20 Years Ago Today: Mike Tyson vs Clifford Etienne

By James Slater - 02/22/2023 - Comments

20 Years Ago Today: Mike Tyson’s Final Win As He Crushes Clifford Etienne Whilst Nursing A “Broken Back”

On this day in 2003, the world witnessed the final knockout scored by one of its most celebrated knockout artists. Mike Tyson, returning to the ring following the shellacking he had taken from Lennox Lewis in his previous fight, which took place at the same arena, faced Clifford Etienne, AKA “The Black Rhino.”

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There were problems leading up to the fight in Memphis, and for a time it looked like the fight might not take place – Freddie Roach, Tyson’s trainer, advising Tyson not to fight as he wasn’t in top physical condition. Also, quite incredibly, Tyson took time out to get his famous facial tattoo; this leading co-trainer Jeff Fenech to believe Tyson didn’t really want to fight. But eventually, the fight went ahead on February 22, and Tyson managed to roll back the years.

Etienne of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was 24-1-1(17), the 32 year old having won his first 19 fights before being stopped by Fres Oquendo and later being held to a draw by Frans Botha. The Botha fight had taken place seven months prior to the Tyson fight; this easily the biggest fight of Etienne’s career.

Tyson, aged 36 and sporting a 49-4(43) record, the losses coming at the hands of Buster Douglas, Evander Holyfield (twice) and Lewis, was in bad financial shape and he was primarily fighting for cash. But Tyson was still a huge name, he was still a megastar. And “Iron Mike” could still whack like nobody’s business. How much did Tyson have left?

A large crowd turned out at The Pyramid to find out, and to also see what kind of craziness the most controversial fighter of his time might get up to in his latest episode of legalized violence. Both men looked to be in good shape, the chiselled Tyson especially, and Tyson started the fight fast. Coming out bobbing and weaving, Tyson was met by a foe who was willing to fire leather back at him. The two clinched. And then fell to the floor. Action resumed and the two again launched hefty blows.

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Then, shortly after another clinch, and showing a flash of his former greatness, Tyson whipped in a left hand that just missed, followed by a blistering right hand that dropped Etienne on his back, his body arcing as he fell. It was over after just :49 seconds. Tyson helped the stricken Etienne up after the count had hit ten. The fight had been dubbed “Back to Business,” and Tyson had indeed been all-business.

Tyson – who told a bemused Jim Gray how he had “broke my back” whilst training for the fight, this in one of the most unintentionally comical boxing interviews ever conducted inside a ring – would box just twice more, losing to Danny Williams and then Kevin McBride. Etienne would fight eight more times, winning five and losing three. Etienne’s final ring appearance came in May of 2005, when he was stopped by Nikolay Valuev.

Etienne was arrested for armed robbery, kidnapping, and the attempted murder of a police officer in August of 2005. He was sentenced to jail for 160 years, the sentence later being changed to that of 105 years. Etienne is now a painter in prison, while he also works as a barber.

Etienne is the last man to have been knocked unconscious by the blazing fists of Mike Tyson.

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