Mike Tyson Vs Trevor Berbick
November 22, 1986
Las Vegas, Nevada
Venue: Hilton Hotel
Going into his fight against WBC heavyweight champion Trevor Berbick, the 20-year-old Mike Tyson had fought an astounding 27 times in less than two years as a pro. He was also the hottest young star in pop culture alongside the 23-year-old Michael Jordan and 25-year-old Eddie Murphy. These three were expected to dominate their respective fields for the next decade. The evening of November 22, 1986 was supposed to usher in a new era of boxing dominance by Tyson. By the time his fight with Berbick was over, there wasn’t a sports or pop culture fan on the planet who didn’t think Tyson was invinceable.
Berbick was a 32-year-old native of Jamaica who was the prototypical lunch pail tough-nosed fighter. Berbick first came to prominence when he knocked out former WBA heavyweight champion John Tate on the undercard of the first Roberto Duran versus Sugar Ray Leonard fight in Montreal on June 20, 1980. That win earned him a shot at Larry Holmes’ WBC title 10 months later. Berbick was completely dominated by Holmes but proved his mettle by lasting the entire 15 rounds against the masterful champion. Berbick rebounded by defeating Muhammad Ali in the legend’s last fight of his career and upsetting rising heavyweight prospect Greg Page. Finally, on March 22, 1986, Berbick again pulled off a shocking upset when he totally out-fought and out-hustled Pinklon Thomas and wrested the WBC title from him. Berbick was a proven and dangerous dark horse. That being said, he had absolutely no shot at beating Mike Tyson unless he was allowed to use a sledgehammer.
At the time of this fight I was in my freshman year of college attending New Orleans’ Loyola University. I had no access to cable so I didn’t see the fight until a month later when I went home after the semester ended. I sat down with my father the first night I was home and Pop broke down the mastery that Tyson displayed that night. Pop kept pointing out how Tyson was setting up everything off his left jab and was bobbing and weaving. It was that left jab that was keeping Berbick from timing Mike’s movement inside. Berbick was a fighter who never fought backing up, a style that stood no chance against a slugger like Tyson. Tyson staggered Berbick several times before round one ended with thudding combinations. It was all but a matter of time before Berbick would be completely dismantled.
Less than 20 seconds into round two, Tyson landed a rapid set of combinations that knocked the already faded champion down. Then Tyson systematically took his time putting Berbick away. Pop was loving it as Tyson was still using the jab and beating Berbick with hooks to the body as the soon-to-be-dethroned champion was continually attempting to tie up Tyson. Then, after a wicked right to Berbick’s ribcage, Tyson immediately followed up with a short, thunderous left hook that dropped Berbick. That left hook was so lethal that it caused Berbick to fall down two more times while desperately trying to beat the 10 count. He got up just as referee Mills Lane counted him out at 10. Mike Tyson was now the WBC champion and HBO commentator Barry Tompkins uttered one of the great lines ever by a boxing announcer, “And we have a new era in boxing!”
Berbick would incredulously fight another 14 years before finally retiring in 2000. Ironically, both Berbick and Tyson were convicted of rape in 1992 as Berbick raped his children’s babysitter and served 15 months. Berbick’s life came to a horrific end as he was murdered by his nephew in 2006 at the age of 52.
As for Tyson, his 1992 rape conviction coupled with his allegiance to Don King curtailed his dominance over boxing, unlike Jordan and Murphy who are lauded by many as the greatest to ever do it in their respective fields. More on the eventual fall of Tyson’s reign as heavyweight champion in a future article. That being said, there’s no denying that on the night of November 22, 1986, Mike Tyson was the single biggest star in the world of sports.