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There can be only one:- Tyson vs Spinks


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(by Wheelchair)


These days Heavyweight champions are two-a-penny. Belts are worth less than old junk at a boot sale, the Heavyweight crown is tarnished and rusty, and for over twenty-three years there have been multiple claimants to the throne.


It's a long while ago now since there was just one World Heavyweight Champion. The fight to decide the sole champion in the sport's then premier division took place on the 27th June 1988. It was a happy day for fight fans the world over, finally the wheat would be separated from the chaff, and the arguments over the crown would stop.


It was between the youngest ever Heavyweight title claimant, Mike Tyson, who held the WBC, WBA and IBF crowns, and Michael Spinks, the holder of the lineal Heavyweight title, traceable back to John L. Sullivan. Both fighters were undefeated, and there was the largest purse in history at stake. It was a fight that was to be watched the whole world over.


The fight was originally to have taken place a year earlier, but Spinks had relinquished his IBF title to take on Gerry Cooney in a highly paid, less risky fight than the one the IBF had mandated.


Tyson had burst onto the Heavyweight scene in double quick time, becoming WBC champion by destroying Trevor Berbick in two rounds of brutality and pain. Tyson's reputation and formidable punching power had the eccentric Berbick terrified even before the fight started, and the victory for the young pretender was a mere formality.


Iron Mike then gained the WBA belt from Bonecrusher Smith in a boring clinch-fest of a fight, and looked to consolidate his position as the best Heavyweight on the planet by beating the IBF champion Spinks. However, things didn't go as planned.


Having been a former undisputed 175lbs champion, Spinks had become the first Light-Heavyweight in boxing history to move up and win the Heavyweight title with his 15 round decision victory over Larry Holmes, whom he then beat in a rematch. Spinks then defended his crown against Steffen Tangstad, after which, he was due to face Tyson in the final of the Heavyweight Unification Tournament.


However, Spinks and his manager Butch Lewis decided that a big-money, low-risk fight with Gerry Cooney was the preferable option to facing Iron Mike. The IBF stripped Spinks of his crown, for failing to fight Tony Tucker, but he was undeterred. He in fact was the true Heavyweight Champ, his title could be traced back to the start of the modern era. Tyson may have had more belts, and the attention of the public, but in the eyes of the afficionados, Spinks was still king. This had to be resolved, once and for all.


Having beaten Tony Tucker for his IBF title, Tyson now held all the alphabet belts, and the calls for a Tyson-Spinks bout were growing louder. Having subsequently seen off challenges from Tyrell Biggs, Larry Holmes and Tony Tubbs, Mike was ready for the megafight with Spinks. Could this be the fight that would finally see Tyson defeated? It was an intriguing thought.


Although initially reluctant to face Tyson, many thought that Spinks could win the fight. Bert Sugar, the then editor of Boxing Illustrated went on record to say that he thought Michael's superior boxing ability would give him the victory. Afterall, Spinks was unbeaten too, and had reigned as undisputed champion over the 175lbs division. He had also never been off his feet as a pro. Tyson had been given tougher fights than expected by James Tillis and Tony Tucker, leading many to believe that an awkward, fast and slippery boxing style would be the style to beat him. Spinks had the required boxing skills, and a hard night for Tyson seemed in store.


Tyson was the favourite to win, but a long fight was expected. It was the general consensus that Spinks would need to get through the opening rounds and try to steal the fight on points. A Bonecrusher style clinch-a-thon was also a possibility. Once tasting Iron Mike's power, some thought Spinks might try to spoil his was through to the finish. A first round ending? Not even considered!


In the dressing room before the fight, Tyson was very hyped up and ready to go. So much so that he punched holes into the dressing room wall. News of this reached Spinks, who was feeling the pressure, but he seemed fairly relaxed as he entered the ring. Tyson prowled around the ring in his familiar manner, all pent-up aggression and impatient for the off.


Introductions and referee's instructions finally over, all was now ready. The first bell sounded, and Tyson immediately pressed home his attack, throwing hooks to Spinks body and head. Spinks tried to fire back with his right hand, but he had to concentrate on covering up to avoid Mike's powerful hooks.


An early clinch saw Tyson warned for a stray elbow, and the fighters resumed the action with Spinks quickly moving back toward the ropes as Tyson advanced. Spinks was still looking to land his right hand on the advancing Tyson, but he was forced to back up as Tyson landed some vicious right hands of his own.


Mike then followed up with a crunching left hook to Spinks' jaw, followed by a right to the body. Spinks had nowhere to go, and took a knee, rising almost immediately. It was the first time in his long career that he'd ever been down. For Spinks however, worse was to follow...


Having been given a standing eight count, Spinks again fired his right cross as the action resumed, he wanted to fight back rather than merely survive. Unfortunantly for him his punch not only missed the intended target, it left him wide open to a short, powerful and devastating right from Tyson, the effect of which deposited Spinks on his back.


Michael's head banged against the canvas, and it was obvious he was in trouble. Valiantly he tried to rise, but could only crash headfirst into the ropes as his legs gave way. It was all over in just ninety-one seconds.


So the youngster had done it. He was now the best Heavyweight on the planet without any shadow of doubt, and it seemed he would reign for a long time yet. Spinks decided he'd fought his last battle and retired from the ring, never to return. His had been a great career, and he could lay claim to being on of the best Light-Heavies of all time, but Tyson had destroyed him. It was a humiliating defeat.


For boxing though, the happy outcome of having one World Heavyweight Champion was not to last.


With Iron Mike Tyson having become the first Undisputed Heavyweight Champion since Leon Spinks back in 1978, it seemed that a new era was starting for the division. On the 6th of May 1989 however, Francesco Damiani KO'd Johnny DuPlooy in three rounds to win the inaugural WBO heavyweight title. It didn't matter that Damiani was not fit to share the same ring as Tyson, and that the whole world saw otherwise, the WBO in all their cretinous, fatuous and mindbending stupidity decided Tyson was not their champion. That was where the rot set in, and it has been that way ever since.


Another truly Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion with all belts and a lineal claim? I doubt it will happen again for a very long time to come. It's a great shame, and one of the reasons why the noble art is seemingly in a terminal decline. If only Haye and the Klitschko's would see sense and fight.

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