Many years ago the heavyweight division was the most talked about in all of boxing. That was primarily due to the fact that the heavyweight class, at that time, was full of talent and knockouts. After a long hiatus as the talk of the town, that title is slowly coming back the more we see one-punch knockouts from Deontay Wilder.
All that being said, like it or not, the heavyweight division is nothing of what it used to be. The talent in today’s era compared to the era of Liston, Foreman, Ali, Tyson, Holyfield, etc. is terrible.
When you look at some of the best fighters in the history of the heavyweight division, a lot of great fighters come to mind, but there is one particular fight that has been talked about since they shared the cover of the video game Fight Right Round 4. That is a showdown between “The Greatest”, Muhammad Ali, and “Iron” Mike Tyson.
Tyson, who would eventually become the youngest boxer to ever win a heavyweight title (20 years old), was quick, strong and powerful in his prime. Up until the passing of long-time trainer/mentor Cus D’Amato, Tyson was one of the most feared fighters in recent memory.
On the other hand, no one ever showed as much grace and fluidity in the ring the way Muhammad Ali did. “He could float like a butterfly, then all the sudden sting you like a bee.” He had that personality and charisma outside the ring and the skill inside it. Ali had all the attributes one could hope for in a fighter.
How do they match up?
Speed: Ali is the clear winner in the speed department. His hand and foot speed in his prime was incredible. Tyson was not slow by any means, but he was more flat-footed and used superior head-movement to close the distance on his opponents. Mike did, however, have good hand speed. Just not as good as the guy formerly known as Cassius Clay.
Power: Tyson was one of the hardest punchers to grace his class. Ali had some crack, but Tyson had bricks in his gloves. That being said, Tyson takes the edge in the power department. Mike had the type of power that put fear in his opponent’s mind well before ever sharing the ring with him. Under Cus D’Amato, Tyson knew how to use his head and foot movement to create angles to use that power. He was an absolute force during the late ’80s and early ’90s.
Defense: I think when it comes to defense, these two are closer than one might think. Ali had great defense and could stand right in front of you and make you miss. Mike, on the other hand, also had a great defense in the earlier part of his career. Both Ali and Tyson excelled in this department, just in different ways. Tyson used more of the bob-n-weave technique, while Ali used his superior foot movement to evade his opponent’s punches. Taking it all into account, I favor Ali for the simple fact that he did it better against better opposition and I felt he was more versatile in this department.
IQ: Ali takes this by a landslide. The Louisville native was a former gold medalist and not only fought but beat some of the best fighters the division has ever seen. While Ali suffered five losses during his career, he won all of his rematches. He lost to Frazier the first time and went on to beat him twice after. Ken Norton and Leon Spinks both beat Ali the first time around, but both lost in rematches. Tyson was different. He never won a rematch. To be quite honest, he looked worse in those rematches. Ali was definitely a master of the sweet science.
Prediction: Both Ali and Tyson were great fighters in their respective times. However, I think Ali handles Tyson with quite ease. The way Ali dismantled the tough and rugged Sonny Liston early on in his career would be the same way he would handle Tyson. I don’t think Tyson would be able to hit him, and if he did, I don’t think he punches harder than Foreman and Liston. Ali stopped both of those guys.
I predict an entertaining fight with Ali stopping Tyson by the eighth round.