Mike Tyson was my most difficult opponent, insists heavyweight warriorWritten by Lee Cleveland
Former WBA heavyweight belt-holder James "Bonecrusher" Smith, the first heavyweight champion with a college degree, fought a host of top fighters during his career including Larry Holmes, Frank Bruno, Razor Ruddock, Tim Witherspoon, Michael Moorer, Greg Page and Mike Weaver.
However, Bonecrusher insists his 1987 scrap with fight legend Mike Tyson, then the 20-year-old newly crowned WBC heavyweight champion, was his toughest fight of them all.
"He was slipping all my punches and always coming," Smith told BoxingNewsOnline.net in Summer 2016.
"He was only 21 and at his peak"
"He was very strong and had those combinations. My plan was to take him into the later rounds and then get to him when he got tired – but he never got tired."
"I was a little intimidated in that fight but I was never really hurt too bad.”
A 7 to 1 favorite that night, Tyson, who entered the contest with a 28-0, 26 KOs record, record a unanimous win a decision over Smith in a lackluster affair.
The scores were 120-106 and 119-107 twice.
Wary of Tyson's explosive power, Smith was reluctant to mix it up and was subsequently penalized for excessive holding in rounds two and eight.
"I just couldn’t adjust to the guy’s style – he crouched low and I couldn’t hit him properly," Smith added.
According to CompuBox, Smith landed only 51 of the 233 he threw, while Tyson connected on 191 of 317.
"Anybody I hit, they were in trouble. [But] Tyson, I couldn’t hit! It was a frustrating night in Las Vegas. Tyson was a student of boxing and he studied all his opponents. He was just totally prepared for me.”
The fight was a hug-fest from start to finish as Smith was big, strong and experienced enough to "survive" being knocked out by the menacing Tyson.
To call Tyson vs Bonecrusher boring would be polite.
But there were fireworks in the fight's waning seconds. Smith rocked Tyson. It was the first time we saw Mike jarred from a big punch - But Smith's efforts were too little, too late.
The bell rang and a very disappointing fight had ended.
"I wanted to break his concentration. I did the best I could. He can punch. He has a devastating left hook, but he couldn't knock out the Bonecrusher," Smith said after the fight.
Tyson vs Smith facts and stats
- Tyson vs Smith was a heavyweight unification bout; Mike was the WBC champ and Smith owned the WBA title
- Date: March 7, 1987
- Broadcast: HBO
- Location: Las Vegas
- Records: Mike Tyson 28-0 (26 KOs) vs. James (Bonecrusher) Smith 19-5 (14 KOs)
- Ages: Tyson 20, Smith 33
- Smith had an 11-inch reach advantage and a six-inch height advantage
- This was the first bout in which Tyson was announced as "Iron" Mike Tyson.
- Purse: Tyson - $1.5 million, Smith - $1 million.
- Attendance: 13,851
Lee is Managing Editor of FightSaga.com, a student of the Sweet Science and longtime boxing fan.
A gym rat in the 1990s, Lee was trained by 1976 Olympic Silver Medalist Charles Mooney and several retired seasoned pros. He was also a sparring partner for former WBA Super Middleweight Champion Steve Little who upset Michael Nunn for the WBA Super Middleweight Title in '94.
Lee created FightSaga.com to honor and preserve boxing's rich heritage, chronicle the achievements of top fighters, celebrate the legacy of big fights and provide a fun, educational experience for fight fans.