Post image for Mike Tyson – 6 Degrees of Devastation

Mike Tyson – 6 Degrees of Devastation

by Fran on August 28, 2012


Where were you the first time you saw Mike Tyson?  Are you of an age to be contemporary with the reign of terror that he exacted upon the Heavyweight division of the late 80’s?  Well, just like people remember where they were when they found out that JFK had been assassinated, I remember the first time I saw Iron Mike Tyson in action.

It was a cold, rainy Saturday afternoon.  In the UK at that time we had a Saturday afternoon sports show called World of Sport.  I remember the presenter, the flamboyantly named Dickie Davies, introducing this new Heavyweight phenomenon who hailed from Catskill, New York.  A protégé of the professorial Cus D’Amato, Tyson looked every inch the part.  He was short and incredibly powerful looking.  I’d never saw anything like him climb between the ropes.

He was facing off against the unfortunate William Hosea who laid down quite a hard-nosed approach against Iron Mike, standing his ground and looking to stamp his authority on the fight.  As soon as the fight started, I shouted my Dad in from the kitchen, “Dad” I yelped at the top of my rather shaky teenage voice (I was about 14 at the time), “come and look at this fella!”  We watched Tyson overwhelm Hosea with breathtaking ferocity.

For me it was simply the beginning of the Mike Tyson adventure ride, and what a ride it was.

Stick with the Fighting!

There are so many aspects to the Mike Tyson story.  In fact, people are often more fascinated with what went on outside the ring than in it.  I want to focus on the skills and attributes that made him the hugely influential and successful fighter that he was.  If you are looking for psychoanalysis of Tyson, or if you are looking for a end-to-end biography, then you are in the wrong place.

I am not going to sit on the fence here.  Mike Tyson, in my opinion, during a particular period of his career was as close to unbeatable as a fighter can get.  I don’t believe that there is a Heavyweight in history who could have won a fight with Iron Mike Tyson during the World Champion years when Kevin Rooney and Co was running his gym sessions.

Some might believe that Ali in his prime would have reigned supreme against Tyson, using the approach that he employed with Sonny Liston.  I don’t.  Whilst Sonny possessed a similar level of punching power to Iron Mike there were plenty of other attributes that he simply didn’t bring to that Tyson had in spades.  What if Ali used his rope-a-dope a la George Foreman?  My own view is that rope-a-dope against a peak Mike Tyson is simply a short cut to a lengthy stay in Hospital.

This is not to say that I feel that Iron Mike was a better boxer than Muhammad Ali, I don’t.  I think that Ali’s achievements are to this day unrivalled.  His versatility, bravery and boxing acumen make me gasp in awe.  My point is simply that from 1986 to 1988, Mike Tyson would have beaten any Heavyweight in history.

So, I am going to focus on one of Tyson’s fights during the brief but superbly impressive ‘golden period’ of his career and I’m going to draw out what I believe are the 6 key traits that made him such a terrifying adversary for the rest of the division.

The Fight

When selecting the fight that I wanted to analyze, it pretty much came down to a choice of two.  First was Tyson’s 4-round demolition of Larry Holmes, a man whose jab was as good in any in the history of the sport.  The reason I didn’t choose this bout was that Larry hadn’t fought for a couple of years and had certainly lost the speed of hand that was key to his success.

The second bout was Mike’s previous outing against Tyrell Biggs, the Super Heavyweight Gold Medalist from the 1984 Olympic Games.  It was Biggs’ 16th bout and was quite hotly anticipated at the time, albeit with a sense of certainty that Tyson would win.  Question was what type of resistance would Biggs offer?

Here’s the video of the Mike Tyson vs Tyrell Biggs encounter, fought on 16th October 1987 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  On the line was Tyson’s Undisputed Heavyweight Championship of the World.  Below the video are my 6 things that made Iron Mike Tyson to complete fighting machine that he was.

1.  Respect My Authority

Round 1 Tyson stamps his authority.  He leaves no one, least of all the opponent, in any doubt as to who’s in charge.  To be faced with such intensity at the opening bell is stressful for a fighter.  Biggs moves well popping out a jab, Ali-style as Tyson puts on masses of pressure.  But, it’s a smart pressure.

As Tyson advances, very rarely does he do so without a head movement and/or a feint and he never has his hands carried low.  This is approach is effectively the much vaunted ‘Peek-a-boo’ style that Cus D’Amato instilled in his fighters, most notably Mike Tyson and before him Floyd Patterson.

