Some people might have had him higher and some might have had him lower. Either way, his dominance through the 1980s and 1990s cannot be ignored or forgotten.
Tyson pretty much made boxing relevant as a major global sport from 1986 until 1996 with his flashy knockouts, bizarre behavior out of the prize ring and an aura & staredown that had men beaten before the bell had sounded for Round 1.
He was feared. He took the boxing world by storm and like a unrelenting thunderstorm his ferocity was really only felt for a short time. He dominated the sport for four years and left a huge impression, but his steep decline late in his career keeps him low on the list.
Tyson was an absolute destructor in his heyday. In 1981 and 1982 he won the Junior Olympic gold medal twice. He holds two records at those games with an eight second knockout win and by winning all of his bouts by knockout.
He twice lost to Henry Tillman by decision as an amateur. Tillman went on to become the gold medal winner at 1984 Summer Olympics. Tyson went a different route.
Tyson instead turned pro in 1985 when he was just 18. He won his first 28 bouts in row, and he won them all by knockout or technical knockout. And 16 of those had come in the first round.
His power and his crushing knockout blows were amazing considering he was a much smaller heavyweight than most of his competition. Iron Mike stands under 6-feet, and in his prime, he weighed about 212-220 pounds.
He won the WBC world heavyweight title in November 1986 by dispatching Trevor Berbick in less than two rounds. Mike won the most highly touted of the three world boxing titles first. He then unified those belts.
In March 1987, Tyson won the WBA title by defeating James “Bonecrusher” Smith by unanimous decision. He then defended his WBA and WBC titles once before winning the third of the major titles, a unanimous decision of Tony Tucker, to become the undisputed world heavyweight champion.
He went on to defend his undisputed championship six times before losing to James “Buster” Douglas in Japan in February 1990 in one of the biggest upsets in combat sports history. Douglas figured out that with Tyson you had to bully a bully. If you could survive his onslaught long enough to beat him back, he could be beaten.
On June 27, 1988, Iron Mike Tyson fought his most important bout against Michael Spinks. Spinks had defeated Larry Holmes in 1985 and had left the ring undefeated. He was still considered the best despite the unbelievable way Tyson was winning.
Mike shut all the mouths of his critics with a brutal first round knockout that took less time than Tyson took walking to the ring that night.
Tyson also recovered from his first loss with back to back knockouts, one of Henry Tillman. In 1996, Tyson easily dispatched both the WBC and WBA champions to regain two-thirds of the undisputed crown he had lost.
He would go on to lose twice to Evander Holyfield and in a 2002 fight with Lennox Lewis, never having climbed to the top of the heap again.