I got into boxing mostly because of my uncle and I have memories of being really young, my father and my uncle going to the Philadelphia Race Track to watch Close Circuit TV to see Michael Spinks fight Larry Holmes for the world title. The big one was Gerry Cooney vs Larry Holmes, unfortunately, due to race. I thought we came a long way from that time, but we’re not. This an article on Pacquaio – Mayweather, but it seems like it’s becoming a race thing, even though it’s an Asian man against an African American it turns out that “some” feel that Pacquaio is the “Great white Hope”which was Cooney’s role in that fight, a role (white) against a black champion. Holmes was a proven champion, and because of this hype, challenger Cooney got parody in the fight. The only time that’s ever happened. However, this was not the “Great white Hope.”
That story was written in 1908 when Jack Johnson won the world title. He was unbeatable at the time, and if you think Ali flaunted, well, Ali said, “You think I’m crazy? Jack Johnson was crazy.” He walked around like he was king of the world, gold teeth, dressed up, dated white women, married a white woman, he was arrested for some ridiculous law that was either made up or never enforced and does not exist today. They brought back the great white champion James J. Jeffries, who was retired and did not want to do it, but was coached on, with Gentlemen Jim Corbett in his corner. Writer Jack London wrote horrific things about Johnson. He won, and wouldn’t lose his title until 1915 when he got knocked out by Jess Williard, though Johnson said he threw the fight, and you can tell, in the picture of him on the ground with his arm over his face – “The sun was in my eyes.”
[adinserter block=”1″]I just remember hearing about this unbelievable guy named Mike Tyson that was not only winning boxing matches, but destroying people. I heard this a lot. I had to see this guy. It wasn’t long. Mike Tyson started pro at 19 in 1985 – to put this in perspective, there were still 15 round fights. In 1986 at 20 years old, the second year into his boxing career, Tyson would become the youngest champion ever. He would go on to not only beat, but demolish the heavyweight landscape, taking a few rounds to get rid of guys like Holmes and Spinks and former title holders like Thomas and Tubbs and unify all three titles beating Berbick, Smith, and Tucker. He was “Iron” Mike and I thought he was made of iron.
I watched him go through guys like Holmes and Bruno and Williams and those three fights don’t add up to nine rounds. I watched them at my Grandmother’s, my father’s mom, and his brother, my uncle, lived there. And I remember before the one fight, they were talking about Muhammad Ali, and I didn’t understand exactly what they were saying. See, before Tyson beat Berbick for the title in two rounds in ’86, Ali was brought into the ring and everyone clapped as he walked over, slowly, and greeted each fighter, Berbick, who beat him in his final fight, and then Tyson, to whom he whispered, “Get ‘him for me.” But my uncle and my dad were talking about Ali. “Remember what he said about Joe Louis?”one of them said, the other nodding.
Joe Louis is arguably the best heavyweight champion of all time, and when Ali was on top, Joe Louis, brain damaged, looking ill, in a wheelchair, was brought out for events, and people would clap, and Ali said, “I’ll never become a cigar store Indian like that. “Meaning, he wouldn’t be all beat up and half dead and be walked around while people clapped and felt sorry for him. Well…. Tyson won the title that night, and now, old, fat, his lisp almost gone, sounding much different, looking different, is not the “Baddest Man on the Planet” but another “Cigar Store Indian.”
Mike Tyson will do his version of the “Baddest Man on the Planet” this Monday appearing on WWE’S RAW for cold hard cash – Ali with Gorrilla Monsoon, Douglas knocking out Macho Man, Tyson knocking out Shawn Michaels when he was suspended from boxing. And then you have, Holyfield washed up, doing his WWE thing, and you have Tyson, maybe even a more tragic figure, because of how great he was, or how great we made him, and them… and that’s what it is, it’s more tragic when you were so great… Louis, Ali, Tyson… look how they fell.
[adinserter block=”2″]I implore you to watch films of these men when they were great, not after they fell and holding onto some image we created for them, because, they never asked for it. We gave it to them. And we’ll continue to do so, and more will be great, and more will fall, and we’ll be disappointed, and hold onto hope, and then finally accept the fact that… hey, the guy needs money. “That’s what we do. Marciano didn’t want to fight Louis, but he needed the money, he did it as a favor,” Tyson said, after he got knocked out by Lennox Lewis. Marciano cried next to Joe Louis after pounding on him and knocking him out. As did Holmes, after he urged the referee to stop the fight over and over, and went to Ali’s dressing room after and Ali smiled at him and they talked and while he was leaving Ali said, “Bring me Holmes! Bring me Holmes!” Maybe we shouldn’t feel bad when Ali is shaking, lighting a torch, as Joe Frazier mumbles to someone, “I hope he falls in”- maybe we shouldn’t feel bad for Tyson Monday Night, when he appears fat, messes up his lines, and maybe swings at someone and they fall down. Because, to fall down like that, you had to be up pretty high.
Robert Earle Stanton is a freelance writer, short fiction author and novelist.
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