Published: August 26, 2004
In the nights leading up to Danny Williams’ fight with
Mike Tyson last month, the big man from Brixton had a recurring dream
in which he entered the ring with the former world heavyweight champion
and, on each occasion, the outcome was the same – he won.
experts sneered, they had heard it all before, although Williams’ case
was more compelling than most. Tyson had been out of the ring for 17
Through the late 1980s, a number of men had
uttered Williams’ pre-fight mantra about winning. We know what happened
to them in the brief time they spent face to face with Iron Mike.
Little wonder then that this superb book is sub-titled ‘The Triumphs and Tragedies of the Men Who Fought Mike Tyson’.
Tyson story is a familiar one – arrested 38 times for purse-snatching
before being moved to an offender’s institute in upstate New York where
he had the opportunity to work-out before a grizzled but impressed Cus
D’Amato. But his opponents’ tales are a road less well travelled, until
In tracing the men brave enough to enter the ring to fight
Tyson and describing what has happened to them since, Dominic
Calder-Smith has written the best sports book I’ve read this year.
narrative displays a level of descriptive scene-setting rarely
encountered in a sporting book: “Newspaper vendors huddled inside the
entrance of High Street Brooklyn Bridge station, tabloids held down by
pebbles and spread on the covered ground beside their feet as the
spatter of rain persisted outside. Beyond the station, the Manhattan
skyline struggled to make its presence visible through the thick shawl
of mist which had settled upon the East River…”
characters, the book is brimful with them. From Mitch ‘Blood’ Green
who, even at the age of 45, continued to seek a re-match with Tyson who
once hit him so hard in a street brawl that he broke his hand. Green
was a fighter in every sense, a man who literally tried to wring Don
King’s neck and who responded to the news that he had been ripped off
(again) by throwing the entire contents of his manager’s office out of
a 10th-storey window.
Then there’s Carl ‘The Truth’ Williams who
once fought Larry Holmes for a purse of 1.3m and is now working as a
security guard at Ground Zero in New York. ‘The Truth’ fought Tyson in
1989 and was knocked out in the first round. Carl believes “politics
were to blame” – the young Tyson could not be prevented from staging
more lucrative bouts, yet the reader has sympathy with Williams, Green
and the others.
You do not have to enjoy boxing to appreciate
this book because, ultimately, the reader becomes engrossed with the
succession of human tales dealing with the one shot at big time glory.