The incredible story of Walter Masseroni, the Argentine boxer who returned from death to challenge Mike Tyson

This is not the typical challenge from one boxer to another. It is not a dream, like that of many, of being able to face the best in your discipline. This is a story of life, of overcoming, full of obstacles, many of them unjust, that did nothing more than test a person's perseverance, pride and self-esteem.

Walter Masseroni is a former Argentine boxing champion who has pursued the dream of facing Mike Tyson above a ring throughout his life. They were contemporaries and the Beccar-born had concrete opportunities to do so, three clear opportunities that, due to non-sporting reasons, were not finally achieved. After the retirement of both, everything was finished, but it was intended to return Iron mike. Then, after more than 30 years, that flame that seemed to have gone out suddenly gained strength and nothing seems to be going out.

"Everything comes at some point and I feel comforted. I always had faith and God is giving me the opportunity. I am convinced that it will happen," says Walter with blind confidence. Although he did not speak directly to Tyson's environment, he knows that "he is aware of everything that is happening."

Emanuel, one of his sons and who is very present in this move, warns: “Mike threw back all the possible rivals and I can assure you that none of them has a back story like my old man. The others are consecrated, there is no meaning behind. Here there is a cinematographic story, worth telling ”.

ITS ORIGINS AND THE LEGENDARY FIGHT BETWEEN ALI AND BONAVENA WHO SWEARED TO COME

Walter Masseroni was born on September 28, 1963. He was the son of a woman of Spanish origin, Zulema Sosa, and of a father of Italian descent, born in Santa Fe, Armando Masseroni. "I grew up in a very humble place, with hard-working people," says the former Argentine, South American, international, Latino and Hispanic world heavyweight champion, who became Amilcar Brusa himself a coach and who forged a great friendship with one of the best light weight of all time, the Panamanian Manos de Piedra Durán.

His passion for the world of fists was born at the age of seven, after the legendary fight between Ringo Bonavena and Muhammad Ali. "When I grow up, I'm going to be a boxer, to avenge him on Ali," was the promise to his father, and also to Ringo, in front of a television that projected in black and white the sad outcome of the Argentine.

This strong man lived a difficult childhood, but from the first moment he showed qualities in boxing. Courage, impudence, good looks; some of them. After an arduous and precarious training, his amateur debut was at age 15 and the triumphs fell like his rivals. He lost only three. It didn't matter if there were fighters older than him in front of him and he was already considered a value in the 80s, where he signed 63 official fights, many of them branded by the newspapers of the time as "violent butchers". Many seriously believed that Argentina's first heavyweight world champion was being forged.

THE ACCIDENT THAT KILLED HIM FOR "10 MINUTES" AND REMOVED HIM FROM BOXING

But tragedy knocked on his door and, after a motorcycle accident, his other passion, he lost his life for ten minutes. He woke up on the way to the morgue, to the amazement of the firefighters who had found him minutes before on the street without vital signs. “I was one of the candidates for the 1984 Olympics. I'm going for a ride on the bike and I had a serious accident in the mouth, I broke all my teeth. The doctor checked me and I had no pulse. I was dead ten minutes. "

Walter, who was just 19 at the time, details what he felt during that time and gives a shocking revelation: “I felt I was going through a tunnel and I saw a light that dazzled me. It was May 26 and the next day my mom was going to be her birthday. I asked God not to take me, I wanted to see my mom again. Later, talking to her, she tells me that at the same moment, at home, she said: 'my son was killed, my son was killed!' The firefighters were about to enter the morgue and when they uncover me they touch me again the pulse, they say: 'It began to beat back, for it is alive, it is not dead!' ”.

After 20 days hospitalized, Walter came out with 9 fewer teeth and serious injuries. “After a few days, without teeth, I went running. I wanted to train again ”, he has his pride intact. His dream was still latent, but his physique did not allow it. This accident was a before and after in his life. Panic attacks, anxiety attacks appeared and logical psychological problems were added by the tremendous trauma he had suffered, at only 19 years old. The emotional blow had been just as hard as the physical, so he left sports practice for two years.

THE RISE AND THE NEW DREAM CALLED MIKE TYSON

His debut in professionalism occurred in a particular way. He had been out of boxing for two years and a seven-day call came in for a fight at the legendary Luna Park. Training, little and nothing. He did not mind and quickly dropped six kilos to give the weight. His rival was Miguel Mosna, in an evening with Luero and Abeldaño as renowned boxers in the background. He held as he should, even with his broken right hand from the second round. He lost on the cards by one point and went back into the shadows. Another two years of inactivity, with boxing that still did not show him the best face.

