Mike Tyson Is No Ali: Why Tyson Is Not a Top 10 Heavyweight of All Time

John ReevesContributor IIMarch 4, 2011

LAS VEGAS - FEBRUARY 4:  In this handout photo provided by Las Vegas News Bureau, former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson attends an autograph-signing session  in the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on February 4, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Darrin Bush/Las Vegas News Bureau via Getty Images)
Handout/Getty Images

Fans were drawn to Mike Tyson because of he relentless style of fighting. The peek-a-boo style, combined with his reflexes and power, made him something to marvel over.

He didn't look like the traditional fighters. Tyson didn't wear a fancy robe to the ring, or even socks and underwear, for that matter. Not having those things made him feel more barbaric, but that isn't why he doesn't make the grade as one of the top 10 boxers of all time.

It's simply that the following 10 were better...

Top 10 Heavyweights

1. Muhammad Ali

2. Joe Louis

If you polled boxing fans and asked them which all-time fight they want to see most, the better portion of those fans would likely say Muhammad Ali vs. Mike Tyson.

They want to see Ali fight because most boxing fans consider Muhammad Ali the best boxer of all time. He beat the menacing Sonny Liston, shocking the boxing public, and later in his career he beat the unbeatable George Foreman. Unless you have Joe Louis No. 1, it's Ali atop your list.

3. Lennox Lewis

4. Rocky Marciano 

I have Lennox Lewis at No. 3 all-time, because he beat every fighter worth anything during his career. He cleaned out the division, including a knockout over Tyson.

Rocky Marciano is fourth on my list, because he's the only champion to never lose his title. You can question the level of talent during his run, but at the end of the day nobody could stop him in 49 career fights.

5. George Foreman 

6. Joe Frazier

Until Ali defeated him, George Foreman was considered to be unbeatable. I think he did enough in the first part of his career to make this list, but the second part of his career puts him in the top five.

Joe Frazier only lost to two fighters, Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, No.1 and No.5 on my list of all-time fighters—not bad if you ask me. Joe fought in a time when the heavyweight division was at its best. The third Ali fight is the most brutal display of boxing.

7. Larry Holmes

8. Jack Dempsey

I know some of you are thinking, "Mike Tyson beat Holmes," and that is true. However, he didn't beat him in his prime; he beat a two-year retired Larry Holmes. Not the Holmes that won 48 consecutive fights.

Jack Dempsey is in at eight on the list, and in some he opinions should be higher. One of the most dominant the sport has ever seen, he could box or slug it out toe-to-toe.

9. Sonny Liston

10. Jack Johnson

Sonny Liston was thought to be as unbeatable as Marciano. Many boxing historians believe if Marciano had stayed around to fight him, that would have been his first loss of his career. If Muhammad Ali hadn't beat Liston, nobody at the time was going to do it.

Jack Johnson is regarded as one of the best ever, and on some other lists he's higher than he is on mine. The reason that Johnson and Dempsey are lower on my list has everything to do with the era. They might have been higher if their time frame had been different. Like all other sports, boxers got better as time progressed. 

The Career of Iron Mike Tyson

Tyson exploded onto the boxing scene. There wasn't a lot of film on Tyson because he made short work of his opponents. He would go on to be the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history, passing the record held by another Cus D'Amato fighter.

The foundation was set up for Tyson to become the greatest of all time. Even Muhammad Ali, who always proclaimed to be the greatest, believed Tyson would end up being better than anyone who ever put on boxing gloves. 


Mar. 6 -- Hector Mercedes, Albany, N.Y., TKO 1
Apr. 10 -- Trent Singleton, Albany, N.Y., TKO 1
May 23 -- Don Halpern, Albany, N.Y., KO 4
June 20 -- Rick Spain, Atlantic City, N.J., KO 1
July 11 -- John Alderson, Atlantic City, N.J., TKO 2
July 19 -- Larry Sims, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., KO 3
Aug. 15 -- Lorenzo Canady, Atlantic City, N.J., TKO 1
Sept. 5 -- Michael Johnson, Atlantic City, N.J., KO 1
Oct. 9 -- Donnie Long, Atlantic City, N.J., KO 1
Oct. 25 -- Robert Colay, Atlantic City, N.J., KO 1
Nov. 1 -- Sterling Benjamin, Latham, N.Y., TKO 1
Nov. 13 -- Eddie Richardson, Houston, KO 1
Nov. 22 -- Conroy Nelson, Latham, N.Y., KO 2
Dec. 6 -- Sammy Scaff, New York, KO 1
Dec. 27 -- Mark Young, Latham, N.Y., KO 1

Tyson was undefeated, and untested, as he only fought journeyman fighters. I'm not knocking Tyson for the lack of competition at this point; I'm merely pointing out the fact there was no recognizable fighter in his first 15 fights. He went on from this point without Cus D'Amato, who died Nov. 4, 1985.


