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A man repeatedly punched by Mike Tyson in a viral video taken on a JetBlue flight is suing the former heavyweight champ 2 years after the incident

Polly Thompson   

A man repeatedly punched by Mike Tyson in a viral video taken on a JetBlue flight is suing the former heavyweight champ — 2 years after the incident
  • In 2022, footage went viral of Mike Tyson repeatedly punching a fellow passenger on a JetBlue flight.
  • Two years later, the passenger, Melvin Townsend, is suing Tyson for damages.

A man who was punched repeatedly by Mike Tyson in first-class on a flight in 2022 has filed a lawsuit against the former boxing champion and airline JetBlue.

The incident occurred on a late-night flight from San Francisco to Florida on April 20, 2022 and went viral after video footage filmed by another passenger was shared by TMZ.

Tyson's reps told the Associated Press at the time that the man seated behind Tyson was "an aggressive passenger who began harassing him and threw a water bottle at him while he was in his seat."

In an episode of his podcast a month after the incident, Tyson said the passenger was "fucking with me," adding that he shouldn't fly on "public planes."

Around the same time, the San Mateo County District Attorney said it would not file criminal charges against the former world heavyweight champion, citing "the circumstances surrounding the confrontation."

"It is simply a case that does not belong in the criminal court. If they want to sue each other, that's their business," the DA said.

In December 2023, the passenger, Melvin Townsend, sent a "pre-litigation settlement demand" requesting $450,000 to resolve the incident without taking it to court, the LA Times reported.

Tyson's lawyer told the Times there would be no "shakedown payment."

On April 19, 2024, Townsend filed a complaint with the San Mateo County Superior Court, one day before a two-year statute of limitations came into effect for some of the claims.

Per Townsend's account of the incident in the complaint, he and a friend noticed they were seated directly behind Tyson as they boarded the plane.

Townsend, then 36, claims he initiated a conversation with the star, expressing admiration for Tyson's "illustrious boxing career" and buying alcoholic drinks for him and themselves.

He describes himself as "a fan of Mr. Tyson who was happy to be speaking to one of his childhood heroes."

Tyson offered them psilocybin mushrooms, the complaint claims, which the pair declined.

According to the court documents, the boxer then turned to his companion, a man he referred to as his manager, asking for some psilocybin mushrooms for himself. His companion declined to give him them.

"Suddenly and without warning or provocation," Tyson stood up from his seat, turned around, and began punching Townsend repeatedly while standing over him.

"Mr. Tyson punched Plaintiff numerous times in the head, face, and neck, tore the neck of Plaintiff's shirt, and caused Plaintiff to bleed from both sides of his head," the complaint says.

The boxer's companion tried to stop the attack by putting his body between the two men and taking some blows himself before Tyson eventually stopped, the suit says.

Townsend stated he was punched about 10 times.

Describing himself as 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighing 170 pounds, he said he had no way to defend himself "due to Mr. Tyson's extraordinary strength and decades of professional fighting training and skill."

The incident has left Townsend with physical and emotional distress, according to the complaint.

In the suit he lists seven complaints for damages. Three are against Tyson, claiming assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Four are against JetBlue, claiming negligence, common carrier liability, premises liability, and negligent hiring, retention, and supervision.

Townsend is requesting a trial by jury to decide the outcome.

Tyson's representatives told Business Insider he "will be 100% refuting these ridiculous claims."

"Mr. Townsend's multiple attempts for a pre-litigation settlement demand for injuries and damages to Mr. Tyson's legal team are no coincidence giving the timing of Mike's upcoming fight," Tyson's representatives told Business Insider, referring to his upcoming return to the ring to fight YouTube Jake Paul.

"There is no real validity to these claims as Mr. Townsend was the initial aggressor and his tactic was to instigate Mr. Tyson on the JetBlue flight for a monetary shake down," they added.

"Mr. Tyson plans to fight this and will prevail."

JetBlue did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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