A Boxing Memory: Tyson vs McBride

A Boxing Memory: Tyson vs McBride

The end is often painful and regrettable. With each trip to the well, the pride diminishes with every punch thrown from memory and desperation. Boxing seemingly only reserves a dignified end to the very few.

Mike Tyson was one of many, his demise was slow, long and somewhat predictable. His own brand of self-destruction was played out in the full glare of the public eye. It wasn’t pretty, at times, it was about as ugly as it could possibly get. There were serious seemingly never-ending legal problems, including a rape conviction and his personal life was soap opera worthy. Tyson’s entire life was unravelling for all to see.

The ring decline had set in long before James ‘Buster’ Douglas defied many things in Tokyo. Douglas did the unthinkable, but it had been coming. There were glimpses of the old Tyson, but that’s all we had. After Douglas had shocked the world in 1990, Tyson had four wins, but the two wars with the Canadian Donovan ‘Razor’ Ruddock in 1991 highlighted perfectly just how far Tyson had slipped. He admitted years later that he had fallen out of love with fighting as far back as 1990.

The rape conviction and the subsequent prison time resulted in Tyson being away from boxing until 1995, and although Tyson managed to put together a number of wins and reclaim some of his old-world heavyweight titles including winning the WBC title against a more than reluctant Frank Bruno in 1996, Tyson was still chasing shadows in many different ways.

When Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis ended any illusions Tyson had found what he was looking for, Tyson was in many ways living on borrowed time. In 2004, the British heavyweight Danny Williams stopped Tyson in 4 rounds and the Mike Tyson story looked over. Tyson should have retired but he needed money, and quick. The former heavyweight champion had declared bankruptcy in 2003, the millions earned lost in a sea of excess. A relative unknown Irish heavyweight was plucked from obscurity and Kevin McBride looked a safe enough choice to keep Tyson going for a few paycheques longer. Tyson earned a much-needed $5.5 million for the fight with McBride in 2005, although the vast majority of his purse went to his many creditors. He was fighting to pay the bills.

The Australian Jeff Fenech was drafted in to train Tyson replacing Freddie Roach who had been at the helm for the previous two Tyson ring walks including the upset loss to Williams. Fenech hoped he could inspire Tyson to return to somewhere near where he once was. But the former heavyweight champion of the world was older and slower and broken beyond repair.

McBride had represented Ireland in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, but lost heavily on points in the second round of the tournament after receiving a bye in the opening round. When he turned pro McBride drifted along without much hope. The career was heading down a road to nowhere until the call came to face Tyson.

McBride had an unflattering but still deceiving 32-4-1 resume going into the fight with Tyson, including a stoppage loss to Michael Murray. The British journeyman was coming off a losing streak of seven straight fights, he beat McBride and then proceeded to lose the remaining ten fights in his career. Make no mistake, McBride was picked for a reason. The big Irish heavyweight had amassed his record against the usual suspects of the time. The opposition was the merry-go-round list of opponents, the largely low-grade standard of fighters often used to make the latest prospect and his team feel better about themselves but offer little or nothing for what lay ahead. But McBride still had the look of a club fighter about him. Even with the rapidly dwindling skills Tyson was expected to beat McBride and quickly.

“Despite the prevailing opinion that Mike Tyson is shot, unfocused and undisciplined, this has elements of a short, painful night for Kevin McBride.” Steve Albert on SHOWTIME duties clearly expected Tyson to extend the inevitable a little longer.

In the latter stages of Tyson’s career much of it was clouded in the unsavoury. This McBride affair would stick to that particular narrative. There were low blows, attempted bites and arm breaks and headbutts before Tyson quit on his stool after 6 rounds and even Tyson knew it was over. In truth, it had been for some time:

“I realised, I don’t think I have it any more. I’ve got the ability to stay in shape but I don’t got the fighting guts anymore. I’m just fighting to take care of my bills basically.

“I don’t have the stomach for this no more. I’m more conscious of my children. I don’t have that ferocity, I’m not that animal anymore.

“Most likely I’m not gonna fight again. I’m not gonna disrespect the sport by losing to these calibre of fighters.”

Danny Williams earned a world title opportunity on the back of his upset win over Tyson, McBride wasn’t so fortunate. He won his next fight, but lost six out of his last seven fights. The only win was on a Prizefighter show. After three straight defeats McBride retired in 2011. The dance with Tyson he would later describe as the greatest night of his life. It was his moment. McBride never got another.

At 38, Tyson had nowhere to go and retired the old marauding fearsome fighter of old had long since been replaced by one that had become old long before his time.

Tyson had an exhibition of many things in 2021 against Roy Jones and there was talk that McBride could face Tyson again or even square off against Evander Holyfield. Holyfield did fight on a shameful and embarrassing night for boxing and thankfully, the seniors tour quickly and has hopefully evaporated perpetuity as a result. Vitor Belfort stopped Holyfield inside a round and almost certainly did everyone a favour in the process, especially Holyfield.

We have seen it end in different forms many times before. Tyson didn’t garner the same kind of sympathy as Joe Louis or Muhammad Ali, but to see the once baddest man on the planet on the canvas almost too exhausted to get back to his feet and then make his own ‘No Mas’ call wasn’t the way it should have ended. But the reality was, it was always likely to end this way.

Photo Credit: Susan Walsh/Associated Press

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