There are some athletes who manage to transcend the fan base beyond the sport they're participating in. Athletes who become global/social phenomenon, who inspire people from all sorts of disciplines, who captivate viewers from around the world because of how they go about accomplishing their dreams. Mike Tyson is certainly one of those athletes — and seeing how he's transitioned his career over the years, it's startling to think he was locked up. So why did he go to jail?
Why did Mike Tyson go to jail? He was convicted of rape in 1992.
Beauty pageant contestant Desiree Washington alleged that the former heavyweight champion of the world had forced her to engage in sexual intercourse in an Indiana hotel room. Tyson had maintained his innocence throughout the trial and for years afterward, stating in a 2013 interview with Today, "I was a 25-year-old kid facing 60 years in jail for a crime that I did not commit."
He continued, "Let me repeat here what I said before the grand jury, during the trial, at my sentencing, at my early release hearing, after I got out of prison, and what I will continue to say until they put me in the ground. I did not rape Desiree Washington. She knows it, God knows it, and the consequences of her actions are something that she’s got to live with for the rest of her life."
Mike's legal team also referred to a previous sexual partner of Washington's during the time of Tyson's trial who was falsely accused of rape in 1989 at Coventry High School, "After the sex, she went to the bathroom, came out crying very scared and she kept saying to me that sex before marriage was against her religion and her father would kill her," the boxer's lawyer told local station WPRI.
Mike Tyson's public relationship with actress Robin Givens between 1988 and1989 was also said to "taint" his image in court. Givens had accused the young heavyweight champion of being physically abusive of her. Tyson had accused the actress of "stealing millions" of dollars from him through purchases and profligate spending — one such example being a $4.6 million mansion for her and her mother in Bernardsville, N.J.
Tyson had served around three years of his six-year prison sentence between 1992 and 1995, and even though he maintained his innocence, he says he "knew" at the time he wouldn't receive any justice.
"My promoter, Don King, kept assuring me that I would walk from these charges. He told me he was working behind the scenes to make the case disappear," he said at the time. "Plus, he had hired Vince Fuller, the best lawyer that a million-dollar fee could buy. Vince just happened to be Don’s tax attorney. And Don probably still owed him money."
He continued, "But I knew from the start that I’d get no justice. I wasn’t being tried in New York or Los Angeles; we were in Indianapolis, Indiana, historically one of the strongholds of the Ku Klux Klan. My judge, Patricia Gifford, was a former sex crimes prosecutor and was known as “the Hanging Judge.” I had been found guilty by a jury of my 'peers,' only one of whom was black. The other black jury member had been excused by the judge after a fire in the hotel where the jurors were staying."
Tyson was released in 1995. In a 2020 interview with VLAD TV, Tyson claimed that he slept with a prison counselor in order to pass the GED (a requirement needed in order for him to get his sentence reduced). "I flunked the f****** GED … and got mad, and so I had to start dating this counselor and stuff, giving her money and doing really some nasty stuff to her, and she let me pass this test.”
After Tyson was released on parole, he returned to the ring with mixed results. In May of 2020, Tyson posted a video of him training and hinted at a return to boxing. He appeared on All Elite Wrestling's Double or Nothing PPV and has made appearances on a few other episodes of AEW's programming. Due to his conviction, Tyson must register as a tier II sex offender for the rest of his life.