Mike Tyson Bombs Tony Tubbs This Day March 20, 1988
- Mike Tyson 216¼ lbs
- Tony Tubbs 238¼ lbs
- TKO at 2:54 in round 2 of 12
- Location: Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan
- Referee: Arthur Mercante
- Judge: Larry Rozadilla 9-10
- Judge: Ken Morita 10-10
- Judge: Masakazu Uchida 10-9
- World Boxing Council Heavyweight Title (6th defense by Tyson)
- World Boxing Association Heavyweight Title (5th defense by Tyson)
- International Boxing Federation Heavyweight Title (3rd defense by Tyson)
Mike Tyson 33-0 (29 KOs) vs. Tony Tubbs 24-1 (15 KOs) — HBO listed Tubbs’ record as 25-1 (16 KOs).
This was Japan’s second world heavyweight title fight. The first took place on September 1, 1973, when George Foreman defeated Jose Roman by a first-round knockout.
The Tokyo Dome opened four days before the fight.
Going into the fight against Tubbs, Tyson was already scheduled to fight Michael Spinks in Atlantic City on June 27.
The Associated Press called Tyson’s fight against Tubbs “the first step on a planned world title tour.” Plans called for Tyson to fight Frank Bruno in London on September 3, followed by possible title defenses in Milan, Rio de Janeiro and Paris.
Tyson married actress Robin Givens on February 7, 1988. Shortly afterward, the two traveled to Japan, where they honeymooned before Tyson started training for the fight against Tubbs.
Tyson was enormously popular in Japan.
Tyson, at times, has seemed startled by the attention he has received here. In the first week of his stay, he’d emerge from the hotel lobby in a jogging suit, for 5 a.m. roadwork jaunts with aide Steve Lott. Waiting for them would be up to 15 news photographers and TV news cameramen, shod in running shoes, trekking along in the darkness with the heavyweight champion, cameras clattering.
Fighting Harada, one of Japan’s greatest boxers, explained Tyson’s popularity. “Tyson’s appeal in Japan has to do with his spirit,” he said. “Japanese sports fans are fascinated by the fact that while he is relatively short for a heavyweight, he fights with great energy, with great intensity, and always defeats taller opponents, like I did.”
While in Japan, Tyson appeared on TV talk shows, met with popular sumo wrestlers (including Hawaiian-born Konishiki Yasokichi), attended gatherings in his honor and visited a school for handicapped children.
The Japan Boxing Commission did not recognize the IBF, which was less than five years old at the time, and insisted during negotiations that Tyson not wear the organization’s belt into the ring. Three days before the fight, Bob Lee, the president of the IBF, arrived in Tokyo, and said if Tyson entered the ring without the belt, the organization would take that as a sign that he no longer wished to be its champion, and it would order a bout between No. 1 contender Trevor Berbick and No. 2 contender Carl (The Truth) Williams for the vacant title. “It was a condition of this fight that the IBF not participate,” said Bill Cayton, Tyson’s co-manager. “For Tyson to wear the IBF belt into the ring here would be considered a grave insult by the Japanese Commission.” Tyson did not wear any of his championship belts into the ring. (Steve Lott, Tyson’s assistant trainer, carried his WBC and WBA belts.) The day after the bout, the IBF announced that it would still recognize Tyson as its champion. Even though the IBF wasn’t involved in the bout, Tyson’s managers offered to quietly pay the organization’s sanctioning fee once the parties returned to the United States. Bob Lee complained that the offer constituted “hush money,” but he still took it.
Co-promoter Akihiko Honda picked Tubbs as Tyson’s opponent because he thought the former WBA titlist had the best chance of taking Tyson into the later rounds and satisfying the audience.
In case things didn’t work out with Tubbs, who had a reputation for being out of shape for fights, Jose Ribalta was to step in as a substitute.
Tyson earned $10 million and Tubbs made $500,000. Tubbs was offered a $50,000 bonus if he didn’t weigh more than 235 pounds; he weighed 238¼.
There was a crowd of 51,000 at the 55,000-seat Tokyo Dome. Eighty percent of the available tickets were sold the day they went on sale. Ticket prices ranged from $787 at ringside to $23 in the upper deck. Many of the faraway seats were empty during the fight.
American crooner Andy Williams sang “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Tubbs entered the ring to the song “How Ya Like Me Now” by Kool Moe Dee. Tyson entered to an instrumental track.
