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Tyson: Raw and Uncut is a 2010 documentary that gives you 25 of Mike Tyson's first 26 fights plus many interviews, contributions from others and archive biographical details and footage from the era. Mike Tyson was the last boxer to transcend the sport (ultimately not in a good way of course) and while the greatest modern boxers today go about in relative obscurity outside the bubble of their profession even people who have never watched a boxing match in their life know of Mike Tyson. Tyson became one of the most notorious celebrity lunatics in the world. He did time for a rape conviction, bit off part of Evander Holyfield's ear in a world title fight, became estranged from trainers and managers, allowed himself to be enveloped by the tentacles of Don King, was involved in street fights and assaults, made increasingly bizarre and foul mouthed outbursts on television and at press conferences. He was clearly not the full ticket and became like a circus freak show. An outcast and embarrassment to the sport. The young teenage Tyson though seemed fairly sane (even pleasant in interviews) and was regarded to be the most exciting thing to happen to boxing for many years. He looked like a cast iron certainty to become one of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time. But his reign was not destined to be the lengthy one that most had assumed. After he lost to Buster Douglas in 1990 (still probably the biggest single upset in the history of boxing) Tyson, apart from a few flashes of the old savagery and power, never really seemed to get it back together again for any sustained period and gradually lost the speed and elusive quality that once made him so formidable and difficult to fight.
Was he overrated all along? Made to look better than he really was by the poor level of competition available in what was an uninspiring era for the heavyweight division? This four disc DVD gives you the opportunity to watch a teenage Tyson cutting a destructive swathe through the division on his way to a world title fight and judge for yourself. Many opponents here are tank town journeymen who look terrified of the apparently unstoppable Tyson (regarding him with wide eyed terror as he chillingly stalks them) but the DVD is interesting when the level of competition improves and you begin to see little chinks in the Tyson armour for the first time. Evidence that he can be beaten. Tyson looks invincible here at times as a teenage tearaway. Many of the fights are over quickly in spectacular fashion and few boxers have ever had such presence in the ring. Tyson was small for a heavyweight (about 5'11) but what he lacked in height he made up for in width. He oozes strength and power and has the largest and most solid looking neck I think I've ever seen. The key to why the young Tyson was so special is speed. He had incredibly fast hands for a heavyweight and was devastating when he punched in combination. He was also hard to hit. He had been taught the "peek-a-boo" high glove defence by his mentor Cus D'Amato and also used to move his head a lot more when he was younger and so rarely presented a stationary target. There appears to be only fight missing here - an encounter with someone named Larry Sims in 1985. I presume the fight was not on television and no one taped it or it was just lost.
The fights are actually better to watch when Tyson has begun to attract interest and is on major American networks. So you get better picture quality and American commentary. Some of the very early fights here are sometimes a bit dodgy picture wise and have some British bloke doing a retrospective commentary where he's obviously sitting in a room watching it on television and pretending he's ringside all those years ago. Very fake and unless it's Reg Gutteridge or Harry Carpenter you'd always take the American commentary. Early fights are interspersed with archive of Tyson training behind the scenes and also there are interviews with Cus D'Amato, the grizzled old boxing trainer who adopted the teenage Mike Tyson. D'Amato was a notorious eccentric who had retired by this stage (he was eighty or something). He recognised that Tyson was something special so the boxer became his last twilight project. He died before Tyson won the world championship and it is widely believed that if D'Amato had somehow managed to live for several more years than he did then the Mike Tyson story might not have gone so terribly wrong. As you go through the DVDs you can watch Tyson developing fight by fight as he puts journeymen with names like Lorenzo Canady and Sterling Benjamin to the sword. He looks like Clubber Lang Rocky III as he clubs these overmatched names into submission with punches that look like they could level buildings. One area where this collection does well is to include period pre and post fight interviews. This takes the viewer right back in time to the moment and feel a sense of the period and how the interest in Tyson snowballed very quickly.
You learn how Tyson had missed a spot in the American Olympic team because his all action style was better suited to the professional ranks. It is generally regarded that an Olympic Gold is crucial in establishing a superstar in American boxing (Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar De La Hoya etc) but Tyson quickly became much more more famous and marketable than Tyrell Biggs (the American boxer who had actually won heavyweight gold). In a sense Tyson bucked a trend. Most of these fights don't go beyond a single round but it becomes more interesting when Tyson is thrown a few fringe contenders and has to work a bit more for his money. A perennial contender named Jesse Ferguson is his best big test and lasts into the sixth round and then comes perhaps the most interesting contest when Tyson fights James "Quick" Tillis in 1986. Tillis was good enough to have fought Mike Weaver for the world title in 1981 and was a stepping stone for many young prospects. He was crafty and durable and became the first person to extend Tyson the full ten rounds. You can see here for the first time that it is possible to frustrate and negate Tyson's blistering offensive and that like all big punchers Tyson was prone to frustration if his opponent was still there after a couple of rounds. If Tyson didn't get to his opponent early he tended to run out of ideas in the end. Tillis was never in any danger of winning the fight but he showed that Tyson was human if you were dogged and clever enough. The highlight of the collection I think is probably a chance to see Tyson's encounter with Marvis Frazier (also in 1986) and the pre and post fight hullabaloo. Marvis was the son of the great former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier and Joe was also his manager, trainer, and generally everything.
Marvis was a decent heavyweight who was often in the top ten and capable of using his boxing skills (he was a world class amateur) to outbox bigger men but he was also small for a heavyweight and had none of his father's power or strength. When he challenged Larry Holmes for the world championship in 1983 he was stopped in the first round and he would meet an even swifter fate against Tyson. In what was probably the most ferocious and devastating performance of Tyson's career, Marvis was stopped in 30 seconds of the first round, uppercuts leaving him helpless on the ropes where he slumped to the canvas. He never stood a chance of beating Tyson and Joe Frazier took a lot of flack for even taking the fight in the first place, effectively sending his son out to be executed. Joe Frazier did not distinguish himself greatly after the fight. He said he smiled at the fate of Marvis because that's how he liked to see a man go out (!) - on his shield so to speak. Marvis barely threw a punch so it wasn't exactly the most glorious defeat ever though. Joe Frazier also got a lot of attention for his comments about Tyson after the fight and suggested that maybe he should be the one to test the young prospect! "I don't think the son of a bitch can hurt me," is Joe's most famous quote from this event. Tyson is very dignified and mature though. You can see at the end of the fight he immediately rushes to Marvis with genuine concern and checks to see if he is ok. He also maintains his dignity when asked about the trash talk that Frazier Sr has thrown his way. "I'd be a fool to get into an argument with Joe Frazier," says Tyson and leaves it at that.
This is quite a good collection for boxing obsessives everywhere. I daresay you could find most of this on YouTube if you looked but where is the fun in that? The extra feature here is Tyson's 1989 title defence against our own Frank Bruno. It seems like an odd choice really to pluck out as a bonus fight. Bruno very briefly wobbled Tyson with a left hook in the first round but aside from that it was mostly one way traffic with a sluggish and rusty Tyson (he'd been out of the ring for a while with personal problems) battering Big Frank for five one sided rounds. At the time of writing you can buy Tyson: Raw and Uncut for £14.