TV show reveals Mike Tyson, pigeon racer

Thu Mar 3, 2011 7:06pm EST
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Long before Mike Tyson became a world champion heavyweight boxer, he threw his first punch over a pigeon.

In fact, Tyson says, pigeons were his first love as a bullied kid on the tough streets of Brooklyn, and later on, birds gave him a sense of peace and tranquility before and after some of his most bruising professional fights.

Now, the man nicknamed "Iron Mike" for his ferocious boxing style is sharing that passion and showing a gentler side of himself in "Taking on Tyson", a six-part documentary starting on the Animal Planet cable TV channel on Sunday, March 6.

"The first thing I ever loved in my life was a pigeon. I don't know why...I feel ridiculous trying to explain it," Tyson, 44, says in the documentary.

"Pigeons are part of my life. It's a constant with my sanity in a weird way; this is just what I do. If I am lucky enough to die an old man. I'm going to have birds."

"Taking on Tyson" is part reflection on a life that has scaled the heights of boxing and the lows of prison, and part glimpse into the sub-culture of competitive pigeon racing.

"I love pigeons and I thought (the TV series) would broaden the horizons of people who are not knowledgeable about pigeons," Tyson told Reuters.

Tyson, who declared bankruptcy in 2003 and retired from professional boxing in 2006, has 2,500 birds in various locations. He had never raced them before, but set his sights on becoming a world champion in pigeon racing with all the determination he once brought to boxing.   Continued...