It really was 30 long years ago this week (November 22) when a young, soon to peak Mike Tyson made boxing history by becoming, at the age of 20, the youngest ever claimant of a world heavyweight title.
Tyson, who had been a pro for just 20 months, challenged WBC champ Trevor Berbick in Las Vegas and those in attendance witnessed a quite brutal coronation.
Before the fight there had been some minor controversy regarding the apparel the boxers would wear into the ring. Tyson, as had been his custom wanted to wear black. Unfortunately Berbick, who had the right to chose as champion, wanted to do the same. Tyson chose to accept a fine rather than change his colors. If, however, Trevor had hoped to unsettle the young contender with such mind games, he was to be badly disappointed.
The introductions, given by the late, great Chuck Hull, reverberated around the Las Vegas Hilton and then battle commenced. The fight was no contest right from the start. Tyson came out with fearsome ferocity while Berbick fought as though he was a fighter who was only a few bouts removed from the amateurs. What was actually surprising was the fact that the 31-year-old managed to make it through the very first round. Berbick was badly hurt on a few occasions in the opening three minutes, particularly at the very end of the round when he was badly shaken. He stuck out his chin as the bell rang in an attempt to show defiance, but one could see in his eyes what his real emotions were.
Round two started and we were about to witness an ending to a boxing contest that was frightening. Tyson thrashed his way through Berbick’s offensive moves, such as they were, and landed his own hydrogen bombs. Although Berbick’s chin had a pretty decent reputation, tonight it had no chance. He was soon put down and although he bounced back up immediately it was clear to everyone the end of the fight was imminent. Tyson then landed an inside uppercut to Trevor’s jaw followed by a blurring left to the temple and, in a delayed reaction, the soon to be former WBC champion crashed again.
Berbick attempted to rise but his legs, having been reduced to jelly, had neither the capability nor the strength to hold him upright, and he fell again. And then yet again! Three times he was felled by the one punch. Mills lane had no other option than to end the slaughter, and we had a new era in heavyweight boxing. Tyson made it look so easy on this occasion. He gave his late mentor, the great Cus D’Amato a loving tribute, saying how he knew he’d be up there in heaven talking to all the great fighters, telling them how his boy had done it. Tyson spoke with genuine emotion, as one would expect. What couldn’t have possibly been expected was the very strange way Trevor Berbick would be acting years after his destruction at the hands of “Iron Mike”.
In his excellent book “The Long Round”, writer Dominic Calder-Smith speaks with Berbick and the former champion’s mental state really did seem to be in a bizarre state. Berbick – who was shockingly murdered in 2006 – makes some of the most outlandish claims imaginable in the book.
Firstly, he says there was no way Tyson could have beaten him in a fair fight, and that the “real boys” who control boxing knew this and therefore made him visit a doctor who then made him sick. He goes on to say that if one watches the tape of the fight – he emphasises the ORIGINAL tape- as if to imply the footage we see these days has been tampered with, we are able to see that the punch that finished him off so frighteningly actually missed his head! Berbick claims medication given to him by the doctor he was made to visit with was the real reason for his defeat. Strange stuff indeed.
But the Tyson ere had begun and what a ride the new heavyweight champion of the world would take us on over the following years.