BoxingMike Tyson

EXPLAINED The story behind Mike Tyson’s infamous face tattoo with heavyweight legend originally wanting hearts

Mike Tyson had a fearsome reputation both inside and outside the ring and one thing that is synonymous with his legacy is his infamous face tattoo.

Iron Mike rose to fame as the youngest heavyweight champion in history and possessed ferocious speed and power.

But both his career and personal life was marred in controversy.

In 1992, he was jailed for six years after being convicted of rape and was not the same fighter when he returned.

Tyson famously bit a chunk out of Evander Holyfield’s ear in their 1997 rematch and had constant drug issues during that time in his life.

Just a few days before his 2003 fight with Clifford Etienne, he decided to get a tribal tattoo on his face and it is still one of his most recognisable features to this day.

In an interview in 2012, he revealed the story behind the tattoo and he actually wanted to get hearts on his face.

Tyson went on to beat Etienne in the first round in 2003

He said: “I just thought it was a cool tattoo. I was going to get a bunch of hearts and stuff. That would have been really stupid.

“I was going to be the man of hearts, baby. I was very close. Victor Perez, the tattoo artist said ‘I ain’t doing that. I can’t do that’.

“I said ‘what do you think I should get? Because I was confused.’ Victor Perez is a good guy and said ‘come back in a couple of days I’m going to try and write up some stuff’.

“I waited around and two days later he called and said ‘Mike, I’ve got some tribal stuff’. I said ‘woah, put another one over there’. I was like ‘this is cool, I like this’. So he did it.

“I thought it was so hot. I would be in these dens, these clubs and strip places sometimes and all the girls said ‘oh you are very exotic, where are you from? Where did your family come from? Why did you put this tattoo on your face?’

“They said I looked like some tribesman or S… I ran into some chicks that happened to be from the Maowi tribe and they said ‘hey, you’ve got some of my tribe on your face’ and the lady pulled her pants down and she has this tattoo on her butt.”

His former trainer, Jeff Fenech, offered up an alternate reason why Tyson had the tattoo done just days before his bout with Etienne.

Mike Tyson is the former undisputed heavyweight world champion

Fenech, who walked out on the heavyweight fighter after he got the tattoo, claims Iron Mike did not want the fight.

He told: “My first impression was that I’ve never had a tattoo in my life, but I thought we are fighting in a week and when you get a tattoo you can’t fight because they snap up and it wouldn’t be healthy to do that.

“We sat down and spoke and he didn’t really want to fight and he wasn’t prepared to and that was one of the reasons he got the tattoo.

“After a good hour talk I was in tears when I left the house that night. I went and stayed in a hotel because I was pretty despondent.

“I was away from home for eight weeks in Vegas getting him ready for the fight and I stayed in a hotel and got the first flight back to my family because that was my priority.

“A week later he fought and knocked out Clifford in one round and I was upset. I was happy for Mike that he won, but I was also upset that I had trained him for eight weeks and I wasn’t part of that win.”

That 49 second knockout of Etienne proved to be Tyson’s last professional victory with his last two fights ending in defeats to Danny Williams and Kevin McBride.

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