by David P. Greisman
This is the story of a former boxer hoping to score the biggest upset in the history of the sport.
Michael Wayne Landrum Sr. is attempting to surpass Buster Douglas and that legendary 1990 knockout of Mike Tyson in Tokyo. He is suing Mike Tyson for $115 million, claiming the former heavyweight champion stole his nickname, took away his opportunity, pilfered any possibility of fame and fortune for a welterweight who said he was “Iron Mike” first.
Landrum is 52 years old now. Nearly three decades have passed since he became a pro boxer. Some 25 years have gone by since the Californian had his last pro fight. That year was the same year Tyson turned pro as a New York knockout sensation.
Tyson retired five years ago. No matter. Landrum wants justice now, in the form of nine figures.
Landrum once only wanted $5,000 from Tyson and Tyson’s promoter at the time, Don King. That was 1996 and 1997, when Tyson was still active but Landrum was not. Landrum was merely pondering a comeback in 1997, filling out paperwork for the California State Athletic Commission seeking a boxing license.
Landrum tried the small claims court in Los Angeles back then. He included three copies of that legal paperwork in this most recent lawsuit, but did not provide any indication of what happened in that case. He has gone bigger this time – a payout 23,000 times larger, litigation filed in a bigger venue.
He went to the U.S. District Court in Riverside, Calif., setting legal wheels in motion June 28. Later, he filed 29 pages attempting to detail his case.
It didn’t get national attention until last week, when the TMZ tabloid website published a short story. TMZ got his age wrong, and it also had where he filed the lawsuit incorrect. No matter. Numerous news outlets picked up on TMZ’s piece and followed suit with articles of their own.
Landrum said he had trademarked “Iron Mike” before his first pro fight, which came a few years before Tyson got paid to punch. Once Tyson took the nickname, Landrum’s career had about as much chance of succeeding as Peter McNeeley did.
Landrum told TMZ he was “hindered from getting any major title fights or sponsorships because of the name confusion.”
Those opportunities should have been limitless for a man of Landrum’s ability. As he had noted when applying for a boxing license from California in 1997, he had fought seven times in the amateur ranks, winning four times, including twice by knockout, and only losing in three of those bouts. Upon turning pro, he had steamrolled through the opposition and built up a wealth of experience, getting in the ring 11 times, winning six, including three by knockout, losing but four bouts and fighting to one draw.
Landrum even listed all of his professional boxing matches when asked to on the application. In that section he was even more impressive than on the previous page, winning eight fights in California between December 1983 and February 1985 and losing none. Down went Roberto Hernandez, Miguel Miranda and Eddie Johnson, all by knockout. Up went Landrum’s gloves following decision wins over Rodolfo Gonzalez, Otis Rogers, Rubin Guero, Rod Stevins and Steven Bell.
None of those fights are listed on the BoxRec.com online database. BoxRec also has no record of any boxing matches taking place in California on the days of Landrum’s victories.
The website is not always completely correct with its listings. That has to be why the only Mike Landrum in its system is a man who was 0-2, who fought once in San Jose, Calif., in April 1982, losing by first-round knockout to Steve Acosta, and once in Carson, Calif., in April 1985, losing by second-round knockout to Kevin Payne.
Landrum is a humble man. Rather than include proof of any of his victories in his filing with the court, he instead attached a photocopied page from the September 1985 issue of THE RING magazine, noting Kevin Payne’s win over Landrum in a welterweight bout. He also included three fighter contracts in which he committed to facing a trio of opponents: Acosta, Payne, and Hector Martinez, the last bout apparently one that never happened.
This noted veteran had a strong claim to the name. Two letters dated from 1996 and 1997 were signed by Rob Lynch of the California State Athletic Commission, noting that Landrum was last licensed to box by the state in 1985, and that “[h]is professional ring name was ‘Iron Mike Landrum.’ ”
He has proof of the trademark, too. A certificate from California’s secretary of state showed Michael Wayne Landrum Sr. as the registrant of “Iron Mike.” He is not the kind of man to procrastinate; he had trademarked the nickname with the state on April 22, 2010.
Landrum told the state the trademark hadn’t been used anywhere until Nov. 23, 1983. Transcending time and space, the trademark was first used in California on Nov. 10, 1983, he said.
With that trademark registration filed just this year, the Spike TV television show “Knockout Sportsworld” should have known better than to use the “Iron Mike” nickname in a national poll without Landrum’s permission. That is why he has sued the company that produces the show, which features knockouts from the various combat sports, for $1 million. If Tyson using his nickname deprived Landrum of making money two decades ago, then the television show’s galling behavior is costing him money now.
Now is the proper time for justice for Michael Wayne Landrum Sr. Now, when the complaints are fresh and the damage is raw, is when he deserves payback. Now, when Tyson is broke and retired, is when Landrum can resuscitate his career, never mind his bank account.
Now is the time to root for “Iron Mike” Landrum. After all, he is a man of truth, a man who knows it is best to wait to take action, and to take action only when he has all the right reasons for doing so.
The 10 Count
1. In all seriousness, Landrum’s case will probably last in the legal system about as long as Marvis Frazier lasted in the ring against Tyson.
2. Dad: “What was Mike Ditka's nickname?”
David: “He should’ve trademarked it.”
Dad: “You wanna tell him that?”
3. It’s no secret that Don King is trying to sign Floyd Mayweather Jr. Mayweather posted photos of him and the infamous promoter together on Twitter. And the two sat next to each other at ringside for Saturday’s HBO fight card in St. Louis.
