By Andrew McInnes
MOST expat residents in Spain are entirely unaware that they have a legend of professional heavyweight boxing living in their midst.
A man who once equalled the fight record of legendary Italian American pugilist Rocky Marciano (49 successive wins), and who went toe-to-toe with both Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, two of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport.
Brian Nielsen was an Olympic gold medallist at super heavyweight for Denmark in the 1992 Barcelona Games before he was elevated to the ranks of the pros where he became the IBF World Heavyweight Champion.
He currently lives in La Cala de Mijas (Malaga) and runs a Golf and Events tourism business in neighbouring Calahonda.
Nielsen, 56, still keeps in touch with some of the biggest names in the sport and was happy to share his memories with the Olive Press when we caught up with him.
The fight that he gets asked about the most was his bruising seven-round battle with American icon ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson, once labelled, with plenty of justification, ‘The Baddest Man on The Planet.
Readers of a certain vintage will recall Tyson’s arrival on the world stage in the 1980s. He made his professional debut at the ridiculously young age of 18 and by the time he hit his 20s, he was already the best in the world.
The brash New Yorker was simply unbeatable in the ring for a number of years. He was the undisputed world champion from 1987 to 1990, winning all of his first 19 professional fights by knockout. His seismic impact on boxing had to be seen to be believed.
He had a ferocious and intimidating style that had plenty of opponents running for cover from the get-go, and professional heavyweight boxing has never been a domain of the meek.
Nielsen fought him in 2001 in Copenhagen and will be regaling fight fans about that encounter for the rest of his life.
He said: “Yeah me and Mike fought for six rounds in Copenhagen and he never put me down, other than illegally.
“He was a very tough opponent but I could always handle it. Mike did spend most of the fight throwing headbutts at me though and he eventually cracked me with one.
“I got an eye injury though and that’s why the fight was stopped. But he never put me down.
“Sure, he was very fast and had a big punch, but it was never enough to knock me on my arse.
“I’m still in touch with Mike and he’ll give me a call every once a while to see how I’m getting on and so we can reminisce about the old days.”
Nielsen also fought Evander Holyfield – who had part of his ear bitten off in a controversial, and highly-lucrative bout against Tyson in 1997- in a comeback bout in 2011. It was the last time both would ever compete professionally.
The burly Dane added: “The best guy I ever fought was Evander Holyfield. He had everything as a boxer, just the complete package, and you knew you’d been in a real battle when you went a few rounds with him. He beat me fair and square.
“A very talented fighter – definitely an all-time great and possibly, for my money, the best heavyweight of all time. The British fighter Lennox Lewis was another from that era who I really admired.
“Evander and I are still friends as well and I’ve met up with him a few times over the years for promotional events and that sort of thing.
“I had 67 professional fights and I won 64 of them, 43 by knockout. I’m very proud of that record.
“As well as my boxing skills I’d say my biggest asset in the ring was my heart. I would be relentless and always keep going until the bell. I never knew when I was beaten.”