The Iron Years Part Two: Undisputed

Updated: Aug 6, 2019

Mike Tyson: King of the Heavyweights

Undisputed Title Defences

16th October 1987, Convention Hall, Atlantic City

Mike Tyson Vs Tyrell Biggs

'Iron' Mike Tyson stepped into the ring for the first time as the unified champion. His opponent was ranked number one by the WBA and IBF. Tyrell Biggs won the Olympic Super-heavyweight gold medal in Los Angeles in 1984, beating top amateurs such as Canada's Lennox Lewis and Italy's Francesco Damiani along the way. He turned professional in November 1984, beating Mike Evans on points. He beat former title challengers James Tillis, Renaldo Snipes both by decision and stopped David Bey. However, in the Bey bout, which was on the undercard of Tyson Vs James Smith, Biggs suffered a nasty cut which required thirty-two stitches.

Four months later Biggs was back in action against Lorenzo Boyd, stopping his man in the third round. He next entered the ring awaiting the arrival of the champion, with a record of 15-0, ten opponents stopped. Before the fight, which was the last heavyweight championship contest scheduled for fifteen rounds, Biggs was in confident mood. "He's not fought anyone like me, someone with a strong jab who can box and is not going in there just to survive. Do you think I'm going to walk into the roundhouse punches of a guy who is 5-8?"

Biggs' style was to jab and move and with his amateur pedigree he looked like to have the tools to cause Tyson some problems. Biggs danced around the ring reminiscent to Muhammad Ali, but Tyson started to find his range halfway through the round and was able to land the more solid blows.

Tyson on the attack against Biggs

Tyson was out jabbing the taller man in the second round. He started to work the challenger's body and was able to land his left hook. The third and Tyson was either slipping or walking through his man's jab to land his bombs, preferably the left hook to the jaw. Biggs' troubles were escalating as the cut eye he suffered in the David Bey fight had opened up from the champion's rights.

Biggs didn't have the power to trouble Tyson, who just walked through everything the challenger had to offer. His hand speed and head movement was immense, as he was able to get inside and bang away to body and head through rounds four and five. Round six was more of the same, with Biggs getting busted up. His eye was bleeding and now so was his mouth.

With thirty seconds of the seventh round remaining, Tyson finally put Biggs down with a left hook. The challenger crashed into the ropes and sat up right contemplating whether to get up or not. He was up at nine, but shipped another right as the action resumed. Tyson banged away at the body and fired a right to the head, which Biggs blocked, but a left hook sent him to the canvas once more, with referee Tony Orlando not bothering to count with one second remaining of the round.

Mike Tyson's words after the fight were chilling. "He was doing so much talking that I wanted to make him pay with his health. I don't want to sound egotistical, but I could have knocked him out in the third round. I wanted to do it slowly. I wanted him to remember this for a long time."

22nd January 1988, Convention Center, Atlantic City

Mike Tyson Vs Larry Holmes

Larry Holmes was born 03rd November 1949 in Cuthburt, Georgia and later resided in Easton, Pennsylvania. As an amateur his record stood at 19-3. He reached the semi finals of the 1972 Olympic trials, in Fort Worth, Texas, where he was beaten in the first round by Nick Wells (who beaten him before). He also lost to Duane Bobick, who was 55-0 as an amateur for the '72 Olympics box-offs in West Point, New York. A right hand dropped him in the first and was warned twice for holding in the second. When he was warned again in the third round the referee disqualified him.

Holmes was Muhammad Ali's sparing partner from 1972 to 1975, where Holmes said he had about eleven amateur fights before he started working with 'The Greatest'. He turned professional on 21st March 1973 winning an unanimous four round decision against Rodell Dupree. Holmes went 26-0 and took on the hard hitting Earnie Shavers for the WBC heavyweight championship eliminator. Over twelve rounds the three judges scored it 119-109 and 120-108 (twice) for Holmes.

Larry Holmes ships a right hand

His next contest saw him taking the WBC title off Ken Norton over a fifteen round split decision. He held that belt for five years, making sixteen defences. He was recognised by the newly formed International Boxing Federation as their champion on the 10th December 1983. The following day he relinquished the WBC belt as he wanted more money to fight Trevor Berbick.

Holmes made three successful defences of the IBF strap. As he looked to equal Rocky Marciano's record of 49-0 on the 21st September 1985, he lost the belt to the undisputed light-heavyweight champion Michael Spinks, on a close unanimous decision, ending his seven year reign as champion. At the post fight press conference a bitter Holmes famously said that Rocky Marciano couldn't carry his jockstrap. He also lost the return seven months later via a split fifteen round decision.

Holmes came out of retirement to face Tyson, saying this at a press conference. "I'm going down in history not Mike Tyson," said Holmes. "He'll go down in history as an S.O.B. If he do happen to win the fight, down the line he'll go and destroy himself."

The thirty-eight year old grandfather was able to tie up Tyson, who was the aggressor. The fourth Holmes came out with his hands down, dancing as he jabbed and retreated and tied up the advancing champion whenever he got close. Then Tyson sent Holmes crashing to the canvas with a mighty right hand. The former champion was up, but a glancing right put him down again. Holmes shook his head in an attempt to clear it. Tyson pressed forward and punched the challenger to the ropes. Another big right put the veteran on his back, with referee Joe Cortez taking out Holmes gum-shield without bothering to count.

The 'Easton Assassin' was assassinated by the young champion and became the first person to stop Holmes. Tyson gave praise to his stricken opponent. "Larry Holmes was a legendary fighter, and if he was at his best, I couldn't stand a chance."

21st March 1988, Tokyo Dome, Japan

Mike Tyson Vs Tony Tubbs

Mike Tyson married actress Robin Givens in February 1988 and honeymooned in Japan, before training for the Tubbs fight. He was amazed at his popularity and the attention he was getting. He emerged from his hotel lobby one morning at 5am to go for a run and was followed by fifteen Japanese news cameramen and photographers.

Tony Tubbs turned professional in 1980 and amassed an unbeaten run of twenty wins when he challenged Greg Page for the WBA championship in April 1985. He lost the belt in his next contest to Tim Witherspoon the following year. The former champ won three on the bounce before challenging Tyson, but for many of his fights he came in over weight and out of condition.

Even though the International Boxing Federation was nearly five years old, it still wasn't recognised by the Japanese Boxing Commission. They insisted during the negotiations of the fight that Tyson was not to wear the belt coming into the ring. Three days before the contest IBF president Bob Lee landed in Japan. He said if the champion didn't wear the belt to the ring, then he would take it as a sign that Tyson didn't want to be their champion anymore and would order a bout between Trevor Berbick and Carl Williams, (the IBF number one and two contenders respectively), for the vacant strap.

Tony Tubbs under pressure

Bill Cayton, Tyson's co-manager said. "It was a condition of this fight that the IBF not participate. For Tyson to wear the belt into the ring here would be considered a grave insult to the Japanese Commission." Tyson didn't wear any belts into the ring, but the WBC and WBA championships were carried in by Tyson's assistant trainer Steve Lott.

51,000 fans attended the 55,000 capacity Tokyo Dome, which only opened four days previously, to watch the first heavyweight title fight in Japan since George Foreman knocked out Jose Roman in the first round in 1973.