Boxing press conferences – especially those that take place prior to a bout – can often be highly intense affairs, with both combatants eager to try and gain a psychological edge over their opponent.
Rarely, however, do these events descend into complete anarchy, as was the case when Mike Tyson first faced off with Lennox Lewis back in 2002.
Indeed, such was Tyson’s loss of control that the date and location of the fight itself had to be changed.
Unified heavyweight king Lewis had agreed to defend his titles against former champion Tyson at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on April 6 of that year, in a clash that fans had waited years to see.
Following the successful negotiation of the fight, a press conference to announce it was held in New York on January 22. It was here that things started to go very wrong – threatening the very future of the fight.
Both men were due to take the stage in New York whilst standing opposite each other on podiums. Perhaps anticipating that tensions might boil over, organisers allowed a fair distance between the two podiums.
Tyson, as the challenger, entered first and promptly took up position on his own podium.
As soon as Lewis entered, though, Tyson stormed across the stage to confront his adversary and a chaotic melee soon ensued after Tyson threw a punch at a member of Lewis’ security team.
However, this was not the end of the drama. Following Tyson’s actions, one reporter audibly suggested that “Iron Mike” should be put in a strait-jacket. Enraged by the remark, Tyson launched a profanity-laced rant at the media member.
You can see the extraordinary moment in the video below:
The nature of Tyson’s response is still unbelievable all these years later. Commissioners in Nevada were far from impressed by Tyson’s actions either – and subsequently banned the fight from taking place in Las Vegas.
A revised date of June 8 was hastily arranged at The Pyramid in Memphis, Tennessee – as both men took to the ring separated by security guards right up until the opening bell.
Lewis would ultimately come out on top in the fight, stopping a weary Tyson in the eighth round of what was a lacklustre contest.
The pre-fight controversy certainly helped the event become a commercial success though.
The bout would draw some 1.95 million pay-per-view buys in the United States – making it the most successful event ever on that platform at the time.
The fight may not have lived up to the hype, but Tyson’s press conference tirade will never be forgotten.
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