109 seconds. That’s how long it took for the man, posted up at the passenger seat of an all-black 1996 BMW 750iL as it rode down Las Vegas’ ever-busy Boulevard, to watch Mike Tyson deliver a first-round knockout to opponent Bruce Seldon.
On this late summer’s night, traffic on the Strip was as slow as molasses, but it was particularly slow moving due to the aftermath of Tyson’s first-round technical knockout of Seldon at the MGM Grand. At the time, Tyson, the WBC heavyweight champion, had developed a buzz so big that his fights became somewhat of a cultural phenomenon. It didn’t matter who he faced, every bout produced insurmountable fanfare that split over Hollywood and hip-hop. So on the night of September 7, 1996, as Tyson picked up the World Boxing Association’s heavyweight championship title, there sitting ringside was a proud Tupac Shakur.
Shakur and the champ shared a common bond that started back in 1991. “Magic Johnson had a party at the Palladium in Los Angeles,” Iron Mike recalled in a 2010 interview with MTV News. “It was ’91. I just fought [Donovan ‘Razor’] Ruddock … I believe I came outside. I was talking to the people running the door. They were friends of mine. They wouldn’t let these guys in, Tupac and them. I said, ‘Man, let these guys in.’” As the story goes, Tupac and some 200 pals entered the venue and immediately started performing for the crowd. Keep in mind, this was not a concert. “The whole crowd started going crazy. They loved him. The guys from Digital Underground introduced him to me. They said, ‘This is Tupac.’ I met him, he was very young. He was very happy, vivacious. He just had energy. He was wild, an amazing individual,” Tyson remembered.
Their bond would grow even stronger on the second time they crossed paths — 1995 at the Plainfield Correctional Facility in Plainfield, Indiana. At the time, Tyson was serving his sentence for a rape conviction. During his time spent locked up, he was visited by the rapper. “He came to prison to see me. We spoke. He was so much more confident than when I had met him the other time, probably a year or two prior to that,” the boxer said. “He had gone from being shy guy to very strong-willed and confident and independent. He was tremendously feeling himself. He had so much confidence. He was bursting off the air.”
Both individuals hated to lose and carried a hardcore persona that was bred by their poverty-stricken upbringing and hunger for more. This is where they shared common ground and also the basis of their friendship.
Fast forward to the night of the billed Champion vs. Champion fight: Following Tyson’s victory the plan was to celebrate at an afterparty at Suge Knight’s nightclub, located at 1700 East Flamingo in Las Vegas, called Club 662.
As Shakur walked through the lobby of the MGM Grand, with plans to head back to his hotel room at the Luxor to change his wardrobe, his entourage noticed a familiar face. Days prior, this person was allegedly at the scene of a beatdown that took place ride inside a Foot Locker at the Lakewood Mall. In this incident, a Death Row affiliate had his Death Row medallion, gifted by Knight, snatched. Once everyone in the entourage became aware of the young man, Orlando Anderson, they proceeded towards his way. “You from the South?” asked Tupac, right before a fist slammed into the side of Orlando’s head. Knight, who was also a part of this entourage, then kicked Anderson as he lay on the ground. Within minutes, everyone dispersed into the night.
After a wardrobe change, settling for a basketball tank top and a diamond-studded Euthanasia medallion, Pac proceeded to meet Suge. Sidebar: The name “Euthanasia” was the original title for what would become All Eyez On Me. It was also intended to be the name for his record label, Euthanasia Records. “I fell in love with that word,” he told Vibe in 1996 about the origin behind the name. “I feel like that’s me. I’m gonna die, I just wanna die without pain. I don’t wanna die, but if I gotta go I wanna go without pain.”
The clock struck past 11 p.m. Shakur sat right beside his Death Row Records boss, who was behind the wheel of the BMW sedan, as they led a convoy of luxury cars past the MGM Grand Hotel.
As the city’s fluorescent lights bounced off the polished hood of the black vehicle upon pulling up at a busy intersection just one block from the Strip, music would never be the same. As they waited for a light change, a white Cadillac pulled up alongside Knight’s sedan, from which multiple shots were fired. Tupac was hit four times, with one bullet puncturing his lung. The four bullets from the semi-automatic pistol drew screams and the sound of tire screeches. But more importantly, within those fateful seconds on this night of September 7, the significance of the life struck by those bullets in that vehicle travelled from Las Vegas and into the cognizance of an entire world. To think, all of this transpired within three hours following the Tyson fight.
About six days after the street ambush, the following headline would grace the front page of Sunday morning’s issue of The New York Times: “Tupac Shakur, 25, Rap Performer Who Personified Violence, Dies.” He was 25.
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