Until he achieved the Argentine heavyweight title against "Maguila" Rodríguez, a dangerous opponent and who started as the top favorite. He prepared himself very hard to snatch the title from the champion of the moment and be able to achieve the belt that Oscar Bonavena arrived, his great boy's mirror. Ear-level forehand for an unforgettable KO. That April 22, 1988 was forever stored in his memory and in the more than 3,500 people inside, and another 1,500 outside, of the Beccar Social Club. Finally boxing gave him back the glory he was looking for so much and he didn't stop looking for despite the serious accident.

But these new pathologies did not prevent him from returning and being able to be a professional. In a short time he became the Argentine heavyweight champion and he even had the great possibility of fighting with George Foreman, which was not given for an unusual event (See aside). However, in this new stage he no longer cared about any title or belt. His new dream had a first and last name: Mike Tyson. This healthy dream in Walter is born from seeing the spectacular and the great performance above the American ring. Inside, and from what the coaches of the time told him, Masseroni felt that he had a style similar to that of Iron mike.

The three fights that were not

He tried three times to fight the former heavyweight champion of the world and although once he was very close, he was finally unsuccessful. The first attempt was in 1990, when Mike Tyson was managed by Don King. The American newspaper New York Times even referred to this possible crossing, which did not materialize due to an alleged denial by the TV channel that it had the rights to combat. From that moment, Walter did not stop pursuing his dream of fighting with him. He continued fighting and achieved several more titles.

Eight years later he made the attempt again and there was even direct communication with Mike's then-manager Sheldon Finkel. Despite the fact that he managed to have the "letter of intent", the combat did not come to fruition either for not gathering the necessary guarantees. The last time Masseroni sought to fight Tyson was in 2001. He personally traveled to Miami, United States, with the help of Lana Keeton, a promoter there, again obtained a letter of intent from his manager. This time he did raise the money, but the obstacle was another: Lennox Lewis, Tyson's immediate rival, was the top priority at the time. Another hard setback.

THE PHOTO WITH TYSON, A SYMBOL OF PERSEVERANCE AND FIGHT

They were very hard and distressing obstacles. But he had his best award in 2004 when Mike Tyson visited Argentina to be part of Diego Maradona's program, La Noche del Diez. In the studios of Channel 13, in one of the dressing rooms, at 42 years old, Walter was able to meet his idol, the athlete who returned all the energy lost in his hard accident. The one that gave meaning to the struggle and perseverance. To the one who gave back his will to live. They take a photo of themselves and they even talked about being able to carry out the combat. Mike replied that there were no problems, that he arranged with the promoters, but the fight never happened because Tyson retired from boxing that same year. A new and hard setback. Only the portrait remained, a caress to the soul.

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In 2011 Tyson returned to the country to be part of the Marcelo Tinelli program, Showmatch. There was no way to find the American in the Ideas Del Sur studios, but he was able to send Mike, through his custodians, a letter about his dream. She never knew if it was ever read by legend, but she felt the gesture had been worth it.

At the same time, at 47, Masseroni was still fighting. After two retreats caused in large part by the problems caused by the accident, and which have accompanied him in his daily struggle since then, Walter had a tremendous self-improvement and returned to the ring at 50 and 52 years old. He was the oldest Argentine boxer to obtain his license, after the sanction for his scandalous fight with the Mole Moli (see aside). The goal never changed for Walter, not even when they branded him crazy or mocked his longing.

When his dream seemed buried, Mike Tyson announced his return to the ring. It no longer matters if it is officially, in an exhibition, gym or in whatever terms. More than three decades later, the world seems to conspire so that this time Masseroni does have his long-awaited fight against the American. "I feel like a 20 year old kid. I'm like when I wanted to fight him when I was young. I don't realize how old I am. One can have a physique of 60, but have a mind of 20. So am I. It would be the highlight of my career and I am convinced that it will happen. Mike is also a person who also had a very difficult time ”, he affirms in the middle of this dream that woke him up again at the age of 56.

The unusual reason that caused the cancellation of his fight with George Foreman

In the shadow of the obsession called Tyson was formed that of another boxer who was surprising at the time and who was three years younger than Mike: George Foreman.

Walter Masseroni's name was already among the heavyweight boxing world. Ranked in the 26th place of the WBC and later in the 12th of the WBA, after his fight with the Brazilian Santos, he achieved an important points victory in Uruguay against Mauricio Villegas, who had achieved good international appearances and was considered one of the the most important Mexican heavyweights in his country, directed by Don Nacho Beristain. Her name circulated strongly among the main promoters. Buenos Aires Boxing, which represented him, gets a contract with the company Fight Corp Limited, to fight nothing more and nothing less than with George Foreman, the multiple heavyweight champion, that of the great battles with Ali, one of the most important in recent years worldwide. The fight would take place in 1989 in Las Vegas. For Walter it was the great chance to achieve his long-awaited crossing with Tyson.

