Leading up to and especially after Gennady Golovkin’s 19th straight knockout victory, there have been several comparisons drawn to “Iron” Mike Tyson. The comparisons have revolved around Tyson’s own 19-KO streak that came much earlier in his career (fights 1 through 19) and the aura of fear that seemed to enshroud all would-be challengers. But GGG certainly still has a long way before achieving even a semblance of the notoriety Tyson garnered over the course of his career and will likely never get his own video game.
The Nintendo Entertainment System, better know to a generation of gamers as NES, or simply Nintendo, debuted in the United States in 1985. Two years later it launched one of the most memorable combat games ever developed: “Mike Tyson’s Punch- Out!” It was 1987 when gamers first got exposed to Little Mac and his quest for pugilistic glory. Tyson, in real life, was the youngest heavyweight champion ever, and he used the same uppercuts in the video game to knock scarred challengers into unconsciousness.
When thinking back on that game, many gamers, like The Sports Fan Journal’s Editor-in-Chief and myself, first recall how much fun they had playing late into the night and a vague sense of how bad the pixelated graphics were in comparison to the smooth CGI offered by the Playstation 4 and Xbox 360. But if you have a working Nintendo, and can manage to blow off enough dust from the Punch-Out cartridge to actually get it to work, then you’ll see something else about the game: that Punch-Out might be one of the most racist video games ever.
“That’s right. I said it. It had to be said.” I’d say it again. With characters like Soda Popinski (who powers up by downing a bottle of booze) and Great Tiger (an Indian boxer parading around the ring with a Bengal Tiger), Punch-Out exploits every racial stereotype it could pixelate onto the small screen. Such over-the-top depictions of race, although as shocking as when you realize childhood cartoons can be fairly twisted, are more at home in a boxing game than perhaps in any other type of video game because in the end, boxing’s relationship with different races and nationalities has always been theatrical and almost as unifying as it has been decisive. Check out the video for the full breakdown.
A former college wrestler, Taekwondo black-belt, and wannabe boxer, Paul Navarro (aka Fight Like Sugar) is now a full-time lawyer, part-time fight scribe, and high school wrestling coach.