It’s still a secret as to whether King has succeeded. Mayweather refused to comment on the matter when asked Saturday. King wouldn’t say, either.
It’s no secret as to why Mayweather would sign with King. Mayweather loves to earn money. King loves to throw promises of big paychecks at fighters.
It’s still a secret as to what fights Mayweather could have under King that would earn him that much money (and that he couldn’t have under Golden Boy). King claims that with him at the negotiating table, he could get the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight made with Bob Arum of Top Rank.
Never mind that the problem with the negotiations hasn’t been Golden Boy Promotions – which has promoted Mayweather’s recent fights – but the stances and egos of Pacquiao and Mayweather.
4. On the surface, the preliminary pay-per-view figures for the July 31 rematch between Juan Manuel Marquez don’t look too good – 150,000 to 200,000, according to Dan Rafael of ESPN.com. But Golden Boy Promotions is happy – it made a profit on the card.
What’s good news for Golden Boy is both good and bad news for boxing fans.
Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer told Rafael that part of the show’s success was due to “an outstanding undercard [that] created an event not only driven by the main event.”
What’s good: Perhaps this will be the beginning of promoters putting better fights on undercards rather than just placing house fighters in bouts they are supposed to win.
What’s bad: Rather than just putting the biggest fights on pay-per-view, more bouts that would be best aired on HBO’s “World Championship Boxing” will end up costing fans an additional $50 on their cable bills.
5. Shane Mosley vs. Sergio Mora on HBO Pay-Per-View on Sept. 18, anyone? Anyone?
6. Tavoris Cloud has finally shown what people have been waiting to see: whether he has the physical tools to compete with the best at light heavyweight.
That answer hadn’t been known, really. He had received an elimination bout in 2008 and a shot at a vacant title in 2009 without ever really deserving either. He won both. And did nothing else.
Cloud had sat on the elimination bout victory – a 10th-round technical knockout in August 2008 of a Julio Cesar Gonzalez who was coming off two losses. Cloud didn’t fight again for another year.
The August 2009 bout for the vacant International Boxing Federation belt pitted him against Clinton Woods, who just two fights beforehand had put forth a non-effort in a loss to Antonio Tarver. All Woods had done to earn his title shot was out-point Elvir Muriqi.
Cloud then sat on his title belt for – you guessed it – another year.
He had been waiting on a shot at the top man in the division, Chad Dawson. But he turned down an undercard bout that would’ve been on HBO as a co-feature to a Dawson fight as a precursor to Dawson-Cloud.
Cloud was supposed to face Glen Johnson in April but pulled out, citing an injury. At the same time, he signed with Don King. Some writers accused Cloud of faking a limp (switching legs) when he was ringside at a Connecticut card earlier this year. This scribe was there but wasn’t paying enough attention to notice.
Cloud faced Johnson this past Saturday on an HBO undercard, winning a close, competitive and grueling 12-round decision. He showed very good speed, throwing furious combinations – what Gus Johnson would, of course, call “punches in bunches” – and very good power, hurting the durable Johnson on more than one occasion.
Cloud is angling for a shot at the winner of this coming Saturday’s bout between Dawson and Jean Pascal. If he doesn’t get it immediately, here’s hoping he doesn’t just sit around and wait, but rather continues to build a case for him as a top contender to the throne.
7. The HBO crew – the “Boxing After Dark” team of Bob Papa and Max Kellerman – gave Glen Johnson the praise he deserved for being a top light heavyweight who is better than his 50-13-2 record (at the time) would normally indicate, and for being a 41-year-old who is still tough, capable and dangerous.
I just wish they’d put his losses in complete context. Johnson’s only stoppage loss, which came in 1997 to Bernard Hopkins, wasn’t just a fight at middleweight, but a fight in which the stoppage came with Johnson still on his feet, not rocked, but rather badly cut.
And many of the decision losses on Johnson’s record are controversial ones, fights in which numerous observers believe “The Road Warrior” was robbed by judging favoring the hometown/house fighter.
8. More on Johnson and how he really did deserve his name: His 66 pro bouts have come in 44 cities, including 15 different states and eight different countries. He has fought in at least 44 different venues.
As for his fight with Cloud, I do not believe he was robbed. I scored the fight 116-112 for Cloud, but with two swing rounds noted that I could’ve given to Johnson, making it acceptable that others scored the fight a 114-114 draw. It was the kind of close, competitive fight in which the winner comes out looking like a winner and the loser comes out looking like a winner, too, even if the official result doesn’t indicate such.
Johnson has been dealt some bad hands in his past. This is not one of those times, but he is a proud man and it is hard to begrudge him for believing he won.
9. As for those piling onto Devon Alexander for his decision win over Andriy Kotelnik in a fight which many believe the judges didn’t give Kotelnik as much credit as he deserves…
Is it really that Alexander isn’t that good? Or is it rather that Kotelnik, whom many American boxing fans were unfamiliar with, is better than they thought and, like many top contenders do, put up one heckuva fight?
Did Anderson Silva’s performance against Chael Sonnen on Saturday indicate that Silva doesn’t deserve to be considered the best middleweight and the best pound-for-pound fighter in MMA? Or did Sonnen fight better than he’d ever fought before and, because of that, make Silva look bad in comparison?
Amazing ending to that fight, by the way. Up there with the conclusion to Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo.
10. So, how soon until we see Michael Wayne Landrum Sr. v. David P. Greisman, a case accusing this callous scribe of irreparably maligning Landrum’s fine reputation?
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His weekly column, “Fighting Words,” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. He may be reached for questions and comments at email@example.com