Tyson vs Spinks: Gone in 91 Seconds
By Simon Graham
During the long history of boxing there have been many famous fights and battles, but, in this instance, it is a single epic round within a fight that stands out and lives long in our memories, Hagler vs Hearns, Louis vs Schmeling, Foreman vs Frazier to name a few.
Though not all these rounds ended in a KO and not necessarily the first round in the long history of boxing, they are wonderful and shocking aberrations to the usual pattern of first rounds. They stand out in history because of their force, because of the fighters involved, because of the significance of the night itself.
Michael Spinks regarded as the true people’s champion after beating Larry Holmes had recently been stripped of his IBF title for refusing to take part in the 1986 – 87 heavyweight unification series, instead he had turned his attention to fight and ultimately beat Gerry Cooney.
The unification series would finish with a 21-year Mike Tyson sitting on top of the division as the WBA, WBC and IBF unified Champion, but all was not well, a turbulent marriage, the death of his mother and manager Jimmy Jacobs and mild misdemeanours resulting in out of court settlements would only add fuel to the rage Tyson was feeling.
Constantly questioned about the legitimacy of his champion status, Tyson needed to ‘beat the man who beat the man’ to become the undisputed champion. That man was, of course, Spinks who himself was undefeated in 31 fights, the last man in the division who was thought to have at least a chance against Iron Mike.
Billed as “Once and For All.” The undisputed claim of the heavyweight championship took place 27th June 1988 at the Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, the ensuing build-up would generate one of the richest heavyweight championship bouts of all time and also one of the quickest.
At this time in the career of Tyson the aura and sense of invincibility surrounding him would often result in fights being won before gloves had been laced up, one menacing glare from Tyson during a press conference would often render his opponents into a petrified state. The Spinks team would pay the ultimate price for their attempts at playing the mind game with the master of intimidation.
Moments before Tyson was due to leave his dressing room to make his ring entrance Butch Lewis the manager of Spinks, ordered that Mike’s Gloves be re-taped, already pumped and eager to enter the ring an outraged Tyson pummelled the changing room wall letting of steam like a pressure cooker ready to explode:
‘I’m going to hurt this guy real bad’ he would say as finally he made his way to the ring.
Surrounded by his entourage and a wall of security, sweating profusely Tyson in his usual black boots, black trunks and no robe strode purposely toward the ring, as he climbed through the ropes the electric atmosphere erupted into a crescendo of cheers.
As the drawn-out introductions of officials, dignitaries and famous came to a close there was a distinct look of realisation in the look on the face of Spinks. The realisation that he was in the ring about to trade blows with the deadliest boxer on the planet, the fear factor coursing through the veins of Spinks would alter his preconceived tactics which in turn would lead to his destruction.
The plan was to keep Tyson at distance by utilising the jab however within 5 seconds of the opening bell, Spinks was caught with an aggressive opening barrage of punches, showing no fear or respect for his opponent Tyson set off at a blistering pace.
Committing boxing suicide Spinks abandoned his plan of using the jab deciding to throw lead right power shots in the hope of catching Tyson moving in, however, by throwing the lead right Spinks’s balance shifted forward enabling Tyson to slip outside and counter with his left hook to great effect.
Within a minute of the opening round Tyson was in full control, switching from his usual orthodox style to southpaw (a tactic often missed by those watching the fight), Tyson sidestepped the spinks right lead unleashing a left uppercut to the head followed by a crunching right hook to the body dropping his opponent to one knee.
Up at the count of 3 and taking the standing 8 count, both boxers walked toward one another. Trying once again to catch Tyson with a lead right, Spinks walked straight into a crisp left followed by an arcing right uppercut which landed flush on to his chin sending him backwards and flat onto his back with a sickening thud of his head off the canvas. This fight was over long before Spinks tried to get up and roll face-first into the bottom rope.
At this stage in the history of ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson it is this writers opinion that he was at the pinnacle of his career, the ultimate fighter in the prime of his life. I doubt there is a boxer past, present or future that could have beaten him on that night, such was his technical ability, speed and accuracy of punching power.
On that night The Baddest Man on the planet’ was untouchable.