IT took Donovan “Razor” Ruddock 16 months to get Mike Tyson into the ring after the former heavyweight champion withdrew from a title defence back in November 1989. But just minutes after the Canadian was stopped controversially in seven rounds at the outdoor Mirage arena, both fighters were talking rematch.
March must be a bad time of year for referee Richard Steele. As Ruddock fell back unsteadily into the ropes after absorbing Tyson’s best string of punches in the fight, Steele called it off.
Almost exactly one year ago to the day, Steele stepped in with two seconds left to save Meldrick Taylor, leading on points, against Julio Cesar Chavez in another highly debatable call.
But while Steele appeared to be hasty in waving this 12-round heavyweight title eliminator off, Tyson looked to be on the way to sending the hard-punching Ruddock to the canvas.
The sequence of punches he put together reminded me of the way Tyson ended Pinklon Thomas’ challenge in May 1987. If Tyson had been allowed to continue punching Ruddock probably would have gone down.
“I’m not happy,” Tyson said afterwards. “I can do better. Let’s fight again. I fear no man.”
It was the Canadian who came out of the fight the moral winner. Nobody expected him to show so much grit after absorbing countless rights and lefts as well as some bludgeoning body shots.
While Steele was booed from the ring as he left under security escort, the former champion followed with a similar reception. It wasn’t a typical Tyson performance.
Then followed a huge melee as the ring erupted into some sort of football terrace scrap. Once the fighting was calmed down the ring was cleared and the talk started for Tyson-Ruddock II.
“It was a tough fight but I knew from the third that I would win,” said Tyson. As for Richard Steele, I can’t make a judgement. He’s an experienced referee and I’m not his peer.
“My main objective was to dominate, to beat him slowly,” added Tyson and that he did.
Whatever happened to the fast hands, the foot and upper body movements that once made Tyson such a fearsome fighter? It was simply a show of strength and power from both men. From the first bell the intention of each fighter was to score a knockout.
Tyson was a terrible disappointment. Although he sent Ruddock to the canvas twice (early in the second, with a left that actually landed on the elbow, and with a volley of punches in the third), he was badly shaken at the end of the sixth round before turning it on in the seventh.
It was an exciting fight but a slow, heavy-hitting affair, not the kind of encounter you are used to seeing Tyson involved in.
A return fight just wouldn’t stir any interest. We know Tyson is the better man, but only just.
Tyson was full of respect for his Jamaican-born opponent.
“After the third I thought ‘Oh God, he’s not that bad’ but he has never fought a fighter like me.”
And of the finish, Tyson added: “He wasn’t going to last the round.”
Tyson looked solid at 15st 7lbs. Ruddock was equally impressive-looking at 16st 4lbs.
But while everyone anticipated a quick Tyson rush off the blocks, he wisely showed caution.
Tyson kept his hands up but the movement was slow. Ruddock claimed to be more versatile, but proved to be a one-punch fighter. His jab was non-existent and he barely threw the right.
Ruddock, who had won his last 10 fights inside, just couldn’t connect with his potent hooks. Tyson was doing all the scoring, but the former champion, 39-1 (35) going in, ended the fourth with a cut inside the bottom lip.
With Tyson moving so directly and slowly it was extraordinary how often Ruddock failed to find his target, though.
By the halfway point the pace had slowed again. But then Ruddock connected with a right in the sixth and Tyson looked hurt. He tried to hold the ropes.
All the action was inside. Tyson then stepped back to land a big left hook and Ruddock punched straight back at him. Another just missed the shorter Tyson and Tyson made him pay, wobbling Ruddock’s legs with an overhand right.
Ruddock was in trouble and Tyson moved in to finish it. Big combinations – a left-right, then another, then another – thudded into Ruddock and he fell backwards into the ropes.
Tyson was ready to race across and finish it but referee Steele decided he had seen enough with 2mins 22 seconds of the round gone.
Ruddock lost for the second time in a 28 with 25 wins (18 inside schedule) and a draw.
Now Tyson will meet Renaldo Snipes on June 8 in Las Vegas. A projected bout with unbeaten prospect Riddick Bowe fell through but Bowe’s manager Rock Newman was quick to get the ball rolling again for a showdown with Tyson.
Having turned down a match with Tyson because a $3m offer wasn’t big enough, Newman says his man will take a smaller cut to meet Tyson now.
“He [Bowe] saw things that made him want to fight Mike Tyson,” said Newman. He won’t be the only one thinking along those lines. Tyson, simply, isn’t the same man since that crushing defeat in Tokyo.