By: M. Swift
Last month we spoke about Olympic gold medalist and “The People’s Champion” Muhammad Ali’s first World Heavyweight Title win. Now we get into the “Baddest Man on the Planet” Mike Tyson’s first undisputed World Title defense.
Becoming Undisputed Champion
In his previous fight, Mike Tyson was pitted up against lineal heavyweight champion Michael Spinks. Since it was to crown the undisputed heavyweight champion, the fight was promoted as “Once and For All.”
On June 27, 1988, in Atlantic City, Mike Tyson knocked out the 31-0 champion in the first round. The fight reeled in $70 million, the biggest gate for a boxing match at that time. Tyson’s fight purse was $20 million.
Mike Tyson vs. Frank Bruno I
The fight was to take place at London’s Wembley Stadium which would have meant a massive gate for the bout. Unfortunately, the bout would be pushed back several times because of problems on Tyson’s side. Finally, the two would square off on February 25, 1989, in Las Vegas.
Heading into his first title defense, the undefeated Mike Tyson was 22-years old with a 35-0 record and 31 knockouts. Londoner Frank Bruno came in with a 32-2 record, 31 knockouts, and a four-win KO streak. A significant amount of time passed for both fighters as far as in-ring activity is concerned, but neither would show ring rust.
The fight itself would prove to be Tyson’s most grueling since facing off in a four-rounder against Larry Holmes in January 1988 and a seven-rounder with Tyrell Biggs in October 1987. Bruno matched Tyson’s aggression in the opening rounds.
By the third round, the pace started to slow as the two were much more careful with in picking their shots. Tyson’s speed and power was nullified by Bruno’s height and reach advantage towards the end of third round. By the fourth round, the two were clinching often with the official jumping in to break the two up and keep the fight active.
In the fifth round, Tyson and Bruno continued clinching before breaking out with targeted shots. The fight was heading for a sixth round until Tyson started landing clean shots at the top of the final minute. By the bottom of the round, Bruno was on the ropes and unable to defend himself. This caused his corner to hit the apron to throw in the towel but the referee ended the bout.
Following the defense, Mike Tyson would defend the Undisputed Championship a second time in a one-minute bout against Carl Williams. He would suffer his first loss to Buster Douglas in February 1990. He would get back on a winning streak throughout the early 1990s.
Frank Bruno would pick up wins in England and chase the WBC Heavyweight Championship in the early 1990s. He would win the title in late 1995, but lose the title in his first defense in 1996. His opponent in the defense and his final bout? Mike Tyson. He would retire 40-5 with 38 knockouts.
M. Swift primarily writes on moments and important figures in Black history for Your Black World. He also writes heavily on wrestling, comics, gaming, and Black sci-fi and fantasy.