On This Day: Mike Tyson unifies the heavyweight title with tough decision win over spirited Tony Tucker

mike tyson
Matt Christie reflects on the Mike Tyson vs Tony Tucker August 1 1987 showdown, for all the heavyweight marbles

1. THE world heavyweight title had been fractured since 1978, when Leon Spinks was stripped of his WBC title for granting Muhammad Ali a rematch. Although Michael Spinks was regarded as the ‘linear’ champion, this August 1 showdown between WBC and WBA boss Mike Tyson, and IBF leader Tony Tucker, was the culmination of HBO’s efforts to clean up the mess in the banner division.

2. TYSON did not enjoy a smooth build-up. In June he was accused of bear-hugging a female car park attendant and demanding a kiss. It was then alleged he struck her male colleague when he attempted rescue. Tyson was charged with assault but he ultimately settled out of court for $105,000.

3. TWO weeks before the fight with Tucker there were reports that the 21-year-old Tyson had fallen out with trainer Kevin Rooney and left training camp for four days.

4. TUCKER had problems of his own to overcome. A few days before the fight he was served with legal documents by Dennis Rappaport, who owned 21 per cent of his managerial contract, for unpaid fees to the sum of $540,000 for his last four fights.

5. THE Las Vegas Hilton hosted the warfare which was set for 15 rounds, only for the WBC to step in and demand it only go 12. They got their wish, and the day before the fight, it was announced the showdown would be scheduled for 12.

6.TUCKER, the 10-1 underdog, surprised everyone – Tyson included – by starting fast. A delightful left uppercut caught the onrushing Tyson perfectly, and the favourite briefly staggered back, his muscled legs scurrying back to keep him upright. But Tyson was not hurt and charged back into battle and took the round all three judges’ scorecards.

7. THE underdog remained a threat until the halfway point. His toned 6ft 5inches proving problematic for the shorter Tyson to penentrate. But Mike was unquestionably in control throughout, and in the fourth he showed fine form to land spite on Tucker’s body and head.

8. ‘TNT’, as the IBF champion was known, claimed afterwards he had hurt his right hand in training, and broke it midway through the fight. Tucker had considered withdrawing beforehand, but felt he would not be given another chance. His claims of injury seem accurate when the fight is reviewed; Tucker’s output certainly slowed from the sixth round. In the seventh he started to wind up his right hand, and land his left. Tyson did not like this and slammed home his own punches as Tucker repeatedly attempted the move.

9. AFTER 12 rounds of engrossing, but far from thrilling, fighting, Tyson was declared the winner via unanimous decision. Tucker disputed the scores – 119-111, 116-112, 118-113 – and claimed he deserved to win. No one believed him, of course, but the punch stats revealed he gave it a good go as he threw 40 more punches than Tyson’s 412. He was outlanded by 216 to 174, though, and Tyson’s shots carries a lot more weight.

10. TYSON was closing in on his peak but his trainer Kevin Rooney prophetically said: “His own boredom could be a problem. He could stay on top a long time—if that’s what he wants. That’s a big ‘if.’ That’s up to him. He’s under a lot of pressure, and the next few years will be a problem. He won’t mature until he’s 25.”

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