Game Film: Mike Tyson’s 1986 Fights (Part Three)

Tyson was being hyped as “the next great heavyweight” by sports publications and introduced as “the exciting young heavyweight the world has been waiting for” during his bout against Steve Zouski. Nearing the summer of ’86, three months into HBO’s heavyweight unification series, Tyson signed new multi-fight, million-dollar deals1 with HBO and ABC that further increased his profile and formally introduced him to Don King. Tyson’s co-manager Bill Cayton later recounted2 weariness at partnering with King due to his reputation but knew Tyson would have to get involved with HBO and their tournament at some point, which meant doing business with Don King. Tyson wouldn’t wait long, as his first opponent for his HBO contract was Mitch “Blood” Green, who employed Don King as his promoter.

Mitch Green – May 20th, 1986

HBO took no time in plainly displaying Jimmy Jacobs and Bill Cayton’s promotional plan3 to jettison Tyson to a heavyweight championship behind carefully selected opponents in their pre-fight promotional package. It mattered little if their methods were manipulative, as the public yearned for a spectacular heavyweight champion they could invest in one way or another like legends past such as Dempsey, Marciano, or Ali. Tyson was well on his way to becoming that champion people could invest in; the HBO heavyweight unification series presented itself as the perfect opportunity to eventually insert Tyson as HBO further provided exposure. Despite later claiming in a street interview4 that he was not ranked when Tyson fought him, Mitch “Blood” Green was, in reality, ranked No. 7 by the WBC at this time. He had a record of 16-1-1 and came from a similar background as Tyson but was far brasher and enjoyed spewing trash talk during public appearances. He was 29-years-old at this point but still had time to put together a decent record; however, he wouldn’t have another professional boxing match for almost seven years after this one, and in fact, his most high-profile fight after this was a street fight5 with Tyson in 1988. I’ll cover more of Tyson and Green’s behind-the-scenes animosity towards each other later in the article, but for now, let’s take a look at the official bout between the two.

Round 1 set the tone for the bout; lackluster. Tyson immediately smothered Green from the opening bell, using his brilliant elusive head movement or his jab to get inside, where he would land hooks to Green’s body in short succession during inside fighting. Green’s most efficient method of handling this was stepping back and throwing solitary stiff jabs at Tyson; otherwise, he spent the entirety of the round on the run, clinching and missing punches. His best moment of offense this round was his three three-punch combinations around the two-minute and five-second mark. However, Tyson was moving his head around and keeping his guard up, so he evaded or outright absorbed the punches on his guard as he maneuvered inside, and Green’s punches more resembled slap-punches from an unstable base rather than solid, efficient strikes. Tyson effectively bullied Green around the ring as he snuck in a straight and an uppercut in the final minute of the round, which in tandem with Tyson’s multitude of hooks to Green’s body meant that he controlled the entirety of the round. Tyson landed a right hook on Green’s chin after the bell had ended, but Green shook it off and didn’t retaliate, so the two made their way to their respective corners without further incident.

Tyson won that round 10-9 on my scorecard, but instead of adjusting the game plan, Green spent the first 36 seconds of round two simply holding Tyson some more. His corner had instructed him to do just that between rounds, but I fail to see the merit of this strategy when Green had mounted scant offense in the first round. Around the one-minute and four-second mark of the round, after the two had been briefly battling in and out of sloppy holds, Green began holding Tyson behind the head; and landing left hooks to Tyson’s face before letting go as Tyson continued swinging from inside. However, Green was not penalized for it, and neither man altered their gameplan as Green continued shoving Tyson away or clinching him when he got too close for his liking. Tyson, to his credit, didn’t have to adjust much anyway, as he was controlling the pace, smothering Green’s offense, and sneaking in short hooks and uppercuts to Green’s face on the inside. Tyson landed two alternating hooks to Green’s body with 20 seconds in the round, and after evading Tyson’s follow-up right uppercut and left hook, Green clinched, and the two fought inside to end the round. It was another lackluster round that I’d score 10-9 in Tyson’s favor, but he certainly wasn’t majorly damaging Green or landing explosive shots that led to solid combinations; content to poke away with short punches to the face in the clinch and land body shots.

