There is no more “Iron” Mike, forget the comeback Tyson!

By Lance Whittaker May 15, 2020
Mike Tyson Mike Tyson

For many sports fans, Mike Tyson has been the most dangerous fighter in heavyweight boxing history.

At the start of his career, he ferociously knocked out his first 19 opponents, 12 in the first round and 84% of them inside the first three. That conquered group may not have been challenging but the New Yorker’s cold-blooded demolition of them made a huge statement about where his career was heading.

Within 21 months of being a pro, Tyson would become the youngest World Heavyweight champion in history at 20 years and four months with a brutal two-round win over Jamaican Trevor Berbick in Las Vegas.

Tyson’s raging life of crests and troughs -- in and out of the ring -- includes a 1992 prison sentence and who knows what chapters are still to be written in his storied career.

Two separate Instagram posts this month showing surprisingly striking punching power and speed from the 53 year-old sent tongues wagging about the ex-champion’s possible return to the ring.

Tyson said he is getting into shape for some charity exhibition bouts but his other remarks that the Gods of war have “reawakened” him and “ignited” his ego “to go to war again” aren’t conjuring images in my mind of exhibition outings. He also said he feels “unstoppable now” and like he is young again.

Insiders are suggesting whatever charity engagements he speaks of are just a teaser to things more massive.

At the end of his most recent video, Tyson proclaimed "I'm back" but I am hoping he is not contemplating a serious return because the current crowd of top-flight heavyweights are big, powerful and tall and would be too much for an almost senior citizen Tyson.

It’s a no-brainer for me that Tyson should, since his desire is heightened, feel free to engage in exhibition bouts but he should spurn any temptation to tackle top-10 men and champions. History is replete with great heavyweight names suffering humiliating defeats during protracted careers.

Watching a run-of-the-mill Berbick in December 1981 dominate Muhammad Ali in “The Greatest’s” last fight at age 39 in Nassau and Tyson savagely extinguishing a genuinely solid but fading 38 year-old Larry Holmes in Atlantic City in January 1988 were just two of many such sad moments in boxing history for me. Tyson has already given us a few of those flashes with three losses in his last four fights and I don’t wish to see anymore.

Big George Foreman, who returned to boxing as a 38-year-old in 1987 after a 10-year retirement and claimed WBA and IBF world titles, is shockingly endorsing a serious comeback for Tyson.

After watching Tyson’s sharpness and intensity in the video posts, Foreman suggests Tyson looks like he has “turned the clock back at least 20 years” and declared him fully capable of becoming a top contender again if he commits to training and “dedicates himself to that for about 10 months”.

Foreman’s pronouncements though are partly an illustration of the deep respect and rating he has for Tyson. Decades later, Foreman admits to the fear he had for “Iron Mike” as he stayed away from any clash with the Brooklyn native while they were active at the same time during the 1990s. Foreman labelled Tyson a “nightmare” and a “monster” that he wanted no part of.

Now Foreman seems to be encouraging Tyson to re-enact a part of boxing history that he Foreman starred in, his remarkable comeback from 10 years in retirement to be crowned the oldest heavyweight champion ever at 45 years old.

Tyson doing a Foreman though is highly improbable for several reasons. Tyson is 53 years old, not the 38 that Big George started his comeback at. Tyson has been out of the ring for 15 years, five years longer than Foreman was dormant, and at 6’ 4” and over 250 pounds, Foreman – though lumbering and lacking speed -- often used his overwhelming size to manhandle his smaller opponents.

Tyson is a short heavyweight at only 5’ 10” and his advancing years would have diminished many other assets he had used in his prime to offset his physical deficits.

I simply cannot side with Foreman’s take on this proposed Tyson “comeback” even though I have a very healthy respect for Foreman’s understanding of Tyson. He has been right, prophetic even, about so many things regarding “Iron” Mike including his prediction during his first reign as champion that women would be the downfall of Tyson.

Of course, Tyson was soon after Foreman’s forecast, mentally derailed by his highly publicized calamitous marriage with actor Robin Givens that ended in divorce within two years in 1989. A few years later in 1992, Tyson was sentenced to six years in prison for raping 18-year-old beauty pageant contestant Desiree Washington.

Muhammad Ali is widely regarded as heavyweight boxing’s greatest ever, but Tyson at his violent best could probably have beaten him and every other heavyweight in history.

Ali’s unquestionable craft, multi-dimensional skills and confidence would probably have served him well in a Tyson clash. He advertised those qualities in clinically cutting down other frightening punchers like Foreman and Sonny Liston. Liston and Foreman were like massive dangerous beasts who boxers were afraid of. Ali wasn’t scared and if he was he didn’t show it and knocked them both out. Tyson was also a beast of a fighter but with bullet-like hand speed that Liston and Foreman never had.

A lot is being said about Tyson’s changed lifestyle, no drugs, a plant-based diet and his physical conditioning completely reversed from the man who had bulged from a regular fight weight of 220 pounds to over 350 pounds after retirement 11 years ago.

Ex-champions Oscar De La Hoya and Jeff Fenech have said in the past week that this 53-year-old could easily measure up to the current top heavyweights, Fenech even suggested that Tyson – with six weeks training -- would beat current WBC World No.2 Deontay Wilder by knockout.

Insiders believe Tyson is significantly better today than the last few years of his career 2003 to 2005 when he lost to Danny Williams and Kevin McBride. He had better be if he is serious about a comeback because the mediocre Irishman McBride, who stopped him in his last fight in June 2005, would not have beaten the real Mike Tyson even if the American was blindfolded and had one arm strapped to his body.

If a pitiful 6th-round loss to a less than second-rate McBride was what Tyson gave me 15 years ago, what extraordinary transformation can we expect as he approaches his 54th birthday in a few weeks?

