Today in 1987, a fast approaching his peak Mike Tyson was battling former champ Pinklon Thomas, the fight dubbed ‘Hard Road To Glory.’ Tyson, still only 21 years old, was the reigning WBC and WBA heavyweight champ, while “Pinky” was the former WBC ruler. Tyson was sporting a 29-0(26) record, Thomas was 29-1-1(24).
The fight, promoted of course by Don King, this in HBO’s Heavyweight World Series, an undisputed heavyweight king to eventually be crowned, took place in Las Vegas. Tyson was arguably facing the stiffest test of his young career, even if Thomas had lost some of his stuff due to a battle with various substances. Thomas had one of the best left jabs in the division and Tyson was keen to test his own skills against the former champ.
Trainer by the great Angelo Dundee, who was predicting a big win for his man, Thomas was 29 years of age.
Tyson gave Thomas a serious working over in the opening round, Thomas staggered by wicked left hook-right hook combo that landed flush on the chin. Tyson then launched an eight-punch salvo, the quick knockout on his mind (Tyson was coming off that dull and frustrating decision win over James “Boneclutcher” Smith). To his credit, Thomas made it out of what had been the most damaging round of his pro career at that time.
Tyson was almost flawless on this night, and Thomas had to use everything he could to stay in the fight. With “Iron Mike” in constant hot pursuit, Thomas used his educated jab, he used plenty of movement, and the challenger also grabbed and held when he could; this drawing some boos from the crowd who had still not gotten rid of the bad taste the Tyson-Smith farce had put in their collective mouths.
Tyson, though, was determined to take Thomas out, and this he did, in sizzling, savage fashion in round six. Tyson, sensing Thomas was getting tired, cracked his rival with a hard left hook to the head early in the round, and a take no prisoners, 15-punch follow-up attack from “The Baddest Man on The Planet” finally sent the stubborn Thomas down. On the mat for the first time in his career, Thomas had shipped a hellish amount of punishment, the bombs dished out in a veritable blur. Dundee had seen enough and he clambered through the ropes to attend to his badly hurt fighter.
Tyson’s lethal blend of accuracy, power, and speed was, well, lethal. Could anyone ever beat Tyson?
Years later, when speaking with ESPN, Tyson said that the KO he scored over Thomas ranks as his personal favourite:
“Pinklon Thomas,” Tyson said when asked to name his fave KO. “Because I hit him with like, 15, 16 punches on the chin to bring him down. He took a totally tremendous amount of punishment. I hit him flush 17 times. He took it all. He didn’t get back up, but it took around 17 punches.”
Tyson at his best. Frightening stuff.