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Mike Tyson - Very good but not a great

by Matt Gale - Boxing Talk

I completely appreciate the headline itself will stir up mixed emotions with our readers. There will be some that will be outraged and think I am barmy but they'll also be some that nod their heads in agreement and say "I've been saying this for years!"


Mike Tyson, the very name that shook fear into the majority of the heavyweight division in the late 80's and early 90's, but was he has good as a lot of people claim he was?  A statement I hear a lot and I find over used "Nobody beats Tyson in his prime".....really, really!?


Some will expand on that further and say "Apart from Ali". Like the headline suggests I'm not saying Tyson wasn't a top Heavyweight and won't go down as one of the best, but for me I simply cannot find a space for him in my top 10 Heavyweights of all time.


Let's go back to the "Tyson in his prime" statement again. When I hear this my most common response is "When exactly was Tyson's prime? Who did he beat in his prime and how does that merit him a place as an all time great?"



Let's look at Mike's best/biggest wins. Sure there were some great performances in there notably for me the Tucker fight which I class as Mike's best win. Sadly for me there a lot of valid excuses for many of Tyson's victories simply being "Not that great". Trevor Berbick was a good fighter but not great, Larry Holmes was way way past his best. Michael Spinks was a fantastic boxer who deserves his place in any top LIGHT heavyweights of all time list. He stepped up won a world title with a couple of defences and was blitzed away in 1 round by Tyson. Roy Jones Jr stepped up to Heavyweight and won a world title, David Haye who would make many peoples top 200lb fighters of all time lists did the same. Do we credit anyone that beat those guys in the same way Tyson gets credited for Spinks? Tony Tubbs, Frank Bruno, Pinklon and Thomas are all good level fighters but in terms of legacy they aren't huge names.


We hear a lot of other reasons for Tyson not reaching the heights many expected. The legendary Cus D'Amato passing away, who was such a massive part of Mike's life and career. Sure it would have had a huge impact on him personally and professionally, however his first loss to Buster Douglas didn't come until 5 years after Cus had passed away.


We also hear "if it wasn't for the drink, drugs, women, prison" he would of been undefeated....absolutely".....but those things did happen! Where do we draw the line here? Kirkland Laing a super talented fighters who had his problems out of the ring with drink and drugs and never got close to his potential. Do we rank him as a great because if it wasn't for those things he would/could of been a World champion? As soon as Iron Mike fought an opponent who wasn't scared of him and could box and neutralize his power he lost.


When you look at anyone on Tyson's CV do you honestly see any of those guys troubling your Ali's, prime Holmes, Marciano, Louis etc. For me Tyson was a very good fighter he loved violence! He enjoyed winning firstly the mental battle, then crushing his opponents. 


We cannot overlook what he achieved and of course we will always wonder if it wasn't for problems outside of the ring and having a stronger mentally, what could he have gone on to do?  Nevertheless he deserves his place in halls of fame and history books. He's the youngest ever heavyweight champion at aged 20. He won the WBC title and defended it 9 times and 2 successful defenses of his IBF crown before that shock in Tokyo against Buster Douglas. 


Tyson will always be remembered for his explosive power, his highlight reel knockouts, his mean and menacing aura and the thousands and millions of new fans he bought to the sport. I understand why so many love him for the life he lead, some will say he over achieved to even get into a boxing ring and win a World title, when it could have so easily gone wrong.


The reason I believe Tyson is ranked so highly is purely based on  based on a emotion,  rather than from what he achieved as a professional. For me Iron Mike was a great boxer, fighter and entertainer but he wasn't an all time great.


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