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21 OCTOBER 2018


Flashback: Tyson crushes Berbick

By Simon James Baker: Fighters often personify their times and certainly the heavyweight division always evolves to represent boxing as a whole. On November 22nd 1986, Mike Tyson - the most brutal and destructive heavyweight of any era - became the youngest man ever, at the age of 20, to become the heavyweight champion of the world.

Even then, Tyson possessed an aura unlike any other, his features a chiselled caricature of how the baddest man on the planet should look. Certainly, he fought like no other heavyweight, almost as broad as tall at just 5ft 11ins. Tyson was a storm of thunderous, corrosive punching ability with a speed and accuracy that literally bewildered opponents before detaching them from their senses.

His own movement and technique was icily elusive, punctuated and underpinned by a mercurial lateral movement, which meant rarely did he take meaningful shots in return. Tyson had fought 27 times en route to his challenge for Berbick's title, 27 fights dominated by screaming knockout victories and astonishingly brutal dominance.

For his part, Berbick was a seasoned and capable fighter, certainly possessing enough quality to operate as champion albeit in an era of stasis, desperate for the kind of dominating pandemonium that a figure such as Tyson would bring. Berbick will probably be best remembered for his excruciating bullying of the ghost of Muhammad Ali in Ali's final fight, rather than for outpointing Pinklon Thomas to claim the WBC title which Tyson then ripped from him only eight months later.

From the opening bell, the black clad Tyson stalked and cornered Berbick who had no way of containing the sheer focus and ferocity of a young Mike Tyson on his night of destiny. Tyson caught Berbick hard as the first round ticked to conclusion, Berbick rose though his face was slack, his legs boneless and his eyes betrayed the monumental challenge in front of him.

He gestured a spitting defiance as he returned to his corner, but that half-hearted insolence was about as competitive as he would be. The second round became a mere countdown to the inevitable. Tyson stalking the retreating champion, flashing mercury quick combinations into his opponent's head and body.

The final punch taken by Berbick as WBC champion, a glancing but sickening hook to his pulpy temple ended the encounter and, equilibrium scrambled, he rose and fell three times, his legs rigid, lungs gasping for air; the Tyson power never more potently illustrated.

Tyson went on to truly dominate the division and the sport for the rest of the decade before creating his own tangled web of history and drama. Post Tyson, Berbick slid into professional obscurity though continues to campaign even today and has encountered personal complications of his own.

Though here was a man almost linking the two greatest heavyweights that boxing has ever seen in meeting one at the very end of his career and the other at the spectacular beginning.

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