Recently I spoke with former IBF Heavyweight Champion Tony Tucker. After a great amateur career, "TNT" turned pro in 1980. Tucker would win the vacant IBF title in 1987 against Buster Douglas. In his next fight, he would take on Mike Tyson, but a broken hand early would limit his ability, as he lost a unanimous decision and his title. He would fight for the heavyweight title twice more but would lose to Lennox Lewis and Bruce Seldon. He retired in 1998 with a record of 58-7 and 48 KO'S.
(SM) Tony, you had a great amateur career, give me the highlights.
(TT) I won the Pam American gold and the World Cup gold. I had beat everybody that I had to beat to go to the Olympics but they were boycotted. I was upset because that was my springboard to professional fighting.
(SM) Tell me about your brush with death and the 1980 plane crash that killed several of your Olympic teammates?
(TT) I was supposed to go back with the team and fight in Germany. I missed the plane, looking for my dad who I was supposed to Meet. I decided to go home but stopped in California for a few
days instead. I didn't even know it had crashed. My family thought I was on that plane and died. I knew everybody on it, they were my best friends.
(SM) You got your first world title shot against Buster Douglas in 1987, fighting for the vacant title. Give me your thoughts.
(TT) I had sparred before with Buster. His dad and my dad were both fighters too. When we fought it was like a father/son team. Buster was a good fighter, going in I knew it would a tough one.
(SM) You fought Douglas after Michael Spinks refused to fight you. What would a Tucker-Spinks fight have been like?
(TT) I would have knocked Michael Spinks out, too small. I should have had a lot of fights that would have brought me more popularity. Even Foreman didn't want to fight me.
(SM) Your next fight, you took on Mike Tyson. Were you 100% for that fight?
(TT) My right hand was broken when I fought him. I knew Tyson couldn’t beat me. A couple days before I was sparring against a guy named Young Joe Louis. This guy was doing a lot of
talking bad about me. I heard this from my sparring partners. So I chose him to spar against first because I was gonna put him down. I was hitting him real good when I heard a pop in my
hand. When I went back to the corner I knew I had hurt it bad. The doctor said I had a small hand fracture. They said I would need therapy and to not use it for ten days. I had to fight Tyson
in less than that. I went in determined though. I was very apprehensive to attack Tyson due to the hand. I hit him with a right uppercut early and my hand just shattered. It was the
worst pain ever. I still went on though, that’s why I did all those antics and everything. I was supposed to beat this guy, but how could I with one hand. With two hands I would have knocked Mike Tyson out.
(SM) After that fight your career was never really the same, you were off about two years. What was going on?
(TT) I had managerial problems. I was out in Hollywood hanging out with a lot of the stars. I started using drugs and stuff too.
(SM) Give me your thoughts on the Lennox Lewis fight.
(TT) Lennox was a good fighter. I was in the later part of my career. I wasn't 100% in that one. I don't like to make excuses but I had a lot of medical problems and other problems at that time.
(SM) In 1995 George Foreman refused to fight you and you fought Bruce Seldon for the vacant title. Was that fight stopped too soon you think?
(TT) Oh, definitely. You don't stop a championship fight like that. I could have gone on no problem. My eye wasn't that bad. They wanted Seldon to fight Tyson though. When he did he went
down from no punch at all, look at the tapes, he just fell down. Seldon was scared to death of Tyson.
(SM) After the Seldon fight, you went just 5-4 before quitting. What were you fighting for at that time, another title shot, money?
(TT) That was towards the end of my career. I definitely was hoping for another title shot though.
(SM) Was your career ended by an eye injury?
(TT) I got the eye injury against John Ruiz, a detached retina. But I got it fixed before my last fight. I just beat Billy Wright and quit.
(SM) Who was the toughest fighter you ever faced?
(TT) I would say Lennox Lewis or Buster Douglas definitely.
(SM) Any regrets looking back now Tony, on your career?
(TT) I regret that I fought Tyson not fully healthy. If I would have postponed the fight, I may have been blackballed. I wouldn't sign with Don King back then and he was running things. So looking back now, I just wish I was healthy.
(SM) So what are you doing now?
(TT) I help train boxers at the Boy's Club here. Help them workout and try to give something back.
(SM) Any future plans for you we should know about?
(TT) I am planning on being the heavyweight champion again!
(SM) What if Tony Tucker was in his prime and fighting today?
(TT) Oh my gosh, I would be licking my chops!. It’s sad today. Now it's not the heavyweights, it's the lighter weights they talk about.
(SM) Tony, any final words for the fans out there?
(TT) I would just like to apologize for some of the things I have done in my life, I had some real bumps along the way, some bad breaks too. I should have been more dedicated to the game.
(SM) Tony thanks for speaking with me.
(TT) No problem, thank you.
Editor's Note: Feel free to visit Murphy's favorite organization to learn more about it:
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV