Game Film: Mike Tyson’s 1985 Fights (Part One)

Any pause for consideration for why the title of this article is titled under my recurring series, “Game Film,” is fair, as this is the first time I have covered anything other than basketball under that title. Choosing one of the three other major North American sports leagues is more logical, especially considering the title of the series, but I found this a far more rewarding endeavor. Boxing has not traditionally been called a game in a century, but there is a reason boxers say they are in the fight game, and if you expound upon that further, there is a reason boxing is known as the sweet science. On a more primitive level, these Tyson bouts I analyze in this article were (almost) all filmed, and I am far too apathetic to relabel the series as “Fight Film” for the sake of appeasing potential title enthusiasts. The career of Mike Tyson is a well-documented one, and attempting to retrace his steps from childhood to beginning his training under Cus D’Amoto would be far too laborious even for this long-winded writer. Instead, I have chosen to segment his workload into individual articles that translate to roughly the length of a detailed recounting of one 12-round fight, but even then, the rules will have to bend along the way. I will provide the background and proper context of each bout as I detail them, but my analysis is the main focus of these articles.

Hector Mercedes – March 6th, 1985

There’s not much to analyze in Tyson’s debut, as he came out aggressive and precise with his punches. Mercedes’ record was reportedly 0-2-1 at the time of the fight but, BoxRec has him listed as 0-3. Regardless, despite being just a year older, he was contrary to Tyson’s already rising star, demonstrated by Tyson being prominently displayed in the center of the event’s promotional material1. Tyson proved during his amateur career that he could become an explosive professional boxer but, it’s difficult to deny his selected opponents2 early on were used to build up his record3. Mercedes spent the majority of the fight curled up and receiving brutal punishment in the ring corners.

Mercedes wasn’t much taller than Tyson and so initially decided it best to try fighting inside, which resulted in him connecting on one inside jab and receiving multiple devastating shots to the head and body in a trio of wild skirmishes to establish inside dominance. His best moments came before the first clinch. After the first clinch, he landed one jab and must have been terrified of Tyson’s head movement after Tyson avoided his follow-up hooks. He was not attempting to press Tyson backward or keep him at bay with his jab, reluctant to do anything but cover himself up and back away from Tyson whenever he could slip away from his barrage of body shots. Mercedes managed to clinch Tyson again in a ring corner and get a break, but Tyson caught him flat-footed on his jab with a jab of his own. It was a formality from there as Tyson went for the kill; Mercedes covered up until he took a knee from the beating. He remained on his knee and motioned to the ref he no longer wanted to continue boxing, which gave Mike Tyson a first-round TKO win in his debut fight just one minute and 47 seconds in.

Trent Singleton – April 10th, 1985

Tyson’s follow-up fight would also be his opponent’s last. Singleton was 1-3 heading into this fight and would prove to be little more than cannon fodder. Tyson led with an extended jab to Singleton’s body that Singleton did not take advantage of, instead choosing to back up and weakly throw punches on a charging bull casually slipping inside his defenses. His most notable punches were a trio of hooks that more resembled an elderly woman stirring a pot against a Tyson ducking inside and releasing a furious barrage of hooks and uppercuts on Singleton’s body and head. Singleton received the mandatory standing eight count, whiffed a jab on a dodging Tyson, and then went down seconds later from a Tyson left hook. Singleton got back to his feet and was mercilessly and quickly beaten back down for a third time, this time without doing anything other than simply throwing his arms up in self-defense. He quickly got to his feet and staggered to his corner as Tyson celebrated his second consecutive TKO win in the first round.

Don Halpin – May 23rd, 1985

It’s worth mentioning here that Tyson did not wear the black trunks he became known for in his early fights, and the trunks he wore to the ring for this fight were his second style. In the first two fights, he wore white shorts with red trim. In this fight, Tyson wore white shorts with green trim and the Adidas logo and wording more prominently displayed on the lower left leg and across the waistline, respectively. Tyson switched styles a few more times before eventually settling on the black trunks; however, despite lacking his signature attire, he was already garnering a reputation with the local New York scene based on the small audience’s loud reaction during the fighter introductions. Don Halpin was a journeyman with a record of 10-18 going into this fight, although ESPN marathons list him at 9-18, and he was nothing more than an excuse for Tyson to work on his craft and go for more than one round.

