On this day in boxing history… January 22… Tyson destroys Holmes

1988 – Respected publication Boxing News had just one word for it. There was an image of Mike Tyson walking to a neutral corner and a wiped-out Larry Holmes flat on his back with referee Joe Cortez waving the fight off. The headline was TERRIFYING. 

The great Holmes, who had come out retirement aged 38 (and who was already a grandfather) tried to take on the young sensation, but he had been blasted out in four rounds. 

Tyson was a betting favourite, only 21-years-old, but Holmes said it was about pride and not the paycheck, even though he was picking up more than $3m.

“I’m not doing this for the money,” said the challenger for Tyson’s WBC, WBA and IBF heavyweight crowns. “Everybody knows I’m rich.”

Tyson was on fire, riding the crest of his youthful peak and so in love with boxing that Hall of Fame journalist Harry Mullan wrote how Tyson enthusiastically ran up the ring steps “with the air of a man who is late for work.”

Mullan continued of Tyson: “He arrived in the ring unannounced and almost unnoticed, and most of the crowd did not know he was even there until he shrugged his way through a cluster of people in the centre of the ring and started prowling around its perimeter, like an animal staking out a territorial claim.”

Tyson pounced early. Holmes, an old master who had not fought in 18 months after losing for a second time to Michael Spinks, could not keep Tyson at bay and Holmes picked up an early warning for excessive holding. 

Holmes had some success in the third with uppercuts, but he was battered by a big right hand near the bell and badly shaken and there was an air of inevitability about what was to follow. 

Larry was still trying to turn the clock back early in the fourth, but he caught a crunching left hook and a right hand smashed him to the floor.

Defiant, Larry rose, trying to say he was okay but he was clearly groggy and he went down again moments later.

With Tyson in his corner, Mike licked his lips the same way a fine diner would fasten a serviette around his neck waiting to be served a main course. 

Holmes’s legs were not back underneath him. Cortez could have intervened, and as Holmes tried to courageously fight back, his right hand – as he tried to throw an uppercut – got tangled in the ropes. He was off balance, virtually unprotected, and he took a clean right hand that felled him a final time. 

There were some anxious moments ringside as people worried about Holmes’s health, but after a couple of minutes, he returned to his corner.

“I made it clear to Larry Holmes that his career is unquestionably over,” Tyson said. “He was a great champion in his time, but this isn’t his time anymore.”

Trainer Richie Giachetti was in Holmes’s corner and his line struck a chord. “He [Holmes] was moving real nice in there in the fourth and he stopped,” said Richie. “He stopped. You can’t do that against Tyson. He’ll murder you.” 

Cortez said afterwards: “I just felt I didn't have to bother counting. I pulled out his mouthpiece and got out the way so the doctor could look him over. Larry was all right. He rose to a sitting position and told everybody, ‘I’m OK.’ OK, in this case, was relative.”

Holmes sportingly said: “I found out that Mike Tyson is better than I thought.”

Many felt it would be the end for Holmes, but he would actually have another 26 fights and box on for more than a decade.

Tyson, meanwhile, had arguably never shone brighter, but a long, gruelling and very public decline was on the other side of the mountain.

On the same bill, there were wins for John Mugabi, Michael Dokes and heavyweight trialhorse Mike Hunter, who beat future world heavyweight champion Oliver McCall in a six-rounder.

Also on this day in boxing history… in 2002

Tyson was involved in a very different incident when he bit a chunk of Lennox Lewis’s leg in a press conference to announce their eagerly-anticipated box office blockbuster. They shared an angry confrontation that turned into a large brawl with people from both camps involved and Tyson loses it, screaming a foul-mouthed tirade at media members and throwing the contest into jeopardy before it had even started. 

In 1995…

Manny Pacquiao, aged 17, made his pro debut. He on a four-rounder on points against Edmund Enting Ignacio in the Philippines. 

In 1964…
The ‘Dark Destroyer’ Nigel Benn was born. Benn became one of the most popular and exciting fighters to come out of the UK, and defeated the likes of Gerald McClellan, Doug DeWitt, Iran Barkley but was perhaps best-known for his bitter two-fight feud with Chris Eubank.