“Big Apple/Bad Blood”… had been simmering for some time now and not necessarily from what either fighter said… initially. Words were passed between their NYC-based camps, through mutual sparring partners… the measurement of their abilities by the fight crowd, slights and preferences whenever they both showed up to watch a boxing match, questions of their ability from the fight press brought an upswell… there was the fact that both their careers needed an injection… and then there was the ultimate inciter, Mike Tyson.
This was vintage 87/88 Iron… The Tyson that would blow Michael Spinks out in one round, stopped Larry Holmes in 4 (something even the current day heavyweights, against a current day Holmes, couldn’t do – and this is more testament to how resilient Holmes was, than a slight toward the inability of today’s heavyweights). That Tyson. The globe was “Iron” Mike’s playpen and everyone appeared to be his plaything… In this instance he was also the non-malicious puppeteer of the combatants… Silk and the Blade.
Madison Square Garden’s Felt Forum, it was Thursday night and 2nd generation pug employer – along with the acquiring of The Silk’s services via exclusive promotional contract – Bobby Goodman, has turned the Garden’s boxing division into something of interest again… Celebrities could be seen on the regular at the Thursday night fights and Wall St. was beginning to get interested in these sporting individuals who enacted how the Wall Street set felt whenever a bell rang.
Moving to his seat, Silk walked over to Tyson to acknowledge Mike’s most recent train wreck of a fight with Tyrell Biggs. Suddenly he began to catch verbal flack from on the fringe middleweight contenders, the Weaver triplets… Yeah, pro-boxing’s Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not” act and all three were the younger brothers of former Heavyweight Champ, Mike “Hercules” Weaver… They began to “talk stuff” as fighters tend to do, especially when you have that type of backup (identical triplets that can fight), and face it, that’s how you get somewhere in this business, you eat the person ahead of you… Well, it was just before the situation began to heat up, it was doused. Tyson cut them a look and suggested they “put up” if they were so bad. That ended what could’ve been an interesting “conversation,” but only led to something that couldn’t be put out so easily… To Mike’s right was a fighter who could only be seen as Tyson leaned back into his place…
But before I go there, let me tell you something about the middleweight division. The middleweights of the 80’s were about the most talent-laden as they had ever been. Middleweights in the 80’s were raised on TV wars like Bobby Chacon vs. Bazooka Limon, Matthew Saad Muhammad vs. Marvin Johnson. These fights made anything Rocky Balboa did on film look like a girlie pillow fight. And all of this available Saturday and Sunday afternoon… NETWORK TV, no less! (Since then, the AMA has gotten its wish and you either have to search 2000 channels, understand perfect Spanish or pay for it, but you won’t get it on “free” TV anymore. Anyways, in my estimation, TV boxing is a watered down version of what it was in the 80’s and before. For a ref to stop a fight back then, a man better have his eye hanging out of his head or even with the help of his corner man, be unable to make it to the stool.) Sure, the 40’s/50’s had Sugar Ray Robinson, Jake LaMotta and Gene Fullmer at the upper echelon, but in the 80’s the division was about 20 good fighters deep. It seemed any single middleweight in the division could be champ. It went from Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy “Hitman” Hearns, Roberto “Manos de Piedra” Duran. Michael “Second to” Nunn, Frank Tate, Sumbu Kalambey, John “The Beast” Mugabi, Curtis Parker, James “Hard Rock” Green, Wilfredo “The Dragon” Benitez, Mustafa Hamsho, Frank “The Animal” Fletcher. Doug Dewitt, Nigel “The Dark Destroyer” Benn, Robbie Sims, Michael Watson, The Silk… and the features of the man that suddenly came into focus on the other side of Tyson… the Blade. Iran “The Blade” Barkley.
Blade said something to Tyson, Tyson said something to him, Tyson said something to Silk who said something back to Mike, Blade amps up, “He thinks he’s dark and lovely, I’d make him dark and ugly.” (Good line but someone must of thought that one up for him.) Silk went on to spout that the only reason he lost the title fight against Olympic Gold Medalist Frank Tate, was because Iran jerked around so long, afraid to fight him, causing his conditioning-obsessive father to wear him out in the gym (see, Silk got his ass handed to him over 15 rounds, his first loss, but that was a whole different set of complicated matters)… it was the Blade’s turn to pay the piper… after all, “sh** rolls down hill.”
Bad Blood was officially boiling from that point forward.
Ultimately, when a fighter has finished his day, he wants the respect of his peers even more than he wants it from the fans or the network executives. Tyson was more than amused… he knew it was real.
I remember watching Iran Barkley fight on ESPN when I was in Vancouver… I was not impressed. I thought him crude and primitive… his fight with Robbie Sims, Marvin Hagler’s brother, was unbelievably brutal and he ended up getting stopped in that battle’s final throws. I thought the fight was both their brains’ Armageddon… again, not understanding how life works, the dynamics of energies, the fact that I only saw their weaknesses and not their strengths, I thought them both pretty crude… subjecting their resources to brutal punishment when really, all either one had to do was move your head from where it was the guy your fighting last saw it, right? Oversimplification, but these were my immature thoughts at the time. I didn’t think about the rigors of repetition… how during the heat of battle and without the fear of being hit, one tends to compromise yourself and take a shot or two to land one of your own… some say it is the curse of the puncher, looking for one punch and willing to take a few in return, others will tell you it’s the easy way out (painful but nevertheless easier than having to make a concerted consistent effort). Either way, it caused me to approach the fight with Iran Barkley without any fear. And when you enter the ring without fear, you enter without respect and if you have no respect for your opponent – somebody that really seeks to win, for his own survival, NEEDS to win – as a fighter, you may be in for a rude awakening.