ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Mike Tyson appeared in the ring, shirtless and sockless, with one championship belt around his waist and two slung over his shoulders like bandoleers. Tyrell Biggs, meanwhile, appeared in a white-fringed waistcoat with bloused sleeves and padded shoulders. He was Grace Jones to the champion's Rambo.
The fight went just as you'd have figured it. Wardrobe might not dictate the heavyweight division, but it provides a clue to the personalities within. Tyson stormed the challenger, the stylish flip side to his primitive awfulness, bloodying him, pummeling him and gaining a seventh-round technical knockout Friday night.
At that, the Beating by the Boardwalk was misleading. Tyson, the undefeated world champion at all of 21, said he would have totaled the Olympic gold medalist in the third round, except he wanted to punish Biggs. "Because he talked so much," said the otherwise implacable Tyson. "He didn't show any class or respect, and I wanted him to pay with his health."
Biggs, who hadn't done anything more disrespectful than any challenger, paid with a nice gash over his right eye, two knockdowns and possible internal bleeding from Tyson's relentless body blows. Biggs, no doubt mystified by Tyson's snarling hatred between rounds, also suffered in clinches, away from the apparent artillery. Tyson showed a nice elbow, a crisp hook coming out of a break and the willingness to burrow his forehead into Biggs' bleeding wound.
"They talk about class," sneered former champion Larry Holmes, being wooed from retirement to fight Tyson in January. "That was the dirtiest fight I ever saw." But, said Holmes, hopefully, "what he can do, I can do."
Most figured that Biggs, gold-medal winner on an Olympic team Tyson couldn't make, would show more of his vaunted tools. He has a jab, all the more effective because his 6-foot 5-inch height and 81-inch reach dwarf most opponents, and footwork. He has the two things believed necessary to beat a born slugger. But after the first round, when he jabbed and circled, he became satisfied to become a punching bag. Tyson's primordial style--straight ahead, two-fisted delivery of pain--once more proved more effective than all the science ("funny boxing," Tyson calls it) of boxing's sweetness.
Biggs, in fact, may have thrown no more than two right hands. Nobody rolled their eyes afterward when Tyson said he "was not hurt, not at all." He may not have even been hit.
But Tyson (32-0, 28 KOs) was not simply his same destructive self, "throwing punches with bad intentions," but an improved version. Your worst nightmare taken a little closer to the edge. In the first round, he opened jabbing, something he rarely does. And although it didn't move Biggs (15-1) all that much, it was a nice addition to his armament.
Mostly, though, he threw his trademark left hook. By the fourth round, with Biggs bleeding and slack-jawed, Tyson was pounding at will, only Biggs' wrestling interrupting the blows. When Biggs did try a left hook, Tyson beat him to the punch. Biggs' left hand would hang in the air as the rest of his body shivered.
The pounding to Biggs' body was particularly awful. "I knew I had him in the third round because when I hit the body, he was making these noises," Tyson said.
What kind of noises?
"Something like a woman screaming," Tyson said.
In the fifth, Tyson continued to use his forehead in clinches and was seen to make good use of a forearm away from the referee. At times, there was as much blood on Tyson's forehead as on Biggs. But there was a single source.
Later, Biggs said: "I didn't retaliate like I said I would," as if an answering exchange would have kept Tyson off him. Nothing would. Tyson, whose bell-gonging style has not been consistently satisfying since he achieved the unified championship, restored faith in his frightening power.
Finally, in the seventh, Tyson hit him with a left hook that sent Biggs sprawling through the bottom rope near his own corner. If Tyson is a dinosaur, as Biggs has suggested, he is positively carnivorous in his stalking demeanor. Seconds later, ever stalking, Tyson achieved the kill, freezing Biggs with a right hand then chopping downward with a left hook. Biggs seemed to sail backwards halfway across the ring, his head resting comfortably near the corner cushion.
Biggs' trainer, Lou Duva, then jumped into the ring, and referee Tony Orlando called the fight 2:59 into the round.
This led someone to ask Tyson whether he had ever knocked anybody so far. Tyson didn't seem interested in establishing a new category for his knockouts. "It's just a fight," he said.
Afterward, Tyson showed no residual rancor toward his more privileged opponent. In fact, he gave him the ultimate accolade for a Tyson opponent. "He took his beating like a man." It is after all, an inevitable punishment. Nobody has really escaped it, despite the Tyson doubters. After all, as Tyson said, "I am the best fighter in the world."