A Boxing Memory: Tyson vs McBride – What happened in last fight of Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson has captivated sports fans since his explosive debut in 1985, showcasing his exceptional skills and redefining the brutal world of boxing. However, his journey was marked by a turbulent mix of athletic prowess and tabloid notoriety, leading to a roller coaster ride of admiration and criticism. Despite facing car accidents, a video game, memorable knockouts, a messy divorce, legal troubles, a conversion to Islam, a facial tattoo, and the infamous incident involving Evander Holyfield’s ears, Tyson emerged as a cultural icon.
On this day in 2005, after a twenty-year career in the ring, Tyson competed in his final fight in Washington DC against Kevin McBride, who was considered an unknown Irish contender. Despite Tyson’s intimidating threats to “gut him like a fish,” many anticipated his victory. In fact, one sportswriter even jokingly predicted that if McBride were to win, “frogs would fall from the sky at random intervals.” However, the actual fight unfolded quite differently, deviating from the anticipated biblical storyline.
Kevin McBride, who had previously represented Ireland in the Olympics thirteen years prior, made his entrance into the ring wearing a robe adorned with a shamrock and accompanied by two Irish bagpipers. However, their ill-fated melodies played to an impatient and already-booing crowd. In contrast, Mike Tyson’s ringwalks had once been the stuff of intimidating legends. Yet, on this particular night, he strolled in casually, without any grand gestures, wearing a loose black t-shirt. The crowd, excited by his presence alone, erupted in applause, with Tyson’s recently acquired facial tattoo adding to the thrill. Whether real or imagined, the spectacle of Tyson’s appearance electrified the audience, bringing everyone to their feet.
Despite being 38 years old, Mike Tyson’s stocky and muscular physique still exuded an imposing presence. Standing seven inches taller and weighing around forty pounds more, Kevin McBride had a larger frame, but his midsection appeared loose and saggy. As referee Joe Cortez provided his final instructions, McBride’s towering figure loomed over Tyson.
When the bell rang, both fighters immediately rushed to the center of the ring. McBride initiated with a series of left jabs, while Tyson attempted some defensive head movement, although his renowned “peek-a-boo” style seemed diminished. It appeared that years of relying on an aggressive and immobile stance had diminished Tyson’s skills. Consequently, the first two rounds progressed at a slow and uneventful pace. McBride effectively utilized his long jab to keep Tyson at a distance. When Tyson managed to close the gap and fight on the inside, he struggled to gain an advantage, as the larger McBride easily nullified his attacks in the clinch.
In the third round, a frustrated Mike Tyson began to regain some of his aggression. He unleashed left hooks and right hooks, although mostly as singular punches. Despite lacking the relentless power of his prime, these punches were still forceful enough to elicit cheers from the lackluster crowd. However, these glimpses of his former greatness were akin to an art student’s attempt to replicate a Rembrandt painting—capturing the right shapes but lacking the soul and essence. McBride, resilient, managed to withstand Tyson’s onslaught.
As the fight progressed into the fourth round, Tyson’s momentum continued to build. He unleashed a crescendo of left uppercuts and powerful shots to McBride’s midsection. Despite breathing heavily, McBride remained on his feet, displaying remarkable durability. However, in the fifth round, the Irishman managed to rally and trap Tyson against the ropes, delivering some uppercuts of his own. While the match may have lacked technical finesse or artistic flair, fans were treated to a spirited back-and-forth battle between the two fighters.
As round six commenced, both fighters likely envisioned the possibility of scoring a knockout. They engaged in an all-out exchange in the center of the ring, with Tyson throwing left hooks and rights, while McBride responded with stiff jabs. However, their stamina was lacking, and the intense exchange quickly transitioned into grappling and wrestling. Frustrated in the clinch, Tyson resorted to the dirty tactics that had become synonymous with his later career, actions that both tarnished and defined his fighting style.
Specifically, Tyson wrapped his right forearm tightly around the upper portion of McBride’s left arm, attempting to torque and potentially snap his opponent’s elbow—a maneuver reminiscent of his previous bout against Francis Botha in 1999. Upon receiving a warning from the referee, Tyson retaliated with a deliberate headbutt, causing a cut above McBride’s left eye. The fight was temporarily halted due to the resulting blood, and the referee, Joe Cortez, deducted two points from Tyson for the intentional foul, exemplifying his reputation for maintaining firm control of the proceedings.
With over two minutes remaining in the round, Tyson’s formidable hooks seemed to rock McBride, causing blood to flow from the cut above his eye. However, towards the end of the round, McBride mounted a comeback, unleashing a flurry of punches on the visibly exhausted Tyson.
Suddenly, it was as if Mike Tyson’s fighting spirit had abandoned him, dissipating like a morning fog. McBride pressured Tyson, landing a sharp left hand and leaning forward, putting his weight on the legendary former champion. Tyson tumbled to the canvas, his back supported by the bottom rope, his legs sprawled in front of him in a cartoonish manner. The bell rang, and referee Joe Cortez ruled it as a slip, but the dejected Tyson could barely muster the strength to rise and return to his corner.
Between rounds, Tyson sat expressionless, surrounded by his cornermen. When the bell rang for the seventh round, he remained motionless on his stool. The former “Kid Dynamite” quit, observing impassively as the referee raised McBride’s hand, stunning those in attendance. Leaving the ring for the final time, Tyson apologized, admitting, “My heart is not into this anymore. I’m sorry for the fans who paid for this. I wish I could have done better.” McBride, on the other hand, would go on to experience six losses in his next eight fights before retiring in 2011.
The spectators present that night could not have predicted they would witness the end of a storied career. Over the course of two decades, Tyson had reinvented himself multiple times—from “Kid Dynamite” to “Iron Mike,” from undisputed champion to “The Baddest Man on the Planet.” The public had witnessed these transformations, fueled in part by a sensationalist media that chronicled his rise and reveled in his downfall. After Tyson’s loss to James “Buster” Douglas in 1990, his invincibility was shattered, and for some, it seemed that Tyson could do no right.
However, by that point, the symbol had surpassed the man. Neglecting his training had eroded the technical prowess instilled in him by his mentor, Cus D’Amato, leaving behind only the disposition of a gladiator, devoid of discipline. This symbolic Mike Tyson became our embodiment of the baddest man, our pugilistic scapegoat, periodically forced into the ring to absolve us of our sins. But by 2005, Tyson could no longer be our redemptive gladiator; it was evident that he was deeply wounded. His toughest battles were no longer fought in the charged void of the boxing ring but within the depths of his own psyche.
The Tyson vs McBride fight may have been a lackluster punctuation mark to conclude the career of a fighter who often spoke in epic terms. Yet, as Tyson sat on that stool, he seemed to embrace the end. True to form, he has since reinvented himself in the public imagination—as a cartoon character, a one-man Broadway show, and most recently as the owner of a cannabis dispensary. Perhaps this is the brutal yet enduring lesson from Mike Tyson’s final boxing match. Change is often a violent and messy process, but for a fighter ready for a different kind of fight, dissolution can sometimes lead to salvation.