When Mike Tyson was in prison public consensus was that he was still the best heavyweight, dare I say, boxer, on the planet. When he was released from prison he already signed for millions of dollars with Don King for his return to the ring. His record, 41-1 showed how good he was, except for that one night fluke in Japan against a now “no one” in Buster Douglas.
Before he lost to Douglas, he was not only the “unbeatable” Baddest man on the planet, he was ranked number one, pound for pound best boxer in the world. So, Tyson was perceived as the real heavyweight champ, and was admittedly, licking his chops, looking at how the titles were being passed around, dreaming of unifying them again. The titles went around from person to person when Mike was in prison. Once Iron Mike owned the title of “champ,” – the one, the only – now there were a bunch of guys with belts claiming the same thing that just weren’t as fun, or as entertaining to watch.
It was time – 1995, and TMike yson had a fight schedule for the first time in over four years. His opponent was perfect – big, white, with a great record, and even though Sports Illustrated, who rarely involves itself with boxing, did a whole article on Tyson’s opponent, Peter McNeely, who at 36-1, only beat two guys with winning records. His one loss – a guy with a winning record. No lie. But the public bought into it, even paid for it. Has any other boxer fought a main event Pay Per View against a guy who had beaten only two guys with winning records? That tells you something about Mike Tyson.
Iron Mike beat “Hurricane” Peter McNeely in less than a round on Pay Per View. His next fight was televised on FOX, where he knocked out Buster Mathis in the third round. Then he was ready. 1996 would start out to be a great year for him, and end up maybe being the end of it all. He was going to collect the titles and it would start with Frank Bruno. The fight was set, and it took Tyson less time than before. In three rounds he became the “two time” WBC champ – I wonder if he remembered that fight ten years ago, back in ’86 when he won it from Trevor Berbick. It surely could not have been as gratifying, as living up to the expectations of the only father he ever knew in Cus D’amoto when he became the youngest heavyweight champion ever. His next fight in ’96 was for the WBA strap, against Bruce Seldon. In the first round, Tyson swung at Seldon, and even in slow motion it looked like he missed him, but Seldon went down anyway, to get back up, and go back down, this time for good. In less than four rounds Mike Tyson unified the WBC and WBA titles again. That night rap artist Tupac Shakkur was at the fight, and got murdered when he left. Still, in 1996, Tyson would defend his WBA crown against what was deemed an “easy” win in Evander Holyfield. People were actually scared for Holyfield, as he seemed to run out of gas in a prior loss to Michael Moorer, and then was tested and documented that he had a heart condition.
He retired for a short time, but then got better, Holyfield said God made him better. He would be cleared to fight after that, but in his third fight with Riddick Bowe, he got knocked out for the first time, and now announcing, George Foreman was yelling for the ref to stop it and talking about how they were have to put Holyfield in a pine box after. People were very scared of what “Iron” Mike may do to him. I don’t think there was anyone who gave the 32-3 Holyfield a chance against the 45-1 Tyson. It started out different, Holyfield didn’t fall down, he wasn’t scared, in clinches, he pushed Tyson back, he was winning the fight, he knocked Tyson down, albeit more Tyson being off balance when he got hit. Tyson got back up, and fought, but Holyfield would go on to put on a clinic – he out-boxed him, out-thought him, was quicker, and in the 11th round hurt him. Holyfield is not a knockout artist, but he hurt Tyson in the 11th, more due to a head butt, but Holyfield then went off on a barrage, hitting Tyson over and over, Tyson off balance, falling into the ropes, until the referee stepped in and rescued Tyson from any more beating. Buster Douglas was a 42-1 underdog, and Holyfield was just as bad, at 25-1.
Their rematch is the joke you usually hear after mentioning Tyson’s name. There was much talk about the head butts after the fight, and a rematch would be scheduled, this time, with a new referee. In the first fight, Holyfield was definitely head-butting Mike Tyson. One of the butts so bad it buckled Tyson, and he claimed he was blacking out. The Tyson camp asked for a new referee, and they got one, and again, Holyfield was head-butting Mike. If you watch the tape, it’s not until Holyfield opens up a cut over Tyson’s eye from a butt until Mike does something. “I could see him looking up and leading with his head.” – “I can’t believe he butted me again.” In his own words Tyson said at that point, in the third, after he was bleeding from another head butt, and Mills Lane did nothing, he has no interest in fighting Holyfield under the Marquis of Queensbury rules, the rules boxing abides by. He admitted he wanted to inflict as much pain as he could onto Evander.
Check out a collection of great Tyson knockouts
Look for the last chapter, Part 3, soon.
Robert Earle Stanton is a freelance writer, short fiction author and novelist.
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