Holyfield broke into the heavyweight division in 1988, stepping up from being the undisputed cruiserweight champ, to beat James Tillis by a technical knockout in the fourth round. Had Tyson beaten Douglas, the 41-1 underdog, he would have surely gone on to fight Holyfield in 1990, but instead, losing the fight, he paved the way for Holyfield to win the belts off Douglas (October 25, 1990). Afterwards, Tyson was supposed to fight Holyfield for the belts but instead, he was convicted of rape, and imprisoned for three years in March 1992. More tragedy came in the year of his release when in 1995, Tyson’s father died. Upon returning, and now a Muslim, he beat Peter McNeeley (TKO, round 1) and Buster Mathis (round 3 KO). In 1996, he then beat Bruno a second time, before beating Bruce Seldon within 90 seconds (round 1 KO), finally setting the stage for his fight with Holyfield. Tyson would lose. In 1997, he got his rematch against Holyfield however, this time, the fight ended in a manner as bizarre as the first fight which saw Tyson knocked down in the sixth, staggered at the end of the 10th, and (technically) knocked out at the start of the 11th.
Before the Douglas fight, Tyson didn’t train properly and had had lots of women in his room. He was even knocked down by one of his sparring partners. About the Douglas fight, Tyson would claim, “It should [not] have been a hard fight… [former opponent] Tony Tucker had knocked Douglas out…[so] I didn’t take Douglas seriously.” It was as if he saw Douglas how Foreman had seen Ali: a pushover, and Holyfield, it might be said, was a similar story. Although Tyson realised that post-prison, he was not the same person, losing his manhood and having everything taken away from him, again it was his vices that got the best of him: “I believed I was god, I believed I was great; I didn’t believe I had to train hard…I thought everybody was afraid of me…I just thought I was somebody really special. I fooled around…I had tremendous amount of sexual activity and it caught up with me.” Having two belts on his waist, and realising he still had amazing punching power, it seems Tyson got complacent. At the same time, it might be equally argued that Holyfield got ugly.
“I came to the ring, supremely confident, knowing that I will beat him.” In fact, Tyson got head butt, multiple times, throughout the match, with a temporary stoppage called in round 7. Tyson even got stunned in Round 6, knocked down for only the second time in his career; Douglas had been the first to. (Lewis was the only other man to do so in 2002, although, there were questions about the condition of Tyson.) During the match, however, Holyfield – Tyson raged – repeatedly butt him, and it severely affected him. At the end of round 10, Tyson was out on his feet after dropping his fist whilst throwing a punch. Holyfield counterpunched and had Tyson groggy, unleashing a fiercesome flurry which had Tyson staggered on the ropes the same way Holyfield had been against Bowe towards the end of their third fight. Tyson was saved by the bell but wandered back to his corner almost as confused as Frazier in the first round of his fight against Foreman in 73’. At the start of the eleventh round, Holyfield saw through Tyson’s raging attack, and responded with his own offensive provoking the referee to stop the fight. Tyson-Holyfield II was scheduled for May 1997, but postponed for a month. When the fight finally commenced, boxing history was written
“He butts me again” Tyson recalled, revisiting the fight. “I receive a cut eye…he started looking at the eye; he butts me again. I complain to the ref [Mills Lane] the referee doesn’t do anything…I become ferocious. Thhird round comes out…I’m mad. I get so mad I want to kill him. I fight again; at the moment, I’m enraged. I lose all composure and discipline…I want to choke him. I bit him; he got mad, he turned around; I wanted to just kick him right in his groin but I just pushed him…I wanted to just choke him; I wanted to just kill him. I couldn’t believe he head butted me and I just lost my cool; I lost my composure. The worst thing a soldier could ever do is lose his discipline. I was [upset] with myself but not because I bit him but because I lost my discipline and composure; I wanted to destroy everything about him. I wanted to destroy his corner; I wanted to destroy everybody in his corner; the whole ring goes into a rampage…I’m a good person but at that moment I went insane; I was enraged and I did not care about fighting him no more by the Queensbury rules… he butt me with his head, intentionally, to hurt me so I wanted to intentionally hurt him… so when Mill Lane came and disqualified me, I didn’t even care; I wanted to inflict as much pain as possible on that man…”
Tyson was suspended and fined. That same year, he was forced to pay Mitch Green $45,000 for the 1988 incident. In March, he settled with King out of court following a dispute. In 1998, he reapplied for his licence but postponed this after he was sentenced for another assault. Tyson returned in 1999 fighting Francois Botha and Orlin Norris which ended as a No Contest after a Tyson foul. He won his next two fights in 2000, and that year, also forced Gollota to quit (No Contest), although this decision was later reversed after it was found that Tyson failed a drug test. In the next five years, he would have a fight a year (Brian Nielsen Win TKO 7, Lennox Lewis, Loss KO 8, Clifford Etienne, Win KO 1, Danny Williams, Loss KO 4, and Kevin McBride Loss R 6.) After his loss to Kevin McBride, Tyson retired from the Ring with a record of 58(50)-0-8. It might be said that only Douglas managed to beat Prime Tyson. Lewis knocked out a shadow, and Holyfield fought a post-prison Tyson, much like it might be suggest Frazier fought a post-prison protest Ali.
In Tyson (2007), early on, he expresses: “I deal with a huge inferiority complex; as a boy, I was fat and they picked on me so now I never back down from a fight… person can say an infantile thing…and I will strike them; I I’m not somebody that would walk away; I would provoke a fight from them; I won’t start one, but I won’t walk away from one either. In a fight in the street, not like the ring, it has to be almost to the death because you never know, if you don’t knock them out cold or if you don’t beat them half to death, he’ll go home and come back with a gun…a friend with a gun or a gang of people so normally, a fight in the street, is normally, deadly.” Despite having little trust in people, he was almost forced to trust D’Amato, and yet, all of his confidence (self-concept) – much of it developed by the support, nurturing and encouragement of Cus – was destroyed once he was convicted of rape. Tyson was not the same. Once again, he found he could not trust people. Everything was taken from him, and it was something he could not put behind him.
In Reading gaol by Reading town
There is a pit of shame,
And in it lies a wretched man
Eaten by teeth of flame,
In burning winding-sheet he lies,
And his grave has got no name.
And there, till Christ call forth the dead,
In silence let him lie:
No need to waste the foolish tear,
Or heave the windy sigh:
The man had killed the thing he loved,
And so he had to die.
And all men kill the thing they love,
By all let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!
Oscar Wilde’s “The Ballad of Readng Gaol.” (1898)