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The Mike Tyson Chronicles: Donovan “Razor” Ruddock II

By Geno McGahee

The immediate rematch took place on June 28th, 1991. For Mike Tyson, this was an unnecessary fight. Even though he had stated after his first bout with Ruddock that a rematch wasn’t a bad idea, he realistically wanted a shot at the title. Although he was heavily favored to win the rematch, he saw Ruddock for what he was: a dangerous puncher with a lot of heart. In the heavyweight division, anything can happen and whenever the “smash,” is thrown, there is a chance that the fight could be over.

Richard Steele and his relations or lack thereof with Promoter Don King is where the controversy lied. Steele had been accused of favoring King fighters and many have said that the two had a cushy relationship, an accusation that the experienced referee denied. Most likely, he bought into the Tyson mystique. He saw that Ruddock was hurt and tried to save the injured fighter, even though it was far too soon. The legend that was Mike Tyson forced the hand of Steele and he made the wrong choice.

The biggest loser from the first fight was the winner. Mike Tyson, seen as a poor loser in the past, was now seen as a co-conspirator. If Ruddock got too much confidence or if the momentum shifted, Tyson, King, and Steele, would make sure that the man that they wanted to win, won. The behavior of King and Tyson after the loss to Buster Douglas threw fuel onto the fire. When Iron Mike was clearly defeated, they protested and two of the three heavyweight titles were withheld. The claim that Tyson knocked out Douglas prior to being knocked out was a lame attempt to put the pieces back together. It failed and many saw Tyson-Ruddock I as another example of their misdeeds.

Razor Ruddock was in the position where he had everything to gain and nothing to lose. The loss to Tyson had boosted his notoriety and if he were to come back and with this fight, it would erase the first encounter and put him first in line to get a crack at the heavyweight title. His Promoter Murad Muhammad put it best: “Knocking out Mike Tyson is a shortcut to the heavyweight championship of the world.”

The press going into Tyson – Ruddock II was not good for Iron Mike. Sports Illustrated claimed that Tyson lost his fury and there was reported animosity between the fighter and his Promoter Don King that became physical. There was the persistent rumor that Tyson threw a toaster at King and then slapped him, which both denied. Another story going into this fight was the weight of Razor Ruddock and his preparations. He was 228 in the first bout and came into this fight at 238. Was he there simply for the payday? The answer was an emphatic no.

Mike Tyson was at his best at the pre-fight hype and comments, noting to his opponent: “I’m gonna make you my girlfriend. You’re sweet. I’m going to make sure you kiss me good with those big lips.” The look on Ruddock’s face was priceless. Both men exchanged insults, making this a very hot fight for the boxing fans.

The fight and this was a great fight. In the first round, Tyson came out like a house of fire, attacking Ruddock, but the “Razor” held steady and was working the body of Iron Mike very well. In the last 15 seconds of the round, Mike landed an overhand right that seriously wobbled Ruddock. It was a very good round for Iron Mike, and so too was the second round. Even though Ruddock was losing, he was throwing some very hard punches at Tyson, especially to the body.

Two minutes into the second round, an overhand right knocked Ruddock to the floor and broke his jaw. This was going to be a tough night for Ruddock who was also being hit with low blows quite frequently. The Razor would strike back in the third round when he would land the “smash” or “shovel punch,” stunning Iron Mike. Ruddock would land hard to both the body and the head, completely shifting the momentum. Mike now knew that he was in a fight and the fans that packed the Mirage Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, as well as the pay per view audience at home were in for a Tyson fight that was actually a fight.

Ruddock would be dropped again in the fourth round from a right cross. He was more off balance, but the sight of “Razor” on the seat of his pants put Tyson back into swarm mode but a left uppercut would land and nearly lift him off of the canvas. Tyson would land a left hook after the bell but it was Ruddock that would have a point taken off because of his refusal to go back to his corner. It was a strange call by Lane, but he would not be disobeyed. So, the 10-8 round was now a 10-7 round for Tyson. The consensus is that Donovan had lost all but the third round at this point, leaving the score: 39-34 for Tyson, but the big man would come back strong in the fifth. Don King was beginning to sweat.

The sixth round was an all out brawl with both men trading shots. There is no question that the head movement and upper body movement is no longer there with Tyson at this point, making him a much easier target for Ruddock. At the end of the sixth round, Ruddock landed his shovel punch that knocked the mouthpiece out of his opponent and seriously rattled Mike. Both rounds five and six were Ruddock’s, making the score on the RSR scorecard: 57-54 Tyson.

Round seven was another great round for the underdog. Ruddock and Tyson exchanged vicious punches, but a three punch combination at the end of the round pushed the round in favor of the “Razor.” If his strategy was to get Mike late, it was going according to plan. The round pushed the scorecards that much closer: 66-64.

The amazing thing about this fight was the fact that Ruddock and Tyson didn’t bring their A games. They both showed worlds of heart but Tyson was sluggish and the Ruddock that out-boxed Mike Weaver and used a jab wasn’t in the ring this night. The jab was nearly non-existent from both men.

The end of round eight would see Ruddock losing a point again for a hit after the bell, and Tyson was starting to get his groove back. He eked out the ninth round but lost a point for a low blow. At this point, the fight was completely up in the air, but for what it is worth, RSR had it: 84-82 for Tyson.

The tenth round would see Tyson punishing his bigger foe, beating him without mercy to the body and making the “Razor” grimace in pain. Another low blow would cost Iron Mike another point, making this round an even 9-9, and taking away any advantage that Tyson may have had. It was an action packed round with Ruddock coming on at the end. 93-91 for Mike Tyson.

The eleventh round would see Razor Ruddock more effective again and the plan to wait for Iron Mike to wear out was working and putting the prospective Evander Holyfield – Mike Tyson super showdown in doubt. In the first two rounds of this fight, it looked like another Tyson show, but the heart of the “Razor” came through and so did the heart of Iron Mike…something that he doesn’t get enough credit for.

Tyson would claim the last round and claim the fight as well. RSR had it 112-110 for Iron Mike. The judges that mattered that hot night in June of 1991 had it 114-108 (twice), and 113-109 for the former Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the world. The two gladiators embraced and the matter was settled. The better man had won, but the masses that thought that Evander Holyfield was just holding the titles for Tyson weren’t so sure anymore.

A fight after the bout would take place between Don King and Ferdie Pacheco. A comment to Tyson from Pacheco stating that the media was trying to help him enraged the flamboyant promoter. With these two going at it, the audience was nearly treated to another bout…this time in the super heavyweight division. I would have picked Don King to TKO Ferdie Pacheco in three rounds.

With this fight out of the way, Tyson was clear to face Holyfield for the title and it was actually signed. It was going to make both men a fortune, but some indiscretion in Indianapolis would change history. In July of 1991, Mike Tyson would be arrested for rape and would pull out of the super fight, and would eventually go away for three years after being convicted in a questionable trial.

This would be Razor Ruddock’s moment. He would move on to face Lennox Lewis and was destroyed quickly and would soon thereafter, fade away. The two wars that he had with the man that was once called, and rightfully so, “The Most Feared Man on the Planet,” will live on forever.

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