The night of September 7th, 1996, will forever live in infamy. It was the night on which Mike Tyson, the “beast of boxing,” won his very last heavyweight title fight, a 1st round knockout of Bruce Seldon that was quickly labeled a “fix.”. It was also the night on which legendary rapper and music icon Tupac Shakur, who attended the fight, engaged in a fight in with rivals at the MGM and was then murdered while driving in his car on the Las Vegas Strip. To Die For Collectibles was in attendance that night in Las Vegas, as well. After 26 years, a chance discovery and dumb luck has produced a world-class, one-of-a-find collectible from that evening. But first, let’s revisit the events of that star-crossed night, a concurrence of events that could only happen in Sin City.
On a warm evening in the desert, WBC heavyweight champion Mike Tyson was scheduled to fight WBA champion Bruce Seldon at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. It was a fight that failed to generate much buzz amidst the glitz and glamor of Vegas, failing to sell out. It was also a fight that few anticipated would ever take place.
After being released from prison, Tyson had won his first three fights by knockout. including a victory over WBC Champion Frank Bruno to claim a share of the heavyweight title. Waiting in the wings was Lennox Lewis, who was guaranteed a fight against the Bruno-Tyson winner as the WBC’s mandatory challenger. Tyson skipped that match by paying Lewis $4 million, opting to fight the lightly regarded WBA Champion, Bruce Seldon. Tyson was wise to skip Lewis at the time, as Lewis would punish and knock out Tyson six years later in Memphis.
The Tyson-Seldon fight was one of the fastest knockouts in heavyweight boxing history. Seldon missed wildly with his powerful left jab, and was felled by a Tyson left hook at 1:12 of the first round. After regaining his feet, Seldon was knocked down by another Tyson left hook. A wobbly Seldon regained his feet, but not his composure or balance, and referee Richard Steele ruled a Technical Knockout at just 1:49 of the first round.
The less-than-capacity crowd almost immediately began chanting “fix,” as Seldon was thought to have taken a dive by those in attendance after less than solid Tyson punches. Ex-champ Seldon, interviewed by Jim Gray in the ring immediately afterward amidst chants of “fix,” feigned innocence, and soon headed into the night millions richer, though no longer a champ.
Rather than a stunning end to a bizarre evening, events in the ring were only the beginning of a tragic evening.
To Die For Collectibles was in attendance that night, finding the event in the ring to be surreal, not captivating.
While walking from the arena into the MGM’s cavernous casino complex, Reverend Al Sharpton approached and began talking to a TDF Collectibles employee as if they were long-lost friends. Before TDF could respond, a large contingent of security guards whisked through the crowd, creating a ruckus and stunning the departing boxing faithful.
Unbeknownst to the crowd, presumably including Rev. Sharpton, the security guards were rushing toward a melee that had been captured on security cameras.
Iconic rapper Tupac Shakur had attended the fight with Marion “Suge” Knight, the head of Death Row Records. On the way out of the fight, one of Knight’s associates, Travon Lane, spotted Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson, from the rival Southside Crips gang in Los Angeles.
Earlier in 1996, Anderson had reportedly attempted to rob Lane at a FootLocker store in L.A. Outside of the fight, Tupac asked Anderson if he was a member of the Southside Crips (in gang parlance, the “South”). As captured on security cameras, Tupac punched Anderson in the face, and Suge Knight’s entourage proceeded to assault Anderson, until the melee was broken up by MGM Grand security.
Tupac then headed to his waiting girlfriend, Kiada Jones, at the nearby Luxor Hotel. After changing, Tupac and Knight headed out in Tupac’s BMW Sedan, reportedly to a local Vegas nightclub.
At approximately 11:00 p.m., Shakur and Knight were stopped by Bike Patrol on Las Vegas Boulevard, the Las Vegas Strip, for not having license plates and playing their car stereo too loudly. The license plates for the car were found in the trunk of Shakur’s BMW, so the entourage, consisting of as many as nine cars, including security, was allowed to leave, and Knight (the driver) was not cited.
Minutes later, the multi-car party stopped for a red light at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Koval Lane, in front of the Maxim Hotel. A vehicle pulled up on the left side of Tupac’s new 1996 BMW sedan, triggering a conversation with Tupac through a car window.
