“Everything that Tyson does is intimidating.” – Bill Sheridan
Sometimes, it’s those closest to a person that lead to the worst ass whooping. Just ask Butch Lewis. Better yet, ask Michael Spinks.
More popularly remembered as the guy whose fight with Mike Tyson was over before many in attendance finished their first beer, Spinks’ legacy is largely mistaken. He was undefeated coming into the “fight” with with Tyson – 31-0 with 21 KO’s – and was coming off a defeat of an aging Larry Holmes nine months earlier for the IBF title.* By no means was Spinks considered a slouch by any stretch of the imagination.
Needless to say, however, Spinks and his manager, Butch Lewis, openly provoking Mike Tyson in 1987 and 1988 wasn’t the brightest idea in either’s career. In August ’87, Spinks and his camp’s openly taunted Iron Mike in the media to stop “ducking” a Mike vs. Michael title bout. Strike one.
Roughly around the same time, Tyson’s personal life began to bleed over into his professional conquest including an assault and battery charge and alleged resentment with trainer Kevin Rooney. Knowing this, Lewis saw blood and used the transgressions in his public swaying for the fight. “A lot of things have transpired in Tyson`s life in the last 30 days,” said the trainer. “We just want to fight Tyson. I think the Tyson people are having second thoughts (about not wanting the bout).” Strike two.
Fast forward to June 27, 1988. Spinks finally received his wish in squaring off against Tyson at the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. For whatever reason, Lewis decided his dapper attire for the big night would be a white tuxedo sans shirt (loosely resembling Bruh Man when he popped out of Gina’s cake at her bachelorette party). Because, when you’re client is gearing to face the scariest man on the planet with two fists masquerading as concealed weapons, a no shirt tux is as intimidating as it gets.
Foul ball, still strike two.
By now, Tyson is already locked in and ready to embark towards the ring for his date with Spinks. And chances are Kid Dynamite would’ve gotten to the ring a few minutes earlier and less perturbed had Lewis not laid down the demand, “Hold on. Get rid of that or we don’t fight,” he said.
The “that” he was referring to proved to be knotted laces already tapped. Still not convinced, Lewis demanded Larry Hazzard, chairman of the New Jersey State Athletic Commission, ensure the laces were indeed knotted. They were and so upset by the request and implied assumption he was cheating, Tyson looked at Rooney and prophetically uttered seven words, “You know, I’m gonna hurt this guy.”
Annnnnnnnnd, strike three.
Spinks never stood a chance to begin with. Months of poking and prodding and his manager pissing Tyson off mere minutes before the fight only sped up the process. It’s also easy to understand why Spinks looked as if he’d seen a ghost from the moment Tyson’s eerie entrance music began blasting throughout the arena. Iron Mike held Spinks’ soul in his hand long before the opening bell; the same hand that developed an unbridled soft spot for pigeons but aphrodisiac for inflicting pain upon men’s face.
Tyson, form the opening bell, attacked with the ferociousness of the hyenas who killed Scar at the end of The Lion King. A minute-and-a-half later, Spinks laid on his back from a scud missile of a right hook and the fight was already in the books. In fact, pre-fight introductions and honoring of Donald Trump and Ali took longer than the fight itself.
Following the fight, Tyson lashed out at the media for their growing obsession with his life outside the ring. “You guys have been trying to embarrass me and embarrass my family. As far as I know this might be my last fight,” he said. From the moment the fight ended it seemed, Mike’s life outside the ring began to take a sharp spiral downward. He broke a bone in his right hand in an early morning street fight with pro boxer Mitch Green in Harlem in August, was rendered unconscious after crashing his BMW into a tree which the Daily News deemed a suicide attempt a month later, the infamous TV interview alongside Givens, filed for divorce, partnered with Don King and had Sandra Miller and Lori Smith both claim he grabbed them in a night club in December.
As for Spinks, how much he remembered of his 91 seconds of tap dancing with the devil is anybody’s guess. He did, however, walk (or stumble) away with a $13M purse. And at last check, $13M can buy a boatload of matches and gasoline. One can only hope of it was used on Butch Lewis’ suit.
* – Fun fact: Michael’s older brother was Leon. As in Leon Spinks who defeated (a well past his prime) Muhammad Ali on February 15, 1978. Exactly seven months later, Ali would win in a rematch in what proved to be the last victory of his career.