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Mike Tyson Taught Me How to Do Math

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1988_-_tyson_spinksMy first boxing memory:

Mike Tyson taught me how to do math in the summer 1988. I was six years old running with a group of my friends past a packed drive way of cars, screaming, “91 seconds, 91 seconds, 91 seconds,” for the entire street to hear us. It was a summer night in Modesto, California; the moon had not yet overtaken the sun. None of us could have been over the age of ten. But we knew what we just saw. Call it a child’s intuition, the fight was big, we could feel it.

There was an indescribable passion in the packed, small living room where I sat with my dad and his friends to watch Mike Tyson fight Michael Spinks. The dads welcomed me and the rest of the kids like men. They allowed us to watch the fight as long as we stayed quiet. It was cool. We felt like rebels. I remember the smell of beer and hard liquor, salsa and nacho cheese Doritos, grown men were talking boxing, and blaring battle cries, cursing loudly with venomous insults towards the undefeated Michael Spinks. According to my calculations, these older guys didn’t know boxing like you and I do today. They were just fight fans. They knew of Mike Tyson but probably did not study the way he set up his combinations and used the elbow as a part of his punches.

And my father is nowhere close to being a sports fan. He actually despises physical fitness. So, I don’t know why we were watching a boxing fight on that day. Yet, at the moment, Mike Tyson was a gladiator to every adult in the room. He was indestructible. To them Michael Spinks was just another opponent. And they were waiting for the moment Mike Tyson knocked the other guy out. From the way that they reacted I could sense that the 91 second finish came unexpectedly. What a feeling it was to watch these older guys jump and yell with their hands pointed to the sky signifying victory. It made me smile. It still makes me smile.  In my eyes, my dad and his friends saw Mike Tyson as a superhero.

Mike Tyson helped me put it together, 91 seconds equals a minute and a half. It is just about as long it will take most of you to read this column, just about as long as it takes for me to brush my teeth, he knocked Michael Spinks out in 91 seconds.

I was so young, I didn’t understand an undisputed heavyweight championship fight but I knew Tyson won. I was in the moment. If Mystic River was a feel good story they would write that book about what Mike Tyson’s victory over Michael Spinks meant to me. It forever implanted my outlook on sports.
Sports memories for me start with Mike Tyson. Now, so many years later, and as strange as it may sound, 91 seconds has never meant one minute and thirty-one seconds to me, it means Mike Tyson.

Hearing someone say “a minute and a half” has me stuck in rewind. It reminds me of why I love boxing, when I didn’t care about the politics that surround every fight, the big money contracts, the bad decisions, and horrible mismatches. 91 seconds made me feel like there is no such thing as an unexciting fight. 91 seconds is boxing magic, the 1980’s version of Joe Louis’ knockout of Max Schmeling.  

It means Mike Tyson walking slowly to the ring surrounded by a horde of cops and security guards. It means Muhammad Ali wearing glasses getting introduced in front of a joyous crowd, Donald Trump, Butch Lewis wearing a cool white suit, my first experience hearing Michael Buffer’s commanding voice, Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant, watching Spinks’ head slams to the canvas, his water filled eyes, referee Frank Cappuccino’s ten count echoing, Spinks climbing to one knee, trying to stand up, but falling into the ropes, the fight is over. Tyson turning his back with his arms wide open, his trainer Kevin Rooney jumps in the ring, I look at the grown men embrace in the living room, and then run outside screaming “91 seconds, 91 seconds, 91 seconds!”

I was never good at math but Mike Tyson showed me how to make 91 seconds last forever. Enjoy your time in the Boxing Hall of Fame Iron Mike, thank you for making me a boxing fan.

Mike Tyson gets inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame this Sunday, June 12th in Canastota, NY.

Contact Raymond.Markarian@yahoo.com

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2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura

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The WBC World Super Featherweight title bout between Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura came on one of the biggest boxing stages of 2015, as the bout served as the HBO pay-per-view’s co-main event on November 21st, in support of Miguel Cotto vs Saul Alvarez.

Miura entered the fight with a (29-2-2) record and he was making the fifth defense of his world title, while Vargas entered the fight with an undefeated mark of (22-0-1) in what was his first world title fight. Both men had a reputation for all-out fighting, with Miura especially earning high praise for his title defense in Mexico where he defeated Sergio Thompson in a fiercely contested battle.

The fight started out hotly contested, and the intensity never let up. Vargas seemed to win the first two rounds, but by the fourth round, Miura seemed to pull ahead, scoring a knock-down and fighting with a lot of confidence. After brawling the first four rounds, Miura appeared to settle into a more technical approach. Rounds 5 and 6 saw the pendulum swing back towards Vargas, as he withstood Miura’s rush to open the fifth round and the sixth round saw both men exchanging hard punches.

