Mike Tyson gender reassignment spoof mistaken for reality by news websites

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

African online newspapers picked up a spoof story about Mike Tyson undergoing gender reassignment surgery, which was published on a satirical UK website at the end of November.

The spoof article first appeared on UK website, NewsBiscuit, on 30 November, and was first picked up by Zimbabwe’s Standard, on Sunday, reported the Orange website. 

News site, SpyGhana, followed suit, publishing the story on Tuesday under the headline “Shocking: Mike Tyson Now a Female”, and today, with the original story still up on the site, published another story with a statement from Mr Tyson denying the rumours.

Zambia Watchdog, another news site, published the story with the headline: “Mike Tyson sex change operation ‘a complete success’, say surgeons”.

NewsBiscuit said it experienced problems with their site crashing because of the volume of traffic to the page with the original story.

“We’ve had half as many visitors from Africa in the last few days as we’d expect generally in a whole month,” said comic writer John O’Farrell from NewsBiscuit.

He had said that the story had been viewed almost 50,000 in just a few days, which was about twenty times the normal volume of pageviews.

The original story from NewsBiscuit said the boxer would now be known as Michelle, and that the surgery was a success, according to surgeons. It read:

“Iron Mike – or Iron Maiden as he now likes to be called – was given the all-clear for gender reassignment surgery following a successful course in hormone replacement therapy which, in his autobiography, the boxer blamed for his 1996 defeat at the hands of Evander Holyfield.

“Although at the time Tyson insisted he was fit enough to carry on with the fight, referee Mitch Halpern stopped the bout in the 11th round saying Tyson looked flushed, was sweating profusely and appeared to be lactating heavily from his left breast.”

The story was also featured in the sports sections of SpyGhana, and Zimbabwe Standard.