Mike Tyson’s journey to becoming boxing’s most dangerous and dominant competitor in the 1980s was completed on this day, 29 years ago.
‘Iron Mike’ became the first Undisputed Heavyweight Champion since Leon Spinks in 1978 after he beat Tony Tucker via unanimous decision, winning all three judges’ scorecards by the scores of 119–111, 118–113 and 116–112.
The clash at the Las Vegas Hilton pitted two undefeated fighters against each other, although Tyson’s savage punching ability and power was expected to see him through.
A tricky contest ensued against a much-taller opponent, for whom Tyson was unable to knock down to the canvas at any stage.
Also on this day:
1909: The seventh Tour de France is won by Francois Faber of Luxembourg
1961: Australia great Richie Benaud takes 6-32 as England are beaten by 54 runs in the fourth Test
1982: Greg Louganis is the first diver to score 700 (752.67) in 11 dives at 1982 World Aquatics Championships
1993: Reggie Jackson is enshrined in Baseball Hall of Fame
Two-weight world champion Carl Frampton has vowed not to abandon Belfast for the United States after registering a victory which could help him become “the greatest Irish fighter there’s ever been”.
The former super-bantamweight champion claimed the WBA featherweight belt on Saturday by outclassing holder Leo Santa Cruz to win a majority verdict at New York’s Barclays Center. That made him the first Northern Irishman to claim a world title in two divisions, crowning the 29-year-old as a star name of the sport and one of his country’s most decorated athletes.
His manager Barry McGuigan won the same belt 31 years ago and did not hold back in his assessment of Frampton’s status.
“I genuinely believe this kid will go on to be the greatest Irish fighter there’s ever been,” he said. “Tonight was the greatest night of his life. It was a spectacular performance.”
A badly bruised Frampton, on his first outing at 126lbs, beamed with pride after winning 116-112 and 117-111 on two of the judges cards and drawing the other.
He said: “I don’t know if it’s sunk in yet… that’s going to be a fight that defines part of my career.
“I’ve just made history. I’ve beaten an unbelievable fighter in Leo Santa Cruz – a three-weight world champion – and it was the toughest fight of my career.
Just watched the Cruz v Frampton fight, great fight!! Some performance and achievement by @RealCFrampton against a great fighter.— anthony crolla (@ant_crolla) July 31, 2016
“I made it a bit harder than I needed to at times, I fought with my heart rather than my head at times but I wanted to be involved in one of those fights and I think people will remember that for a very long time.”
And while he admits the bright lights of the Big Apple are a major draw, he pledged to remain true to his roots by continuing to compete regularly in his native Ulster.
He has boxed six times at Belfast’s Odyssey Arena, once at the Titanic Quarter, and dreams of appearing at Windsor Park, where he is a regular visitor to watch Northern Ireland’s football team.
“I’m just a normal, working-class guy who can fight a wee bit. That’s it,” he said. “I want to fight here (in the USA) and I want to fight at home. I’m a Belfast boy and I love my fans back home. I don’t want for them to have to spend so much money to come here and see me all the time. I would like to fight in Belfast at least once a year.”
A Santa Cruz rematch on home soil is an option for Frampton, who is also considering other options, including Welshman Lee Selby.
“I don’t think there’s a rematch clause in place, but it would be a great fight, one I’d be happy to do,” he said. “I’d love to bring him over to Belfast. We could sell out a stadium, but we’d need the right time of year. Lee Selby is a great fighter, someone I respect and one of the best UK fighters. That’s a fight that interests me, there’s Gary Russell, all these guys.
“I just want to be involved in big fights, memorable fights. I don’t need to be disrespectful to guys, I just want to get on with it.”
Asked if he was now the poster boy for Irish combat sports Frampton deferred to UFC fighter Conor McGregor but aimed a playful comment in Tyson Fury’s direction.
He said: “I’m up there, but it’s hard to surpass Conor McGregor, he’s a pretty big name.
“Tyson Fury? Is he Irish or English or what? He is what he wants to be it seems. He supported England at the Euros.”
Santa Cruz, who earned $1 million for Saturday’s fight (or twice Frampton’s $500,000 purse), wants the rematch after losing his undefeated record.
“It’s hard to get your first loss, but now we’ll go back to the gym, we’ll get the rematch and we’ll win,” the Mexican said. “And that loss will mean nothing. I want to have a rematch in Los Angeles, but I’ll go to Belfast too.”
Amir Khan is a boxer who can often polarise opinion. While no one among the boxing fraternity doubts his lightning speed and slick skills inside the ring, his vivid personality and willingness to voyage into uncharted waters has not always been well received.
Take for example the recent headlines which have swirled around the globe. The British pugilist sparked talk of a sensational switch to mixed martial arts (MMA) with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) star Conor McGregor firmly in his crosshair.
Now, many will question the legitimacy of his claims, and rightly so given the media circus which emerged after Floyd Mayweather made the same assertions, but if there was any fighter willing to swap the squared-circle for the Octagon, then Khan would certainly be in the conversation. After all, The 29-year-old former light-welterweight king is not one to shy away from a challenge having moved up two weight classes to take on Mexico’s monstrous middleweight Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in May.
