Don’t call it a comeback. ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson, the former Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World is poised to take on Roy Jones Jr. on Sept. 12, a narrative that would have caused an uproar in the sports community…back when it was first suggested in the 1990’s. Tyson, 54 is set for an eight-round exhibition match with Jones, 51—a fact oddly fitting in what has been a tumultuous, downright odd 2020. Even more fantastical than the bout itself is the physique Iron Mike presented to the world in his training videos.
A renowned Vegan, Tyson looks reminiscent of his late ‘80’s prime hitting the pads in preparation for what will undoubtedly be a blockbuster event. Sports science and nutrition have debunked many of the myths associated with high animal protein diets being a necessity for performance; Iron Mike enters middle age with a body sure to inspire others to pick up a pair of gloves. Displaying speed and footwork akin to that of his athletic heyday, Tyson is rapidly becoming an iconic figure for fellow Vegans.
In 2009, the former Champion hit what he describes as ‘rock bottom.’ Drugs, alcohol, and an admittedly self-destructive lifestyle had Tyson near death—in a 2013 interview with Oprah Winfrey, he describes the circumstances that led to his transformation.
“I was so congested from all the drugs and bad cocaine, I could hardly breathe. High blood pressure, almost dying, arthritis, and once I became a vegan all that stuff diminished.”
“I lost weight. I dropped over 100lbs and I just felt like changing my life, doing something different and I became a vegan.”
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)— a nonprofit organization promoting health and wellness—champions the health benefits of eschewing animal products. According to pcrm.org, those consuming a plant-based diet lower their risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and other health conditions.
As Iron Mike’s preparations for the exhibition continue, a quote from a 2013 interview with ABCNews.com’s Liz Neporent finds new relevance. Asked if he could have maintained a vegan diet while fighting:
“I don’t know. I really don’t believe so. But I’m not sure because I found out the greatest gladiators, the greatest ones in Roman times, they were all vegan. That’s fighting to the death! The best gladiators, I didn’t say all of them, when they looked at their bone marrow and did the research, they found that they were vegans. No meat particles in them.” [*An Editors note on the piece states that, according to the Archeological Institute of America, this is true.]
Fast forward seven years, on the eve of his first real contest since a loss to journeyman Kevin McBride in 2005, and Mike Tyson is cutting the imposing figure responsible for terrorizing the heavyweight division in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s.