Apex: Tyson reduces Spinks to dust

ESPN.com reviews Mike Tyson's most significant fights over the past 20 years. In Part II, he needs just 91 seconds to destroy previously unbeaten Michael Spinks.

Updated: June 8, 2005, 12:22 PM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Mike Tyson returns to the ring Saturday (9 p.m. ET, Showtime PPV) when he meets Kevin McBride at the MCI Center in Washington. It's hard to believe it's been 20 years since he made his pro debut. He turned pro on March 6, 1985, knocking out Hector Mercedes in the first round in Albany, N.Y., and it's been quite a ride since – inside and outside of the ring – as he became one of the most famous athletes on Earth. ESPN.com takes a look back at some of his most significant fights in this five-part retrospective.

Part II: The Pinnacle

By boxing standards, it was finished in the blink of an eye: 91 seconds.

Mike Tyson's destruction of Michael Spinks was one of the fastest heavyweight championship fights in history. But what a ruthless and memorable 91 seconds they were.

Tyson, then the undisputed champion, reached the apex of his tumultuous career on June 27, 1988, when he pulverized Spinks in front of a star-studded sold-out crowd of 21,785.

Tyson At 20
• Rafael: Meltdown | Return | Upset |Apex | Crown
• Rafael: 20 topics | McBride | Fenech | Camp
• Graham: Nelson | Hosea/Scaff | Long | Jaco | Green
• Gallery | Vote | Torres: Respect | Bayless: Marketer
• Tyson KOs: ESPN360 | Oddcast: Rafael preview

They had come to the Atlantic City Convention Center to witness a historic matchup between two undefeated fighters with claims to the title.

Tyson, who entered the bout 34-0 with 30 KOs, owned the hardware, winning the three major belts and rocketing to superstardom. Spinks, however, was also undefeated at 31-0 with 21 KOs and had twice beaten Larry Holmes in title fights before being stripped of his belt for electing to fight a lucrative match against Gerry Cooney instead of a mandatory against Tony Tucker. Many still considered Spinks the champion because he hadn't lost the title in the ring.

Those folks probably felt pretty silly roughly 92 seconds after the fight began. Perhaps they should have listened to Tyson during the buildup to the fight when he told reporters, "No one on the planet can come near me."

Michael Spinks/Mike Tyson
Allsport UK/ALLSPORTTyson (right) said he saw fear in Spinks' eyes from the start. A mere 91 seconds later, it was over.

Going into the fight, Tyson's life was – surprise – a mess. Besides marital problems with actress Robin Givens, Tyson, three days shy of his 22nd birthday, was embroiled in a tug of war over his career between Givens, exiled manager Bill Cayton and promoter Don King.

Tyson was a raging cauldron of emotion before the fight. He even punched a hole in the wall of his dressing room moments before walking to the ring. Meanwhile, it seemed Spinks was scared to death of facing down the "Baddest Man on the Planet."

When the bell finally rang to start the fight, Tyson steamed across the ring and quickly knocked Spinks to one knee with a thudding right hand to the body. Spinks rose at four and he tried to catch his breath. Moments later, Tyson unleashed a monstrous left-right combination that nailed Spinks' jaw. Down he went, flat on his back as referee Frank Capuccino started the count. There was no need.

Tyson, who earned more than $20 million to Spinks' $13.5 million in the richest fight in history at that point, didn't even celebrate the electric demolition. He simply spread his arms to receive the applause from the crowd, as if he knew the knockout had been ordained.

"When I came into the ring, I could see the fear," Tyson told reporters after the fight. "And I knew it was going to be a first-round knockout. That's what I came out to do."

The mystique lasted two more fights, knockouts in defenses against Frank Bruno and Carl Williams in 1989. Then came Tyson's waterloo against Buster Douglas.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.