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Mike Tyson admits Nintendo Punch Out was a bad deal

mike tyson punch out

 For many, “Punch-Out!!” on the Nintendo Entertainment System is a pleasant trip down memory lane. However for the Legendary boxer Mike Tyson, it turned out to be a poor business decision in hindsight.

Nintendo originally released the Punch-Out!! videogame in 1983 and struck a deal to use Tyson's name and likeness in 1987. Two years prior, an eighteen year old Mike Tyson made his pro boxing debut. Within a year, he was dominating opponents in the ring in nationally televised bouts. 

Countless people attended his boxing matches to watch the rising young star in action, and one of those viewers was former Nintendo president of America Minoru Arakawa, who was in awe of Tyson's performance.

Fast forward to 1987 and Nintendo would obtain Mike Tyson's name and likeness rights. While underdog fighter " Little Mac" was the protagonist of the game, Mike Tyson was the titular character, hence why it was called "Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!".

Naturally, Tyson's video game counterpart was equally as tough as the real deal, and although Iron Mike was no giant, he towered over a pint sized Little Mac.

The release was perfect timing, as “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!” hit store shelves not long after the boxer won his unified heavyweight title. Riding the coattails of Iron Mike's popularity, the game went on to sell over a million copies.

A bad deal?

While that appears to be a major endorsement in hindsight, Tyson didn’t receive a huge sum from the deal.

Nintendo spent far less than you’d imagine on Iron Mike’s name and likeness, and coincidentally signed the bargain deal shortly before he went on to become the youngest heavyweight champion in history.

So just how much did Mike walk away with? Well he only earned $50,000 from his Punch-Out!! role. In an VladTV interview, Mike Tyson admits he wasn't paid accordingly.

"It was just a really bad deal,  Tyson said to VladTV. I didn't really know anything about businesses, what the h*ll." According to Vlad TV guest interviewer Zab Judah, while Nintendo paid Mike Tyson $50,000 for three years with no royalties, the company earned $1.7 billion.

Imitated never duplicated

By 1990, Nintendo's license with Mike expired, but the company didn't renew the deal and they ended up replacing him with a brand new character called "Mr Dream", who like Mike was the game's final opponent. Not only is Mr Dream the stand-in replacement, but his boxing style is a carbon copy of Tyson's.

When The Mike Tyson-less Punch-Out!! featuring Mr Dream hit the Nintendo Switch Online subscription service in 2019, Tyson responded with a tweet.

"Heard Nintendo was doing the new “Punch Out” without even contacting me. It wont be the same. My knockouts made the game. That's whack. Mr. Dream? Everyone tell Nintendo America who they think of when they hear ‘Punch Out".

Regarding him being replaced, Tyson told VladTV “We anticipate them doing a new one too. They were discussing taking me out of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, and it was a hailstorm of negative reviews for that, and so we’re contemplating doing it with someone else, and no one can be angry, and then we can go our separate ways happy."

Bittersweet truth


Unluckily for Mike, that was a cruel introduction to capitalism for a child who came from rags to riches by pulverizing people. The baddest man on the planet was often an easy target for those from with more business expertise.

However that's the kind of loss he is unwilling to take these days, as Tyson's financial awareness has improved tenfold. He's a major player in the booming marijuana industry and has various businesses and profitable investments.  

Throughout his life, Mike Tyson is remembered for many things, spanning from being a merciless fighter to an eccentric pop culture icon. Video gamers, however, will always remember him for his infamous role in Nintendo’s Punch-Out!!

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