Round 3 was even more mundane, as Green did nothing other than hold and shove. Tyson continued enacting his smothering strategy, swarming Green from bell to bell, sneaking in those hooks and uppercuts onto Green’s face whenever Green grabbed him. Those short, compact shots started adding up, as Green was noticeably breathing heavier and bleeding from the mouth. Tyson had knocked his mouthpiece out for the second consecutive round and even knocked out a section of bridgework from Green’s mouth. Green continued grabbing and allowing Tyson to land short right hooks to his body in close; he did keep his feet active, but his guard was too low to protect himself from Tyson repeatedly pouncing in and clipping him with hooks during the round. Tyson landed two alternating hooks to the body and followed up with a third one on Green’s temple from inside with ten seconds remaining in the round. Green tried to slip away but ended up against the ropes with Tyson on his hip, leading him to simply put his guard up and turn to face Tyson as he absorbed most of another right hook to the face as the two clinched up to end the round. Another 10-9 round for Tyson on my scorecard.

Tyson was eager to start the fourth round, being forced back into his corner by the referee seconds before the bell rang. Green was even more hesitant this round, throwing even fewer jabs and immediately backing up every time Tyson charged forward. The referee warned Green for holding early in the round after wasting the first 36 seconds doing nothing but grabbing. Tyson had been showcasing immaculate head movement during the previous rounds, slipping by Green’s jab and landing stiff shots to Green’s face as he pounced in, so perhaps Green was wary of being tagged by any more punches in that manner. However, this did little to mitigate Tyson’s offense, as he continued walking right up to Green and landing punches inside throughout the round, knocking Green’s mouthpiece out once again. Tyson began showing frustration as the round ended with the two in a clinch once more, throwing punches and remaining aggressive with Green after the bell had rung. Green remained professional and kept his arms out as the referee restrained Tyson from continuing; despite that outburst, it was still a 10-9 round in Tyson’s favor on my scorecard.

Tyson continued swarming Green to start the fifth round, pouncing on him and backing him against the ropes near Green’s corner. If you were hoping for Tyson to open up and unleash a forceful combination on Green and stagger him, then you’d be severely disappointed to see the round play out as the previous four. The two continued their grab-and-punch game, with Tyson getting the cleaner punches inside to Green’s body, as well as excellently slipping Green’s jabs. Tyson was clipping Green most prominently with his left hook as he stepped inside; however, around the 55-second mark, Tyson began getting fired up and talking trash to Green. After more stretches of inside fighting, shoving, and referee breakages from the clinch, Tyson expressed his frustration more vividly with Green.

Around the one-minute and 40-second mark, Tyson stood close to Green and made a mocking facial expression as he moved his head around and evaded Green’s punches as Tyson then chased him across the ring with half-hearted jabs as Tyson continued dodging Green’s strikes. Tyson kept his head down as he made his way inside, but Green, fired up by the mockery from Tyson, circled Tyson and continued throwing a barrage of punches. Tyson continued mocking Green by not throwing any punches once Tyson was in close, continued evading them even as Tyson turned around to face Green, and then was clinched by Green once Tyson got too close. Green did land some punches during his frantic swinging, but nothing substantial, as Tyson is visibly grinning during the whole thing. The remaining minute after the previously mentioned clinch saw Green only throw one left hook, one right uppercut, and three jabs, all of which he missed. Tyson, in contrast, picked his spots and landed some good shots in between spurts of Green’s clinching during that final minute, including a pouncing left hook, a quick 3-6 combination, and a right hook just before the bell rang to end the round. Tyson was also staying active inside and throwing punches to Green’s body when close or getting tied up, leading me to declare this another 10-9 round in Tyson’s favor.

