Mike Tyson's Punch Out!! (or Punch Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream...more on that later...) has stood the test of time since its 1987 release on the NES for a number of reasons. Its cartoony graphic look, the still-innovative gameplay which combined fighting games (still a very new concept in ‘87) with adventure aspects that took you through fighter after fighter and of course, one of the most famously difficult games to defeat in video game history. Yet, one thing I love about the game is just how interesting each of the characters are and how the game’s story represents that of an actual young underdog boxer rising to fame the story of the game. While some have complained over the game's stereotypes (the "drunk" Russian, the narrow-eyed Japanese man) and the story may be a little too Rocky-esque for a film, it's definitely a story worth telling filled with characters worth knowing about.

First there's the character you play as: Little Mac. A 17 year old rookie fighter from the Bronx who is vastly undersized (107 pounds and very, VERY short) to be a prize fighter, but definitely has the heart of a champion. He works with Doc Louis, a portly black trainer who is seen between rounds giving Mac advice and training Mac between circuits by pacing him on his bicycle as he runs behind him in New York City. These two have teamed up to try to complete an impossible dream, win the World Video Boxing Association title for a shrimpy 17 year old kid.

"Make it quick... I want to retire!"

The first fight Mac can get is against a French never was named Glass Joe. Probably named this way for his "glass jaw" that's so easy to hit. At 38 years old, he'd be past his prime for a great fighter, but he never had a prime, compiling a career record of 1 win, 99 losses. This first fight is a common type of fight in boxing, pitting a washed-up old man against a rookie fighter to see if the old man can still fight and if the rookie has a future in him at all.

"I was a boxing teacher...at the military academy!"

After Mac beats Glass Joe, he takes on the 42-year-old German boxer Von Kaiser. He's old, but unlike Joe, he once did have a semi-successful career and still has a respectable record in the ring (23-13 with ten knockouts). And while Joe only had 3 pounds on Mac, Kaiser outweighs him by 44 pounds.

"Sushi, kamikaze, fujiyama, nipponichi..."

Once Mac has taken down Kaiser, he gets his first real challenge as a pro. The reigning Minor Circuit Champion Piston Honda. At 28 years old, Honda is in his prime. He towers over Mac, outweighs him by 64 pounds and has an intimidating record thus far (28-1, 18 knockouts). Hailing from Tokyo, Japan, he provided one of the game's classic quotes: "I'll give you a TKO from Tokyo!"

"Hey! Mr. Referee Mario I like your hair!"

After taking the Minor Circuit title, Mac has to face Don Flamenco in the first fight of the Major Circuit. Flamenco is a young (23) flashy Spaniard, who takes the ring in the second round dancing with a rose in his mouth and ends his dance with an intimidating uppercut into the air. His record of 22-3 with 9 knockouts is impressive. But even more impressive is when you rematch with him later in the game, his 4th loss to Little Mac isn't added! What nerve! (Or, what a glitch!).

"I have my weakness. But, I won't tell you! Ha, ha, ha!"

King Hippo is the second fighter to face Mac in the Major Circuit. What exactly is he a king of? Who knows. As a matter of fact, a lot about this Hippo character is a mystery. His age and his weight are never revealed. All that's revealed is that he hails from Hippo Island in the South Pacific, and that all 18 wins in his 18-9 record have come by knockout, making him the only fighter in the WVBA to have all his wins come by knockout (not counting Mr. Dream). During the fight, if Little Mac can't beat him in the first round, he would desperately ask Doc for help to beat King Hippo. Doc's response of "Join the Nintendo Fanclub today!" is still remembered as one of the most shameless bits of product placement in a video game.

"Beware my tiger punch."

Hailing from Bombay, India and sporting a badass turban in the ring, Great Tiger was already well-trained in forms of black magic at the age of 29. Such skills had already lead him to a professional record of 24-5 with three knockout wins.

"My barber didn't know when to quit, do you?"

The reigning Major Circuit Champion Bald Bull towers over Little Mac. The 298-pound fighter from Istanbul is still fighting in his mid-30s, and doing a damn fine job. With his 34-4 and stunning 29 knockouts, he had rightfully earned his title. Doc comes through for Mac the biggest during this fight, when he tells him to stand-up to his intimidating Bull Charge.

"I can't drive, so I'm gonna walk all over you."