Just to point out the basics of this peek-a-boo style, check out 4:25, it’s a simple slip outside then a slip inside the jab, all the time with the hands high.  Mike Tyson exerted big pressure, but did so in a very controlled and ultimately sinister way.  Tyson stalked his opponents but wanted to limit the damage he might receive.

At the same time as putting pressure on the opponent, both direct pressure in advancing and indirect pressure by feinting, Tyson makes himself very elusive and difficult to target.  This elusiveness is vital to his style because put in very simple terms, the more Mike Tyson makes his opponents miss the more likely he is to land his own shots.  You are never more vulnerable than when missing with a punch!

2.  A Killer Jab

The jab was such an overlooked aspect of the arsenal of the peak Mike Tyson.  We should remember that, as in this case against Tyrell Biggs, Tyson gave away massive height and reach to every opponent he met.  Many would assume that this would make his jab fairly ineffectual.  In fact, the opposite was true.  Mike Tyson would regularly out jab his opponents.

In this fight, as in his other early contests, the Tyson jab is designed to hurt the opponent badly.  It’s a crunching punch.   The key to the success of the jab of Mike Tyson is his ability to combine skills, specifically slipping, rolling and ducking along with the move in and the jab.  There are many examples of this throughout the fight, check 4:15 for a neat slip and jab.

At 8.14 Tyson lands a smashing jab on Biggs.  This is a particularly interesting one as Tyson ducks on the way in, using his lack of height in comparison to Biggs in his favour.  He effectively makes himself a smaller target and also increases the power of the jab by ‘rising’ from the duck at the moment the jab goes.  This can be a very effective for the shorter opponent.

Finally on the Tyson jab, he also enjoys doubling-up, using his sharp foot movements (which we’ll look at in a moment) to force the opponent back with the second jab.  Look at 10.04 to see a clear example of this.  When you hear a boxing commentator or trainer say that a boxer needs to ‘push the opponent back’, this is what they mean.

3.  Speed Kills

The speed of Mike Tyson’s punches during this phase of his career was plain for all to see.  He would whip in hooks at blindingly fast speeds, with no ‘drawback’.  Check out the feinted jab with the threat of a hook at 12.22, swiftly followed at 12.26 ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ leading left hook.  That kind of hand speed is massively impressive and makes Iron Mike so dangerous.

The double left hook at 14.35 also shows off Tyson’s hand speed.  Let’s not forget though that Tyson also employed excellent footwork to get him into the positions to allow his hand speed to have it’s effect.  Whilst throughout this bout (particularly from the 4th onwards when Biggs tires noticeably) Tyson often goes ‘square on’ by bringing the back foot forward (see the article on the Boxing Stance to get some information on this), this allows him to get ‘on top’ of the opponent whilst firing huge hooks.  But, technically it’s a high risk move which is why it’s classed as a fault in the stance article.  Tyson takes risks but does so at the right time and does so with a additional safety check of rolling on the way in.

4.  Precision

The precision of the Mike Tyson punches is incredible.  Some of his shots in this bout are a little wayward, but the vast majority of his punches find the target.  Check out the left hook at 18.31, right on the point of Biggs’ chin.  Tyrell deserves admiration in this bout, he has taken some absolute bombs and has stayed on his feet and looked to land his own punches.  He’s a tough guy.

The same is true at 18.40 when Tyson brings a mid-range left hook off a jab swiftly followed by a mid range right hook.  Both shots land right on target.  Whilst possessing a killer punch is one thing, the ability to bring that kind of precision and accuracy to the ring pays for itself.

5.  Switch of Attack

All top fighters ‘switch the attack’.  This switch is in it’s most simple form the switch of attack from body to head and vice versa.  Mike Tyson was a keen exponent of using angles and levels of attack to hammer home punches on the hapless opponents.

Watch at 20.18 when Tyson fires the long-range body punches (the one-two) followed by a left hook to the head.  An even more brutally simple approach is demonstrated seconds later at 21.15 when Tyson fires the jab to the body followed by a long-range right hook to the head.  Again the ‘rise’ off the duck for the first shot adds power to the second shot.