Unfortunately, the start of the sixth round resembled a grappling contest more than a boxing match, as Tyson and Green met near the center of the ring and then quickly clinched for over ten seconds. Tyson was noticeably head-hunting more at the start of this round, using his jab to snap Green’s head back during inside fighting and also using it to pressure Green and keep him on the back foot. Green’s only defense was to keep clinching, as he was fatigued by this point and unable to move around as quickly as before, allowing Tyson ample opportunities to continue leisurely pouncing in from range and landing compact left hooks to Green’s chin. Green tried putting together a three-punch combination with a little under a minute-and-a-half left in the round and two quick succeeding two-punch combinations with around 20 seconds left, but all three missed. Green showed a little more bounce in his movement for 14 seconds, starting at the two-minute and six-second mark until two minutes and 20 seconds into the round when Tyson caught him against the ropes and forced Green to clinch. After another quick clinch right after, Green was flat-footed once more, all the while Tyson continued dictating the pace and landing body shots inside on Green. It’s yet another 10-9 round for Tyson on my scorecard.

There was a brief exchange as the sixth round ended when Green didn’t let go of Tyson, which led to Tyson forcefully pulling himself away and throwing a punch after the bell. Fortunately, the referee and one of Green’s trainers stepped in to deescalate the situation; unfortunately, the seventh round featured even more holding, shoving, and inside fighting as Tyson continuously jabbed his way inside during the opening minute. Green did throw two three-punch combinations before clinching at the 50-second mark and even landed a few of those punches, but they more resembled slapping punches and essentially slipped right off Tyson. Tyson was noticeably less aggressive and more willing to clinch up with Green, who landed a few more slap-punches before clinching with Tyson, leading to the referee breaking it up and telling them, “Hey, stop wrestling, c’mon. C’mon, let him go, stop wrestling. Boxing.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Perhaps this comment by the referee incited inner aggression from Tyson, as he landed a nice right uppercut that snapped Green’s head back momentarily at the minute-and-a-half mark. Tyson was now using his jab more to get close to Green, where he would continue landing body shots as Green continued his predictable pattern of holding, shoving, and throwing and missing slap-punches for the remaining minute-and-a-half of the round. Tyson tried exciting the fans with a three-punch combination of hooks and an uppercut that saw a couple of those punches land, but Green was content to tie Tyson up and try and keep both arms tied up to prevent further body shots. Another 10-9 round for Tyson, if you were wondering. Grabbing and shoving hadn’t worked for Green; if he wanted to win a round, he needed to be more aggressive and land some punches.

After another uninteresting minute of Tyson making his way inside and getting clinched, Green began opening up around one minute into the eighth round. He landed two right uppercuts from a ducking position inside with Tyson and then stood tall and threw punches in quick succession, landing four or five hooks out of 12 or 13 punches. Tyson was finally on the defensive, but he continued displaying excellent head movement and evaded most of Green’s strikes as Green became more assertive and swung more often for the next 30 seconds. Eventually, Tyson managed to continue getting his way inside, picking his spots as he pounced on Green to land compact hooks on his face and kept punching at Green’s body when he was tied up. Tyson controlled the last minute of the round as Green reverted to frequently grabbing once more; however, the round’s middle minute was a more closely contested affair that saw Green become the momentary aggressor. Despite this round being Green’s best showing thus far, I would still score this round 10-9 in Tyson’s favor. Green didn’t inflict enough damage on Tyson even while he was dictating the pace, and he allowed it to be snatched from him anyway once Tyson was able to evade his punches and get inside to force a clinch from Green.

The ninth round began with what appeared to be the two men lowering themselves to hug each other, and after being shoved away by Green, Tyson stepped forward and clinched Green. The referee quickly broke it up and warned Tyson for headbutting, which may or may not have been intentional since the two seemingly clashed heads moments prior as Tyson made his way inside with a jab. The remainder of the round was incredibly uneventful, as Green moved around the ring trying to stay away from Tyson, missing solitary jabs as he did so and tying Tyson up whenever he was too close. Tyson continued using his jab to pressure his way inside, using his head movement to slip any punches Green tried to throw inside as he landed body shots inside. Tyson even mixed up his combinations to land a right hook and a right uppercut on Green inside around the one-minute and 12-second mark. He continued picking his spots and landing rapid body shots as he was tied up inside for the rest of the round as Green continued to look unimpressive, making this a straightforward 10-9 round to score in Tyson’s favor.

