The style had been seen before, but the total package was unique.
Mike Tyson was a practitioner of the peek-a-boo style that was made famous by his mentor, Cus D’Amato. The legendary trainer-manager transformed Floyd Patterson into the first ever two-time heavyweight champion of the world and later guided Jose Torres to light heavyweight glory. Both Patterson and Torres carried their hands high, they were quick of foot, they moved their heads, they switched from body to head effortlessly and released sharp combinations.
D’Amato also founded a system where every punch was represented by a number. He would yell out numbers in different variations and the fighter would respond with the desired burst of punches. The numbers were set in stone, but stringing them together in combination made the system versatile, with the patterns changing depending on an opponent’s style and game plan. It was economical, strategically brilliant and ideal for an offensive force.
Tyson was the ultimate offensive force in the glamour division. He was bigger and more powerful than Patterson and, despite being a heavyweight, quicker than Torres. His killer instinct and thirst for combat was also visceral. D’Amato was positive that he had a diamond in the rough, a heavyweight champion-in-waiting, and his new charge soaked up knowledge like a sponge. Tyson didn’t reach the top of the tree as an amateur, but he was bred for the professional game.
On November 4, 1985, D’Amato passed away at the age of 77. By that time, Tyson was a super-hot prospect with 11 knockouts in as many fights and he had already captured the attention of the boxing world. Assistant trainer and former fighter Kevin Rooney continued to develop the young fighter from prospect to top-flight contender.
One year later, on November 22, 1986, Tyson was 27-0 with 25 KOs when he entered the ring to face WBC titleholder Trevor Berbick. The challenger dropped the Canada-based Jamaican twice in Round 2 to become the youngest heavyweight titleholder in boxing history at 20. D’Amato’s prophecy had come true.