By James Blears
Today November 22nd is the thirty fifth epic anniversary of when Mike Tyson became the youngest man to win the heavyweight championship of the World, when aged twenty years, four months and twenty two days old, he TKO`d Trevor Berbick in round two of their encounter at the Las Vegas Hilton in Paradise Nevada.
It was a demonstration of extraordinary power, which has spanned the years, resonates over eras and will be forever remembered. A seismic benchmark in the history of the heavyweight division, which crowned Mike WBC wunderkind Champion. But tinged with wistful sadness, because Mike`s mentor and Guardian Cus D`Amato didn`t live to see it. Cus died on November 4th 1985 aged seventy seven of pneumonia in Mont Sinai Hospital, Manhattan. Cus and his Wife Camille Eward, had adopted Mike who`d become an orphan aged sixteen.
With this extraordinary victory Mike surpassed the record of Floyd Patterson, another Cus protégé and also devotee of the peek-a-boo style, who won the heavyweight title on November 30th 1956 with a KO of ageing Archie “Mongoose” Moore, when aged twenty one years ten months, three weeks and five days.
Trevor Berbick who had won the WBC heavyweight title that same year on March 22nd by defeating Pinklon Thomas by UD, came into his first title defense with a record of 31-4-1. Mike arrived with a record of 27-0. In that year Mike fought twelve times. Aged thirty two, Trevor was twelve years older than Mike.
On July 19th of that year, I met Trevor for the first and only time, at Wembley Stadium, on the night WBA Champion Tim Witherspoon KO`d Frank Bruno in the eleventh round. It was a tense, edgy and volatile evening, during which a thuggish drunken minority of the crowd were throwing coins. One narrowly missed the head of Guest of Honor Muhammad Ali, deflecting off the helmet of a Policeman.
Nevertheless, Trevor was in a relaxed, genial and expansive mood. I asked him who he`d be taking on in his own next fight. He smiled broadly and casually replied: “Oh some youngster called….Michael Tyson. He`s just a kid and I don`t see any problem there.” Fateful words!
Trevor was from Norwich, Port Antonio Jamaica. Coincidently Percell Tyson, who was listed as Mike`s biological father on the Birth Certificate, also originally came from Jamaica. That heritage was just about the only thing they had in common.
When they met in the ring, both were wearing black trunks. The champion had the prerogative choice of colors, but Mike was happy to accept the fine, because this was one of his major trademarks.
As Referee Mills Lane gave them their final instructions before the bell rang, Trevor looked pensive, while Mike was totally grimly focused. Trevor stood six feet two inches tall and weighed two hundred and nineteen pounds. Mike is five feet ten inches tall and on that night he weighed two hundred and twenty two pounds.
Mike was already known as a destructively fearsome puncher. Most of the pundits said Trevor would use his longer reach to keep the smaller man at bay. But, Trevor started the fight flat footed and toe to toe with “Iron Mike.” It was a cataclysmic tactical error.
A wonderfully conditioned and lithe Tyson tore into Berbick. The crowd gasped as short, clubbing blows connected to head and body. Instead of backing away and regrouping, the champion tried to retaliate and was getting hammered hard for his pains.
Towards the end of the first round, a four punch combination thudded in, very nearly dropping Trevor to the canvass. He staggered across the ring, and somehow stayed upright. Then the bell rang. As he walked back to his corner, still smarting, visibly hurt and palpably shocked, Trevor defiantly glared at Mike, who remained expressionless.
In round two Mike cut loose and connected with even harder and more damaging clusters of blows. A massive right to the body and then a left hook found their mark and Trevor collapsed on to canvass, almost in slow motion. The sheer force of those punches became evident to him and all who witnessed them, when he tried to get up. He semi rose and collapsed, pitching through the ropes.
Abashed and willing himself to stand up summoning up all of his determination, he again tried to get up but his sturdy legs had turned to elastic bands and with it his equilibrium had gone asunder, so he staggered and back down he went. With magnificent courage, he wouldn`t give up or give in and stood up at the third attempt.
But Mills Lane had seen enough. Tough and wiry, he held Trevor in his arms and mercifully halted it at two minutes and thirty five seconds. The fans simultaneously gaped in wonder, again gasped in sheer wonderment and breathed a collective sigh of relief. Still unsteady Trevor was helped back to his corner. Mike came up and sportingly draped an arm over his shoulder.
No one since has bettered this staggering feat at that age. It stands as an iconic moment in Boxing.
From there they went different ways. Mike strode on to more glories. Trevor was murdered on October 28th 2006 bludgeoned to death with a steel pipe at a church in Jamaica. His claim to fame was that he defeated The Muhammad Ali in 1981. It was the last fight of The Greatest.