Who Should Mike Tyson Face in His Boxing Return?

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistMay 18, 2020

Who Should Mike Tyson Face in His Boxing Return?

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    Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press

    Like it or not, Mike Tyson, 53, appears to be headed back to a boxing ring soon.

    Maybe the world isn't ready for such an astonishing spectacle, but something tells me that some of the group of consumers who made Floyd Mayweather's 2017 crossover megafight against Conor McGregor one of the best selling pay-per-view events in history will be interested enough in Tyson's next move to make it worth his while.

    But who should Tyson, aka The Baddest Man on the Planet, take on in his boxing return?

    Here are several ideas for Iron Mike to consider.

Evander Holyfield

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    Should Mike Tyson make it a trilogy with Evander Holyfield?
    Should Mike Tyson make it a trilogy with Evander Holyfield?Associated Press

    The most obvious opponent choice for Tyson's return to boxing would be Evander Holyfield. Like Tyson, Holyfield, 57, also announced he was planning a comeback fight in recent weeks and that he would love for it to be a charity exhibition against his old rival, Tyson.

    Holyfield twice defeated Tyson during the 1990s. The Real Deal stopped Tyson in the eighth round back in 1996 in one of the most shocking upsets in boxing history, and he won again via disqualification a year later in the infamous "Bite Fight" rematch.

    Still, the two men enjoy a solid relationship with each other these days, and it would make some sense for them to seek fights against each other as both are in their 50s, especially if it's a charity exhibition match like both have separately suggested it would be.

    Besides, Tyson and Holyfield will forever be linked together through the annals of history. Why not just lean into that and give fight fans one more show?

Lennox Lewis

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    Can Mike Tyson avenge his loss to Lennox Lewis?
    Can Mike Tyson avenge his loss to Lennox Lewis?Al Bello/Getty Images

    While Tyson and Holyfield were incredibly popular during their heydays, Lennox Lewis probably bests them both in terms of where he actually ranks among the other all-time great heavyweight champions in history.

    On top of that, Lennox bested both Tyson and Holyfield when he fought them.

    The 54-year-old stopped Tyson in the eighth round back in 2002 in a savagely one-sided affair. Lewis also went 1-0-1 against Holyfield, though most observers thought that draw in 1998 should have also gone his way.

    Like Tyson vs. Holyfield 3, Tyson facing Lewis in a rematch would be the ultimate nostalgia move, and it would probably draw a lot of interest from fight fans around the world. Unlike Holyfield, Lewis doesn't seem to be actively gunning for the gig, but he did at least tweet about training again when the news first broke about Tyson's plan.

    Moreover, if Tyson is interested in charity work like he told rapper T.I. a couple of weeks ago on Instagram Live, Lewis would be another prime partner to consider.

Shannon Briggs

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    Let's go, champ?
    Let's go, champ?Daniel Bockwoldt/Associated Press/Associated Press

    Let's go, champ?

    Briggs, 48, is also a former heavyweight champion, though he never quite reached the same level of fame or accomplishment as Tyson, Holyfield or Lewis. Still, Briggs has remained in incredible shape and has been another name linked to Tyson over recent weeks.

    First, there were wild rumors that Briggs could be Tyson's opponent if the latter agreed to that $20 million-contract the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship offered him. The proposal was confirmed by Brian Mazique of Heavy.com, but Tyson declined.

    Briggs was still pressing hard for the bout, even under straight boxing rules, in a fight that he suggested to Dame Dash Studios could take place at the Statue of Liberty.

    The best part? Briggs is one of the best self-promoters in recent boxing history. His "Let's go, champ!" and "Where you go, I go!" antics, which include the fighter chasing Wladimir Klitschko around the globe trying to land that fight, would pair quite nicely with Tyson's combustible personality.

John Fury

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    Should Mike Tyson face the father of the Gypsy King?
    Should Mike Tyson face the father of the Gypsy King?PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

    Tyson Fury's father, John, named his son after Iron Mike, so you know he admires and respects the former champion. But John, 55, is also a former professional boxer. Additionally, John was a bare-knuckle streetfighter who earned quite the reputation as a menace during his fighting days.

    Sure, some of Mike Tyson's fans seem to believe the American could climb back into the ring and face the likes of Tyson Fury tomorrow (or even after six months of training, as suggested by trainer Rafael Cordeiro when talking to ESPN's Ariel Helwani), but Mike is an astute enough boxing historian to know he doesn't have much chance against an elite heavyweight champion in his prime like The Gypsy King.

    But a fight against that champion's dad? One who's two years older than Iron Mike and never quite reached the same level as him in the professional ranks?

    The 53-year-old could reasonably box John Fury in any capacity, whether in a charity exhibition bout or something more like a real fight.

    Besides, John already challenged Mike for the honor.

Vitali Klitschko

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    Could Mike Tyson bring Vitali Klitschko out of retirement?
    Could Mike Tyson bring Vitali Klitschko out of retirement?Frank Augstein/Associated Press

    Perhaps another option for Tyson would be Vitali Klitschko. Like Tyson, Klitschko is one of the better heavyweights in boxing history. Unlike Tyson, the 48-year-old wasn't universally praised as such during his fighting days. On top of that, Vitali Klitschko's younger brother, Wladimir, enjoyed a long reign as heavyweight champ, one that seems to have obscured the older brother's credentials in the eyes of some.

    Vladimir hasn't fought since 2012. He's currently the mayor of Kyiv, Ukraine, and his active role in politics could help bring additional revenue and charitable contributions to whatever kind of event Tyson is hoping to put together.

Anybody He Wants?

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    Mike Tyson is in charge of his own destiny.
    Mike Tyson is in charge of his own destiny.Marlene Karas/Associated Press

    While everyone is sure to have an opinion about what the 53-year-old former heavyweight champion should and shouldn't do in terms of his boxing comeback, the truth of the matter is that Tyson should be able to choose his own destiny so long as he can pass the battery of medical tests professional fighters are subjected to for licensing.

    After all, Tyson was one of the best boxing champions in the history of the sport. That means he knows how to take care of himself once the bell rings, and judging by the first and second training videos he posted to social media, Tyson would at least be a formidable enough offensive force for short bursts of time.

    Tyson said via Facebook Live last week, "I feel unstoppable now. The gods of war have reawakened me, ignited my ego, and want me to go to war again. I feel like I'm [young] again.”

    That's easier said than done, but sometimes the only way a fighter truly knows whether the "gods of war" are on his side again is by stepping back inside the ropes and testing the theory out.

    If Tyson chooses to do that, he should be able to pick his opponent, too.