“Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!” 30-Years Later
“Iron” Mike Tyson hasn’t thrown a meaningful punch, unless you count the overhand right he landed in an epic scene for the movie “The Hangover,” in over a decade, but that hasn’t stopped fans of the former two-time heavyweight champion and self-proclaimed “Baddest Man on the Planet” from nostalgically living vicariously through him with Nintendo’s all-time classic boxing game, “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!”
Originally released in 1987, “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!” will turn 30 years-old before the end of 2017. In a world where real-life graphics and virtual reality compatibility have become “the norm,” “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!” continues to stand alone as one of the greatest boxing games ever released on any platform.
Genyo Takeda was the mastermind behind the “Punch-Out!” arcade games, and directed the Nintendo version featuring Mike Tyson on the cover. The Nintendo version differentiated itself from the arcade style platform by offering background music, a rough plot, and making the main boxer, Little Mac, short-bodied so that players could see over the larger-than-life opponents en-route to the match with Mike Tyson, or Mr. Dream in later versions of the game.
During the time frame when the Gold version was released, Nintendo’s president, Minoru Arakawa, attended a boxing event that had Mike Tyson on the card, and was immediately enamored by the boxer’s size and strength. It has been rumored that Tyson was paid $50,000 over a three-year period to endorse the game in an effort to increase sales with the “Punch-Out!” franchise.
This was a risky move, as Tyson had not yet knocked out Trevor Berbick to become the youngest heavyweight champion of the world.
In honor of the 30-year anniversary, I’m going to look back at all the fighters featured in the game.
From: Bronx, NY
Record: 0-0, 0 KOs
Little Mac’s name fits him well; he’s indeed small, in both punching power and overall size. His green boxing gloves are so tiny it’s hard to believe he would ever knock anyone out. His offensive technique is rather vanilla, with some body punches, left and right hooks, and the occasional uppercut. The most underrated ability is the kid’s chin. It’s amazing. Think about it–at 107 pounds, a small kid from New York is being repeatedly smashed by fighters who often outweigh him by fifty to a hundred pounds–even more, if we could verify King Hippo’s weight.
Little Mac’s heart is as big as they come. He wouldn’t quit, even when he felt like it between corners. He was as loyal to his trainer, Doc Louis, as any fighter past or present.
Glass Joe – Ranked #2
Record: 1-99, 1 KO
From: Paris, France
Glass Joe is the perfect opponent to begin the career of Little Mac. He doesn’t offer much of an attack. In fact, it’s literally difficult to get the guy to throw a punch unless you swing enough to run out of gas and get tired (turning Little Mac pink, and not allowing a player to throw any punches). A couple of upper-cuts, and Glass Joe should be down and out for an easy TKO victory. If you don’t score a knockout but win every round, it’s likely you could lose a decision. Ironic, a boxing game that mimics real life judging! Some things never change.
Von Kaiser – Ranked #1
Record: 23-13, 10 KOs
From: Berlin, Germany
Von Kaiser has a sweet mustache and a very predictable game plan. He shakes his head before delivery one of his “devastating” uppercuts. He moves a little faster than Glass Joe, but that’s not saying a heck of a lot. He is a rather easy victory, even for the limited offensive game of Little Mac.
Minor Circuit Championship Fight
Piston Honda – Champion
Record: 26-1, 18 KOs
From: Tokyo, Japan
Piston Honda looks huge compared to Glass Joe and Von Kaiser. He may or may not have been on some sort of illegal supplements. He wiggles his eyebrows before delivering a jab, and it’s likely he will land some leather on a beginning player to the game. Piston Honda isn’t a great champion, but he is a guy Little Mac must face twice while moving through the ranks to an eventual showdown with Mike Tyson.
