We recently had the opportunity to interview SC2 Employee Owner and Former Professional Heavyweight boxer, William Hosea about his boxing career, including fighting Mike Tyson. On first impression, Hosea seems to be an intimidating character at 6’1” with broad shoulders, but has a soft-spoken, calming demeanor. As he sits down, he starts quietly reciting his colorful life’s story:
Originally from Bloomington, IL, Hosea’s first exposure to boxing was on the streets of New York, where, as a teen, he moved to be with his father. Soon they moved out to New Jersey, where boxing was a really up and coming sport. In 1976, when he moved back to Bloomington, he began his formal education in boxing with Jack Wooding Hill. Between 1976 and 1980, he quickly moved up through the amateur leagues in the IL area, fighting mainly around Danville, Peoria, and Chicago. Hosea went on to receive training in Chicago with Jim Strickland, alongside the Pontiac Prison Boxing Team.
In 1978, Hosea fought friend and rival, heavyweight Greg Page for the National Golden Gloves Championship title, but lost. In 1980, Hosea went pro and Hosea had hopes to make the Olympic boxing team. However, while the US still held try-outs for the Olympics, they boycotted sending athletes to Russia, due to tense political ties at the time. Hosea made his way to the Semi-Finals before his Olympic dreams were dashed by Tyrell Biggs.
One of the biggest highlights of his career, during a 1981 trip accompanying Greg Page to the Bahamas, he had the opportunity to meet the greatest boxer of all time: Muhammed Ali. Holed up in Ali’s locker room, before his last boxing match with Trevor Berbick, Hosea was actually able to shake his hand, speak a few words to him, and watch his fight.
Then, in 1986, a phone call about a match-up came in to Hosea’s camp from the manager of an ambitious kid from Brooklyn. This “kid” was none other than Mike Tyson. Hosea found himself nervous. His stats, at this point, were fantastic, with 17 wins (12 knockouts) and 3 losses overall. While Mike Tyson was hyped-up, with 21 wins and 0 losses, Hosea felt he had the skill and the strength to beat him, so in June of 1986, 34 year-old Hosea jumped at the opportunity to fight a cocky 19 year-old Tyson at the Houston Field House in Troy, NY.
The match was televised and can still be found on YouTube. At the start of the fight, Mike Tyson saunters out into the ring in black, with Hosea in blue, and they get their formalities out of the way. The bell rings and Hosea and Tyson seem to be evenly matched, with attacks coming equally from both opponents. Then, if you watch Hosea’s feet at the beginning of the match, you notice him start to slip all over the mat. Hosea admitted that he wore a brand new pair of boxing shoes, because they matched his trunks and he wanted to look professional, instead of his older worn of shoes that he had been training in. At one point during the fight, he loses his footing in the corner. After this slip, his fighting style is noticeably more guarded, but he’s still throwing punches and making contact with Tyson. Then, Tyson gets a few good punches and knocks Hosea to the floor for a split second. Hosea starts to get up right away, but stays on one knee. Hosea mentioned he did this because he wanted to try to run down the clock so he could make it to the next round and hopefully improve the traction of his shoes with some tape. Hosea jumps up after a few seconds, ready to throw some more punches, but much to everyone’s surprise and to the outrage of the audience, the ref calls the end of the match. To the sound of angry boos from a crowd of about 1,200… Tyson had won by TKO (Technical Knock Out.)
“I had bad shoes, and I was slipping all over the canvas. I went down and was waiting to get up, and then the ref had to stop counting to send Tyson to a neutral corner. I misjudged the timing of it, and when he got to 10, I wasn’t up yet. I just wanted to get through that first round and get my shoes taped up. For all of my fights, I got nervous just because of the unexpected. You can get hurt. Anything can happen. But I wasn’t really thinking about Tyson as a heavy hitter. I just knew he could fight, and I had been training hard because of that. The thought of beating him was great. It definitely would have changed my life.”
– William Hosea in an interview with ESPN.com in 2005.
Hosea had just fought the biggest match of his career and lost in two minutes. Was it because the referee had been mistaken? Did Hosea honestly misjudge how long he had been down? We’ll never know. Hosea believes that he wouldn’t have lost if he had been allowed to keep fighting, Tyson actually wasn’t the hardest hitter Hosea had ever fought. That distinction goes to Hosea’s Golden Glove Match opponent, Greg Page.
After the fight, Hosea turned down a job from Tyson to stay in New York to work in Tyson’s training camp. His wife and kids were back in Bloomington, IL, so at his age it didn’t make sense to pick up and move his whole family. Hosea went on to fight a couple of more fights in Illinois. His last fight before his retirement from boxing, was a loss against Lyle McDowell at the Peoria Civic Center in 1992. Hosea finished his career with 38 wins (35 knockouts) and 6 losses.
In 2010, Hosea came to work for SC2 in our Service Parts packaging, where he still works and by all accounts, is model employee owner and one of the nicest, most genuine people you could ever meet. In his spare time, he volunteers for a community center, driving teens to tutoring and group programs. Hosea states that he’s glad he got into boxing because it gave him a purpose and directed him down a positive and fulfilling path. He enjoyed feeling like a celebrity, with children running up to him for autographs, but he also doesn’t miss the training he had to go through. He is incredibly grateful for the people he met, the opportunity to travel all over the world, and the overwhelming feeling like he was a positive role model for his community and peers.