Have three-and-a-half decades really gone by since a 20-year-old Mike Tyson darn near killed Trevor Berbick to brutally claim the WBC heavyweight title, in so doing making boxing history? Time really does fly by. All these years later, and the destruction job “Iron Mike,” or, if you prefer, “Kid Dynamite” did on 32-year-old Berbick remains a highlight reel KO fans both young and old marvel over.
It wasn’t that Tyson defeated a great fighter, Berbick was never that – it was the way he won. Who can ever forget the strange, even disturbing way Berbick’s legs deserted him in that second round, how his equilibrium was blasted into another orbit? How many times did Berbick go down from basically one punch? Three times, almost four times; with referee Mills Lane holding a badly hurt Berbick upright after he had managed, on sheer instinct, to get up the third time.
It was frightening stuff yet some people found Berbick’s careering yo-yo impression funny. How Berbick must have felt after being so ruthlessly destroyed we can only imagine (Berbick did suffer some dark times after the loss, even claiming that he had been drugged and that the shot that so ruined him had in fact missed). Tyson said at the time that he had, A: fulfilled the late, great Cus D’Amato’s prophecy of him becoming world heavyweight champion, and he had, B: avenged the sad loss Berbick had inflicted on his idol, Muhammad Ali.
Tyson – after 28 pro fights, fought during a short spell of just 20 months – had also gone into the record books and there promised to be so much more to come. Tyson actually said he would also become the oldest heavyweight champion in history. Instead, like a blazing comet, Tyson enjoyed a short but memorable reign as king.
Tyson soon unified the belts – amazingly quickly in fact. A mere nine months after annihilating Berbick, or “vaporising” him as Tyson wrote in his autobiography, the former street thug from Brooklyn held all three belts. All that remained was the lineal crown held by Michael Spinks. We all know what Tyson did to Spinks in June of 1988. Tyson had peaked, He had, with those 91 seconds, given us his last truly great performance.
For many fans, the Tyson-Berbick fight is their favourite Tyson KO. It was the beginning of a new era, it was as thrilling to watch as it was shocking (a man, or “boy” so young, destroying an experienced fighter) and to repeat, Tyson’s perfect performance promised so much. How many more top-notch fighters would Tyson wipe out? Could anyone ever beat him? Would Tyson go on to become the single greatest heavyweight in boxing history?
Inevitably, Tyson fell short. But how he added drama to the sport, how he generated excitement, along with major, major interest from the casuals. Tyson was everywhere in the second half of the 1980s and we couldn’t get enough of him. Never had a heavyweight packed an equal amount of power and speed in his two hands.
Tyson, for a short while, was unbeatable.