It was evident in the opening seconds when Tyson connected effortlessly on a series of counterpunches, lead jabs, and follow-up hooks as he circled and stalked the less mobile and flat-footed Halpin. Tyson displayed awkwardness as he tried to pivot into a right uppercut, but Halpin did not press Tyson as he slipped; instead, Tyson quickly regained his balance and continued to jab and control the pace. From there, Tyson’s output dipped significantly, as he even switched to southpaw for a few seconds; this bout was nothing more than an excuse to get some live ring work in. Tyson’s head movement and defense were on full display, only absorbing weak body shots and no significant strikes to the head, making Halpin look like all his attempted punches upstairs were in slow motion. Tyson was content to stay within range and box Halpin, even tying him up on a few occasions when the journeyman was getting too close, definitely a 10-9 round for Tyson.

Round 2 would see Tyson quickly switch to southpaw during his opening flurry of punches, and he stuck with it longer in this round than the fleeting moment he attempted it in the first round. He was content to switch stances and throw jabs and counterpunches to the body, which staggered Halpin a little over a minute into the round. Halpin backed up and covered, clinching Tyson when he could and surviving, but he took a beating for it. Tyson continued displaying swift head movement, dodging the vast majority of Halpin’s head strikes and taking his time to size him up from range as he bombed away at his body and better slipped through his guard up top. It was another clear-cut 10-9 round in Tyson’s favor.

Round 3 would see Halpin slink even lower in his crouch and tepidly throw jabs at an energetic Tyson, who was still content to stay within range, switch stances, counterpunch, and box. Halpin attempted to press forward and received a right hook for his troubles, forcing him to back up and play Tyson’s game. He did manage to land a jab that snapped Tyson’s head back, but the remainder of the round would see him whiff on punches from range and attempt to jump back once Tyson pounced and attacked from multiple inside angles. He staggered Halpin again with a left hook to the temple and chased him down to the ropes, where Halpin covered up and clinched to survive any further assault. Tyson stayed in southpaw for the remainder of the round, using his extraordinary head movement to avoid Halpin’s head strikes and simply looking to land the KO counterpunch from range. Halpin attempted to cover up inside and unleash shots onto Tyson’s torso but, Tyson’s flurry of uppercuts inside forced Halpin to back away and continue boxing at Tyson’s leisure until the round ended. Another 10-9 round in Tyson’s favor.

For the first time in Tyson’s career, the fourth round was not the scheduled final round, but he was looking to add another KO/TKO win to his record and had enough exercising with Halpin. Tyson connected on a short straight left from his southpaw stance and tied up with Halpin before switching back to orthodox and stalking him around the ring. Tyson was cutting off Halpin’s angles and forcing him to retreat around the ring as he pursued from range before pushing him off balance with a double jab and sending him into the ropes and onto the floor with a vicious right hook. Halpin beat the count, and Tyson followed up with five more vicious left and right hooks that sent a staggering Halpin to the ropes and once more to the canvas, where Tyson followed up with one more right uppercut to the head of his downed opponent after his last right sent him to the floor. The ref called the fight and gave Tyson his third KO/TKO win one minute and four seconds into the fourth round.

Ricardo Spain – June 20th, 1985

It’s funny watching event promoters lie to hype up a fight. Ricardo Spain, real name Abdul Rahman4, is listed as 7-0 heading into the match, but even the announcer gives it away by stating it’s only Spain’s second pro fight. Further digging on BoxRec reveals Spain’s career lasted until 1993 when he finished with a record of 2-23-1. The bout is entertaining because of its brief length and quick knockout, but it’s also just as amusing to me in noting that Spain weighed in at 1843/4 lbs5 for this bout, by far the lightest opponent Tyson faced in his professional career. In fact, of the five boxers Tyson fought that weighed in less than 200 lbs, four of them were in his first eight fights, including three of the first four.

Spain anxiously sprang forward to meet Tyson but missed his jab and quickly covered up as Tyson circled him and let loose tough hooks and uppercuts on his body and any slight openings in his guard, backing him into the ropes near Tyson’s corner. Spain continued covering up and walked forward, forcing Tyson to push Spain back and allow the two to reset near the center of the ring. Tyson confidently circled him, slipping a jab and throwing out one of his own, before delivering a devastating straight right hand on Spain’s temple as he was again attempting to cover up. Spain stood and threw a three-punch combination, connecting a jab on Tyson’s chin, but as the other two punches missed their mark and Tyson slid away to reset his position, Spain fell over. With the ropes’ assistance, Spain made it to his feet and decided it best to try and slug it out with Tyson as he led with a straight right hand that was unbelievably off the mark. Tyson slid his torso over and saw his straight right fly past Spain’s head, but due to his inside positioning, he was able to quickly follow up with a snapping quick left hook to Spain’s temple that instantly wobbled him. Tyson backed away from his cut-off angle to reposition himself into a more favorable position to land crushing blows, but Spain fell as Tyson swung a right hook. The ref stopped the fight, giving Tyson an easy 39-second TKO win to further pad his record.

