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Best I Faced: Mike Tyson

Tyson at his peak. Photo by THE RING Archive




13
May

Note: This feature was originally featured in the January 2014 issue of THE RING Magazine.

Mike Tyson is remembered as one of the most feared fighters of all time, a force of nature who at 20 became the youngest heavyweight champion in history.

“Iron Mike” went on to unify all the titles within a year and become the king of boxing in the late 1980s, punctuating his monumental run with a historic knockout of then-unbeaten but terrified Michael Spinks in 91 seconds.

“The Michael Spinks fight was my best performance,” Tyson recently told THE RING. “I kept moving forward and threw a couple of great three-punch combinations. When I finally caught him on the ropes, I remember turning southpaw in order to throw my right hand to the body and right uppercut.”

Tyson’s reign didn’t last long. He was only 23 when 42-1 underdog Buster Douglas pulled off the upset of the century, scoring a 10th-round knockout in 1990 to destroy the myth of Tyson’s invincibility.

And it got worse from there as his life spiraled out of control. Tyson bottomed out when he was convicted of rape in 1992 and spent three years in prison.

He returned in 1995 to great fanfare, setting box office records en route to regaining two sanctioning body titles before losing to Evander Holyfield in 1996. The rematch the following year provided one the most infamous moments in sports history, as Tyson was disqualified for biting both of Holyfield’s ears.

That combined with his prison term and crude, sometimes irrational behavior outside the ring made him a pariah in the eyes of many. Journeyman Kevin McBride stopped him in his last fight, in 2005, an ignominious ending to a remarkable career.

However, Tyson has reinvented himself as a kinder, gentler soul in recent years. His one-man stage show, Undisputed Truth, has been a success, he has a new TV show called Being: Mike Tyson, and he has entered the business of promoting fights.

“I have been through it all,” Tyson said, “and I am dedicated to doing what is best for each of the talented fighters who are signing with me and my partner, Garry Jonas.”

Does he have any regrets in his boxing career?

“I would have liked to fight George Foreman,” Tyson told THE RING. “There have been many fans who wondered who was the bigger puncher. I would have liked to put an end to the discussion – one way or the other.”

Tyson (50-6, 44 knockouts) agreed to speak to THE RING about the best he faced in 10 key categories.

BEST JAB
Tony Tucker:
I had to be certain to slip well to keep from getting tagged.

BEST DEFENSE
Larry Holmes:
I have to say Larry Holmes even though I did win inside the distance. He was very tough to hit cleanly.

FASTEST HANDS
Tony Tubbs:
Tony Tubbs had the fastest hands. I was surprised how quick he let go with those combinations. And he was not afraid to throw them.

FASTEST FEET
Mitch Green:
I think Mitch Green had the fastest feet. It was very tough to set up near him and throw big shots.

BEST CHIN
Jose Ribalta:
I hit Jose Ribalta with everything, and he took everything and kept coming back for more.

SMARTEST
Holmes:
Larry Holmes was the smartest of all. It comes with being a champion for seven years.

STRONGEST
Ribalta:
Jose Ribalta stood toe to toe with me. He was very strong in the clinches.

BEST PUNCHER
Holyfield:
He threw terrific shots with both hands and with bad intentions.

BEST BOXER
Tucker:
He had an excellent jab, moved well and was very tough to hit clean.

BEST OVERALL
Holyfield:
Great champion: chin, heart, determination, work ethic, demeanor.

 

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter: @AnsonWainwright

 

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  • Jamil Salvo

    tyson will sleep wilder

  • chickenstock

    Tyson giving nothing to Lewis. I guess he knows he was shot at the time they finally met.

    • ceylon mooney

      yea he he was done

    • AngelMorningstar

      Why would he? You do realize Rahman and McCall ko’d him. A prime Tyson would of mauled Lewis in 2 tops.

      • Chris J Bonds

        Tyson never fought Rahman!

        • Charlie U.

          He’s talking about Lewis.

      • Ten Count Toronto

        Could have gone either way if Lewis showed up with a strike first mentality. Lewis, not Tyson, had the biggest one-shot cannon of the era, and he could have gotten Tyson going if he was first to connect.

        If Lewis showed up to fight his usual style, take his time and box, he would have gotten steamrolled. Nobody- ever – except maybe prime Ali – beats the young Tyson going backwards and being passive.

        However, on the few occasions that Lewis was truly weary of his opponent, he dealt with it by going for the quick KO, and he always got it except for the unfinished Klitschko fight at the very end of his career. I think there’s a good chance Lewis would approach Tyson this way (if not from the outset, then definitely after the first couple of bum-rushes and connected punches…) and there’d be at least a 1/3 chance the longer, straighter puncher lands a fight-changing bomb first.

      • chickenstock

        Nah…

    • Ten Count Toronto

      That, and the bruised ego of just from being reduced to the role of sacrificial name opponent.

  • joe blanco

    Did not give Douglas any credit for his jab that was completely perfect in their fight.

