The Iron Years Part Four: Incarceration
Updated: Aug 6, 2019
As Mike Tyson sat in his prison cell, the heavyweight division continued without him. Evander 'Real Deal' Holyfield defended the undisputed championship against another forty-something opponent, former champ Larry Holmes.
Holmes retired after his fourth round destruction at the fists of Tyson in January 1988, only to come back again on 07th April 1991. His opponent was Tim Anderson and it took him two-minutes and 03 seconds to secure his first win since beating Carl Williams on 20th May 1985. He won four more fights before taking on the former WBO heavyweight champion Ray Mercer. Holmes put on a masterclass and humiliated his younger opponent, wining by a twelve round unanimous decision, which earned him a shot at Holyfield.
The bout took place on 19th June 1992 and the forty-two year old grandfather of two made the younger champion look sloppy. Holmes, for most of the contest, positioned himself against the ropes and looked to counter off the champion's leads with straight rights and uppercuts. Holyfield was the busier fighter and although he suffered a cut right eye, which a replay confirmed was from a Holmes' elbow as he missed with a straight right punch, in the sixth. Luckily for Holyfield the bleeding didn't impede his vision and he kept the three belts with scores of 116-112 (twice) and 117-111.
With Holyfield now looking there for the taking he had to get past the young pretender Riddick Bowe next. The fight took place on 13th November 1992 at the Thomas and Mack Center, Las Vegas. Even though the champion didn't look great against Holmes, he was still a 7-1 favourite to keep the titles.
Riddick Bowe took silver at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, losing to Lennox Lewis in the second round. He turned professional in March 1989. He amassed thirty wins when he faced South African and number one WBA contender Pierre Coetzer. Twenty-three year old Bowes bludgeoned his opponent to a seventh round stoppage victory.
With questions about the challenger's heart to have a proper tear-up, Bowe wanted to prove the doubters wrong against the champion. Many believed that the smaller Holyfield, who weighed 205 lbs, would box and stay out of range of the bigger and younger challenger, who scaled in at 235 lbs. Instead the champion took the fight to his opponent and both men traded blows.
The tenth round started to what could be the greatest round in heavyweight history. Holyfield was stunned by a huge Bowe right uppercut, with only the ropes keeping him up. The champion looked gone, but the challenger couldn't land the big punch to end matters. Then suddenly, Holyfield went to is well of reserves and attacked Bowe with hooks and uppercuts. The challenger now looked in desperate trouble, but managed to hang on to the bell.
Bowe put his man on the deck in the eleventh, but Holyfield was still there throwing punches and both men were trading blows right up to the final bell. Bowe won this exciting contest with the three judges awarding it to him by scores of 115-112 and two lots of 117-110.
Fourteen days before Bowe became the undisputed heavyweight champion, Lennox Lewis became the official number one WBC contender when he destroyed Donovan 'Razor' Ruddock in the second round. The governing body ordered Bowe to face Lewis next, but he refused and dumped the green belt in a dustbin, refusing to face his Olympic conquerer.
January 1993 saw Lewis as the new WBC champion, with Bowe holding the IBF and WBA straps. Riddick Bowe made his first defence against former WBA champion and ex drug addict Michael Dokes. The contest took place at Madison Square Garden and was billed as the champion's home coming. The fight only lasted two minutes 19 seconds as the huge champion blew away the thirty-four year old.
The new World Boxing Council champion Lennox Lewis had to face his number one contender, Tony 'TNT' Tucker in May 1993. Tucker, the former IBF champion, had only lost to Mike Tyson and had never been off his feet. Though Lewis was deemed to look amateurish by the American press, he did knock his challenger down in the third and ninth rounds, winning by scores of 117-111, 116-112 and 118-111. Later on in the month Bowe had another predictable blow out against Jesse Ferguson, knocking out the no hoper in the second round.
01st October 1993 and history was made when two British born boxers fought in a world title fight for the first time. Lennox Lewis defended his belt against Frank Bruno, who was looking to make it third time lucky.