After a rematch with an improved Piston Honda to open the World Circuit, Mac fights this interesting character. Hailing from Moscow, U.S.S.R (ah, the 80s...), Soda Popinski, a drunk Russian who packed a wicked jab behind his drunken stupor. It's worth noting that his name was Vodka Drunkenski in the very-different 1984 arcade version that preceded this game...so that isn't "soda" he's drinking there. He had used his strange, dance-like steps in the ring and his...um...pink skin, to his advantage. Compiling a 33-2 record with 24 knockouts and like Bald Bull, was still kicking around at age 35. This fight was followed by yet another rematch, with the once-terrible-now-incredible Don Flamenco.

"Bedtime for Little Mac!"

From off the rough streets of Philadelphia came Mr. Sandman. At 31, he'd amassed a 27-2 record with 21 knockouts and took his nickname from his ability to make fighters "go to sleep" in the ring.

"My super spin punch is totally tough!"

One had to wonder what exactly the story with the reigning World Circuit Champion Super Macho Man was. He was listed as a 27 year old from Hollywood, California...yet his photograph showed him with long gray hair and looking old and grizzled. Yet immediately upon entering the ring, he had long BLACK hair and looked much more youthful. Conspiracy? Botox? Who knows! At 35-0 with 29 knockouts, he's the first undefeated fighter Mac encounters in his adventure. His Super Spin Punch was imitated during many playground fights in the late 80s/early 90s and to this day his bouncing large chest muscles, that can be aptly described as "muscular breasts," still amuse gamers worldwide. If he defeated Mac, he would have the nerve to walk up to Mac lying on the floor and howl a deep long laugh. Yet in this story, Mac has the last laugh...as the newspaper headlines read...

KO NEWS - April 7th, 1987
A NEW CHAMP! "Last night we found a small but great champ, his name is Little Mac."

While Mac had three trophies lining his shelf, he still had to take on one last fighter...and this is where things get tricky.

"They say I can't lose. I say you can't win!"

Yep. It's Mike Tyson. And not that Tyson we know today, who quits in the 7th round against Kevin McBride, this is 1987 Tyson. 31 wins! No losses! 27 knockouts! Straight out of Catskill, New York, the 21 year old Kid Dynamite himself! The man who was the youngest world heavyweight champion in history (a record he still holds). Gamers agree, he's one of the hardest bosses in all video game history. If he lands one blow you hit the mat hard. If you manage to beat him, he congratulates you with his statement: "Great fighting!! You were tough, Mac!" And then, to break the fourth wall, Tyson lets you know he's "Never seen such finger speed before."

And then, the game, and Mac's journey ends. But that isn't QUITE the ending...

"Everyone knows you're a transvestite and you love me. I'm gonna make you my girlfriend. I can't wait to get my hands on a pretty thing like you" -The REAL Tyson to Donovan Ruddock before a 1991 fight

In the early-90s, as Tyson's real life took a downhill slide. The end of a messy marriage to Robin Givens, being arrested for raping Miss Black Rhode Island Desiree Washington and various tangents in the ring such as the one listed above. Thus when Nintendo's license with Mike Tyson expired, they decided it was a wise PR move to replace him with a tamer, fictional character. His replacement, Mr. Dream was a white guy who faught exactly like him and the game became Punch Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream. Hailing from "Dreamland," Mr. Dream boasted a 99-0 record, all coming on knockouts. And while this is the only recall of its kind, to this day many Nintendo fans complain that Mr. Dream was a big cop-out by Nintendo. They could've created a better fill-in character, especially when Mr. Sandman had the whole "sleepy/dreamy" thing in the game already. Despite this famous recall, Codemasters has since released boxing games featuring Tyson in 2000 and 2002.

As an amendment to this fine tale: despite the popularity of the character Little Mac, he's never appeared in any other games other than Punch Out!!, the Super Nintendo sequel Super Punch-Out!! and a very well-received cameo in the 2005 GameCube title Fight Night Round 2. This is puzzling, since Nintendo has created the successful fighting series Super Smash Brothers which features various characters from popular Nintendo games. Yet they've somehow never figured that Little Mac, a character famous for being in a fighting game, should be in any of these games. Even more puzzling is why characters who have little reason to be fighting, such as Mr. Game & Watch, Dr. Mario and The Ice Climbers, are in such games and Little Mac isn't.

”Let's keep it clean, now come out boxing!!”