Mike Tyson’s First Test Under Cus D’Amato Was to Study Larry Holmes, Then ‘Iron Mike’ Greeted Him With a Devastating Knockout Blow

It didn’t take long for Mike Tyson to put a damper on a Larry Holmes comeback attempt in 1988. It shouldn’t have been too surprising either. When Tyson began working with legendary trainer Cus D’Amato, he was told to study Holmes’ technique. When they met in the ring eight years later, Tyson put those study skills to good use with a devastating knockout blow.

Mike Tyson learned about boxing and life from Cus D’Amato

D’Amato was the father figure Tyson never had. Growing up in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York, Tyson often found himself in trouble. By his own admission, he said he was arrested 40 times before he was 12 years old.

 “My mother really did a lot,” Tyson said in December on the IMPAULSIVE podcast with Logan Paul. “Always going to police stations to get my ass out. She would beat my ass so bad, in front of the police. I’ve been arrested 40 times before I was 12. My mother was so humble and proud, and I was arrogant.”

Tyson wound up at the Tryon School for Boys, a juvenile detention center, where he met Bobby Stewart, a counselor with a boxing background. Stewart eventually introduced Tyson to D’Amato, who helped turn Tyson’s life around.

D’Amato began working with Tyson inside and outside the ring. When Tyson’s mother died when Tyson was 16, D’Amato took the boxer under his wing and became his legal guardian.

Mike Tyson studied Larry Holmes at an early age and then knocked him out

According to United Press International, when Tyson hooked up with D’Amato as a 13-year-old raw boxer, his first task was to study Holmes. At that point in his professional career, Holmes was the heavyweight champ, a title Tyson dreamed of having. Eight years later, Tyson had a crack at Holmes and made quick work of the former champ.

Holmes, at age 38, was attempting a comeback against the 21-year-old Tyson. Tyson was in his prime, sporting a 32-0 professional record entering the bout. Holmes had been 48-0 but lost two straight fights to Michael Spinks. Prior to meeting Tyson, Holmes hadn’t fought in nearly two years.

Tyson knocked out Holmes in the fourth round. It was the only time Holmes had ever been knocked out in his career. All the homework D’Amato made Tyson do on Holmes paid off.

“I’ve known Larry Holmes’ style for years,” Tyson said after the fight, according to UPI. “I wasn’t worried about him at all. I just saw the opening. Even when he was champion, he was vulnerable to the right hand. He kept his left hand low, and I threw my right.

“I knew he wasn’t hurt bad. I saw in his face he was still trying to get up and I knew when I knocked him down the first time, it was over. He wasn’t going to finish the round.”

After knocking out Holmes, Tyson wanted a shot at Michael Spinks

Holmes was disappointed in the loss but realized he lost to one of the best fighters in his day and managed to find some humor in the fight.

“My plan was working,” Holmes told UPI. “He hit me with the same punch he hit (Trevor) Berbick, a right hook. Did I look funny on the floor?”

During the fight, Spinks was watching ringside. Spinks defeated Holmes twice to improve to 29-0, and then he knocked out Steffan Tangstad and Gerry Cooney to stand at 31-0.

Tyson wanted a shot at Spinks but his promoter, Don King, and Spinks’ promoter, Butch Lewis, had some ironing out to do.

“I’m taking all challengers,” Tyson said after the bout. “All the fighters out there who say Tyson isn’t that good, keep coming to the fights and get lessons.”

Eventually, Tyson-Spinks happened — all 91 seconds of it. Tyson knocked him out in the first round. Spinks never fought again.

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