Trevor Berbick vs. Mike Tyson
1986-11-22 : Mike Tyson 221¼ lbs beat Trevor Berbick 218½ lbs by TKO at 2:35 in round 2 of 12
- Location: Hilton Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
- Referee: Mills Lane
- Judge: Harry Gibbs 10-8
- Judge: Dave Moretti 10-9
- Judge: Rudy Ortega 10-9
- Ring Announcer: Chuck Hull
- Promoter: Dynamic Duo Inc. (Don King, Butch Lewis)
- Aired On: HBO World Championship Boxing (Main Event)
- World Boxing Council Heavyweight Title (1st defense of Berbick)
Berbick's passing in 2006 added a touch of poignancy to the 20th anniversary of this fight. It was at the tragic Jamaican's expense that boxing history was made on November 22, 1986. His conqueror was 20 year-old Mike Tyson, a rampaging throwback of a fighter from New York, who needed less than six minutes to blast his way into the record books at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel. Tyson came into the fight essentially untested but almost universally touted as the next great heavyweight in waiting. Not since Muhammad Ali had a young fighter generated such intense interest and expectation in such a short time. A crowd of about 8,800, including film stars and celebrities, soon found out what all the fuss was about.
After 27 straight wins, 25 by knockout, Tyson was bidding to topple Floyd Patterson as the youngest heavyweight champion ever in a fight that was billed as "Judgement Day". It was only Tyson's second fight in Vegas in his 21 month career. In his first Vegas fight 77 days earlier he had blown out the former cruiserweight champion Alfonso Ratliff in two rounds on the same bill as Michael Spinks's easy win over Norwegian Steffen Tangstad.
Larry Merchant, commentating for HBO, the giant cable TV network that was running a knockout series to find an undisputed heavyweight champion, told viewers: "The key to this fight for Tyson is to be patiently aggressive and not throw himself into clinches, as he has done." But Tyson came out with one aim in mind, to get rid of Berbick as quickly as he could. He attacked from the start and his job was made easier when Berbick opted to stand right in front of him instead of moving. The writing was on the wall at the end of the first round when Tyson sent Berbick staggering backwards across the ring with a four-punch combination. Tyson tried to finish it there but the bell intervened.
In a blatant show of bravado, Berbick poked his tongue out at Tyson as he walked back to his corner but almost everyone in the arena knew what was about to happen.Maybe not Berbick's trainer Angelo Dundee, who clearly still had enough faith in his man's chances to scream: "Where's the fucking sponge?" In the other corner, Tyson's trainer Kevin Rooney implored: "Go to the body first, then the head."
But Tyson wasn't listening. A long right hand at the start of the second round had Berbick rocking back on his heels, covering up, before two more left-rights sent the champion down for the first time Berbick climbed straight back up and nodded at referee Mills Lane, looking more embarrassed than hurt, almost as if he had slipped on a banana skin. But he must have known then that his reign was going to be a short one. Tyson continued to hammer him to head and body before administering the coup de grace, a right to the body followed by a stunning left hook to the temple. Berbick crashed down as if his legs had been cut from beneath him. He tried vainly to get up but collapsed again near the ropes. But Berbick was proud, if nothing else. Once again, he bravely attempted to regain his footing but his legs wouldn't carry him and he fell for the third time, onto his back. Berbick somehow got up again but lurched, via a turnbuckle, into the arms of Lane, who waved it off after 2 minutes, 35 seconds of the second round.
Tyson did not celebrate. Instead, he simply shrugged and planted a kiss on the lips of co-manager Jim Jacobs. Perhaps his reaction was not surprising. In the build-up to the fight, he told one interviewer tersely: "I'll win the title as surely as Tuesday follows Monday." In the face of such conviction, Berbick truly hadn't a prayer.
HBO analyst Sugar Ray Leonard, who was less than six months away from his fight with Marvin Hagler, said Tyson's win had left him "speechless", adding: "Mike Tyson did what Mike Tyson normally does and that's fight." Co-commentator Barry Tompkins confirmed: "Yeah, and that's with a capital F also!"
Afterwards, Tyson told the watching millions: "My record will last for immortality. It will never be broken." Twenty years on, that statement is beginning to look like one of the truest things Tyson ever said.
- Trevor Berbick 31-4-1 (23 KOs) vs. Mike Tyson 27-0 (25 KOs)
- Tyson entered as the # 1 heavyweight contender by both the WBC and WBA.
- At age 20, Tyson surpass Floyd Patterson (21) as the youngest world heavyweight champion in boxing history.
- At 33, Berbick was 13 years older than Tyson.
- Berbick opened as a 6/1 betting underdog, but it had changed to 3/1 by the time of the fight.
- The fight was part of HBO's heavyweight title unification tournament.
- Tyson was fined $5,000 by the Nevada Athletic Commission for wearing black trunks, as Berbick, the champion, was allowed to select his primary color first.
- Berbick had claimed the world title eight months earlier with a unanimous decision win over Pinklon Thomas (26-0-1).
- Tyson earned a then-career high of $1.5 million. Berbick was set to make $1.1 million, but nearly half of it was tied up in a court case with his former promoter Tom Prendergrast.
- Among the celebrities in attendance were movies stars Kirk Douglas, Eddie Murphy, Tony Danza, Rob Lowe, and Sylvester Stallone. Those from the sport included Muhammad Ali, Thomas Hearns, Archie Moore, Larry Holmes, Hector Camacho, and Michael Spinks.
- A few seconds before the fight Muhammad Ali, who had been sent into retirement five years earlier by Berbick, entered the ring and said to Tyson: "Avenge me".