Commentary Classics: Trevor Berbick Vs. Mike Tyson

The Scene: Hilton Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A. — November 22, 1986.

Brooklyn-born Mike Tyson, boxing’s newest sensation, entered an HBO-devised heavyweight unification tournament against Jamaican-born WBC titlist Trevor Berbick. Tyson was a prodigious force but untested; Berbick had been in with men like Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes and Pinklon Thomas. As we join the HBO commentary team of Larry Merchant, Barry Tompkins and Sugar Ray Leonard midway through the opening round, both fighters had been swinging for the fences in an effort to establish control.

Tompkins: Another big left hook by Tyson. Mentioned this earlier but Tyson… Tyson’s punches even sound different than most heavyweights.

Leonard: That was an attempt at the uppercut by Mike Tyson. It wasn’t a clean shot.

Trevor appears to be trying to keep Tyson backing up, making him fight his fight.
Tompkins: Another good left hand… by Tyson… and a right behind it and Berbick is rocked! Berbick in trouble here.

Berbick just trying to get through the round… he’s hurt… no question.

(Bell rings)
Merchant: That was a big, big round for Mike Tyson. Not only because he showed he had faster hands and beat Berbick to the punch but because he did show the patient aggressiveness that we talked about earlier.

Audio cuts to Berbick’s corner where an apoplectic Angelo Dundee is heard screaming at his charge.
Dundee: Where’s the fucking FIGHT?!!

Audio quickly cuts back to Merchant overlooking the highlight clip.

Merchant: Always coming forward, Tyson. And the punches are short because he’s coming forward and harder to see. You have to remember that Trevor Berbick has never been hit by punches as hard as he’s being hit in this fight. And you never know how a man is going to respond to that. 

(Bell rings).

Tyson is everything that people could have hoped for in that round.

Tompkins: Trevor Berbick we should point out has been down twice (in his career) — there’s another big shot by Tyson — Berbick in a heap of trouble — down he goes!

Leonard: The punches are coming in such a succession that… ah… Berbick can’t deal with them. They’re short… powerful… devastating punches.

Tompkins: Berbick is still hurt.

Trevor Berbick still seems to be not on solid legs at all here Ray.

Leonard: Well, again, you notice that, ah, my man is being patient — Tyson is being very, very patient. Which was a big concern from a lot of other boxing people. He’s being patient against a guy that has a great deal of experience. He’s not wasting any punches.

Tompkins: Trying to tie Mike Tyson up here, just kinda hang on and get the cobwebs out.

Oh, another big right hand and Berbick is in trouble again!

Leonard: Tyson is perpetual motion and the reason he is so dangerous, Barry, because he continually throws punches. One thing I’ve noticed in Tyson: He actually turned southpaw because he can knock out with either hand.

He has good leverage because he keeps his balance.

Tompkins: Missed with that uppercut but didn’t miss by much.

That was a right to the body and an uppercut to the head and Berbick is down. This one is going to be… over I believe.

It’s over that’s all and we have a new era in boxing.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.