Tyson’s recent sparring video honestly looks dazzling and extraordinary for his age. His trainer Rafael Cordeiro swears he is hitting the training pads with the same speed and power as guys 21 and 22 years old but we have to be real, that “Baddest man on the planet” disappeared more than 20 years ago and he isn’t coming back.

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    Germany's Bundesliga lead the way last month, with the Premier League, LaLiga and Serie A all due to follow suit as European football emerges from its coronavirus hiatus.

    Goals will fly in to no applause, much like the tries being run in before empty stands in the NRL. Formula One engines will soon make a howling echo as they pass deserted grandstands.

    But what of boxing and it's close-quarters intense combat in the COVID-19 age? Dramatic twists with no fan on the edge or any other part of a seat, knockout blows followed only by the thud of body on canvas and without roars and screams.

    So what does a former world heavyweight title challenger think about the prospect of trading leather in an uber-sanitised environment?

    "Sweet, sweet, sweet! Because the fans can make your blood pressure go up for no reason," US heavyweight veteran Kevin Johnson told Stats Perform from his base in Gelsenkirchen, the German city where he is undergoing final preparations for taking on Mariusz Wach in his native Poland next Friday.

    Top Rank will bring boxing back to Las Vegas earlier in the week, with WBO super-featherweight champion Shakur Stevenson and his fellow 126lbs star Jessie Magdaleno featuring in respective main events.

    In the UK, intrigue remains over Eddie Hearn's plans to stage events in the sprawling gardens of his Matchroom HQ, but Wach v Johnson has been slated for some time – confirmed in April as a pay-per-view event. It will set fans back 20 Polish zloty, or a shade under $5.

    Palac w Konarach, a hotel in a plush setting that suggests its three-star rating might be selling it a little short, will host the card. It lies remotely in the rural Swietokrzyskie Voivodeship, 100 kilometres north east of Krakow and 230 south of the capital Warsaw.

    "We were in negotiations late last year and then there was the corona thing, so we were postponing," Johnson explained.

    "Now it's come about. It's going to be under a strategic, surgical eye as far as the methods and precautions that we're going to take in this pandemic.

    "It's going to be very different to any show that's been done because of the extremes we have to go to and into for our safety."

    Those precautions will include quarantined areas for both fighters at the hotel and on fight night, with tests for everyone allowed into the event – from the referee and judges, to both fighters' teams and camera operators.

    Johnson knows that in the current climate, any fans at all being involved was a complete non-starter, especially given a boxing ring walk does not grant the distance from supporters afforded by grandstands in other sports.

    "I always worry [about my health] when it comes to a fight," said the former Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua foe. "I'm not worried about the fighter because we test all year round. We are some of the healthiest and cleanest athletes to come into contact with each other.

    "I'm more worried about fans who would want to take pictures and grab on you. You're sweaty, your pores are open, you're more susceptible for anything to happen at that moment.

    "Now I don’t have to come into contact with anyone but Mariusz and his team over in Poland are taking wonderful, cautious and precise methods to make sure we can perform and come into contact with each other without any of us having anything.

    "There will be extra testing to make sure we are 100 per cent and [between then and the fight] we will be isolated to our areas."

    Johnson suffered his first career defeat in his 24th outing, challenging the great Vitali Klitschko for the WBC title in 2009. That unanimous points loss in Berne, Switzerland was the first time he had boxed outside of the United States.

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    This status as a well-travelled road warrior means Johnson knows the challenges of boxing with the crowd against you all too well – a factor he is relishing being taken out of the equation on June 12.

    "A guy can throw punches at you and you block them, but the fans didn't see it and they think it landed," he said. "The fans either put some weight on you or they help you with their energy.

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    Wach's shot at the top honours came in 2012 when he took Wladimir Klitschko the distance.

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    "People don't understand the s*** you have to go through in these times just to train. It's so far-fetched, so far gone.

    "This is a time right now where we're both putting our life on the line and it shows the tremendous heart and warrior spirit of two great fighters."

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    He asked the WBC to make changes because the coronavirus pandemic has left boxers unable to compete for three months, with upcoming fights needing to take place behind closed doors.

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    "Arum's talking rubbish," Whyte said to Sky Sports. "If he represented me, he'd be screaming that this is the biggest travesty in the history of boxing.

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    The future Australia great was introduced to cricket's greatest series in stunning fashion as England were set on their way to a painful defeat.

    Two years later, it was New Zealand's go to turn on the style on the same day in the calendar at the Rugby World Cup.

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    1993 - Warne delivers 'ball of the century'

    Warne is now renowned as a cricketing great, but he was making his Ashes debut on this day 27 years ago.

    While the series had started a day earlier with England taking the ball, the most memorable moment of the opening match at Old Trafford came when the hosts sought to build a reply to Australia's first-innings 289.

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    1995 - Ellis scores six as All Blacks run riot

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    Eventual finalists New Zealand romped to a 145-17 win in Bloemfontein, which was then a record margin of victory and is the most points scored by a team in a World Cup match

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    2005 - Hatton stuns Tszyu to take title

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    2016 - Muguruza off the mark as Serena stalls

    Garbine Muguruza reached her second major final at Roland Garros in 2016 and, as the previous year at Wimbledon, she was faced with the daunting task of taking down Serena Williams.

    However, Muguruza - beaten at the All England Club - claimed her first grand slam triumph in a display she would describe as "the perfect final".

    The Spaniard became French Open champion with a 7-5 6-4 success, showing character late in the first set and dictating the second to see off Serena.

    Williams had been bidding to tie Steffi Graf's Open-era record of 22 major titles and would only have to wait until a month later at Wimbledon to do so as she maintained a stunning run of form up until the birth of her daughter in 2017.

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