Tyson vs Bruno 2: Oliver McCall the victim of a Don King set up?
"Set-Up! Don King just wanted my title to give to Mike Tyson," says forner heavyweight champion.
Oliver McCall, in a February 2017 interview with Laugh At First Site, discusses some of the politics in boxing and insists he was used by promoter Don King as tool to gain access of the WBC Heavyweight title so King could have it warm and ready for a soon-to-be comebacking Mike Tyson.
At first, the accusation seemed silly until all the pieces started fitting.
Let's cycle back to September 1994.
Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson is about 8 months away from being released from prison, Michael Moorer has recently lifted the WBA and IBF titles from Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis, the unbeaten WBC Heavyweight Champion, is about to defend his title against Oliver McCall who was previously Tyson's top sparring partner.
Given the WBO was still a fringe and irrelevant commodity at the time, there were only three major sanctioning bodies, the WBC, WBA and IBF.
Moorer, who was promoted by Main Events, owned the WBA and IBF titles while Lewis, who had the WBC strap, fought under Frank Maloney's banner of fighters. All of the heavyweight world titles had fallen out of King's hands.
Months prior to Lewis vs McCall 1, many in the boxing community had buzzed about Don King's presumed influence in World Boxing Council (WBC) matters. The sanctioning body seemed overly-friendly to King in its decision-making and ranking of fighters, and the decision to have McCall face Lewis for the WBC belt was no exception.
Somehow, McCall, at 24-5, would get a heavyweight title shot over more-deserving contenders.
But, so what... Sure, Don King promoted Oliver McCall and maybe he had too much influence over the WBC but nothing could help McCall against Lewis who was a 5½-1 favorite.
... Or so it seemed.
In Round 2, McCall would floor the champ with a well-timed right hand with the forner's entire body behind it. Lewis was up at the count of six but a little wobbly. While the referee was counting, Lewis put his gloves up to his chin indicating he was ready to continue but stumbled slightly into WBC referee José Guadalupe Garcia who stopped immediately the fight.
And just like that... We had a new WBC Heavyweight champion.
Was it irony the fight looked to have been stopped a little early? And was King, McCall's promoter, really interested in guiding the new WBC heavyweight champion?
"... That was the ultimate plan."
In essence, McCall was saying King wanted to be in control (promotionally) of a heavyweight title-holder when Tyson was released from prison because it gave King leverage in dealing with Tyson and leverage in general because he had direct access to the WBC champion (regardless of who it was) and all contenders had to go through him.
"I was more or less set up after the Larry Holmes fight for the Bruno fight," McCall added.
McCall's first title defense was against a 44 year old Holmes who he defeated narrowly on points.
It seems King's plan was to get Oliver out of the way so Tyson could face Frank Bruno, a fighter Tyson had previously KO'd, for the WBC heavyweight title in 1995 or 96.
"Bruno was the guy Don King wanted Mike Tyson to fight," added McCall.
Hinting Bruno's style was made-to-order for Tyson, McCall stated, "Mike Tyson can kinda beat Bruno up. He beat him up the first time."
"There were a lot of things put into play as far as my preparation for the Bruno fight. My family went down to London (McCall's training location) with me not knowing my family was part of that garbage."
"It was a lot of crazy stuff going on."
McCall said he even had to kick his kids out of the hotel because they were doing a 'bunch of crazy stuff' while Oliver was trying to train.
"I remember lying in my bed thinking 'was it wise to bring my family.' All the distraction that was taking place."
"[Also, as I reflect now, my preparation for Bruno was all wrong. They [my trainers] had me try to box the first 7 rounds and then come on strong when I should have just fought in my [typical] killer instinct approach like I did with Lennox Lewis. I was coming out swinging and banging."
McCall insists as a result of the flawed strategy outlined by his trainers, he was busted up early against Bruno.
"I had the wrong type of crowd and people around me back then... It is what it is. (Smiling) That's part of boxing too.
Bruno would lift McCall's WBC title in September 1995. And Tyson, as planned (according to McCall) would regain a share of the heavyweight title in March 1996 by KOing Bruno in devastating fashion.
Some insist an occasional boxing match is fixed but high-profile fights haven't been fixed for over 60 years. Even a powerful promoter like Don King couldn't "fix" and outcome. HOWEVER, he could pull strings to stack the odds for or against a fighter.