Mike Tyson, 'real' first KO loss: Remembering Al 'Chico' Evans
When then heavyweight champion Mike Tyson was dramatically knocked out in 1990 in Tokyo by 42-1 underdog Buster Douglas, it was, perhaps, the biggest upset in boxing history and one of the greatest in all of sports.
But in the post-fight presser, Tyson, sporting shades to cover his deformed face, tried to downplay the loss, citing he'd been knocked out before as an amateur.
Enter Al 'Chico' Evans.
The year is 1982 and Mike Tyson, an unbeaten 16-year-old amateur boxer from Catskill, NY, is already generating buzz. This teenager, with awesome speed and power, would meet a 27-year-old veteran of the amateur circuit at a tournament in Indianapolis. That heavyweight was Al 'Chico' Evans, and little did those in attendance realize they would be watching history in the making.
At 27, Evans was trying to make the 1984 U.S. Olympic Boxing team and saw the 16-year-old Tyson as an obstacle.
“Experience helped in that fight,” Evans told HudsonValley360.com from his home in Chicago. “I didn’t care about how little he was or how hyped he was. I wanted to fight in the Olympics.”
Introduction to boxing
Like Jim Croce's mythical Leroy Brown, Evans was from the south side of Chicago, 'the meanest part of town.' It wasn't until he moved to the west side, following the murder of his brother, he found boxing.
“I was the oldest at home. When we moved to the projects in the west side, a lot of guys calling me names and wanted to fight me,” he said. “I didn’t really ever stick up for myself because my mother lived on the first floor and I didn’t want anyone to come back and shoot into the windows.
“One guy kept on picking at me so I went with a friend of mine and saw some boxing gloves on sale. I thought if I bought them and fought the guy with gloves on he’d know he’d lost and wouldn’t go get a gun."
"When I got the gloves, I walked up to the basketball court and he’s the first one that ran up on me. He says he was gonna whoop my ass. We put the gloves on, after about 5, 6, 7 minutes, he told his corner guys to take the gloves off. They wouldn’t do it and he eventually walked away.”
Evans eventually became a community legend of sorts, beating fellas on the regular in street boxing matches before joining the Windy City Boxing Club.
“When I boxed on the street it was fun,” he said. “I made it fun. I boxed 14 people in one day when I first started. They thought they could beat me. Soon as I got the gloves, I got all of ’em. It was one of the best days of my life. Got the guys I really wanted to hit with a stick."
First amateur match
His first amateur match would serve as an indication of things to come, as an amateur and pro. Hence, Evans seemed to always get matched with top guys early on.
Consider this: His first amateur opponent wasn't some nameless, faceless guy who never amounted to anything; it was future top-level heavyweight contender Renaldo Snipes. Yes, the same Snipes who decked a prime Larry Holmes only to get stopped soon thereafter. It was also the same Snipes who, as a pro, would eventually face the likes of Tim Witherspoon, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Gerrie Coetzee, Greg Page, Tyrell Biggs, Trevor Berbick and Orlin Norris.
Of those top-level opponents, Snipes defeated Mustafa Muhammad, Coetzee and Berbick, finishing with a record of 39-8-1, 22 KO.
According to HudsonValley360.com, Evans floored Snipes twice in their amateur meeting but no result was given.
Tyson vs Evans
Having made a respectable name for himself as an amateur, Evans was on a collision course with another heavyweight hoping to earn a spot on the Olympic team... The aforementioned 16-year-old, Mike Tyson (then 9-0 as an amateur).
And the amateur version of Tyson was, in some ways, not unlike the pro version. He swarmed opponents from the opening bell, refusing to partake in a 'feeling-out' process.
“He was strong, he came to fight, but he was wild,” said Evans, who was bum-rushed early by Mike but managed to survive the onslaught.
In the 3rd and final round, Evans, who had badly lost the first two rounds, slipped a Tyson right and countered beautifully with a shot that felled Mike face first.
"The referee told Tyson to fight after the first knockdown," Evans stated. "He stepped toward me and fell again before I could even hit him and that was it.”
Of course, there's some controversy about what happened as some insist Tyson slipped and Evans hit Mike while he was on the canvas. But future sports legend and Tyson rival Evander Holyfield, who is believed to have witnessed the fight, told LA Times in 1989:
“I saw him get hit on the chin and fall on his face. He was beating the guy [Evans] from pillar to post and jumped in with a left hook. He got clocked.”
Afterwards, Tyson trainer Kevin Rooney said he thought the KO loss was good for Mike, insisting Tyson would be more careful about leaving his chin exposed in the future.
Evans’ future in boxing
Despite upsetting Tyson, Evans would fail to win the tournament.
“I was hitting him [Mike Tyson] with the jab trying to keep him away the whole fight and it made my hands real sore,” Evans revealed to HudsonValley360.com. “The pain was crazy and in the semifinals, I lost a decision to Craig Payne.”
And while Evans didn't make the Olympic team, he turned pro in 1986, earning an unspectacular record of 4-6, 4 KO. However, he still managed to face three eventual big names in the process.
After earning a KO win in his debut, Evans would drop a unanimous decision to Oliver McCall (then 6-1) in his second pro fight. In his 8th pro fight, Al was KO'd by 1988 Olympic Heavyweight Gold Medalist Ray Mercer and was stopped by heavyweight contender Axel Shultz in Evans’ final bout in 1994.
As a pro, Al Evans also served as a sparring partner for Tony Tucker and Michael Spinks. And during and after his career, he closely watched Mike Tyson's meteoric rise and descent.
“Mike had that killer instinct,” Evans said.
“I never really liked boxing. I didn’t have a killer instinct. I didn’t want to kill somebody’s son or dad just for the audience to clap. Mike had that killer instinct. He’d kill you."
"I’d never got into the ring mad, except when I fought Payne."
“At that time, he was number two in the US. He beat me three times in three semifinal fights. He KO’d three guys before me. Whenever I got to him my hands were sore, but this last time we boxed, I said I got him this time. Took me 42 seconds to finish him. That was the only time I fought mad and I wasn’t even really happy about it after.”
Tyson, of course, would go on to become a fight legend and one of the most popular athletes of his time.
“I watched all of his fights,” Evans declared. “I told my mom when I came home from that tournament in ’82, ‘I fought this young dude, bet he would have won the whole tournament.’ Turns out he was good enough to do a lot more than that.”
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