Publish date:
Updated on

Mike Tyson unifies titles

On March 7, 1987, Mike Tyson defeats James “Bonecrusher” Smith to unify the WBA and WBC heavyweight titles. Already the youngest-ever heavyweight champion after winning the title at just 19 years old the year before, Tyson became the youngest undisputed heavyweight champion in boxing history.

Mike Tyson was born on June 30, 1966, in Brooklyn, New York. He had a troubled childhood in Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood, an area known for its poverty and high crime. As a child he often skipped school, spending his time on Brownsville’s streets engaging in petty crimes. Tyson responded violently to his peers’ teasing about his high, lisping voice, which led to several stints in juvenile detention centers. After being expelled from junior high school, Tyson was sent to a reform school near Catskill, New York. It was there that he was discovered by legendary trainer Cus D’Amato, who had coached Floyd Patterson, a two-time heavyweight champion. D’Amato became a father figure to “Iron” Mike, whose own father left his family when Mike was just two years old. D’Amato was a stabilizing force in Tyson’s life: He took the young fighter into his home and dedicated himself to Tyson’s training. D’Amato helped Tyson to focus his aggression and develop the discipline to become a champion.

When Tyson entered the professional ranks at 18, he seemed unstoppable. He won his first 19 fights by knockout, 15 of those coming in the first round. It was during this run that D’Amato died, in November 1985, at the age of 77. D’Amato’s associate Kevin Rooney took over as Tyson’s trainer, and one year later, Tyson beat Trevor Berbick for the WBC heavyweight championship in his first title shot. In 1987, Tyson defeated “Bonecrusher” Smith, although he did not knock him out. This won Tyson the WBA championship, making him the undisputed heavyweight champion.

Over the course of the next year, Tyson defeated four other opponents to retain his title and, in 1988, he knocked out Larry Holmes, the only knockout of Holmes’ 76 fights as a pro. Later that year, Tyson fought Michael Spinks, who was thought to be his toughest competition. After Tyson knocked Spinks unconscious 91 seconds into the first round, boxing fans wondered if anyone could beat “Iron” Mike. By the end of the year, however, Tyson had begun his long downward spiral into sports infamy. His erratic behavior included marrying and divorcing actress Robin Givens (after being accused by her of domestic violence), firing and suing his manager, breaking his hand in an early morning street brawl and two car accidents, one of which was reportedly a suicide attempt. Tyson also fired Kevin Rooney, replacing him with notorious promoter Don King.

Unable to keep his focus on boxing, Tyson lost the heavyweight title after being knocked out by James “Buster” Douglas in a stunning upset on February 11, 1990.


FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!


Stanley Kubrick dies

On March 7, 1999, American filmmaker Stanley Kubrick dies in Hertfordshire, England, at the age of 70. One of the most acclaimed film directors of the 20th century, Kubrick’s 13 feature films explored the dark side of human nature. Born in New York City in 1928, Kubrick took up more

Bangladesh’s first democratic leader

Sheikh Mujib Rahman, a leader of the Bangladeshi independence movement and first prime minister of Bangladesh, wins a landslide victory in the country’s first general elections. At the end of British rule in the Indian subcontinent in 1947, East Pakistan was declared a possession more

Finland signs treaty with Germany

Four days after Russia signs a humiliating peace treaty with the Central Powers at Brest-Litovsk, the newly declared independent state of Finland reaches a formal peace settlement with Germany. Though Finland—a former Swedish duchy ceded to Russian control in 1809, when Russia’s more

Republic of Korea forces operation launch

The largest South Korean operation to date starts, forming a link-up of two Korean division areas of operations along the central coastal area of South Vietnam. South Korean forces had been in South Vietnam since August 1964, when Seoul sent a liaison unit to Saigon. The South more

Jets engage in aerial combat

In the biggest air battle in Southeast Asia in three years, U.S. jets battle five North Vietnamese MiGs and shoot one down 170 miles north of the Demilitarized Zone. The 86 U.S. air raids over North Vietnam in the first two months of this year equaled the total for all of 1971. more

Carter meets with Yitzhak Rabin

On this day in 1977, President Jimmy Carter meets with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. For two days, the president and Mrs. Carter played host to the prime minister and his wife during the Israelis’ first trip to Washington, D.C. The meetings with Rabin led eventually to more

Kansas quarantines Texas cattle

The Kansas legislature passes a law barring Texas cattle from the state between March 1 and December 1, the latest action reflecting the love-hate relationship between Kansas and the cattle industry. Texans had adopted the practice of driving cattle northward to railheads in more

Defense rests in Andrea Yates trial

The defense rests in the trial of Andrea Yates, a 37-year-old Texas woman who confessed to killing her five young children by drowning them in a bathtub. Less than a week later, on March 13, Yates was convicted and sentenced to life in prison; however, her conviction was later more