Possessing one of the most devastating knockout punches in the history of the sport, “Iron” Mike Tyson, rose from the daily struggle for survival with the elite class of the world’s greatest champions. He was a superstar of the 80’s and 90’s whose records are legendary.
After training such great champions as Floyd Patterson, Cus D’Amato opened a small gym above a police station in New York leaving the world of big time boxing behind. Then again, a thirteen year old delinquent from Brooklyn brought to him from a nearby penal institution, changed his mind. Cus knew that if he dug deep enough with this troubled youth he would uncover a jewel.
Cus had taught many youths the sweet science but one boy in particular stood out. Within two years of their meeting the old professor legally adopted Mike Tyson. Their destiny had begun.
Guided by the teachings of the master, Mike Tyson set about changing his life and in time the entire boxing world. Once Tyson entered the amateur ranks his impact was immediately felt, winning a gold medal at the 1982 Junior Olympics.
After a successful amateur career, Mike Tyson now stepped into the ring as a professional. It was a new game for the eighteen year old; he would be up against stronger, more mature competition. But he had trained for this moment and learnt his lessons well. As he had been taught he was putting on a great show but as his reputation grew, so did his impatience for bigger stakes. The results were now all too familiar to the men who faced him. He fought like a seasoned veteran, stalking his opponents, choosing his punches well. He could mix it up, exchanging combinations and then pick a target, punishing the body. If they made the mistake of getting up for more, an onslaught of haymakers would follow. Compact, quick and incredibly powerful, he fine tuned his knockout punch. His confidence soared. With Cus D’Amato’s guidance Mike had gained the respect of the public and his peers. In the ring, he had conquered his fear but now there was an even greater challenge and this time he had to face it alone.
On the fourth of November, just three days after Mike Tyson knocked out his eleventh straight professional opponent, Cus D’Amato died of pneumonia. His voice still echoed in the gym he called home. Cus D’Amato had built the foundation by providing lessons on all the great fighters. The master had instilled in the student his experiences and thoughts to carry him through his journey. It was D’Amato’s philosophy to build will rather than skill. With Mike he had succeeded. He had bred in Tyson the heart of a champion.
Determined not to fail the memory of his beloved tutor, Mike returned to the ring with a vengeance, immediately setting a course on the road to the heavyweight title. A passion for victory exploded in enormous blows. His pace accelerated as he met each new challenge head on, steamrolling the middle ranks of the heavyweight division, throwing some of the best punches many had seen. During the last ten months of 1985, in his first year as a pro, Mike Tyson had knocked out all fifteen of his opponents and with the New Year the hits just kept on coming. Even when pushed into the middle rounds of the bout, he could unleash unbelievable combinations.
Now reaching the critical point in his career there was little need for worry; Mike Tyson had been properly prepared. Nationally recognised as a legitimate title contender, this gladiator proudly displayed his trademark: black trunks, no socks, no robe. Aged 20 years, 4 months and 22 days, Mike Tyson could, with a win against Trevor Berbick, become the youngest heavyweight champion ever, surpassing the record of Floyd Patterson. After claiming Berbick’s WBC title with another incredible knockout, he had made his mark.
Following a well deserved rest, the new champ brought his crown jewel into the next step of the heavyweight unification series. This time the prize was James “Bonecrusher” Smith’s WBA title. With this victory came Tyson’s second heavyweight title.
An eighteen month long series was created to determine the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. In the final event Tony Tucker matched his IBF crown against Tyson’s WBA and WBC titles. Tucker’s attack faded in the middle rounds and Tyson’s time had come. Tyson walked away with a unanimous decision victory. Now with three championship belts Tyson had become the first undisputed heavyweight champion since Leon Spinks beat Muhammad Ali.
It seems no ordinary man could beat Mike Tyson but next he had to face a legend in Larry Holmes. When Mike Tyson entered the ring against Holmes he was not scared; he was angry at his opponent who had openly attacked his character in the press. Mike Tyson, however, did his talking in the ring, causing a fourth round stoppage. The torch had been passed from the old king to the new king of boxing.
Tyson faced Leon Spinks in the richest fight in history at that time. Tyson beat Spinks into retirement, with a destructive knockout after 91 seconds of the first round.
After a surprise loss to Buster Douglas, Tyson would not be the undisputed heavyweight champion for another 6 years. He was convicted of rape and sentenced to three years in prison.
Subsequent to serving his sentence, Mike Tyson returned to the ring in order to unify the heavyweight titles once again. Evander Holyfield stood in his way. This was the beginning of two mega fights against Holyfield to establish the undisputed heavyweight champion. In 1996, Tyson faced Holyfield in the first of their two fights. Holyfield dominated as Tyson looked for the knockout punch. Needing a knockdown in the eleventh round, Tyson left himself open and Holyfield took advantage by unloading an assault of punches to gain a stoppage victory. The bout won Ring Magazine’s fight of the year.
A year later, the two boxers faced off again. The first two rounds were full of action but the third round took an unexpected turn when Tyson grabbed Holyfield and bit off the boxer’s ear. Tyson claimed that the action was retaliation for Holyfield’s head butts. As a result, Tyson’s boxing licence was revoked, preventing him from fighting for another year.
Another opportunity for heavyweight supremacy presented itself in the form of WBC, IBF and IBO champion Lennox Lewis. The fight took place in 2002, years past Tyson’s prime. Lewis used his physical advantage to dominate the smaller, slower Tyson and by the fourth round, Tyson was clearly weakened by the punishment he had been suffering; it was clearly a technical mismatch. Finally in the eighth round, Lewis stunned the former undisputed champion with a ferocious uppercut and ended the fight with a powerful haymaker. It was over. Tyson had gone out on his shield. The time had come to hang up his gloves. He explained that the anger he showed towards his opponents before fights was only used to sell the fight. Behind the facade, Mike Tyson had shown that there was a humble man. During the post fight interview the fans had a chance to see the real Mike Tyson as he reached up and gently stroked some swelling under Lewis’ eye. He had given the world a reason to stop hating him.
The knockout king had paid his dues. Mike Tyson had provided innumerable thrills and a great deal of excitement for the world of boxing over the illustrious twenty years he took part in the sport. He achieved legendary status, boasting a record of 50 wins (44 by knockout) and 6 losses, earning $300 million in the process. To this day, he is still one of the most recognisable figures in the world. With a greatness that transcended boxing, Mike Tyson will live on in the hearts and minds of boxing fans, not just as an entertainer but as a great man.