August 1, 1987, set the stage for “Iron” Mike Tyson to become the first Undisputed heavyweight champion since Leon Spinks accomplished it in 1978. Only one obstacle stood in his way, in the form of newly crowned IBF champion Tony “TNT” Tucker.
How we got there started with promoter Don King visiting HBO Sports president Seth Abraham to create a heavyweight tournament known as the “Heavyweight World Series.” The competition which took place in 1986 and 1987 would end with unifying the WBC, WBA, and IBF heavyweight titles.
The semi-final of this tournament, labeled “Hard Road to Glory,” took place on May 30, 1987. The then IBF and Lineal champion Michael Spinks was supposed to take on Tucker, instead took on Gerry Coonery for a bigger payday at 4 million dollars and was stripped of the title in February of that year. Tucker would go on to face in the semi-final James “Buster” Douglas instead for the vacant title which he won by technical knockout in the tenth round. Tyson, in his semi-final, defeated Pinklon Thomas by technical knockout in six rounds to defend the WBA and WBC titles. This setup for the final the match between Tyson taking on Tucker.
The contest held at the Las Vegas Hilton, Hilton Center in Las Vegas, Nevada would prove to be at the time the toughest test for the then twenty-one-year-old Tyson once the bell rang. Tucker early on was able to land shots early on while Tyson was unable to land more than one punch at a time. However, Tucker was fighting this bout with a broken right hand and essentially became one-handed from the first round on.
Also as the match wore on, while Tyson was landing one punch at a time, it was an accurate one as the final CompuBox stats shown, Tyson landed 216 of 412 total punches (52 percent), while Tucker connected on 174 of 452 (39 percent) of his punches. After 12 rounds the judges agreed as well as they award Tyson the victor with scorecards of 117-112,118-113 and 119-111. With this victory, it not only gave Tyson the undisputed crown, but it also earned Tucker the shortest title reign as a heavyweight titleholder as he held the IBF belt for 64 days.
Tucker explained in a 2008 interview with Boxinginsider.com; Tucker laid out what he was dealing with before the bell rang with Tyson:
“My right hand was broken when I fought him. I knew Tyson couldn’t beat me. A couple days before, I was sparring against a guy named Young Joe Louis . This guy was doing a lot of talking bad about me. I heard this from my sparring partners. So I chose him to spar against first because I was gonna put him down. I was hitting him real good when I heard a pop in my hand. When I went back to the corner, I knew I had hurt it bad.
The doctor said I had a small hand fracture. They said I would need therapy and to not use it for 10 days. I had to fight Tyson in less than that. I went in determined, though. I was very apprehensive to attack Tyson due to the hand. I hit him with a right uppercut early, and my hand just shattered. It was the worst pain ever. I still went on, though, that’s why I did all those antics and everything. I was supposed to beat this guy, but how could I with one hand. With two hands, I would have knocked Mike Tyson out..I regret that I fought Tyson not fully healthy. If I would have postponed the fight, I may have been blackballed. I wouldn’t sign with Don King back then, and he was running things.”
Tyson would go on this reign of taking over the division, eventually beating Spinks in 1988 to add lineal champion to his title before losing to the above mentioned Buster Douglas in an upset of all ages in 1990. Tucker would rebound from this loss and finally get another title shot in 1993 but would lose that contest to Lennox Lewis for the WBC title by unanimous decision.
However on this day in 1987, “TysonMania” was in full swing and the match to become the undisputed champion of the world cemented it.