Mike Tyson, oh what could have been…or perhaps what should have been. As a boxing fan I will try and keep this to boxing, rather than the out of the ring troubles, and the problems he’s had, as I’d rather remember him for what he did well.
There’s many people who dislike Tyson’s boxing, and others who loved it, but lets get it straight, Tyson after the death of Cus D’Amato was never the same again. The destructive puncher, stocky muscle man who used the peek-a-boo technique so well and actually was a lot more of a complete fighter than people remember was possibly one of the most enthralling fighters ever. Few could have kept up with him before D’Amatos death where he was everything a stocky but freakishly well built heavyweight could be.
When talking about stocky heavyweights we always mention Marciano, (Rocky); and Dempsey, (Jack) who were both considered hard swarming fighters, with fists of steal and an unbreable will to win. A prime example being when Rocky’s nose was split (up the middle) and he want on to KO his opponent, this sort of heart was needed of the smaller men, often fighting people taller than themselves. I mention this due to the fact this was one of the problems later Tyson (and possibly early Tyson) suffered from, a lack of heart. When feeling he’s getting beat, Tyson would often don the dirty tactics many of us now remember him for, such as the ear biting against Evander Holyfield in their second match.
However despite this obvious flaw, it was rarely exposed, possibly due to it being found out rather late in his career for many of his “victims” to do much about.
The early years
With 19 fights in just over a year after turning pro, he was incredibly active (over a third of his career fights came in this period), which ended up with 19-0 (19 KO’s). Despite D’amato’s death after around 11 of these, Tyson’s activity kept him in the right direction even with his 15-2 amateur record he was becoming something of a feared puncher.
The first man to take him the distance was “Quick” James Tillis who Tyson beat by UD (Unanimous Decision) with the judges giving him it 6-4 (Twice) and 8-2. Tillis went down in the 4th round of the 10 round fight.
Just over 6 months after Tillis Tyson would fight Trevor Berbick, for the WBC (World Boxing Council) version of the World heavyweight title. It took Tyson a mere to rounds to score a TKO over his over-matched opponent. This match with Tyson being a paltry 20 years and 4 months (Beating the previous record set by Floyd Patterson in the ’60s by around 18 months).
After the Berbick Fight Tyson went on a spell of title collecting, picking up the WBA title (From James “Bonecrusher” Smith) and the IBF (From Tony Tucker). He defended his 3 titles against highly rated contenders such as Tyrell Biggs, Larry Holmes (KO’ing Holmes for the only time in his 75 fight career), Tony Tubbs, Carl Williams and his dominating performance against Michael Spinks which he won by KO in 1.
After the firing of Kevin Rooney in late 1988 Tyson seemed to lose what had made him a dominating force, even in his wins after Rooney was sacked Tyson didn’t look himself. He failed to utilise the Peek-a-boo style, the defensive technique that had made him such an intimidating factor, he started going for a 1 punch KO and started to avoid his body punching skills.
In early 1990 he faced James “Buster” Douglas, who was a 42-1 outsider at the bookies. Buster fought the fight of his life and decked Tyson for the first time in his career, and ended up scoring a KO over Tyson.
His first fight after the loss was against Henry Tillman, who’d beaten Tyson as an amateur before then beating Alex Stewart (No not the cricketer), both by KO in 1. He then fought Donovan “Razor” Ruddock twice, they were ranked #1 and #2 in the world to fight the new undisputed champion Evander Holyfield. The first fight was controversially stopped, so a rematch too place with Tyson winning both fights.
In 1992 Tyson was charged and convicted of raping Desiree Washington and was sentenced to 6 years (despite serving just over 3). This scuppered the chances of Tyson getting Holyfield between 92-95. (Sorry for not dwelling on this part of Tyson’s life but I’d rather keep to the boxing).
The comeback II
Tysons first fight back after his stint in jail was against lowly regarded (and future Butterbean opponent) Peter McNeeley who was DQ’d when his corner threw in the towel in the first round. This set PPV records and was bought in around 1.52 million US homes. His second fight back on this comeback trail was against Buster Mathis Jr. who was 20-0-0-2, but was a very light puncher (6 ko’s from the 20 wins).
Two time World champion
For the second time in Tyson’s career he was faced with Frank Bruno. Bruno was by then the WBC champion due to his win over Oliver McCall (who had in turn KO’d Lennox Lewis). Tyson knocked Bruno out in 3 rounds, and retired Frank. After this fight Tyson fought the WBA champion Bruce Seldon (who had beat former Tyson victim Tony Tucker, for the title). Tyson knocked Seldon in the first round.
