Tuesday, 14 September 2021

1985: Mike Tyson

The rise of Mike Tyson through the heavyweight boxing ranks from his professional debut in March 1985 to his Judgment Day meeting with Trevor Berbick in November 1986 was an exciting time for the sport. As opponents came and went - often rapidly - the hype surrounding the 19-year-old from New York started to snowball.

Timing is everything. The days of an undisputed heavyweight champion had long gone, and with belts up for grabs in the WBC, WBA and IBF divisions, the need to unify the titles led to the three organisations and the HBO television channel creating a tournament to deliver a sole claimant to the title of best heavyweight in the world.

Looking back it seems inevitable that Tyson would have unified the division regardless of the tournament. But with a clear structure in place, there were no obstacles in his way. As 1985 progressed, and Tyson blew away his early opponents, his reputation grew. There would be bigger tests to come, but as his first 15 opponents in 1985 could confirm, the power of Iron Mike was about to start making waves.

March 6 1985: Hector Mercedes - TKO 1:47 Round 1

Tyson, wearing white shorts, immediately swarms over Mercedes, a fighter who came into Tyson's debut bout without a win in his three fights. A left arm jab sends Mercedes back, and Tyson spots an opening. Soon Mercedes is back on the ropes with Tyson landing jarring blows to the body of his opponent.

 


Moving to the corner, the body shots continue before Mercedes falls to his knee. Shaking his head, Mercedes understandably looks like he has had all the wind taken out of him, signalling that he can't carry on. Boos can be heard, but Mercedes will not be the last to fall in the first round to Tyson.

April 10 1985: Trent Singleton - TKO 0:52 Round 1

Another first round demolition job, as Singleton is sent to the floor within the opening 15 seconds of the fight. Managing to get to his feet, Singleton is then knocked down once more with a crunching left hook. A flurry of punches finishes the fight, although Singleton bravely, and shakily, gets to his feet before the referee stops the fight.

 


Thankfully, as Singleton picks himself up, Tyson manages to restrain himself from inflicting one final punch. But his next opponent would not be so lucky.

May 23 1985: Don Halpin - KO 1:04 Round 4

It would be easy to dismiss many of Tyson's early adversaries as bums. Yet the bravery required to step into the ring with the hungry young contender should not be underestimated. Don Halpin would be the first to take Tyson beyond the three minute mark, taking some heavy blows as the fight progressed. 



A right hand that Tyson unleashed in the fourth round was thundering, and Halpin did well to get up. Shortly afterwards he might have wished he had stayed down. Tyson sent Halpin sprawling in the corner, but as Halpin fell he was smashed with a completely unnecessary haymaker. The sight of Halpin's head flying back was not pretty, and Tyson was rightly admonished for his behaviour.

June 20 1985: Ricardo Spain - TKO 0:39 Round 1

Maybe the secret of fighting Tyson was to get out of there as quickly as possible. Ricardo Spain cannot be blamed for becoming the quickest victim (so far) of Tyson's career. Hit with a solid right hand, Spain needed the ropes to get himself off the deck. It was merely delaying the inevitable.

 


A left to the side of the head completed Tyson's work for the evening, as Spain's legs justifiably turned to jelly. The Tyson bandwagon rolled on.

July 11 1985: John Alderson - Retired end of Round 2

Despite holding a big height advantage over Tyson, John Alderson was instantly on the back foot, his head snapped back by a left hand from Tyson in the opening round. The second round followed the same pattern, with Alderson losing his gum shield and legs after Tyson landed a right.

 


Alderson would be floored twice, slowly pulling himself up from the first knock down - understandably with a lack of enthusiasm - before another right hand at the end of the round sent him down. The doctor rightfully assessed that the fight could not go on. Alderson did not look too down about the verdict.

July 19 1985: Larry Sims - KO 2:04 Round 3

A fight shrouded in mystery due to the fact that no footage exists. Extensive research - yes, Google was used - suggests that the camera crew covering the bout were delayed by bad weather, and Tyson had finished the job before they could start filming.

Jack Cowen, a man in Sims' corner for the Tyson fight, would later describe the relentless nature of the victor. "He just comes out and overwhelms everyone. Sims is a losing fighter but a guy who usually hangs in there. He couldn't against Tyson." Even without the footage I think we get the picture.

August 15 1985: Lorenzo Canady - KO 1:05 Round 1

Another quick victory for Tyson, his first left of the night sending Lorenzo Canady sprawling across the ropes. Canady beat the count and bounced up and down on his feet. But the eyes give away that there is more pain to come.



