MIKE TYSON: IRON and CLAY

Mike Tyson is the most controversial heavy- weight champion in boxing history. Fans and historians alike vehemently argue over whether Iron Mike de- serves to be rated among the all time greats. Some fans insist that the young Tyson was perhaps the most dangerous if not the greatest heavyweight champion in history, while others argue that Tyson has been vastly over-rated citing that he lost all of his legacy fights.

Both views have some credence.

How good was Mike Tyson? From 1986-1990 he was one of the most feared heavyweight cham- pions ever. His unique melding of fantastic hand speed and shock- ing punching power made him a threat to any opponent he faced. Like Joe Louis and Sonny Liston before him, Tyson’s baleful stare and stunning power struck terror into the hearts of his opponents. 

Because he scored some crushing one-punch knockouts some observ- ers tend to think of Tyson as strictly a limited power puncher. However, in his youthful prime, he was much more than just a devastating hitter. 

Hank Kaplan, speaking of the young Tyson, wrote in Boxing Digest; “He has the best defense seen in the heavy- weight division in many years.”

Tyson had excellent fundamen- tals, he showed good balance, ex- ceptional head movement, kept his hands high, ducked and bent at the waist to remain in punch- ing position and he slipped, blocked and countered punches very well. Tony Tucker and Bone- crusher Smith each managed to land only one significant punch in their entire fights against Tyson. 

Iron Mike also was a fine combi- nation puncher in his youth, an im- portant skill that the later versions of Tyson abandoned possibly due to a lack of good work ethics. Fa- mous trainer Angelo Dundee said after his fight with Trevor Berbick; 

“Tyson throws combinations I never saw before. When have you seen a guy throw a right hand to the kidney, come up the middle with an uppercut, then throw a left hook. He throws punches . . . like a trigger.” 

Tyson was also a debilitating body puncher. Watch the film of Tyson work over Jesse Ferguson; his body punching is in- credible and just as workmanlike as that of a prime Joe Frazier.

Tyson was a bigger, faster, stron- ger and more powerful version of Jack Dempsey. Against the other 3 great swarming heavyweights that include Dempsey, Rocky Mar- ciano, and Joe Frazier, Tyson is tops in size, natural strength, de- fense, hand speed, and raw power. 

It is difficult to imagine any man weighing less than or around 200 pounds surviving long against a rampaging Tyson. Although lacking the toughness and durability of the other 3, Tyson was naturally bigger and stronger and had so much speed and power he might just walk right threw them.

The one heavyweight of similar size that could match Tyson in hand speed, punching power and boxing skill was Joe Louis. Perhaps Louis, who was the epitome of the complete boxer-puncher, could frustrate Tyson by keeping him on the end of his ramrod jab and neutralizing Mike’s aggressiveness.