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They turned out the lights in Tokyo's sparkling new $462.5 million domed stadium when Tony Tubbs made his way to the ring just a little after noon on Monday. Perhaps the Japanese were embarrassed by the sight of Tubbs's exposed flab, which topped out at 238� pounds, officially, and no doubt increased during the 24 hours between weigh-in and his fistfight with heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. A few moments later, Tyson turned out Tubbs's lights.
Still, the corpulent challenger came to fight, a pleasant, if short-lived, surprise to the Japanese. And until Tubbs dropped, dazed and bloodied, at 2:54 of the second round, he did give future Tyson challengers a glimmer of hope. Tubbs's strategy appeared sound; he just didn't have the firepower.
At one time, all hope of defeating the champion had centered on the jab and lateral movement. "Stay outside and stick," urged boxing strategists. Yet those who tried—Trevor Berbick, Pinklon Thomas, Tyrell Biggs and Larry Holmes—toppled like tenpins.
" Tyson doesn't respect the jab," scoffed Tubbs between meals a few days before the fight. "He walks right through them. A man comes at me with a baseball bat, I don't want to be outside where he can get a good whack at me."
So Tubbs devised a different plan, which he put to work from the opening bell. When Tyson leaped in to begin his assault, Tubbs moved quickly forward as well. That placed him snugly inside the champion's lethal hook. But as any combat veteran could have told him, when an enemy is in too close to shoot, you just knock the hell out of him with your rifle butt. Which is what Tyson did.
Tubbs appeared to have won the first round—although only one judge awarded it to him—but he paid dearly as Tyson buried fierce right hands deep into the challenger's soft midsection. The champion's punches arrive with great acceleration, and against Tubbs they seemed to still be gathering speed after stabbing into the body.
In the brief time that he lasted, Tubbs, employing short hooks to the head, hit Tyson more squarely than he has been hit in any previous fight. But it isn't enough just to hit Tyson; if you don't hurt him, you only make him mad. And Tubbs was never able to hurt him.
"I was just waiting for him to make a mistake," said Tyson after his sixth title defense, 30th knockout and 34th pro fight without a defeat.
Tubbs's mistake was coming out for the second round. With the champion happily harpooning his body, Tubbs began to take on the appearance of a beleaguered whale. He tried to fight back but threw one hook too many. Before it could land, Tyson launched a three-punch volley that was so swift Tubbs could be forgiven if he thought that two other assailants had joined the champion in the ring. Tyson slammed the challenger's head with a right hand, ripped a right to the body and snapped Tubbs's head back with a right uppercut.