“Despite the prevailing opinion that Mike Tyson is shot, unfocussed and undisciplined, this has elements of a short, painful night for Kevin McBride.”
These were the words of SHOWTIME commentator Steve Albert as he introduced their pay-per-view offering from Washington DC on June 11, 2005.
‘Iron Mike’ was 38 years old, had been knocked out by Danny Williams in his last fight and spent 11 months out of the ring since, but the Tyson phenomenon lived on regardless.
A crowd of 20,000 packed out the MCI Arena to witness the former undisputed heavyweight world champion in action, fully believing their hero would roll back the clock to produce another scintillating KO.
Irish journeyman McBride was the opponent selected for the occasion – his record not telling the full story.
The 32-year-old had accumulated his 32 wins by facing a host of lower-tier fighters and then suffered defeats whenever he stepped up in class.
McBride was even beaten by Michael Murray, a man who ended his career losing 17 of his last 18 fights, with the only bout he won being the one against McBride.
While the Irishman is said to have earned $150,000 for the contest, Tyson was reportedly paid $5million – most of which went to his ex-wife and creditors.
However, the ‘Baddest Man On The Planet’ was not the most iconic sporting figure at the MCI Arena that night.
After arriving at the venue, Tyson received a visit in his dressing room from the ‘Greatest Of All Time’ himself, Muhammad Ali.
Ali by this point was suffering noticeably from his Parkinson’s disease and looked frail, but still lit up the night whenever picked out by TV cameras.
His daughter Laila Ali fought on the undercard, hence his attendance, though he took the time to go and see his friend Tyson before the ring walks.
When both fighters did emerge for battle, Tyson came out to no music as he’d famously done before his peak performance against Michael Spinks in 1988.
By 2005, the intimidating effect of his entrance had lessened significantly.
McBride included a hypnotist in his pre-fight preparations and was unfazed.
While waiting in the ring, he grabbed the giant Irish flag used to represent him and waved it to the hostile crowd who’d hounded him as he made his own walk.
When the contest began, McBride fought like he had a point to prove whereas Tyson did no such thing.
The underdog hurled winging, clubbing shots in the direction of the big favourite, some of which landed with impact.
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Tyson had some success with body shots early on, but struggled with McBride’s ‘big guy’ tactics.
Earlier in his career, ‘Iron Mike’ neutralised his opponents’ size and weight advantages with speed, power and raw ferocity.
Against McBride this was non-existent.
The Irishman smothered Tyson, leaned on him, held him, roughed him up and used every trick in the book to gain an advantage.
This frustrated the American who came out firing at the start of round four.
But when his offensive had little impact, he began to bring out the dirty tactics seen previously in fights not going his way.
Tyson was warned for using his head in the clinches and landed multiple low blows.
He then took a pummelling towards the end of the fifth as he continued to be worn down by his gutsy foe.
Round six would be the final round of Mike Tyson’s career.
Both men came out swinging and again ended up in a clinch. A furious, frustrated ‘Iron Mike’ grabbed McBride’s arm and twisted it, seemingly attempting to break it.
The underdog screamed in pain and Tyson was warned but somehow went unpunished for the same crime he’s previously committed against Francois Botha.
Moments later he cut McBride with a headbutt and referee Joe Cortez deemed it intentional, deducting him two points as a result.
This decision boosted McBride, who sensed victory and began to land uppercut after uppercut on a spent Tyson.
Commentator Steve Albert, whose pre-fight quote now looked rather silly, declared: “Kevin McBride, a journeyman, is making Mike Tyson look like a third-tier heavyweight.”
With the round coming to a close, McBride leaned on Tyson yet again, this time smothering him to the ground.
No knockdown was given, but Tyson was finished.
He stayed sat by the ropes for 15 seconds, then struggled to his feet and made it back to his corner.
After consulting with trainer Jeff Fenech, Mike Tyson called it quits on the fight and so too on his boxing career.
McBride jumped for joy, celebrating rapturously with his corner on one side of the ring.
Meanwhile on the other, Tyson sat slumped on his stool. He was nodding, accepting his fate. A beaten man in every sense of the word.
“I realised, I don’t think I have it any more,” he explained in a remarkably honest post-fight interview.
“I’ve got the ability to stay in shape but I don’t got the fighting guts anymore. I’m just fighting to take care of my bills basically.
“I don’t have the stomach for this no more. I’m more conscious of my children. I don’t have that ferocity, I’m not that animal anymore.
“Most likely I’m not gonna fight again. I’m not gonna disrespect the sport by losing to these calibre of fighters.”
He rounded off his interview by stating: “I’m sure I’ll find something to do, boxing doesn’t define me.”
And for the last 15 years, Tyson has proved just that.
In life after sport his personality has mellowed significantly.
Despite the tragic loss of his four-year-old daughter, Tyson stabilised and remarried – this time to longtime girlfriend Lakiha ‘Kiki’ Spicer.
He has dabbled in various different careers from endorsement deals to film/TV acting cameos, even launching his own hugely profitable cannabis business.
Now, at age 53, he has teased the possibility of a ring return for charity exhibition bouts.
He has since posted multiple ferocious training videos and, as a result, some want to see ‘Iron Mike’ back competing as he was in his pomp.
If Tyson were to climb back through the ropes for some safe, scripted exhibitions to raise money for charity, then there’s truly no harm done.
However, anybody who wants to see a genuine comeback would be well advised to watch the Kevin McBride fight.
Mike Tyson’s magnificent, historic professional fighting career is done.