If nothing else, a global pandemic has done wonders for journalistic awareness.
With no live fights to discuss in what feels like forever, it’s been mandatory to keep an eye on the calendar for milestone dates to remember and an ear to the ground for potential stories rumbling past.
And whaddya know, this week has been good for a little bit of both.
Unless you’ve been holed up in a Wi-Fi-bereft cave (or even worse, you’re a CenturyLink customer) you’re aware that a 53-year-old Mike Tyson is again the hottest topic in boxing, thanks to a YouTube workout and some veiled statements about a would-be return to the heavyweight division’s top level.
This is the fighter last seen being beaten into submission by Danny Williams and Kevin McBride.
Yes, that Danny Williams. And yes, that Kevin McBride.
That was also when ol’ Mike was closer to age 30 than 70, and not 6,296 days past his last victory.
So while I understand perpetual interest in a guy who moved our collective caveman needle as much as any fighter in the last 50 years, I also know that a few minutes of pad work isn’t quite the same as a few rounds with guys who are two decades younger, half a foot taller and every bit as one-shot dangerous.
Book a 57-year-old Evander Holyfield and sell it as a circus.
But book a 31-year-old Tyson Fury and remember it as a massacre.
Meanwhile, lest anyone forget, the Friday that just passed – May 15 – was the 16th anniversary of a fight whose result remains one of the most shocking I’ve witnessed in more than 40 years as a fan/writer/interested bystander.
It was Roy Jones Jr.-Antonio Tarver II in 2004, and when Tarver’s left hand connected and transformed “Superman” into a noodle-legged Clark Kent – it earned instant inclusion onto a select list of moments where my jaw literally hung open in disbelief over what I’d seen.
Not because Tarver had won. The guy was legit and remained so for another decade.
But because of the way it occurred.
I’ll have the argument with anyone who cares to entertain it. In the years in which I’ve been a big fan, a prime Jones is the best I’ve ever seen. He was blindingly fast. He had one-punch KO power.
He’d beaten Tarver six months earlier and looked ready to better his own initial result in the rematch when unfettered with the struggle to drop down from heavyweight to 175.
When Tarver shot his mouth off during Jay Nady’s instructions, I was sure he was doomed. And after Jones appeared the boss through the first three minutes, I was perhaps three times more certain.
To this day, the left hand that took him out makes me realize anyone can lose.
So, in honor of the “Magic Man’s” career-defining trick, here’s a look back at it and some others that I still don’t quite believe.
Spoiler alert… you might recognize another guy who took Tyson’s lunch money, too.
Iran Barkley TKO 3 Thomas Hearns – June 6, 1988
I’m among the world’s biggest “Hitman” fans, so by the time June 1988 arrived I was in a good place.
Marvin and Ray had been off the radar for a year, which left the middleweight domain – finally – under the thumb of Hearns, who’d won/defended titles for three-plus years since losing “The War.”
He strafed Barkley to the head and ripped him to the body early, and I still recall turning to my girlfriend at the end of the second round and suggesting it was as good as I’d ever seen him look.
Obviously, my tune soon changed. And come to think of it, she didn’t make it another year either.
Buster Douglas KO 10 Mike Tyson – Feb. 11, 1990
Tyson was a worldwide phenomenon and his trip to Tokyo was the next step in transforming the menace into a global brand.
But unlike other upsets, this was no one-punch shocker.
Douglas won nearly every moment of meaningful competition through 27 minutes before finally putting his prohibitively favored foe out of his misery in Round 10.
And it’s remains the yardstick every modern combat sports upset is measured by.
George Foreman KO 10 Michael Moorer – Nov. 5, 1994
It may be now – in my second full month at age 51 – that I fully appreciate what a 45-year-old did.
Though he’d been respectable and brave against Holyfield three years earlier, Foreman had done precisely nothing in the intervening time – even losing to Tommy Morrison, in fact – to make anyone believe magic was about to occur.
He was thrashed for nine rounds, beaten to a puffy mess and was nine minutes from realizing the mistake he’d made in tangling with an unbeaten, talented foe who was 19 years younger.
Until he prompted Jim Lampley into a call that still raises the hair on my arms.
“It happened,” indeed.
Juan Manuel Marquez KO 6 Manny Pacquiao – Dec. 8, 2012
I think he won the first one. And I’m sure he won the third one.
That said, had you asked me about Marquez’s chances after the fifth round of their fourth fight, I’d have put them right up there with any one of Tyson's pre-Buster heavyweight challengers.
His nose looked broken. His stamina appeared waning.
But his will was surely still there.
And while I’m very happy Manny ultimately got up and resumed his winning ways within a year, I swear for a few seconds I’d seen a man killed with a single punch.
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
No title fights scheduled.
Last week's picks: None
2020 picks record: 14-3 (82.3 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,130-368 (75.4 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.