After the Seldon fight Tyson was stripped of the WBC title for refusing the fight Lewis who was the organisation’s #1. Instead choosing to fight former undisputed cruiserweight and heavyweight champion, “The real deal” Evander Holyfield, who at 34 was thought to be washed up.
The Holyfield fights
Holyfield was now on his own comeback trail, and Tyson was to be the fourth fight since his short lived retirement in 1994 (one of many for poor old Evander). This fight ended up with Holyfield winning by TKO with the referee stepping in to stop “Iron Mike” from taking any more damage. This fight made Holyfield the second man in history to hold the heavy weight title 3 times (Muhammed Ali being the first).
The rematch was made for 1997 and became another black mark again Tyson, in what is infamously dubbed the “Bite fight”. With huge expectations and $100 million dollars in and around the fight, and selling 1.99 million PPV’s*, this was THE FIGHT. The fight lead to a lot of head clashes (of which Tyson had complained about in the first fight) after the repeated butts by Holyfield Tyson snapped and caused one of the most controversial acts in professional boxing history. He bit both of Holyfields ears and got DQ’d in the 3rd round. This lead to Tyson being banned and fined.
After the ban AKA Comeback III
Tyson made another comeback facing South African Francis Botha, who was KO’d in 5 despite being ahead on the score cards, this was before Tyson again got into legal problems…and his career became even more blurry.
He fought Orlin Norris in October in what ended up as a no contest due to Norris twisting his knee after Tyson had punched him after the ref had tried to separate them.
Tyson came to the UK to fight Julius Francis in 2000, amid complaints and controversy by certain groups of British citizens for Tyson’s previous behaviour. The fight lasted less than 2 rounds before Francis was left KO’d, a few months later Tyson came back to Scotland and fought Lou Savarese at Hampden Park. This fight lasted a mere 38 seconds before Tyson had KO’d his opponent.
Working towards another big shot
After the Savarese fight Tyson fought Andrew Golota a fight which yet again showed Tyson’s controversial manners. He was beating Golota comfortable, who had retired himself after 3 rounds. Before the fight Tyson originally refused a drug test, eventually having his urine tested post fight only to have marijuana discovered in it.
After the Golota fight Tyson fought the Dane Brian Nielsen who had a padded 62-1-0 (43 ko’s) record. Tyson went to Denmark to fight Nielsen who was retired after 7 rounds. The wins over Botha, Francis, Savarese and Nielsen had led Tyson into a position to face Lennox Lewis (the man he refused to fight several years earlier).
Tyson V Lewis
The date was 06-08-2002, the venue was The Pyramid, Memphis, TN, USA, on the line were the following:
~ WBC Heavyweight Title ~
~ IBF Heavyweight Title ~
~ IBO Heavyweight Title ~
Tyson by now a long way past his best and fighting almost 20 pounds over his prime fighting weight, a fight that signalled the end of Tyson’s career as a dominant heavyweight.
In the Pre-fight build up there was a lot of bad mouthing, and a brawl in the press conference, which involved Tyson biting Lennox’s leg.
The actually fight was very one sided with Lewis using his huge reach advantage to keep Tyson on the end of his jab all night, before KO’sinh him in the 7th. This fight did, at the time, set new PPV revenue records, despite people knowing that it wasn’t the Tyson of old.
Tyson’s next opponent was Clifford Etienne, who Tyson KO’d in 1. For this fight Tyson was nearer his ideal weight that he had been in years. After this fight he fought the British fighter Danny Williams, who scored a pretty meaningless KO win over Tyson in 4, who had torn a ligament in his leg during the first round. The image at the end of this fight is a pretty sorrowful one for people who had seen Tyson dominate far better opposition. The win for Williams lead to him getting a title shot at Vitali Klitshcko…who beat him incredibly badly and knocked him down 5 times.
Tyson’s final professional fight was against Kevin McBride, the Irish journeyman who went on to beat Tyson by TKO in 6 signalled the final time Tyson would get into the ring as a professional.
Since retiring Tyson has been doing exhibitions, and dinner speeches to earn his bread. He has also been in more trouble with the law for drugs and DUI’s.
If we keep to boxing Tyson was entertaining, but lacked the heart to be a real all time great. As for his life outside of the ring, the less said about that the better, which is why I tried not to mention too much of it.
*This was a record that stood until May 5th 2007, when Oscar “The Goldenboy” De La Hoya met “Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather Jr, in a Light middleweight clash.