Mike Tyson didn’t know what to think when Glenn McCrory turned up at the gym in Atlantic City.
A mix-up on his flight from Newcastle to America saw the Brit arrive before his luggage and he had to improvise on clothing before stepping into the ring with the heavyweight champion of the world.
“I had my head guard but no clothes,” McCrory told Tris Dixon on his Boxing Life Stories podcast.
“My dad had given me £20, so I thought I’d better go and get some kit as I couldn’t tell [Tyson] I can’t spar and I was getting $ 200 at the end of the week.
“So I went to the Army and Navy store and all I could get was a pair of white plimsolls, white shorts and a string vest.
“And that’s how I turned up to spar with the meanest man on the planet. He was speechless and I could tell he was thinking ‘what have they brought me.’”
It was 1987 and McCrory was the British Commonwealth champion when James ‘Quick’ Tillis phoned to see if he wanted work as a sparring partner for Tyson, who was training for the Tyrell Biggs fight at Trump Plaza.
Both men were in their early 20s and McCrory recalled a polite Tyson, who was very welcoming and hospitable when he turned up – except when they climbed through the ropes.
“He was lethal and knocking people out every day. I never even got the pleasure of knowing their names before they were booted out.”
Tyson’s reputation in the ring preceded him and he often had men beat before they even touched gloves, but McCrory explained there were ways to get through the gruelling sessions.
“I did okay, though, and you can see it on YouTube,” he said.
“The key was ‘never let him get set, which is what a puncher has to do, so I hit him and moved away, which Tyrell Biggs had done in their amateur encounter.
“It was amazing to be part of that camp, though it was very, very tough.”
So what was socialising like with Tyson, a man known for his love of partying, causal sex and booze?
“It sounds bizarre, but he just wanted to go and play Space Invaders,” McCrory explained. “He was very childlike – until he got in the ring.”
His work in Atlantic City did wonders for McCrory’s career and he even made the sports pages for giving the champ a black eye.
“The best publicity I got was a double page in the New York post” he recalled. “My jab had given Tyson a black eye so he had to take a couple of days off.
“That got me noticed by [promoter] Cedric Kushner and sparring with Tyson gave me the confidence in my ability because I’d lost faith in myself.
“I thought ‘If I can do that with Tyson there’s not a cruiserweight in the world I can’t handle.”
McCrory defended his Commonwealth belt against Tee Jay in 1988 and later become the IBF cruiserweight world champion when he beat Patrick Lumumba a year later – while still on the dole.
Tyson, meanwhile, is back to his terrifying best as he prepares to fight Roy Jones Jr.
The 54-year-old has been training for the so-called exhibition and has wowed observers with his physique.
Tyson claims to be in the best shape of his life, resembling an 18-year-old version of himself.
“The last time I was this weight was 17 or 18 years old.
“I’m really happy with everything I’ve been doing, it’s down to confidence and self affirmation.
“It’s amazing, I’m just ready to do this. I can’t explain it in words.
“I’m going to go as long as this is working. My legend is going to be that I gave a lot more than I took.”