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Modern Classics: Tyson-Seldon

By: Sean Crose

Today, the referee wouldn’t have even counted. He or she would have simply stopped the fight. Still, when Bruce Seldon went down for the second time in the first round against Mike Tyson on September 7th, 1996, famed referee Richard Steele began the count over Seldon’s prone, face down body. Unbelievably, the 22-1 underdog got up. His legs wobbly, however, it was clear Seldon was a beaten man. Steele then did the right thing and put a halt to the proceedings. Mike Tyson was once again in possession of the WBA heavyweight title, which he hadn’t held since losing in shocking fashion to James “Buster” Douglas well over six years earlier.

After winning back the WBC title by besting Frank Bruno, Tyson paid step aside money to one Lennox Lewis in order to fight for the WBA belt. And so Tyson met Seldon for Seldon’s WBA crown on a Showtime broadcast pay per view. Although few expected Seldon to win, seeing the Atlantic City fighter destroyed in the first round may have come as something of a surprise. Tyson may not have been the man who dusted Michael Spinks in about half a round eight years earlier, but he immediately got to work after the opening bell, bulling Seldon around the ring, and making his presence felt. A shot to the top of the head, put the defending champion down. Seldon got up but Tyson had him down again in moments.

The rest, as they say, is history. Ironically enough, it would be close to another six years before Lewis and Tyson would finally meet in the ring. In the meantime, Tyson would face Evander Holyfield, another opponent who was essentially seen as easy pickings for the fighter known as “Iron Mike.” Unlike Seldon, however, Holyfied would prove to be far more difficult competition. There would be few true bright spots in Tyson’s career after his victory over Seldon in Vegas.

Yet Tyson-Seldon was only part of the story on the night of September 7th, 1996. For Hip Hop star Tupak Shakur was in attendance at the MGM Grand that evening and was shot while riding in a BMW after the bout had ended. Shakur would eventually die of his injuries. The murderer was never to be discovered or brought to justice.

Lastly, there were accusations that the Tyson-Seldon bout was fixed. When asked about the possibility after the fight, Seldon was clear: “I didn’t train 12 weeks,” he said, “to come in here and take a dive.”

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