On September 7, 1996, Mike Tyson who was WBC champion at the time, looked to gain another belt taking on WBA heavyweight titleholder Bruce Seldon.
It was a night infamously in Las Vegas, Nevada that controversial rapper Tupac Shakur was fatally shot and unable to attend the afterparty with Tyson. Shakur would die from the gunshot wounds six days later. Before that tragic event happened, Shakur, was ringside for the fight that aired on Showtime Pay-per-view. The backstory and the bond of Shakur and Tyson are laid out in great detail in the ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary, “One Night in Vegas.”
The backstory on Seldon was he became the WBA champion after beating Tony Tucker for it by technical decision back on April 1995. In that contest, “The Atlantic City Express” boxed around Tucker until the seventh round when the ringside doctor stopped the fight due to Tucker’s left eye was completely shut. In his first defense of the title, he stopped Joe Hippin the tenth round by the same process in a fight that probably could’ve been halted sooner.
Tyson was coming off a prison sentence earlier in the year and had rattled off easy victories of Peter McNeeley, Buster Mathis Jr. and finally Frank Bruno to capture the WBC heavyweight title. He was supposed to face number one contender Lennox Lewis, but instead paid him $4 million in step aside money to wait while he took on Seldon.
That is what happened outside the ring, which is a lot more than could be said what happened inside the ring once the bell rand inside the MGM Grand for the contest between these two.
The broadcast even at the opening moments referred to Seldon as “anonymous” champion and it wouldn’t take long why as Tyson was the aggressor early landing hooks and controlling the action. Midway through the first, Seldon was knocked down from a right that landed high past the back of the head and fell. Referee Richard Steele sold it as a knockdown and not a slip and began his ten count. Steele would later acknowledge that it should’ve been ruled a slip.
He got up at six but was immediately sent back down with a left that sent him down face first. Seldon looked to at least been hit with this one. He beat the ten count again a second time but was wobbly walking back to referee Richard Steele, and he signaled this one over at 1:49 of the opening stanza. The crowd in attendance of 9,511 began chanting “Fix . . . Fix. . . ” at the disapproval of the 9,511 in attendance.
When asked after the fight if the contest was rigged, Seldon would declare:
“You know how hurt I am right now? I came to fight. I came to win. I did not realize how hard he hits or how fast he is. He is a destroyer, and I am witness to that. The shot rattled my eyes, and I couldn’t see straight. I did not train 12 weeks to come here and take a dive. I am already a millionaire. It’s not about money. I’m sorry. I tried my best. He is a great fighter. He is a bad man.”
Seldon after this tough defeated stepped away from boxing until 2004. He would return to the ring and fight until 2009.
Tyson winning the WBA title from Seldon would be a formality, as it set up the long-awaited matchup against Evander Holyfieldtwo months later. He dropped the WBC belt to do so and wouldn’t face Lennox Lewis in the ring until 2002.
On this night, however, there were a lot of elements outside the ring that even a Tyson fight that ended like so many others in the first round couldn’t erase.