You could almost hear the sigh from boxing fans when the proposed heavyweight title fight between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury was postponed again. The hope remains that Joshua and Fury will eventually get it on and unify the division. If both win their forthcoming fights – Joshua faces Oleksandr Usyk in London on Saturday night, with Fury taking on Wilder in Las Vegas next month – then surely all paths lead (sadly) to Saudi Arabia and a multi-million pound bout to unify the division.
A lot has changed in boxing in the last generation. The coronavirus pandemic has played its part but, between them, Joshua and Fury have only fought 14 times in the last five years. Mike Tyson had 15 fights in his first year as a professional, in 1985, before fighting 13 times in 1986 and clinching his first heavyweight title. Tyson had won 30 fights by the time he could legally buy a drink in the US; Joshua is 31 years old and is preparing for his 26th professional fight.
Of course, it is unfair to compare anyone to Tyson. He was a special boxer who emerged as an 18-year-old seemingly fully formed and ready for the top. As his first year as a professional would show, he was destined for greatness in the ring.
1) Hector Mercedes, 6 March 1985, first round
Tyson, wearing white shorts, immediately swarms over Hector Mercedes, a fighter who came into Tyson’s debut bout without a win in his three fights. A left arm jab sends Mercedes back and Tyson spots an opening. Soon Mercedes is back on the ropes with Tyson landing jarring blows to the body of his opponent.
Moving to the corner, the body shots continue before Mercedes falls to his knee. Shaking his head, Mercedes looks like he’s had the wind taken out of him, signalling that he cannot carry on. Boos can be heard, but Mercedes will not be the last to fall in the first round to Tyson. Fight time: 107 seconds.
2) Trent Singleton, 10 April 1985, first round
Another first-round demolition job, as Singleton is sent to the floor within the opening 15 seconds of the fight. After managing to stand up, he is then knocked down once more with a crunching left hook. A flurry of punches finishes the fight, although Singleton bravely, and shakily, gets to his feet before the referee stops the fight.
Thankfully, as Singleton picks himself up, Tyson manages to restrain himself from inflicting one final punch. His next opponent would not be so lucky. Fight time: 52 seconds.
3) Don Halpin, 23 May 1985, fourth round
It would be easy to dismiss many of Tyson’s early adversaries as bums. Yet the bravery required to step into the ring with the hungry young contender should not be underestimated. Don Halpin would be the first to take Tyson beyond the three-minute mark, taking some heavy blows as the fight progressed.
A right hand that Tyson unleashed in the fourth round was thundering, and Halpin did well to get up. Shortly afterwards he might have wished he had stayed down. Tyson sent Halpin sprawling in the corner, but as Halpin fell he was smashed with a completely unnecessary haymaker. The sight of Halpin’s head flying back was not pretty, and Tyson was rightly admonished for his behaviour. Fight time: 604 seconds.
4) Ricardo Spain, 20 June 1985, first round
Maybe the secret to fighting Tyson was to get out of there as quickly as possible. Ricardo Spain cannot be blamed for becoming the quickest victim (so far) of Tyson’s career. Hit with a solid right hand, Spain needed the ropes to get himself off the deck. It was merely delaying the inevitable.
A left to the side of the head completed Tyson’s work for the evening, as Spain’s legs justifiably turned to jelly. The Tyson bandwagon rolled on. Fight time: 39 seconds.
5) John Alderson, 11 July 1985, second round
Despite holding a big height advantage over Tyson, John Alderson was instantly on the back foot, his head snapped back by a left hand from Tyson in the opening round. The second round followed the same pattern, with Alderson losing his gum shield and legs after Tyson landed a right.
Alderson would be floored twice, slowly pulling himself up from the first knockdown – understandably with a lack of enthusiasm – before another right hand at the end of the round sent him down. The doctor rightfully assessed that the fight could not go on. Alderson did not look too disappointed with that verdict. Fight time: 360 seconds.
6) Larry Sims, 19 July 1985, third round
This fight is shrouded in mystery due to the fact that no footage exists. The camera crew covering the bout were apparently delayed by bad weather and Tyson had finished the job before they could start filming.
