The Story of Mitch Green: The Notorious Gang Leader Who Almost Beat Mike Tyson

  • Mitch Green was one of the most feared gang leaders in New York
  • Green took Mike Tyson the distance when both were up-and-comers
  • They had a brutal fight outside of a New York clothing store at 4am
  • Green claims he’s been shot three times and committed a string of robberies
Mitch "Blood" Green
Mitch Green was not only one of Mike Tyson’s toughest opponents, but also one of the most feared criminals in New York. [Image: YouTube / Old School Boxing]

Who is Mitch Green?

Mitch “Blood” Green gave the legendary Mike Tyson the toughest fight of his early career. Two years later, Tyson almost killed the former gang leader in a bare-knuckle street fight in New York while Green was high on PCP.

one of the most interesting legacies not just in boxing, but in all of professional sports,

Green’s crossover between fighting and criminal activity is one of the most interesting legacies not just in boxing, but in all of professional sports, yet many people are still unfamiliar with him and his story.

This is the story of Mitch Green: the notorious gang member that went toe-to-toe with “Iron” Mike Tyson in the ring and on the street.

Early gang life

Mitch Green was born in Augusta, Georgia in 1957 but eventually relocated to Queens, New York. He fell into a life of crime as a teenager and later joined a gang called the “Bloods,” which has an estimated 15,000-20,000 members in the United States. 

The Bloods started in Los Angeles, California as an alternative and rival of the “Crips.” The Bloods were easily signified by their bright red clothing, whereas the Crips donned shades of blue. 

Within the Bloods are smaller factions, known as sets. Each set has its leaders and methods of operation, as well as unique verbiage, identification, and characteristics.

quickly gained respect in the street for his actions involving guns, drugs, and violence

Green, who grew to be a whopping 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, quickly gained respect in the street for his actions involving guns, drugs, and violence, and leadership as a member of The Black Spades, a notoriously ruthless gang that many members later used as a launch pad to join the Bloods.

When he was still a teenager he took over as the leader of his local set. He later went so far as to call himself “The King of the New York street gangs” and took on the nickname “Blood” for fairly obvious reasons.

Rise to power

Green, now 66, claims that he has been shot three times in his life and twice at 17. He said that the third man who shot him did not leave before, as he put it, “I knocked his [expletive] out.”

He has a rap sheet that he says is longer than he can remember and used to regularly rob gas stations. If he showed up too early in the day and there wasn’t enough money in the register, he would tie the attendants up, hide them inside the building and then pretend to work at the register and pocket customers’ money. He would even go outside to pump gas for visitors, according to Tyson on his Hotboxin’ With Mike Tyson podcast.

his natural toughness allowed him to survive deep into fights

But while Green was building his case as one of the most feared individuals walking the New York streets, he was also compiling an impressive resume as a boxer. His huge frame and natural power made him a nightmare in the heavyweight division, and his natural toughness allowed him to survive deep into fights. 

Green also fought with the intent to hurt opponents and was willing to take his share of punishment if it meant that he could get to them.

In 1986, Green (16-1-1) was ranked one spot ahead of an up-and-coming, unorthodox fighter named Mike Tyson (20-0-0) in the WBC heavyweight standings. Green had called Tyson out numerous times and filmed clips of himself training and talking down to his fellow New Yorker. Several of those clips even made their way to HBO.


Four days after Tyson defeated James “Quick” Tillis to improve to 20-0 as a professional, a fight with Green was announced. That decision set off a chain reaction of the most unforgettable moments in boxing history.

Feud with Mike Tyson

Although Tyson defeated Tillis, it was the first time that he did not knock his opponent out. That was a beacon of hope for the rest of the heavyweight division. 

Despite being only 19 years old and ranked below Green, Tyson was guaranteed a whopping $250,000 to Green’s $30,000 for their fight at Madison Square Garden. The older and more established fighter repeatedly denounced the pay split and even threatened to pull out of the fight the day before the scheduled date, though he was convinced to continue after finding out a shot at the WBC heavyweight title was hanging in the balance.

The fight went as many predicted. Tyson’s “peek-a-boo” fighting style – staying low and exploding upwards with venomous attacks – could not be contained by the taller Green, who did not have great defensive discipline. Green landed powerful shots and effectively clinched Tyson to limit his power shots, but was clearly behind throughout the fight.

The bout ended up going to the scorecards, where Tyson notched a unanimous victory. 

Green never fully agreed with the decision and remained adamant that he was a better fighter than Tyson, but had been distracted by the uneven pay structure. Those comments then grew to personal insults over the coming years as Tyson rose to worldwide superstardom.

A fateful night 

On August 23, 1988, Tyson and his friends were shopping at a clothing store called Dapper Dan’s in Harlem at 4am, having already spent the night drinking at a nightclub. Green, being well-connected in the area, heard that his long-time adversary was nearby and went straight to the store. He demanded a rematch upon showing up and then told Tyson to fight him outside.

What happened outside is not totally confirmed. There are only accounts from Tyson, Green, and nearby witnesses. 

Green was allegedly high on PCP and was impervious to the blow

Allegedly, Green threw a punch at Tyson, who responded with one of his own and caught Green flush. Green was allegedly high on PCP and was impervious to the blow and continued to come forward, and a full-fledged fight ensued. 

“I dropped him a couple of times, but he was high on angel dust, so he kept getting up,” Tyson said on Hotboxin’. “Just like Friday the 13th, Michael Myers, that guy. Boom! I knock him cold, he gets back up.”

Tyson was ready to leave the scene, but Green got up and broke the mirror off of his Rolls-Royce, so Tyson sat him down again until Green’s head smacked on the concrete and he went unconscious. 

Tyson fled the scene believing that he had killed him. He was relieved to find out that Green survived, but had a swollen eye and needed stitches on his nose.

Later years

Green recalls the encounter very differently. He says that Tyson sucker-punched him and then ran off before he could respond.

“Mike Tyson hit me and ran like a sissy,” Green said in 1988 in an interview confirming he was pressing charges against Tyson. “I want a rematch. Enough name-calling. All I want is Mike Tyson to accept my challenge.”

That rematch never came. Tyson went on to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world with a career record of 50 wins (44 KOs), six losses, and two no-contests. Green fought for 24 years (and until he was 48 years old) and went 19-6-1 with 12 KOs.

Green climbed as high as seventh in the World Boxing Council rankings, but never got his world heavyweight title fight and instead made headlines for quarreling with promoter Don King, the father of his early coach Carl King. 

refused to throw any punches until the referee stopped the fight in the third round

In 1993, after legal troubles forced a lengthy absence from the ring, he returned to fight journeyman Bruce Johnson. Green spent most of the time complaining about his purse and manager and refused to throw any punches until the referee stopped the fight in the third round. 

His feud with his manager continued in 1996 when he pointed a gun in his direction, which led to a fight against future world heavyweight champion Shannon Briggs being canceled. Green won the New York state heavyweight title in 1998 against Mike Dixon, but later had his victory overturned to a “no contest” after testing positive for marijuana.  

Mitch Green has one of the most unforgettable stories in the history of sports. A leader of one of the most feared gangs in the world who went the distance with the baddest man alive and then took him on in the street high at 4am? Hollywood couldn’t write that.

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