There are a number of notable names who are top contenders to be considered the best pound-for-pound boxer of all time, but I don’t think there’s a single person who’s come close to matching the type of fear Mike Tyson was able to instill in his opponents in his prime.
The hallowed heavyweight was just 18 years old when he turned pro in 1985, and he wasted no time proving he was a force to be reckoned with by winning his first 19 fights via knockout (with a dozen of those bouts ending in the first round).
In 1986, Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in the history of boxing and soon became the undisputed title holder after securing the three belts he’d hold for three years until his shocking upset at the hands of Buster Douglas in 1990.
Many experts would tell you Tyson wasn’t adequately prepared for that fight thanks to distractions stemming from issues in his personal life—especially his rocky marriage with actress Robin Givens, who filed for divorce in 1988 a year after marrying the man she accused of a disturbing pattern of emotional and physical abuse.
The two of them separated before the split was finalized in 1988, and Givens quickly attracted the attention of some high-profile suitors—including an NBA legend who may or may not have narrowly avoided getting knocked out by Tyson during a pretty tense encounter.
Michael Jordan once had a very awkward encounter with Mike Tyson
Tyson and Givens had already split by the time the latter attended a birthday dinner Bears defensive end Richard Dent held at Mike Ditka’s restaurant in Chicago in 1988 (just a couple of months before their divorce became official).
While some of the people who were in attendance at the star-studded affair disagree on the details of what actually transpired that night, Rory Holloway (who managed Tyson along with John Home), says the boxer decided to start sucking down some Long Island iced teas that supposedly brought out his “jealous side.”
Tyson had heard rumors Jordan had become involved with Givens, and he apparently decided there was no better venue to air his grievances, as he allegedly told the superstar he knew he was sleeping with his ex in a somewhat accusatory manner.
Holloway recalled Jordan’s reaction in his memoir, saying:
“I see Mike tense up…He was waiting for Mike to either laugh or say something. Michael Jordan didn’t seem like he knew how to take it but he knew, ‘I don’t want this guy to swing across the table.'”
It’s worth noting Dent later asserted Holloway read too much into the exchange and disputed the notion Jordan was genuinely concerned about being on the receiving end of a punch delivered by The Baddest Man on the Planet, noting, “I never saw Mike look scared.”
Interestingly enough, that’s not the only time Tyson found himself fuming over a celebrity he believed was involved with Givens, as there’s also a story concerning a similarly tense moment that unfolded after he discovered she was hanging out with Brad Pitt.