Mike Tyson vs. Pinklon Thomas

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Mike Tyson 219 lbs beat Pinklon Thomas 218 lbs by TKO at 2:00 in round 6 of 12

Sanctioning Problems

On March 30, 1987, promoter Don King announced that Mike Tyson would defend the WBC and WBA heavyweight titles against Pinklon Thomas, ranked No. 1 by the WBC and No. 3 by the WBA, on May 30 at the Las Vegas Hilton.

On March 31, the Associated Press reported: "Murray Goodman, a publicist for King, said the Tyson-Thomas fight is scheduled for 15 rounds--the WBA limit--at the Las Vegas Hilton. WBC championship bouts usually are 12 rounds. WBC and WBA officials expressed surprise at King's announcement and said their organizations might not sanction the bout. Alberto Aleman, adviser to WBA President Gilberto Mendoza, said Tyson should be required to fight the association's top-ranked contender, Tyrell Biggs. 'He's skipping No. 1 and No. 2 (Tony Tucker) to fight No. 3,' Aleman said from his home in Panama City, Panama. 'Why? I don't know why.' WBC President Jose Sulaiman said the fight should be 12 rounds, rather than 15, because Tyson would be making a mandatory WBC title defense against Thomas. But he said he is hopeful the WBA and WBC can agree on a set of rules that will allow Tyson to defend both titles." [1]

On April 1, the AP reported that the fight would be scheduled for 12 rounds. "Don made a mistake," Murray Goodman said. "He thought it was 15 rounds." [2]

Phil Berger of the New York Times reported on May 7: "[T]he Nevada State Athletic Commission ... voted on April 3 to drop its membership in the WBA. ... According to Duane Ford, the chairman of the Nevada commission, his organization's withdrawal was brought about in part because of the WBA's policy of sanctioning fighters and officials from South Africa. Ford also said the WBA had alienated commission members by threatening to remove its sanction from fights in Nevada on those occasions when the state commission deemed WBA officials unqualified. ... In a letter dated April 16, Harold Buck, executive director of the Nevada commission, advised the WBA of his organization's withdrawal, and said that in whatever future WBA fights were held in Nevada, the state commission would select bout officials and insist on its own rules." [3]

As a result of the commission's decision, the WBA withdrew their sanction of all title fights in Nevada and threatened to strip champions who fought in the state. However, they relented the following month.

Richard Hoffer of the Los Angeles Times reported on May 16: "The Nevada State Athletic Commission has backed off a bit on its decision to blacklist the WBA, but only after the WBA made some promises. The WBA "shocked us," said Commissioner Duane Ford, when an executive contingent arrived from Venezuela with a letter that said the organization would withdraw from apartheid South Africa and take those fighters out of their ratings. In addition, the WBA promised to be on better behavior when assigning judges to title bouts. Previously, the organization had operated in a somewhat heavy-handed manner. By a 3-2 vote, reached with some hard feelings, the commission agreed to extend a show of good faith to the WBA, which has until October to legislate these promises at its annual meeting." [4]

By Phil Berger, the New York Times, May 31, 1987

Mike Tyson retained his World Boxing Council-World Boxing Association heavyweight title tonight, knocking out Pinklon Thomas at 2 minutes of the sixth round of their scheduled 12-round fight in the Las Vegas Hilton Outdoor Stadium.

The end came after a fast and furious first round by Tyson was defused by Thomas, who resorted to jab-and-grab tactics that left Tyson groping for a way out of his foe's grasp.

For Tyson, the answer came abruptly in the sixth. He hurt Thomas with a right to the body, followed swiftly by a right uppercut to the chin. That punch sequence is a favorite of Tyson's, and often produces great damage. But for Iron Mike, it was a left hook to Thomas's head that put The Pink Man, as Thomas is called, in deep trouble.

When the left hook landed, Thomas reeled backward, with Tyson in hot pursuit. Tyson let his hands go, pounding Thomas with rights and lefts until Thomas, a 29-year-old fighter from Los Angeles, fell backward onto the canvas.

Thomas was glassy-eyed, and blood was streaming down his face. Referee Carlos Padilla leaned over Thomas and began his count. By the time he got to nine, Thomas's trainer, Angelo Dundee, had climbed into the ring and was signaling that he wanted the fight ended. Padilla ended it, and the fight was officially declared a technical knockout.

In the preceding fight, Tony Tucker won the vacated International Boxing Federation heavyweight title when he stopped James (Buster) Douglas at 1 minute 36 seconds of the 10th round of a scheduled 15-rounder.