Tyson surged forwards, landing punches that threw Canady back on to the ropes. Eventually trapped in the corner there was no escape. Canady dropped to his knees before referee Joe Cortez called off the fight. Tyson's fourth win the first round; number five was not far away.

September 5 1985: Michael Johnson - KO 0:39 Round 1

You could almost feel the pain of Michael Johnson as Tyson landed a thumping left to his body shortly into their fight in Atlantic City. Just like Canady, Johnson got up quickly, yet the reluctant look across his face suggested that he would go the same way.

 


There was no getting up from the next punch. Walking towards Johnson, Tyson landed the sweetest of right hands on the chin of his opponent. Johnson was down for nearly four minutes, before groggily getting to his feet. Sport hurts.

October 9 1985: Donnie Long - TKO 1:28 Round 1

Another great left hook would signal the beginning of the end in Tyson's next fight against Donnie Long. Long staggered to his feet but stood little chance as Tyson sniffed blood. Put down again, Long simply could not hold back the furious tide heading his way.

 


Briefly Long tried to exchange blows. But a short left hand ended the bout, as Long became the latest of Tyson's opponents to finish in a bewildered and dazed state. Just sixteen days later there would be another added to that list.

October 25 1985: Robert Colay - KO 0:37 Round 1

The fights just kept on coming for Tyson, but the fact that he was making such short work of his opponents allowed him to carry on chalking up the wins. Fighting in blue shorts against Robert Colay, Tyson would gain what would be the second quickest win of his career.

 


Hit by a left hook, Colay attempted to get to his feet, yet such was the force of the blow that his legs wobbled as he got up just before the count. Fortunately referee Ted Pick had seen enough.

November 1 1985: Sterling Benjamin - TKO 0:54 Round 1

Just a week later, Tyson demolished Sterling Benjamin in New York. A left hand saw Benjamin hit the canvas for the first time, before relentless body shots finished the fight within the first minute. But soon there would be sadness for Tyson.

 


Three days later, Tyson's guiding light Cus D'Amato died of pneumonia. Losing his legal guardian, trainer and manager, Tyson was vulnerable to the vultures circling in boxing. Who knows if Tyson would have gone down the same path had D'Amato lived for a few more years? But it was a definite turning point in his career and life.

November 13 1985: Eddie Richardson - KO 1:17 Round 1

Eddie Richardson did get past the first minute. But the ferocity of Tyson's right hand within the first ten seconds was an indication that Richardson would be the sixth consecutive fighter to lose in round one against Tyson.



A left would end the bout, with Richardson unable to beat the count. A twelfth win for Tyson, his ninth inside the first round, kept his development in the heavyweight division on track.

November 22 1985: Conroy Nelson - TKO 0:30 Round 2

Conroy Nelson did well to survive the first round, at one point sinking to his knees as Tyson's body shots took their toll, with the bell saving him from any further punishment. Yet the seeds of destruction had been planted.



A right and then a swinging left sent Nelson crashing to the floor in the second round, as Tyson celebrated another quick win. As 1985 drew to a close, there were still a couple of opportunities to add to Tyson's win column.

December 6 1985: Sammy Scaff - TKO 1:19 Round 1

Poor Sammy Scaff. Within the first 20 seconds of this fight Tyson had already broken the nose of his latest rival, and the hits just kept on coming. Blood covered Scaff's face as he tried his best to keep Tyson at bay.



The end arrived with a left from Tyson just over a minute into round one. Scaff was saved from any further punishment, as he pulled himself off the canvas that was also splattered with claret. Tyson, wearing what would become his trademark black shorts, marched on.

December 27 1985: Mark Young - TKO 0:50 Round 1

Would you have enjoyed your Christmas day knowing that Mike Tyson was waiting just around the corner? Mark Young did come out and try and get on the front foot against Tyson. But it was a thankless task.

 


Google "Mike Tyson Mark Young" and one of the suggestions that comes back adds "phantom punch" to the search term. Some comments on the following YouTube video seem to agree with this theory. Yet it does appear that Tyson catches Young with a glancing right.

Either way, there could be no doubting Tyson's potential in the heavyweight division as 1985 drew to a close and slowly the calibre of opponent improved during 1986. Within a year he would have a shot at the world title, but there were another 12 men brave enough to step into the ring with Iron Mike before his date with destiny in November 1986.


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