“TYSON TO FIGHT AT HAMPDEN PARK” was the headline screaming off the back page of the tabloid newspaper lying on the kitchen table of my parents’ house. Alongside an photograph of the stadium’s main entrance the small report confirmed that Mike Tyson v Lou Savarese would take place just 30 minutes away from where I lived at the time on June 24, 2000.
A wave of excitement hit me. I was a 19 year old university student working a part-time job as a bartender. My disposable income was limited but I knew I wanted to make this event my first experience of attending live boxing.
Luckily I was able to convince a good friend* of mine to part with some of his hard earned cash and we purchased the cheapest available tickets for seats high up in the Hampden stands. June 24 could not come quickly enough.
By the year 2000 I had been watching boxing for roughly half a decade but had never actually considered attending a live show. This looked like the ideal opportunity for me to pop my live boxing cherry. It was a unique event – boxing in a large stadium in Glasgow even although there was not a home town fighter topping the bill. It was also a chance to see a modern boxing icon in person, even if he was past his best.
For those who don’t know Hampden Park is the home of the Scotland International Football team. The stadium opened in 1903 and by 2000 it had been refurbished and had an all seated capacity of 52,000. With the additional seats on the field for the boxing event the possibility of a crowd north of 55,000 was not out of the question.
Despite plenty hype and controversy surrounding Tyson’s appearance in Glasgow the attendance on fight night was only around 20,000. I’m not sure the reason for this although I can remember the ticket prices being very high. Our ‘cheap’ seats were £50 but the people who wanted to sit closer to the ring were having to fork out £300-£500, an extremely expensive night out 16 years ago.
Coming into the fight Tyson 47-3-0 (41Kos) was attempting to get back amongst the titles. He seemed to have developed an obsession with facing Lennox Lewis but more about that later.
Lou Savarese, on the other hand, was largely unknown. His 39-3-0 (32Kos) record featured few outstanding wins but at 6’5 and with a nine inch reach advantage over ‘Iron’ Mike I can clearly remember thinking that if big Lou could keep Tyson at range and frustrate him for four or five rounds then maybe he would have a chance. Oh the foolishness of youth.
The day of the fight arrived and we wanted to get to the venue sharpish to take in as much of the 15 fight card as we could. Arriving early had the added bonus of beating the traffic and finding somewhere to park fairly easily.
We made our way into the stadium and quickly discovered that £50 got you a Hampden seat miles away from the ring. We settled down, cursed not bringing binoculars, and watched plenty of undercard action in the late afternoon sunshine.
Between our arrival and the main event beginning our area of the stadium filled up and the pleasant weather of the early evening gave way to an unseasonably cold night which featured some heavy rain showers. During the rain the fans in the uncovered, expensive on field seats had to run for cover into the cheap seats in the stands. Some people cheered this but I remember feeling bad for those having to take shelter.
It was getting close to midnight local time when Tyson and Savarese finally made their way to the ring. By this point we just wanted the action to begin. The formalities were completed and it was time for the fight.
And then it was over. The first punch Tyson threw, a left hook, deposited Savarese onto his back. From our vantage point, two miles away, it did look like big Lou had taken a dive. He got up looking unsteady, so perhaps our initial scepticism was wrong, however the fight was allowed to continue. Tyson, sensing an opportunity to do some damage quickly trapped his man on the ropes and started throwing a vicious series of punches. A few must’ve landed cleanly as the referee was in-between the boxers stopping the fight very quickly. Only Mike didn’t stop throwing leather and the ref ended up getting caught with a swinging Tyson forearm and he hit the deck. He was up fast and Tyson finally seemed to realise the fight was over. His night’s work in Glasgow took him 38 seconds.
Feeling let down and slightly pissed off about the quick nature of our main event we left quickly, leaving the stadium long before ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr made the result official. We didn’t even hang around long enough to join in the chorus of boos form the majority of the fans in attendance.
Back in the car we tuned to the local radio station that had broadcast the fight, partly to confirm if what we had witnessed had in fact actually happened. The pundits on the radio were no longer discussing the fight.
Tyson’s now infamous post fight interview was the only topic of conversation. His answers, delivered in the style of an out of control rant began with, “Lennox Lewis. Lennox I’m coming for you.” It quickly deteriorated, “I’m Sonny Liston, I’m Jack Dempsey, there’s no-one like me, there’s no-one that can match me.” He ended with the threatening and outrageous, “I’m just ferocious, I want your heart, I want to eat his children.”
We drove along in the darkness in a stunned silence just listening to the discussion that Tyson’s remarks had provoked. It proved to be a fitting end to an unforgettable day. Not everything was perfect, in fact very little of it was perfect, but somehow I knew this would only be the beginning for me. I knew I wanted to experience more live boxing. I knew I would return to the fights!
*I am still very good friends with my companion from that June day in 2000 however he hasn’t attended any live boxing since Tyson v Savarese
—Introduced to boxing by watching as a teenager with his Dad, Morrison really began to appreciate the sport during the Lennox Lewis era from the mid 1990s. Since those days he has developed into a passionate boxing fan, enjoying all styles of the fight game. His favourite fight is Barrera-Morales 1 and when time allows he enjoys travelling to attend big fights. Morrison began writing about the sport in July 2016. He hails from Scotland, United Kingdom where he lives with his wife and two children and can be found on Twitter @Morrie1981.