In winning the bout, Tucker earned the dubious prospect of fighting Tyson in the final of Home Box Office's heavyweight unification series on Aug. 1 here.

Off his showing tonight, Tucker is no great threat to the 20-year-old Tyson. Tucker appears neither a clever enough fighter to avoid Tyson's blows, nor a stiff enough puncher to discourage him. His ability to withstand a punch is suspect, too. Douglas, a clever but not overpowering fighter, shook him several times before fatigue began to set in.

Not that Tyson is without flaws. As James (Bonecrusher) Smith did in Tyson's last title defense in March, Thomas was able to keep Tyson offstride, after the first round, with the jab-and-grab tactics.

When forced to fight at close quarters, Tyson becomes strangely inert. What's more, against fighters who are prone to clinch, Tyson's jab has proved inferior to the rest of his arsenal. The short-armed jab of the champion lacks the snap and frequency against opponents who clinch.

Against Thomas, Tyson came out with a bombs-away fight plan that nearly made an early evening of it.

He hurt Thomas and bloodied him with devastating lefts and rights, and seemed on the verge of finishing the former W.B.C. champion. But Thomas - who, as Tyson said afterward, took "a great shot" - survived the round and, rather than trade punches with Tyson, went to Plan B. That was a more conservative approach, and Thomas had his moments with it, using a heavy-handed jab to keep Tyson offstride and then tying him up when the Catskill, N.Y., slugger moved in. At times, he met the oncoming Tyson with short right hands. Mostly, though, he confounded Tyson by frequent clinches. When Tyson couldn't find a way to stop the clinches, the crowd of 12,706 booed on more than one occasion.

Before the sixth round, Thomas had to change the glove of his left hand when, he said, the attached thumb on the glove began to come apart.

"The feeling of the new glove was awkward," Thomas said. "What blew my mind was that glove. I thought I had a roll going with Mike."

Tyson admitted he was not entirely satisfied with his performance.

"The fight didn't go my way," Tyson said. "I can't make excuses. It was almost two bum fights in a row, which is no good financially."

But the champion said he thought eventually he would get to Thomas.

"I knew it was not going to last," Tyson said. "He didn't have anything for me."

Tyson revealed that his trainer, Kevin Rooney, was urging him between rounds to box more. But in the minute interval between the fifth and sixth rounds, Tyson said he asked Rooney for "one more round" to pursue his own approach. That approach was bombs-away. And it worked.

Now Tyson can look forward to the Tucker bout. While Tucker is not yet signed, his promoter, Cedric Kushner, indicated that he expected the negotiations to be resolved so that a unification bout would take place.

Whoever emerges as the victor in that Aug. 1 match would be the first unified champion since 1978, when Leon Spinks beat Muhammad Ali.

Of course, that title may be undercut even before the unified bout is waged. After Michael Spinks and Gerry Cooney meet on June 15 in Atlantic City in a bout billed as The Heavyweight Championship, the winner is likely to claim he is the real champion. While the Spinks-Cooney bout lacks the sanction of the three governing bodies of the sport - the W.B.C., W.B.A. and I.B.F. - the victory is expected to be recognized as the heavyweight champion by several state commissions.

With the victory, Tyson is now 30-0 with 27 knockouts. Thomas's record goes to 29-2-1 with 24 knockouts. [5]


  • "It was my pleasure to give you a shot at the title, because you deserve it." Tyson to Thomas in the ring following the bout.
  • "I knew he wasn't getting up, but I was hoping he would." Tyson after the fight
  • "My strategy, which I thought was working, was to touch him in the body, keep touching him inside. I would have picked up the pace in the later rounds. What really blew my mind was the glove split. I thought I had a roll going." Thomas after the fight [6]
  • "Mike was a real good fighter, but I also think at that time, he was vulnerable to get beat with the style that Buster Douglas ultimately used in beating him, which I thought I had as well. Before our fight, I was working with 'Scrap Iron' Johnson and during sparring I exchanged right hands with my sparring partner and my right shoulder popped. I went to a chiropractor and they didn’t do much there for me. A few weeks before the fight, Angelo Dundee my trainer, told me not to take the fight, but I figured I could beat him with my jab which was pretty good. But, I found out in the fight, I could not stick and move which caused me to get caught and that was the end of the fight." Pinklon Thomas during a 2003 interview with Brad Berkwitt of Ringside Report [7]