By the middle of the seventh round, Tyrell Biggs looked as if he had been in an automobile accident. Biggs had come to the Atlantic City Convention Hall last Friday night seeking Mike Tyson's title as undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. But by now both of Biggs's eyes were bruised, with dark rings forming underneath, and blood was gushing from cuts on his right cheek, from the bridge of his nose and from a deep, inch-long gash at the corner of his left eyebrow. Tired and disoriented from the whipping inflicted by the undefeated champion, Biggs was in a deepening daze, and there was a sense of inevitability about the ending.
It came with 30 seconds left in the seventh. The fighters were near Biggs's corner when both threw left hooks. Biggs's did no damage, but Tyson's hook came over the top and caught the challenger flush on the side of the head. Biggs reeled back and started to go down. Tyson leaped forward and threw another hook that glanced off Biggs's face and sent him sprawling on his back. The back of Biggs's head struck the lower strand of the ring rope, and for a moment the 6'4¾" challenger was lying partly out of the ring.
Instinctively, Tyson pursued Biggs and became tangled in the ropes before referee Tony Orlando pulled him off. Biggs was finished, but he struggled to his feet. He was not standing for very long. The fighters clinched near the center of the ring, with Biggs holding on, merely trying to survive, but once again Tyson worked free. It was all the space the champion needed.
Standing flat-footed in front of Biggs and without even turning his body into the punch, Tyson winged another left hook. Thrown only with his arm, the punch caught Biggs on the right cheek and drove him 10 feet backward. Biggs collapsed in sections in his own corner, and Orlando waved the fight to a halt without even beginning a count.
"I'll fight anybody," Tyson said afterward. "Bring 'em on." Though Biggs was a 9-1 underdog at fight time, some gave him a far better chance than that. A good boxer, with a fine jab and the ability to move, Biggs had a style that seemed likely to give Tyson trouble. "He's going to be throwing big, wild shots at me," said the 1984 Olympic super heavyweight gold medal winner. "I'll be keeping out of range. I'm not going to run. When he's not throwing punches, I'll be on the attack."
Yet, in less than 21 minutes of fighting, all of Biggs's best-laid plans were in shambles. Tyson did throw big, lashing shots at Biggs, but unfortunately for the challenger, most of them found their mark, and Biggs never mounted anything even remotely resembling an attack. True to his style, Iron Mike relentlessly attacked every opening in Biggs's defense, and despite the challenger's nine-inch advantage in reach, it was the champion who threw the more damaging jabs.
Biggs came out moving, as he had said he would. In the first two rounds he stayed on his toes, dancing right and left and keeping out of Tyson's range as he shot the jab and tied up Tyson when the champion waded in. Tyson caught Biggs with his first big hook in the second round, splitting the inside of Biggs's lower lip. By the third round, Biggs, spitting blood, was off his bicycle, and Tyson was scoring with double jabs and slashing lefts and rights that opened the gash on a strip of scar tissue on Biggs's left eyebrow.
During clinches, Tyson pounded on Biggs with whichever hand he could get free. Tyson is a savage body puncher, and Biggs winced visibly under the attack. "In the third round I knew I had him," Tyson said later. "I was hitting him with punches to the body, and he was making noises. It was somewhat like a woman screaming."
By the third round all the strategy that Biggs had counted on had degenerated into desperate measures designed to keep Tyson off him, and even that was not working. Tyson was obviously relishing the moment. At the bell ending the fourth he stared and then smiled at his bloodied opponent. And, in fact, there was more than ordinary bad feeling between the two. At a press conference two days before, Biggs had spoken disparagingly of the fighters Tyson had beaten in running up a 31-0 record, 27 by knockout.
"Mike Tyson comes along and knocks out guys who can barely stand in the beginning, and he's made bigger than life," said Biggs, who went into the bout with a 15-0 record, including 10 knockouts. Afterward Tyson said it was for this and other impertinences that he carried Biggs beyond the third round, to make him suffer. "I could have knocked him out anytime after the third round," Tyson says. "I wanted to make him pay for what he said."
Whether he could have put Biggs away earlier than he did is not certain, but he did make Biggs pay, with a crunching left hook in the fourth round, rattling lefts and rights toward the end of the fourth and a left hook in the fifth as Orlando tore them apart from a clinch. That shot splayed Biggs's legs.
"He hit him on the break, and Tyrell never got over it," said Biggs's cotrainer George Benton.
"I was really shook up," Biggs said. "Biggest shot that hurt me."
From the start, Biggs was overwhelmed by Tyson's power, and his ability to survive the hooks and right hands of the sixth round only set him up for the final onslaught in the seventh.
"In the first two rounds I was moving and using the jab," Biggs said. "I should have just stayed at that. I slowed down because I knew I was going 15 rounds, but it didn't work out."
In retrospect it's hard to imagine that anything could have worked out. Tyson was simply too quick, too resourceful and too strong. "I refused to let him get in the fight," Tyson said.
For taking his beating, Biggs made $1.25 million, and for dishing it out, Tyson is expected to receive a minimum of $4.1 million.
The champion can expect even bigger money down the road. He figures to earn at least $5 million for his next scheduled execution in January, a bout with Larry Holmes. The former champion, who will be 38 next month, will reportedly get $3 million for his terrible trouble.
"Many people feel that Larry Holmes has the kind of skills necessary to beat Mike Tyson," says Tyson's comanager Jim Jacobs.
Holmes certainly had them seven years ago, back in his heyday. In 1987, though, he appears to be no more than another illusion masquerading as a contender. Tyson was probably right when he said, after it was over Friday night, "I'm the best man on the planet."
His mouth already cut, Biggs was helpless as Tyson took aim at his left eye.
WILL HART/TRUMP PLAZA
A stunned Biggs got up after this seventh-round knockdown, but the end was at hand.
Midway through the fifth round, Tyson paused to gloat.