March Was Lucky Month for Iron Mike Tyson
By Teodoro Medina Reynoso
Fri, 20 Mar 2020
Fighters are generally not superstitious and would fight in any month or date they are scheduled to fight or most suitable or viable given the requirements of the organizers, the fans or the networks.
However, for major bouts, some fighters would want to fight in certain climes and conditions that would be to their advantage depending on the place. Hence some fighters would want to fight on months where it would be very cold or very warm or under near normal condition.
In recent years, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and lately Canelo Alvarez preferred to fight on the months of May and September. But it has nothing to do with the weather or the season, rather with two important Mexican holidays where fans of Mexican descent who are many in the USA are apt to splurge on their favorite entertainment-boxing.
However, I discovered something very curious when I reviewed the fight record of the youngest world heavyweight champion in history, Mike Tyson who made his pro debut in the month of March in the year 1985, three months before his 19th birthday.
Tyson would fight in the month of March in six of the first nine years where he was active or allowed to see action, winning each time since his pro debut while registering some records or landmarks in majority of those outings.
Tyson fought his first March bout in 1985 against Dominican Leoncio Mercedes and his last in 1996 against Briton Frank Bruno after being forced away from boxing for three years before as he served a prison sentence for rape.
By that time, he had already won 43 of his 44 pro bouts, 38 by KO or TKO, losing only to Buster Douglas in boxing's biggest upset in 1990.
He would not be able to fight in the month of March again until his retirement following a retirement loss to Kevin McBride in June 11, 2005.
Curiously, Tyson would suffer five of his six career losses in that nine year stretch where he only fought just thirteen more times, a far cry from his first nine years as a pro where he had a total of 44 or nearly five bouts per year.
DEBUT VS MERCEDES, March 6, 1985
Tyson made his professional debut after a modest amateur career on March 6, 1985 by a second round knockout win over Leoncio Mercedes in a scheduled six rounder at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in New York.
Curiously, Tyson fought in the undercard of a welterweight main event featuring Kevin Rooney who would a little later become his trainer until 1988 when promoter Don King managed to convince Mike to fire him. The departure of Rooney stunted the further growth of Tyson as a fighter, many observers noted.
TYSON VS ZOUSKI, March 10, 1986
Tyson had his second March fight the following year, 1986 in amazingly already his 19th pro bout against journeyman Steve Zouski, then toting a 25-9, 14 KO record who despite having been stopped four times before, had never been knocked off his feet.
Held on March 10, 1986 at the Nassau Colesium, Uniondale, New York, Tyson fought at his heaviest at 220.5 lbs thus far in his young career and knocked out Zouski in the third round with his vaunted left hook with referee Arthur Mercante reaching the full count with nearly half a minute left in the round.
The Zouski knockout was important to Tyson as his last won fight against Jesse Ferguson was actually a disqualification later changed to technical knockout because the referee, in preserving Tyson's KO streak, justified that Ferguson was adamantly holding on to Mike to avoid getting knocked out.
Tyson who came to the fight already rated at number ten among the top heavyweights, would later be quoted as saying he was running a hectic schedule as a price of his growing popularity and that he "could not live like a nineteen year old".
His knockout streak would eventually be broken by veteran James Quick Tillis who would concede to a unanimous decision loss a few months later.
TYSON VS BONECRUSHER SMITH, March 7, 1987
Already the WBC heavyweight champion following his demolition of Trevor Berbick, Tyson, then 28-0, 26 KOs, would have his third straight March fight in 1987 in a unification against WBA titleholder James Bonecrusher Smith 19-5, 14 KOs, who won the title via shocking first round knockout of Terrible Tim Witherspoon.
Held March 7, 1987 at the Las Vegas Hilton Outdoor Arena, with Mills Lane as referee, Tyson did most of the fighting and Smith the grappling and holding as Tyson had to content himself with unanimous decision victory (with two of the judges scoring it 119-107 and the third a shutout 120-106) and added the WBA belt to his collection.
With Muhammad Ali among the nearly 14,000 spectators, this was the first fight that Tyson was announced as "Iron Mike".
Tyson was paid $1.5 million and Smith $1 million.
TYSON VS TONY TUBBS, March 21, 1988
Growing extremely popular internationally, Iron Mike would have his first fight outside of the USA in a defense of his WBC, WBA and IBF titles held at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan against former WBA titleholder Tony Tubbs in his fourth straight March outing.
Held on March 21, 1988 in a co-promotion by Don King and Akahito Honda of Teikken Promotion, it was only the second world heavyweight title fight since 1973 when George Foreman defended against Joe King Roman.
