NEW YORK — Mike Tyson and Tyrell Biggs have been checking out each other for three years, waiting for the right time to trade punches instead of glares and verbal shots.
Tyson stepped down in weight to avoid Biggs in the 1984 Olympic Trials. As pro prospects, the two sidestepped each other to wait for a more lucrative championship bout. When Tyson won the heavyweight title last November, Biggs was trying to rebuild his career after a series of setbacks and not yet ready for a serious challenge.
Now, the time has arrived for Tyson and Biggs to square off. They will meet for Tyson's unified heavyweight championship Friday at the Atlantic City (N.J.) Convention Center in a scheduled 15-round bout.
Biggs said little has changed in the years since he first noticed Tyson.
"We sparred two rounds once in training camp for the Olympics," said Biggs, a 26-year-old native of Philadelphia. "He was pretty strong and wild. He's a little more settled now but if you do the right stuff he'll go back.
"He don't make no secret what he's about."
Tyson admits he probably couldn't have handled Biggs in 1984. Tyson lost in the Olympic Trials to eventual 201-pound gold medalist Henry Tillman, and Biggs went on to win the Olympic super heavyweight championship.
"In 1984, he was an awesome boxing master and I was naive," Tyson said.
In 1984, Tyson was 18 and five years out of an upstate New York juvenile detention center.
Tyson notes how things have changed since then. For starters, Tyson is a champion. He also is about a 10-1 favorite over Biggs.
"The tables have turned," said Tyson, a 21-year-old who lives in Albany, N.Y. "These (championship) belts make me feel invincible. You can't buy these, these aren't a gift, you have to win them in the ring.
"I've wanted this fight for so long. I look forward to doing some serious damage."
Both are unbeaten as pros, but Tyson's career has been much busier and smoother. Tyson has crammed 31 bouts, including 27 knockouts, into his 31-month career. He has fought four championship fights, including a two-round demolition of Trevor Berbick last November that made Tyson the youngest heavyweight champion in history at the age of 20. He owns all three official heavyweight titles.
Biggs' pro career had a rocky start. His stick-and-move style drew boos when he won his pro debut Nov. 15, 1984 over Mike Evans on a dull six-round decision at Madison Square Garden. The next month, he checked into a California drug rehabilitation center for a cocaine problem. Biggs has stayed drug-free but has been sidelined by a broken collarbone and gash over his left eye suffered in victories.
Biggs is 15-0 with 10 knockouts, but looked bad at times in recent fights against Renaldo Snipes and David Bey.
Biggs was tagged often in those bouts although he dropped Snipes and won a 10-round decision last December and rallied to stop Bey in six rounds March 7 after taking an early beating. A cut over the left eye in the Bey fight probably cost Biggs a May bout against Tyson.
"No performance like that is going to beat Tyson," Biggs said. "I've learned a lot from those fights and come out with wins. I did some things wrong. Now I'm trying to put things together."
Biggs still attends support group meetings near his Newport Beach, Calif., home to help stay away from cocaine and alcohol. He is ranked No. 1 by the World Boxing Council, World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation. Because of 7-inch height and nine-inch reach advantage over Tyson, his jab and lateral movement, Biggs is considered the toughest test yet for the young champion.
"In 114 amateur fights and 15 pro fights I lost six times and I've yet to lose to a fighter shorter than myself," Biggs said.