For a more common Tyson approach, he switches the attack from body to head and vice versa with most effect when using the hooks.  Remember the combination that finished Trevor Berbick?  Well we can find an example here at around 24.30 when Tyson hammers home a left hook to the head swiftly followed by a left hook to the body.  The head punch creates the opening for the body shot and vice versa.  Fool proof.

6.  Power

What better demonstration of the raw punching power of Mike Tyson than the finish.  Ruthless and devastating.  By the 7th round, Biggs had taken a fairly comprehensive hammering from the young man from Brownsville.  The finishing salvo is a pure demonstration of the deadly punching power possessed by Tyson.

At 30.24 Mike Tyson brings a short left hook off a slip inside and it explodes onto the jaw of Tyrell Biggs.  This is in effect the end of the fight.  At the time I could see no reason whey the referee allowed it to continue and watching it back now I still fail to see any such reason.  Tyrell Biggs, despite his undoubted bravery and sense of honour, was gone.

The final left hook at 30.48 simply added insult to injury, not to mention more potential injury.  Interestingly the referee made a play of demonstrating that he had stopped the fight.  I for one would have preferred to see the stoppage come 20 seconds sooner and do away with the histrionics, but that’s just me.

A Word on the Future

It might be a valid point to say that this fight was the pinnacle of Mike Tyson’s destructive reign, and that everything after this constituted a gradual degradation of his skills.  Certainly his post fight interview was memorable because he couldn’t really hide the cold, cynical and cruel side of his nature.  But look, he is a fighter and maybe it’s a little hypocritical to expect fighters to be nice guys, darlings of the press, whilst still exacting a horrific toll on their opponents.

Mike Tyson was possibly a little too spiteful in this fight as a result of his genuine distaste for Tyrell Biggs, doubtless a leftover from Tyson’s exclusion from the 1984 Olympic Team when Biggs won the hearts of a nation by capturing Gold.  Maybe his spitefulness played a part the subsequent approach where he was much more likely to look to land single bombs rather than carefully crafted double and triple punch combinations.

For me it was slightly depressing to see the decline of his skills, and this decline tying in closely with the fragmenting of his training team.  New trainers are all well and good but unfortunately I think that Mike Tyson needed to be trained in a very specific way.  The procession of new trainers post-Rooney either wanted to stamp their style on Tyson or alternatively simply didn’t have the respect of Tyson.

These core deficiencies in Tyson’s training and fight preparations, certainly contributed to by the host of issues going on outside the ring, turned Mike into just another hard-hitting Heavyweight as opposed to an entity that brought together the 6 degrees of devastation to such awe-inspiring levels.

At the start of the article I stated that in my opinion Muhammad Ali could not have defeated Mike Tyson during the peak of Tyson’s powers.  Whilst Sonny Liston and George Foreman both in my opinion hit as hard as Iron Mike, neither possessed the speed nor the precision that were the hallmarks of Tyson’s winning style.  That is for me what dictates the outcome of a meeting between this Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali.

Anyone else I wonder?  A certain Wladimir Klitschko maybe, or a Lennox Lewis?  Maybe you think that Tyson simply got ‘found out’, first by Buster Douglas then by Evander Holyfield, and that his skills were not that great in the first place.  I’ll leave that up to you, that’s what the comments section is for.



Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

{ 76 comments… read them below or add one }

vimal August 8, 2016 at 10:24 am

Yes. Totally Agree….There is one more thing which was unique about Tyson…and that is his Fearlessness….Tyson was indeed a combination of many skills…speed, accuracy, power….The True Box office hit of all time!


JD September 27, 2015 at 5:28 pm

To really get a good idea of what would happen if Ali and Tyson fought @ 20 yrs, the best thing to do is to watch their videos at those ages. I just watched Ali vs Henry Cooper in 1963. Cooper floored Ali with a simple counter punch. Put Tyson in place of Cooper, what would happen is pretty much what happened to all Tyson’s opponents prior to his 20 yrs.


Yonis muya June 4, 2015 at 12:14 pm

Hi my name is yonis muya I love boxing
I wanted to so bad but my mother says no
In am 16 year old, I want to boxing to be come the next
Mike tyson pleas help me how to get my
Mother to let me box.

Thank you


Jennifer September 7, 2017 at 3:30 pm

Hey Yonis

I also really wanted to box and my mother also didn’t let me…

I think the first thing to do is to get really fit. If you do want to start learning any technique focus on the very very basics and get someone who REALLY knows and CARES to teach you those.