Tyson then 33-0, 29 KOs, came in light at 216 lbs while Tubbs (24-1, 15 KOs), ignoring a $50,000 bonus to come in 235 lbs or under, weighed in at 238 lbs. Tyson was assured of $10 million while Tubbs just $500,000.
Watched by more than 51,000 live spectators, Iron Mike took just two rounds to dispose off Tubbs who thought that having extra weight around his belly would cushion him against the power of Tyson. It was the first knockout loss for Tubbs.
The fight almost hit a snag when the Japan Boxing Commission which at that time does not recognize the IBF refused to allow Tyson to enter the ring with the IBF strapped around his body. Iron Mike solved that by not wearing any of his belts in his ring entrance and having his people secretly and silently assure the IBF of his intention to defend its title in that bout, even paying the sanction fee.
Ironically, Tyson would lose all his titles two years later in his second fight in Japan via upset knockout to Buster Douglas on February 11, 1990.
TYSON VS RAZOR RUDDOCK, March 18, 1991
On a comeback trail, Tyson fought rising Canadian heavyweight contender Donovan Razor Ruddock in his first March outing since 1988 in a non title 10 rounder.
Held on March 18, 1991 at Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, Tyson came in at 217 lbs while the 6-3 Ruddock tipped the scales at 228 lbs.
Both known for their fight ending power, Tyson and Ruddock engaged in a psywar where Mike would dare Razor to hit him with his best shots for free while Ruddock would smile at Mike every time he was hit hard.
Tyson would eventually get the better of the exchanges and lead in all scorecards 59-53 heading into the seventh round where referee Richard Steele stopped the fight, some said unnecessarily too soon and awarded Tyson a TKO victory.
The two would fight again three months later with Tyson winning a unanimous decision. But that would prove to be his last as he would pull out of a fight against Evander Holyfield later in 1991 and convicted for rape in 1992.
TYSON VS FRANK BRUNO, March 16, 1996
After given parole in 1995, Tyson would go on another comeback trail winning two successive fights against Peter McNeely by disqualification and Buster Mathis by knockout earning him a crack at the WBC title then held by previous fight victim, Frank Bruno of the UK.
Bruno had made British proud by winning the WBC title against Oliver McCall who had previously beaten Lennox Lewis for the same crown. It took Bruno four tries to win a world title losing to Tim Witherspoon, Tyson and Lewis in his past three attempts.
Held on March 16, 1996 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Tyson came in at 220 lbs. while Bruno who towered over Mike by nearly five inches, weighed a solid 247 lbs.
After dominating the first two rounds, Tyson needed just fifty seconds more to reassert his superiority over Bruno whom he had stopped inside five rounds in 1989.
Gerald Eskenazi reported the following in March 17, 1996, edition of the New York Times:
There's nothing left to speculate about. Mike Tyson is back, and dangerous.
His barrage of blows in the third round tonight, starting with a left hook and ending seven unanswered punches later, sent Frank Bruno into the ropes and his World Boxing Council heavyweight title back to the controversial Tyson.
Referee Mills Lane halted the bout after 50 seconds as Bruno was sitting on the first strand, absorbing blows.
The victory came six years after Tyson's stunning loss of his title to Buster Douglas, and has started him back on the road to unifying the crown. There are two other champions he has to face to accomplish that.
Both Bruno and Tyson declined to appear at a post-fight news conference and Tyson said he would meet with the media on Sunday. But he told his handlers, "Tell the press I said I hit like a mule."
He had just risen from the canvas himself, having gone down to his knees to pray after Lane halted the fight.
"I was going for the knockout from the first round," he said, and that was obvious. He did not come in from the crouch, like the youthful Tyson. Instead, he was a straight-ahead bomber. He had Bruno holding from the opening moments. Bruno, in fact, was penalized a point for holding in the second round. He was hit often, and hard.
"You'll find that I was a little brokenhearted when it was over," Bruno said.
The fight was televised live on pay per view by Showtime (Tyson's previous fights were all on HBO) and generated 1.37 million PPV buys and $58.3 million in PPV revenues. Paid attendance at the MGM Grand was 16,143, including thousands of initially cheering, flag-waving Britons, and the gross gate was $10,673,700.
Tyson was paid $30 million and Bruno $6 million.
It proved to be his last highest grossing winning fight.
And his last fight held in the month of March for the rest of his later to become a flagging career.
The author Teodoro Medina Reynoso is a veteran boxing radio talk show host living in the Philippines. He can be reached at email@example.com and by phone 09215309477.
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