Mike Tyson went to watch Muhammad Ali in his final fight against Larry Holmes. It was a fight Tyson wasn’t even involved in yet it contributed and possibly defined the career of one of the best and most controversial heavyweight champions the world has ever known.
Tyson, in an interview with ESPN, said he’d been taken by long-time trainer and father figure Cus D’Amato to watch the fight on a closed circuit in Albany, around an hour from where they lived. It was 1980 and Tyson was only 14 years old, but the fire that burned in him that night as he watched his hero Ali get beaten badly by Holmes, would help him retain his title seven years later against the same opponent.
“Cus had wanted me to beat him so bad. I was offended by how bad he beat up Ali. When we drove home to Catskill [about an hour from Albany], nobody in the car said a word, we were all so upset. The next morning, Cus was on the phone with Muhammad Ali after taking this shellacking from Holmes. He said to Ali, “I have this young black kid who is going to be heavyweight champion someday and I want you to talk to him.”
Tyson, in that interview, could even recall the exact date it happened, October 2nd. He spoke about picking up that phone and telling Ali:
“When I grow up, I’ll fight Holmes and I’ll get him back for you.”
He said that when he was 14 years old.
Seven years later and it was his turn to fight Larry Holmes. He was 21 and was defending his title against the former champ. D’Amato invited Ali to sit ringside and Tyson revealed what it was Ali said to him before the fight…
“Remember what you said – get him for me”
And he did. In round 4, Tyson delivered a final right hook that dropped Holmes for the third time in that round with just seven seconds left before the bell.
Tyson had emerged victorious from what was dubbed ‘Heavyweight History’ and his name, if not already etched into the history books as the youngest ever Heavyweight Champion, was there to stay.
“Everything Cus told me was right, that I’d be champion and nobody will ever forget me. I’m gonna cry. I put so much into it. It’s kind of sad. You have no idea. I was a young kid. So much hard work. But me and Cus had huge egos. We talked a lot of sh*t. Me and Cus would talk about how nobody could beat us and how we were invincible. That was our mindset. We weren’t afraid of nobody.”
Apparently Tyson choked up during that interview as he recalled the fight with Larry Holmes and what he’d done, not for himself, but for the most enigmatic boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali.