The Iron Years Part Five: Mayhem

Updated: Aug 6, 2019

Mike Tyson


With Mike Tyson's easy win over WBA champion Bruce Seldon, the world was looking forward to Tyson squaring off against WBC top contender Lennox Lewis. Don King had already paid Lewis $4,000,000 step aside money so the Seldon contest could go ahead, as a New Jersey court ruled earlier in the year that Lewis must be faced before the WBA champion.

As the two camps couldn't agree to deal for the fight, the World Boxing Council, following the court ruling, stripped Tyson of the WBC belt on 24th September 1996. "We are disappointed and surprised that Tyson decided to give up the title instead of fighting Lennox," said Lewis' promotor Dino Duva.

Now as WBA champion, Tyson put his belt on the line against Evander Holyfield. The bout was billed as Finally, as these two were originally pencilled in to face off in June 1990, but James 'Buster' Douglas put pay to that in Tokyo. Then the pair were due to meet for Holyfield's undisputed heavyweight title in November 1991, but during training Tyson injured his ribs. No other date was made as Tyson faced a court case in January 1992 and was finally convicted of an alleged rape of a beauty pageant and sentenced to six years in prison.

But Tyson-Holyfield would take place on 09th November 1996. At thirty-four years old the challenger was considered damaged goods and many feared for his health in taking on Tyson, who looked to be back to his destructive best. Since losing the WBA and IBF belts to Michael Moorer in April 1994, Holyfield outpointed Ray Mercer over ten rounds thirteen months later. This victory set up a rubber match with the WBO champion Riddick Bowe.

Holyfield deemed the WBO belt as worthless and the Bowe fight went ahead with no title at stake. Holyfield held his own in the first three rounds as he traded with the bigger opponent, but by the fifth he looked a spent force. A left hook in the sixth round put Bowe down for the first time in his career, but Holyfield didn't have the strength to finish things off. In the eighth Bowe caught his man with a right uppercut and Holyfield went down for a count of nine. He was allowed to continue but was dropped again by two right hands. This time the referee stopped the bout at the 58 second mark of the round.

On 10th May 1996 Holyfield took on former IBF light-heavyweight champion and ex WBA cruiserweight title holder Bobby Czyz. Czyz was game, but overmatched and had to retire after five rounds. He claimed that someone in Holyfield's corner had put a substance on their fighter's gloves. "My eyes are burning and I can't see," complained Czyz to his cornermen after the fifth round had ended.

Referee Ron Lipton halted the bout and declared Holyfield the winner by a TKO victory. He also went to Holyfield's corner and rubbed the gloves on his face. "Nothing came off the gloves," he told Czyz.

Tyson on the attack

On 03 November 1996 in Tokyo, George Foreman, the lineal heavyweight champion outpointed former kick boxer Crawford Grimsley. The forty-seven year old weighed a whopping 253 lbs and won by scores of 119-109, 116-112 and 117-111.

On the night of Tyson-Holyfield, Michael Moorer defended his IBF heavyweight strap against Frans Botha. The 5-1 favourite was fully in control of the bout and knocked Botha down twice in the eleventh round. The contest was stopped after only 18 seconds on the clock of the final round, with Moorer still the champion.

At last the crowd watched Holyfield and Tyson get into the ring. There were reports that Holyfield was getting beaten up in training against Tyson-like David Tua, and the fears for his safety and his 25-1 underdog status seemed to be justified.