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Memories: 1995

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Boxing Highlighted by Tyson's Return to the Ring

The Associated Press
December 20, 1995

While in prison, Mike Tyson thought about never fighting again.

“But then I thought, ‘Who am I going to hurt?” he said in an interview in July. “I’m going to hurt myself.”

So Tyson fought twice in 1995 for a total of 10:01 (less than 3 1/2 rounds), earned about $50 million, and had the various champions of the talent-shallow heavyweight division all but begging to fight him.

WBC champion Frank Bruno will get first crack at Tyson on March 16. Bruno, of Britain, became a champion in his fourth try when he outpointed Oliver McCall Sept. 2.

While Tyson’s return against Peter McNeeley and Buster Mathis got mixed reviews, there was no doubt it restored excitement and anticipation to what is supposed be the sport’s premier division.

The year also saw the continued rise of Roy Jones Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya and the return of boxing to Madison Square Garden. The sport also was haunted, as it is every year, by death in the ring.

It was the big men who got the most attention — attention that was considerably increased with the release of Tyson on March 25 from prison, where he was serving a sentence for a rape conviction.

Riddick Bowe won the WBO title by knocking out Herbie Hide in the sixth round March 10. It was not an outstanding performance, but Bowe was impressive in knocking out Cuban Jose Luis Gonzalez in the sixth round June 27.

Bowe finished the year by getting off the floor to stop Evander Holyfield in the eight round Nov. 4. Holyfield, who had retired after losing to Michael Moorer in 1994 because of what was thought to be heart problem, got medical clearance and fought twice, outpointing Ray Mercer in his other bout.

George Foreman, looking every bit his 46 years, retained his IBF title with a controversial decision over German Axel Schulz on April 22. Big George had been stripped of the WBA title earlier in the year, and by year’s end he was without the IBF title after refusing to give Schulz a rematch.

Bruce Seldon won the vacated WBA title by stopping Tony Tucker in the seventh round April 8. Francois Botha of South Africa won the vacated IBF title on a decision over Schulz that was greeted by a hail of bottles Dec. 9 at Stuttgart, Germany.

Lennox Lewis, the former WBC champion from Britain, kept himself in the picture by winning three fights, the last a sixth-round stoppage of Tommy Morrison Oct. 7.

Tyson made his much ballyhooed return from a layoff dating back to a decision win over Donovan “Razor” Ruddock June 28, 1991, with an 89-second victory over McNeeley Aug. 19 before a sold-out crowd of 16,000 in Las Vegas and a huge pay-per-view audience worldwide.

McNeeley was disqualified when, after he had been down twice, his manager, Vinnie Vecchione, jumped into the ring. This brought screams that the fight was a ripoff, although a lot of people seemed more disgruntled by how the bout ended that about its length.

Mathis was counted out 2:32 of the third round Dec. 16 after Tyson set him him up with a right uppercut and finished him off with a left hook and two rights. The bout in the Spectrum at Philadelphia, postponed from Nov. 4 because of a fracture to Tyson’s right thumb, was watched by a crowd estimated at 8,000, of which about half reportedly bought tickets, and a big audience on the Fox Network — the first major fight on free TV in a decade.

It was De La Hoya who brought boxing back to the main Madison Square Garden arena for the first time since March 1993. He stopped Jesse James Leija in the second round before a crowd of 16,072 on Dec. 15 for De La Hoya’s third victory of the year.

Jones, the unbeaten super middleweight champion, also won three fights, and was set to follow De La Hoya into the Garden Jan. 12.

Ring fatalities included Jimmy Garcia of Colombia and James Murray of Scotland.

Garcia collapsed after being stopped by Garbiel Ruelas in a bid for the super featherweight title May 16, and died 13 days later. Ruelas didn’t fight again until Dec. 1, when he lost the title by being stopped in the fifth round by Azumah Nelson of Ghana.

Murray died two days after losing the British bantamweight title to Drew Docherty in Glasgow, Scotland.

On Feb. 25, Gerald McClelland, defending the WBC middleweight title, suffered life-threatening injuries when he was stopped by Nigel Benn of Britain in the 10th round at London.

On Jan. 11, Carlos Monzon, the former great middleweight champion, was killed in a car accident in his native Argentina. He was 52.

© 1995 The Associated Press

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