The last time Tyson and Holmes met was Tyson’s 5th defense of the WBC, WBA and IBF titles some 11 months after defeating Trevor Berbick in November of 1986. Now some 27 years later they met at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, PA, when Iron Mike Promotions ran a show there last Saturday.
The 21 year-old Tyson was 32-0 (28) and the 39 year-old Holmes 48-2 (34) coming off a disputed loss to Michael Spinks in their rematch. “And I can say to the judges, the referee and the promoters they can kiss where the sun don’t shine and since we were on HBO that’s my big black behine”, said Holmes.
After the first loss to Spinks Holmes seemed more “upset” with Rocky Marciano than he did with Spinks. “If you really want to get technical about the whole thing Rocky (Marciano) couldn’t carry my jock strap,” said Holmes. The “apology” came 25 years later when he said “that remark cost me endorsements. What I meant to say is Marciano couldn’t walk down the same sidewalk I do.”
I gather Holmes once living in Georgia meant Rocky would be on the sidewalk and Holmes in the gutter! “They took away something I worked 19 years for. The heavyweight championship of the world,” said Holmes. From blaming Marciano to blaming “they” meaning the 3 judges? 143-142 and two scores of 145-142 including one by current HBO judge Harold Lederman.
In January of 1988 Holmes came into the fight mad as hell on the outside after dropping 2 straight to the former light heavyweight champion Spinks. It was the first time in the history of boxing a light heavyweight champion defeated the heavyweight champion. The setting for their encounter was the Convention Center in Atlantic City, NJ where Donald Trump was the “host” and sitting next to Muhammad Ali. When Holmes stepped through the ropes into the ring his left foot caught the ropes and he almost tripped. That may have been a sign of his “nervousness” fighting “the baddest fighter on the planet! Tyson then entered being led by his trainer Kevin Rooney and his now Executive Assistant Steve Lott. Ali would come into the ring and get a tremendous greeting when he was announced. He walked over to Holmes simply touching a glove with his hand. Then walked over to Tyson and whispered something in his ear. Would anyone want to speculate on what he said?
Holmes held a 4” height advantage and a 10” reach advantage and 10 pound’s heavier. Tyson came out in the 1st round landing 4 punches making Holmes grab him into a clinch. On the sixth clinch Holmes caused the referee Joe Cortez warned him about holding. Shortly after that a Tyson left hook to the head actually had Holmes “running” from Tyson. Seemed his “football left straight arm” was not holding Tyson back. On the eighth clinch of the 1st round again referee Cortez warned Holmes of holding. Tyson easily won the 1st round.
Between rounds Holmes was given a squirt of water that half of it came out of his mouth as he was taking deep breaths one after another. It was evident Holmes knew he was “in deep trouble”! In the 2nd round after the second clinch the referee told Holmes “that’s your last warning Larry!” Tyson proceeded to land a crushing Liston like jab to the mouth of Holmes that again had Holmes holding. After the fifth clinch of the round Holmes landed his first effective punch a right to the chin of Tyson. Then back tracking pushing out his left Holmes was warned “keep the left low”! After the seventh clinch by Holmes he was told “you are holding Larry”! Just prior to the bell an eighth clinch by Holmes with an obvious “fear” being hit to the body by Tyson. In the corner Tyson complained to Rooney “he’s holding me tight”! To that Rooney said “bull shit I don’t want to hear that crap”!
In the 3rd round Holmes though backing up wasn’t running and seemed to finally land the jab and possibly “making a stand do or die”! A pair of clinches would follow by Holmes when Tyson started to land to the body. Though Holmes landed an uppercut as Tyson came inside, Holmes grabbed Tyson into yet another clinch. A straight lead right by Tyson to the head of Holmes caused a fifth clinch by Holmes. Tyson landed what looked like a solid left hook just above the right hip of Holmes drew a warning from referee Cortez “keep them up Mike”. The punch seemed to shake Holmes up and caused yet another clinch (eighth). Tyson landed a solid right to the head of Holmes followed by a left hook at the bell as referee Cortez jumped between the fighters. As Holmes walked to his corner he seemed to point to Tyson as a “warning”! It was another good round by Tyson.
Holmes came out for the 4th round “dancing” and jabbing as expected prior to the beginning of the fight only to grab Tyson two more times into clinches. Seems the dancing was over as Tyson landed a left hook knocking Holmes back several feet. Upon the fourth clinch of the round the referee Cortez warned “you guys are holding lets go”! Tyson went after Holmes landing a solid right followed by a jab heard throughout the arena to the chin dropping Holmes who struggled to get up immediately grabbing the ropes for assistance and shaking his head twice obviously hurt while trying to clear the cob webs! At 8 the referee Cortez asked Holmes “how do you feel are you all right?” Holmes acknowledged “yes” with his head. An uppercut landed by Holmes to the mid-section which was countered by a wild right that seemed to graze the head of Holmes dropping him for a second time as he fell again with his legs going up in the air after hitting the canvas. Holmes walked to the nearest corner grabbed the top of the ropes and faced the referee who asked “are you all right?” Tyson landed 5 straight punches with Holmes back pedaling on unsteady legs. After landing another 4 punches Holmes returned with one that left him wide open for a pair of right’s to the head dropping Holmes this time on his back.
Referee Cortez immediately took out the mouthpiece of Holmes while waving to the ring physicians to hurry and get in the ring. As Holmes lay on the canvas Tyson stood several feet away with his hands on his hips in victory of an accomplishment of being the first and would be the last person to knockout Holmes in a career that lasted for 75 fights! Ring announcer Michael Buffer announced at “2:55 of the 4th round winner and still the undisputed and undefeated heavyweight champion Mike Tyson!”
As the doctors helped Holmes to his feet one of his corner men, possibly one of his two brothers in the ring yelled to “get out of the way” and had to be restrained by a police officer and then NJ commissioner Larry Hazzard.
Ring announcer Michael Buffer announced at “2:55 of the 4th round the winner and still the undisputed and undefeated heavyweight champion Iron Mike Tyson”! Tyson was ahead after 3 rounds 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 on the judge’s cards. How two of them ever gave Holmes 1 round this writer doesn’t’ know. To this day Holmes points to that fight and says “I did pretty good against Tyson.” If “pretty good” mean’s you were “knocked off your feet landing on your butt with feet in the air “pretty good” than why wasn’t he as complimentary some 14 years later when Eric Esch better known as “Butterbean” king of the 4 rounder’s? Seems Holmes always likes to have an “edge” and made the “Bean” sign for 10 rounds instead of the usual 4 rounds he previously fought in a 65-2-3 career. Hoping the “Bean” would be exhausted after 4 backfired when Holmes was dropped in the 10th and final round. It was as good a knockdown as Chuck Wepner had against Muhammad Ali!
At the Tyson-Holmes press conference prior to the fight the “victim” Holmes blamed the press by saying “if they cheer for me great but if they don’t it’s because of you guys”. Seems his arrogance was still there. At ringside this night in Bethlehem was one of Holmes’ opponents Gerry Cooney. After stopping the “white hope” Cooney Holmes said “I wish Cooney was black. Dennis Rappaport and Don King sold racism for that fight and never gave me my just dues.” Cooney hadn’t fought for 13 months prior to this fight which was a mistake on his management’s part.
Seems Holmes always had “someone else” to blame for his defeat’s. Something you never heard from Ali or Tyson!