Many people attribute their success to the support of their families. Countless celebrities rush the podiums during award shows to sing their mother’s and father’s praises and thank them for their help and love. Everyone is not as fortunate, however, and some people have managed to stand on top of the world without their parents there to cheer them on. For Mike Tyson, this is not a sad reality though, as he admits that his mother’s passing was a catalyst for his success.
Mike Tyson was a guest on Club Shay Shay last month, where he caught up with sportscaster Shannon Sharpe. The pair chopped it up on a number of topics, including Mike’s mother and how her passing impacted him. According to Mike, his mother’s passing was the best thing that ever happened to him. Had she been alive longer, he feels she would have babied him and made his life too easy. As a result of her passing, Mike Tyson became a street fighter and eventually a boxer and heavyweight champion of the world. While Shannon argued that Mike might have still encountered some of the hardships that made him a world-class athlete even with his mother alive, Mike Tyson says that his path was ordained by God. He truly believes that her passing was a blessing that set him on his path. “I don’t navigate my life to being the heavyweight champion. I didn’t do that. That’s God,” he told Sharpe.
Mike Tyson’s mother was Lorna Smith Tyson. Lorna was born in Charlotteville, Virginia but moved to New York early on in life. She had three children total, Rodney Tyson and Mike Tyson, and a daughter named Denise Tyson. There are conflicting reports on who Mike and his sibling’s father was. While she was alive, Lorna says that their father was a Jamaican man she met in Brooklyn named Percel Tyson. However, in various interviews, Mike claims his father was another man named Jimmy ‘Curlee’ Kirkpatrick Jr.
Mike has spoken about his mother over the years and claims that they did not have the best relationship. Mike Tyson was a wild child and recalled running the streets and sometimes coming home with clothes she did not buy him. Mike says that he never got to see her be proud of him or happy before she passed and he was only 16 when she passed. Lorna reportedly passed from cancer in 1985 after raising her kids alone due to her relationships with Percel Tyson and Jimmy Kirkpatrick failing. Kirkpatrick would pass in 1992.
Mike has said several times throughout his career that his mother’s passing was a big part of his professional success but admitted that personally and emotionally, her loss was really painful.
In 2020 he took to his social media to post a picture of his mother that he had stumbled across after years of not seeing images of her. “My mother in 1947. I just saw this pic for the first time today. She’s 20 years old,” he said in the post from June 2020. He explains that his mother knew the likes of Malcolm X, Miles Davis, and the original Globetrotters. “I knew nothing about my mother,” he said in the caption. “She never told me anything except what my dad told me about her later on in life. I’m proud to be the son of Lorna May Smith.”
Anyone familiar with Mike’s childhood can understand why he and his mother existed at odds before her passing. By 12 years old, Mike was already a large kid and had joined a street gang. He had been convicted of armed robbery and had done some stints in juvenile detention facilities where he would eventually be singled out for his potential in boxing by the physical education instructor Bobby Stewart. While training him, his mentors began to discover that the source of a lot of Tyson’s rage and wildness had to do with his embarrassment over not being able to read or write. They would eventually train him and help him become a massive star. Mike Tyson would become an undisputed heavyweight champion of the world and holds the record as the youngest boxer to win the WBC, WBA, and IBF heavyweight titles at 20 years old.