OPINION: ‘Iron’ Mike doesn’t want to end up as scrap heap again
Mike Tyson almost broke the Internet this week with footage of him hitting the mits, but if the 53-year-old former heavyweight champion of the world got into a ring with today’s biggest hitters he’d be as broken as he was the last time he slumped onto the ropes against Irish plodder Kevin McBride and refused to come out for the seventh round.
That was 15 years ago.
Tyson, the world’s youngest and most feared heavyweight champion at 20 years-old, was an embarrassment to himself, the sport and his legacy in his final few years as a professional boxer.
The boxer, who in his prime, proclaimed himself the baddest man on the planet, ended his career as the saddest man on the planet with defeats against British journeyman Danny Williams and the even more mediocre McBride.
Williams, beaten three times before he knocked out Tyson in the fourth round in 2004, has lost 25 times since. He is still listed as an active boxer at 46 years-old, and this week offered to fight Tyson again.
McBride lost six times in eight fights after beating Tyson and was knocked out in his 46th and final bout by Mariusz Wach.
Tyson hasn’t boxed since 2005, but this week’s released footage on social media revealed Tyson looking more like a 20 year-old heavyweight sensation than a stumbling 50-plus slob.
“I saw a guy with the same speed, same power as guys 21 and 22 years-old,” trainer Rafael Cordeiro told ESPN, who said talk of a Tyson comeback was not a joke or a marketing stunt.
Cordeiro was the man wearing the mits and feeling the force of the 53 year-old Tyson’s punches.
“There is more video that will be released and it shows more power, more speed and more everything.”
Tyson told rapper T.I. on an Instagram Live chat that he wanted to fight again, if only exhibition fights and he told World Boxing News: “I want to go to the gym and get in shape, do some charity exhibitions, make some money, help some homeless and drug-affected mother-f--------- like me.”
Tyson’s video footage and comments caused a global boxing flurry, with the romantics urging Iron Mike back into the ring, and former heavyweight champion George Foreman declaring that Tyson, w“if he could extend the 45 second video cameo into a year of training, could beat the best in today’s heavyweight division.
“I was so happy. He looked like he had turned the clock back at least 20 years,” said Foreman.
“It starts with talk of exhibition fights but then the next thing you know you are fighting for the world title.”
Foreman speaks from experience, given his remarkable comeback to be crowned the oldest heavyweight champion at 45 years-old.
Foreman, knocked out by Muhammad Ali at the peak of his early career, returned to the ring as a 38 year-old and seven years later knocked out the 26-year-old heavyweight champion Michael Moorer in the 10th round.
Foreman would retire at 48-years-old, but he reminded cynics that when he knocked out Moorer, the then champion had never lost in 35 fights.
Tyson, who in the past few years, has embraced a plant-based diet, admitted he was mentally in a place of unrivalled strength.
He again apologised to the sport of boxing for the way he disrespected it back in 2004 and 2005 and for how he failed himself as a warrior of the sport.
The appetite to train and fight is once again there and the video reminded people of his glory days and not those gory last few years.
The 46-year-old Williams was impressed with the 53 year-old Tyson footage because he said it mirrored the young fighter who terrified the heavyweight division.
“I want to fight Mike Tyson again. I want to fight this Mike Tyson. My agents have been in touch,” said Williams, who has never revelled in his knockout against Tyson and consistently conceded the fighter he beat was not the Mike Tyson so admired and awed in the sport.
“I wouldn’t have lasted a round with Mike Tyson in his prime.”
Williams, all reverence when referring to the young Tyson, was equally rough when describing the Tyson he hammered. Tyson, he said, never lost when he was ahead and in charge of a fight but never came from behind to win.
“Some of the great fighters are defined by how they withstood an onslaught and recovered to win big fights. Not Mike Tyson. Once he knew he was losing that was the end.”
If you want to fully appreciate Williams’s comments, there’s a nine minutes and 51 seconds YouTube video of Tyson’s six defeats. They all follow the same pattern. Once he ran out of puff and he couldn’t land early round knockouts, his jaw was glass and his legs were jelly.
Tyson’s boxing career is the cliché of two tales, but in a world where sports fans constantly seek a Hollywood ending, there would be nothing more magnificent than a 53 year-old Tyson becoming the oldest ever heavyweight champion of the world, 33 years after becoming the youngest heavyweight champion of the world.
Tyson fighting for the world title is a fantasy and nothing more than fiction.
More realistically, Tyson may just finally answer the question of whether he would have knocked out the king of four-round heavyweight exhibition fights Eric “Butterbean” Esch.
“Butterbean”, also 53, was a boxer, kickboxer, mixed martial artist and professional wrestler in a fighting career that ended with 97-24-5, with 65 knockouts and nine submissions.
Tyson, using game footage, demolishes “Butterbean” with a second-round knockout in their eWorld Boxing Super Series bout.
“Butterbean” only ever fought one 10-rounder and that against former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes.
Butterbean knocked Holmes down in the 10th round but still lost on points. Holmes, for the record, was 52-years-old.
Tyson, at best, can turn the tragedy that was his final few fights into a triumph against the very same journeymen who belittled him in the ring.
Four-time heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, at 57-years-old, has also announced a comeback to exhibition fighting. He wants to make it three from three against Tyson after beating him twice in succession in 1996 and 1997.
The Holyfield versus Tyson trilogy is more manageable and marketable than Tyson versus today’s biggest hitters.
Holyfield versus Tyson would be age appropriate. It could even be the start of a new seniors circuit.