Just How Good Was World Heavyweight Champ “Iron” Mike Tyson?
By Ken Hissner: This writer met “Iron” Mike Tyson where he lived in Catskill thanks to Cus D’Amato. Tyson was 15, and I never heard of him as we watched films his manager-to-be Jim Jacobs supplied from his “Greatest Fight Films of the Century!” Tyson loved looking at Jack Dempsey, no robe, no socks, and a furious style!
Tyson won his first 37 fights. Cus D’Amato and Jim Jacobs had passed on while Kevin Rooney was dismissed probably by Don King, Tyson’s promoter. Numerous trainers would follow like Aaron Snowell, Richie Giachetti, Jay Bright, Tommy Brooks, Ronnie Shields, Freddie Roach, and Jeff Fenech.
Tyson was 15-0 when he called this writer, knowing I’m a record keeper asking about a future opponent Dave Jaco, 19-5. I told him, “don’t worry, he’s just a big white guy!” Jaco lasted 2:16 of the first round!
Tyson was 19-0 when he defeated James “Quick” Tillis, 31-8, in May of 1986, winning a ten round decision. It was the first time Tyson was taken the distance, though Tillis was down in the fourth round.
Next up was fellow New Yorker Mitch “Blood” Green, 16-1-1, who also went the distance with Tyson at Madison Square Garden in a lopsided decision. Three wins would follow all by knockout.
In July of 1986, “Smokin,” Joe Frazier would send his son Marvis, 16-1, into the “lion’s den” against Tyson to be destroyed in 0:30 of the first round. In his eleventh fight, Marvis was put in with then heavyweight champion Larry “Easton Assassin” Holmes, 44-0, with 17 defenses in a non-title bout. It lasted 2:57 of the first round.
Afterwards Holmes said, “that’s for all the whippings your daddy gave me in the gym!” Marvis was a National Golden Glove champion while being trained by George Benton. Then his father took over in the pro’s.
Three fights later, Tyson would win the WBC Heavyweight title, stopping Trevor Berbick, 31-4-1, in two rounds in November of 1986! Berbick was knocked down twice. After trying to get up from the second knockdown, he fell to the canvas twice.
In Tyson’s next fight in his first title defense, he was forced to go the distance by WBA World champion James “Bonecrusher” Smith, 19-5, over 12 rounds, in a unification bout. Smith only won one round on one of the judge’s scorecards, with the other two having it a shutout! Next up would be former WBC World champion Pinklon “Pink” Thomas, 29-1-1, whom he stopped in six rounds.
In August of 1986, Tyson defeated IBF World champion Tony “TNT” Tucker, 34-0, over 12 rounds. Next up would be former 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist Tyrell Biggs, 15-0, stopping him in seven rounds.
In January of 1988, in Atlantic City sat future President of the United States Donald J. Trump next to former world champion Muhammad Ali. As Tyson and his opponent, former world champion Larry “Easton Assassin” Holmes, 48-2, had entered the ring, Ali was introduced and called into the ring. He first went to the corner of Holmes touching his hands on his gloves, not a word said. He then went to the corner of Tyson and whispered in his ear! What was said? “Kick his ass?”
Tyson jumped all over Holmes as soon as the opening bell sounded. After tasting the power of Tyson, Holmes was running! He would later say, “I got my arm caught on the ropes throwing a punch,” not admitting he took a beating and went down with a thud on his back, forcing referee Tony Orlando to wave it off at 2:55 of the fourth round!
Next up would be former WBA champion Tony “TNT” Tubbs, 24-1, in Tokyo, Japan, lasting 2:54 into the second round. In June of 1988, former Olympic Gold Medalist and IBF champion Michael “Jinx” Spinks, 31-0, entered the ring as if he was going to the electric chair. It was over by knockout in 1:31 of the first round! Spinks would never fight again! It would also be the last time Kevin Rooney would be in the corner for Tyson.
The UK’s Frank Bruno, 32-2, would be brought into Las Vegas for his third shot at the world title. It was all over in the fifth round. Next up would be Carl “The Truth” Williams, 22-2, who hit the canvas at 1:33 in the first round and was waved off by referee Randy Neumann without a count.
In February, in his next fight, Tyson was back in Tokyo, Japan, against James “Buster” Douglas, 28-4-1, a huge underdog. I can still see Tyson prior to the introduction going from one corner to the other like a panther in a cage! Douglas was down in the eighth. Mexican referee Octavio Meyran seemed to give a “long count” as Douglas finally got to his feet. Going into the tenth round, the fight was even on the scorecards, with each fighter having an edge and one even.
Douglas dropped Tyson in the tenth. As Tyson tried to get up, he was trying to pick up and get his mouthpiece that was knocked out back into his mouth but never beat the count at 1:22 of the round. Four months later, Tyson was back into the ring against Henry Tillman, 20-4, who defeated him in the Olympic trials in back-to-back fights. At 2:47 of the first round, it was all over, and Tyson was back in the win column! That had to be a big win for him on a personal note.