John Alderson – July 11th, 1985

John Alderson was laid off from his day job as a mine worker when he agreed to take this fight. The announcers stated he had an impressive amateur career, going 154-12, but BoxRec only has him listed as 0-4 as an amateur. However, his listed professional record of 4-0 was just slight inflation of his actual 3-0 record. Tyson, now 19, switched back to his white shorts with red trim and battered him around the ring, but Alderson’s height seemed to present accuracy problems for the eventual champ, as Tyson swung and missed wildly several times throughout the fight.

Tyson looked to counter Alderson’s six-inch height advantage by aggressively pursuing him and leading with jabs and straights to slip inside and look for devastating hooks. Alderson, to his credit, maneuvered around and made Tyson miss while throwing his jab with confidence. Alderson tied Tyson up several times early to stifle any offensive explosion but soon found it mandatory practice as Tyson snapped his head back with a leaning left hook 44 seconds into the fight. Alderson did his best to evade most of Tyson’s wild swings at his head but bled from his nose throughout the round and failed to keep Tyson at bay. Instead, Alderson allowed Tyson to remain in range and attempt counterpunches without throwing any counterpunches of his own. Alderson ended the round with three one-two combinations that did keep Tyson at bay and force clinches, but one could tell Alderson wasn’t going to last long in round two just by looking at his condition.

Alderson and Tyson continued clinching and inside fighting in the opening minute of round two, likely part of Tyson’s strategy, catching Alderson with a right hook as Alderson reached in with another one-two combination and staggering the bigger man. Tyson pressed forward aggressively, swinging his crisp, signature hooks inside as Alderson continued clinching and attempting to survive. He must’ve figured Alderson’s timing, as he hesitated a moment after a clinch break-up and landed a right hook to Alderson’s temple as he came in with another one-two combination attempt. That punch sent Alderson to the canvas with a little under a minute-and-a-half left, but the big man survived the round as Tyson swung wildly and missed a majority of his shots but inflicted enough damage to secure one more knockdown. Alderson made it to his feet to survive the round, but both he and the ringside doctor agreed Alderson should fight another day, awarding Tyson his fifth TKO victory in as many fights.

Larry Sims – July 19th, 1985

Known amongst Tyson archivists as the “Missing Fight,” this scheduled six-rounder against Larry Sims is infamously shrouded in conspiracies6. One reasoning for the missing footage is the explanation that the camera crew was late to the event, and by the time they showed up, the fight was over. Another reasoning is that Tyson’s trainers and promoters were unimpressed with his performance and didn’t want it distributed along with his other highlights for their tape they would eventually send out to reporters and had the footage destroyed. It’s worth noting a writer for a Tyson biography7 once stated Sims had a 10-10 record and fought cautiously for two rounds before he was caught in the corner and was knocked out for ten minutes after a Tyson right hook at the beginning of the third round. BoxRec has Sims listed as 3-17-2 at the time of this bout, and he’s likely full of shit about Sims being out for ten minutes, but his accounting of the fight between those two details is likely accurate. As for what I think, as you know, if you’ve read this blog for some time, I find the truth too often lies somewhere in the middle. There is an image of the fight matching the description of the author’s recounting of how Sims dropped his guard to protect his ribs only to receive a Tyson right hook upstairs, but I do find it suspicious that the camera crew didn’t show up in time for the third fight of a six-fight card8.

Final Analysis

My “Game Film” articles usually have a final analysis section at the end of the article, but now this heading is a misnomer. Despite looking at six of Tyson’s fights today, we’re still not even halfway through all his bouts in 1985. Instead, his hyperactive schedule has forced me to include my final analysis during part two’s conclusion. Join me then as we continue this analysis of Mike Tyson’s professional boxing career next time on Havarti.

Editor’s Notes

  1. Sports Illustrated – 5/15/2015 – Mike Tyson: Inside his first pro fight and sensational rise
  2. Sun Sentinel-11/18/1986 – MAKING OF A CHAMPION MIKE TYSON’S CAREFULLY MAPPED ROAD TO THE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE HAS BUT ONE OBSTACLE LEFT CONQUER: MIRAMAR’S TREVOR BERBICK
  3. YouTube/IndustryHoax Revealed – 8/20/2020 – The Mike Tyson Hoax
  4. YouTube/Active Self Protection – 6/17/2020 – Vulnerable Populations Get More Leeway In Self Defense Situations
  5. Or 1841/4 lbs if you’re going by Michael Buffer’s announcement
  6. YouTube/Break’n News – 11/6/2020 – 6 – Mike Tyson vs Larry Sims
  7. The Rise of Mike Tyson, Heavyweight by William F. McNeil
  8. Especially since the photographers made it and there’s no fans visible in the stands in the sole image of the bout

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