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The Mike Tyson Chronicles: Bruce Seldon

By Geno McGahee

On April 8th, 1995, a fight card would transpire where Larry Holmes attempted to repeat what George Foreman was able to do, and capture the heavyweight title. Holmes came within inches of achieving that feat, losing a close and debatable decision to the then WBC Heavyweight Champion, Oliver McCall. On the same card, Felix Trinidad would destroy Roger Turner in two rounds and Terry Norris would get disqualified for the second time in a row against the over-matched Luis Santana. The other memorable bout on the card was a contest for the vacant WBA Heavyweight Title between former champ, Tony Tucker, and Bruce Seldon.

Tony Tucker won the IBF Heavyweight Title in 1987, stopping James “Buster” Douglas in ten rounds and lost his crown three months later to Iron Mike Tyson, but gave a very good account of himself and, up to that point, gave “Kid Dynamite” the toughest fight of his career. After that bout, he would linger, putting together wins against relatively nondescript opponents. It was obvious to many that he was beyond his better days, eking by Orlin Norris and Oliver McCall before losing a wide decision to Lennox Lewis in 1993 in a bid for the WBC Title.

After some meaningless wins, he was back in position to challenge for the title as a mandatory, perhaps more evidence that Don King had a lot of push with the sanctioning bodies. When champion, George Foreman declined the challenge, the WBA crown became vacant and Bruce Seldon was put in as the opponent. Despite the incredible skill of “The Atlantic City Express,” he has always been a punching bag for the media and was considered a stepping stone for Tucker en route to a rematch with Mike Tyson. Seldon would throw a wrench in the works.

The biggest moments in the boxing career of Bruce Seldon were defeats. He lost by TKO to Oliver McCall on an ESPN card, and would try to rebound quickly on a PPV event against Riddick Bowe. It was over quickly. In one round, Seldon was dropped twice and couldn’t recover to continue. This was the end of his run as a contender according to most, but he would rebound with knockout wins over Jesse Ferguson, Greg Page, undefeated Russian prospect, Alexander Popov, as well as a dominant unanimous decision over Mike Dixon. He was 13-1, 12 KO’s, since the loss to Bowe, with his only defeat was to the cagey former champion, Tony Tubbs.

The Tubbs defeat showed the best of Seldon, as he got off the canvas in the first round to forge on and do his best to find his elusive opponent. He would lose a decision but he may have regained some supporters as well as regained some confidence in himself. What he also had going into the Tucker fight was the best jab in boxing. Momentum and that punch would be too much for the older ex-champ to handle on that April night in 1995.

From the opening round, the jab bothered Tucker, but it seemed that many were still waiting for Tucker to lower the boom and drop Seldon. It never happened. Seldon’s jab would TKO Tucker, when he couldn’t see anymore out of his very swollen eye. There was much complaint from both Tucker and Don King that the fight was stopped too soon, and I think that there was a lot of disbelief. Seldon was supposed to be easy and he brought his A game, which was more than enough to secure the 7th round TKO win. A rematch was spoken of by both King and Tucker, but it was never to be. Tucker would fade away and Seldon would move on to his first defense.

Joe Hipp, 30-3, 19 KO’s, didn’t deserve a shot at the title. His two biggest fights were TKO defeats to Bert Cooper and Tommy Morrison. This bout with Seldon proved to be a mismatch and showed once again the skill of the WBA Champion. He used his jackhammer jab to destroy Hipp’s face and force him into submission in the 10th round. This bout was supporting the main event between the returning Mike Tyson against the hapless Peter McNeeley. Seldon wanted the fight and the money that came with a title defense against Iron Mike, and Don King wanted his moneymaker, Tyson, to have all the titles. Seldon-Tyson was in the making.

The Tyson defense would take over a year to put together. In the meantime, Tyson had fought and defeated Buster Mathis, JR., and Frank Bruno for the WBC Title, heading into this bout with Seldon with a full head of steam. The hype going into the event would be like nothing Seldon had ever seen and it was obvious that he was falling victim to the mystique of Tyson, as many in the past had done. Bonecrusher Smith stated that he “bought into the hype,” and clutched him the entire time, only opening up in the final seconds of the last round to land a right hand that stunned Tyson. Mike’s biggest asset at times was his ability to intimidate his opponent and beat him before the first bell rang for the fight.

The ring rust that was such a concern for Iron Mike was nearly silenced when Frank Bruno noted that the Tyson he faced in 1996 was the same Tyson that he lost to in 1989. In fact, Iron Mike disposed of Bruno in three rounds in 1996, two rounds less then it took him to do it in 1989. Buster Mathis, JR., was another impressive TKO for Tyson. Mathis had put together a record of 20-0, 6 KO’s, and was very good defensively. He was the type of guy that may have had the key to exploit a spent Tyson, but he would find himself out of the fight in just three rounds. From those two victories, it was fair to say that the pieces were starting to fall into place for Mike and if he was going to face Seldon’s jab, he’d have to bring some of the old Tyson to the ring.