Bruno out jabbed the taller Lewis and took an early lead. The challenger went in with a right hand in the seventh round, but Lewis fired a left hook that caught Bruno on the chin, turning the fight into his favour. The challenger was 'gone' on his feet and took a barrage of unanswered punches on the ropes. It appeared that the referee, Mickey Vann had stopped the contest, but instead ticked off the champion for holding. The fight resumed, but not for long, with Lewis keeping his title one-minute 12 seconds of the round.
Almost a year after beating Holyfield, Bowe was in the ring with him again. The former champ had a new trainer in the guise of Emanuel Steward. Since losing his crown to Bowe, Holyfield outpointed old foe Alex Stewart over twelve rounds in June '93.
The champion was favourite to keep his two belts, but after he weighed in at 246 lbs, his odds shortened. Bowe started fast, looking for another quick KO, but Holyfield wasn't Dokes or Ferguson. He was a well conditioned fighting machine, ready to trade with the champion.
The rounds were close, but in the fourth round both fighters didn't hear the bell and continued to fire shots. Mills Lane jumped in between them and it was noticed that the champion was cut between the eyes, high on the bridge of his nose. The extra poundage the twenty-six year old champion was carrying started to go against him as he was looking tired.
Then the infamous seventh round when paraglider James Miller tried to land in the ring. The round was 60 seconds old when his parachute got entangled in the ring lights. His legs were momentarily trapped in the ropes, but angry crowd members pulled him back and one of Bowes's security team knocked out 'Fan Man' with a mobile phone.
Twenty-one minutes later the two gladiators were in action again. Holyfield was hurt in the ninth, but the warrior fought back down the stretch to regain the titles with a majority decision 115-113, 115-114 and a dead level card of 114.
22nd April 1994 and Evander Holyfield took on his number one contender Michael Moorer. 'Double M' was the former WBO light-heavyweight champion. He won the belt in his twelfth contest and retained it nine times. In April 1991 he stepped up to heavyweight with a record of 22-0 all knockout victories,
He won his next four contests before going the distance for the first time against the huge Mike White. He was taken the distance again against Everett Martin, before being in an up and downer against Bert Cooper for the vacant WBO heavyweight title. Both men were floored in the first round. Moorer was down again in the third, but ended matters in the fifth to claim his second belt.
He never defended the title and won five in a row before challenging Holyfield. Southpaw Moorer was winning round two before getting floored by a left hook late in the stanza. Holyfield was cut over the left eye in the fifth and Moorere went on to take the championship by a majority decision 115-114, 116-112 and 114 a piece. Holyfield was hospitalised after the contest with dehydration and a rotator-cuff injury. He was also discovered to have a kidney bruise.
The following month Lennox Lewis kept his WBC championship with an eighth round TKO victory over Phil Jackson, dropping his opponent in the first, fifth and eighth rounds. He landed 247 punches to the challenger's sixty-four.
Lewis put his belt on the line again in the September against top contender Oliver McCall. The fight took place at Wembley Arena and the 7,000 spectators in attendance witnessed Lewis getting knocked out in the second round.
On 05th November 1994 Michael Moorer took on former heavyweight champion George Foreman. After losing to Holyfield in April 1991, Foreman won three fights, before getting outpointed by Tommy Morrison for the vacant WBO heavyweight title in June 1993.
Seventeen months later he was getting soundly outpointed by the WBA and IBF champion. Then in round ten Foreman, weighing 250 lbs to Moorer's 222 lbs, connected with a right hand that put the champion down for the count.
Foreman had finally regained the title he won twenty years before. At forty-five years old he became the oldest man to win the heavyweight championship.
For more information about Lewis, Bowe and Holyfield see this blog post:
Heavyweights In Turmoil
On 27th January 1995 the WBA rejected Foreman's request to defend his belts against German Axel Schulz on 22nd April. The WBA ordered that Foreman should face Tony Tucker, their mandatory challenger. Foreman went ahead with the Schulz contest and was stripped of his World Boxing Association belt.
After being sentenced to six years in prison on 26th March 1992, Mike Tyson was paroled on 25th March 1995 after serving there years in prison. Four days later he would hold a short press conference to announce his intentions to rerun to the sport and that Don King would be his promotor.