I think your only chance with your mother is a) to show her that you are dedicated and willing to push yourself ie that you love it
and b) to promise her that you won’t fight or get hit in the head until you are 20 (or some age).

Good luck. It’s your life! (but be careful)


will February 23, 2015 at 7:48 pm

One also has to look who fought better with the same style of opponets in comparison….Tyson never remotely came close to losing to tall guys from 6’2 to 6’5…ali?Cooper frazier,and even mildenberger all gave him difficulties all pressure fighters…you can point out Mildenberger who was also a south paw ….ali lost twice to soth paws before turning pro…and Tyson was a south paw at times,he was actually a natural lefty.just one of many advantages over ali….I don’t think Ali makes it out of 5 rounds personally this is a mismatch!his overatted defense is a myth as far as im concerned.tyson the best defense ever in the 80’s vs an easy target for him ,ali didn’t block simple jabs and got hit with hooks constantly….easy win for iron Mike!


SugarBoxing March 8, 2014 at 4:54 pm

Please check The Science of Mike Tyson and Elements of Peek-A-Boo @ sugarboxing


Fran August 31, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Hey Mark. Thanks for the comment pal. I don’t know too much about the background of personal background of Tyrell aside from those things that are more widely recognised. In the ring though, I always felt him a really talented fighter. But, as you say, his relative lack of power at the top table mattered. That being said, watch his amateur bout with the great Teofilo Stevenson; superb performance against the finest amateur heavyweight ever!

I’ll look forward to that documentary. Thanks for the comment Mark I really appreciate the insight into the research you’ve done on Tyrell, love that kind of stuff.


mark clitheroe August 26, 2013 at 9:30 pm

my email didnt finish..wanted to read your considered views on tyrell..many thanks. Mark


mark clitheroe August 26, 2013 at 9:29 pm

first of all..what intelligent debate and well mannered too ! rare compared to other sites i have seen.My interest came from studying the career of Tyrell Biggs,long story as to why,but what a sad case.Actually a lovely guy which in itself was part of the problem a top amateur but not suited to taking on the bid pro his peak he lost to the real top heavies tyson da miani mason bowe lewis his fightwith bowe summed it all up loads of skill but not the power to win at top level also you noted his stamina gave out quick the first round he boxed against tyson showed how to cipe with tyson but events quickly engulfed Tyrell. Also Duva exhibited a lack of care for him in my opinion. Whats your take on Tyrell..would love to


Yahya fuad May 27, 2013 at 10:36 am

Hellow…my name is yahya fuad…and i live in united republic of tanzania,africa and am training boxer….i want to be as great as all the boxers that passed the lenged….i am poor at home but i afford to train despite the poor situatiom…i have a dream of bieng a great boxer that have the extra ordinary than all others….please…i am a very intelligent person i can learn through the web if itll be ok for the masters of boxer to teach me out…by sending blogs in my email…ill me more gratefull than ever…thank you…its my hope that my request is going to be exepted…


Fran May 28, 2013 at 7:23 pm

Hi Yahya

You are very welcome on the site. I hope that the videos and posts help you achieve your goals. Work hard and keep practicing!



Yahya fuad May 27, 2013 at 10:35 am

Hellow…my name is yahya fuad…and i live in unoted republic of tanzania,africa and am training boxer….i want to be as great as all the boxers that passed the lenged….i am poor at home but i afford to train despite the poor situatiom…i have a dream of bieng a great boxer that have the extra ordinary than all others….please…i am a very intelligent person i can learn through the web if itll be ok for the masters of boxer to teach me out…by sending blogs in my email…ill me more gratefull than ever…thank you…its my hope that my request is going to be exepted…


Eddie April 15, 2013 at 11:50 pm

Thanks for answering Fran. I hope I didn’t come off too opinionated. I understand you’ve forgotten more about boxing then I know. I just wanted to share my favorite Ali story which I know you’ve heard. He calls Sonny Liston a “Big ugly bear”. The night before the fight, he shows up at Listons house, puts a bear trap on his front lawn and challenges him to fight him right then and there. Then at the wiegh in he says, “I’m the Champ and you’re a Tramp”! He then proceeds (for show and not seriously I’m sure) to attack him. We’ll never see another like Him. And people wonder why Liston refused to come out for the 7th round.


Fran April 17, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Not at all Eddie. Without opinions this site would be a pretty dull place so keep them coming!