Fellow Brooklyn, NY, contender Alex “The Destroyer” Stewart, 26-1, would be next and out in 2:27 of the first round. Next would be hard-hitting Donovan “Razor” Ruddock, 25-1-1, who would fall in seven rounds in a war. A non-title fight would follow against Peter “Hurricane” McNeeley, 36-1. McNeeley raced out and was on the offense before a Tyson right dropped him. Shortly later again, Tyson dropped McNeeley. When the latter’s corner stepped into the ring, instead of it being ruled a stoppage, it was a disqualification at 1:29 of the first round.
Another New York fighter would be brought in named Buster Mathis, Jr., 20-0, getting knocked out in three rounds in Philadelphia. For some reason, Bruno, 40-4, would be given a fourth shot at the title though he only lasted five rounds with Tyson seven years ago. It was all over in three rounds.
Next up would be WBA champion Bruce “The Atlantic City Express” Seldon, 33-3, who only lasted 1:49. He lay face down until the count of “ten” by referee Richard Steele and jumped up!
Just two months later, it would be former WBA and IBF champion and 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield, 32-3. Holyfield would be well ahead going into the eleventh round when referee Mitch Halpern called a halt at 0:37 into the round in favor of Holyfield.
A rematch with Holyfield would happen seven months later when Tyson got cut in the third round and went crazy “biting the ear of Holyfield.” Referee Mills Lane, instead of disqualifying him, panicked and called time and went to the commissioner, who told him, “we can’t stop a fight of this magnitude!” He would eventually take an MMA/UFC job where he belonged! When the fight continued, Tyson bit him again, taking a piece of Holyfield’s ear off! Finally, referee Lane did what he should have done been earlier and disqualified him.
It would be nineteen months when Tyson returned to the ring against Frans “The White Buffalo” Botha, 39-1, well behind going into the fifth round when Tyson knocked him out 2:59 into the round. Next would be former WBA Cruiserweight champion then IBA Super Cruiserweight champion Orlin “Night Train The Juice” Norris, 50-5, who Tyson hit while referee Richard Steele was breaking them and received a warning. In the final seconds, while in another clinch, Tyson landed a left hook knocking Norris to the canvas. Between rounds, Norris decided not to continue claiming an injured knee forcing referee Steele going to the commissioner Marc Ratner, who went to the corner of Tyson when “all hell broke out,” and numerous fans and the corners filled the ring. It would be ruled a No Contest!
Tyson would return to the ring in the UK, stopping the UK’s Julian Francis, 21-7, in two rounds, after being on the canvas five times. Five months later, New York’s Lou Savarese, 39-3, would be brought over to the UK. Thirty seconds into the fight, a glancing left hook from Tyson on the chin and down went Savarese. Referee John Coyle gave him an 8-count. Tyson was all over him, landing a combination when referee Coyle tried stopping it when Tyson threw Coyle to the canvas.
Tyson went after Savarese until the corner came into the ring. Referee Coyle raised the hand of Tyson after 0:38, and Savarese couldn’t believe the fight was over.
Next was Poland’s Andrew Golota, 36-4, out of Chicago, who Tyson cut over the left eye in the final thirty seconds of the opening round. A right from Tyson on the chin dropped Golota with ten seconds left in the opening round as referee Frank Garza gave him the 8-count as the bell sounded. In the second round, Tyson hit during the break without a warning. At the end of the round, Golota wouldn’t allow his trainer to put his mouthpiece in and refused to continue and left the ring. He would later claim Tyson was head-butting him on purpose, which the replay showed whether by accident or not. The TKO in 2 result was reversed to a No Contest when Tyson tested positive for marijuana.
It would be just shy of a year when Tyson returned to the ring, and that was in Copenhagen, Denmark, against Brian “Super Brian” Nielsen, 62-1, stopping him in six rounds. Nielsen was 49-0 earlier in his career when he lost for the first time.
In June of 2002, Tyson would get his final chance to re-gain a world title in Memphis, TN, when he lost to WBC, IBF, and IBO world champion Lennox “The Lion” Lewis, 39-2-1, getting knocked out in eight rounds. Eight months later, Tyson returned to the same venue with better results knocking out Clifford “The Black Rhino” Etienne, 24-1-1, in 0:49 of the first round. It would be his last win.
In his next fight, Tyson was knocked out by the UK’s Danny “Brixton Bomber” Williams, 31-3, in four rounds in Louisville, KY. Almost a year later, in what would be Tyson’s final bout, he was stopped by Ireland’s Kevin “The Clones Colossus” McBride, 32-4-1, out of Brockton, MASS, in DC in six rounds, quitting on the stool.
The once most feared man on the planet, “Iron” Mike Tyson’s final record was 50-6 with 44 stoppages. He was the youngest fighter to win the heavyweight title at 20 years, four months, and 23 days. He was 48-6 with 38 stoppages as an amateur and was a 1981 Junior Olympic heavyweight champion. In 1984 he won the National Golden Gloves tournament. In 2011 he was inducted into the IBHOF.
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