He was one of the most intimidating fighters in boxing over the last 50 years and 33 years ago Friday night, Mike Tyson became Heavyweight Champion for the first time.
The date was November 22nd, 1986. The site, the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, as a 27 – 0, 20 year old Mike Tyson, who had knocked out 25 opponents was on the cusp of becoming the next great heavyweight champion.
All that stood in his way was the WBC Champion Trevor Berbick, who had upset Pinklon Thomas with a 12-round decision earlier that year. Berbick came in at 31 – 4 – 1 and was also known as the man who ended Muhammad Ali’s career, once and for all, by beating “The Greatest” by decision in 1981.
Incredibly, Tyson had already fought and won 12 fights, 12, in the first 10 months of 1986.
And, it became obvious that this fight was a mismatch from the outset, as it only took Tyson about a minute to start landing big punches on Berbick.
The end came quickly in the second round, when Tyson scored a lightning quick three-punch combination that sent Berbick sprawling to the canvas. To his credit, Berbick fought like a champion and while still stunned, tried to come at Tyson and land a couple of punches. Tyson hit him with a straight right hand and a little later a left hook.
Then, finally, just over two minutes into the round, Tyson missed with a right but then landed a seemingly at the time “decent left hook.”
However, after watching Berbick fall flat on his back, slam his head on the canvas and then, stagger up and down twice more trying to get up, it was obvious the punch had been much more than that.
As replays showed the ferocious Tyson had landed the punch right on the right temple putting Berbick’s lights out, while he staggered around.
Referee Mills Lane got to the count of 10 with Berbick trying to get up for the third time and as HBO’s Barry Tompkins exclaimed on the broadcast, “We have a new era in boxing.”
Tompkins was right. Tyson later became Undisputed Champion by beating James “Bonecrusher” Smith for the WBA belt and then, later, Tony Tucker for the IBF belt in short order.
Tyson would defend either a portion or all of the heavyweight championship 10 consecutive times. Those included, his devastating knockouts of former champion Larry Holmes and his one round destruction in May of 1988 against Michael Spinks. He reigned until Buster Douglas stunned him with a 10th round knockout in Tokyo Japan in February of 1990
Tyson later regained a portion of the Heavyweight Championship, when he knocked out Frank Bruno (for a second time) in March of 1996. Tyson also won the WBA heavyweight championship later that year with a questionable first round knockout of Bruce Seldon.
Then, in November of 96 Tyson was upset my former champion Evander Holyfield on an 11th round TKO. More famously, Tyson bit part of Holyfield’s ear off in their June 1997 rematch and was disqualified in the third round. Tyson never regained any part of the heavyweight title after that despite fighting for another 6 years
“Iron Mike” finished with 50 wins, six losses and two no contests. He had tallied 44 knockouts at the end of his career.
Berbick never was the same after that night in Las Vegas in 1986 retiring with a 49 – 11 – 1 record, while fighting into the year 2000.
However, he infamously went into boxing history as the only fighter to suffer three knockdowns, from the same punch, in a heavyweight title fight