It was the night which put the whole world on high alert to a primeval force come amongst us.
Thirty years ago, exactly, Michael Gerard Tyson became the youngest world champion in heavyweight history, a distinction he holds to this day.
This he achieved by reducing a strapping Jamaican giant far larger than himself to quivering jelly.
Knocked out? Trevor Berbick was fortunate not be decapitated.
All the tortured angst of Tyson’s ruinous childhood in a New York crack house, all that venom stored from the abuse inflicted upon him in a juvenile institution, came prowling into the ballroom of the Las Vegas Hilton hotel.
Intrigue turned to awe as this human wrecking ball went about his destructive business.
Tyson entered the ring in his work clothes, the simple white towelling top with black shorts and black boots which would become his trademark.
Berbick arrived via his victory over Pinklon Thomas at the onset of a tournament contrived by the WBC, WBA and IBF to answer public demand for a unified heavyweight champion.
Tyson’s knockout record had established him as the marginal favourite in the casinos. A late rush of money in the minutes before the first bell tightened the odds still further as Berbick was seen to be avoiding his challenger’s malevolent gaze.
The punters would be rewarded. Promptly.
A hesitant Berbick managed to land one hefty blow early in the first round. But when he saw it had no effect on Tyson he became more overawed.
Not without justification. It was not only the thunderous power but the lightning speed of Tyson which rendered so many opponents impotent.
So quick was the jab and so fast his combination that his co-manager Jim Jacobs remarked: ‘Berbick looks like he’s fighting in slow motion.’
The end came just as rapidly as the punches. A vicious left hook to the temple sent Berbick crashing to the canvas. He managed to beat the count but his survivalist attempt to cover up and hold on was undone by a rib-cracking right to the body.
As he dropped his guard, another short, savage left hook to the head had the tell-tale delayed effect of toppling him like a falling redwood tree in his adoptive Canada.
Again he rose, only to wobble back to his knees. Once more he clambered to his feet but was on the buckling legs of a drunk, his senses scrambled. He would have fallen again but for the remarkable strength shown by referee Mills Lane – a diminutive circuit judge in Nevada – in keeping this staggering hulk upright as he called an end with 25 seconds of round two remaining.
Tyson, in his case, was at the not-so-tender age of 20 years, four months, three weeks and two days.
Tyson’s first words to Jacobs: ‘Would Cus have liked that?’
Thus he dedicated his first world title to the memory of the late Cus D’Amato, to whom Tyson was paroled from juvenile detention at the age of 14 and who became not only his trainer but also his legal guardian.
D’Amato took the young Tyson into his sprawling house in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York and told him that despite his comparatively small stature – he never measured close to the 5ft 11 ½ touted in the statistics – he could become the heavyweight champion.
His new home also offered a safe haven for Tyson’s pigeons.
He had begun knocking out bigger men when, as a boy, he turned on a gangster, in his crime-ridden Brooklyn neighbourhood, who had ripped the head off one of his beloved birds.
Now, with the felling of Berbick, the legend of Iron Mike was born. Along with it a new, dark, brutally menacing era for prize-fighting as he said: ‘I was out for blood tonight.’
Onward he would storm to wrap up that unification tournament, defeating James Bonecrusher Smith and then Tony Tucker to become the first heavyweight to hold the WBC, WBA and IBF belts.
A one-minute and 31 seconds demolition of Michael Spinks – a petrified testament to Tyson’s aura of psychological intimidation – added the Ring Magazine and lineal title to his collection. Another unique distinction, still undisputed.
There were mighty troubles ahead. The greatest of all upsets by Buster Douglas in Tokyo four years later was but the first.
That rape conviction – one of several run-ins with the law – put him behind bars for what should have been three prime years of his fighting life. And these are by no means the half of his turbulent misadventures.
When he re-joined the society he sometimes frightened, he regained a world title with his second stoppage of our own Frank Bruno. Bu then came the biting of Holyfield’s ear in the second of two back-to-back defeats by the great Evander.
His career petered out into three defeats in his last four fights, peculiarly against men from these isles – Lennox Lewis, Danny Williams and Kevin McBride.
But by then the power and the glory, the speed and the will had faded.
Gone, too, was all the money. We watched and worried as this innately likeable but bipolar man of considerable but uneducated and therefore unformed intelligence blew $300million.
Floyd Mayweather beware. That sum would be worth today not much less than Mr Money’s estimated wealth of $600m. And while I looked on once as Iron Mike bought a six-pack of Rolls Bentleys, he did not purchase private planes by the squadron.
Easy come, easy go. It is harder, then, to turn your life around but that is one of Tyson’s finest achievements.
