MIKE TYSON PART 1: 1981 TO 1989
TYSON WAS THE LAST HEAVYWEIGHT CHILD PRODIGY
San Francisco, CA– When Mike Tyson burst upon the national boxing scene, it was as an amateur in 1984. Losing to eventual 1984 Olympic champ Henry Tillman, even though he had knocked Henry down. Tillman would eventually win the Olympic Gold. Prior, Tyson had competed in both the 1981 and 1982 Junior Olympics and won the ’81 title (201 lbs) first versus Joe Cortez and in 1982 he drilled Kelton Brown. Mike, who had never lost in the Junior Olympics, also holds the quickest KO (8 seconds) in J.O. history. In addition, the prodigy won every bout in Junior Olympic competition by KO.
D’AMATO THOUGHT MIKE WAS A “CINCH” TO BECOME CHAMPION
Cus D’Amato,Tyson’s quasi father and trainer, Cus realized that Mike’s style was better suited for the professional boxing ranks and thus turned him professional in March 1985 with a KO 1 of Hector Mercedes. Mike would go on to stop his next 18 opponents before being forced to go the ten round distance with James “Quick” Tillis. Knocking Tillis down in the fourth round, Tyson won with scores of 6-4 twice & 8-2 in Glen Falls, NY, this due to the fact that New York scored fights on the “rounds” basis and not the ten-point must system.
NEXT UP FOR TYSON WAS NEW YORKER “BLOOD” GREEN
In his next fight, Tyson would beat New Yorker Mitch “Blood” Green, again on points. A few years later, Tyson and Green would have their infamous street brawl outside of a New York City clothing store, this resulted in Tyson fracturing his hand. After recording six more KOs, the biggest name was that of Marvis Frazier, the son of the recently deceased former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier. Marvin lasted all but 30 seconds before succumbing to the fighter now drawing rave reviews and known as “Iron Mike.”TYSON’S FIRST TITLE FIGHT DIDN’T LAST TOO LONG!
In November 1986, Tyson met Trevor Berbick, the then WBC champion at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel. Tyson was on the prowl in round one, before knocking Berbick down twice in round two. Giving Trevor the benefit of a doubt, referee Mills Lane allowed Berbick to get up, but he fell down twice more before the fight was called at 2:35 of the second stanza.
TYSON FACES “BONEHUGGER” SMITH IN UNIFICATION
With the WBC title in hand, “Iron Mike,” the hottest athlete, let alone fighter in the world, Tyson would next meet WBA counterpart James “Bonecrusher” Smith in March 1987. Hailing from North Carolina, Smith has the unigue distinction of being the only heavyweight titleholder to have graduated from college. But “Bonecrusher,” who was fighting Tyson outdoors at the Hilton in a huge arena erected becuase of Tyson’s incredible popularity, was scared to death of Mike.
COLLEGE GRAD SMART ENOUGH TO NOT TRADE & SLUG!
Instead of using his advantage in height and girth, Smith “hugged and clinched” Tyson throughout, thus his nickname was changed from Bonecrusher to Bonehugger. Still in his formulating stage, Tyson was very frustrated even though he won virtually every round. Two months later, Pinklon Thomas was stopped in six heats.
THE TYSON TRAIN IS STILL ON TRACK!
Tyson’s next three foes were Tony Tucker (UD 12), who hurt Tyson in the last (12th) round with an uppercut. Next up was 1984 Olympic champ Tyrell Biggs, who was beaten to the extent that you could hear Biggs reacting to the blows verbally.
HOLMES COMES OUT OF RETIREMENT FOR A BUILDING!
Former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, in an interview on “Ring Talk,” told me that he came out of retirement to fight Tyson in January 1988 because he needed $3.5 million to build an office building in his hometown of Easton, PA. Looking old and a bit flabby, Fighting in Atlantic City, Holmes was acquitting himself well in June 1988 until Tyson dropped Holmes in the fourth round with an overhand right. With Holmes uprighting himself, Mike dropped him two more times before the fight was called at the 2:55 mark.
With a title defense set in Tokyo, Japan with a Don King promoted fighter in Tony Tubbs on March 21, 1988, Tubbs had he been in shape would have performed well. Instead of coming into the fight in great shape, Tubbs was suffering from the “Don King Syndrome, which meant he was overweight. Tubbs weighing 238 1/4 lbs. was no match for “Iron Mike” and fell victim to Tyson when the late iconic referee Arthur Mercante waved the fight off at 2:54 of round two.
THE “ONCE & FOR ALL” FIGHT WAS MORE LIKE “ONCE & I’LL FALL”
Fighting for the third and last time in 1988, Tyson took on the Ring Magazine champion Michael Spinks in June before a worldwide television audience and a packed to the rafters of Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall, then called the Atlantic City Convention Center. Before the fight, the late Butch Lewis, Spinks’ promoter, went into Tyson’s dressing room to witness Tyson being gloved. Seeing the antagonist Lewis, Tyson with his hands already wrapped, punched a hole clean through a wall. For Lewis, this was a daunting experience he did not tell Spinks about.
FIGHT WAS OVER IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE!
Looking worried, concerned, if not outright scared, Spinks and Tyson met in ring center. With Tyson being the aggressor and forcing Spinks back to the ropes, Mike landed one right hand and it was all over in 1:31. Eight months later in February 1989, Mike took out England’s Frank Bruno with a TKO 5.
TYSON MADE A LIAR OUT OF THE TRUTH!
In his last successful title defense, Tyson faces Carl “The Truth” Williams on July 21, 1989. It would take Mike two seconds longer to make a liar out of “The Truth” than it did to make a believer out of Michael Spinks. Having been present for all of Tyson’s title fights in the United States, I thought this was the best Tyson I had ever seen.
TOMORROW PART II: MIKE TYSON FROM 1990 TO THE END!
Come back tomorrow morning as we follow Mike Tyson’s professional and personal fall from grace. Remember where you are, RingTalk.com