Re-evaulating “Iron” Mike Tyson

By Eric D. Graham BASN columnist
Updated: July 23, 2012

I would have liked to see Mike Tyson vs. Leon Spinks,

I would have liked to see Mike Tyson vs. Leon Spinks, "the Brawl at the local Mall

NORTH CAROLINA (BASN)—He was the Bad Boy from Brooklyn, whose troubled past eventually caught up with him.

And even though, he claimed to be the best boxer ever, did he really live-up to his claim? Or was he simply an overrated boxer, who defeated a bunch of no-named fighter?

Please, calm down.Don’t get upset.

I was a big Mike Tyson fan back in the day too.

But we must take a serious look at the boxing career of the one known as Iron Mike Tyson in order to determine his historical legacy in the sport of boxing.

On one level, he was the embodied of Hip-Hop culture with a pair of boxing gloves during his rise to fame.

He, in fact, represented Black male aggression and masculine in and outside the ring.

He was a “hood-figure” and “ghetto superstar.”

A street kid with a “killer” knockout punch.

A group home kid, who grew up to live in mansions, date beautiful women and drive fast cars.

But truthfully, we loved him and feared him at the same time.

Why? Because, his unpredictability was scary.

His fists of fury were lethal.

And his toughness and tenacity was legendary.

TYSON AND ALI

But historically, Tyson was not and is not Muhammad Ali.

There is, in fact, no comparison between the two of them.

Even with his failed attempt to embrace Islam after getting out of prison, Tyson still lacked the universal appeal and the boxing skills Ali possessed.

And let’s end this silly debate; Muhammad Ali would have destroyed Mike Tyson in the boxing ring.

Tyson, like Ali, did possess an aura of invincibility.

Ali, however, on a social level, won us over with his charm and playfulness while Tyson terrorized us with his stares and body language.

Why? Because, his mere presence seemed threatening and intimidating.

Tyson, to be honest, always looked like he was ready to strike or threw a punch that would crack your jaw or shatter your chin.

MENANCING MANNERISMS

I mean……

The black shorts.

The sockless black shoes.

The bipolar blank stares.

The grimacing grind with the gold tooth and the squeaky voice.

The rolling of his neck.

The notorious robe less entrees in the boxing ring.

The menacing mannerisms.

Plus, his violent punching power terrified us all.

His whole image and demeanor, in fact, brought fear into the hearts of most fighters as well as into the hearts of most boxing fans, who watched at ringside whether Black or white, who were captivated by this miniature hulk-like figure.

RING OF RAGE

Tyson simply was a “bad-ass bully” in the ring.

A terrorist with a pair of boxing gloves.

His boxing style was sear violence.

It was filled with “pure” rage.

Plus, it was that rage, which captured our imagination and kept us coming back for more.

It was that uncontrollable rage that Don King brilliantly marketed.

And it was that rage, which we, as boxing fans, lusted to see unleashed on some poor boxer’s body. But this human tornado of testerone would eventually become self-destructive, as the demons in his head over took the sensitivity of his soul.

One can only wonder how Tyson’s boxing career would have turned out if Cus D’Amato didn’t die. Or if his trainer Kevin Rooney wasn’t fired? Or if he didn’t marry Robin Givens? Or if he didn’t rape Desiree Washington?

There, in fact, are many if’s surrounding Tyson’s turbulent career.

But as we take a closer look at Iron Mike in the ring, we continue to search for an impressive win against a true heavyweight opponent in his impressive 42-4 record.

FIGHTING AGAINST HISTORY

In his first fight, he beat Hector Mercedes in 1985. Then he went on to knockout 12 of his next 15 opponents in the first round, which led him to terrorize fighters like David Jaco, Mike Jamison, James Tillis, Mitch Green, Reggie Gross, William Hosea, Lorenzo Boyd, Marvis Frazier, Jose Ribalta, and Alfonso Ratliff in 1986.

All of these victories, put Tyson in Las Vegas, where he knocked out Trevor Berbick to win the WBC heavyweight championship belt, making him the youngest heavyweight championship in the history of boxing at the age of 20 years old.

But right after that fight, Tyson had trouble defeating James”Bonecrusher” Smith, who actually became the blueprint for other bigger fighters to beat him by utilizing his size and height to frustrated a shorter Tyson by clutching him and punching him out of the breaks.

After that 12 round match with Smith, Tyson when on to defeat Pinklon Thomas and Tony Tucker, which also went 12 rounds. Next, the “Brooklyn Brawler” fought Tyrell Biggs, an aging Larry Holmes, Tony Tubbs, and a scared Michael Spinks, whom he knocked out in seconds of the first round.

With 1989 victories against Frank Bruno and Carl Williams, the world was stunned and shocked with disbelief when James “Buster” Douglas KO-ed Tyson in Tokyo, Japan in the ten round on February 11, 1990.

BUSTED AFTER LOST TO BUSTER

By Douglas dropping Tyson to the canvas, his invincibility was shattered. As a result, no longer would other fighters fear him as they once did.

