Published: April 7, 2005
By “Bad” Brad Berkwitt
Replace Berbick with Balboa. It’s November 22, 1986.Young “Iron” Mike Tyson finally gets his shot against legendary Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa. Balboa is in his prime with his mind totally focused on his biggest fight since he regained the title with a knockout over former champion Clubber Lang.
In fact, with the deaths of both his corner men Mickey Goldmill and Apollo Creed, Balboa has hired Clubber to work his corner for this “Super Fight”. The first thing Lang sets out to do is make Rocky mean…. Tyson has that anger, and as Clubber did many years before, he knows that is a big advantage for the young challenger to have going into this fight.
Lang also works very hard on Rocky’s jab, which he feels is going to keep Tyson on the outside. With Balboa having a trademark heavy body work ethic, Clubber thinks his jab is going to confuse Tyson, and allow Rocky to get on the inside with Mike so he can bang the ribcage.
Tyson, who grew up on Balboa really shows the champion respect at the press conference being held the week of the fight. To date, this is the biggest fight in boxing history with Balboa guaranteed 45 million and Tyson 10 million. The fight is going to be held at the legendary Madison Square Garden and within three hours, tickets have sold out.
Scalpers are selling $1000.00 ringside seats for $5000.00 for the fight that is billed as “The Brawl For It All”…. Balboa has stated that Win, Lose or Draw, this is his last fight in the ring. In fact, this is the last 15 round-sanctioned heavyweight fight, in 1986. The boxing commission has voted to reduce all championship fights in 1987 to 12 rounds for what they call a safety issue.
Reports from both camps have each fighter in the best shape of their careers. Kevin Rooney Tyson’s trainer is so intense in his training methods that he has Mike agree to a blackout of any reporters or photographers inside his Catskill training camp.
The only press statement from Tyson is as follows:
“I have respected Rocky Balboa since I first saw him defeat Apollo Creed in their rematch for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Since that win, Balboa has represented his belt with Class and Honor, but now it’s time for him to pass the torch. When I win this fight on November 22, 1986, I want the entire boxing world to know, I dedicate it to my mentor, the late Cus D’ Amato. Without him, I would not be here today”.
The evening before the fight, Rocky is actually a 2-1 underdog going into the fight. Last minute reports have rumored Balboa was knocked down in training by a young sparring partner named Tommy Morrison. When asked aboutit, Clubber Lang takes center stage. Lang states, “Balboa was knocked down, but as he always does, he got right back up, and had Morrison on the canvaswhich ended the sparring session for the day”.
November 22, 1986, is just hours away, as both fighters lay in their beds contemplating the biggest night in their boxing careers. Sitting on the edge of the bed is Kevin Rooney and Mike asks him, “Rooney, what if I win, and now I am catapulted to wealth and attention, I never had before”? Kevin replies, “Mike, Cus will always be with you, and so will I. I love you like a son.” Tyson smiles, as he always does when the name Cus is mentioned. Across the street, Balboa lying in the bed has his closest confidant his wife, Adrian, lying next to him. He turns to her and says, “Mickey and Apollo came to me in a dream. In that dream, they were both ringside rooting me on to win. But the dream stopped there”.
November 22, 1986…. Madison Square Garden… 20,000 plus with Standing Room Only wait for the ring walks of both fighters. First, dressed in only black shorts, black shoes, and white towel, “Iron” Mike Tyson, 27-0, 25 KOs makes his ring entrance. The audience is mixed with boos muffling out the cheers. When Mike takes to the ring, he looks out to the crowd, and flashes a smile. On the waistline of his black trunks in white lettering is one word, CUS.
Seconds later, the TV screens show Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World, Rocky Balboa, 53-6, 39 KOs coming out of his dressing room. The Garden erupts with chants of “Rocky, Rocky, Rocky”. Clubber Lang is smiling behind him as Balboa makes the ring walk. Rocky looks chiseled at the age of 33 just as his opponent already in the ring does at the young age of 19. Clubber Lang steps up on the ring apron to hold the ropes, and Rocky in his USA shorts enters the ring. The electricity in the Garden is equal to Frank Sinatra’s “The Main Event” Concert, which was held there some 12 years earlier.
