As WBA/IBF/IBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua was rescued from stopping a tough Carlos Takam this past Saturday in Cardiff, Wales, an interesting debate ensued that nearly lead to an altercation or two.
A fanatic is a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, a few of which could be found inside Jack Demsey's on W. 33rd near midtown this day. As cries of “Mike Tyson woulda beat Anthony Joshua's ass!” and related regalia erupted like lava from the mouth of a particularly drunken troll I wanted to knockout cold, I started formulating thoughts of a 5'10, 219 lb version of Tyson from June 27, 1988 in front of Joshua.
All of a sudden, the loud voice of a mosquito became ambient noise as my thoughts calmed me, saving this man from a right hand that would've been a little heavier than a fly swat.
There would never be a better version of Mike Tyson to ever exist beyond this one, forever turning “Iron Mike” into a granite-like piece of mythical legend for the ages. This was, of course, the night that a 34-0 (30KOs) Tyson eviscerated an unbeaten and utterly terrified Michael Spinks.
Not that it was totally unwarranted.
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He was intimidating, but could be intimidated. Really powerful, but not quite as strong as you think. Tyson was a solo NWA act and a villainous idol of Generation X. With his gold-toothed scowl, dark eyes and angry eyebrows arched by the fight gods to form a mask of menace; the head of Tyson was fitted on a 20-inch shock absorber of a neck, which rested on a compact frame totally designed for war. A black, irascible, chiseled XL iteration of Rocky Marciano that bobbed and weaved, Tyson could morph into a more dimensional Jack Dempsey with far greater ferocity.
No one idolized Mike Tyson more than I did– or even imitated him more. My room was a veritable shrine to a figure regarded as a demigod, and you were not allowed the blasphemy of minimizing Tyson, lest I act like a drunken patron at Demsey's. But alas, adulthood kicked in, and with it, the ability to see things objectively while unaffected by emotion and governed by logic.
Mike Tyson was NOT that good.
In the mid-1980's, graphic images of Tyson exploded across television sets courtesy of the media, as sports fans were bombarded with images of a ring monster. No one cared who or how this fistic tyrant mowed down the Kool-Aid Man in 10 ounce gloves… He was cool. Tyson made being an evil asshole as a teen easy, with a hip fashion in and out of the ring that was insatiable. His shrewd handlers, Jim Jacobs and Bill Cayton, were clever enough to position Tyson into savage victories over Trevor Berbick and Larry Holmes, who were hated by the mass public for what they'd done to their beloved Muhammad Ali.
This made it easier to love a man of hate.
Like a ravenous dog, if Tyson sensed fear in you– you were dead. The brilliance of his legendary trainer/mentor Cus D'Amato, lied in his ability to inculcate within the circuitry of Tyson an air of complete invincibility, as “Kid Dynamite” attacked with the notion that he was impervious to any kind of resistance – real or imagined – and no Pinklon Thomas, Tony Tucker or James “Bonecrusher” Smith's of the world would stop his hegemony.
The public wasn't discerning enough to see how easily he'd been frustrated and nullified by those men. Old veteran Jesse Ferguson offered clues on how to physically deal with Tyson, as James “Quick” Tillis showed how to outbox him. The street fight sucker punch landed on Mitch “Blood” Green, made us lose sight of just how many problems he gave Tyson in the ring. Before any doubt could creep into your mind (or his own), Tyson was served with a fat Tony Tubbs to explode like blubber. Everything being mentioned about Tyson up to this point occurred in his absolute prime, as did a February 1989 encounter with someone Joshua is often compared to, fellow Brit Frank Bruno.
Tyson did stop Bruno in the 5th round, but it was an incredibly flawed and revealing performance; one in which an erratic Tyson was rocked in the 2nd round while showing a shocking regression from the fighter who had damn near disemboweled Spinks. Or, was it the opposition? Just one year later came the greatest upset in boxing history, when Buster Douglas massacred a bloated and full of himself Tyson in Tokyo. What's amazing about history is how it simplifies things over time, enough to reveal that the Douglas fight should no more be considered an upset, than the idea of Anthony Joshua or even Deontay Wilder (Live on SHOWTIME, Nov 4 @ 9PM against Bermane Stiverne in a rematch) beating Tyson. Here's why.
Tyson was not the type to lose via decision– he got KTFO when he lost. Badly. Tyson was a bully, who also happened to be a tremendous front runner. His chances of victory were greatly reduced if he proved unable to eliminate or scare his opponent within 3 or 4 rounds. His size would work against him when faced with bigger men in possession of a jab, or even a decent heavyweight of iron will, as Evander Holyfield showed.
This is why we saw a complete version of Lennox Lewis annihilate Tyson, and why in my opinion, Wladimir Klitschko would get rid of Tyson as well. When Dr. Steelhammer was very motivated to win, he did, and his otherworldly intelligence would allow him to to set Tyson up for the kill. No one in heavyweight history was better at clinching than Klitschko in between powerful left jabs and massive right hands.
We'd also likely see Tyson get chopped up by a fearless Anthony Joshua, who showed good stamina at 255 lbs in dealing with a ring edition of Luke Cage. My comment in the bar (which forced an abrupt demand for the check) was that Tyson's measurables were similar to Takam's, and that I didn't feel Tyson would've done as well later in the fight. Earlier in a fight with Joshua, yes, particularly because of Mike's speed– but a major problem for Tyson is this: Joshua showed against Kiltschko that he has the will to recover from extreme adversity and a very competent corner. It's not unfathomable to believe Tyson wouldn't just quit in this fight either.
As for Wilder, again, he doesn't seem to be the type that Tyson would sense fear in, nullifying a huge advantage. Wilder (like Klitschko, Joshua and Lewis to different degrees) is a tremendous athlete of height and length that has freakish endurance. As hard as this may be for Tyson fanatics to believe, he has major problems in a fight with what would be a more powerful version of Tyrell Biggs to Tyson.
It's debatable as to whether or not Floyd Mayweather was a bigger cult of personality than Mike Tyson, for Floyd probably impacted the arrogant Millennial as much as Tyson affected a very angry generation. What is not up for debate is Floyd WAS that good, though its intriguing how they can similarly incite so much cultural divide within the fight culture. So much of who we are depends on who we follow, which can lead us to seek security and meaning in something other than whoever we call God, regardless of the demons they possess.
But boy could Mike fight like the devil.