And yes, Ali’s antics ahead of the first fight were purely brilliant!


Eddie April 15, 2013 at 2:04 am

Its you’re fan from Boston again. I can’t help but feel compelled to piggy back on the subject of would Tyson beet Ali. My thing is this, any physical advantage Tyson would have over Ali would be equalled by Ali’s psychological prowess. Ali would have been inside Mike Tyson’s unstable head before and during the match. Second, Tyson never fared well against a truely high caliber fighter. If you’re gonna use him losing his trainer as an excuse for his downfall then that’s just more evidence that he couldn’t handle Ali’s mental breakdowns of his opponents. And three, James Buster Douglas. Case closed. I don’t care who was in that corner. Ali could have trained by himself, showed up alone and he wouldn’t let that happen. Its my belief that in any sport, people are too quick to judge athletes by the technical and physical attributes they posses and ignore the most important part of any person, their mind and their heart. Tyson isn’t in Ali’s class in my opinion.


Fran April 15, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Hey Eddie

Thanks very much for the comments. It’s great to see such a passionate case for Ali’s domination of Tyson. Just to clarify though, I’m proposing here that Tyson maybe had a window of 12 months/2 years at the very best to stand a chance against Ali. That’s a small window. Any other time he’s smashed to pieces by Ali who is by far the Greater of the two.

Just on the issue of mind and heart, to be fair the vast majority of top flight fighters have plenty of heart and are incredibly strong-minded. True, Ali victories over Foreman and Liston were particularly notable for the mental collapse of the opponents in the face of Ali’s psychological warfare. But for me, by-and-large Ali’s opponents dealt with the mental thing, it was the terrifying speed and power, immense work-rate and incredible toughness that really troubled them.

My favourite Ali performance was against Cleveland Williams. That has to be one of the most fearsome displays of mobile firepower you are likely to see in a boxing ring. Absolutely amazing performance.

Thanks Eddie. Brilliant comments


Mr Ee June 26, 2013 at 2:39 pm

I also believe that during the window you mention, Tyson would have had the small close-knit camp that saw him through his peak. Rooney, Lott, Jacobs and not many more. I doubt that during that particular time Mike would have been too distracted by trash-talk due to the cohesive nature of his training camp. Furthermore, trash-talk is a sign of fear (admitted by Ali himself) and would have been perceived as a positive sign by the Tyson camp. I think that Ali would have attacked his lisp, something that Mike was already used to from his childhood, and also his reach.

It is pleasing that the single biggest debate in sports seems to be Ali vs Tyson, a fitting tribute to two great fighters – EA even used it to market a videogame. In reality, they are friends and consider each other to be the greatest. How ironic is that?


Fran June 27, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Fantastic comments, thanks so much for leaving your experience. I love this type of personal insight, great stuff!


Eddie April 14, 2013 at 5:05 am

As always very insightful and objective Fran but I don’t think you give Ali enough credit for his ability to rise to the occasion when you pick Tyson over Ali in a hypothesis match. Ali did beat what was at the time, an unbeatable opponent, George Foreman. I totally understand Tyson was technically superior to Foreman but come on, Foreman was a monster in his prime. For a short time in the 70’s he was Tyson. He ended Joe Frazier in the first round. That’s what made Ali Ali. He would find a way to win against the best there was and I have to believe he would do the same to Tyson because he’s the greatest of all tiiiiiiiiiiiime!


Mr Ee March 29, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Good, fair and highly technical review. The only two things I thought you skipped over slightly were ‘explosive combinations’ and ‘elusiveness’. You see? I am literally *nitpicking* to find anything wrong with this article.

You clearly know an enormous amount about this sport from the perspective of someone who’s actually tasted it. I would like to believe that I also come from the perspective of understanding the difference between knowing how to box, and trying to box when someone’s throwing punches at you!

In my humble opinion, I think Tyson would have had more trouble with Liston or Foreman than with Ali, simply down to the risk of eating a bomb.


Fran March 30, 2013 at 7:22 pm

Thank you, very kind comment. Interesting on the Foreman/Liston thing. I think you are right, and they would have both been definite “blink and you’ll miss it” fights. Liston’s ramrod jab might have been a factor too. Really nice (and thought provoking) comment, thanks.