Both fighters dance around waiting for the pre-fight instructions. At home, this blockbuster PPV has boxing fans chomping at the bit to hear the fighters finally announced so they can, “Can Get It On” a part of catch phrase of famed boxing referee Mills Lane. In fact, Lane is the third man in the ring on this night. A young and fairly new ring announcer gets the announcing duty for the night, and his name is Michael Buffer. Buffer announces in the red corner, weighing in at 218 LBS, hailing from the Catskills Mountains, the number one contender with a record of 27-0, 25 knockouts, “Iron” Mike Tyson. The arena breaks into chants of Tyson in small pockets, but is once again, drowned out by the boos. And in the blue corner….. Weighing in at 212 LBS, hailing from Philadelphia, PA, with a record of 53-6, 39 KOs, the reigning and defending Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World, “The Italian Stallion” Rocky Balboa… 15 rounds for the Undisputed Heavyweight Championship of the World…
The Garden is now in a frenzy once again, with chants of Rocky, Rocky, Rocky…
Mills Lane calls both fighters to the center of the ring. As they stand across from each other, they actually look identical in height, weight, and shape. Lane gives the final instructions, and as he always does, a last “Lets Get it On!”
The bell for round one sounds… Balboa for the first time in his career is moving around the ring, flicking out a very hard right jab at Tyson. Mike at first seems confused, but decides to crouch down, and come in to work the body of Balboa. Tyson catches Balboa with a quick one -two straight to the midsection, and Balboa holds on. Rooney is now yelling for Tyson to keep working the body. Tyson does, and with seconds left in the round, catches Balboa again with hard shots to the body. Round 1: 10-9 Tyson
As Rocky goes back to his corner, Lang is yelling at him to stay behind the jab on the outside, and follow with right hands. Balboa, admits this kid hits very hard to the body. Again, Lang pleads with Rocky to stay on the outside of Tyson and switch to the conventional stance using the hard left jab followed by his combo with the right.
Round two starts off with Rocky again dancing and throwing his jab, but he is now in the conventional stance and his shots are landing effectively on Tyson. Tyson comes in, but misses an uppercut that had bad intentions on it. With a minute and half in, Balboa catches Tyson coming in again with a double jab – solid right hand on the chin. Tyson is down for the first time in his career. Stunned, but not hurt, Tyson is up at 4. Balboa knows that Tyson is not hurt, and continues to stay on the outside with his jab. Round 2: 10-8 Balboa
As Tyson sits on his stool, Rooney explains why he got dropped. Mike is smiling now because he knows that he is involved in a real fight. “Work the body, Mike”, says Rooney. In the other corner, Lang is telling Rocky stay behind the jab all night from the outside if you can.
The bell rings for round three, with the crowd cheering Rocky, Rocky…. Rocky catches Tyson with his jab, but Mike bulls his way in putting his head on Rocky’s chest, and banging the body. As Tyson pulls out, he catches Balboa with a left hook that knocks Rocky across the ring. Balboa is hurt, and Tyson is all over him. Somehow Balboa finds the strength to stay on his feet. The bell sounds, but Balboa is now in pain from the huge body shots of Tyson. Round 3: 10-9 Tyson
Balboa slumps down on his stool with Lang working his legs, and explaining to Rocky, that it’s now time to switch back to southpaw and work the body as well. Rocky looks at Lang, with affection, and says, “I love you, but I will stay here, and you go out there and work the body”… Lang laughs, but Rocky takes his advice.
Round four has Rocky now back to his southpaw stance, and Mike is the aggressor. Both fighters are throwing bombs with bad intentions, but not everything thrown is landing. It looks like they take turns banging the body. Ring announcers Al Bernstein and Barry Tompkins are saying, with shots to the body like this, it’s going to come down to who has the better conditioning. Round four: 10-10 Even
Rounds 5-12 are seesaw rounds, but both fighters are landing big shots to the body, and shots to the head. It seems for now; Balboa has abandoned his jab to trade with Tyson to the body and head. They split the next eight rounds. Going into the championship rounds 13 -15, the judges have the fight 114-114.
