Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tyson vs. Spinks: Once and for All (1988)


All you have to do is compare opening statements by boxers Iron Mike Tyson and Michael Spinks to know exactly where their highly anticipated 1988 showdown was headed. For Tyson, it was: “My objective is to knock him out and win in spectacular fashion”. For Spinks, it was: “It feels good to have some terror in my life, something that really frightens me.” So, it really was no wonder that Tyson knocked Spinks out only 91 seconds into the first round of their bout between formerly undefeated heavyweight champions.

That’s right, before being destroyed by Tyson, Spinks had gone 31-0 as a professional fighter without a single opponent being able to knock him down, let alone knock him out. He was scheduled to go 12 rounds with Tyson, but before he knew it found himself flat on his back with his eyes rolling back in their sockets. It made Tyson the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, sporting a perfect 35-0 record, with 16 of his 31 knockouts coming in the first round. Signaling the point when Tyson was at the absolute apex of his game, the Spinks fight was to be followed by a downward spiral that saw Tyson segue a year of personal problems into a surprise upset defeat at the hands of Buster Douglas.

Staged at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, the Tyson-Spinks fight attracted quite an array of celebrity spectators including Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Paul Simon, Tom Brokaw, Jesse Jackson, Michael Jordan, and Magic Johnson. And then there was of course Tyson’s then-wife actress Robin Givens sitting ringside right next to promoter Don King. Citing shortcomings with her husband’s long-time management team, Givens expresses just how rough it can be for a world-class athletic superstar by stating: “If Michael has 50 million dollars and he’s supposed to have 70 million dollars, there’s a problem.”

The video does a great job, both analyzing the fight itself and capturing the circus atmosphere that was to consume Tyson from that point on. Announcer Larry Merchant spares no punches in calling things just how he saw them, including taking somewhat of a distant, in-studio shot at Tyson for failing to show up for an interview that would have been the primary highlight of this HBO-produced video. Luckily, Tyson’s trainer Kevin Rooney fills in to supply his insightful expertise with a few unintended laughs built in.

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