    • Julio

      He should’ve, but I guess that he realizes that the Douglas debacle had more to do with him and not entirely about what Buster did that night.

      • joe blanco

        If he thinks that then he has been in denial since 1990.

        • Julio

          It is common knowledge that Douglas’ success that night had every bit to do with both his performance and Mike’s state for that fight. Anyone that refuses to believe that is in denial.

    • Oc

      Douglas WAS electric on that night, Tyson was a mess but Buster was on fire…that version of Douglas gives most HWs in the history of the division fits and that jab was the corner stone of his game that night.

      • Raymond Strang

        I think it was that fight that broke Tyson. It was the one time was he almost came back from adversity when he dropped Douglas and he rose on the count of 9.5 secs. For the rest of Tyson’s career he never ever came back and won a fight where he was well behind and up against it. I think its the reason why so many boxing scribes rank him so low in the ‘best ever’ mythical rankings whereas your average boxing fan ranks him near to the very top.

        • Oc

          Very good point mate, Tyson never came from behind to win in his whole career but, this was the one time that he almost did it…but no, Buster got up and smashed him. It is possible, that Tyson’s heart broke a little bit when watching Buster climb off the floor and that he was never the same afterward.

          Tyson was a sensational fighter, super exciting and massively powerful but I also rate him lowly in the grand scheme of all things HW for this very reason. All the other all time greats would NOT be folding to his barrages (all of them showed true heart and fortitude in their careers and came from behind often to take the W) and would/could eventually take Tyson late in the match (fighting is 99% mental and they were all better in that department than Iron Mike). I think so anyway.

          Certainly Douglas was never the same afterward.

    • AngelMorningstar

      Bear jab would of been Holmes anyways. A prime Holmes would of beat Tyson everytime.

    • Will Arbuckle

      If you watch Tysons shoe, he has a video of the ref dog ring when buster went down, the count reached 13 because the ref lost the count, politics did not want Mike to defend and win

      • Ten Count Toronto

        Not necessarily politics, referees do have lapses. I thought Linares was down longer than 10 seconds on Sunday although i haven’t reviewed it yet. I couldn’t hear from the noise if the timekeeper started a count the moment Linare’s first touched the canvas, not sure if that count started late or if the referee’s missed the first second or two after walking Lomachenko all the way to a neutral cornerm or just went by his own count altogether.

        • Mike Prado

          So I wasn’t the only one that thought that, haha. Whatever the case was, it did seem longer than 10 seconds.

      • Kenneth Groovey Johnson

        It has also been proven that Tyson received a longer than 10 count when Buster put him down. One could continue and one couldn’t.

    • Uncle Sham

      Tyson did not mention Lennox either because Lennox hit him so hard that he forgot about the fight lol

  • Jeremy, UK

    Very few of the answers that I would have predicted.

  • TNT

    Foreman would of murdered Tyson. Styles make fights.

    • Teddy Reynoso

      The Foreman that easily and brutally disposed of Frazier and Norton would have defeated the Tyson that kayoed Marvis and Berbick. The young and even the old George knew how to use his size and strength in smothering the opposition both on offense and defense. He was so strong, powerful and heavy handed as well as steeped in boxing techniques and fundamentals that he executed many of his knockout wins seemingly so effortlessly. The torque of his punches including his textbook uppercut was devastating for anybody who would dare meet him head on or stay in the spot for a second too long. Ali used his intelligence and smarts and his superior stamina to beat him.

      • joseph parsons

        You can not fight George walking towards him like Frazier and Norton Tyson would been the sam3 only way beat George wasstick n move box him you was not walking straight to him too big and strong

  • Oc

    Good to see someone acknowledge a tough journeyman like Jose Ribalta (remember him…he fought everybody that was somebody back in the day).

    Holmes gets the credit he deserves in the department he deserves it in…defense. Watch the Tyson vs Holmes fight again and you will see how few punches Tyson was landing on Holmes in the first couple of rounds, it was a seriously good showing for an “old retired” guy.

    The Foreman vs Tyson fight would have been an excellent one…I would bet on Big George all night long for a late kayo.

    • ceylon mooney

      young george gets KOd, old
      george late KOs tyson.

      • Ten Count Toronto

        I think early version of Foreman vs Tyson just about anything could happen. I would lean slightly toward the hand sped & compactness of Tyson over the size and jab of Foreman, but not with any great certainty. This is also one of the few Tyson MM’s where Tyson would actually have an advantage if the fight goes into the late rounds.

      • Oc

        I can go with that mate.

        • ceylon mooney

          how bout prime HW holyfield – young foreman?

          • Oc

            That’s a bloody hard one mate.

            Prime Holyfield at HW (Dokes fight?) could win a hard gruelling fight on points OR a young George nails the Real Deal to the canvas mid-way through the fight. Hard to call.

            I rate Foreman as the better all time HW but I also find it hard to go against the tough, energetic, warrior that was Evan Fields, I mean, Evander Holyfield.

