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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