Iron Mike is now a devoted husband and loving father who earns a reasonable, steady living from the one-man stage show in which he recounts quite brilliantly the story of his triumphs, trials, tribulations and eventual salvation.
Berbick never fully recovered from being monstered by the baddest man on the planet.
The last man to meet and defeat Muhammad Ali in the ring drifted into a twilight world of drugs, theft, guns and four years imprisonment for rape.
Ten years ago he was found murdered in a church courtyard in the West Indies with chop wounds to his head.
Tyson, on the night he became the youngest of all time as well as the greatest since Ali, said: ‘I will also be the oldest heavyweight champion.’
Storms of controversy and Big George Foreman denied that prediction. More importantly, having once foretold that he would not live to 40, he celebrated his 50th birthday this June.
Congratulations, champ. Forever young.
|28||Win||28-0||Trevor Berbick||TKO||2 (12), 2:35||Nov 22, 1986||Las Vegas Hilton, Winchester, Nevada, U.S.|
|27||Win||27-0||Alfonso Ratliff||TKO||2 (10), 1:41||Sep 6, 1986||Las Vegas Hilton, Winchester, Nevada, U.S.|
|26||Win||26-0||Jos Ribalta||TKO||10 (10), 1:37||Aug 17, 1986||Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.|
|25||Win||25-0||Marvis Frazier||KO||1 (10), 0:30||Jul 26, 1986||Civic Center, Glens Falls, New York, U.S.|
|24||Win||24-0||Lorenzo Boyd||KO||2 (10), 1:43||Jul 11, 1986||Stevensville Hotel, Swan Lake, New York, U.S.|
|23||Win||23-0||William Hosea||KO||1 (10), 2:03||Jun 28, 1986||Houston Field House, Troy, New York, U.S.|
|22||Win||22-0||Reggie Gross||TKO||1 (10), 2:36||Jun 13, 1986||Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|21||Win||21-0||Mitch Green||UD||10||May 20, 1986||Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|20||Win||20-0||James Tillis||UD||10||May 9, 1986||Civic Center, Glens Falls, New York, U.S.|
|19||Win||19-0||Steve Zouski||KO||3 (10), 2:39||Mar 10, 1986||Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, New York, U.S.|
|18||Win||18-0||Jesse Ferguson||TKO||6 (10), 1:19||Feb 16, 1986||Houston Field House, Troy, New York, U.S.|
|17||Win||17-0||Mike Jameson||TKO||5 (8), 0:46||Jan 24, 1986||Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.|
|16||Win||16-0||David Jaco||TKO||1 (10), 2:16||Jan 11, 1986||Plaza Convention Center, Albany, New York, U.S.|
|15||Win||15-0||Mark Young||TKO||1 (10), 0:50||Dec 27, 1985||Coliseum, Latham, New York, U.S.|
|14||Win||14-0||Sammy Scaff||TKO||1 (10), 1:19||Dec 6, 1985||Felt Forum, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|13||Win||13-0||Conroy Nelson||TKO||2 (8), 0:30||Nov 22, 1985||Coliseum, Latham, New York, U.S.|
|12||Win||12-0||Eddie Richardson||KO||1 (8), 1:17||Nov 13, 1985||Ramada Hotel, Houston, Texas, U.S.|
|11||Win||11-0||Sterling Benjamin||TKO||1 (8), 0:54||Nov 1, 1985||Coliseum, Latham, New York, U.S.|
|10||Win||10-0||Robert Colay||KO||1 (8), 0:37||Oct 25, 1985||Atlantis Hotel and Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.|
|9||Win||9-0||Donnie Long||TKO||1 (6), 1:28||Oct 9, 1985||Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.|
|8||Win||8-0||Michael Johnson||KO||1 (6), 0:39||Sep 5, 1985||Atlantis Hotel and Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.|
|7||Win||7-0||Lorenzo Canady||KO||1 (6), 1:05||Aug 15, 1985||Resorts International, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.|
|6||Win||6-0||Larry Sims||KO||3 (6), 2:04||Jul 19, 1985||Mid-Hudson Civic Center, Poughkeepsie, New York, U.S.|
|5||Win||5-0||John Alderson||TKO||2 (6), 3:00||Jul 11, 1985||Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.|
|4||Win||4-0||Ricardo Spain||TKO||1 (6), 0:39||Jun 20, 1985||Resorts International, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.|
|3||Win||3-0||Don Halpin||KO||4 (4), 1:04||May 23, 1985||Albany, New York, U.S.|
|2||Win||2-0||Trent Singleton||TKO||1 (4), 0:52||Apr 10, 1985||Albany, New York, U.S.|
|1||Win||1-0||Hector Mercedes||TKO||1 (4), 1:47||Mar 6, 1985||Plaza Convention Center, Albany, New York, U.S.|