At the same time, a white Cadillac pulled up on the right side of the BMW. The Cadillac rolled down a window and rapidly fired a series of gunshots from a Glock 22 pistol. Tupac was hit four times, twice in the chest, including a bullet in his right lung. Suge Knight was hit in the head by bullet fragments. Despite those injuries, Knight drove to the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon, where a Las Vegas Police Bike Patrol assisted and contacted paramedics. The two injured rap icons were taken to University Medical Center.
Knight was released from the hospital the next day.
Tupac was not as fortunate. After emergency surgery, he was placed on life support. Tupac was pronounced dead on the afternoon of Friday, September 13th, due to respiratory failure (from his injured lung). A police officer who witnessed Shakur’s last moments claimed that the rapper refused to identify his assailants, muttering, “F*** you,” to the officer, when queried.
Twenty-six years later, the murder of Tupac remains unsolved, but not for lack of effort to track his killer or killers.
A popular theory held that Christopher Wallace, known as “Biggie Smalls,” or “Notorious B.I.G.,” targeted Suge Knight, the leader of West Coast rap, in a turf battle with the New York-based Wallace. However, multiple witnesses claim that Wallace was recording in New York City the night of Tupac’s murder. Notorious B.I.G. was himself murdered six months after Tupac in another drive-by shooting, which is also unsolved.
Tupac’s entourage, including currently imprisoned Suge Knight and bodyguards who followed the killer’s Cadillac, have remained mostly silent, intensifying the intrigue. Numerous investigative efforts, from USA Network, the Los Angeles Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, and documentary filmmakers have failed to uncover Tupac’s killer.
Many remain convinced that the Southside Crips, the L.A. gang, murdered Tupac in retaliation for the brawl in the MGM Grand. Members of the Crips at the MGM Grand that night have all passed away.
Suge Knight has claimed that he was the target of the attack, in an attempt to unseat him as chief of Death Row Records. That allegation remains unproven.
The crime remains unsolved to this day.
Despite dying at age 25, Tupac has sold more than 75 million records worldwide. He has been cited as a major influence by numerous rappers, including Nas, J. Cole, and Kendrick Lamar. Tupac continues to be revered as a transcendent figure, an iconic founder of modern rap, a man whose imprint on rap music and American culture is eternal.
After the aborted conversation with Al Sharpton, the small group from To Die For Collectibles headed to the cab stand to hail a taxi to the other end of the Las Vegas Strip. The cab stand was overwhelmed and frenzied in the post-fight buzz, and the group set out on foot to make the three-mile journey to Circus Circus at the North end of the Strip.
At the reported time of Tupac’s murder, To Die For employees were less than a half mile in front of Tupac’s entourage.
One member of the TDF group had failed to make the flight to Vegas for the fight, due to a family emergency. That ticket went unused. The large, oversized ticket, imprinted with the MGM logo, was printed on plain paper that was easy to bend, fold, step on, spill on, or even lose altogether. Yet, it survived the raucous crowd at the fight and made the trip home to Denver two days later, where it sat, unnoticed and unattended, for more than 25 years. It was simply stored in an MGM Grand envelope provided at the will-call window of the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The ticket was discovered in TDF Collectibles’ archives late in 2021, but was cast aside because of the first-round Tyson knockout, considered a relatively unimportant event in the great Mike Tyson’s storied career. It was scheduled to be placed back in storage until To Die For Collectibles’ President conducted an online search and sourced the ticket to the night of Tupac’s murder. That online search also indicated that the ticket was exceedingly rare; only four complete, unused tickets from this seminal event had ever been graded by PSA. Two were graded “1,” the lowest possible rating, and the highest grade was a “6,” according to the PSA Registry.
Two months later, the ticket was sent back to TDF Collectibles after grading by PSA, encased in a custom holder with PSA authentication labeling, and registered in the PSA database. Amazingly, despite the threat of loss, soda spills, footprints, bending, worn corners, smudged ink, heat damage, or other wear, the To Die For Collectibles ticket graded a “9” on PSA’s 10-point grading scale – a Mint ticket. It is the highest rated ticket for this event ever graded by PSA, by a wide margin, a “Mint 9.”
This unique, one-of-a-kind, complete ticket, in Mint condition, is now available at To Die For Collectibles. The ticket is a cultural artifact and lasting tribute to the storied life and death of the iconic Tupac Shakur. It is the only known Mint, unused ticket from the last heavyweight title fight victory for Mike Tyson, one of the greatest boxers in history. It harkens back to a very improbable, unforgettable - and tragic - night on the Las Vegas Strip, one that will live forever in the annals of history.