“Iron” Mike Tyson: “The Baddest Man on the Planet” until one fateful night

Mike Tyson

HBO

In March 1985, an up-and-coming heavyweight named Mike Tyson made his debut out of Catskill, New York, on the Kevin Rooney v Garland Wright undercard.

At 18 years of age, the broad-shouldered youngster, his full name Michael Gerard Tyson got tipped for stardom. Tyson won two Junior Olympic gold medals and scoring the fastest ever knockout at the games – just eight seconds.

Defeat on points to Henry Tillman had meant Tyson missed out on a place at the 1984 Olympics. Ironically, a title which his rival went on to win.

The New Yorker was now concentrating all his efforts on making a name for himself in the paid ranks. And boy did he.

Victory over Hector Mercedes at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany would be the catalyst for a fantastic run of knockouts by Tyson.

He fought 15 times in nine months and never went the distance.

Lightning-fast movement coupled with haymaker uppercuts and hooks gave Tyson a unique style.

He had a look that could kill. A glare that firmly matched his trademark black shorts and ankle-cut black boots.

When moving into 1986, a similar pattern had emerged. By this time, Tyson was gaining notoriety. He was becoming feared by the top divisional contenders as he stepped up his opposition.

Four more early finishes would lead Tyson into his first real test against James ‘Quick’ Tillis, whom the nearing 20-year-old went ten rounds with – winning via decision.

Another failed knockout attempt followed against Mitch Green just seventeen days later. However, Tyson would score another six straight stoppages to lead him nicely into a maiden world title shot.

Mike Tyson Trevor Berbick
HBO

Tyson would meet the respected Trevor Berbick for the WBC championship at just 20 years old and four months. It was a historic bid to become the youngest ever heavyweight title-holder.

The massive puncher took just five minutes to smash Berbick to bits. In the process, he overhauled the excellent Floyd Patterson’s record and struck terror into the hearts of the boxing world.

Instant A-list celebrity status hit Tyson almost as hard as the ferocious fighter concussed Berbick. The new champion would rule with an iron fist and a nickname to match his incredible persona.

‘Iron’ Mike spent four years as an unbeatable and invincible force in the sport. He arguably could have ruled for a decade or more had outside influences and problems not reared their ugly heads.

Womanizing, out of the ring partying, promoter Don King’s increasing influence, and a messy marriage didn’t help Tyson’s frame of mind. It wasn’t long before it all came crashing down.

MIKE TYSON vs. BUSTER DOUGLAS

A now-infamous 1990 loss to James ‘Buster’ Douglas, in which Tyson should have been awarded an eighth-round knockout win following an extra-long count, suddenly put the brakes on a reign up there with the most formidable around. It will hopefully forever overshadow some of the more notorious shenanigans that followed in the years to come.

‘The Baddest Man on The Planet’ was the moniker given to Mike Tyson by the press. A fitting nickname for the man who was absolute in that capacity until one fateful night at the Tokyo Dome in Japan.

Phil Jay is the Editor of WBN. An Auxiliary member of the Boxing Writers Association of America since 2018. And a member of the Sports Journalists’ Association. Follow on Twitter @PhilJWBN.