SOUTHINGTON TOWNSHIP, Ohio – A sprawling property that was once home to boxing's fiercest heavyweight and his legendary pet tigers is now transitioning into a house of worship.
The Living Word Sanctuary Church in Warren got the keys to Mike Tyson's former mansion three years ago. Since then, the 140 members have been working to turn the boxing champion's Southington Township home and 60-acre estate into a church.
"If someone comes for that very reason, just to check it out, they're going to check it out and hear the word of God," said Pastor Nick DeJacimo.
The mansion has a colorful history. Trumbull County politician Ted Vannelli built it in 1979 before he was convicted on corruption charges.
Tyson bought the estate, which was near the home of boxing promoter Don King, and lived there after he was released from prison for rape. He sold it to Paul Monea, known for his Tae Bo videos, who lost it when it was sent to prison for money laundering. The property then fell into disrepair.
Living Word Sanctuary got the property when it reached a deal with a real estate investor to pay $50,000 in back taxes.
DeJacimo said Tyson's indoor swimming pool is being converted into a sanctuary, and the great room will be a venue for weddings and other ceremonies. The living quarters on the second floor will become offices.
The details around the fireplace, where Tyson reportedly kept his championship belts, will remain.
But what about his infamous tiger cages?
"We figured we're going to get four more tigers. No, just kidding," the pastor said with a laugh. That space on the property will be used for an outdoor pavilion.