This Day in Boxing

Bonecrusher Smith KOs Tim Witherspoon This Day December 12, 1986



Bonecrusher Smith KOs Tim Witherspoon This Day December 12, 1986



  • James Smith 228½ lbs
  • Tim Witherspoon 233½ lbs by TKO at 2:12 in round 1 of 15
  • Location: Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, USA
  • Referee: Luis Rivera
  • Judge: Joe Santarpia
  • Judge: Samuel Conde Lopez
  • Judge: Julio Roldan
  • World Boxing Association Heavyweight Title (2nd defense by Witherspoon)


“Bonecrusher” Smith went out at the opening bell and gave his best shots, and they landed. He repeatedly blasted the champion with right hand bombs to the head. Witherspoon was hurt in the early moments and a big right hand appeared to cause his knee to touch the mat, but the referee never moved in. Witherspoon walked into a solid left hook with about 90 seconds gone and was knocked almost through the ropes and down – for the first time in his career. He rose at the count of four on wobbly legs. Smith never let up. Seconds later, he sent Witherspoon down in a heap with another right hand. He got up at five this time and spit out a tooth as Smith charged in. Witherspoon lumbered forward only to be met with a right hand that dropped him for the third time. Referee Luis Rivera immediately invoked the WBA’s three-knockdown rule and waved the fight over at 2:12 of the opening round.



Tim Witherspoon 25-2 (17 KOs) vs. James Smith 18-5 (13 KOs)

Smith entered ranked as the # 9 heavyweight contender by the WBA.

Witherspoon was scheduled to defend his title against Tony Tubbs, who withdrew citing a shoulder injury. Against the will of Witherspoon, Smith was substituted by Don King. Witherspoon did not want to fight Smith as he had been training exclusively for Tubbs, and he and Smith had just met a year and a half prior. Thus, Witherspoon threatened to pull out of the match and had been threatened by King with legal action in the week leading up to the fight.

Smith entered 16.5 pounds lighter than in his previous bout just four months prior and had been training for a $35,000 fight against Mitch Green. Instead, he received a title shot and a $230,000 payday. Shortly before the bout, it was announced that Smith had signed over 50 percent of promotional contract to Carl King, Don’s son.

The attendance for the bout was only 5,042, which left some 17,000 empty seats. Among those in attendance was Mike Tyson, who after the fight referred to it as a “wonderful punching performance.”

The fight was part of HBO’s heavyweight title unification tournament.

Witherspoon had one of his front teeth, root and all, knocked out in the bout.



“I couldn’t get into the fight. I didn’t care about it.” – Tim Witherspoon

“I been heavyweight champ of the world twice, and I live in an apartment in Philadelphia I’d be embarrassed for you to see. I got nothing to show for it.” – Witherspoon told to a media friend following the bout. He then handed the same person the tooth that had been knocked out as a souvenir.

“I knew his mind couldn’t be on the fight. He wasn’t thinking about me. My plan was to be all over him. He embarrassed me the last time and I wanted to pay him back. I did.” – James “Bonecrusher” Smith

“James ‘Bonecrusher’ Smith showed a dramatic display of physical power, and I just think it was marvelous on his behalf. I’m not surprised. I know when two fighters are in there, anything can happen.” – Mike Tyson

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