Tyson Becomes Youngest World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Mike Tyson defeated Trevor Berbick to become the youngest world heavyweight boxing champion. Following his defeat of Berbick, Tyson went on to defeat other boxing greats until losing the heavyweight title to James “Buster” Douglas in 1990.

Summary of Event

Historically, boxing transcended race, ethnicity, and social class. American boxing evolved from competition between slaves on the various plantations to a multimillion-dollar global enterprise. Pioneering heavyweight boxers achieved celebrity status and were admired for their physical prowess in the ring. The decades of the 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s witnessed some remarkable and highly contested boxing matches. Increased media exposure and enhanced purses added to the spectacle and popularity of boxing. Legendary boxing heroes during these years, many of whom were former Olympic team members, included Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Leon Spinks, Ken Norton, Larry Holmes, and Michael Spinks. These legendary pugilists became household names. The name of Muhammad Ali Ali, Muhammad stood above all the other boxers during this period. Ali’s controversial boxing career, which included three heavyweight championships, ended on December 11, 1981, when he lost a ten-round decision to Trevor Berbick. On March 22, 1986, Berbick in turn defeated Pinklon Thomas in Las Vegas, Nevada, to gain the World Boxing Council championship. Unfortunately, Berbick’s tenure as world champion would last only eight months. Sports;boxing Boxing [kw]Tyson Becomes Youngest World Heavyweight Boxing Champion (Nov. 22, 1986) [kw]Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Tyson Becomes Youngest World (Nov. 22, 1986) [kw]Boxing Champion, Tyson Becomes Youngest World Heavyweight (Nov. 22, 1986) Sports;boxing Boxing [g]North America;Nov. 22, 1986: Tyson Becomes Youngest World Heavyweight Boxing Champion[06240] [g]United States;Nov. 22, 1986: Tyson Becomes Youngest World Heavyweight Boxing Champion[06240] [c]Sports;Nov. 22, 1986: Tyson Becomes Youngest World Heavyweight Boxing Champion[06240] Tyson, Mike Berbick, Trevor

Boxing history was made November 22, 1986, when twenty-year-old Mike Tyson knocked out the thirty-one-year-old Berbick in the second round. Prior to this date, the popular heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson, Patterson, Floyd at the age of twenty-one, had been the youngest man to win the world heavyweight championship. Tyson’s boxing record to this date was twenty-seven victories and no defeats. He had made an impressive twenty-five knockouts. Tyson’s dramatic and swift defeat of Berbick represented a milestone in the history of professional boxing: Tyson had defeated the last fighter to face Ali in the ring. The boxing era of Ali was closed, and a new chapter was about to be written.

During the early 1980’s, Tyson was one of the ring’s most feared competitors. Boxing experts often referred to his style of boxing as vicious, overwhelming, powerful, relentless, and reminiscent of a modern-day gladiator. Rarely in the annals of boxing history has an individual been gifted with such power, speed, agility, and competitive spirit. After a successful amateur career, Tyson had begun his professional boxing career in 1985. During this first year, he fought a record-setting fifteen professional bouts and won each contest by knocking out his opponent.





In 1986, there were three boxing commissions, each with a different champion: the International Boxing Federation International Boxing Federation (IBF), the World Boxing Association World Boxing Association (WBA), and the World Boxing Council World Boxing Council (WBC). Tyson won the WBC title with his defeat of Berbick. However, Tim Witherspoon held the WBA title, and Tony Tucker Tucker, Tony held the IBF crown. Tyson added to his boxing legacy by defeating James Smith (by then the WBA title holder) on March 7, 1987, and Tony Tucker on August 1, 1987. He thus claimed all three boxing titles. The popular media recognized him as the undisputed world heavyweight boxing champion and one of the greatest boxers of all time.

Tyson appeared to be invincible, and few opponents lasted past the first round. Still, he lost the world heavyweight title to James “Buster” Douglas Douglas, Buster on February 11, 1990, in Tokyo, Japan, in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. Douglas was considered an 11-to-1 underdog. Following this defeat, Tyson’s boxing career began to decline.

Tyson’s personal life, outside the ring, included his marriage in 1988 to actor Robin Givens, which ended in divorce after three months, and a conviction in 1992 for raping an eighteen-year-old beauty contestant, for which Tyson was sentenced to three years in prison. Tyson attempted a boxing comeback in 1995, succeeding with impressive victories over Peter McNeeley and Buster Mathis, Jr.

On November 9, 1996, the highly anticipated bout between Tyson and Evander Holyfield Holyfield, Evander took place at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. Holyfield dominated all aspects of the fight. Tyson was knocked out in the eleventh round, his image of invincibility shattered. Nevertheless, he received $30 million for the fight; Holyfield received $11 million. The stage was set for a rematch on June 28, 1997. In one of the most bizarre events in boxing history, Tyson was disqualified in the third round for biting Holyfield’s ears, even severing a part of the right ear and spitting it out onto the canvas. Following the contest, the Nevada State Athletic Commission revoked Tyson’s boxing license, and he was fined.

Tyson’s boxing career continued to spiral downward. In the fight with Lennox Lewis on June 8, 2002, Tyson was knocked out in the eighth round. His final boxing bout took place on June 11, 2005, against Kevin McBride. McBride, Kevin Tyson lost the bout by technical knockout. Following this fight, Tyson announced his retirement from boxing. His boxing career posted fifty wins (forty-four by knockout), six losses, and two no contests.


Mike Tyson is considered by many boxing fans to be one of the top heavyweight boxers of all time. He will be remembered for his power and fearlessness and his historic bouts against world-class boxers such as Holmes, Smith, Thomas, Douglas, and Holyfield.

Tyson will also be remembered for his anger and rage, both inside and outside the ring. The boxing community will forever recall the two Holyfield-Tyson boxing matches, particularly the second bout, in which an outmatched Tyson lost his composure and, frustrated, bit off a piece of Holyfield’s ear. This event marked the low point in Tyson’s boxing career. During his career, Tyson won millions of dollars in the ring, yet, like many professional heavyweight boxers before him, he declared bankruptcy during the latter stages of his career. Sports;boxing Boxing

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ashe, Arthur R., Jr. Hard Road to Glory: The African American Athlete in Boxing. New York: Amistad, 1988. Excellent historical analysis of the achievements of African American boxers.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hoffer, Richard. “Feeding Frenzy.” Sports Illustrated, July 7, 1997, 32-38. Overview of the second Tyson-Holyfield fight. Illustrated with photographs.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. “Real Deal.” Sports Illustrated, November 18, 1996, 28-37. Captures the first Tyson-Holyfield fight. At thirty, Tyson was attempting to make a comeback to professional boxing.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lindsay, Andrew. Boxing in Black and White: A Statistical Study of Race in the Ring, 1949-1983. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2004. Comparative statistical analysis of boxing records (wins and losses) of black and white boxers.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Sugar, Bert Randolph. The One Hundred Greatest Boxers of All Time. New York: Routledge, 1984. Provides a complete overview of the boxing accomplishments of the top hundred boxing legends.

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Categories: History