Mike Tyson is a lot of things. He’s a self-proclaimed “convicted rapist, hell-raiser, loving father and semi-good husband.” And here’s one you might not have heard before — a close friend of the late Tupac Shakur.
Over the years at times, Tyson has acted more absurd than Drederick Tatum, the cartoon parody of himself that appears on The Simpsons. Yet in between the rants and ear-biting, there always has been a softer side to the former heavyweight champion, an introspective side that makes us question the true nature of those we think we know.
The same goes for Tupac. Behind the music and violence, the rapper shared a similar desire to understand human emotion and wanted people to overcome suffering. The two celebrities became close in 1992 when Tyson went to jail for rape.
“He was probably a misguided warrior. He had a heart as big as this planet,” Tyson told The Associated Press. “He had so much love and compassion, and you couldn’t even see it under his rage.”
Tyson and Tupac bonded over the idea that they couldn’t trust others, and they became so close that Tyson changed his intro music from a song by Redman to a song by Tupac (the change occurred after Shakur berated Tyson for choosing the song of someone who had no interest in understanding the real Tyson). Tupac even created an intro song specifically for the boxer, which led to his appearance at Tyson’s fight in Las Vegas on Sept. 7, 1996. Tragically, Tupac was shot that night on the way to Tyson’s victory party.
“I felt extremely guilty because I felt if he didn’t come to this fight, that would have never have happened,” Tyson said. “It’s just so crazy that we had talked every day for a week.”
Their friendship is chronicled in One Night in Vegas: Tyson and Tupac, an ESPN documentary that premiered this week.