvenile detention facility starting at the age of 12. While in that environment he came into contact with two people who would change his life. The first was Muhammad Ali and the other was Cus D'Amato.
Ali visited the detention center and spoke at an assembly. As Tyson listened to what Ali said, he also watched the large crowd that had gathered to see him. He recognized that Ali had something that he wanted, respect. He used that experience as motivation.
It was during that same year of his life that Cus D'Amato adopted him. D'Amato became part father and part boxing mentor. D'Amato facilitated "Iron Mike's" rapid rise to the top of the boxing world.
D'Amato taught Tyson to believe that he was superior to other people. It was a mentality that allowed him to grab career success. Over time, that attitude also caused him to lose his grip on his personal life.
D'Amato died in 1985 and wasn't able to see his protege become the youngest fighter to ever win the WBC heavyweight title in 1986. Viewed from afar, it must have seemed like the twenty-year-old was flying high.
Now 45, the former five-time world champion has become involved in competitive pigeon racing. His new television show is sure to educate those who weren't aware of the sport. It will also reaffirm that he remains a compelling figure.
It is understandable that hardened opinions were formed about Mike Tyson long ago. One does not have to condone his past actions, or those of any individual. But, if we choose to look down at someone have we also embraced the idea that redemption is decided by our opinion alone?
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