I keep seeing all of these younger guys posting about how Mike Tyson would beat Muhammad Ali. Of course, I always chalk that up to stupidity, so I thought, what the hell, let’s take a look at what they both accomplished in their careers.
So here we go!
Ali’s amateur career culminated with winning a gold medal in Rome. On the other hand, Mike Tyson lost a disputed decision to Henry Tillman in the Olympic trials in 1984.
Winning the Title
Ali won an undisputed title, beating the heavily favored Sonny Liston by a 7th round knockout. But, once again, for you young guys, that means that Liston was a true champion, not a trinket holder.
Tyson won a portion of the heavyweight title in 1986 by knocking out Trevor Berbick in the second round. Still, Tyson did not become the undisputed heavyweight champion until he beat Michael Spinks, a blown-up light heavyweight champion. Also, remember that most historians rank Sonny Liston as a top 10 all-time heavyweight; I don’t think that the same is true for Berbick.
Both of these fighters lost three years of their prime, and let us compare what they did to get forced into exile?
Ali refused induction into the United States military because he did not want to fight in Vietnam. Ali lost three prime years because of this. He could have joined up and been stationed as entertainment somewhere; he wouldn’t have been fighting; instead, he decided that the war, was wrong based on his religious convictions. In the end, Ali was right; the Vietnam war was not a war the United States should have been in, and he brought a lot of attention to the fact that this country had no business sending young men to die.
Tyson also lost three prime years of his career. Still, his reason was profoundly different. He was accused and found guilty of raping a contestant at the Miss Black Teen beauty pageant in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Return to the ring
The return from exile for these two champions was also slightly different.
Ali’s return fight was against Jerry Quarry, and Quarry entered the fight as The Ring magazine’s No. 1-rated heavyweight contender and the WBA’s No. 3-rated heavyweight contender. Ali would go on to stop Quarry in three rounds. Just six weeks later, Ali would stop another top contender Oscar Bonavena, in the 15th round.
Tyson returned against Peter McNeely. McNeely’s father had once fought Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight title, and McNeely had a record of 36-1. McNeely was an entertaining and funny guy, but his 36-1 record was deceiving as only 4 of the 36 wins had come against fighters with winning records.
Regaining the Heavyweight Title
Ali regained the heavyweight title in 1974 by beating the legendary George Foreman by an eighth-round knockout. Most people thought that Foreman would destroy Ali, much like he did Ken Norton and Joe Frazier. But, just like the Liston fight, those people were wrong, and by beating Foreman, Ali once again defeated an all-time Top 10 Heavyweight.
Tyson Regained a portion of the heavyweight title by stopping Frank Bruno in the third round in Las Vegas. Bruno was making his first defense of the WBC heavyweight title, which he had won from Oliver McCall six months earlier. It took Bruno four tries to win a world title. He had previously lost title fights to Tim Witherspoon, Tyson, and Lennox Lewis.
Second Title Reign
Ali’s second title reign included defenses against Ron Lyle, Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, Earnie Shavers, and Jimmy Young. Thus, Ali defended his title 10 times in his second reign. The Norton and Young bouts were highly controversial decisions that Ali won, and he lost the title to Leon Spinks in Spink’s eighth fight. Ali did decisively beat Frazier, Lyle, and Shaver’s, though.
Tyson’s second title reign included just one title defense against then WBA Champion Bruce Seldon. Tyson landed two punches of dubious power and, almost without any resistance, Seldon timidly surrendered his World Boxing Association championship. The MGM Grand Garden crowd booed its displeasure. Tyson would lose his title in his second defense when Evander Holyfield stopped him in the 11th round. After the fight was made official, many said Holyfield was over the hill, and Tyson opened as a 25-1 favorite. The odds were down to 5-1 before the fight.
Third Title Reign
Ali would regain the heavyweight title for the third time with an easy unanimous decision win over Leon Spinks. He retired after the fight. Ali would return two years later and lose to Larry Holmes and a year after that lose a ten-round decision to Trevor Berbick before retiring for good.
Tyson would never have a third title reign as he would lose his rematch to Evander Holyfield, and he didn’t just lose; he embarrassed himself by opting to bite Holyfield twice to get disqualified. He did this because Holyfield would have knocked him out again. Tyson would get one last chance against Lennox Lewis. He took a beating and was stopped in the eighth round.
When comparing what these two men accomplished in the ring, there is no question that they are from two different worlds. People who ask who would have won a fight between these two are fools because they shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath.