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Tony Tucker

Tony Craig Tucker (born December 27, 1958) was a professional heavyweight boxer during the 1980s and 1990s. Nicknamed "TNT" , he won a gold medal at the 1979 Pan American Games, and was briefly a world heavyweight champion as a professional.

In addition to being a heavyweight champion, Tucker was twice the #1 ranked contender and both times the reigning world heavyweight champion was stripped of their title rather than fight him. He was 6'5 and fought best around the 220s, and generally would win fights by knockout.

Amateur career

Tucker had a notable amateur career, winning the 1979 National AAU Light Heavyweight Championship. He also won the 1979 Pan-Ams and World Cup at Light Heavyweight. He also lost a decision to LeRoy Murphy in the finals of the 1977 Ohio State Fair tournament.

Professional career

After turning pro in 1980 Tucker's early fights were regularly screened on NBC as part of a collective known as 'Tomorrow's Champions'.

Tucker's progress in the professional ranks was slow. He was injury prone and he changed several times between managers and trainers. Eventually his father Bob Tucker performed both roles, but was cautious in selecting opponents for his son. After enjoying a high profile upon his professional debut, Tucker spent the majority of the 80s boxing in off-TV bouts. In addition, he injured his knee against Danny Sutton, causing him to miss a little over a year.

In June 1984 he scored his first major win by brutally knocking out the tough Eddie "The Animal" Lopez in 9 rounds on the undercard of the famous Tommy Hearns/Roberto Duran fight. It was the first time Lopez had ever been knocked off his feet. In September 1984 he followed it up by outpointing the slick and once-highly regarded Jimmy Young (boxer) .

In September 1986 Tucker finally landed a big fight, tackling the monstrous 242 lb James "Broad-Axe" Broad for the USBA belt and a world title eliminator. Tucker outboxed Broad and won a one-sided unanimous decision.

Reigning IBF champion (and generally recognized world champion) Michael Spinks elected not to fight Tucker, in favour of a big money fight with white puncher Gerry Cooney. He was stripped of his belt and in April 1987 Tucker stopped James "Buster" Douglas in 10 rounds for the vacant title. (Douglas would later knockout Mike Tyson).

As part of HBO's unification series, Tucker was obliged to face WBC and WBA heavyweight champion Mike Tyson immediately in the tournament final. 64 days after winning his title, in August 1987 Tucker was closely outpointed by Tyson and lost his belt. In the first round Tucker lifted Tyson clean off his feet with an uppercut, and was able to land hard shots until he broke his right hand in the 4th round, and boxed the rest of the bout without it. Tucker earned the dubious distinction of claiming the shortest reign of any heavyweight champion in history - 2 months and 2 days.

After the Tyson fight, Tucker dwindled his finances down to just $8,000. He blamed part of his situation to the anger he felt towards his payment on the Tyson fight. He claimed to have only received $250,000 out of a $1.2 million guarantee from promoter Don King. His father had allowed so many different parties to pour money into the young Tucker's career that his Tyson payday was mostly swallowed up by others, leaving him dejected and bitter. He became overweight and addicted to cocaine.

Comeback

Tucker returned to boxing in 1990 and by 1992 was back in Don King's stable. He won the NABF belt with a close, debatable split decision over the highly ranked Orlin Norris and successfully defended it against future world champion Oliver McCall, winning another 12 round decision. He finished 1992 with an 6th round TKO of Frankie Swindell and set himself up for another world title shot.

By 1993 Tucker had run his record up to 49-1 and in May of that year he challenged Lennox Lewis for the WBC world heavyweight title. He gave Lewis a good argument despite being 34 years old and floored twice by Lewis's power punching. Ultimately he was outpointed over 12 rounds, but retained his high ranking.

In 1995 George Foreman refused to defend his WBA world heavyweight title against Tucker, choosing to fight the obscure German Axel Schulz. Tucker and Bruce Seldon fought for the vacant WBA belt in April 1995, and after a lively scrap, Seldon recovered from some desperate rounds to swell the 36 year old Tuckers eye shut with his famed jab. After 7 rounds the ringside doctor decided to stop the contest in Seldons favour due to the eye damage, despite Tucker's outrage.

Tucker lost his shot at a rematch when later that year he got outpointed by newly signed Don King heavyweight, British/Nigerian giant Henry Akinwande, who boxed a long range fight and grabbed repeatedly in order to last with Tucker.

In 1996 he was outpointed by old rival Orlin Norris. He scored two low-key wins in California and in 1997 travelled to the UK to challenge Herbie Hide for the vacant (and less prominent) WBO world title.

Tucker looked out of shape and all of his 38 years as the hard hitting Hide decked him three times in the 2nd round, prompting a stoppage.

In 1998 Tucker challenged John Ruiz for his old NABF belt. Despite a big 6th round where he had Ruiz in trouble, Tucker was eventually stopped in the 11th.

He came back in May to blow out the huge club fighter Billy Wright in 1 round, but later had his licence revoked due to eye damage.

Today he trains Tough Man fighters, and has enjoyed small roles in film. He is part of the Dunedin Boxing Club in Dunedin, Florida.

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