It is 1987 and nothing and no one can stop heavyweight wrecking machine Mike Tyson. The year before he had blown away Trevor Berbick in two rounds to become the youngest heavyweight champion of all time. This historic victory was followed by dominant wins over James “Bonecrusher” Smith, Pinklon Thomas and Tony Tucker.
Once the dust settled from these victories, Tyson stood alone as the king of the big men, no matter what backers of Michael Spinks said to the contrary. Only 21-years-old, a pro fighter for a mere three years, “Kid Dynamite” had laid waste to the division and assumed its throne with such fury that seasoned boxing scribes were hard pressed to make sensible comparisons. He was so dominant there appeared only two kinds of Tyson fights: the ones in which he demolished his opponents in short order, overwhelming them with his aggression and power, and the ones in which his adversaries survived, but in the process lost every round.
Viewed by some as a boxer who could seriously challenge Tyson, Tyrell Biggs certainly sounded confident enough ahead of his showdown with “Kid Dynamite.” Some speculated that Biggs — young, quick, skilled and with obvious advantages in height and reach — might have the stuff to neutralize “Iron Mike’s” aggression. After all, he was the super-heavyweight gold medalist from the 1984 Olympics, the same boxing team for which Tyson had failed to qualify. Indeed, many had been just as pumped about Biggs turning pro as they had been about Tyson. He certainly looked like he had the right stuff when he defeated contenders David Bey and Renaldo Snipes and overcame a broken collarbone to take a decision over Jeff Sims.
But what Biggs’ supporters did not know was that he had a serious drug problem and it was all his managers could do to keep him focused on his boxing career. His addiction to cocaine had taken hold when he was still in high school and he had in fact entered rehab shortly after turning pro, the first of many stints. When Tyson vs Biggs had been signed, some wondered if the challenger might have benefited from a bit more seasoning, more rounds against legit contenders. But the behind-the-scenes reality was that Tyrell’s people saw the writing on the wall and wanted to cash in before it was too late. Despite all this, the contender’s public utterances gave no hint of apprehension.
“I don’t know this Tyson the way you guys talk about him,” sneered Biggs. “I know Tyson from way back when. He’s never fought anyone like me, someone with a strong jab who can box and is not going in there just to survive. He’s going to be throwing big, wild shots at me but I’ll be keeping out of range. But I’m not going to run. When he’s not throwing punches, I’ll be on the attack.”
Suffice to say, Biggs talked a good fight. But when the bell rang, his words soon proved empty.
For the first three minutes of the match it appeared “Kid Dynamite” would finally face some stiff competition. Biggs emerged from his corner moving with uncommon grace, shifting and dancing as Tyson worked to corner him. The challenger pumped a long left jab as he evaded Tyson’s attack, connecting nineteen times with it, and clinching whenever Mike got close. It was textbook boxing and it won Biggs the opening round.
But Tyrell lacked the stamina, physical or mental, to stick to the game plan. A minute into the second and he was flat-footed, still jabbing but no longer a moving target, and immediately Tyson took advantage, punishing his opponent with powerful shots from either hand. Biggs later claimed he slowed down because he wanted to pace himself to last the distance. If so, the strategy backfired completely; standing still guaranteed he would never make it anywhere close to the final bell.
Near the end of the second a fierce hook tore a gash on the inside of Biggs’ mouth. In the third Tyson ripped open the challenger’s left eyebrow. Indeed, the champion knew the bout was finished as early as round three, though not just because Biggs was now bleeding all over the ring.
“In the third round I knew I had him,” said Tyson afterwards. “He was crying. When I was hitting him to the body, he was making noises, like a woman screaming.”
Any hope for a competitive boxing match had vanished. The fight was a rout and now Biggs suffered for all those brave words. “I could have knocked him out any time after the third,” claimed Tyson, “but I wanted to make him pay for what he said.”
To his credit, Biggs kept throwing punches, albeit without conviction. And his chin was clearly made of solid stuff. Otherwise, it was all “Iron Mike” as he relentlessly walked his man down and battered him. A powerful straight right staggered the challenger in the fifth. More rights connected in the sixth before a left hook to the body doubled him over. A series of hooks at the end of the round had Biggs desperately running and clinching.
Mercifully, the end came in the seventh. A right followed by a flush left hook sent Biggs tumbling across the ring. He beat the count but seconds later he was on the canvas again. Biggs’ corner-men were stepping through the ropes as the referee waved it off.
It had been an awesome exhibition of dominance and brute skill and afterwards, Tyrell didn’t have much to say. Neither did anyone else. What was there to discuss other than the fact that Mike Tyson was the best heavyweight on the planet? And that as far as anyone could see, nary a serious challenge was anywhere to be found? The pundits tried to talk up Larry Holmes and Michael Spinks, but few sincerely thought either capable of derailing the combination of aggressiveness, speed and power that was “Iron Mike.” And yet Tyson was only 21-years-old. He might reign for a decade or more. A latter-day Joe Louis. Amazing.
What no one could have known was that this was in fact Mike Tyson’s peak. It would last for only three more fights and then the craziness began and the great unraveling.
– Michael Carbert