The last blow turned Tubbs into a marionette whose strings had been snipped away. If it hadn't been for the ropes, he would have lurched drunkenly backward until settling down somewhere around the 20th row. Held up momentarily by the strands, Tubbs toppled to his left and finally landed on his backside. Blood poured from a deep cut over his right eye. "It was just a lovely left hook that split him wide open," Mercante said after the fight.
As Tubbs began to fall, Tyson sprang forward and launched another hook. It thundered harmlessly over Tubbs's head. "I threw it just in case the ropes held him up," said Tyson later. "If they had, it would have hit him. I didn't know how bad he was hurt. He could have been faking it."
Mercante moved in swiftly and maneuvered Tyson into a neutral corner. When he turned to begin the count, Odell Hadley, Tubbs's chief second, was already in the ring.
"No more," said Hadley, waving off Mercante, who was visibly annoyed. The veteran referee believes that in a title fight a man should be counted out.
The fight over, Tyson strode to the center of the ring, where he paused, legs spread and hands on hips, glaring down at his victim. On the wall of the bedroom in his Tokyo hotel suite Tyson had hung a picture of Battling Nelson, a former lightweight champion, after his knockout of Eddie Lang in 1910. In the picture Nelson stands in the center of the ring, legs spread and hands on his hips, glaring down upon the unconscious Lang.
Tyson became fascinated with the photograph just before he fought Holmes on Jan. 22. He did his first imitation of Nelson after Holmes went down to stay in the fourth round.
"He asked me later if I had noticed it [the pose]," said assistant manager Steve Lott, who had not. "He told me to go look at the tape. There he was, Battling Nelson himself. Before Holmes he'd go over and pick up his victims. That's because he knew that John L. Sullivan and Jack Johnson and fighters from that era, which he loves, did it that way."
It is unlikely that either Sullivan or Johnson would have been inclined to hoist Tubbs's 238 pounds of dead weight. There is chivalry and then there are hernias.
As he did before past fights, Tyson decorated his hotel suite, where he spent most of his time during his five weeks in Japan, with old fight photographs. Among others, he had taped up a picture of heavyweight Peter Jackson, who fought in the 1890s, and another of turn-of-the-century heavyweight Sam McVey. And a much more recent photograph showed Joe Frazier examining Tyson's hand wraps just before he fought Frazier's son Marvis in July 1986.
"I like that one because it looks like Joe wants to fight me," said Tyson.