The consensus then was that his move up to a catch-weight 155lbs bout was nonsensical. Alvarez had tore through the middleweight division and on fight night can surface at a hulking 170lbs+.
Predictably, the fight did not end well for Khan as the Mexican idol delivered a savage right-hand in the sixth round to send the Brit into the realms of semi-consciousness.
But despite the dynamite finish, Khan won many plaudits for his brave effort and a lightning fast start which saw him take the first four rounds. After being sent crashing to the canvas by what he describes as a punch “which would have knocked anyone out” Khan’s immediate target now is to rehabilitate a surgically repaired right-hand before lowering his poundage to exact world welterweight title revenge against the undefeated Danny Garcia – who himself detonated a brutal KO of his own to Khan’s chin.
“I’ve had this hand problem since my second fight when I broke my hand fighting a guy called Baz Carey. Since then it has never been the same,” Khan tells Sport360 on a recent visit to Dubai.
“The doctor told me that the ligaments were destroyed so, after seven years, I finally got it operated on. I was told I have only been fighting with 30 per cent power so I’m glad that it is fixed as I need to be able to throw my right hand with full strength.
“The surgery saw them take a bone from my hip and put it in my hand. They put some screws in as well but I will be back training in a month and will be ready to fight in January.
“I’m mandatory for Garcia’s belt so that it is a big fight for me right there. I won’t be able to do September (Garcia’s slated ring return) but hopefully I will be okay for January.”
Failing that, there is Manny Pacquiao. The Filipino icon announced he will be returning to the ring later this year after a short stay in retirement and that is of course a glamour fight which piques Khan’s interest.
He adds: “There are talks about Manny but Bob Arum doesn’t want to make that fight.”
Kingpin promoter Arum recently launched a scathing attack in regards to Khan’s legitimacy as a potential Pacquiao opponent, describing him as “yesterday’s news”. But Khan believes the 84-year-old is just bitter.
“It seems to me, he knows what would happen in that fight,” he says. “It’s a big fight which fans would want to see but I think he is looking for every excuse not to make it. I think he’s scared and it’s also because I’m not with Bob Arum, I’m with a different team, I’m with Al Haymon. I think Bob’s always been bitter against me, he’s always had the bitterness against me.
“I’ve got two options Danny Garcia and Manny Pacquiao. I’m not the guy to be scared of any fight, I’ve taken the biggest risks in my entire career. I didn’t have to but I chose to.
“Whoever has called me out I’m happy to fight them, even the Kell Brook issue, when that came to me (promoter) Eddie Hearn guaranteed me ‘X’ amount but when we sat down to negotiate the money wasn’t the same.
“Some people in a smart way outbid themselves to get out of a fight. I’ve never done that, look at Mayweather, the contract was signed and deals done, but he didn’t take the fight, he didn’t sign his end. These are things I can maybe write a book about one day because I’ve had a crazy career.”
Holding court at Dubai’s UFC Gym, Khan covered a myriad of topics to suggest there is plenty on his plate keeping him busy.
His continuing charity work, pilgrimages to Pakistan and plans for the upbringing of his young daughter occupy much of his attention.
Right now, MMA might be one of his favourite topics of conversation but his ebullient nature really surfaces when talk of his true art form is the focus. One subject which loosens his tongue is of fellow Brit Brook’s assent from 147lbs to 160lbs to face the feared and unbeaten KO artist Gennady ‘Triple G’ Golovkin in September. The fight draws many parallels to Khan’s tangle with Alvarez but it is an odd dynamic given 2016 was the year which boxing fans had hoped to see Golovkin and Alvarez collide as well as Khan and Brook.
Curiously, the fights have swapped but Khan gives his rival credit for taking the fight and says when the dust settles they could finally meet in the ring.
“First of all I give him props for taking that fight,” he says. “It’s a very hard fight so I give him a lot of credit. He can win… well actually no I don’t think he can but it’s the first big fight of his career so I have to give him some credit. Certainly I still think a fight between myself and Kell will happen because he has proven himself now by being willing to step into the ring with Golovkin.
“The UK public want to see that fight and it is a fight I would like to give them. I still don’t like him, though, in fact I hate him.”
With the UFC world title. UFC training has started 😎 pic.twitter.com/5DIKkQlm5R— Amir Khan (@amirkingkhan) July 20, 2016
One fighter he does not harbour any illtaste towards is McGregor. While he has talked up a possible showdown in the UFC with the divisive Irish star, Kahn admits some admiration for the featherweight champ.
“I think a Conor McGregor fight would be massive. It would be a full MMA fight as I’m not scared of him,” he adds with a UFC strap wrapped around his waist.
“But listen I would need six months to train MMA fully and I will spend every day in the cage until I am bang on.
“He is a great fighter and I’m not saying I want to fight him because I don’t like him, it’s because he’s the best fighter and the biggest name.”