September 7th, 1996, would be the date where the two would finally meet for the WBA Heavyweight Title. Tyson entered the ring with a record of 44-1, 38 KO’s, and with a menacing look on his face. This was the seek and destroy Tyson and he may have also sensed that Seldon wasn’t mentally strong and was very worried about this title defense. As he came down to the ring, Seldon sported a very big smile…a sure sign that he was terrified. As George Foreman always said, he was “whistling through the graveyard,” trying to convince himself that he wasn’t afraid.

Seldon, 33-3, 29 KO’s, maintained the smile during the announcements and even hits his gloves together in a show of confidence. As they announced his record and statistics, he threw some jabs, saying “bop” as he did it, letting the world know just what his plan was. He was going to throw the jab as early and often as he could.

The opening bell rang and a looping right hand immediately missed by Tyson, but let Seldon know that his opponent had no intentions of going the distance. Seldon was throwing his jab but he wasn’t stepping forward with it. He was making the mistake of going backwards while throwing, which is the ideal circumstances for a Mike Tyson knockout. A left hook in the first twenty seconds rattles Seldon, who stumbles into the ropes. It was obvious that this wasn’t going to go long.

Seldon was full of nervous energy as he frantically moved around the ring, throwing jabs while going backwards. Tyson was swarming. Seldon threw a nice two punch combination as Tyson came in, but he was still trying to shake the nerves. It seemed like he was succeeding as he began to throw some decent jabs and land some body shots on the incoming Tyson.

An unimpressive right cross landed high on Seldon’s head and dropped him right onto his stomach. Referee Richard Steele assumed it was a slip until he saw the condition that Seldon was in. Glossy-eyed, he made it to his feet but the little bit of confidence that he mustered up was eradicated with that right hand. Tyson had been in this position many times before with a stunned opponent standing across the ring from him. Steele asked for Seldon to walk forward and he did but it was clear that his legs weren’t good. He never saw that punch and Tyson was not the type of fighter to let you off of the hook.

A trademark Tyson left hook would land moments later and drop Seldon for the final time. He made it to his feet, but when he tried to shake the cobwebs, he fell backwards into the turnbuckle, prompting Steele to call the fight at 1:49 of the first round. Tyson picked up the WBA Crown to add to his WBC Title that he possessed. Chants of “fix” were heard from the audience as the fight was waved off and the bad press that followed Seldon throughout his career would start up again with a vengeance. This was a night that he would not easily live down.

After the fight, Seldon placed his arm around Mike and sang his praises, being a good sport, but obviously happy too that the fight was over with. Seldon was not the first man to lose the fight before getting into the ring with Iron Mike, but he has been the most harshly criticized for it. The Tyson win was not the biggest story of the night however. This would be the night that Tupac Shakur was killed in a drive by.

Mike and Tupac were actually supposed to meet up at Club 662 where many rappers were supposed to perform. Shakur was hit three times by a gunman in a Cadillac and died six days later. It was a tragic ending to an unsatisfying night of boxing at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Tyson would give up his WBC Heavyweight Title instead of defending it against the number 1 contender, Lennox Lewis, and opt to face Evander Holyfield in a WBA Title defense. Holyfield was supposed to be a much easier challenge and another example of the ferocity of Iron Mike. It didn’t turn out that way.

Seldon took a long break from boxing. You get the feeling that no other bout had ever had the mental effect that this one did on Bruce. The media trashed him, he won the “glass jaw award” in several publications in their end of the year awards, and the consensus was that he basically threw the fight. From my perspective, Bruce was no different than Bonecrusher Smith, Alex Stewart, Michael Spinks, or Clifford Etienne. They all let the hype get to them prior to their fights and the end results were self explanatory. Seldon froze under pressure and couldn’t do what he needed to do to win this fight.

Evander Holyfield called Seldon a disgrace, which may just be what he considers any fighter that doesn’t use his head as a battering ram. It was a cheap shot at a man that was already down, and Seldon stayed down until 2004 when he made his comeback to the ring, stringing together a couple wins against very weak opposition and nearly pulled an upset when he knocked down the undefeated prospect, Gerald Nobles, before getting stopped in the 9th round. Tye Fields would stop Seldon in two rounds in a bout where “The Atlantic City Express” entered the ring at 263 pounds.

Seldon has fought twice in 2007, winning both by knockout. He is in shape again and may have gotten over the one fight that has seemingly defined his career to many. I personally think that he was a great fighter with one of the best jabs in heavyweight history and has nothing to be ashamed of. He is not the only man to get stopped by Mike Tyson in one round. There were 21 others.

I recently read an article concerning Bruce Seldon, where he was listed in the top 10 worst heavyweight champions of all time. It’s an unfortunate and incorrect title that they branded him with, but he is one of the few men that can be labeled “heavyweight champion,” and that is something that can never be taken away, although most people will remember him as the man that fell down with ease against Tyson rather than a man that once stood on top of the boxing world.

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