It's not a fair fight: Ali whips Tyson every time
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Ocala, FL (Sports Network) -
It doesn't operate on a set timetable.
Because Leron and I work in the same building but in different departments, our occasional meetings are by chance while grabbing coffee, chatting up Venezuelan temptress Marbella or heading to a mandated company gathering at the end of a given month.
But regardless of when they occur, the encounters always go the same way.
The discussion topic inevitably turns to boxing and my 30-something colleague immediately begins singing the praises of his generation's signature heavyweight champion -- Mike Tyson.
It happened again last week.
"The guy was a wrecking machine, man. Nobody in the world could stand in there with him at his best," he chirped. "Did you see what he did to Michael Spinks? The guy was scared to death."
I nodded politely, tossed in a "Yeah, he sure was" in his general direction every now and then, and indulged my pal his recurring worship.
Until, that is, he went a little too far.
"There's not a heavyweight champion in history that he wouldn't have beat."
I was momentarily stunned.
But by the time the last syllable fully cleared his lips, I let go with a counter that befits my extra decade of life -- and, by osmosis, boxing knowledge.
"Muhammad Ali would have whipped his [butt]," I snorted. "Mike would have never laid a glove on him."
And from there, it merely depends how much time we've got for each go-round.
Whether it's five, 10 or 60 minutes, each jab, feint and roundhouse is met with a similar response from the other side in our obstinate little discussion.
People too often forget Muhammad Ali was a multi-talented offensive weapon who stopped quite- capable foes like Floyd Patterson, Cleveland Williams and Zora Folley.
Funny thing, though, no matter how long the battle goes... one element never changes.
Leron is always wrong.
Whether he's conceding Tyson might lose three of every 10 matches with "The Greatest" or defiantly insisting a clean sweep in his man's favor, not a single shred of logic backs him up.
If they fought once, thrice or a thousand times, the only thing that actually changes is the severity of the beating before the KO -- or the scorecard margin waffling between "blowout" and "shutout."
In spite of Leron's vivid flashbacks to train-wreck knockouts on HBO, there's no recitation that converts Tyson's gory dismantling of corpses Biggs, Tubbs or Williams to the acumen a prime and even past prime Ali displayed while hammering all-timers Liston, Frazier and Foreman.
I'm all for a young guy's hero worship.
But as an old guy, I've got a responsibility to correct burgeoning wrongs.
As an aside -- before even one reader even ponders the phrase "common opponents" -- let's not go there.
While it's true Larry Holmes punished a 38-year-old shell and Trevor Berbick outpointed a slightly older one, the fact neither man lasted four rounds with Tyson proves nothing aside from Angelo Dundee and the rest of Ali's "humane" handlers deserving eternal torment.
Even 30 years later, how they manage to sleep soundly at night is beyond me.
But I digress.
In a 6-foot-3, 212-ish pound Ali, Tyson would not only be meeting a foe who stood five inches taller at a similar weight, but he'd be chasing a target far more elusive than the stationary impala he tracked in clashes with Pinklon Thomas, Holmes and Spinks.
And unlike those pursuits, he'd be getting hit while doing so... repeatedly.
In remembering the foot speed, shuffling and pre-fight orations, people too often forget Ali was a multi-talented offensive weapon who stopped quite- capable foes like Floyd Patterson, Cleveland Williams and Zora Folley before the Vietnam-related exile that segmented his career.
Guys who would have held belts had there been three or more to choose from.
And each equal in quality to Tyson's best wins.
The ease with which Ali dismissed each of them spells impossibly bad things for Iron Mike.
Even later, after returning from hiatus, the Ali-Tyson results would hardly budge.
While vast physical tools would have been the tipping point prime versus prime, the later Ali would have outdone Tyson with superior smarts, the lingering size edge and an immense difference in guts.
Remember the eighth in Zaire against Foreman? He beat a rat-a-tat after taking the best shots from a foe bigger, stronger and more powerful than Tyson, combining the underrated power with in-ring genius.
Remember the 14th round in Manila against Frazier? Ali barely missed a punch while hammering a swarming, bobbing and weaving offensive machine into a lumpy-faced submission.
Even three years later in New Orleans against older brother Leon, he schooled another wannabe for 15 rounds and cemented the greatness that should been enshrined that night.
Mean time, remember how Mike crumbled like crepe paper each time he faced adversity?
When Douglas got off the floor? When Holyfield didn't collapse in terror? When Williams and McBride failed to play steppingstone?
Given those memories as well, the contrast between the men becomes clearer.
Every time Tyson fought a guy regarded as a superior heavyweight fighter -- he lost. He never beat anyone who pushed him. When he got pushed, he got beat. None of the guys he beat ever pushed anyone else either, so it's not as if he was destroying world-beaters.
He's the very definition of a front-running bully. As long as guys are scared, he's king. First time a guy hits him back? Well... you know what happens.
Ali, both before and after his layoff, was beating guys who were considered unstoppable. Liston was Tyson in 1963. Foreman was Tyson in 1974. And let's not forget Frazier and Ken Norton and Jimmy Young and Earnie Shavers and the dozens of others.
Each was every bit as good as the Tony Tuckers and James Tillises and Pinklon Thomases that Tyson terrorized. Each would have a WBO or an IBO or an IBF title these days.
For all the train wrecks Tyson caused -- and hey, I don't argue they were entertaining -- he never beat a fighter who anyone really believed had a chance to beat him. By contrast, Ali was beating guys people were sure he'd lose to. As for the excuse Tyson was finished when he came out of jail, Ali was gone three years and handled Frazier and Foreman and Norton and Shavers and all those other guys.
He was older, slower and beaten up. And he still rose to every occasion. Mike Tyson never once did that. When the occasion rose, he fell, literally. And that's why he's a second-class novelty.
I only hope Leron doesn't resort to ear biting as a reply.
This week's title-fight schedule:
WBA minimumweight title -- Pakchong, Thailand
Kwanthai Sithmorseng (champion) vs. Muhammad Rachman (No. 12 contender)
Sithmorseng (31-0-1, 17 KO): First title defense; All but one fight in Thailand (30-0-1, 16 KO)
Rachman (63-10-5, 32 KO): Seventh title fight (3-2-1, 2 KO); Held IBF title from 2004-07 (three defenses)
Fitzbitz says: "Veteran Rachman's tailspin likely to continue." Sithmorseng by decision
IBF bantamweight title -- Los Angeles, CA
Joseph Agbeko (champion) vs. Abner Mares (No. 4 contender)
Agbeko (28-2, 22 KO): First title defense; Held IBF title from 2007-09 (two defenses)
Mares (21-0-1, 13 KO): Second title fight (1-0, 0 KO); Held IBO title in 2010 (no defenses)
Fitzbitz says: "Mares emerges as star of four-pronged Showtime tourney." Mares by decision
Vacant IBO bantamweight title -- Los Angeles, CA
Yonnhy Perez (No. 2 contender) vs. Vic Darchinyan (No. 5 contender)
Perez (20-1-1, 14 KO): Fourth title fight (1-1-1, 0 KO); Held IBF title in 2009-10 (one defense)
Darchinyan (35-3-1, 27 KO): Eighteenth title fight (14-3, 11 KO); Held titles at 112, 115 and 118
Fitzbitz says: "Sturdy Colombian extends Darchinyan's downward spiral." Perez by decision
Last week's picks: 2-3 Overall picks record: 293-99 (74.7 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at www.twitter.com/fitzbitz.