As soon as he announced that he was becoming a fight promoter, former great Mike Tyson made it clear that he meant to bring excitement to boxing. Boy did he deliver on Friday night. For two absolute wars were fought at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center, affairs which were aired live on Fox Sports1.
The card was up against ESPN2s Friday Night Fights, which has been having a hell of a season for itself. That meant the Fox Sports 1 broadcast might well to go virtually ignored. If that proves to be the case, it’s a shame. For Iron Mike gave boxing two all out thrill rides. Not only were these bouts exciting – they were both perhaps fight of the year material.
Monty Meza Clay, an unheralded Pennsylvania native had delivered a solid, if not exceptional career leading up to his meeting Friday night with Mexico’s Alan Herrera. He had won 36 bouts, had knocked out twenty-two opponents and had lost on three occasions. Short, stocky and aggressive, Meza Clay possessed a fighting style reminiscent of Tyson himself.
As for his opponent, Herrera, he had a relatively unimpressive record of 32-7 with 21 knockouts when he stepped into the ring at the Energy Center on Friday. Among his losses were one to Mickey Bey and another to Bryan Vasquez. In truth, the entire endeavor didn’t seem to have the word promising attached to it.
Talk about a pleasant surprise.
The 33 year old Meza Clay was in it to win it, pursuing his foe and being the aggressor from the start. Herrera wasn’t there to be bowled over, however. The man could hit hard and hit hard he did. It was a scenario where you could clearly see one of the two fighters getting knocked out.
In the 6th, Herrera went down. Rather than folding, however, the man rallied, whacking away at Meza Clay for all he was worth. Back and forth the two men went, pounding at one another for the following three rounds. Herrera needed a knockout to win. The question was, would he get it?
Unfortunately, he didn’t. With incredible determination and thudding blows, Meza Clay battered his man throughout the 10th. Referee Rick Steigarwald may have done the controversial thing by stopping the fight, but he did the right thing nonetheless.
Yet there was still another bout to go. Tyson welterweight Sammy Vasquez Jr, an undefeated Pennsylvania native with a 75% knockout ratio faced Baltimore’s James Stevenson, a welterweight with his own undefeated record and a nearly 64% knockout ratio.
This was less a boxing match than it was a war of attrition. Vasquez hammered away, but Stevenson stood firm, sometimes going so far as mocking the power of his adversary. There was even a moment when it looked like the fight belonged to Stevenson himself.
That was not to be the case, however. The relentless battering of Vasquez ended up taking its toll on his game opponent and the bout was finally – and rightfully – stopped by referee Ernie Sharif in the 9th round. It was a thrilling night of boxing overall, one which was perhaps indicative of things to come.
For Iron Mike wants to bring the sport back to its gritty roots. The Mayweather era has indeed been lucrative for boxing but it’s also at times been less than thrilling. If Tyson has his way, the next Jack Dempseys, Sonny Listons and Joe Fraziers will be the new poster boys of the sport. If anyone can bring boxing back from the margins, perhaps Iron Mike can. This is a sport in need of a bolt of lighting and Tyson’s the kind of promoter who, if he handles his business properly, can deliver one.