I’m writing a two part article about what Mike Tyson did in the ring, because, as of late, I’ve come across some people, maybe since I’m getting so old, that don’t know the stories of who he fought and what he did as champion. And Iron” Mike Tyson has received a great deal of press lately, but for reasons people really didn’t seem coming. A documentary about him was made, called “Tyson” – directed by James Tobak (Black and White, Two girls and a Guy, Fingers) It was a documentary, more-so a portrait of Tyson, in his own words.
We’ve heard all the stuff, so here it was Tyson’s take on it, what he has to say about his life that escalated him from street kid to millionaire to household name to enemy number one to now, the older, fatter guy, that keeps crying, in his movie, and on Oprah Winfrey. He’s out of rehab, still grieving for a daughter died recently, and still always about to sob whenever his mentor, first trainer, and surrogate father Cus D’amoto is brought up. He now says he didn’t want to even box after Cus died in 1985 and after he lost for the first time in 1990 to 42-1 underdog Buster Douglas that he did not want to fight on, and didn’t train that much, and is still angry about the four year layoff he had due to a rape conviction that now seems unrealistic to most people “in the know” when given the facts about the incident and trial – I’d be pissed, too. And he’s broke.
The baby boomers had Ali and Generation X thought they had Tyson. Fact is, from 1990 to the end of his career, he had only 13 wins, 6 losses, and 2 no-contests. His record shows his path of destruction either put upon his opponent, or himself, having fought 58 professional fights, he only went the distance 5 times. Only going the distance 5 times??? And he was the youngest heavyweight champion of all time, held five titles in that time, the unified heavyweight champion two times and to his credit once ranked number 1 pound for pound boxer in the world – the best, no better, at 37-0. How would we handle that kind of success, on TV, video games, on the cover of magazines at only 20 years old?
He would finish with 50 wins, and 6 losses, with 2 no-contests. Out of his 50 wins, he knocked out 44 of them, realistically 45, but that’s how it goes when he’ll be voted into the Boxing Hall of Fame. Deservingly so. Right now, look at the heavyweight division. Actually, some fresh faces are making appearances, who knows what will happen. But as far as names go, people are gonna say, “Ali” – and people are gonna say “Tyson” – no matter how good they were, no one is gonna say “Holmes” or “Lennox Lewis” – definitely not Wladimir Klitschko.
Like Ali, Tyson would acquire a title, but his was, “The Baddest Man on the Planet” – and it sure looked like it from 1986 to 1990. People were seeing something they never saw before. More than Ali. This guy destroyed you, and destroyed you quick, and being with Cus, and watching the old films and studying old boxers, Tyson would come in the ring with no music, no robe, in plain black shorts and black shoes. At only 5 foot 11 and at his best around 215 pounds, he was a very small heavyweight. Smaller than all his opponents. In ’86 he’d fight an amazing 13 times! Think that would happen today?
Larry Holmes was trying to beat Marciano’s record. Holmes was 48-0. Just one more win. Former Light Heavyweight Champ Michael Spinks moved up to face him, and beat him. It was a close fight, and the new champ was Spinks, and they fought again, and Spinks got the decision and Holmes, now 48-2 would tell the media to kiss him where the sun don’t shine. There were three titles… WBA, WBC, and IBF. They all belonged to different people, and by ’86, HBO decided to have a heavyweight championship tournament – the winner gets all the titles. Spinks, 31-0, would boycott this tournament. Mike Tyson would get in, but first, at twenty years old, he would fight for the WBC heavyweight title, and win it by knocking out Trevor Berbick in the second round. At that point, and winning that way, people believed that Tyson was for real. Berbick was coming off a win over faded Muhammad Ali. Tyson destroyed him. He would then pick up the WBA title from Bonecrusher Smith winning a unanimous decision. He would then KO Pinklon Thomas in six.
The tournament came down to Tyson vs 35-0 Tony Tucker, and Tyson dominated, winning a Unanimous Decision, and now was the undefeated, WBA, WBC, and IBF world champion. But there was still undefeated Michael Spinks, who Ring claimed the “legit” champ. Everyone wanted to see that fight, champ vs champ, like undefeated Frazier and Ali. Tyson kept active by knocking out Biggs, and then Larry Holmes. Holmes was never knocked out, Tyson Ko’d him in the fourth round. Holmes would go on to fight 24 more times, even another title shot vs Holyfield, and he never got knocked out again. Tyson was the only one.
Tony Tubbs was a good fighter with a good record, Tyson easily knocked him out in two rounds. And then it culminated. Undefeated Linear Champ Michael Spinks would face Undefeated Unified Champ Mike Tyson. Both Undefeated saying they’re the real champ. This meant everything. You know how long it lasted? 91 seconds. That’s right, Tyson took him out in the first, very easily, stunning everyone, and making a point. His reaction, however, was dull, after knocking him out he kind of shrugged. Tyson would then part with his trainer and manager. Gone was his long time trainer Kevin Rooney and in was Don King and “his trainers” – Tyson would face European Champ Frank Bruno. He stopped him in five. In a Ring Magazine issue, they did a study of a heavyweight Carl “The Truth” Williams and they said that he showed the skill of someone only Ali possessed. Tyson Ko’d him in the first round.
There was only one fighter, a former Cruiserweight moved up, named Evander Holyfield, that people thought could be a good opponent for Tyson, but not beat him, of course. So while talks with that were beginning, there was an easy fight against a guy with 4 losses, he got KO’d by Tucker, who Tyson beat, so no one in America was really that interested. So the fight moved to Japan. HBO would show it, who would watch it? The odd, seriously, were 42-1. The big story before this was that in training Tyson got knocked down by Greg Page. No one really cared. It was 1990, Tyson had been champ since ’86 and had fought 9 guys since, knocking out 7 of them, and had become a name brand. No one knew, this would be the beginning of the end, now in 1990, James “Buster” Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson.
Check out a collection of great Tyson knockouts
Look for part 2 of this story soon.
Robert Earle Stanton is a freelance writer, short fiction author and novelist.
Order Ringside – The Best of Mike Tyson on DVD by clicking here.
Order ESPN Inside Access: Tyson by clicking here.
See the documentary Tyson on DVD by clicking here.
To purchase the boxing video game Fight Night: Round 4, click here.