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Mike Tyson's Only Fight In England Saw Five Savage Knockdowns In Four Minutes

Mike Tyson's Only Fight In England Saw Five Savage Knockdowns In Four Minutes

'The Baddest Man on the Planet' came to Manchester 20 years ago today for his first ever fight on UK soil - carnage ensued.

If a newspaper asks to sponsor the soles of your shoes before a fight, it's not a great sign you're going to win. Julius Francis accepted the offer - but promised we'd never see The Mirror's logos again, as he'd wouldn't be off his feet in the ring. Big Julius was lying.

Julius Francis
Julius Francis

The British heavyweight champion was firmly in the role of cannon fodder when 'Iron Mike' arrived in a storm of publicity to make his UK debut.

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Asking for Tyson's autograph at their first press conference probably didn't convince people that he was about to spring a massive upset. Tyson returned the favour by calling Francis "kinda fat" - a devastating early blow.

Julius wasn't the only one starstruck. When Tyson first hit London, the 33-year-old tried to pay Brixton a low-key visit. "If you're an African-American or you're a black man from any part of the world and you come to London, you go to Brixton to see your people out of respect," he said.

Thousands crowded Brixton's streets when word got out and the police rushed Tyson into their HQ to prevent an almighty crush. Stuck in Brixton Police Station - probably not a situation at the top of his to-do list - Tyson megaphoned to the mob from an open window.

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"I have got to get back to training, so I would appreciate if you let me break out," he cried, thanking the crowd for the outpouring of love. He eventually escaped in a police van, back to the Park Lane hotel where he and his entourage occupied an entire floor.

Tyson also racked up a reported £450,000 jewellery bill as he casually bought a diamond and sapphire watch, a bracelet and two diamond pocket watches (because who needs one diamond pocket watch when you can have two?). It eventually led to a dispute with Frank Warren, the fight's promoter, about who exactly was picking up that bill.

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But while diamond sellers and Brixton locals were delighted to see the ex-champ, some groups - including Justice for Women - protested against allowing a convicted criminal entry into the UK. "They are just a bunch of frustrated women who want to be men," was Tyson's diplomatic response.

The demolition job - sorry, 'fight' - went ahead as planned at Manchester Arena and delivered five savage knockdowns in under four minutes. Take a wild guess at who scored all of them.

The live crowd unleashed a primal roar in support of Tyson when the American arrived in the ring in his trademark black trunks and wearing his trademark death stare. "Tyson had this unbelievable intensity and ferocity about him," Francis said afterwards.

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Tyson tore into him with compact uppercuts and hooks to the body. "He lifted me off the ground with some of them and I weighed 17 stone," marvelled Francis, who spent the first two minutes of the contest clinching and the last two mainly crumpling to the canvas.

He paid a price for his bravery in continually getting up, admitting that - although the fight lasted only three minutes and 58 seconds - he spent hours in the bath afterwards trying to deal with the pain wracking his body.

Tyson, who impressed commentator Ian Darke with his display - an achievement surely worth multiple world titles - had won his UK debut. He'd return in the summer to take on Lou Savarese in Glasgow: a fight which ended even quicker and was memorable for an interview where he threatened to eat Lennox Lewis's children (then unborn).

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Yikes. For now though, Tyson had brought the UK to a standstill, keeping fans, pundits, jewellers - plus the marketing department at The Mirror - very happy indeed.

Feature Image Credit: PA

Topics: Frank Warren, Mike Tyson, Boxing

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Alex Reid

Alex Reid is a writer at SPORTbible who’s previously strung words together for FourFourTwo, Boxing News, The Guardian and, yes, Cruise International (it’s about big ships, not Tom). Interests range from football and boxing to real sports like WWE and darts. He is not a cage fighter.