Devastating. Dominant. Relentless. Those are just a few of the words that have been used to describe the man who will be inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame on Sunday, “Iron” Mike Tyson. If you are under the age of 30, more than likely you know Tyson more for his appearance in “The Hangover” than his devastating right hand. That fact is understandable because for the last 2 decades the boxer has been known more for his persona than his skills. But make no mistake, there has never been a more dominant force in their prime than Mike Tyson. Let us revisit his career inside the ring.
Mike Tyson made his professional debut on March 6, 1985 at the young age of 18. He would become the WBC Heavyweight champion on November 22, 1986, just 20 months after turning pro. In March of 1987 he became the undisputed champion by adding the WBA belt to his resume. Tyson started his career 37-0 with 33 of those wins via KO. With every knockout his legend grew, the right hook of Tyson was more feared than a stroll through the streets of Harlem.
His armor was impenetrable until one night in Tokyo on February of 1990. A little known boxer by the name of James “Buster” Douglas did the impossible, he beat Mike Tyson. That night in Japan not only ended Tyson’s undefeated streak, it also ended the era of the most dominant boxer of all time. Although he went on to win his next 4 fights in dominant fashion, he could never regain the intimidation he once had.
In the summer of 1991 the legend of Mike Tyson started to take shape outside the ring. He was convicted of rape and served 3 years in prison at a time when he should’ve continued dominating the heavyweight division. Unfortunately that would become the theme of “Iron” Mike’s life for the next 15 years. He would become the champion again in 1996 before his wild antics took the headlines away from his accomplishments. After losing to Evander Holyfield in the Fall of ’96, a rematch was immediately scheduled. The first fight was named Fight of the Year by The Ring and most expected Tyson/Holyfield II to be another classic. In June of ’97 the fight took place and for 2 rounds it was following the same blueprint. In Round 3, in one instant, Mike Tyson went from boxing legend to boxing punchline. Tyson did the unthinkable by biting a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear off. It has been talked about ad-nauseum so we won’t waste time on it here, but this was the moment Tyson became a cartoon character.
For the next 5 years Mike would fight in the ring and with the athletic commissions. After years of irrelevance, he finally had his last chance to regain the Heavyweight crown. Lennox Lewis was the undisputed champion and agreed to take on Tyson in the summer of 2002. Once again it was Tyson’s antics that would take the headlines. His controversial quote before the fight, “I want to eat his children” garnered worldwide attention. At the weigh-ins, Tyson approached Lewis’ entourage and swung at one of his employees, resulting in an all out brawl. It was broken up minutes later before Mike went into a profanity-laced tirade against a journalist using gay slurs. Tyson went on to lose via KO in the 8th Round. After his loss, he would only have 3 more fights going 1-2 before ending his professional run.
After his retirement Tyson battled bankruptcy and various legal troubles as well as the death of his 4 year old daughter. However the last few years he has seemingly gotten his life in order. A documentary titled ‘Tyson’ was released to critical acclaim in 2008. It showed one-on-one interviews with him a painted him as a broken human being trying to rebuild his life financially and spiritually. He is now in a stable relationship, has been sober for over 2 years, and has a reality show on Animal Planet. He also showed his charm with his cameo in ‘The Hangover’. After all he has been through, it appears that Mike Tyson has become a model citizen.
The unfortunate story of Mike Tyson’s career is that no one talks about his career. Everyone wants to discuss his wild antics and legal troubles rather than his reign atop the heavyweight division. There is a reason that Tyson is so well-known and it started well before biting Holyfield’s ear, it started because we had never seen a force like him. He punched harder, faster, more violent than anyone we had ever seen. He had a presence inside the ring not seen since Ali. He produced highlight reel knockouts that left us shaking our heads. This is the reason he is being inducted into the Hall of Fame this Sunday and it’s time to celebrate his accomplishments as a boxer. His unbelievable actions will never be forgotten, but it’s his boxing dominance which should never be forgotten.