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Why Does Mike Tyson Have a Tattoo of Chairman Mao?

Mike Tyson, from New York, is one of the legendary boxers of all time. He holds the record for the youngest-ever winner of the heavyweight WBC, WBA and IBF titles. He is also a sex offender by law, having been convicted of rape in 1992 and serving three years in jail. In jail, he converted to Islam and changed his name to Malik Abdul Aziz. He was declared bankrupt in 2003 and has suffered from cocaine addiction, being involved in various incidents with the police and pleading guilty for drug possession and driving while under the influence. His is certainly no ordinary life.

Mao Zedong, or Mao Tse-tung, was the leader of the revolution in China, which brought the Communist Party to power in 1949. Born in a peasant household in Shaoshan, Hunan province, Mao led the Communist Party on the Long March retreating from almost certain annihilation by his arch-foe Chiang Kai-shek, transformed the party to one of rural guerrilla warfare, built them to fight the Japanese in World War Two, and defeated Chiang in 1949 sending him fleeing to Taiwan. He ruled China for the rest of his life until his death in 1976.

What unites these two disparate figures except for the fact they both had multiple wives and children?

Well, Mike Tyson happens to have a tattoo of Mao on his bicep.

He also has a tattoo of the Argentine revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara on his chest, one of his ex-wife Monica Turner on his forearm, a dragon on his arm, and on his shoulder a tattoo of Arthur Ashe. Who? A tennis champion and AIDS support campaigner.

So Why Mao?

Well, it is quite difficult to analyse a convert to Islam who previously bragged about his massive bank account, a bankrupt, convicted rapist who later said he’s voting Donald Trump, who in the meantime got two communist icons tattooed on his body.

But in 2006, Mike Tyson actually visited the Chairman Mao memorial museum in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, to pay his respects at the mausoleum where the late leader’s preserved body lies. While there, he told reporters, “Standing in front of Chairman Mao’s remains, I felt really insignificant.” He then bought three books about Mao and shouted out his car window, “I love you” at his Chinese fans.

Although Tyson has had a somewhat blemished record for political consistency, it is most likely that the reason for his tattoo is his identification with Mao’s politics. Not the persecution of the Cultural Revolution and the famine-inducing Great Leap Forward that you may have heard about, but more Mao’s role as a rebel, as an anti-establishment hero, as the conqueror and vanquisher of China’s imperialist oppressors.

Similarly, Che Guevara’s politics could explain that tattoo as well.

Tyson has also alluded to Che’s and Mao’s spirits of self-sacrifice, giving their lives up for the nation and for their political goals.

Or for Mike Tyson, a bipolar disorder sufferer who has had a contradictory life, to say the least, it may simply be a philosophical appreciation of Mao’s On Contradiction explaining the simple truth that ‘one divides into two.”

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