Tyson lived a rough life in Brooklyn that consisted of gang activity and a stay at a boy’s reform school. But he went down a different route when he met D’Amato in 1980, who mentored him and trained him for boxing.
After Tyson’s mother passed away when he was 16, D’Amato became his guardian.
“I don’t trust anybody in general. I don’t like for people to know me at all and I just recently trusted [D’Amato] because the same way I trust him, he trusts me and he trusts me a lot,” said a young Tyson during an interview in the 80s.
D’Amato had his own dreams of becoming a boxer before losing his eye sight from a severe injury. But he ended up helping young boxers like Mike. Tyson, former world middleweight holder Rocky Graziano, former heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson, Olympian Jose Torres, and many others.
“It became very much a home for Mike Tyson, which he had never really had,” said Ross Greenburg, former president of HBO Sports, in the documentary teaser.
The male guidance, training, and mentorship put Tyson on the trajectory to be the youngest heavyweight champion.
Mike has opened up about the impact D’Amato had on his life. “If Cus was happy, it made me happy. If me knocking out people made him happy, f—, I wanna do it. I wanna knock out five people a day. Really, because that made him happy. That was my job, I just wanted him to be happy,” Tyson said on an episode of his podcast Hotboxin’ with Mike Tyson.
D’Amato and his partner, Camille Ewald, stood by Tyson’s side during his darkest moments in the public, like controversies and legal battles. However, it was a great loss for the star when D’Amato passed away from pneumonia in 1985.
“I think he grew up without any love or affection, he just grew up in the street looking for something. He wanted somebody to pay attention to him,” said Camille Ewald, D’Amato’s partner, and Tyson’s adoptive mother.
The two part docuseries Mike Tyson: The Knockout debuts on ABC this Tuesday, May 25th and on Jun 1st at 8pm EST.
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