Round 10 had a delayed start as the referee stopped the bout and forced the two men to touch gloves as a show of respect, but they barely made contact as the front of their gloves quickly slipped off each other once the referee let go of their arms. Even though Tyson threw a punch after the bell after the previous round, this wasn’t enough to motivate Green to come out swinging, as he immediately grabbed Tyson around the arms and held him. Green was even less impressive in this round, leaning on and holding Tyson as he threw sloppy punches to the body and didn’t even put up a fight for the first minute. However, Tyson was equally unimpressive in this round, as he too began leaning on Green during clinches and throwing less crisp hooks from range as he stepped in. Green strung combinations together as the round went on and the grappling and shoving continued; Green likely landed more punches in this round than any previous round, but it still was nothing substantial. Tyson landed a few short shots inside to Green’s face, but most of his concentration continued to be focused on the midsection of Green as he threw short combinations inside in between spurts of pushing Green across the ring when tied up. It was a close round to call due to the unimpressive way both boxers came out to finish the bout, but I will call it 10-9 in Tyson’s favor due to him still dictating the pace of the round. I can certainly understand being in favor of scoring the final round in Green’s favor, but one can’t argue that Tyson walked away with an undeserved unanimous decision victory.

Two judges scored the bout nine rounds to one in Tyson’s favor, and the other scored it eight rounds to two in Tyson’s favor, so maybe they liked something I didn’t that led to my 100-90 final score. Green threatened to pull out of the bout at the weigh-ins over the alleged purse discrepancy between himself and Tyson, with Tyson making $250,000 while Green made $30,000. With the announcers stating, “Green has to prove he’s worth the money,” in the final round, and repeatedly stating Green “wasn’t cooperating” throughout the bout with Tyson, this is likely the reason why Green appeared so unimpressive. Tyson came into this bout ranked No. 8 by the WBC, and despite Green not looking like he should have been ranked one spot higher than Tyson during this bout, this victory was enough to make the WBC move Tyson up to No. 4. He was still well on his way to making D’Amato’s bold predictions become a reality, even if the crowd was displeased with his latest fight.

Reggie Gross – June 13th, 1986

Reggie Gross was 18-4 and unranked when he stepped into the ring with Tyson, but more interestingly, abruptly ended his career with a 19-8 record after being convicted for three murders6 in 1989. Also of note is that this was Tyson’s first fight with Don King as his promoter. Gross came out snapping his jab and keeping Tyson at a distance as he slid back and fired left hooks at the ever-approaching Tyson. Tyson tried landing a right hook as he ducked and got inside, but Gross put his guard up and slid away. Gross tried a straight and got popped with a short jab but continued circling and trying to jab from outside as Tyson stepped inside jabbing to apply pressure.

Tyson landed a left hook on Gross’ temple 38 seconds into the round after the referee had broken up the clinch a second prior, but Gross shook it off quickly. Gross stepped forward to throw another jab but got his arm caught underneath Tyson’s right arm as Tyson sidestepped the punch. This situation resulted in a somewhat awkward moment when Tyson momentarily wrapped both arms around Gross’ right arm and then quickly let go to snap off two quick alternating hooks upstairs. Gross was shifting his body to take less impact from the punches, but Tyson continued standing in front of him and throwing punches to the body and through his guard as Gross covered up. Gross shoved Tyson away to get some space and maneuver around the ring, and he tried throwing jabs and stringing together punches behind them like a right uppercut or a straight right; Tyson’s masterful defense meant Gross wasn’t landing anything. Tyson continued the assault, staying in front of Gross as he tried moving around the ring, eventually getting him against the ropes and landing a flurry of hooks to the body and a follow-up right uppercut upstairs through Gross’ guard at the minute-and-a-half mark. Gross seemingly had no answer as he continued covering himself up and allowing Tyson to stand in front of him and pick his spots.