This was the first knockout loss of Tubbs’ professional career.
In the first round, Tubbs was able to trade punches with Tyson and blunted the champion’s assaults with jabs and quick combinations. But the challenger, whose looked flabby, seldom moved as he fought flat-footedly. The second round began much like the first. But Tubbs held in the clinches as Tyson continued to press. His jabs could not halt the champion, who shook of Tubbs’s best punches. Again and again, Tyson went to Tubbs’s thick body. He came out of the clinches throwing uppercuts at Tubbs’s gut. Then, as the round drew toward a close, the punches began to show their effect. Tyson caught Tubbs against the ropes. The challenger sagged under a succession of uppercuts to his midsection. Tubbs was hurt. He began reaching at the champion, attempting a combination. In his desperation, Tubbs, who had covered well and caught punches with his gloves, was exposed. The counter-punching of the first round, the clinching and the holding were over. The champion attacked, throwing a left hook that caught Tubbs just over the right eye. Tubbs reeled and tried to walk. Then, slowly at first, he began to spin. He fell on his back and did not move. His seconds rushed into the ring. Referee Arthur Mercante counted him out. The blood from Tubbs’s cut stained the light-blue ring.
Jim Jacobs, Tyson’s co-manager, was unable to attend the fight due to illness. It was the first time he had missed one of Tyson’s pro bouts. Jacobs, who had suffered from lymphocytic leukemia for nine years, was hospitalized with pneumonia in New York. In the book Bad Intentions: The Mike Tyson Story, author Peter Heller wrote:
On Tuesday, March 23, 1988, Tyson returned to the United States from Tokyo. The following day, at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, Jimmy Jacobs died at the age of fifty-eight. Having never realized how seriously ill Jimmy was, Mike was shaken and distraught. In little more than two years he had lost the two guiding, stabilizing figures in his life—first Cus D’Amato in late 1985 and now Jacobs. Jim’s funeral was set for Friday, March 25. He was to be buried alongside his mother at the Hillside Memorial Park in Los Angeles. A sobbing Mike Tyson sat in the chapel during the service.
“Wherever I fight is my home. I’m only here to do a job. Sometimes I feel like I left earth and went to another planet. I wanted to be heavyweight champion, but I never wanted to be a super, superstar. This is scary, to be a bigger star in another country than you are in your own country. It scares me. The Japanese all want to touch my hair all the time. But if they touch my hair, fair is fair. I touch their hair back.” – Mike Tyson on fighting in Japan.
“I know, physically, I’m in shape. 230 is my weight. 229, 228 is a plus, but I’ll be 230 and hard. Physically, you’ll be seeing the new Tony Tubbs. When I step in the ring, they’re going to say, ‘Wow, look at that cat.’ And you know, the thing about it, once I start putting the moves down on Mike Tyson, I’m gonna change—you know what? This fight might not be as hard as y’all think it’s going to be, because Mike Tyson is only good for what he can hit. I know right now that I am one of the best heavyweights there is in the world. I can box better than any of them, and I ain’t taking no back seats to none of them. I’m not even taking a backseat to Mike Tyson.” – Tony Tubbs during a pre-fight interview with HBO.
“He had very, very fast hands. That’s about it. He’s an easy target to hit. I was surprised he had his hands so high, so I went to the body to bring his hands down. I thought I was wearing him down. I landed some good shots.” Then, late in the second round, “I landed a punch to the body, he countered with a left hook, I countered right back . . . and caught him in the eye. I did what I was supposed to do to a guy supposedly out of shape. I got rid of him quickly. If he had lasted six or seven rounds, I could have been criticized. It’s his prerogative to come into the ring the way he wants. He didn’t fight like he was out of shape.” – Mike Tyson after the fight.
“Tyson is the world champion, and he came out with his lefts in the second round. I will be back. . . . I got caught with a lucky punch.” – Tony Tubbs after the fight.
“I think Tony Tubbs did come to fight. I think he was in excellent condition, even though he was a little overweight. I think he did the best he could do under the pressure of Mike Tyson, which is irresistible.” – Bill Cayton after the fight.
“If you thought whale hunting was outlawed in Japan, we just saw that Mike Tyson hadn’t heard about it.” – HBO commentator Larry Merchant after Mike Tyson knocked out the blubbery Tony Tubbs.