Tuesday, 5 October 2021

1986: The rise of Mike Tyson continues

After the first 15 fights of Mike Tyson's professional heavyweight career in 1985, there was more to come as 1986 progressed. A further 12 fights would follow as Tyson edged his way up the world rankings, moving towards a shot at the WBC belt in November.

Naturally there would be sterner tests the closer Tyson got to his title showdown with Trevor Berbick. Twice Iron Mike would go the distance, but as the likes of Reggie Gross, William Hosea, and Marvis Frazier could vouch for, there were still occasions that Tyson would demonstrate the destruction his fists possessed.

January 11 1986: David Jaco - TKO 2:16 Round 1

Tyson started the year in typically crushing fashion, a stinging left hand sending David Jaco down for the first time in their opening round in New York. Wearing light blue shorts, Tyson was all over his hapless opponent. 

Another left would floor Jaco
, who somehow managed to cling on for another minute before Tyson finished the job. Thirteen days later, Tyson would at least be extended a little more.

January 24 1986: Mike Jameson - TKO 0:46 Round 5

The power of Tyson's body shots coupled with some great head shots looked to have taken their toll on Jameson as the first round ended. Developing a cut over his left eye in the next, Jameson shook his head after receiving a crunching right hand. At least he was offered a bit of respite when the third round was mysteriously cut to two minutes.

Jameson did well to make it to the end of the fourth after a flurry of punches put him down. Yet there was no escape. The referee called the fight off despite Jameson protesting once he got up off the canvas again in the fifth. However, he was saved further punishment, and at least he had the consolation of being the first man to take Tyson five rounds.

February 16 1986: Jesse Ferguson - TKO 1:19 Round 6

Tyson unloaded some fearsome shots in the opening round, and although Ferguson held on for quite a long part of the bout, he did gain a lot of respect for the number of blows he took. He even looked willing to confront Tyson when the pair exchanged punches after the bell at the end of round four.

Ferguson would go down for the first time though in round five, his nose broken after an uppercut in the corner of the ring. Somehow Ferguson made it to the end of the round, after a terrifying attack from Tyson. But he was disqualified for holding in round six - later changed to a TKO - as Tyson, who had recently appeared on the front of The Ring Magazine, chalked up another win.

March 10 1986: Steve Zouski - KO 2:39 Round 3

Zouski again took some good shots in the first round, and with swelling appearing over his left eye he did try his best to attack in round two. But Tyson, now ranked number ten by the WBC, was to end the fight a round later.


A shuddering left uppercut was one example of Tyson's power, yet the awesome left that finished the fight rightfully drew gasps from the spectators. Zouski didn't beat the count, but he did well to get to his feet.

May 3 1986: James Tillis - Unanimous decision

A new chapter in the Tyson story. For the first time he would be taken the distance, as James Tillis survived a knockdown in the fourth round to test Tyson as the fight went into the later rounds. Tillis admitted he was hurt throughout the fight, yet showed the heart of a lion.

In fact, Tillis shaded the last few rounds, as Tyson failed to stamp his authority on the fight. He did earn an 8-2 rounds verdict on one of the judges scorecards, but the 6-4 scores from the other two judges indicated that Tyson had been in a close contest.

"I'm moving up in class," Tyson said post-fight. "For people who don't understand, if a fighter doesn't want to get knocked out, he won't get knocked out." A valuable experience for Tyson, even if some felt his win was a lot closer than the scores suggested.

May 20 1986: Mitch Green - Unanimous decision

The Tillis fight had been delayed for five weeks after Tyson had been sidelined with an ear infection, yet Tyson's next bout came just 17 days after his first ten round contest. Again Tyson would go the distance, but Mitch Green provided less of a test than Tillis.


Three times in the fight, Tyson dislodged Green's gum shield, and although he could not floor his opponent, the three judges scored the bout 8-2, 9-1, 9-1 in Tyson's favour. Green did rally at times, but with Tyson bobbing and sometimes laughing at his opponent, he was hardly pushed.

June 13 1986: Reggie Gross - TKO 2:36 Round 1

Perhaps Reggie Gross was not being completely unreasonable in thinking that going toe to toe with Tyson was his only hope. But after being caught with a left early in the first round, the plan looked like it had backfired.


Gross may have complained when the fight was called off after he got up for a second time, but referee Johnny LoBianco quite rightly noted that Tyson's latest victim could hardly stand. After a few longer fights, Tyson was back to his destructive best.

The fight also marked the beginning of a new era in Tyson's career, as he was promoted for the first time by Don King. Never one to pass on the chance of making the odd dollar or two, King knew he was on to a winner. It was another critical moment in the future of Iron Mike.

June 28 1986: William Hosea - KO 2:03 Round 1

In Tyson's last fight as a teenager, he made very quick work of William Hosea. A fine uppercut had already wobbled Hosea before he was floored after a Tyson onslaught

Hosea felt he had beaten the count, and he may have had an argument, yet the referee disagreed. Tyson had notched up his 23rd win, his 21st inside the distance, and his 14th in the first round. He was now the WBC number two contender.

July 11 1986: Lorenzo Boyd - KO 1:43 Round 2

Poor Lorenzo Boyd must have known he was going to be in for a bad night when he had his nose broken by the first punch thrown by Tyson. Boyd took some eye-watering body shots yet did manage to take the fight to round two.


Two further body shots and a right uppercut finished off Boyd. It would take him three minutes to get up after his defeat. Tyson's next opponent would suffer a similar fate.

July 26 1986: Marvis Frazier - KO 0:30 Round 1

If you want a case study of Mike Tyson and his explosive power early on in his career then look no further than the 30-second demolition of Marvis Frazier. Stepping into the ring, Frazier, son of former world heavyweight champion Joe, was number nine in the WBC rankings. Half a minute after the first bell, his career crumpled like his legs beneath him.


There was no shame in losing to Tyson in what would be the quickest win of his career. The uppercuts that took Frazier's legs away would have finished many a fighter. For a time there was concern for the health of Frazier, as he remained motionless in the corner of the ring. Thankfully he got to his feet.

"I can tell you what happened," Frazier explained at the post-fight press conference. "I got hit with a right uppercut. That's what happened. When Larry Holmes hit me it was the same kind of feeling." Holmes was mentioned as a potential next opponent for Tyson, who was oozing confidence. "There's no excuse now; I'm the best fighter in the world."

August 17 1986: Jose Ribalta - TKO 1:37 Round 10

The courage and bravery shown by Jose Ribalta in taking Tyson to the last round was appreciated by the crowd as the fight progressed, with shouts of "Jose" filling the arena. Floored with a classic body shot and uppercut combination in the second round, Ribalta somehow came back for more.


A big right hand in the eighth tested Ribalta's jaw once more, and a left later in the round would see him on the canvas once again. Ribalta refused to go down even after this left hand, but another left was the beginning of the end in the final round.

September 6 1986: Alfonzo Ratliff - TKO 1:41 Round 2

Ratliff tried his best to stay out of the reach of a hungry Tyson, and he did manage to get through the first round. But a left hand from Tyson floored his opponent in the next, with Ratliff struggling to get to his feet to beat the count. A right shortly afterwards put more jelly into the legs of Boyd, as Tyson moved in to finish the job. 


This would be Tyson's first professional fight in Las Vegas. With this win coming in a fight included in the HBO heavyweight unification tournament, Tyson would return two months later to take on WBC champion Trevor Berbick in the same city.

Now that is another painful tale for a blog in the future.

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