April 1995 was a busy time for the heavyweight champions. The 08th of the month saw Tony Tucker square off against number two contender Bruce Seldon for the vacant WBA title. Seldon turned pro in October 1988 and amassed eighteen wins before losing in the ninth round to Oliver McCall. He then lost his next bout to Riddick Bowe via a first round knockout. He won six on the bounce before dropping a ten round decision to ex champion Tony Tubbs. He won another seven before going in with Tucker, with a record of 31-3 (27 KO's).
Since losing to Lennox Lewis in May 1993, Tony Tucker had won four in a row, all by stoppage, becoming number one contender yet again for a main organisation. His resume stood at 52-2 (43 KO's).
Tucker had some success early on, but Seldon used an accurate left jab to rearrange Tucker's features. After seven completed rounds ring doctor Flip Homansky called a halt to the action, with Tucker sustaining a badly swollen left eye.
On the same bill World Boxing Council champion, Oliver McCall put his belt on the line against former champion Larry Holmes. Holmes, after losing to Holyfield nearly three years previously, carried on with his career winning seven in a row. He was looking to regain the title he lost to Michael Spinks ten years ago and nearly set up a big money showdown with IBF champion George Foreman.
As with his challenge to Holyfield, Holmes stayed on the ropes and countered with quick rights as McCall threw his flurries. The fight changed direction in the ninth round when the champion caught Holmes with a left, with only the ropes keeping him up. It was McCall's bout from that moment and . Holmes suffered a gash on his left cheekbone. There were no knockdown in the contest and the champion improved to 26-5 with scores of 115-112, 115-114 and 114-113.
Foreman defended his IBF title at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas on 22nd April against the unranked German, Axel Schulz. The challenger was 21-1-1 (10 KO's) going into the bout. The only blemishes on his record were against Henry Akinwande where he drew and lost to him for the vacant European title. He won six since his loss and this was only the third time he fought outside his native Germany.
The challenger boxed well and many believed him to be unlucky to be on the wrong end of the 115-113, 115-113 and 114-114 majority decision that went against him. Promoter Cedric Kushner paid the organisation to mandate a rematch. 03rd June and the IBF upheld the decision for a rematch, which Foreman refused and vacated the title.
Mike Tyson finally got his ring career going again when he took on Peter McNeeley on 19th August 1995. McNeeley's family were heavyweight boxers. His grandfather, Tom Mcneeley boxed as a heavyweight between 1929 to 1931. Tom McNeeley Jnr, Peter's father started out in 1958 and challenged Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight title in 1961, where he suffered his first defeat.
Peter McNeeley carried on the family's tradition and turned professional on 23rd August 1991. He went 24-0 (18 KO's) before he lost to Stanley Wright by a eight round TKO. He then won another twelve bouts before taking on Tyson.
Tyson last fought in June 1991 when he outpointed number two contender 'Razor' Ruddock for a world title eliminator, before his incarceration. The fight didn't last long, but McNeeley came out aggressively, throwing wild right hand punches. Tyson easily avoided the onslaught and floored his man with a right hook. The contest wasn't ten seconds old.
McNeeley took the eight count from Mills Lane and continued in his aggressive vain. Both men slugged it out in a corner as 60 seconds elapsed; 20 seconds later a Tyson right uppercut put McNeeley down again. With McNeeley badly hurt, his manager Vinnie Vecchione entered the ring to prevent his man from taking any more punishment, causing Lane to end the contest and award Tyson the victory by disqualification, after just 89 seconds.
The undercard saw WBA champ Bruce Seldon defeat Joe Hipp. The champion used his left jab to inflict facial damage on the challenger. He suffered a closed right eye and was cut under his left eye before referee Richard Steele stopped the contest after one-minute and 47 seconds of round number ten.
Frank Bruno challenged Oliver McCall for the WBC belt at Wembley Stadium on 02nd September. It was his fourth and last attempt to fulfil his lifelong dream of becoming world champion. 23,000 fans watched as Bruno outpointed a lacklustre champion, who didn't really do much until the last few rounds. The judges saw it 117-111 twice and 115-113.
Here's some boxing politics! Lennox Lewis was the top WBC contender and would face McCall next, providing he won. Frank Bruno only got his shot at the title as it was in his contract to make the first defence of the title against Mike Tyson.
