Lou Savarese recalls Hampden bout with Mike Tyson 20 years on

By Tyrone SmithBBC Scotland Sport
Fighting Mike Tyson in rainy Glasgow was 'different' - Lou Savarese

Hampden Park has staged some heavy beatings in its 117-year history, but nothing quite like this.

Twenty years ago, Scotland's national football stadium had the eyes of the boxing world upon it.

And all it took was half a minute of Mike Tyson ferocity on a sodden and controversial night to dismantle an opponent's dream that had been 16 years in the making.

Iron Mike's famous quote - "everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth" - rang as true as his succession of punches which bludgeoned Lou Savarese. Even the referee got thumped for good measure as Tyson refused to let up after the fight was stopped and the scene descended into a melee.

Savarese's wounds may have healed, but his resentment lingers, not least because fellow American Tyson has since claimedexternal-link he had taken marijuana and cocaine before the ring walk.

"It is not fair if you are taking drugs before the fight. You want to have a level playing field," 54-year-old Savarese tells BBC Scotland.

'You needed to get him to the later rounds'

Mike Tyson floored Lou Savarese inside eight seconds at Hampden
Mike Tyson floored Lou Savarese inside eight seconds at Hampden

Savarese believed he had perfected a gameplan to exploit rustiness in the former undisputed world heavyweight champion's impressive armoury.

Tyson was 33 at the time and making his third comeback fight after a nine-month break, which included four months in prison for assaulting two motorists.

"I don't think he was training as hard as he usually did," Savarese says. "That was the whole thing with Tyson at that point of his career, you wanted to try and get him to the later rounds.

"It was a huge opportunity, the next fight would have been big money. I felt confident. We had a good camp, I had good sparring and everything."

The build-up was marred by controversy over the decision to allow Tyson, a convicted rapist, into Scotland.

And while Savarese's physical preparation had gone smoothly, his mindset was affected by having to miss the birth of his first child a few weeks previously.

"The timing was really not very good," he says. "It is your first kid so it was hard not being there for my wife and the baby. To to be focusing on the fight was tough."

Referee sent sprawling in melee

Savarese, who weighed in at 17st 3lbs, took to the ring with a heart full of courage and a record of just three defeats from his previous 42 fights.

"I fought George Foreman, Evander Holyfield, Riddick Bowe - so I wasn't intimidated," he says. "I had been building for it for a long time, since I won the New York Golden Gloves in 1984. What you have to respect is the power."

That power was painfully evident with the first punch after just 12 seconds, as a battering ram of a left hook from Tyson sent his compatriot crashing to the canvas.

Tyson kept throwing punches after referee John Coyle had stopped the fight
Tyson kept throwing punches after referee John Coyle had stopped the fight

"I remember it vividly," Savarese says. "He caught me with a good shot. I went down, I got back up pretty quick. In previous fights I had been hurt and gone down - against Lance Whitaker, Michael Grant - and got back up, and won some too."

He carried on, but had no answer to the barrage of punches Tyson was raining down on him. With Savarese in trouble, referee John Coyle tried to step in and call a halt - only for Tyson to continue the onslaught, sending the official sprawling in the melee.

Coyle got back to his feet, eventually separating the pair, and ended the fight in controversial circumstances after just 38 seconds. That decision was greeted with anger by a 30,000 Hampden crowd seeking more bang for their buck.

'I've no regrets; I fought five world champions'

Tyson took victory by technical knockout yet, two decades later, Savarese still maintains he should have been allowed to fight on.

"He is a tough finisher. He could have stopped me after that but I wish it wouldn't have ended that way," he says. "I didn't think the fight was over, I just thought he got disqualified or whatever.

"I thought the referee had stopped the fight because Tyson had hit him when he got in the middle of us. I didn't know they were stopping the fight because of me getting hurt.

"It was pandemonium. It was strange because he was still throwing punches while the referee was in there."

Tyson was fined £125,000 for not obeying the referee's instructions and received a formal reprimand for his post-fight comments about British heavyweight Lennox Lewis.

Savarese is still involved in the sport, running two gyms and promoting fights in Houston, Texas.

"It would have been huge if I had won - but no regrets, I had a fun career. I fought five world champions and am still doing pretty good," he says.

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