It was the press conference to end all press conferences and the hugely anticipated heavyweight clash in 2002 very nearly didn’t happen because of the ugly scenes
It was the fight of the year and said to be the richest in history with Las Vegas set to host Lennox Lewis v Mike Tyson.
A press conference to promote the heavyweight collision was arranged where the two would come face-to-face.
But chaos followed.
There may have been some argy in London when Deontay Wilder shoved a smiling Tyson Fury as they promoted their 1 December fight, though it was nothing compared to the ugly scenes on show at the Hudson Theatre in New York in January 2002.
Promoters even had to find a new venue as a result of it all kicking off, with The Nevada State Athletic Commission deciding not to relicense Tyson. ”I’m no Mother Teresa,” Tyson said during the hearing. ”I’m not Charles Manson either,” he said at the hearing.
It all started when Lewis took his place on his small podium on stage. It was expected both men would trade insults for the cameras – standard stuff. But no. Tyson stepped off his pedestal as soon as he saw his opponent, took off his beret and walked aggressively towards him.
One of Lewis’s bodyguards put out his hand to keep ‘Iron Mike’ at arms length, but received a left hook for his trouble. It missed, but all hell broke loose.
Lewis then threw a right hand at Tyson and as they rolled around on the floor, Lewis had his leg bitten by Tyson – he had had his licence revoked by The Nevada State Athletic Commission in 1997 for biting part of Evander Holyfield’s ear off in their Las Vegas fight.
Tyson seemed to just lose the plot. After the ugly brawl he then directed foul mouthed insults at the crowd, which included racist and sexual threats and seemed to aim them at one particular journalist who shouted ‘put him in a straightjacket’.
Memphis eventually hosted the hotly-anticipated bout – in June – and before the fighters entered the ring, a dozen yellow-shirted security guards formed a barrier from corner to corner to keep them apart. The fighters received instructions in the dressing room from the referee and didn’t meet in the centre of the ring to touch gloves.
“In the dressing room before the fight, I said to Lennox: ‘This is one time you have to get it right. This is the one you must win. Everything else you ever did will be worth nothing if you lose tonight,’” legendary trainer Manny Steward said. “And he just looked at me and said, ‘Don’t worry, I know.’”
Eight rounds later Tyson was on his backside and bleeding after the beating Lewis dished out. His WBC, IBO and IBF belts were never in danger.
The press conference tear up, meanwhile, won the Ring Magazine Event of the Year.
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Incidentally, Manny Pacquiao knocked out Jorge Eliecer Julio to win the IBF junior featherweight title on the undercard that night.