On 09th December in Germany, Axel Schulz got his second chance for the vacant IBF title against top contender Francois Botha. Many of the 11,000 fans in attendance believed that Schulz had done enough to win, but two judges went for the South African 116-112, 118-112, while 115-113 was awarded to the German.
The decision was overturned to a No Contest due to Botha testing for an anabolic steroid. The South African protested his innocence, claiming his food had been spiked, but after a long legal battle the IBF had to strip him of the belt. This paved the way for Axel Schulz to take on Michael Moorer for the vacant title on 22nd June 1996.
Seven days later Mike Tyson faced his second opponent. Buster Mathis Jnr, son to former heavyweight contender Buster Mathis. Junior was undefeated in twenty contests, but only had six knockouts on his resume. He had a No Contest against Mike Hunter for the USBA heavyweight title. He initially lost the decision, but that was overturned when Hunter tested positive for a banned substance.
He then outpointed Tyrell Biggs in his next contest for the vacant USBA title. His biggest fight prior to Tyson, was Riddick Bowe. This fight was controversial as Bowe hit Mathis in the fourth round when he was down. The shot knocked him out, but due to it being a foul punch the fight was deemed as a No Contest. He won six fights after the Bowe contest, defending his national title twice in the process.
Tyson and the crowd in attendance at the Core States Spectrum, Philadelphia were hoping that the bout would last longer than the 89 seconds Peter McNeekey did. In the first round Mathis was able to maul Tyson to the ropes and stay close to the former champion, who was missing with some wild uppercuts and hooks.
The fight continued with Mathis crowding Tyson to the ropes and slipping Tyson's swings. Then in the third round Tyson finally had Mathis against the ropes for the first time, landing some big shots. Tyson was turned onto the ropes and landed a right uppercut which hurt his opponent, a follow up barrage sent Mathis down for the count, with 28 seconds left of the round.
The victory meant Tyson Vs Bruno II would take place on 16th March 1996 at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas. The new champion was confident of victory and rightfully so. Tyson had only boxed four rounds since 1991 and his performance against Mathis showed a lot of deficiencies. He was finding it hard to hit the target, plus Tyson hadn't been hit hard since the Ruddock fight and Bruno could dig, as Tyson knew from the first round of their previous meeting in 1989.
All of Bruno' confident talk prior to the bout evaporated as the bell rang. He seemed to freeze as Tyson came out and clubbed him with a right hand. Bruno tried to get his jab going, but the challenger was too quick and nailed the champion with lefts and rights. Bruno ended the first round with a cut left eye.
Round two was more for the same with Tyson landing bombs and Bruno trying to survive. Mills Lane deducted a point from the champion for excessive holding. Bruno did try landing the right uppercut, but it was smothered by the rampaging challenger. Bruno's corner berated him between rounds, telling him he needed to be quicker.
A right hand to Bruno's body started his demise as a barrage of thirteen unanswered punches put the champion down. Mills Lane didn't bother to count as Tyson had regained the WBC belt with 50 seconds of round three gone.
Tyson went to his knees to pray to Allah as his cornermen celebrated around him. Six years had passed since his loss to Douglas and nearly ten years since he fist lifted the WBC crown from Trevor Berbick.
22nd June and Axel Schulz had his third shot at the IBF championship in fourteen months when he faced off against Michael Moorer. Moorer had one win since being knocked out against George Foreman and took the fist six rounds of this contest held in Germany. Schulz staged a mini comeback in the second half of the fight, but his lack of action reflected on the judges cards as he dropped a twelve round split decision to his American opponent.
Next up for Tyson was WBA heavyweight title holder Bruce Seldon. The contest was originally set for 13th July, but due to Tyson suffering from bronchitis, the unification battle took place on 07th September.
The fight ended unsatisfactorily, with Seldon put down in the first round by a punch that was less than glancing. He got up at six and Tyson resumed with a left, that did connect, but it didn't appear to be a damaging shot. Seldon fell again heavily. He got up but his legs shimmied and referee Richard Steele called a halt one minute 49 seconds of the first round. The crowd jeered and cried "Fix!"
Tyson was now the owner of two championship belts and it looked like he was going to install some law and order into the heavyweight ranks once more...
All the best fight fans.