By Geoffrey Ciani: Iron Mike Tyson is one of the most famous and charismatic world heavyweight champions of all time.
Mike Tyson made his professional debut in March, 1985 when he stopped Hector Mercedes in round 1, and this was just the beginning of his Hall of Fame career. 1985 proved to be a huge year for the young prospect as he gained experience and worked his way from prospect to becoming a fringe contender on the rise. Tyson had 15 fights in 1985, winning all 15 fights inside the distance. But what was most impressive was the manner of these victories, where Tyson displayed raw ferocious power to go along with his blazing speed and impeccable movement.
In early 1986 Tyson won another 4 bouts inside the distance, improving his record to a perfect 19-0. In May ‘86 Tyson had his first fight that went the 10 distance, when he won a hard fought 10 round unanimous decision against James ‘Quick’ Tillis, which provided a valuable learning experience for the young pugilist. Tyson continued winning, and winning in style, notably beating heavyweights like Mitch Green, Reggie Gross, Marvis Frazier, Jose Ribalta, and Alfonso Ratliff. By September ‘86, just 18 months after he made his professional debut, young Iron Mike compiled an impressive record of 27-0 with 25 wins coming by way of knockout.
This paved the way for Tyson to challenge the WBC heavyweight champion Trevor Berbick, whom Tyson made quick work of stopping the champion in the 2nd round. With the victory, 20 year old Iron Mike Tyson had become the youngest boxer in history to capture a major heavyweight world title. The destructive fashion of the victory was vintage Tyson, and the young champion appeared to have a very promising future.
In March 1987 Tyson won a 12 round unanimous decision in a unification bout against James ‘Bonecrusher’ Smith to win the WBA belt to go along with his WBC belt. After defending his unified championship when he scored a brutal knockout against former champion Pinklon Thomas, Tyson would then add the IBF belt when he won a 12 round unanimous decision against Tony Tucker in August 1987. Young Iron Mike had earned all three major alphabet titles of his time. Tyson closed out 1987 when he defended his three belts by scoring a 7th round knockout against Tyrell Biggs.
1988 was a tremendous year for Iron Mike. In January he stopped former dominant long reigning heavyweight champion Larry Holmes in 4 rounds. Then in March Tyson scored a 2nd round stoppage against former champion Tony Tubbs. This paved the way for a big showdown in June, 1988 against the undefeated lineal world heavyweight champion Michael Spinks. Even though Spinks did not hold a major world title, he still technically held a valid claim to the heavyweight lineage as the man who beat the man, when Spinks had dethroned Holmes in 1985 about 6 months after Iron Mike had made his pro debut. Tyson destroyed Spinks in 91 seconds to earn the lineal world championship to go along with the WBC/WBA/IBF belts. This victory marked Iron Mike Tyson as the baddest man on the planet, where he had solidified his claim as undisputed world heavyweight champion by making quick work of Jinx Spinks.
Mike Tyson defended the undisputed crown two times in 1989, scoring a 5th round stoppage against Frank Bruno in February, and scoring a 1st round stoppage against Carl Williams in July. But in February 1990, Tyson lost his undisputed championship when he was stopped by Buster Douglas in round 10 in Tokyo, in what was undoubtedly the biggest upset during the long rich history of professional boxing. Tyson bounced back with 1st round wins against Henry Tillman and Alex Stewart to finish 1990.
The following year, when Evander Holyfield was the undisputed world heavyweight champion (having beaten Buster the previous year), Tyson was the universally recognized #1 contender, with the WBC, WBA, and IBF all recognizing him as such. Meanwhile, Donovan Razor Ruddock was the consensus #2 contender, where all three alphabet organizations had him just behind Mike in their respective rankings. Tyson scored a 7th round stoppage against Ruddock in March 1991, but the stoppage itself was viewed as somewhat controversial, and there was great demand for a rematch. In June ‘91 they ran it back, and again Tyson was victorious, this time by 12 round unanimous decision.
Any hopes of reclaiming the championship for Tyson were derailed when he served a prison sentence from April 1992 until March 1995. During his time away, a lot happened in the heavyweight championship landscape, with Holyfield, Riddick Bowe, Lennox Lewis, and Michael Moorer being some of the notable champions during his absence. Even Big George Foreman had become champion, more than 20 years after he had lost the title against the great Muhammad Ali.
After early comeback victories against Peter McNeeley and Buster Mathis Jr, Tyson got an opportunity to fight for the WBC title in March 1996, when he had a rematch against Frank Bruno 7 years after their first encounter. Tyson was once again victorious, this time winning in round 3. Tyson then beat WBA champion Bruce Seldon, where he ultimately vacated the WBC belt, which paved the way to a long awaited showdown with Evander Holyfield in November 1996. Holyfield scored an upset victory over Iron Mike, and when the two had a rematch the following year, Tyson was disqualified for repeatedly biting Holyfield’s ear. Tyson was suspended for one year after that.
Later in his career, Tyson was a shell of his former self. Indeed, he had never been the same destructive force he was early in his career since parting ways with trainer Kevin Rooney following his demolition job on Michael Spinks. And after his prison sentence, despite still showing great speed and tremendous punching power, Mike was never able to replicate the blend of skills and stamina he celebrated earlier in his career, and after the Holyfield fights this became more pronounced. Tyson did have some strong showings later in his career against Frans Botha, Lou Savarese, and most notably Andrew Golota.
His final bid at a championship was a losing effort against the great Lennox Lewis in June 2002. After the Lewis fight, Tyson had only one win, against Clifford Etienne. Tyson was stopped in the final two bouts of his career, first against Danny Williams in July 2004, and then against Kevin McBride in June 2005. That was the last professional match during the long and illustrious career of the extraordinary Iron Mike Tyson. Iron Mike may not have been the greatest heavyweight of all time, and much of his unfulfilled potential is nobody’s fault but his own. But Mike Tyson made his mark in boxing history and will forever be remembered as one of the most exciting prizefighters to ever lace them up.
This edition of Rummy’s Corner will provide a fight-by-fight recap of Mike Tyson’s entire professional boxing career, including highlights from each and every fight, knockouts, and more! Please watch and enjoy the video. This is Rummy’s Corner (produced and narrated by Geoffrey Ciani).