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By Simon Harrison
The general consensus is that the 70s was the golden era of heavyweight boxing, and that this helps Ali be perceived as the ‘greatest’ champion of the division.
But some on this site claim Tyson as the best. So I thought I would put Tyson back 25 years, so that his career time mirrored Ali, and see in my opinion how he would of done, against the fighters of the Ali era.. It also helps that Tyson’s career length, nearly mirrors that of Ali.
So here goes; fight 1, Tyson makes his pro bow on March 6 1960, against Colin Dunston, winning in a round. For the rest of the year Tyson fought mostly (1 or 2 exceptions) non descript 4 and 6 round opposition. Listed below are the dates and opponents;
Fight 2 April 10; WKO2 Roosevelt Luggins
Fight 3 May 23; WKO2 Aaron Beasley
Fight 4 June 20; WKO3 Wendell Newton
Fight 5 July 11; WKO1 Herb Siler
Fight 6 July 19; WKO3 Tommy Stru
Fight 7 August 15; WKO1 Jim Tillman
Fight 8 September 5; WKO2 Prentice Snipes
Fight 9 October 9; WKO1 Jimmy Robinson
Fight 10 October 25; WKO1 Moses Walker
Fight 11 November 1; WKO6 Alonzo Johnson
Fight 12 November 13; WKO2 Curley Lee Chapman
Fight 13 November 25; WKO2 Willie Ray Richardson
Fight 14 December 6; WKO1 Joe Sullivan
Fight 15 December 27; WKO1 James Head
1961 and the 15-0 (15) Tyson was starting to gain the attention of the boxing media. The year began with two 8 round bouts, against Johnny Mayes (WKO1), and Young Jack Johnson (WKO4). Before on the 16th February the 17-0 (17) Tyson fought his first scheduled 10 rounder on TV against 21-6 Argentinean Alex Miteff; Tyson had to take a few rounds to finally get on top of the tough Miteff, but eventually pounded Alex into a sixth round submission.
And 18-0(18) Tyson fought again on March 10 1961, flattening massive journeyman Otis Fuller in a round, before on May 3 he meets fringe contender 42-7-1 Michael DeJohn. DeJohn gives Tyson his most competitive bout yet, but Tyson’s power is the difference as he wins in 8.
May 20 and the 20-0(20), meets the world ranked Eddie Manchen. Manchen 36-3-1, has taken #1 contender Liston 12 rounds, and is a cute boxer, that Tyson has not met before. Tyson’s edge in speed and awesome power initially intimidate Manchen, who seems to just want to survive. By round 6 Manchen is getting more competitive and at the end of 8, Tyson returns to the corner, with a big swelling underneath his right eye, where Manchens sneaky jab has got though the peak a boo defence. Cus and the corner get to work on it, and Tyson’s, work rate gives him the last 2 rounds and the unanimous decision.
21-0 (20) Tyson is now world ranked; the only problem of course is that D’Amato is not going to let Tyson loose with his World Champion Patterson. Tyson it seems is just going to have to bide his time.
June 13 and Tyson comes back, to blow out George Logan in 2 and on the 28th of the same month, he takes out Willi Besmanoff in a round.
July 11 1961 Tyson 23-0(22) beats Solomon McTier in 2, and on July 26 Amos Lincoln did not last the round. August 17 and Tyson faces 6’6” Ernie Terrell (22-3). Terrell lacked the talent to compete with Tyson, and spent the entire bout tying up ‘Iron’ Mike. Tyson seemed to lack ideas on how to change the pattern of the fight, and although he won every round, he failed to stop the big man, Tyson WU10.
On September 6, Tyson 26-0(24) destroys future Light Heavyweight King Willie Pastrano in 30 seconds! After the fight Tyson comes face to face with an up and coming Heavy, going by the name of Cassius Clay. After taking a verbal insult by Clay, Tyson attempts to attack Clay, but the respective management teams stop the two from doing each other any damage. Tyson then tells the waiting reporters that Clay will go the same way as his Dundee trained ‘colleague’ Pastrano.
In October 61, the cracks begin in Tyson’s Team. D’Amato walks out when Tyson decides to fight #1 contender Sonny Liston. Tyson will have new trainer Archie Moore in his corner for the November 22 clash.
Tyson 27-0 (25) moment of truth has arrived, as he steps into the ring with the equally intimidating 32-1 Liston. People were split over the possible victor, but most agreed that the fight would not go the 12 scheduled rounds.
Unlike virtually all of Tyson’s previous opponents Liston is not intimidated by him. Liston stands up to ‘Iron’ Mike in the first couple of rounds as they trade booming shot after booming shot.
Tyson’s corner make him change tack in the third, as Tyson starts to use his great head movement to avoid in particular Listons jab, as well as ‘Iron’ Mike concentrating on Liston’s body.
Liston loses rounds 3 though 5, but starts to double up his great jab leading to more success for him in rounds 6 though 8.