Tyson was landing shots to the body and patiently waiting for angles to open up to sneak in short punches upstairs until Gross had enough and finally starting swinging with reckless abandon at the one-minute and 55-second mark. He threw at least 15 punches in ten seconds, starting with a left uppercut that Tyson blocked and then a short left hook that landed on Tyson’s temple. Gross began stepping closer to Tyson and swinging hooks as Tyson backed up, ducked, and covered up. Tyson threw a left hook that stopped Gross’ momentum as he slipped back to avoid it before Gross quickly popped back in close and started a 1-2 combination that forced Tyson to duck, where Gross then clipped Tyson with a left uppercut on the temple. However, Tyson had Gross’ timing down now, as he then expertly swayed his torso around, keeping his guard up as he stayed directly in front of Gross, forcing him to miss sweeping uppercuts, hooks, and a jab while Tyson ducked and slipped punches. Gross threw and missed six punches in total with Tyson directly in front of him before Tyson pounced with a signature wide left hook that landed on the chin as Gross was bouncing on the balls of his feet to reset with another combination inside. Gross fell flat on his back, but was on his feet by the count of six, received the standing eight count, and was allowed to continue.

Tyson walked right up to Gross and threw a stiff straight right that Gross ducked, leading to another awkward positioning moment where Gross kept one arm folded and leaned against Tyson as he ducked the straight right but just kept his other arm up the air, barely protecting himself. Tyson then clinched Gross’ shoulder with his right arm as Tyson threw a left hook on Gross’ jaw that snapped his head to the side and got him off balance. Tyson followed up with an arching left hook that landed on Gross’ temple as he started staggering towards the ropes, although it was partially blocked as Gross put his guard up. However, Gross was already incredibly off-balance and tumbled over into the ropes as he evaded a right hook.

Tyson must’ve been unsatisfied with the knockdown because as Gross sat against the ropes, Tyson clipped him in the face with a right uppercut. The referee stepped in and got Tyson to a neutral corner as Gross slowly got to his feet by the count of eight, although not without heavy assistance from the ropes. Gross didn’t even make eye contact with the referee as he made the count of eight, forcing the referee to call a stop to the contest at the two-minute and 36-second mark. Gross pushed the referee and complained about the stoppage, but it was apparent he was dazed. This win was Tyson’s first KO/TKO victory after going the distance against James Tillis and Mitch Green and his first first-round KO/TKO in five months.

William Hosea – June 28th, 1986

William Hosea was Tyson’s opponent in his last fight as a teenager, an unranked boxer who was 12-3 but listed on the program cover7 with a record of 17-3. Further light research on BoxRec reveals two of his three losses occurred shortly after taking his first loss in June ’82, when he briefly attempted to compete as a cruiserweight in late ’82 and ’83 before taking nearly two-and-a-half years off from boxing. He returned in January ’86 with a unanimous decision victory over Larry Givens before scheduling this match with Tyson for February 22nd, 1986, just six days after Tyson beat Jesse Ferguson. However, Tyson pulled out of the bout8, citing a cold that kept him from training, leading to the fight being rescheduled later in the year. Whether by design or fortuity, this ultimately provided Tyson the perfect opportunity to add another impressive quick knockout to his record as his stock continued rising; he entered this bout ranked No. 2 by the WBC.

The two men met in the center of the ring, and Tyson quickly snapped out some jabs before trying to string together a trio of three-punch combinations as Hosea avoided the strikes and tried staying within range. Tyson barely connected, if it all, on most of these punches, but it kept the pressure up as Hosea circled and threw some jabs of his own. Hosea’s shoes slipped at the 30-second mark as he covered up to block a Tyson punch to his torso, but he remained upright and continued boxing in close with Tyson. Hosea landed a left hook to Tyson’s face and tried swarming him with a follow-up combination, but Tyson’s crafty head movement saw him avoid Hosea’s strikes. Tyson’s attempted right uppercut counterpunch forced Hosea to back up and reset, where the two continued throwing short jabs and trying to pick their spots directly in front of the other. Tyson lurched forward with a three-punch combination that missed and ended with the two clinching around the 55-second mark. Tyson continued throwing his jab out and stringing potential combinations behind it, but Hosea continued showing good defense as he kept his guard up to block any jabs and kept his feet active to slide out of Tyson’s range.

