Monday, November 22, 2010

November 22, 1986: Destiny reached

LAS VEGAS - Cus D'Amato had seen a lot of great boxers in his day. He had trained light heavyweight champion Jose Torres and got the most fame by training and managing Floyd Patterson throughout Patterson's championship career. After Patterson's retirement from boxing, D'Amato stepped away from the limelight, opening his own gym in New Jersey and teaching young boxers in relative obscurity.

Then, D'Amato met Mike Tyson. Enrolled at a reform school at the time, Tyson had started taking up boxing and was introduced to D'Amato. D'Amato took one look at Tyson's strength and talent and said that he would make him the youngest heavyweight champion in history.

D'Amato did more than just train Tyson. He took the troubled boy under his wing, even adopting him when Tyson's mother died. D'Amato was the stabilizing influence that Tyson had never had in his life, and his work paid dividends.

It didn't take long before Tyson was terrorizing the heavyweight division. He turned pro at the age of 18, then went 15-0 during his first year as a professional, with most of his victories coming in the first or second rounds. He was a terror.

D'Amato died in November of 1985, but his protege was well on his way to stardom. One year later, on November 22, 1986, Tyson got his first chance at the championship, fighting WBC heavyweight champion Trevor Berbick, who had the distinction of being the last man to fight Muhammad Ali.

The fight was over almost before it began. The most noteworthy thing that could be said about Berbick is that he lasted until the second round before falling victim to Tyson's lethal left hook. Berbick went down slowly, almost in a delayed reaction. He was able to get up, but he was woozy, falling into the ropes a couple times. The referee did the right thing stopped the fight immediately, giving Tyson the crown.

For Tyson, it was the fulfillment of his destiny. He was 20 years and 4 months old, making him the youngest heavyweight champion in history. Just like D'Amato had promised.

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