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Mike Tyson, Tupac Shakur and the fight night that ended with a fatal shooting

Dave Hannigan: The boxer and the rapper were friends, right up until Shakur was shot dead. The truth about what happened after Tyson’s fight with Bruce Seldon 27 years ago may soon become known, as a man has been charged with murder

One of three songs Tupac Shakur laid down at Track Studios in North Hollywood on September 6th, 1996, Let’s Get It On (Let’s Get Ready To Rumble) was unleashed upon the world the following night as Mike Tyson’s walkout music for his WBA heavyweight title clash against Bruce Seldon at the MGM Grand. For the fourth fight of an unimpressive comeback following three years in prison for rape, his Las Vegas entrance was soundtracked by his gifted pal hyping him up, spitting out lyrics presuming he might yet recapture the dominant force of his fistic youth.

“All they see is black venom, then my silhouette,

Just watch the fear reappear in they eyes when I hit the set

Oh no, 2Pac wit’ team Tyson, Seldon was seldom seen


Iron Mike cut his head like a guillotine ...”

Shakur sat ringside with Marion “Suge” Knight, founder of Death Row Records, for a fight that went much as his song predicted. Seldon, a glorified journeyman with the mien of an accidental champion, lasted just 1 minute and 49 seconds. No shame in that usually, except this was against a vastly diminished version of the one-time peerless champion. A correspondent for The Ring suggested Tyson’s mere presence was enough to convince Seldon, earning $5m for his trouble, to hit the deck twice, once from a phantom right that grazed his head, then from an almost halfhearted left hook to the body.

“Fix! Fix! Fix!” jeered many of the 9,000 who had paid in, heartily continuing the chant even through Seldon’s post-fight television interview. That taunting background noise told its own story, and a much greater controversy might have ensued about the facile nature of the bout – a classic Don King production – only it came to be overshadowed by subsequent events.

“We hugged and we talked,” said Tyson of Shakur embracing him when he left the ring. “I just had my daughter [Rayna] and I said I’m going to spend some time with my daughter and I’ll come out and see you.”

The pair planned to meet up at Suge Knight’s Club 662 on East Flamingo Road, where the rapper was due to perform later in the evening. Neither of them got there. After the main event, Shakur and his entourage got into a brawl inside the MGM with members of the SouthSide Compton Crips, rivals of Mob Piru, the Bloods-affiliated gang from East Compton that counted Knight among its retinue. Shakur was caught on surveillance camera stomping on the face of a Crip named Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson near the elevators before leaving the casino in a hurry.

Outside, he jumped into a black BMW 750 driven by Knight. He was a passenger in that when it was stopped by cops around 11pm for playing music too loud and for not showing proper licence plates. No ticket was issued and 15 minutes later, at a traffic light on the junction of Flamingo Road and Koval Lane, one block from the Strip, Shakur started chatting to a car full of women who pulled alongside. When they moved on, a white Cadillac came up, and, from inside, somebody fired 14 shots. Shakur was hit four times.

Six days later, his mother, Afeni, the former Black Panther, gave permission for doctors to turn off his life support. Even though the internet had not yet turned half the world into tin foil hat-wearers, his death spawned labyrinthine conspiracy theories. Why wasn’t he being driven by his armed bodyguard? Why didn’t he wear a bulletproof vest that night? Was the FBI involved? Was he a victim of the East Coast-West Coast beef? Was it the work of Knight because he was threatening to leave the label? Is it true The Outlawz smoked his ashes? Was he really dead at all? Did he actually fly out of Vegas that night in a helicopter to go live as a recluse in New Mexico?

All the ludicrous questions may have been answered by Duane “Keffe D” Davis, a suspect from the very start, being charged with murder last week. A passenger in the front seat of the Cadillac on the fateful night, Davis admitted in his memoir, Compton Street Legend, that he supplied the gun used. In that book, he also implied his nephew “Baby Lane” Anderson (killed in a gang shoot-out in 1998) might have been the trigger man. Those revelations were enough to reopen the investigation, to prompt police to search Davis’s house last July and, ultimately, to make their first arrest in the case, 27 years later.

The newly-crowned WBA heavyweight champion went home and fell asleep that night until a friend woke him to break the news Shakur had been hit. The relationship between the pair –,both had Brooklyn in their childhoods, both had been to jail for assaulting women - supposedly stemmed from a night at the Palladium in Los Angeles. The boxer, at the peak of his fame, intervened to help the rapper, still on the way up, gain entry when a truculent bouncer was giving him trouble. In interviews Tyson often claims people ask him more questions about his friendship with Tupac than anything else.

“Aight, this ain’t goin’ last long,” boomed Shakur through the speakers at the MGM that evening, “y’all know how Tyson do it

So what, we gon’ watch him beat this boy silly (hehe)

And then we go all, go party at 66 deuce mob style ...”