“Mitch Green, a tough kid from the streets of the Bronx in Harlem, Tyson from the streets of Brooklyn. We’re here in the Garden… the old days, that’s how they used to settle these neighborhood wars.”
Larry Merchant, seated ringside, was preparing to call the live action between a 19-year-old Mike Tyson and Mitch “Blood” Green.
On Tuesday night, May 20, New York’s Madison Square Garden hosted a bout that was being billed as “New York is Busting Out.”
The year was 1986.
Tyson (20-0, 19 KOs) had been a professional for just 14 months. In that time, he had rocketed up to the No. 8 contender in the Heavyweight division.
Just 17 days before, Tyson had gone the distance for the first time in his career winning a 10-round unanimous decision over James “Quick” Tillis.
Tyson had knockout power in both hands and racked up victory after victory as a very active fighter.
Although 1986 was still young, he was preparing to step into the ring for the sixth time this year. Some boxing experts, now that the knockout streak was over, questioned whether Tyson could be effective in fighting bigger and tougher men.
On this night, Tyson’s opponent was a street-tough Green (16-1-1, 10 KOs) who was ranked No. 7 in the world. The pre-fight countdown touched on Green’s youth as a purported gang leader. HBO, who broadcast the fight live, drew comparisons to Green’s youth and the 1979 cult classic “The Warriors.”
Green, now 29, won the New York Golden Gloves title four times. He was widely recognized as an up-and-coming Heavyweight who had size, speed and had shown some pop in both hands. His only loss was to the current WBC Heavyweight champion, Trevor Berbick. Leading up to the fight, Green showed no fear of the young Tyson.
The bout, scheduled for 10 rounds, suddenly looked in doubt when both fighters arrived at the weigh-in on Monday. Green, who was earning a much smaller purse than Tyson, launched into a verbal tirade. Chaos erupted as the volatile Green physically went after promoters, including Carl King.
After the smoke cleared, Green decided to settle the score inside the ring.
Tyson was outfitted in what was becoming his trademark black trunks, black shoes and no socks. Now his custom, he wore no robe, entering bare chested and in a full sweat. Merchant joked, “Hector Camacho takes a shower with more stuff on him than that.”
Ring announcer Ed Derian introduced the referee, Luis Rivera, and then the fighters. Barry Tompkins and Sugar Ray Leonard joined Merchant at ringside as Round 1 got underway.
At 5’11”, Tyson looked to attack and get inside the much taller Greene who stood 6’5″ tall.
Green, wearing white trunks trimmed with white tassels, had very fast hands for a big man and looked to trade with Tyson early. He fired counter rights and lefts at Tyson who was bobbing his head and weaving from left to right.
Tyson proved to have the faster hands early on as he banged away at Green’s body. To his credit, the street tough Green stood toe to toe with Tyson and challenged him head on. The decision left the fearless Green on the short end of the stick in most of the exchanges.
After two rounds, Tyson had dominated the first six minutes of action. Merchant concluded, “When Blood Green was a gang leader, they say he had over 100 men in his gang. Right now, he needs some of them!”
Unfortunately for Green, he was alone in the ring and without help from the Baseball Furies or the Gramercy Riffs.
A straight, powerful left jab sent Green’s mouthpiece flying out midway through Round 3. Tompkins would soon report, “Want to mention one other thing, too, and that is it wasn’t only the mouthpiece that Mitch Green lost. We have a production assistant over on the other side of the ring, said in addition to his mouthpiece it was a bridge with a couple of teeth in it.”
Tyson’s power was evident as he continued to attack Green and back him up. The bell sounded to end Round 4 and the two continued trading well after the bell. Rivera leaped in to separate the fighters, leaving Merchant to point out, “They don’t have any bells on the street corners.”
As the bout progressed, so too did Tyson’s dominance. Green stood tough while Tyson continued to bomb to the head and the body. He was now ripping uppercuts to the chin of “Blood” who was bleeding from the mouth and who was now minus both a bridge and some teeth.
Green’s best rally was in the eighth round as he unloaded a series of rights and lefts. Tyson weaved from side to side as the flurry from Green continued. Unfazed and smiling, Tyson cracked Green with a blistering left hook. Tompkins howled, “Oh! What a left hand!”
The 10th and final round saw Tyson blasting to the body and finishing the bout as he started it, dominating Green in every exchange. Leonard loved the sustained body attack, “Those shots to the body. I love those body shots. They really do a number on a tall opponent.”
After 10 rounds, Derian announced the scoring of the judges. Tyson scored a unanimous decision and remained undefeated.
Flanked by co-managers Jim Jacobs and Bill Cayton, trained by Kevin Rooney, the Tyson train rolled on. He would go on to meet Berbick and win the Heavyweight title in November.
After unifying the title in August of 1987, he was unquestionably the baddest man on the planet.