Published: March 13, 2005
By Lee Bellfield
This was to be Mike Tysons third comeback fight after his defeat to Buster Douglas in February the previous year. Since then, Tyson had scored one round wins over Henry Tillman and Alex Stewart. Meanwhile Ruddock was viewed by many as the most dangerous heavyweight in the world after a four-round destruction of Michael Dokes in 1990. The two were originally supposed to meet in Canada in 1989 when Tyson was still champion. The fight fell through and Tyson, the following year, accepted a defense against Douglas, and as we know, the rest was history. This was to be a non-title fight although Ruddock would actually receive more money this time around. The fight that was to be held in March of 1991 at the Mirage Hotel, Las Vegas and was looked upon by many as a bout between the two best heavyweights in the world. Evander Holyfield was still lightly regarded by many as champion and had accepted a title defense against forty-one year George Foreman. The winner of Tyson and Ruddock was due to fight the winner of Holyfield and Foreman later in the year.
It was a cold Monday evening in Las Vegas and as usual, Don King had staged an excellent under-card. This included a shock defeat for Panamanian legend Roberto Duran. A title defense by 140-pound king Julio Cesar Chavez and a fascinating welterweight bout in which Simon Brown defeated his friend Maurice Blocker to unify two thirds of the 147-pound titles.
The referee for the main event was Richard Steele who would be a key figure in the outcome. Tyson looked in excellent shape for this the most important test on his quest to regain the crown weighing in at 217-pounds. Ruddock scaled 228-pounds, which was close to his best fighting weight too. Tyson also had the excellent Richie Giachetti in his corner who had handled former champion Larry Holmes and looked a suitable replacement for Kevin Rooney.
The pre-fight instructions were over and Ruddock showed no fear. The first bell rung and immediately Razor sprung into action launching one of his famous left hooks just missing its target. Both men were looking for openings with Tyson choosing to concentrate on the body. As the bell sounded to end round one, punches were exchanged. There was obviously bad blood in this one.
At the start of round two, Tyson scored the first knockdown of the bout with a glancing left hand. Ruddock seemed to be slightly off balance when it landed and protested that it was not a knockdown. He was not seriously hurt though. Tyson however continued to score to the body. Ruddock it seemed was just content to lean his weight on Tyson and hold but every so often, he would explode his left hook/uppercut. This was the same blow that destroyed Dokes but it had no effect on Tyson who either took it or easily slipped it.
At the close of round three, Tyson ducked a Ruddock right hand and countered with a peach of a left hook that floored the Canadian. This time he was shaken but the bell sounded before Mighty Mike? could follow up.
The pattern continued in round four, in which Ruddock continued to hold while Tyson worked the body. Once again, punches were exchanged at the end of the round but Tyson looked like he was taking serious charge of the bout. This was shown in round five when the former champion threw a booming right that knocked Ruddocks head back and lifted one of his legs off the canvas. He was showing great durability but was winning absolutely nothing on the scorecard.
Ruddock had his one big moment in round six, when after more of the same from Tyson, he began to have some significant success towards the end of the three-minute period. Midway through the seventh round the controversy began when Tyson connected with a counter overhand right that drove Ruddock back. A six-punch combination followed and Richard Steele stepped in and stopped the bout with Ruddock still on his feet and protesting.
This sparked a post-fight melee and the referee subsequently had to be escorted from the ring. However, after all the bad blood before and during the bout there was a new respect between the two heavyweights with Tyson saying that every punch from Ruddock was like a kick from a mule.
This win should have earned Mike Tyson a heavyweight title shot in my opinion. Had the fight gone on, Tyson would likely have stopped Ruddock with no arguments or at least won the fight down the stretch, as he seemed to bossing it for the majority and looked very sharp. However, the stoppage raised doubts in peoples minds and a rematch was made for June 1991.
This was another Don King super-card at the Mirage and featured rising star Riddick Bowe and a great bout between Azumah Nelson and Jeff Fenech. In the main event, Tyson scored two knockdowns on the way to an untidy twelve-round decision win although he did not look as sharp as in the first fight.
The stage was then set for Tysons title challenge against Evander Holyfield, but this was a bout that would not happen for a further five years as Tyson was jailed for rape in February 1992. Ruddock on the other hand, on the strength of two tough losses to Tyson was back in the title picture in 1992 and there was a young heavyweight commentating at ringside for British TV who would feature in Razors future plans. Lennox Lewis.