On March 6th, 1985 an 18-year-old named Michael Gerard Tyson made his professional debut and recorded the first knockout of his career. A first-round KO over a 0-3 fighter named Hector Mercedes. Mercedes who went on to compile a record of 1-10 before retiring in 1995, was able to land a decent left hand in the first few seconds of the bout but was overwhelmed by Tyson’s aggression. Tyson charged forward and landed a series of seven unanswered shots capped off by a left hook to the body that sent Mercedes to one knee where he remained for the duration of the 10 count at 1:47 of the opening stanza. The fight was featured on the undercard of a Kevin Rooney vs. Garland Wright card in Albany NY. Mike Tyson, the teenager showed that he had some defensive liabilities but his awesome offensive skill set, explosiveness, and power could overcome any defensive problems he may have and his offense was going to be his defense and he would have success at this level but may have to become more defensively responsible at a world-class level. A trend and a scouting report that never really changed.
Whether you think Iron Mike would have taken out Ali in his prime, or if you think he maybe cracks the top 10 greatest heavyweights of all-time or if you think he was an over-hyped overrated one-dimensional fighter who lost all of his big fights, is all open to debate. What’s not debatable is what happened this week 33 years ago, was the beginning of something truly special. Mike Tyson took the boxing world by storm and captured the attention of the public. Over the next 20 months what Tyson did was truly incredible putting together what seemed like a weekly display of power in becoming a staple among boxing fans. Stringing together 27 consecutive wins during those 20 months winning all but two of those by knockout. James “Quick” Tillis was the first to go the distance with the young Tyson, in dropping a very controversial decision, Tillis was able to expose the defensive weaknesses in Tyson’s game. However, the 27-0 start was enough to set Mike up with an opportunity to become the youngest heavyweight champion in history. A run that included victories of a handful of very good heavyweights including Jesse Ferguson, Marvis Frazier, Mitch Green, James Tillis and Alonzo Ratliff. Contrary to the opinion of revisionists who say that Tyson made a resume of collecting tomato cans and cherry. By the age of 20, he had more quality wins against high-level fighters than Wilder and AJ combined at their current ages of 28 and 32.
On November 22, 1986, Mike Tyson took on Trevor Berbick for the WBC title. It aired on HBO and Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion ever when he stopped Trevor Berbick at 2:35 of the second round. Tyson knocked Berbick down twice in the second round, pounding him so hard that he had Berbick reeling across the ring at the end in an unforgettable knockout. Berbick tried time and again to get to his feet each time falling back down. Tyson went on to unify all the recognized world titles at the time and ran off nine consecutive successful defenses over the next three years. That all led to the “Upset” on February,11,1990 against James “Buster” Douglas who was ranked No. 2 by the IBF, No. 3 by the WBC and No. 4 by the WBA and a 42-1 underdog. Douglas was able to get off the canvas in the 8th round and finish off the invincible Iron Mike just two rounds later. Despite the even scorecards, Buster Douglas had controlled the tempo of the fight and the Punch Stat numbers reflected that,
Jabs Tyson Douglas
Landed 23 – 128
Thrown 76 – 243
Percent 30% – 53%
Landed 78 – 102
Thrown 138 – 198
Percent 57% – 52%
Total Punches Tyson -Douglas
Landed 101 – 230
Thrown 214 – 441
Percent 47% – 52%
In retrospect this was the beginning of the end for Tyson, he went on to grab a few more quality victories destroying Alex Stewart and beating Razor Ruddock twice before being sentenced to 6 years and serving half that on rape charges. Tyson was mysteriously represented by Vincent J. Fuller who was Don Kings tax attorney. An interesting selection that has been the topic of many conspiracy theories.
Upon his return it seemed like business as usual, destroying Peter McNelley in a ridiculous bout. Then going on to capture the WBA and WBC straps by absolutely destroying Frank Bruno and Bruce Seldon, who certainly laid down for him. This all set up the bout that was called “Finally” 6 years in the making Mike was taking on Evander Holyfield, who was thought to be a shot fighter by many. Holyfield showed he still had plenty of fight left in him pulling off the massive upset and stopping Mike Tyson in the 11th round. This was followed up by the bite fight and that was pretty much the end of Iron Mike. Kid Dynamite was now in his 30’s the mystique was gone. He was suspended for another year and upon this return, he was more of a sideshow than a legitimate heavyweight contender, he started failing drug tests, getting into foul fests with Orlin Norris and Frans Botha.These sideshow antics somehow earned him a title shot with Lennox Lewis in which Tyson was dismantled and beaten badly. A fight where Mike Tyson, the overwhelming offensive fighter was overwhelmed and offered up no offense to speak of. He won his next fight against a journeyman named Clifford Etienne, before dropping the final 2 fights of his career to low-level heavyweights. Tyson officially retired in 2005 with a record of 50-6 (45) and was inducted into the hall of fame in 2011.
With all the news Deontay Wilder has made in the ring with his memorable slugfest against Ortiz and outside saying he could beat a 1986 version of Mike Tyson. Wilder doesn’t come close to having the same lure that Iron Mike had. Despite Wilder’s higher knockout percentage and higher 1st round KO percentage. His win over Ortiz is probably better than any single win Tyson has on his resume, with the possible exception of Tony Tucker in 1987. Mike Tyson once said, “I can sell out Madison Square Garden masturbating.” who knows if this is true but he could certainly draw a crowd. Compared to Wilder who can’t sell out the Barclays in the biggest fight of his career. The mystique and legend of the “Baddest Man on The Planet” will never go away. Tyson has been rich then bankrupt, beloved and despised, jailed and crowned king. Despite a prime that was just three and a half years the image of his patent left hook-right uppercut combination was is burned into the memory of fight fans and casuals alike. Tyson captured the imagination and amazement of fans from 1986-1989, a three and a half year span that has lived on and survived in memory and legend for another almost 30 years.