Hosea began attempting to land body shots or interrupt Tyson’s potential combinations with his combination; Tyson finally snuck a right uppercut in through Hosea’s guard as the two were looking for counterpunches inside. While the punch snapped Hosea’s head back, his slippery shoes9 didn’t help his balance at all as he began falling over and clinched Tyson to stay upright. Hosea walked Tyson across the ring as Hosea had one arm wrapped around him and the other throwing punches to his side, but the referee stepped in to break it up. Tyson landed another right uppercut and then landed four hooks to the body as Hosea stepped back and missed his punches. Tyson shadowed Hosea across the ring, delivering another right uppercut during a flurry of hooks that ended with multiple right hooks to Hosea’s face as he tried covering up. Hosea hit the canvas face-first but was already regrouping himself and crouched over by the count of four, and yet, he somehow didn’t beat the count, reaching his feet a split-second after the referee had already made the ten count. The crowd loudly booed as Tyson won by yet another first-round KO/TKO.

Final Analysis

Tyson remained undefeated but began seeing more criticism after his decision victories over Tillis and Green. Certain journalists stated top-ranked opponents would have a field day exposing his flaws. Even his next opponent, Lorenzo Boyd, in a pre-fight interview, said he would follow the blueprint set by Tillis. Getting back to quick knockout victories over lesser boxers was likely a decision by Tyson’s managers, Jimmy Jacobs and Bill Cayton, to keep the momentum rolling. It paid off, as Tyson was fighting Berbick for the title later that year. However, one boxer who seemingly desperately wanted a rematch with Tyson never got one, Mitch Green.

After his unimpressive showing against Tyson, Green would not return to a boxing ring until 1993. During the early hours of August 23rd, 1988, the two got into an altercation outside of Dapper Dan’s in Harlem, New York. Green was allegedly screaming how Don King owed him money and eventually threw a punch during the argument. Tyson, who was there to pick up a custom-made jacket, threw a straight right in response and broke the bridge of Green’s nose. Green’s nose required five stitches, and Tyson’s fist was fractured, meaning his upcoming fight with Frank Bruno now had to be rescheduled. Some have speculated the incident was a publicity stunt to generate intrigue amongst the public with a potential rematch between two guys from nearby neighborhoods who disliked each other, especially since this happened not long after Tyson knocked out Michael Spinks in 91 seconds. However, while a rematch between Green and Tyson never materialized, Green sued10 Tyson and later received $45,000 in a 1997 civil11 case, so perhaps he got the money he was looking for after all. Whatever the reasoning is, the incident is something Tyson has gone back and referenced12 in recent years, however as his custom-made jacket said on the back, “Don’t believe the hype.”

Editor’s Notes

  1. The Washington Post – 6/10/1986 – Tyson Is Still a Novice, and It Shows
  2. Boxing News – 1991 – Bill Cayton: ‘I feel so sorry for Mike Tyson’
  3. YouTube/Lorand – 1986-05-20 Mike Tyson – Mitch Green
  4. YouTube/Video Vultures – MITCH GREEN, 125 ST & PARK AVE, MANHATTAN, HARLEM
  5. The New York Times – 8/24/1988 – Tyson Hurts Right Hand In Scuffle With a Boxer
  6. The Baltimore Sun – 11/6/2001 – Down for count, he’s still fighting
  7. BoxRec – Tyson-Hosea Program
  8. The Harlan Daily Enterprise – 2/20/1986 – Tyson-Hosea Fight Cancelled
  9. Hosea emphasized his shoes’ slipperiness in a later print interview with ESPN in 2005 when talking about how he misjudged the referee’s count.
  10. Los Angeles Times – 8/25/1988 – Green Won’t Drop Charges for Tyson Rematch : He Says Heavyweight Champion Hit Him With Sucker Punch in Street Fight
  11. Los Angeles Times – 10/16/1997 – Green Awarded $45,000 in Tyson Case
  12. Sports Bible – 12/16/2020 – Mike Tyson Reveals Exactly What Happened In His Infamous Street Fight With Mitch Green

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