As Mike Tyson Turns 40 - Remembering His Peak Performance

01.06.06 - By James Slater: There are two anniversaries from the boxing calendar in this month of June. On the thirtieth, “Iron” Mike will celebrate his fortieth birthday, and a few days before that will mark the eighteenth anniversary of what was arguably his greatest win ever - the night he destroyed Michael Spinks in a single round. Time really does fly. It is hard to believe that almost two decades have passed since the electrifying 91 seconds we were witness to that day in the ring at Atlantic City. Equally hard to comprehend is the fact that Mike is now approaching something like middle age! Mention his name and almost everyone will have an image conjured up in their mind of the youthful, all-conquering “Kid Dynamite” that Tyson used to be.

In fact, as recently as three or four years ago, this image of Mike was still the dominating one in the case of many fans. As a result they believed he could still run over top heavyweights like Lennox lewis the same way as he was once able to do. Only now, after humbling defeats at the hands of Danny Williams and then Kevin McBride, is everyone convinced that he is a spent force as a prize fighter. But what a fighter he was - in his prime..

Most experts are of agreement when it comes to pointing out the one peak performance from Mike Tyson’s entire career. Almost to a man they look to the Spinks fight from June the 27th 1988. And although it wasn’t much of a fight in the way of two way action or value for money, it was nonetheless a truly great night - one in which not a single fan grumbled about the swiftness of the action they had paid to see. We were witness to a lethal and destructive heavyweight boxer who was at his absolute best. He met the challenge of the man who at the time was considered as having at least a fair shot at beating him. Michael Spinks was an all-time great in his own right.

Actually, to say Tyson met his greatest challenge is to do a disservice to Spinks. At the time HE was proclaimed as the real heavyweight champ - not Tyson. In linear terms, Michael’s claim to the throne was the more respected one. He had won THE title from Larry Holmes (forget the alphabet soup gangs) and as such the fight with Tyson would produce an undisputed heavyweight ruler - hence the bout’s tagline of “Once And For All.”

The anticipation of the historic and fascinating fight was intense and when fight night finally came it was announced just how big a money fight Tyson v Spinks was. Mike, the undeniable big name and crowd puller of the two would be paid a staggering amount of dollar bills many millions of time over. While Spinks, though the real champ according to many opinions - not least Ring magazine’s - would get roughly half as much. For the actual time they spent doing their job, both men were undeniably overpaid! As I’ve said though, no-one, either in the live audience or watching at home on T.V, did too much complaining about the promotion. This fight was simply un miss able!

Spinks looked terrified during the introductions, not even appearing to want to part with his robe, while Tyson prowled the canvas in his usual caged animal impersonation. He could not wait to get at Spinks. We all know the story of Butch Lewis - Spink’s main man - visiting the Tyson dressing room before the fight in the hopes of maybe unsettling the young fighter. What with all the turmoil going on in his (not too) private life at the time one can see why Butch tried to get an edge for his fighter. But the sight he was to be a spectator to - namely Mike Tyson punching holes in his dressing room wall - was not something he was expecting. He knew then that his plan of rattling “Iron” Mike was not going to produce anything positive to the chances of Michael Spinks and he quickly left. Tyson wanted to fight, and nothing else - he was ready to tear someone’s head off. And Butch knew just who’s head Mike had in mind!

The action at last got underway and Tyson came out blazing as was expected. For his part, Spinks did throw punches back but his shots had the look and effect of a pop gun compared to Mike’s howitzers. With the echo of the opening bell seemingly still ringing in their ears, the huge crowd was about to be treated to its first knockdown. With Spinks on the ropes Tyson landed a breathtaking body shot to Michael’s midsection and nearly folded him in half. Spinks went down, naturally. Showing heart he beat the count and then nodded to referee Frank Cappuccino that he was okay and prepared himself as best he could for the inevitable follow-up attack that was coming his way. With blinding speed Mike tore a lethal right hand into Spink’s skull and sent him crashing backwards to the canvas. Flattened on the ring apron, Michael again attempted to rise but could only get as far as to his knees, whereupon he collapsed back into, and then almost through, the ropes. It was all over. Mike Tyson was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world - once and for all!

Afterwards an angry Tyson threatened his retirement while surrounded by the media which he had been upset by. He was disgusted with the way he felt they had treated him and as a way of getting back at them announced that as far as he was concerned his final fight had been fought. Not too many people accepted Mike’s claim though - there was no way he would have been able to bring himself to give up the one thing in his life that he truly loved. For even while there was utter chaos in almost every other aspect of his life, what with the Robin Givens affair, the money wrangling and everything else eating away at him- Mike had still been able to perform at the highest level while doing what he believed he had been put on this earth for. Fighting was truly the only thing that Mike Tyson felt good doing.

As for Spinks, he never fought again. The loss to Tyson was the only one he ever suffered as a pro. He had been unlucky enough to have found himself in the ring with the absolute peak Mike Tyson. A former heavyweight great who will be forty years of age at the end of this month - as hard as that may be to believe!

Article posted on 02.06.2006

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