This Day in Boxing History: Tyson-Holmes, Jan. 22, 1988
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This Day in Boxing History: Tyson-Holmes, Jan. 22, 1988
By Matthew Aguilar, Doghouse Boxing (Jan 22, 2014)

Mike Tyson v. Larry Holmes - Poster created by icheehuahua, Doghouse Boxig Inc.
Tyson vs. Holmes Poster created by
© Chee, Doghouse Boxing Inc.
On Jan. 22, it will have been 26 years since Mike Tyson's smashing fourth-round knockout of Larry Holmes.

At the time, Tyson was the undefeated, undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, having unified the WBC, WBA and IBF championships in 1986 and '87. The word "unbeatable" was being thrown around after sensational knockouts of Trevor Berbick, Pinklon Thomas and Tyrell Biggs, and the only fighter thought to have a chance against the 21-year-old phenom was Michael Spinks, who laid claim to the lineal heavyweight title.

But while Tyson waited for Spinks, a former all-time great suddenly emerged as an "Iron Mike" opponent. Holmes had reigned as WBC heavyweight champ from 1978 to 1985, when he was upset by Spinks. In that time, he made 20 defenses of his crown and established himself as one of the greatest heavyweights in boxing history. He had been one win away from tying Rocky Marciano's all-time record of 49-0 when Spinks shocked him on Sept. 21, 1985.

Though Holmes was 38 years old and two years removed from his last ring appearance - a second decision loss to Spinks in the rematch - some thought his experience and style could provide boxing's new king some problems. At 6-foot-3, Holmes would have a four-inch height advantage, and he still possessed one of the best jabs the heavyweight division had ever seen.

And so Tyson and Holmes met on Jan. 22, 1988, at the Convention Center in Atlantic City. And for the first few rounds, Holmes had some success. His jab did indeed bother Tyson for a bit, and he soaked up enough hard shots early on to convince the pro-Holmes crowd that he actually had a chance.

As the fourth round opened, Holmes got on his toes and began pecking away with the jab. He dropped his hands to his sides, and began pumping out the jab like the old days. The crowd began to get excited and, suddenly, a shocking Holmes victory didn't seem so far-fetched. The HBO announcing team of Barry Tompkins and Sugar Ray Leonard even referenced Leonard's classic upset of Marvelous Marvin Hagler nine months earlier. Holmes appeared to be in some control.

Then, suddenly, everything changed.

Not as fleet of foot as he was in his prime, and with excess poundage, Holmes stopped moving just long enough for Tyson to land a whistling overhand right that planted him on his behind. Holmes got to his feet, only to be dropped again by a Tyson flurry. Again, Holmes got up - showing the grit and courage that allowed him to come back from knockdowns in his prime. But he was too worn, and Tyson was too overwhelming for Holmes to survive this.

Finally, Tyson landed one last, devastating right hand to the jaw that dropped Holmes on his back, ending the fight in dramatic fashion.

This was the fight that catapulted Tyson to worldwide superstardom. And he would go on to one of the most memorable years - in and out of the ring - in boxing history. Two months later, he knocked out Tony Tubbs in Tokyo before destroying Spinks in 91 seconds that June - followed by the Robin Givens/Ruth Roper/Bill Cayton/Barbara Walters/Mitch Green circus.

Remarkably, Holmes mounted comebacks that resulted in an upset of undefeated Ray Mercer in 1992, and narrow losses to Evander Holyfield in 1992 and Oliver McCall in 1995.

Press Play - Watch: Mike Tyson vs Larry Holmes / Jan. 22, 1988

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