However, something unusual happened. Masseroni was training in the United States for this fight with his friend Trevor Berbick, former rival of Mike Tyson and remembered for having been the last boxer to face Muhammad Ali, whom he defeated in 10 rounds by unanimous decision in December 1981. He was such the friendship that united them that they did not ask for sparring and they trained together. In one of the sessions, bloody like few others, Walter knocked him out with 18-ounce gloves. “It was two weeks before the fight with Foreman and we were training with my friend, who with all his will attacked me in English to bring out the best in me. I transformed and left KO ”, regretted Masseroni, since he had the misfortune that the representatives of Foreman were just present, without him knowing it.

Seeing the potential of the Argentine, the fight was postponed until it ended up being canceled (his replacement was Gerry Cooney). Those who managed Foreman argued, "off the record," that Walter "could lose, how could he win." For a time there was talk that the fight was going to take place in the Bahamas and even Curaçao, and even the English promoter, Frank Warren, launched the flyer based at the London Arena, for September 26, 1989, but it never materialized . Walter Masseroni was 25 years old and he entered another very big depression because of all this he lived through. However, once again his willpower allowed him to get ahead and then accept the challenge to fight again with “Maguila” Rodríguez, another renowned ex-boxer and Brazilian champion. Without training, Walter held out until the tenth round and lost through disqualification.

The studios of his rocky hit in Los Angeles, United States

In his heyday, Walter Masseroni was a subject of study and observation for various professionals in sports medicine. Many of them, seeing him train, were surprised by his skills. So much so that he was summoned by the psychiatrist and physical trainer Bill Leich, to study his privileged genetics. The surprise was complete. In the United States, they took measurements on their punch and observed that it kept one of the highest records in the world. "They couldn't believe I had that punch and I wasn't taking anything. Just mate. They gave me a scholarship in Los ängeles, I knew a lot of important people and they made me study of the punch like Rocky did in the fight with the Russian. They said it had been the strongest hit, The studies lasted 48 hours. As I was just drinking mate, the one who studied me did the test and took mate for five days to find out what I had, ”he joked, proud.

The scandalous combat with the Mole Moli and the strong sanction

The Cordovan was coming at his best, although Walter trained as never before at 38 years old. He was looking to hit the bump at the end of his career. However, the opposite occurred. A month before the fight, 15 blocks from his home, the Fiat Palio that a friend was driving collides and suffers fifteen points in the left eye. This prevented him from training normally and he went to combat without the preparation he intended. After an even first round, Moli suffered a cut in his eye and then came the Cordovan kicking scandal and the subsequent reaction of Masseroni. A true pitched battle, with thousands of Cordovan people wanting to face the Buenosairean. They pissed the fernet glasses and threw them into the ring. The fight ended without decision, the referee was Raúl Ilvento, he did not dare to disqualify in the face of extreme pressure from the Cordoba. La Mole then lost all his titles and it was also a before and after for him.

“I prefer not to talk about him, who thanks to me was someone. When you face a boxer really better than you, I must admit it. I don't want to criticize him as a person, but boxers are not like that. Above the ring we are wild, but below we are good people. Some do not know that. I repeat, I prefer not to be aggressive, "he concluded.

The important role of his son Emanuel: the official flyer of the Tyson-Holyfield fight

The enthusiasm Walter aroused is so great that his son managed to have the fight announced by Meris Avdolli, the same designer who devised the promotional image for the third fight between Tyson and Holyfield. The date chosen on this occasion, although not confirmed, is October 17 in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.

“My old man was aiming to be world champion. It is my dad's dream, but it affects us all. Years ago we have been fighting and now we have the desired visibility, ”said Emanuel, who told how crazy he was to get the“ original ”Tyson-Masseroni flyer. "I started breaking the balls and found him (Meris Avdolli) on Instagram. He wanted to charge me and I told him to give me a hand, that if I made my design I would travel the world. I passed him the story of my old man in English and his head exploded. He replied: "I am going to do it in honor of your old man." It is a story of improvement and may be at the end of the year. We will go to the last consequences, "he stressed.

“My old man was not beaten, he is healthy for a lifetime and I notice that every day he improves more. He has been training for almost a month and has a very fast pace. He is super motivated. This dream identifies many people because it invites never to give up. It's an example. I think it will be achieved, everything is happening. It is history for a very strong film. A story of humility, perseverance and improvement that transcends normal limits ”, he closed.

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