In our semi-regular column “They Reminisce”, we take a quick look back at some of the more memorable and lasting moments in sports and entertainment.
On this day in 1988, one of the most highly anticipated heavyweight title fights took place in Atlantic City between “Iron” Mike Tyson, who was 34-0 with 30 KO’s, and Michael Spinks, who was 31-0 with 21 KO’s.
Most people forget the incredible buildup to the matchup. Spinks was actually seen as someone who could defeat Tyson at the time and he’d previously accomplished something that Billy Conn, Archie Moore and a host of other greats had tried, but never succeeding at. When he won a decision over Larry Holmes, Spinks became the first light heavyweight champion to ever step up a weight class to win the then-coveted Heavyweight Championship of the World.
Holmes, in possession of a mule’s kick for a jab, had been champ for seven years ever since dethroning Ken Norton of his WBC belt in 1978. Throughout his career, Spinks had been effective in ducking and sliding away from big punches. He would work the science, the angles, his jabs and frustrate Tyson. At least that was the game plan that his legendary trainer Eddie Futch put together.
But Tyson ran through that cat in 91 seconds like a horrific case of diarrhea, needing only eight punches to earn $20 million. The fight was the highest grossing ever in the history of boxing at the time.
Those thoughts of Spinks having the heart and skill to take Mike out proved to be about as stupid and misguided as Aaron Hernandez.
When Mike followed a huge uppercut with a vicious right to the body, Spinks hit the canvas for the first time in his professional career. To his credit, he jumped right back up and threw a hard right that was quickly countered by a left hook.
Tyson then retired Spinks, and I mean literally retired him because he never fought again, with a flush right to the jaw that made his eyes roll into the back of his head. As Spinks asked the ref for a cheeseburger, strawberry shake and curly fries, his legs involuntarily did the Harlem Shake while laying flat on his back.
Sadly, this was the apex of Tyson’s career as well. Robin Givens, her mother and Don King, who’d all sunk their venomous fangs in prior to the Spinks fight in the aftermath of Cus D’Amato’s death, destroyed him. Two years later, so did Buster Douglass.