In the video obtained by TMZ, and published on 22 April, the passenger is seen standing over Tyson’s seat, waving his arms, and talking animatedly while the former heavyweight champion sits quietly.
TMZ quoted a witness as saying that the passenger was extremely intoxicated and wouldn’t stop provoking the boxer in his seat. Tyson was initially cool with them and even agreed to pose for a selfie.
However, Tyson eventually grew tired of the overly excited passenger as he kept talking in his ear. At first, the boxing legend told him to “chill” and when the guy didn’t, that’s when Tyson threw several punches.
The video, which does not show the entirety of the altercation, shows Tyson leaning over the back of his seat and repeatedly punching the passenger in the face and forehead, drawing blood.
As alleged by Tyson, a water bottle is not visible in the footage.
The person filming the video is further heard saying that his friend was “just trying to ask for an autograph”.
The passenger who got punched by Tyson has since been identified as Melvin George Townsend III, a white man from Punta Gorda, Florida, US. He has a long criminal record and has served three years in prison.
Townsend’s lawyer Matt Morgan said that he is “still in shock” and that Tyson — as one of the greatest fighters — “should have exercised greater restraint before using his hands on an overly excited fan”.
Officers, who responded to the “physical altercation” on the plane at the airport’s domestic terminal, detained two subjects that were believed to be involved in the incident, according to a report on BBC.
One person was treated at San Francisco International Airport for non-life-threatening injuries.
“That subject provided minimal details of the incident and refused to co-operate further with the police investigation,” a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Police Department was quoted as saying.
Both were released “pending further investigation”. The department did not say if one of them was Tyson.