Jack Cowen, a man in Sims’ corner for the Tyson fight, would later describe the relentless nature of the victor. “He just comes out and overwhelms everyone. Sims is a losing fighter but a guy who usually hangs in there. He couldn’t against Tyson.” Even without the footage we get the picture. Fight time: 484 seconds
7) Lorenzo Canady, 15 August 1985, first round
Another quick victory for Tyson, his first left of the night sending Lorenzo Canady sprawling across the ropes. Canady beat the count and bounced up and down on his feet. But the eyes give away that there is more pain to come.
Tyson surged forwards, landing punches that threw Canady back on to the ropes. Eventually trapped in the corner, there was no escape. Canady dropped to his knees before referee Joe Cortez called off the fight. Tyson’s fourth win the first round; number five was not far away. Fight time: 65 seconds
8) Michael Johnson, 5 September 1985, first round
You could almost feel the pain of Michael Johnson as Tyson landed a thumping left to his body shortly into their fight in Atlantic City. Just like Canady, Johnson stood up quickly, yet the reluctant look across his face suggested he would go the same way.
There was no getting up from the next punch. Walking towards Johnson, Tyson landed the sweetest of right hands on the chin of his opponent. Johnson was down for nearly four minutes, before groggily getting to his feet. Sport hurts. Fight time: 39 seconds
9) Donnie Long, 9 October 1985, first round
Another great left hook would signal the beginning of the end in Tyson’s next fight. Donnie Long staggered to his feet but stood little chance as Tyson sniffed blood. Put down again, Long simply could not hold back the furious tide heading his way.
Long tried to exchange blows briefly, but a short left hand ended the bout, as Long became the latest of Tyson’s opponents to finish in a bewildered and dazed state. Just 16 days later there would be another fighter added to that list. Fight time: 98 seconds
10) Robert Colay, 25 October 1985, first round
The fights just kept on coming for Tyson but, because he was making such short work of his opponents, he could carry on chalking up the wins. Fighting in blue shorts against Robert Colay, Tyson gain what would be the second quickest win of his career.
Hit by a left hook, Colay attempted to get to his feet, yet such was the force of the blow that his legs wobbled as he stood up just before the count. Fortunately referee Ted Pick had seen enough. Fight time: 37 seconds
11) Sterling Benjamin, 1 November 1985, first round
Three days later, Tyson’s guiding light Cus D’Amato died of pneumonia. After losing his legal guardian, trainer and manager, Tyson was vulnerable to the vultures circling in boxing. Who knows whether or not Tyson would have gone down the same path had D’Amato lived for a few more years. It was definitely a turning point in his career and life. Fight time: 54 seconds
12) Eddie Richardson, 13 November 1985, first round
Eddie Richardson made it past the first minute but the ferocity of Tyson’s right hand within the first 10 seconds was an indication that Richardson would be the sixth consecutive fighter to lose in round one against Tyson.
A left would end the bout, with Richardson unable to beat the count. A 12th win for Tyson, his ninth inside the first round, kept his development in the heavyweight division on track. Fight time: 77 seconds
13) Conroy Nelson, 22 November 1985, second round
Conroy Nelson did well to survive the first round, at one point sinking to his knees as Tyson’s body shots took their toll, with the bell saving him from any further punishment. Yet the seeds of destruction had been planted.
A right and then a swinging left sent Nelson crashing to the floor in the second round, as Tyson celebrated another quick win. As 1985 drew to a close, there were still a couple of opportunities to add to Tyson’s win column. Fight time: 210 seconds
14) Sammy Scaff, 6 December 1985, first round
Poor Sammy Scaff. Within the first 20 seconds of this fight Tyson had already broken his nose, and the hits just kept on coming. Blood covered Scaff’s face as he tried his best to keep Tyson at bay.
The end arrived with a left from Tyson just over a minute into round one. Scaff was saved from any further punishment, as he pulled himself off the canvas that was also splattered with claret. Tyson, wearing what would become his trademark black shorts, marched on. Fight time: 79 seconds
15) Mark Young, 27 December 1985, first round
Would you have enjoyed your Christmas Day if you knew that Mike Tyson was waiting just around the corner? Mark Young tried to get the front foot against Tyson. But it was a thankless task. There was some speculation that Tyson won the fight with a “phantom punch”, but it appears that Tyson caught Young with a glancing right.
Either way, there could be no doubting Tyson’s potential in the heavyweight division as 1985 drew to a close. He fought 13 more brave men in 1986, clinching his first world title in November by beating Trevor Berbick in two rounds. In all, Tyson won his first 19 professional fights by knockout, 12 of them in the first round. Fight time: 50 seconds