Mike Tyson and the Day That Boxing Died

Doug UrschelCorrespondent IJuly 15, 2009

18 Mar 1991:  Mike Tyson connects with a punch to the head of Donovan 'Razor' Ruddock during a bout at The Mirage in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tyson won the bout with a knockout in the seventh round. Mandatory Credit: Holly Stein  /Allsport

Today, professional boxing just isn't what it used to be.  Although that sounds great to some, it's terrible to many.

People who follow boxing know that as the Heavyweight Division goes, so goes all of boxing.  There are no Heavyweight boxers out there who appeal to the boxing masses.  If you are a boxing fan and you want to find a villain, look no further than your bathroom mirror.

Don't feel bad. You're an accomplice to the killing of boxing, not the one who pulled the trigger. That responsibility goes to Cus D'Amato, an old man who felt he had the right to die. 

His death began a sequence of events which led Mike Tyson from holding the Gold Medal in the 1982 Junior Olympics to serving a sentence for rape in an Indiana prison.  Between the aforementioned events, Mike Tyson became the youngest Heavyweight Champion of the World.

Tyson was born in Brooklyn, New York. His father deserted the family when Tyson was two years old and his mother died when he was 16. Mike had been arrested 38 times by the age of 13. Most of those arrests were for petty crimes. He also fought those who made fun of his high-pitched voice.

Mike found himself in the Tyron School for Boys, where no one made fun of his voice. He also met Bobby Stewart at the detention center. Bobby was a detention counselor, former boxer and a man who knew obvious boxing talent.

Bobby introduced Tyson to Cus D'Amato, who later removed Tyson from the detention center and became Tyson's de-facto father. D'Amato knew who and what Tyson was. D'Amato often said that Tyson, without a mother or father, became a troubled kid, lived in a tough Brooklyn neighborhood and had made mistakes.

D'Amato and trainer, Kevin Rooney, introduced Tyson to the profession of boxing.  Tyson loved it and D'Amato loved Tyson. The two of them became very close. D'Amato was just not a manager to Tyson, but the parents he never had. More than once, Tyson said he fought a specific fight for D'Amato. 

Tyson competed in the 1982 Junior Olympic Games and won the Gold Medal. Tyson's knockout of a foe in eight seconds remains an Olympic record.

Tyson's first professional fight was on March 6, 1985, when he defeated his foe in the first round by a knockout. He won 26 of his first 28 fights by knockout—16 in the first round! Suddenly, Tyson was known as "Iron Mike." 

Cus D'Amato died on November 4, 1985—the day boxing died. Enter Don King.

King is a boxing promoter, bookie, gambler, ex-felon and murderer. His infamous saying of "only in America" rang profoundly true when Tyson, following the death of D'Amato, signed a contract with King.

King has killed two men in separate incidents, 13 years apart. He killed his first man by shooting him in the back. It was determined to be "justifiable homicide."  The people in charge said that King shot the man when he was attempting to rob one of King's gambling houses. What? Like King says, "only in America."

The police said that the second killing involved King "stomping to death" one of his employees. King told the court that the man owed him $600. The first police officer on the scene testified that it was "a very brutal, almost demonic assault." King was found guilty of second degree murder and was released less than four years later.  Like King says, "only in America."

King got his meat-hooks into Tyson and it was only a matter of time. Tyson should have felt the dirt being shoveled on his face when he signed a contract with King.

Mike's longtime trainer, Kevin Rooney, was fired. Tyson loses a fight to a 42-1 underdog and met a beauty queen at a hotel. Tyson was accused of rape, arrested and convicted in a "hired" court.

The prosecutor was not an employee of the county where the trial was held.  The county hired an attorney as a "special prosecutor." Now let the farce begin.  

The female judge would not let favorable evidence toward Tyson to be heard by the jury. Evidence like the female, in question, inserting a birth control device in Tyson's bathroom, even though she testified that she had no idea that Tyson would ask for sex. The judge also wouldn't allow witnesses who would testify that the female, in question, told them that she was going to have sex with Tyson later that night.

The jury, with limited evidence presented it, found Tyson guilty. Tyson served three years in prison. He converted to Islam in prison. He came out a changed man. He didn't come out as, "Iron Mike Tyson, the Baddest Man on the Planet," but as Malik Abdul Aziz. Whatever.

"Aziz" abused alcoholic beverages, dangerous drugs, narcotics and the tattoo parlor. He also didn't display much common sense on where he placed his tattoos.

Once knowledgeable about boxing and his opponents, he began to threaten to eat their children, even though they had none.The referees didn't even take him seriously. When it was obvious that Evander Holyfield was head butting him, the ref ignored it. Even after Tyson made repeated complaints to the ref, he was ignored.  Tyson finally took the foul into his own mouth by chomping one of Evander's ears off.

Tyson, err, "Aziz", was the last of the Heavyweight boxers who has captivated the world. The first twenty rows of a Tyson fight was nothing but celebrities. People would pack the Tyson fights and watch on Pay-TV, even though a Tyson fight would, most likely, end in the first round.

Currently, boxing consists of little guys running around the ring, tapping at each other. The heavyweights change by the day. Few people know their names and even more couldn't care less.

It's often said that a man's demise is "wine, women, and song."

Tyson's wine was his abuse of alcoholic beverages and narcotics.  is history of dating the wrong woman, a turbulent marriage and a night at a hotel was his woman. The hiring of King and Tyson's inability to say the right things at the right time was his song.

That was strike three for Tyson and the passing of an era for us.