In February of 2003, I recall hopping in the whip for a road trip down I-55S to Memphis, Tenn. It was my second trip to Memphis in an eight-month span, alongside Mike Dickson, my good friend and former co-host of Boxing Addictz and In the Clench YouTube boxing shows. Both trips were to get a glimpse of Mike Tyson aka “The Baddest Man on the Planet.”
For the first trip, we simply wanted to be a part of the mega fight experience when Tyson squared off against Lennox Lewis. It wasone of the most highly-anticipated heavyweight fights in history. No, we didn’t make it into The Pyramid for the actual fight. Those ticket prices were far beyond our pay grades and baller statuses. Instead, we watched with hundreds of other people at a nearby establishment.
The Tyson-Etienne fight was a different story. Gone were the Hollywood celebrities and the sky high ticket prices. It was Tyson’s comeback fight after a disappointing loss of Lewis.
The week leading up to the fight was filled with drama. The fight was called off at least twice. Tyson had gotten his infamous facial tattoo a week before the fight, stopped showing up to training camp, missed a few flights to Memphis and reportedly came down with the flu. When he didn’t show, Etienne and his team left Memphis. Once Tyson finally made his way to town, Etienne initially refused to return.
Eventually, both fighters agreed that the show must go on. Neither could afford to pass on the payday and the fight happened on its scheduled date. It lasted all of 49 seconds before a Tyson right hand sent “The Black Rhino” into a deep slumber.
You might expect that after the four-hour drive, drama and money spent, we might have been extremely disappointed with the main event lasting less than a minute. You would be dead wrong.
Just like the thousands of fans in attendance, Dickson and I were ecstatic to see Tyson’s almost mythical power on display. Even though “Iron Mike” was past his prime (it was the last victory of his career), a quick and devastating KO is what we all wanted. It is the reason we all purchased tickets in the first place.
Why am I telling you a story of a meaningless fight more than 16 years ago? I do so because I was reminded about that trip after watching WBC Heavyweight Champion Deontay Wilder destroy Dominic Breazeale Saturday night.
Unlike Tyson, Wilder is not in the twilight of this career, but smack dab in the center of his prime. However, Wilder (41-0-1, 40 KO) was coming off a disappointing draw to Tyson Fury. He also stirred up a bit of drama when he claimed he intended to kill Breazeale in the ring (20-2-0, 18 KO) during a pre-fight interview.
When it came down to the fight night though, Wilder did not disappoint. With less than a minute remaining in the first round, Wilder’s wicked right hand sent Breazeale into snoozeville. Wilder’s ninth-consecutive title defense was his most exciting.
The Barclay’s crowd went crazy. Meme-worthy faces of shock and awe were created as Breazeale crumbled to the canvas. Outside Breazeale and his inner circle, there wasn’t a dissatisfied person in sight.
The knockout quickly went viral. The mythos of Wilder’s power quickly grew.
Right now, the heavyweight division is like pre-finale Westeros (**Spoiler alert** GoT references are coming!)
Anthony Joshua (22-0-0, 21 KO), the IBF, WBA and WBO champ, has the most titles. That would make him Cersei Lannister, the current occupant of the Iron Throne. Fury (27-0-1, 19 KO) currently has no titles but is the lineal heavyweight champion. As the Jon Snow of this example, The Gypsy King of the North is the true heir to the throne.
Wilder is often criticized for being the least technically sound fighter of the championship trio. However, he might as well name his right hand Drogan. The Daenerys Targaryen of boxing leaves dusted fighters and fallen enemies in his wake. With every debilitating knockout (or knockdown in the case of Fury), more people believe that he can be the savior of the heavyweight division.
How the heavyweight story will end remains a mystery. It appears that the politics (promoters, TV networks and sanctioning bodies) of boxing is destined to keep us from true clarity and an undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.
Getting Joshua and Wilder in the ring together seems much more difficult than previously thought. We are repeatedly teased with negotiations and reported agreements only to be dashed by complications of purse splits, dates and locations. Even landing a rematch with Wilder and Fury is no longer a certainty.
Eventually, these things will work their way out. Or maybe they won’t. This is the sport of boxing we’re talking about. However, one thing is clear. With his devastating power and penchant for unfiltered interviews, The Bronze Bomber is this generation’s Mike Tyson.
Hopefully, one day I’ll have an opportunity to travel for hours by plane, train or automobile to see him knock out some poor soul in less than three minutes.
Blues have a date with Lord Stanley
Congratulations to the St. Louis Blues for earning a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. Despite getting cheated in Game 3, the Blues team regained its composure and cruised to a 4-2 series win over the San Jose Sharks. Now the Blues will face off against the Boston Bruins as the team attempts to bring the Stanley Cup to St. Louis for the first time in franchise history.
The Bruins will enter the Finals as massive favorites but the scrappy, underdog Blues would have it no other way.
Nobody expected this Blues to make the playoffs when the team changed head coaches and goalies in the middle of the season. However, the team bonded behind interim coach Craig Berube and rookie goalie Jordan Binnington and has never looked back.
Blues fever is taking over St. Louis. Even the most-skeptical fans, myself included, are finally starting to believe. #LetsGoBlues!
Be sure to check In the Clutch online and also follow Ishmael on Twitter @ishcreates. Subscribe to The St. Louis American’s YouTube page to see bi-weekly sports videos starring Ishmael and Melvin Moore at youtube.com/stlamericanvideo.