Round 13 starts out like round two did. Rocky is back to the conventional stance, flicking the jab out at Tyson. Tyson is bobbing and weaving, and comes in with hooks. A minute into the round, Tyson finally catches Balboa with an uppercut that drops Balboa like a ton of bricks. Balboa is hurt, but somehow gets to his feet at the count of 8. Tyson swarms in for the kill, but Rocky ties him up. Lane is now cautioning Balboa for holding, but he has eaten up a good minute in the round with his clutching. Rocky works the jab to keep Tyson off of him, but is still clearly hurt when the bell rings. Round 13: Tyson 10-8
Both corners are telling their fighters, they need these last two rounds. Rooney is telling Mike, “Do it for Cus”…. Lang reminds Rocky of his dream where Mickey and Apollo were sitting ringside cheering him on.
As the bell sounds for round fourteen, the crowd is now mixed in chants for both Rocky and Tyson… Rocky is back to the jab, but Mike moves in with jabs followed by right hands to try and get inside on Balboa. Balboa is still hurt, but is moving around to shake the cobwebs off, and Tyson is once again on the inside banging the body. Balboa ties up with a minute left in the round, and then walks Tyson to the ropes. As he did with Apollo Creed years before, Rocky goes to the well and digs thunderous body shots to Tyson. With 30 seconds remaining in the round, Tyson is holding on, and Rooney is hollering for him to keep Balboa tied up. The bell rings, and Mike slowly goes back to the corner. Round 14: 10-9 Balboa
Al Bernstein turns to Barry Tompkins and can’t believe his scorecard has the fight dead even at 132-132. Tompkins has Balboa up by one, and to his right, a reporter from the NY Post has Tyson by one point.
Both corners are frantically telling their fighters that they need this last round to win. Lang keeps hollering, “Get Mad” “Get Mad” while Rooney in the other corner, is telling Mike, “don’t come back to this corner unless you give three minutes of your blood, sweat and tears”….
The fighters come to the middle of the squared circle where Mills Lane has them touch gloves for the 15th and final round. Ding…… Both tired, but wanting to win more than ever before, they go for broke in the middle of the ring. Tyson comes in, trying to attack the midsection of Balboa and as he does, his head comes up to catch Rocky on the chin, which opens a cut that is shooting blood out. The referee stops the action to have the ringside doctor take a look at the cut. The doctor says it’s ok to go on because it’s not in an area that will impede Rocky. Mike sees the blood streaming down Balboa’s chest, and comes in with his guard up. He catches Rocky flush in the area of the cut with an uppercut.
Rocky is hurt again, but holds on. With a 1:05 left in the round, Balboa out of the “Fountain of Youth” digs deep, and is on feet working the jab from the outside once again. Lang is yelling “jab – jab, right hand”. Rocky is cracking Tyson with crisp combos.
Tyson ties up, and with 30 seconds left, is back to the body of Balboa once again. The 10-second warning goes off, and both combatants go punch for punch. The bell rings, and the fate of this fight seems to be up to how the judges scored round 15.
Both fighters embrace and the crowd is on their fight giving them a well-deserved standing ovation. Corners are hugging, and congratulating both sides for what is being called the “Fight of the Century”. Michael Buffer has the score tallies and before he reads them off, he says to the crowd, “Let’s have a round of applause for these two gallant warriors”. Madison Square Garden erupts as it did some 15 years earlier for the first match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Ladies and Gentlemen. We go to the scorecards: Judge Dalby Shirley scores the fight 143-141, Tyson, Judge Arthur Mercante, SR., scores the fight 142-142 and Judge Glenn Hamada scores it 142-142. This fight is a Majority Draw. Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World, Rocky Balboa keeps his title. Tyson comes over once again to congratulate Rocky and let him know that he appreciated the shot at the title, and wishes him the best in his retirement.
Buffer gives Rocky the microphone and the crowd in the Garden goes silent. Balboa, goes on to say, “I thank all of you for supporting me throughout my boxing career. Tonight, two warriors went at each other for 15 rounds and in the end, we came out even. I am proud that the old man hung in there with the young warrior. I know many of you would love to see a rematch, but it’s my time to move on”… Rocky then asks Mike to come over. Balboa turns to Tyson, and says, “I am passing the torch to you to carry the heavyweight division. As Apollo did years before me, and I tried to do after him, I want you to carry the crown.” Mike hugs his idol, and once again, the crowd erupts in cheering with many ringsiders having tears in their eyes as a great champion moves on to life after boxing….. Bring on the Tyson Era……