At 38, Tyson's loss signals end of era

Updated: August 10, 2004, 9:36 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Mike Tyson was knocked out in the fourth round Friday night in a shocking end to the latest comeback of the fighter who once was the most feared heavyweight of his era.

Unheralded British heavyweight Danny Williams landed a flurry of punches that sent Tyson sprawling into the ropes, perhaps ending his career with the same kind of fury that Tyson once unleashed on other fighters.

Williams, a heavy underdog, improved to 32-3 with 27 knockouts. Tyson, who was hoping to fight often and improbably regain his former glories to get out of millions in debt, fell to 50-5 with 44 KOs. The loss was Tyson's first in 41 non-title fights.

Williams immediately proposed to his longtime fiancée, Zoe, the mother of his two daughters, who accepted, and not because the Englishman made a $350,000 purse tonight with a lot more to come.

Down for the count, Tyson could only watch the ref count him out.

"Williams was laying on him," said Tyson's trainer, Freddie Roach. "I think it wore him out. He had a great amount of firepower. Mike moved his head well, threw a lot of good combinations, but Williams has a lot of heart. He took a lot of hard punches."

The fighter once called the baddest man on the planet went down from a final right hand, then laid helplessly along the ropes, blood streaming down his face. Tyson tried to get up to beat the count, then fell down again and the fight was waved to a stunning close at 2:51 of the fourth round.

The fight was a free-for-all from the opening bell, with Tyson landing some huge left hooks early, only to take punishment himself when Williams got over his initial stage fright and began brawling himself.

Tyson was moving his head in the opening round, jabbing and calmly attacking the Brit, who initially, at least, did not appear intimidated. But then a couple of jabs, followed by a right to the body and a left hook to the head and Williams was in trouble.

"I was hurt," Williams admitted. "Tyson still has tremendous punching power. But I saw from the Holyfield fights, that if you keep throwing punches, he doesn¹t recover all that well."

There were a couple of more debilitating body shots and then almost the famous combination that made Tyson the youngest heavyweight champion in 1986 -- the right to the body, a right uppercut to the chin (which missed against Trevor Berbick, but the ensuing left hook gave Tyson his first title). He didn't throw the hook in that combination Friday night. But he landed many more in that opening round, including a double hook to the body and chin that had Williams desperately holding. He somehow made it through the round and suddenly, a real fight broke out.

Fighting in Muhammad Ali's hometown before a big crowd that cheered his every move, Tyson tried with every punch to score the kind of spectacular knockout that would make him a heavyweight contender once again at the age of 38.

But Williams wouldn't go down and then came back with shocking suddenness to win.

"He was a strong guy with a lot of heart," Roach said of Williams. "He showed us things that we didn't see in films. He seized the opportunity of a lifetime."

Tyson, who left without talking, won the first three rounds, but Williams was landing well to the head and when he began throwing punch after punch with Tyson near a neutral corner, Tyson couldn't answer back.

It was Tyson's first fight in 17 months, and only his second since taking a beating from former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis two years ago. But Lewis was a legitimate world champion, while the 31-year-old Williams' biggest claim to fame was winning the British heavyweight title.

He was desperately trying to resurrect a career that made him more than $300 million, but the loss to a 9-1 underdog perhaps signals the end of an era in the heavyweight division.

People forget this isn't a peak Mike Tyson. This was a Mike Tyson who was 38 years old. I thought I could win.
Danny Williams

"People forget this isn't a peak Mike Tyson. This was a Mike Tyson who was 38 years old," Williams said. "I thought I could win."

Tyson's manager, Shelly Finkel, said he twisted his knee late in the first round and it bothered him.

"He couldn't get leverage," Finkel said. "When the guy was leaning on him I knew it would be a bad night."

The crowd of 17,253 that nearly filled Freedom Hall came to see a knockout by Tyson, and when Tyson rocked Williams with a big uppercut and some left hooks in the first two rounds it looked like they would get what they came for.

But Tyson was cut in the third round, and Williams showed he was going to be the bully in this fight. He hit Tyson on the break, losing a point, then hit him low, and the referee took another point.

The bully was being bullied, and Tyson couldn't stand up to it.

"Every single round that went by, his punching power seemed to grow less," Williams said. "So I knew I was going to take him out."

Williams had fought only once in the United States. He said before the fight he wouldn't be scared and would beat Tyson in the late rounds, but the end came even earlier than he thought.

"I felt like I had him," Williams said. "I just remember [Evander] Holyfield fighting him that Holyfield kept coming with shot after shot."

[Williams] was a strong guy with a lot of heart. He showed us things that we didn't see in films. He seized the opportunity of a lifetime.
Freddie Roach, Tyson's trainer

Tyson won the first three rounds on all three ringside scorecards. But Williams, who weighed 265 pounds to 233 for the former champion, kept fighting back and soon seemed to be getting the better of Tyson when they traded head shots.

In the fourth round, Tyson landed a big left hook early, but soon Williams took over and was landing almost unanswered when he drove Tyson into the ropes with the final punch.

Referee Dennis Alfred began counting and got to five, then waited for Williams to go to a neutral corner, giving Tyson more time. But even that wasn't enough as Tyson lay beaten, bleeding and battered on the ropes.

Williams, the former British Commonwealth champion, had an impressive record but had never fought a name opponent or top contender. Still, Tyson had ring rust after his long layoff and he hadn't been beating household names recently, either.

"This guy can punch a bit, so you have to be careful," Roach warned before the fight.

Tyson earned about $8 million for the 57th fight of a pro career that began 19 years ago. He could only keep $2 million of it, with the rest going to pay off some of the $38 million he owes to creditors, under a bankruptcy reorganization plan.

"I'm sorry. I'm disappointed," Tyson told Roach after the fight ended.

"You don't have to be sorry with me," Roach replied.

While Tyson wasn't the fighter he once was when he became the youngest heavyweight champion ever 18 years ago, he still was a big attraction.

The crowd was surprisingly good, with promoters claiming 12,021 tickets sold. Outside Freedom Hall a handful of rape protesters waved signs, but inside the crowd was all Tyson's.

Among them was Brad Robinson, who flew in from Columbia, S.C., with his father to see the fight.

"If he dedicates himself, there's no one who could compete with him," Robinson said. "He's still just one punch away from being the heavyweight champion."

Laila Ali
AP/Charles Rex ArbogastLaila Ali, right, was the aggressor for most of her title defense against Monica Nunez.

On the undercard, Laila Ali, daughter of the former heavyweight champion, stopped an outclassed Monica Nunez in the ninth round of a scheduled 10-round fight.

Although Muhammad Ali was not ringside to see his daughter fight, Laila Ali (18-0, 15 KOs) endured excessive holding by Nunez (9-2), who drew a one-point deduction in the second round for relentless hugging. In the fifth, Ali pounded Nunez to the body and threw the challenger to the canvas. By the eighth round, Nunez was holding so much the referee finally took a second point from her.

Fighting in the same building where her father made his pro debut 44 years ago, Ali dominated the fight before Nunez' corner threw in the towel at 42 seconds of the ninth round.

Also on the undercard, Nelson Dieppa of Puerto Rico won a 108-pound title fight with a majority decision over Ulises Solis of Mexico.

Information from MaxBoxing.com was used in this report.

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