          • ceylon mooney

            yeah man. that makes sense to me.

            heh heh heh dial HgH for evan fields…

  • Raymond Strang

    Would love to have seen Tyson v Smokin Joe Frazier in a MM when both at the top of their game. Personally, I think smoking Joe would have taken the punishment given out and returned back in spades to which Tyson wouldn’t have taken resulting in a mid-rounds KO. Would’ve paid my money for that fight..

    • ceylon mooney

      tyson was faster than frazier, had
      better
      movement and was as devastating a puncher as foreman.

      frazier has no chance

      early KO every time.

    • ceylon mooney

      how about frazier-holyfield?

      • Teddy Reynoso

        Prime Holyfield had more technique and skills but prime Frazier was relentless and more durable in taking punishments to be able to put his own licks in.Vander crumbled against Bowe in a shoot out. Joe got decked brutally many times versus prime Foreman but refused to stay down. Big George was quoted as saying that if he drops Joe once more and he rises up and the referee does not stop it, he will quit himself out of frustration and fatigue. Chances are Joe gets Vander in the later rounds while trailing by a huge margin on the scorecards.

  • ozzy

    Just like to say that the young Tyson who lost to Buster Douglas had spent more time in nightclubs than actually training. If Tyson had never got involved with Don King I’m convinced he would have handled Douglas in his usual fashion. However, there’s only one person responsible for destroying Tyson’s career and that’s Mike himself, which I believe he accepts.

    • Ten Count Toronto

      If it wasn’t King it would have been someone else. Tyson was physically precocious but his mental maturity was 2 or 3 years behind his chronological age, that why D’amato and later Cayton & Jacobs were able to control him somewhat. But he would have rebelled at some point, you weren’t going to keep this guy sequestered in a monastery doing nothing but training and watching fight film forever.

      Other promoters would have dangled more instant gratification and there’d no shortage of voices whispering to him that he was being controlled like a fighting animal and play up the racial exploitation element of that, eventually Tyson was gonna do what he was gonna do.

      • John

        Yep, the people that were there that was supposed to look out for Mike was actually taking advantage of him and letting him do what do you want to do like with the drugs night clubs and all the crazy Antics he didn’t look out for them and they just took advantage of him

    • John

      💯.

    • Mike M.

      Douglas practically had to summon energy from every living thing on the planet just to beat the worst possible version of Iron Mike..and he still barely made it out of there. Says a lot.

  • LOMATARD

    Where’s Razor? That 2 fights aint easy

  • RayK

    Tyson to me is so interesting, What I’ve got from his story is, he didn’t want to be the bad guy but he was made to be that way and now in his later years he’s trying to be the person he wanted to be. I always think that the tag-lines regarding Tyson’s career should include the death of the guy that gave him a goal.
    MM:Tyson (put em in a straight jacket) vs anyone?

  • Pit bull

    There was no bigger star than the great ali. Though the magnificent jack Dempsey was right there with Ali as revered boxers go. Mike Tyson was only second to those two colossus.. i remember everyone stopping work to watch ali/frazier 1 on the tv,, free mind you. Nothing came close until Tyson arrived,, the kids today wouldn’t believe you if you dared say mayweather n pacquio had nothing on the aura of Tyson or ali ,, i remember them well

  • Teddy Reynoso

    The emergence of Tyson starting in the mid 80s opened a new chapter in the continuing battle for supremacy in heavyweight boxing between boxers and seek and destroy punchers which was dominated for two decades by two of the best exponents of the sweet science in Ali and Holmes. Having been exposed to a massive dose of boxing virtuosity for such a long period courtesy of the two heavyweight greats, Tyson’s coming to the scene made fans remember the excitement and thrill of chilling, brutal knockouts that were not seen since the heydays of Marciano, Liston, Frazier and Foreman. Tyson suddenly and violently ended the reign of the finesse and the smart and reintroduced raw power as main key to dominance in the premier division.

  • David Stubbs

    can’t take this seriously with no Lewis on the list.

  • Cashtime

    Seems Mike mixed up a few and left out a few. James Quick Tilles who remarkably resembles Muhammad Ali in looks and fight style handled him better than anyone at that time. Take a look at the fight and you can argue that it should have been Mikes first loss.
    Everyone seemed to believe they had a shot after that fight. Also how does he have Evander as the hardest puncher, we all know Evander could crack but nowhere near as hard as Razor Ruddock. How was an old ESPN level Larry Holmes the smartest and most defensive opponent on his career? He got clocked flush and often so there goes the defense and he had no effective fight plan in sight to show how smart he was. As far as the strongest, it should have been Bonecrusher Smith who held him ever so tightly that night.
    Lastly he didn’t give any spot for the guy who rose to the occasion and outclassed him in every way and that was Buster Douglas. He if for one night had the fastest feet, best jab, best defense, toughest chin, and best puncher all in one!!!