The Iron Years Part One

Updated: Aug 6, 2019

Mike Tyson

Mike Tyson with his mentor Cus D'Amato

Introduction - Heavyweights In Despair

15th February 1978 saw Leon Spinks beat Muhammad Ali to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. The rematch saw him being stripped of the WBC version of the crown for not facing mandatory contender Ken Norton, who they installed as their champion. Ali won the return with Spinks and retired, leaving the WBA championship vacant.

Whilst Norton lost his WBC title to Larry Holmes on the 09th June 1978 in his first defence, Holmes was able to hold on to that title. The vacant WBA belt was contested between John Tate and Gerrie Coetzee on the 20th October 1979, in Coetzee's home country of South Africa. Tate took the crown via a fifteen round unanimous decision.

In March 1980 Tate lost his championship when Mike Weaver stopped him in the fifteenth round. October of the same year saw Holmes make his eighth defence, beating Muhammad Ali in the tenth round in what was a sad contest, to become the lineal heavyweight champion of the world.

The WBC title was in safe hands with Larry  Holmes, but the WBA crown wasn't...

Weaver did manage to make two successful defences against Gerrie Coetzer, again in South Africa. Weaver stopped his man in the thirteenth round, then took on 20-0 challenger James Tillis, winning a fifteen round unanimous decision. He lost his championship in the first round to Michael Dokes in December 1982. In this time Larry Holmes was still holding on to his WBC title, beating Trevor Berbick, former champ Leon Spinks, the unbeaten Renaldo Snipes, Gerry Cooney and Randall Cobb.

The rematch between Dokes and Weaver ended in a fifteen round draw, before Gerrie Coetzee finally won the WBA strap in the tenth round on the 23rd September 1983. This year saw Holmes make a further three successful defences against Lucien Rodriguez, Tim Witherspoon and Scott Frank.

The fifth round victory over Scott Frank proved to be Holmes' final defence of the World Boxing Council belt, as his fight with Marvis Frazier (former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier's son) wasn't sanctioned by the WBC as Frazier wasn't in their top ten. The contest lasted two minutes and 57 seconds.

According to boxing promotor Don King, before Larry Holmes fought Tim Witherspoon, Holmes had signed an agreement to face Greg Page for $2.55 million. The champion said he only signed to fight Page, but no money was offered. After beating Frazier, Holmes still refused to face Page unless he was paid more than what was originally offered, saying. "I know I have signed for a fight with Greg Page, but I won't fight him unless they come up with more money."

On 10th December 1983 the newly formed International Boxing Federation president, Bob Lee, contacted Holmes and recognised him as their champion. The following day Holmes relinquished the green strap that he defended sixteen times over five years.

Greg Page contested the vacant WBC title on the 09th March 1984 against Tim Witherspoon, dropping a twelve round majority decision. At the end of August the new champion took on Pinklon Thomas, also losing a majority in his first defence.

Holmes made the first defence of the IBF crown against James 'Bonecrusher' Smith, winning by a twelfth round TKO on 09th November 1984. Just under a month later Gerrie Coetzee made the first defence of the WBA bauble against Greg Page in South Africa. Page took the belt in controversial fashion when he knocked out the champion in the eighth round, but according to many the round had gone three minutes and 40 seconds when the knockout occurred.

A Breath of Fresh Air in the Heavyweight Division

The heavyweight division needed a new star to bring law and order. On the 06th March 1985 Mike

Tyson winning his pro debut  06 MAR 1985

Tyson made his professional debut against Hector Mercedes, winning in the first round. Nine days after Tyson made his pro debut, the undefeated David Bey challenged Larry Holmes. The champion put Bey down twice in the eighth round before stopping the challenger in the tenth.

Tyson took his record to 2-0 on the 10th April against Trent Singleton. The World Boxing Association belt changed hands again on the 29th April as Greg Page lost a fifteen rounds unanimous decision to Tony Tubbs.