After the devastating lost to Douglas, Tyson’s handlers “nervously” worked to build his “busted” confidence. Tyson responded by knocking out a couple of scrubs like: Henry Tillman, Alex Stewart and Razor Ruddock twice, in which one match went 12 rounds in 1991.

After rebuilding his boxing reputation, in 1992, Tyson, unfortunately, was convicted of rape and sentenced to six years in prison, where he was released on parole in 1995.

By being in prison for three years, Tyson’s boxing skills diminished as well as his psychological well-being. As a result, the brilliant boxing student was reduced to being a street brawler, who threw punches wildly as if he was in a tough-man competition.

This was evident in his 89 seconds victory over Peter McNeeley and his third round knockout of Buster Mather Jr. in 1996.

Surprisingly, after knocking out Frank Bruno in third round in Las Vegas, Tyson was rewarded the WBC heavyweight title in Las Vegas on May 16, 1996 plus the WBA heavyweight belt after “leveling” Bruce Seldon in the first round in September. While displaying two championship belts, Tyson’s refusal to fight Lennox Lewis ended with him losing one of them.

This refusal to fight Lewis, in effect, caused many ringside analysts to question Tyson’s boxing pedigree. Several boxing commentators, in fact, believed that Tyson feared Lewis because he knew that he couldn’t beat the British boxer. This theory would prove itself to be true later in Tyson’s career.

RELIGIOUS ROUND HOUSE

With Lewis patiently waiting for an opportunity to fight Iron Mike, Team Tyson ducked and dodged him and ended up signing a deal to fight Evander Holyfield.

It was a match made in heaven amongst boxing promoters.

And it was deemed a religious holy war and a fight for religious supremacy.

On one side, there was the “Christian Crusader” Evander Holyfield.

And on the other side, there was the “evil” Islamic warrior Mike Tyson, according to the American media.

Shockingly, the fight lived up to its billing, as a stunned crowd watched Tyson lay flat on his back after getting crushed by Holyfield’s “holy” right hand on November 9, 1996 in Las Vegas.

Tyson’s lost to Holyfield, oddly, had Christians praising “Jesus” for the victory while boxing fans waited for the highly anticipated rematch.

During the rematch, what happened in the ring would unfortunately define Tyson’s legacy forever.

Because during the rematch, Tyson totally lost his marbles, when in fear of being knocked out for the second time, viciously bit a chunk out of Evander’s ear. Not once, but twice, on June 29, 1997.

This notorious ear biting incident led the Nevada State Athletic Commission, in a unanimous voice vote, to revoke Tyson’s boxing license, which led them to fine him $3 million for the incident.

BI-POLAR BOXER

While Tyson’s psychotic bi-polar behavior continued, so did the lawsuits against him. As a result, within in two years after being disqualified for biting Holyfield’s ear, he spent more time in the courtroom and in jail than training in the boxing ring.

Shockingly, after undergoing a psychiatric evaluation, psychiatrists believed Tyson “most likely wouldn’t snap again.” As a result, the Nevada Athletic Commission voted 4-1 to restore Tyson’s boxing license on October 1998.

Despite Tyson’s psychiatrists clearing him to fight again, his erratic behavior continued in and out of the ring, especially after knocking out Francois Botha in the fifth round, which he admittedly tried to break Botha’s arm during the fight.

Several months later in a bout against Orlin Norris, Tyson displayed more disturbing behavior, when he hit him after the bell in the first round.

With Tyson’s mental health deteriorating in full public view, he restrained himself enough to knock-out Julius Francis in the second round in Manchester, England on Jan. 29, 2000. But when everything seemed back to normal, he found himself being fined $187,000 for knocking down a referee in a bout against Lou Savarese, whom he defeated in only 38 second.

At that point in Tyson’s career despite being on Zoloft, everybody had come to the conclusion that he needed to be in a strait jacket and admitted into a psychiatric facility rather than in a boxing ring.

LENNOX LEWIS AND THE FALLEN LEGACY

This was made evident during a press conference on January 22, 2002 which was supposed to promote his big fight against Lennox Lewis on August 6. Unfortunately, Tyson had another mental meltdown, which resulted into a nasty brawl. During the scuffle, Tyson, after ducking a vicious punch from Lewis, bit him on the leg.

After the melee, Tyson’s demeanor darkened and his interviews became stranger. It was obvious that he was not taking his medication as he cursed on camera and delivered a tirade of “unadultered” truths.

With all of the hype surrounding the Lewis-Tyson fight in Memphis, Tennessee, Lennox Lewis manhandled him the entire bout and knocked him out in the eighth round, which literally put a period to Tyson’s turbulent career.

Tyson’s lost to Buster Douglas, Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, and Kevin McBride, in fact, left question marks behind his so-called “greatness.”

To be fair, we can’t blame Tyson for the lack of competition in the heavyweight field.

He did beat the fighters that were available at that time in history.

But we can’t overlook his failure to deliver the knockout blow against a worthy opponent either.

Therefore, we must conclude that Tyson was “great” but his “greatness” is still debatable.