The big swinging continued, and though Vargas likely edged Miura in rounds 5 and 6, Vargas’ face was cut in at least two spots and Miura started to assert himself again in rounds 7 and 8. Miura was beginning to grow in confidence while it appeared that Vargas was beginning to slow down, and Miura appeared to hurt Vargas at the end of the 8th round.

Vargas turned the tide again at the start of the ninth round, scoring a knock down with an uppercut and a straight right hand that took Miura’s legs and sent him to the canvas. Purely on instinct, Miura got back up and continued to fight, but Vargas was landing frequently and with force. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the fight at the halfway point of round 9 as Miura was sustaining a barrage of punches.

Miura still had a minute and a half to survive if he was going to get out of the round, and it was clear that he was not going to stop fighting.

A back and forth battle of wills between two world championship level fighters, Takashi Miura versus “El Bandido” Vargas wins the 2015 Fight of the Year.

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Jan 9 in Germany – Feigenbutz and De Carolis To Settle Score

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This coming Saturday, January 9th, the stage is set at the Baden Arena in Offenburg, Germany for a re-match between Vincent Feigenbutz and Giovanni De Carolis. The highly anticipated re-match is set to air on SAT.1 in Germany, and Feigenbutz will once again be defending his GBU and interim WBA World titles at Super Middleweight.

The first meeting between the two was less than three months ago, on October 17th and that meeting saw Feigenbutz controversially edge De Carolis on the judge’s cards by scores of (115-113, 114-113 and 115-113). De Carolis scored a flash knock down in the opening round, and he appeared to outbox Feigenbutz in the early going, but the 20 year old German champion came on in the later rounds.

The first bout is described as one of the most crowd-pleasing bouts of the year in Germany, and De Carolis and many observers felt that the Italian had done enough to win.

De Carolis told German language website RAN.DE that he was more prepared for the re-match, and that due to the arrogance Feigenbutz displayed in the aftermath of the first fight, he was confident that he had won over some of the audience. Though De Carolis fell short of predicting victory, he promised a re-vamped strategy tailored to what he has learned about Feigenbutz, whom he termed immature and inexperienced.

The stage is set for Feigenbutz vs De Carolis 2, this Saturday January 9th in Offenburg, Germany. If you can get to the live event do it, if not you have SAT.1 in Germany airing the fights, and The Boxing Channel right back here for full results.

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2015 Knock Out of the Year – Saul Alvarez KO’s James Kirkland

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On May 9th of 2015, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez delivered a resonant knock-out of James Kirkland on HBO that wins the 2015 KO of the Year.

The knock-out itself came in the third round, after slightly more than two minutes of action. The end came when Alvarez delivered a single, big right hand that caught Kirkland on the jaw and left him flat on his back after spinning to the canvas.Alvarez was clearly the big star heading into the fight. The fight was telecast by HBO for free just one week after the controversial and disappointing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fight, and Alvarez was under pressure to deliver the type of finish that people were going to talk about. Kirkland was happy to oblige Alvarez, taking it right to Alvarez from the start. Kirkland’s aggression saw him appear to land blows that troubled the young Mexican in the early going. Alvarez played good defense, and he floored Kirkland in the first round, displaying his power and his technique in knocking down an aggressive opponent.

However, Kirkland kept coming at Alvarez and the fight entered the third round with both men working hard and the feeling that the fight would not go the distance. Kirkland continued to move forward, keeping “Canelo” against the ropes and scoring points with a barrage of punches while looking for an opening.

At around the two minute mark, Alvarez landed an uppercut that sent Kirkland to the canvas again. Kirkland got up, but it was clear that he did not have his legs under him. Kirkland was going to try to survive the round, but Alvarez had an opportunity to close out the fight. The question was would he take it?

Alvarez closed in on Kirkland, putting his opponent’s back to the ropes. Kirkland was hurt, but he was still dangerous, pawing with punches and loading up for one big shot.

But it was the big shot “Canelo” threw that ended the night. Kirkland never saw it coming, as he was loading up with a huge right hand of his own. The right Alvarez threw cracked Kirkland in the jaw, and his eyes went blank. His big right hand whizzed harmlessly over the head of a ducking Alvarez, providing the momentum for the spin that left Kirkland prone on the canvas.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez went on to defeat Miguel Cotto in his second fight of 2015 and he is clearly one of boxing’s biggest stars heading into 2016. On May 9th Alvarez added another reel to his highlight film when he knocked out James Kirkland with the 2015 “Knock Out of the Year”.

Photo by naoki fukuda

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