Some fighters are made to work harder for belts than others -- both in the gym and in terms of political maneuvering. And actual records simply didn't mean as much in eras past, though the term "undefeated" has always shined a bit brighter than anything else in that regard. Still, two once-defeated men fighting for a strap wouldn't lead to any over-batted eyelashes even in today's sport. On April 23, 1988, Simon Brown sported a record of 24-1 (18 KO), while Tyrone Trice was 28-1 (23 KO). And this may come as a shock, but there was funky stuff going on in boxing all the way back in 1988, too.
In October of 1987, Lloyd Honeyghan lost control of the IBF welterweight belt when he lost his WBC belt to Jorge Vaca in eight rounds on a cut, despite being only the second ever IBF welterweight titlist. Per WBC rules, Honeyghan was deducted a point for the accidental headbutt that caused the cut, which swung the close decision Vaca's way. The situation with the IBF wasn't immediately clear, however, as numerous publications stated that Vaca had also won the IBF belt, while others remained mum, only mentioning the WBC transfer. But a few days later, it was confirmed that the IBF strap had been declared vacant, as Vaca vs. Honeyghan was a 12 round title bout, and the fight was in London, where the British Boxing Board of Control didn't allow 15 round championship fights, and the IBF didn't allow 12 round championship fights. Chicken vs. egg vs. chicken vs. egg...
Well into 1988, Simon Brown had finalized a significant legal issue between his trainer Jose "Pepe" Correa and promoter Don Elbaum that caused him to sit out for most of 1987, waiting out a contract that had him surrendering huge chunks of his purses. Brown's inactivity nearly drove him to dealing or running drugs for old friends, but he received intervention from Elbaum and new manager, grocer Allan Baboian.
Trice estimates he had somewhere between 300 and 400 amateur fights before hooking up with Detroit-based trainer Emanuel Steward and moving on, though Trice said in a later interview that his subsequent corner was far less experienced in comparison. Similarly, Brown vs. Trice I was referee Steve Smoger's first notable bout. He would say in Mike Fitzgerald's book "Third Man in the Ring" that, "Trice's fighting spirit was a sight to behold."
Held at the Palais des Sports in Berck-sur-Mer, France, the tussle was televised on CBS, apparently to coincide with the network's coverage of the Paris-Roubaix bicycle races.
Simon Brown was rocked by a left uppercut in the 1st round, but rebounded to go roughly even with Trice by the bell, then opened up round 2 with a heated body attack. Immediately after landing a pair of left hooks, Brown was again affected by a left hand, then driven to the canvas by a right -- the first time he'd been downed in his career. A mix of covering up and hatchet swing shots got Brown out of trouble, once up, and with a more solid base under him, the action went back to its bruising pace.
Trice was depending too much on his punching power, however, and plodded as if he had the proverbial "fat lady" on puppet strings, ready to sing on a whim. It wasn't without skill; Tyrone Trice cut off the ring well, pivoted nimbly, jabbed nicely on occasion, and the list goes on. But Simon Brown created distance and snapped shots off on the outside, held on the inside when needed, and built a better foundation to work with in rounds 3 through 6. Both men had moments, but Brown in particular landed crunching body punches and whipping hooks from the outside that helped his cause.
Round 7 appeared to be a major turning point in the battle, with Brown finding a home for his right hand early, and finally stunning Trice with it. Brown then became the bully, landing uppercuts, forearms and whatever he could to make his presence known to the man trying to take his belt. Trice had difficulty landing more than a shot at a time through round 9, and no matter who won in the phone booth, Brown jabbed and hooked to success on the outskirts. Trice was there, and he was still landing when he could, sometimes doing damage, but his pugilistic footprint was fading.
The 10th round saw Trice almost down from right hands, then punching his way out of trouble, then punching his way back into trouble. Said trouble was somewhat negated by Brown losing a point between rounds for punching after the bell, and a better round from Trice. But Trice's somewhat rejuvenated legs were deaded by three knockdowns in the last minute of the 12th, courtesy of one Simon Brown. Hilarity ensued when Brown, thinking he'd won the fight, flopped onto his back in the center of the ring before being told by Steve Smoger that the fight was on when Trice found his feet after the third knockdown.
Prancing and holding his way through round 13, Tyrone Trice somehow kept his feet under him to last into the 14th, where he initiated a last ditch effort to take Brown out early on. But a stiff right hand felled Trice less than halfway into round 14, and somehow he rose to seesaw around the ring under pressure before being rescued.