Artwork by Gian Galang
In the mid 1980s the heavyweight division was in a poor and fractured state, and that is something which fans and pundits have been echoing with short intermissions ever since. Between 1978, when Leon Spinks bested a near antique Muhammad Ali, and 1985 there had been a dozen world champions crowned with various combinations of letters prefixing their ‘heavyweight champion of the world’ accolade. Michael Dokes, Mike Weaver, Greg Page, Tony Tubbs, Gerrie Coetzee, John Tate, Pinklon Thomas, Tim Witherspoon, Larry Holmes, Michael Spinks and even old Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton had claimed various incarnations of the crown—or as the public saw it, fragments of the crown.
HBO’s Seth Abraham was sick of it and when Don King inquired what it would take to have HBO televise his latest WBC title fight between Pinklon Thomas and Trevor Berbick, Abraham insisted that King be able to use the fight as part of a tournament with all three organizations’ heavyweight champions. So at great expense and after much negotiation, HBO put together a heavyweight tournament akin to that following Muhammad Ali’s exile from the sport through 1967 and 1968, attempting to unify the titles and bring some weight back to the championship.
It went swimmingly for a short while. Berbick surprised Thomas and captured the WBC belt. Rising superstar and the main ticket mover of the tournament, Mike Tyson crushed Alfonso Ratliff and then took Berbick’s title in his next fight. James ‘Bonecrusher’ Smith upset Tim Witherspoon with a first round knockout for the WBA heavyweight title, then lost over the distance to Tyson in his next bout. And IBF heavyweight champion, Michael Spinks after besting Larry Holmes by split decision in their rematch, dusted off Steffen Tangstad in four rounds.
Tyson’s destruction of Trevor Berbick.
This is where things got ….View full article