Mike Tyson’ is among the most iconic, most intimidating, names in boxing – hearing it put real fear into the hearts of elite heavyweights who fought other men for a living.
But where does Iron Mike’s surname actually originate from? “I don’t know much about my father’s family. In fact, I didn’t really know my father much at all,” says Tyson in his autobiography, Undisputed Truth.
“Or the man I was told was my father. On my birth certificate it said my father was Percel Tyson. The only problem was that my brother, my sister, and I never met this guy.”
Percel Tyson – also spelled Purcell Tyson in some reports – is a mystery. He was a Jamaican who married Mike Tyson’s mother, Lorna Mae Smith, after they met in New York. Yet the marriage did not last long, Mike never met him and his whereabouts remain unknown.
“We were all told that our biological father was Jimmy ‘Curlee’ Kirkpatrick Jr,” he explains in Undisputed Truth. “But he was barely in the picture. As time went on I heard rumours that Curlee was a pimp and that he used to extort ladies. Then, all of a sudden, he started calling himself a deacon in the church.”
Tyson adds: “Curlee would drive over to where we stayed, periodically. He and my mother never spoke to each other, he’d just beep the horn and we’d just go down and meet him. The kids would pile into his Cadillac and we thought we were going on an excursion to Coney Island or Brighton Beach, but he’d just drive around for a few minutes, pull back up to our apartment building, give us some money, give my sister a kiss, and shake me and my brother’s hands and that was it. Maybe I’d see him in another year.”