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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / What if Mike Tyson Fought in the 1960s and 70s: Part 3 of 3

What if Mike Tyson Fought in the 1960s and 70s: Part 3 of 3

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Publish Date: 01/25/2022
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster

In part one of our series Mike Tyson was an unstoppable force in the Heavyweight division. In Part 2, Iron Mike Tyson’s aura of invincibility was shattered by a knockout loss to “Smokin” Joe Frazier, followed by an utterly humiliating disqualification loss to Muhammad Ali. Now, he’s offered a second chance against “The Greatest.” Let’s see how he fares.

May 31, 1976: Mike Tyson vs. Muhammad Ali II

50,000+ fans gather at the Superdome in New Orleans as Tyson and Ali square off for the second time. Since the first match 3 and ½ years ago, which was an utter debacle, Iron Mike’s behavior has been exemplary. Ali, himself, has kept the trash talking to a minimum and says simply: “I plan to do my talking in the ring.”
From the beginning, Ali looks all of his 34 years of age. Tyson dominates the first six rounds, keeping Ali on the ropes and pounding him to the body and head. Ali mounts a rally over the next three rounds, keeping Iron Mike at bay with quick, precise combinations. However, by the 10th, he seems to be exhausted and Tyson works him over.

By the end of the 12th, Ali is badly swollen around both eyes and seemingly well behind on points. Ali grits his teeth and lands a right which staggers Tyson early in the 13th. Ali pursues and pounds a wobbly-legged Tyson with power shots. One final right from Ali ends the night, sending Iron Mike down for the count. Ali comes back from behind to win by knockout.

Ali wins KO 13

November 6, 1976: Mike Tyson vs George Foreman

Two former heavyweight champion destroyers square off on a Saturday afternoon in Las Vegas, NV. Coming off a devastating rematch loss to Muhammad Ali, Tyson comes in today with a record of 48-3, 43 KOs. Foreman enters with a record of 44-1, 41 KOs and has won 4 consecutive fights since his shocking loss to Ali in October 1974. Foreman is a 9-5 favorite over the Las Vegas odds makers.

The action is fast and furious from the start of this one. Tyson strikes first, landing a right uppercut which sends “Big” George reeling early in the first round. Iron Mike excitedly moves in for the kill and lands a left hook which leaves Foreman desperately holding on. Big George survives and lands a tremendous right which rocks Tyson with one minute remaining in the round. He follows up with a left hook that nearly decapitates Iron Mike. Both men trade hellacious shots over the final 20 seconds of the round.

Cus D’Amato implores Tyson to exercise patience between rounds but Iron Mike fails to heed his advice. The two men meet in the center of the ring and exchange bombs. A left hook by Tyson shakes Foreman. However, Mike leaves his chin exposed and catches a right uppercut that sends him crashing to the canvas. Tyson rises at the count of 7 but his legs are completely shot. 15 seconds later, Foreman catches him with a winging left which sends him down again. Tyson beats the count but has no idea of where he is. The referee stops the fight at the 1:03 mark of the second round. Tyson suffers another crushing defeat!

Foreman wins TKO 2

August 25, 1978: Mike Tyson vs Scott Ledoux

In his first fight in nearly two years, Tyson looks listless in winning a close decision over Scott Ledoux: 97-94, 96-94, 96-94 on the scorecards.

Tyson wins UD 10

November 17, 1978: Mike Tyson vs John Dino Denis

Iron Mike looks better in this one, battering and bloodying Denis over three painful rounds.

Tyson wins TKO 3

December 31, 1978:

Tyson ends the year with a record of 50-4, 44 KOs

June 2, 1979: Mike Tyson vs John Tate

Tyson squares off against undefeated former US Olympian John Tate in a title eliminator. Tate keeps Tyson at bay with his size and strength in round one. However, Iron Mike ices “Big” John with a devastating left hook in the second.

Tyson wins KO 2

October 20, 1979: Mike Tyson vs Gerrie Coetzee

Tyson faces South African Gerrie Coetzee for the vacant WBA heavyweight championship. Coetzee shakes Tyson with a hard right in the first round. However, by the 2nd, Iron Mike is in command, tattooing Coetzee time and again with hard power shots. Tyson closes the show with 3 knockdowns of Coetzee in the 5th. Iron Mike becomes only the third man in history to regain the heavyweight title.

Tyson wins TKO 5 (Wins WBA heavyweight Championship)

December 31, 1979:

Tyson ends the year with a record of 52-4, 46 KOs. He has rebounded to become one of the most exciting fighters in boxing again. Speculation begins about a unification match between him and undefeated WBC heavyweight champion Larry Holmes.

