As fight fans know, Mike Tyson will soon fight again (sort of, nobody really knowing what to expect from Tyson’s September 12 exhibition bout with fellow great, Roy Jones Jr) and the word is Tyson has retained his amazing speed of hand along with his power. We’ll see soon enough.
But the Tyson of today – he is, after all, 54 years of age – will never be as fast as he was when he was taking care of Marvis Frazier all the way back in July of 1986. The chilling display of power, speed and accuracy the 20-year-old “Iron Mike” thrilled the world with in Glens Falls, New York convinced many that he was a sure thing for the world title. Tyson tore clean through Marvis, scoring the quickest KO of his entire professional career: 30 seconds.
Joe Frazier, father and trainer/manager of Marvis, was criticized for putting his son in with the great Larry Holmes, the fight lasting less than a round, and “Smokin’ Joe” got hit with additional criticism for letting his son fight the rampaging, unstoppable Tyson. But maybe Joe kind of knew what he was doing. Marvis, a fine amateur boxer with notable skills, had lost to Holmes, sure, but he had also picked up good wins over good fighters such as James Tillis (we all know him for giving Tyson one heck of a tough fight), Bonecrusher Smith and Jose Ribalta (these two also extending the peak Tyson).
Going into the fight with Tyson, Marvis had won six on the bounce. Tyson was 24-0 yet he had struggled with Tillis a year after Frazier had soundly outpointed “Quick,” and the young Tyson had also been forced to hear the final bell in his May 1986 fight with Mitch Green. Might Marvis, with his skills and his pedigree, give Mike something to think about?
Well, no. Not a chance. Marvis never had any time to think. Tyson was on his man like a rash, like a cheap suit, like an unseen force of nature. Call it what you want, but poor Marvis never had a prayer. It was over, via a savage display in the art of landing the uppercut, in just half-a-minute. Never let it be said that the cunning partnership of Jim Jacobs, THE boxing historian of his time, and Bill Cayton, owner of THE finest boxing library in existence, didn’t know exactly what the plan was when it came to building Tyson up in the impressionable minds of young fans as well as older fight fans who should have known better: Tyson might well have done to Joe Frazier what he did to Marvis.
Yes, sir, this line of thinking was given a seed of life on this day back in 1986 and plenty of people bought into it (here’s an example: Des Lynam, a huge figure of sports presentation and announcing in the UK in the 1980s, once said of Tyson: “he’s been compared to Joe Frazier, but he’s much, much better than that.”)
Tyson really was something special back then, yet in time he would be exposed as a fighter who was great when on top, but not so great at taking the hits. That’s another story. What has Tyson got left all these years later?
Jacobs and Cayton would both be stunned to learn their masterwork is still looking for a fight some 35 years after his first (paid) one.