Don Flamenco – Ranked #3
Record: 22-3, 9 KOs
From Madrid, Spain
Don Flamenco is an interesting opponent. He’s from Spain, but looks Italian. He’s supposedly 23 years old, but could easily pass for 45! But more than that, he’s the equivalent of hot garbage as a fighter, and Little Mac must face him twice. He makes Antonio Margarito look like a defensive wizard. Once you make him miss and follow up with a simple 1-2, over and over, he’s down, and not getting up. He’s the poster boy for a glass jaw, without a doubt.
King Hippo – Ranked #2
Record: 18-9, 18 KOs
From: Hippo Island, South Pacific.
King Hippo doesn’t look human, and while his weight is a mystery, he’s a super-heavyweight. He’s an actual fighter with a legitimate number of knockouts. His fists look like clubs coming at your face, and that’s basically all he throws. There’s no one-punch knockout in the world that will finish King Hippo, but a combination of patience and slick defense will allow the feather-fisted Little Mac to deplete King Hippo’s power by punching him in the stomach and watching his trunks drop. When he finally falls, he’s finished, crossed eyed and all.
Great Tiger – Ranked #1
From: Bombay, India
Record: 24-5, 3 KOs
A fighter from India with super powers, the guy had a blinking ruby in his turban that would somehow let him teleport around the ring in circles. A series of well-timed blocks by Little Mac and Great Tiger turns in to a dizzy mess, waiting to be knocked out.
Bald Bull – Champion
From: Istanbul, Turkey
Record: 34-4, 29 KOs
Bald Bull is a scary guy that you must face twice to get to Mike Tyson. He’s usually the opponent that players struggle with at the beginning of the journey. His famous “Bull Charge” is super illegal, but he doesn’t care. His offensive attack is replete with quick spinning jabs and uppercuts, but a stomach punch during the charge will do him in. Landing it, though, –well, that’s a different story!
Soda Popinski – Ranked #4
From: Moscow, USSR
Record: 33-2, 24 KOs
Soda Popinski looks like a giant bottle of pink Faygo. He claims to get Little Mac “Punch Drunk” between rounds, and fires uppercuts with speed and power that’s almost unmatched by anyone in the game. He’s a legend. In “Super Punch-Out,” a version released two years after “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out,” he’s back as Vodka Drunkenski. Classic.
Mr. Sandman – Ranked #1
From: Philadelphia, PA
Record: 27-2, 21 KOs
Mr. Sandman comes at Little Mac with a lightning-quick jab and even faster set of left and right uppercuts. His defense is on point, and he makes you pay if you miss. Every movement he makes comes before you realize it. He’s the perfect stumbling point in the game for many players, and there’s good reason for it.
Super Macho Man – Champion
From: Hollywood, California
Record: 35-0, 29 KOs
Super Macho Man is most known for his flamboyant breasts, arrogance, and devastating “Macho Spin-Punch.” He sort of looks like an older version of Soda Popinski, minus the complexion. He’s listed at 27 years old, so either genetics were not kind to him, or he was completely full of crap. All that aside, this guy was indeed a super challenge. He was undefeated for a reason, and the perfect gatekeeper to Mike Tyson.
Mike Tyson – Champion
From: Catskill, NY
Record: 31-0, 27 KOs
“Iron” Mike Tyson as an endorsement for this game was perfect, because he could literally punch you out in real life at any time with a single shot. Beating Tyson was impossible. You couldn’t block his shots without taking a serious hit to your stamina level, and then you had about .02 seconds to land something before getting knocked out. Sure, some kids claimed to have knocked him out the first few times they played the game, but it’s likely that the only way someone beat Mike back at the inception of this game was after plugging in the infamous cheat code at the beginning of the game and practicing until your thumbs fell off.
Mike Tyson may not go down as the greatest heavyweight of all-time, but the current sport of boxing, the heavyweight division especially, would be hard-pressed to find a fighter with as much influence both inside and outside of the ring. Mike Tyson took a simple game and made it great, cult like, amongst Nintendo fans, even.
30-years from now, chances are kids will still be playing “Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!”