A controversial stoppage, a ring riot, a broken jaw, a perforated eardrum.
30 years ago, when Mike Tyson and Donovan “Razor” Ruddock went to war over just shy of 19 rounds of brutal action, fight fans got the above and a whole lot more.
Why just shy of 19 rounds? Because, as plenty of fans recall, the first Tyson-Ruddock war was prematurely stopped by an itchy-fingered Richard Steele, who dived in as Ruddock was under fire and on the ropes in the 7th round of the first fight; Steele making his call when he was not even looking directly at Ruddock.
The mid-ring melee was nasty and ugly and the rematch was swiftly set. Tyson, now fighting under the Showtime banner having left HBO, gave Ruddock respect after the first fight – “rematch for Razor Ruddock!” Tyson bellowed.
And, “he punches like a f*****g mule kick.” Tyson’s respect would not last long. Ahead of the rematch, which came just three months after the first slugfest, the former heavyweight champ who was now 3-0 into his Buster Douglas loss comeback, seemed to have gone off the hinges.
During a satellite hook-up with Tyson and Ruddock, the former champ, who was not on best terms with Don King, told Razor to “kiss me good with those big lips.” And, “get your family to make their will out”
Was Tyson aiming to kill Ruddock’s kinfolk or his ring adversary?
In the second fight, Tyson had either lost the majority of his ring skills or he was not too bothered about using them.
In the first fight, Tyson had gone to Ruddock’s body quite brutally, while the former champ showed he still had good head movement. Ruddock on the other hand showed zero inclination to have a care for the defensive side of the sport, instead of letting his granite chin do all the work.
And Ruddock’s game-plan basically consisted of him trying to get lucky and score a replay of the highlight reel KO he had taken out Michael Dokes with – when his lethal “Smash” had been revealed to the world.
But by fight-two, the two men were almost evenly matched. Ruddock, who had come in a good deal heavier, went punch for punch with Tyson. It was raw and in no way did Tyson look like the hard-to-hit fighter he had been in his prime.
There were knockdowns, with Ruddock on the receiving end and there were point deductions, with both men being penalized for committing fouls. The fight went all 12 rounds and Tyson won a unanimous decision.
Ruddock’s face was a mess, his jaw busted and his eye hammered shut. We never knew it at the time, but the seemingly unmarked and undamaged Tyson had suffered a perforated eardrum. This time, Tyson and Ruddock shared genuine respect.
Not too long after, Tyson was in jail. Ruddock, meanwhile, had had most of the iron knocked out of him during those 19 savage rounds. Lennox Lewis took advantage of this in 1992, starching Razor in a couple of shocking rounds.
Between them, though, Tyson and Ruddock served up one of the most action-packed, I’ll hit you, you hit me rivalries of the 1990s. A rivalry that lasted just over three months but is still remembered and appreciated three decades later.