March 31, 1980: Mike Tyson vs Mike Weaver

In his first defense of the WBA heavyweight title, Tyson catches Weaver cold with a left hook and ices him in 93 seconds.

Tyson wins KO 1 (Retains WBA heavyweight Championship)

October 24, 1980: Mike Tyson vs Leon Spinks

Tyson defends the WBA heavyweight championship for the second time against former champion Leon Spinks. This is a mismatch from the outset as Tyson staggers Spinks with an overhand right 30 seconds into the fight. A devastating left hook, right uppercut combination knocks Spinks cold. Tyson wins by knockout at the 49 second mark of the first round.

Tyson wins KO 1 (Retains WBA heavyweight Championship)

March 5, 1981:

Mike Tyson signs to face WBC heavyweight champion Larry Holmes in a unification match.

June 15, 1981: Mike Tyson vs Larry Holmes

Tyson faces Holmes in the heavyweight division’s first Super Fight since the retirement of Muhammad Ali. The resurgent Tyson enters with a record of 54-4, 48 KOs and has defended his WBA heavyweight championship two times successfully. Holmes comes in with a record of 37-0, 27 KOs and has defended the WBC heavyweight title 9 times since winning it in June 1978 against Ken Norton. Yet, he still struggles to gain the respect of the experts and boxing public at large. Iron Mike comes into this one as a prohibitive 2-1 favorite according to the Las Vegas odds-makers.

Holmes surprises all by dominating this one from the outset. He pitches a shutout over the first 7 rounds, keeping Tyson on the end of his jack hammer jab and pulverizing right. By the end of the 9th, Tyson is badly swollen under both eyes. Tyson rallies in the 10th and rocks Holmes with an overhand right in the 11th. However, Larry manages to survive. By the 13th, he is in complete command. A Holmes right drops Tyson to one knee in the 14th. Tyson can no longer see the punches coming and the referee steps in and stops the fight.

Holmes wins TKO 14

June 11, 1982: Mike Tyson vs Earnie Shavers

Two aging destroyers are matched up on the undercard of Holmes and Cooney as a 35-year-old Tyson squares off against 37-year-old Earnie Shavers. Tyson strikes first, flooring Shavers twice in the first round. He pummels a defenseless Earnie against the ropes but is unable to finish him. Tyson continues to dominate over the next two rounds and by the end of the third Shavers is badly cut over the left eye. However, Shavers turns the tide with a devastating right that sends Iron Mike to the canvas in the 4th. Now is it Tyson who is nearly out on his feet. Shavers pursues him to the ropes and lands a left which nearly sends him through the ropes. Tyson barely survives the round.

However, this proves to be Earnie’s last hurrah. Having punched himself out, he tires in the 5th while Tyson clears his head. Iron Mike sends Shavers to the canvas for the third time in the fight with right uppercut in round 6. He pummels a defenseless Earnie along the ropes, prompting the referee to step in and stop the fight.

Tyson wins TKO 6

November 19, 1982: Mike Tyson vs James “Quick” Tillis

The youthful Tillis controls this one from the beginning, keeping Iron Mike at bay with his jab and clever movement. Tyson simply has no answers for Tillis’ boxing skills as the later keeps putting round after round in the bank. The crowd keeps wait for the big shot from Iron Mike that never comes. Tillis wins by a convincing decision: 99-91, 99-92, 98-93.

Tillis wins UD 10

April 7, 1984: Mike Tyson vs James “Bonecrusher” Smith

A now nearly 38-year-old Tyson returns to the ring to face rising young contender James “Bonecrusher” Smith. By the end of the 1st round, it’s apparent to all at ringside that Iron Mike is completely shot. Its target practice for Bonecrusher. A smashing right from Smith sends Tyson to the canvas in the second. With 1:00 remaining in the 3rd, one final right from Bonecrusher closes the show, sending Iron Mike down for the count. Tyson retires after the fight.

Smith wins KO 3

In this timeline, Mike Tyson retires with a record of 55-7, 49 KOs. He is a two-time heavyweight champion with a record of 9-3, 9 KOs in world championship fights. Experts and fans are sharply divided about his legacy. Critics point to his 0-5 record against the quartet of Ali, Foreman, Frazier and Holmes as evidence of his inability to rise to the occasion on the big stage. Proponents point to his numerous quality victories over the likes of Chuvalo, Bonavena, Mathis, Norton, Weaver, and Coetzee. Along with contemporaries George Foreman and Earnie Shavers, Iron Mike goes down as one of the most devastating power punchers in heavyweight history. Most expert polls have him ranked in the top-15 of the all-time heavyweight rankings who ever lived. Iron Mike Tyson is elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1995.


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