The year is 1986 and the heavyweight boxing scene is in need of its next lights-out star. The World Boxing Council (WBC), the World Boxing Association (WBA) and the International Boxing Federation (IBF) teamed up with HBO to create a heavyweight championship tournament with the ultimate prize of becoming the undisputed champion, the first since Leon Spinks in 1978.
The heavyweight unification series, also known as the Heavyweight World Series, saw the likes of Larry Holmes, Frank Bruno and Michael Spinks.
Berbick and Pinklon Thomas clashed earlier in the year in March. Berbick defeated Thomas via unanimous decision to gain the WBC title and become a world champion for the first time in his career. Little did he know that he would be keeping the belt warm for Tyson just a few months later.
‘Iron Mike’ was undefeated in 1986, and went into the fight at 12-0 for the year. He qualified for the series with a second-round knockout over Alfonso Ratliff.
Berbick was a 3-1 underdog even though he was the reigning and defending WBC champion.
At 32-years-old he was 12 years the senior and was sure to school the inexperienced Mike Tyson. Berbick was one of the lucky few in his career to have fought one of the true greats, Muhammad Ali. He won the bout via unanimous decision in 10 scheduled rounds.
Judgement Day – November 22, 1986
The challenger Tyson came into the bout weighing in at 221 lb (100kg) which would be six lbs heavier than his previous fight against Ratliff. Berbick would be the lighter of the two at 218 lbs (99 kg) and boast a three-inch height advantage.
A fantastic night of boxing at the Las Vegas Hilton in Paradise, Nevada was ahead. Fighting out of Catskill, New York, Tyson was all go wearing his famous black trunks and white towel. No glitz or glamour, just straight up ferocious punching power.
From the opening bell, Tyson applied the pressure onto Berbick by blasting numerous powerful blows to head and body. A flurry of punches towards the end of the first round saw Trevor dart across the other side of the ring as he was stunned by Tyson’s power.
Seconds out, it was the second round and the fear was distilled upon Berbicks face as he had to come face to face with Tyson again for another three minutes of punishment. Trevor began to use his jab to keep his range but he was unable to follow up any punches as Tyson used his iconic style of fighting.
Tyson dropped Berbick with a fast combination, but the champion was able to get up quickly and carry on. The fight finally ended at the 2:35 mark in the second round after a right to the body followed by a left hook dropped the 32-year-old. His legs turned to rubber and gave the referee no choice but to stop the bout.
Tyson proved to everyone what he was always going to do. He become the youngest heavyweight champion at the age of 20 years and 4 months, beating Floyd Patterson’s record of 21 years of age when he knocked out Archie Moore in 1956.
Post-fight Tyson took to the media with extreme confidence that he would carry with him for the rest of his career –
He said; “It would have happened to any fighter; I was throwing hydrogen bombs. Every punch was with murderous intention.”
“Emotionally it was a tough strain, but I wanted the championship so bad. There was no way I was leaving the ring without the belt… I’ve never watched him fight. I know when I’m on the ball that no one can ever beat me.”
The new kid on the block
A dominate decade was soon ahead of Mike, in the next round of the tournament he defeated James “Bonecrusher” Smith to unify the division and win the WBA title. He was then set up against IBF champion Tony Tucker in a match to unify all three major titles, Tyson would win via unanimous decision and become the well-deserved Undisputed Heavyweight champion.
With just one belt left to add to his impressive collection, Michael Spinks would still hold The Ring heavyweight title. In one of his most iconic performances of his career, Mike destroyed Spinks in the first round and looked like a god amongst men.
A three-year reign at the top of the food chain would later be ended in a shock defeat to Buster Douglas. Tyson lost the WBA, WBC and IBF titles in the 10th round in their 1990 bout and a true underdog story was written when Buster celebrated his victory.
‘Iron Mike’ returns for the first time in 15 years
At the matured age of 54, Tyson announced earlier in the year that he is returning to the fight game and will take on a fellow pound-for-pound great in Roy Jones Jr, 51, on November 28.
In an eight-round exhibition fight. The bout was initially scheduled to take place on September 12, however, the date was pushed back in order for limited fight fans to be in attendance.
In one of the biggest shock announcements of the year, the boxing world will be treated to a fantastic night of boxing as two legends stand toe to toe for possibly the last time.