By round 9, the 20 year old Tyson is tiring, and Liston’s jab has caused damage around both of Tyson’s eyes, although Liston has not escaped unpunished, he has a light nose bleed caused by one of Tyson’s cracking uppercuts. But it is becoming apparent that Liston is the stronger, and is starting to push Tyson back, and following up many of his jabs with cracking right hands.
Round 10 and Moore is imploring Tyson to try one final assault, and concentrate on trying to land a KO punch, as the body attack does not seemed to have slowed Liston down. And although having a better round, Tyson’s desperate swings are easily parried, or ducked by Liston.
Round 12, and Liston ups his work rate, bashing Tyson around the ring. The young 20 year old is on the verge of being overwhelmed, but he shows a world class chin and excellent fighting heart by sucking up and taking the punishment, he momentarily catching Liston’s attention with a great left hook in the dying seconds.
The decision is Unanimous in Liston’s favour, and he will go on to fight Patterson for the belt. Although losing for the first time as a pro, the now 27-1(25) Tyson showed great heart, and was competitive with seemingly the best heavyweight on the planet.
Tyson had his longest break in his career so far, before coming back on March 7 1962, against Brit Brian London. London may of gone 11 rounds with Patterson in 59, but against Tyson he did well to last 11 seconds! On the floor with the very first punch of the fight, London rose from 3 further knockdowns, before being counted out 2 minutes into the First Round, when Tyson landed one final sweet left hook.
May 30 1962, Tyson steps into the ring against 58-5-2 Zora Foley. The winner of this bout would be in prime position to challenge the winner of the slated Patterson/Liston bout. Foley although still a major player, was past his best. Tyson showed a new intensity as he merciless cut the down the ring, and systematically destroyed the brave Foley. Foleys corner refused to let their battered charge out for the fourth round. In nine minutes of action Tyson had broken Foleys nose and eye socket with his devastating power. Foley said later he had never met such an intense force in the ring.
August 1st 1962, Tyson comes to London, England to fight British and Commonwealth Champ, Henry Cooper. Renowned for his left hook, could Cooper, bring Tyson’s run to an end? No! Giving away nearly 30lbs Cooper was too slow, too small and unfortunately not talented enough. Cooper bravely/foolishly took the fight to Tyson, and although he did land his left hook, Tyson just walked though them. Cooper did well to see out the first, but unfortunately did not see out the second. A 16 punch salvo mid way though the second did for the brave but out gunned Cooper.
Tyson 30-1(28), fought again on October 16 1962, against another legitimate contender in Cleveland Williams (53-4-1). The excellent ‘Big Cat’ was maybe at the height of his powers and at 6’3” a couple of so called ‘experts’ were tipping Williams in this bout.
Tyson without Moore in his corner (he was preparing for a bout with Clay/Ali), started slowly, picking his punches well against the seemingly confused Williams. After 2 slow rounds in which Williams moved, and Tyson chose to be circumspect with his punches, Williams made his first agressive move. Pushing Tyson into the corner, Williams let his vaunted right hand go. Tyson bobbed and weaved slipping all of the powerful but clumsy right hands. Tyson all of a sudden exploded with a cork screw right uppercut, and Williams was out before he hit the floor. Tyson raised his hands while looking down at the prone Williams, before the ref, shoved ‘Iron’ Mike to a neutral corner, and administered the formality of a ten count.
On November 15, Tyson was in Moore’s corner for his ill fated challenge against Clay/Ali. After the fight Clay/Ali taunted Tyson, claiming he was the legitimate #1 challenger to newly crowned champ Liston.
January 22 1963 Billy Daniels steps into the ring with Tyson. Daniels is 17-1, with just a seven round cut eye defeat to Clay/Ali on his record. But Tyson is in awesome form and the 6’4” Daniels, just does not have the tools to keep Tyson at bay. Smart defensive boxing gets Daniels into the third, but with his eye seeping blood, a sickening over hand right puts Daniels on the floor half way though the third. He rises at 9, but the ref wisely stops the bout.
March 21 1963; in his final ‘warm up’, before his much anticipated clash with the undefeated Clay/Ali, Tyson fights rugged Canadian George Chuvalo. Chavalo (21-7-1) is having only his second bout in 18 months, having just the week before beat one Reco Brooks. Tyson, spent 10 rounds hammering the human punch bag that was Chuvalo, but when it became obvious Chuvalo was not going to be KO’d. Moore warned Tyson to ‘box’ perhaps fearing that a broken hand may jeopardise the bout with Clay/Ali. After ten rounds Tyson was given a unanimous decision, he had not lost a minute of the fight, let alone a round!
So to June 27 1963; Tyson verses Clay/Ali. The winner was guaranteed a shot against the ‘awesome’ Champion Sonny Liston. Ali entered the bout with a perfect 18-0 record, Tyson was 33-1(30), the bout was scheduled for 12, Tyson was the 1-4 odds on Favourite.
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