Jan. 10 -- Dave Jaco, Albany, N.Y., TKO 1
Jan. 24 -- Mike Jamison, Atlantic City, N.J., TKO 5
Feb. 16 -- Jesse Ferguson, Troy, N.Y., W DSQ 6
Mar. 10 -- Steve Zouski, Uniondale, N.Y., KO 3
May 3 -- James Tillis, Glen Falls, N.Y., W 10
May 20 -- Mitch Green, New York, W 10
June 13 -- Reggie Gross, New York, TKO 1
June 28 -- William Hosea, Troy, N.Y., KO 1
July 11 -- Lorenzo Boyd, Swan Lake, N.Y., KO 2
July 26 -- Marvis Frazier, Glen Falls, N.Y., KO 1
Aug. 17 -- Jose Ribalta, Atlantic City, N.J., TKO 10
Sept. 6 -- Alfonzo Ratliff, Las Vegas, KO 2
Nov. 22 -- Trevor Berbick, Las Vegas, TKO 2
(Won WBC Heavyweight Title)

Tyson would fight two more journeyman in 1986 before facing his first known opponent at 17-0. Jesse Ferguson was still somewhat a journeyman but much tougher than the previously fought no-names. He'd fight three more middle-of-the-road contenders, and that included Trevor Berbick who was brutally knocked out for the Heavyweight Championship.


Mar.7 -- James Smith, Las Vegas, W 12
(Won WBA Heavyweight Title/Retained WBC Heavyweight Title)
May 30 -- Pinklon Thomas, Las Vegas, TKO 6
(Retained WBA/WBC Heavyweight Titles)
Aug. 1 -- Tony Tucker, Las Vegas, W 12
(Won IBF Heavyweight Title/Retained WBA/WBC Heavyweight Titles/Became Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion)
Oct. 16 -- Tyrell Biggs, Atlantic City, N.J., TKO 7
(Retained Undisputed World Heavyweight Title)

In 1987 the wheels hadn't fallen off the wagon, but the writing was on the wall. Tyson had remained focused under Jim Jacobs and his trainer Kevin Rooney. Tyson had not abandoned his training yet, although he had already witnessed what being Champ meant. Nintendo had brought out Mike Tyson's Punch-Out. Mike beat all four of the middle-of-the-road contenders.


Jan. 22 -- Larry Holmes, Atlantic City, N.J., TKO 4
(Retained Undisputed World Heavyweight Title)
Mar. 21 -- Tony Tubbs, Tokyo, Japan, TKO 2
(Retained Undisputed World Heavyweight Title)
June 27 -- Michael Spinks, Atlantic City, N.J., KO 1
(Retained Undisputed World Heavyweight Title)

Tyson needed one thing by 1988—opponents. Larry Holmes would come out of his two-year retirement to take on Mike Tyson. He polished off an easy opponent in Tony Tubbs, just another mid-level opponent. Micheal Spinx was billed as two undefeated Champions. For Spinx, many of those victories came from the light-heavyweight division. Tyson destroyed him quickly.

1988 was the end of Bill Cayton and Kevin Rooney, which was the end of his stability. Nothing remained of the Cus D'Amato school of fighting. There was a new way coming, Don King's way. Mike Tyson was the only person in his camp that knew the D'Amato way. Mike wasn't alone, but his green training crew was no help.


Feb. 25 -- Frank Bruno, Las Vegas, TKO 5
(Retained Undisputed World Heavyweight Title)
July 21 -- Carl Williams, Atlantic City, N.J., TKO 1
(Retained Undisputed World Heavyweight Title)

In 1989, Tyson was no longer the fighter he'd been. He knocked Frank Bruno out like he was expected to do—anyone watching could see Tyson was getting hit more than he had been. For the first time in Tyson's entire career, he looked beatable. I think even Tyson himself saw how the scrappy Bruno made it a fight.

Because he came right out after Carl "The Truth" Williams, fans forgot about the previous fight where Tyson got caught by several hard shots against Bruno. The fighters, however, didn't forget, and it was just a matter of who was going to get to him. Evander Holyfield was eying Tyson, and Foreman had already asked several times for a fight.


Feb. 11 -- James Douglas, Tokyo, Japan, KO by 10
(Lost World Heavyweight Title)
June 16 -- Henry Tillman, Las Vegas, KO 1
Dec. 8 -- Alex Stewart, Atlantic City, N.J., KO 1

Many fans, as well as Tyson himself, refer to this as the end. The end, however, was when he fired Cayton and Rooney. It just took the right person to take advantage of Tyson, who at this time was relying on his power and no longer using his incredible defense. Hiding his face behind his gloves, and then trying to explode out there catching his opponent. There was no more textbook peek-a-boo defense, and punches thrown in numbers. He tried to catch the guy with the one big shot.

