Berbick was a part of heavyweight history
Brent Matteo Alderson
Trevor Berbick died this past weekend and with him so did a piece of heavyweight history.
Berbick wasn't a great fighter by any means of the word, but he was a kind of a link between heavyweight eras. From Ali to Holmes to Tyson, Berbick played a part in all of their careers.
He was the first man to take Holmes the distance during his title reign in their 1981 fight and then later that year he was the last man to face Ali in a professional fight. Then after upsetting Pinklon Thomas for the WBC heavyweight title he had the inglorious experience of being Mike Tyson's first title-fight victim.
Berbick was a peculiar fighter. On some nights he rose to the occasion and beat John Tate, Thomas and Greg Page and went the distance with a prime Holmes. Then on other nights he would lose to S.T. Gordon and get knocked out in a round by Bernardo Mercado.
There was no disgrace in losing early to a prime Tyson, but getting knocked out in one round by Mercado exemplifies his enigmatic behavior as a fighter. At his best he was a fighter who could befuddle fighters with his stamina, overall strength and awkward style and at his worst he was a slow unimaginative plodder.
Not surprisingly, Berbick was as eccentric outside the ring as he was in it. Everybody remembers the rematch with Holmes in 1991, the one when Holmes hurdled a car and landed on Berbick as the two exchanged un-pleasantries. Or his rape conviction in 1992, when after being found guilty he went into a 45-minute tirade about his innocence in regards to having sex with his under-aged babysitter, which eerily occurred almost exactly the same time as Tyson's case.
Besides these sensationalized episodes, Berbick also had an important role in boxing history outside of the ring. At the press conference after the fight with Ali, Berbick refused to answer questions for the press until Ali arrived, which was odd since nobody would want to talk to him after Ali came. And it was at that same press conference that Ed Schyuler, as the unofficial representative for all the press guys who had covered Ali through the years, stood up and thanked Ali with his now famous line, "You gave us a hell of a ride."
There are also some other stories that aren't as common or well known. In the late Phil Berger's book "Punch Lines," there's a story about Berbick which exemplifies his eccentric almost maverick like behavior. After upsetting Thomas for the WBC title, Berbick automatically became part of HBO's heavyweight tournament and was scheduled to face Tyson, but Berbick was thinking about bolting the tournament and fighting Gerry Cooney and went to talk to Cooney's manager Dennis Rappaport about the fight.
He told Rappaport, "I spoke to God 20 minutes ago and he told me that you would give me $100,000 if I asked for it." Well, Rappaport looked at him and said, "I spoke to God five minutes ago and he told me not to give you $20!"
Even though Berbick didn't get the money from Rappaport and never ended up facing Cooney, the meeting with Cooney's representatives was a strategic ploy to sweeten the pot for his bout with Tyson and it worked. He ended up getting $2.1 million for the Tyson fight instead of the $750,000 he was originally supposed to get.
At the end of the day, let's not eulogize the career of Trevor Berbick, but lets remember him and recognize his place in heavyweight history.