Mike Tyson used to write to notorious gangster Reggie Kray while he was in prison.
Iron Mike said he was even threatened with being kicked out of England back in 2000 when he tried to visit the Kray family before his fight against Julius Francis at the MEN Arena.
The Kray twins, Ronnie and Reggie, were much feared in the East End of London during the 1950s and 1960s and were involved in murder, armed robbery, arson, protection rackets and assaults.
Both were sentenced to life in prison in 1969 but before being put away, their fondness for the sweet science was well documented and both showed their prowess in the ring as amateurs.
Though taking a different career path, the brothers were able to use their celebrity to entertain the likes of Rocky Marciano, Joe Louis and Sonny Liston on the outside when the boxing legend’s visited London and Reggie later befriended heavyweight great Tyson while serving time.
The former heavyweight champion was sent down in 1992 after being convicted of rape and was released after three years.
By 1995, Ronnie died of a heart attack at 61 but Reggie lived until late October 2000 and was still behind bars at the time of Tyson’s controversial visit to the UK.
“I used to write to Reggie Kray while I was in prison,” Tyson explained to Piers Morgan on his Hotboxin podcast.
Asked by Morgan if he wrote back, Tyson replied: “He wrote to me first. He just told me about his life and I told him what I was doing here and how I feel about being here and what I’m going to do when I get out.
“When I came out of prison I was fighting somebody, I think it was Julius Francis [in January 2000], and I went to visit his family and talked kindly about him.
“They almost sent me out of the country back to America.”
Jack Straw, the home secretary had granted Tyson special dispensation to enter the UK for his fight and he was met with protests when landing in the capital. However, not everyone wanted him out as evidenced when he brought south London to standstill while going for a stroll in Brixton
Reggie, meanwhile, was released later in in August on compassionate grounds due to his deteriorating health and lived the last of his days as a free man.
Morgan also revealed his own dealings with them as well as their rival gang the Richardsons.
“I had some dealings with him. They were tough guys. He was very well behaved in prison. They both were.
“Ronnie, his brother, was in Broadmoor which is more of a psychiatric prison. He was slightly madder. Reg was in a conventional prison. Parkhurst and then Maidstone. They were fascinating parts of English folklore. They were folk heroes to many people.”
When speaking about their rival gang, the Richardsons, Morgan said: “I was out for dinner with friends and a guy came to our table. Immaculate in a smart suit, beard and everything.
“He introduced himself to me and thank god I was friendly. He said ‘Mr Morgan, my wife would like to have a photograph with you’. I said of course, he then walked off and the owner of the restaurant said, ‘You know who that is, that’s Charlie Richardson from the Richardson gang’.
“They were the rival gang to the Krays. They were killing a lot of people so I was very glad I was friendly to him.”