Buster Douglas had just lost his mother. In many ways, Douglas was no better than the mid-level fighters Tyson had been beating. When his mother died, he wanted it for her. He didn't fear what might happen in the ring, because no matter what that ended up being, it wouldn't hurt as bad as losing your mother. So in many ways, Douglas had nothing to lose. The tools to beat Tyson were there. Buster could have been one of the best if he'd applied himself. This was the wrong fight for Tyson.

Tyson tried to land the one big shot. He even caught Buster with one late, sending him to the floor. There is a list of fighters who didn't get up, but with a long count by the referee, Buster did. Douglas got off that floor and fought better than he had, which he was up on the score card. Tyson knew when he got up that it was over. In the 10th round it was by KO—and so was Tyson's career.


Mar. 18 -- Donovan Ruddock, Las Vegas, TKO 7
June 28 -- Donovan Ruddock, Las Vegas, W 12

Donovan 'Razor' Ruddock was another mid-level, Buster Douglas type fighter, another guy who never applied himself. Mike was looking to prove that Buster was lucky, but in two rough battles he proved otherwise. He was no longer the same Atlas/Rooney trained fighter. He'd also be imprisoned for rape, losing four crucial years in his career.


Aug. 19 -- Peter McNeeley, Las Vegas, W DSQ 1
Dec. 16 -- Buster Mathis, Jr., Philadelphia, KO 3

Working back slowly. No competition.


Mar. 16 -- Frank Bruno, Las Vegas, TKO 3
(Won WBC Heavyweight Title)
Sept. 7 -- Bruce Seldon, Las Vegas, TKO 1
(Won WBA Heavyweight Title)
Nov. 9 -- Evander Holyfield, Las Vegas, TKO by 11
(Lost WBA Heavyweight Title)

He beat a much lesser Bruno than he'd fought before. Tyson still showed no signs of being his old self. However, a slugger's punch is the last thing to go. Yes, they were calling Tyson a champion again, but everyone knew he hadn't fought anyone.

Holyfield beat Tyson without any ear biting. Just a couple of head-butts by Evander and out-boxing Tyson. I don't think Mike would have beat Holyfield in 1990. Had Tyson beat Douglas, Holyfield was his next opponent. Going into the fight I thought Evander was further past his prime than Tyson. The trilogy with Riddick Bowe, and then heart problems, it just seemed Evander was near the end. 


June 28 -- Evander Holyfield, Las Vegas, L DQ 3
(For WBA Heavyweight Title)

Tyson realized the second fight was going to be like the first, and he became a coward. This ruined his career that had been on a steady decline since 1988. The ear biting incident became just as big as his fists had been in the late 80's.

He's lucky he was ever allowed to fight again from this point.


Jan. 16 -- Francois Botha, Las Vegas, KO 5
Oct. 23 -- Orlin Norris, Las Vegas, NC 1

Two nobodies. But he had to take what he could get at this point.


Jan. 29 -- Julius Francis, Manchester, England, TKO 2
June 24 -- Lou Savarese, Glasgow, Scotland, TKO 1
Oct. 20 -- Andrew Golota, Detroit, NC 3

At this point, he's continuing to embarrass himself. The No Contest with Golota could have been a loss.


Oct. 13 -- Brian Nielsen, Copenhagen, Denmark, TKO 7

He's not fighting much, and he's ruining his legacy when he does. He needed the money, though, and people will always pay to see the power hitters. 


June 8 -- Lennox Lewis, Memphis, Tennessee, KO by 8 *RECAP*
(For WBC and IBF heavyweight title)

One fighter was trying to pad his legacy (Lewis), while the other guy (Tyson), was fighting to regain his. This was the one fight that could turn Mike's career around and bring back the lost respect. This would be his last shot at regaining any past glory. Lennox needed this fight to cement his legacy, and destroying what was left of Tyson would do just that.


Feb. 22, 2003 -- Clifford Etienne, Memphis, Tennessee, KO 1

July 30, 2004 -- Danny Williams, Louisville, KY, KO by 4 *RECAP*

June 11, 2005 -- Kevin McBride, Washington, DC, TKO by 6 *RECAP*

(Referee Joe Cortez stops the fight when Tyson doesn't come out for Round 7. Tyson announces his retirement after the fight.)

Mike Tyson is not a top 10 heavyweight. He killed the fighters he was suppose to beat, but when he fought another elite fighter, he always lost. I'm not talking about some of those B-level fighters he took a belt from. I'm talking about the handful of good boxers he fought throughout his career.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.