Iron Mike Tyson, the youngest man to ever claim a portion of the heavyweight championship and a fighter once known as the “baddest man on the planet”, officially retired from boxing June 11, 2005 after a surprising defeat to unheralded Kevin McBride. The fight itself saw the former Champion struggling to land his shots, getting fatigued rather quickly and ultimately fouling his opponent in more ways than one in what was becoming a competitive fight. At the start of the 6th round, Tyson sensing some urgency put forth an attack on McBride in an effort to end the match, but saw this attempt like many of his others on the night ending with the much larger man tying him up. This was the beginning of the end for Tyson, as he let frustrations overtake him and began to foul McBride. First came a warning from Joe Cortez for trying to break McBride’s arm in a clinch, and then came a two point deduction for an intentional head butt that left Kevin bleeding from the eye. Undeterred by what was happening in the ring, McBride continued doing what he had done all night and that was simply tying up, leaning on, and hitting Mike with short shots on the inside. At the end of the 6th round, McBride leaned on top of Tyson once again, this time causing Mike to collapse to the canvas where he struggled to get back to his feet. Once back to his corner, his trainer Jeff Fenech decided Mike had enough, and called a halt to the match, leaving the once most feared boxer in the world retiring on his stool.
To most boxing fans, the lasting image of Iron Mike’s final career bout were that of a boxer who could no longer fight effectively in the ring, and a fighter who was so exhausted at the end of a match that he was reaching up to the referee looking for help to get back to his feet. I like to think of his final ring appearance a little bit differently, mainly because the fight with Kevin McBride was not the final time Mike Tyson fought inside the ring. Back in September 2006 the ‘Mike Tyson World Tour’ was announced, in which Tyson would fight a series of 4 round exhibitions around the world in an effort to alleviate some of his debts and improve his self-esteem. Some wondered if this world tour was the start of something bigger and if Mike was successful that this could launch a serious comeback. The first fight was scheduled for October 20, 2006 in Youngstown, Ohio against former sparring partner Cory “T-rex” Sanders. The fight was to consist of 4 two and a half minute rounds in which his opponent would be allowed to wear head gear. Mike entered the fight in reasonable shape and weighed in at 241.5 lbs, while Sanders came in actually lighter and in better shape than a lot of his recent professional bouts weighing in at 292.5.
The crowd waited in an anticipation to once again see Mike Tyson enter the ring in hopes of seeing glimpses of the fighter he used to be in the past. Mike came in wearing a white tee-shirt, had on his trademark black shorts & black shoes, and seemed to be enjoying the atmosphere. The bell for the first round rang, and as things started it was clear that this was a much more relaxed version of Tyson. He went out there giving more ring movement, working both the head and body, not really trying to overwhelm his opponent. About 20 seconds into the match Tyson unleashed a 5 punch combination ending with a right hand that dropped Sanders, and left him on the canvas having to work his way back to his feet. It was clear that even at age 40, Iron Mike was in there with an overmatched opponent. As the round continued, Sanders started to look more and more like he was just there to be a human punching bag, as he offered little resistance to punches that were fired his way. Towards the end of the first, Mike again hit Sanders a big right hand that had him on shaky legs and seemingly ready to fall if not for the fact that Tyson had held him up after the shot. As the first round drew to a close, the crowd seemed less than happy with the action and intensity being put forth in front of them. The second, third, and fourth rounds brought much of the same where Mike would throw a series of hard shots, but not consistently enough to get Sanders out of there. It was clear he wanted to give the fans a show, but not hurt his opponent. When all was said and done, Mike Tyson won every second of every round, but there was no decision rendered, and while crowd seemed disappointed with the main event, they still gave Mike a strong round of applause upon hearing his name announced for the final time.
The bout with Sanders was supposed to be the start of the world tour, but it was really the end, as it seemed fan interest died off and Mike’s outside the ring issues prevented him from ever getting back into it. History remembers Tyson in a lot of ways, but when looking back on how his career ended I don’t see it happening in the Kevin McBride fight, I see it ending here. For me, the final image of Mike Tyson in the ring was not that of a boxer reaching up to the referee looking for help, but that of a person who no longer had the same ferocity to finish an opponent, to the point where actually went out of his way to help one. In my eyes the end did not come with him quitting on his stool, it came in a exhibition match in which he clearly proved he still had enough skills to box, but also showed that he lacked the desire he once had to truly succeed with it.
When you look at Tyson today, some people see him as the likable guy from the 'Hangover' movies and others still remember him when he was the “baddest man on the planet” because love him or hate him, he had a great impact not just in boxing but also on sports culture. It's hard to believe that it's been 8 years to the day since the last official bout of Tyson's career, and even though he has been retired all this time if he were ever to announce another comeback, you would still find fans willing to pay anything to see it, as the aura of Mike Tyson still remains. But with all this said, I think it is great that Mike seems to have found a life after boxing, and has the success that he has had with his Broadway show, because for awhile it did really look like he would just fade off to Bolivia, but now it seems he has found his place in the world and it just happens that it's no longer in the boxing ring.
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