It's boom times for boxing, with one of the sport's finest years in recent memory barely two-thirds finished and a handful of blockbusters still to come before the calendar flips again.
With Floyd Mayweather Jr. defending his pound-for-pound crown against Mexican darling Canelo Alvarez on Sept. 14, Juan Manuel Marquez taking aim at a fifth title against welterweight belt holder Timothy Bradley Jr. on Oct. 12, and Manny Pacquiao preparing to bring world-class boxing to China against Brandon Rios on Nov. 23, there has never been a better time to celebrate the pomp of the must-see prizefight than right now.
And so, over the next 10 days we'll be counting down boxing's top superfights of the ESPN era (dating back to Sept. 7, 1979, for those of you scoring at home), as picked by our panel of boxing experts. Of course, we know there can be, ahem, disagreement on such a subjective topic, so we'd like to know what you think about our choices, get your picks and hear any other comments you might have related to our project. Just tweet using the hashtag #ESPNsuperfights and we might feature your comment below.
Donald Trump had more hair back then, but as he sat in his penthouse office at the Trump Towers answering my questions, he wore the same self-satisfied smirk he still sports when not ranting about politics. It was the spring of 1988, and Trump had just secured the biggest fight the sport had to offer: Mike Tyson versus Michael Spinks for the undisputed heavyweight championship. It had cost him a then-record $11 million site fee.
"It's a high price," Trump said with a nonchalant shrug. "I could make some money. I could lose some money."
The guess here is that Trump made some money. The 21,785 customers who packed Atlantic City's Convention Hall (now called Boardwalk Hall) in New Jersey generated a live gate of $13 million, with another $22 million coming from pay-per-view and theater sales. And that was before adding up the revenue his three A.C. casinos raked in during fight weekend.
Due to Tyson's rampage through the flotsam and jetsam of the heavyweight division and his unification of three alphabet titles, many casual fans who began paying closer attention when this fight was made couldn't quite understand why The Ring magazine recognized Spinks as champion.
Spinks, of course, had beaten the previously undefeated Larry Holmes for the genuine title, and the man-who-beat-the-man method of establishing a legitimate lineage is not that complex. Even so, Mark Etess, executive vice president of Trump Plaza Hotel Casino, decided it would help reinforce Spinks' status if I presented him with The Ring belt at the final news conference. It proved to be Michael's only moment of glory.
After a marathon preliminary card and a lengthy delay while Tyson -- at the insistence of Spinks' promoter, Butch Lewis -- had his hands re-bandaged, the fighters finally entered the ring. By then, the crowd was strangely quiet, lulled into a stupor-like state after hours of waiting for the big moment.
However, when Tyson charged from his corner and launched an all-out attack, an animal-like roar enveloped the arena and didn't subside until the fight was over -- just 91 seconds later.
Spinks avoided Tyson's initial rush, but moments later he took a flush left hook to the head, followed by a wicked right to the body, and sank to the canvas.
After regaining his feet, Spinks tried to greet Tyson's next assault with a right hand. But the punch sailed harmlessly over his assailant's ducking head, leaving Spinks wide open. Tyson slammed home another right, and Spinks went over backwards, banging his head on the floor as he fell. He somehow struggled to his hands and knees, where referee Frank Cappuccino counted him out.
Seldom in the history of the sport have so many paid so much for so little.
In many ways, it was the zenith of Tyson's career, but the seeds of his downfall were already sown. He had filed a lawsuit to break his contract with manager Bill Cayton, and Don King was waiting in the wings, licking his chops. It was also hard to miss Tyson's wife, actress Robin Givens, and her mother, Ruth Roper, perched in the front row like a pair of well-groomed vultures.
Both the professional and personal relationships would eventually end up in court, and by the time his legal battle with King was over, Tyson was washed up and bankrupt.
Like Tyson, Trump (albeit to a lesser degree) also experienced some ups and downs in the coming years, and eventually turned to showbiz to reinvigorate his bank account and Q-rating.
Considering their shared history, it's a wonder Tyson has never turned up on "The Apprentice."
Tyson-Spinks was a huge fight that transcended boxing at that time and should be ranked much higher than #10. #ESPNsuperfights
— Andy Reilly (@AndrewDReilly) August 28, 2013