Mr Ee March 31, 2013 at 1:00 pm

It’s a pleasure, indeed an honour. For your information, your youtube channel brought me to your site (the handwrap video has proven extremely useful!) Very glad to see someone who takes the cerebral approach, placing emphasis on fact and objective analysis rather than emotion and awe.

I also think that Tyson had some characteristics and skills that are rarely concomitant. Rarely do you find someone capable of knocking you out with either hand who is also quick, elusive and intelligent. Rarer still do you find someone who fights with his level of ferocity that never gloats over a fallen opponent, choosing instead to help them to their feet and compliment them for their bravery (watch the postfight Pinklon Thomas interview). That side of Tyson people forget.


Fran April 2, 2013 at 7:18 pm

Thank you.

Yes indeed, Tyson had a real soft spot, certainly for some opponents and especially during the earlier days. Lots of contradictions with Old Iron Mike! 🙂


Mr Ee June 26, 2013 at 2:27 pm

The biggest contradiction was when I met him on one of his tours. He is still perceived (ignorantly) by some as the most ferocious and violent man on the planet, and that rocket fuel is considered mineral water in contrast to the blood boiling in his veins. However, Mike in person is gentle, funny, humble, very intelligent and genuinely polite. Watching him pose for photos with kids was truly wonderful. And he still has neck wider than my waist!

vimal August 8, 2016 at 10:33 am

Exactly what i also wanted to comment…but you did….For me he is the best not only because of his fighting skills…also a more important sensitive side of his character….That was his friend (natural agression and fearlessness) and also was his opponent ( lost his passion after Cus departed and then Kevin rooney)….a simple senti”mental”…block buster hit!


Anonymous March 16, 2013 at 8:58 am

100% with you


Joel March 11, 2013 at 4:52 pm

I hold the same opinion as you with the exception that I believe he was most hungry prior to capturing a title. I believe that he would have defeated any heavweight to become champion, Ali included.Tyson was like Frazier on roids.Frazier was a fight till you die champion which I believe Tyson could match prior to gaining the crown. In all other aspects including the left hook Tyson was far superior to Frazier. Ali quit against Frazier in Manilla.He asked Dundee to cut the glives off,Frazier was beghing Futch not to stop the fight. No disrespect to Ali,either man could have died in that fight. I just see that as a blue print for Tyson finishing Ali. Foreman probably had greater raw power than Tyson but no power puncher ever produced such precise, rapid, combinations of bombs. Tyson could deliver multiple bombs while Foreman was tripping n falling all over the place. Tysons headmovement and footwork made him exceptionally versatile. He was both elusive and aggresive which usually dont come together in a single package. If you committed to punching him it was very likely that you were going to miss,which left you very vulnerable to his devestating attack. If you hesitated and didnt punch he would be in your face ripping uppers,breaking your ribs or jaw. He was underrated because of his persona and all the antics occuring outside the ring. He was a broken kid who reached unheard of heights in skill, but who internally was never whole.He deserves credit as one of the very greatest fighting machines ever and sadly probably could have been even better.


Fran March 15, 2013 at 9:55 pm

I can’t add to that Joel. Really good comment with some really smart boxing observations. Thanks


vimal August 8, 2016 at 10:50 am



John October 11, 2012 at 10:56 am

Alright Fran

I noticed on your threads people talking about online boxing resources and I wondered what your opinion was on this guy who does ‘boxing simulations’ where he basically shadow boxes in front of the camera, and you, as the viewer, supposedly sharpen your timing by reacting to his shots:

I dont know what this bloke’s credentials are but he seems to me to be a bit of a clown. Any opinions on this training technique?




Fran October 11, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Hey John

Thanks for this.

I have seen videos from this guy and I quite like him. He’s definitely been around boxing at a decent level and therefore can offer some great tips. This seems like virtual sparring maybe? It’s an original idea. Obviously if you have access to sparring partners then it’s probably of limited use. But, it might very well be useful in identifying the kind of body movements that signify an incoming punch. Could do with seeing the lower half as well as though because an experienced fighter notices movement for the whole body.

Thanks again mate.


Matty September 21, 2012 at 10:46 am

This is an excellent post Fran. It has made me think: can I pick your brains on the boxing 1-0-1 principle?

In situations where fighter A is a defensive counter puncher, waiting for fighter B to lead off and then counter that attack, then I have heard coaches say the way to beat this is for fighter B to adopt a 1st and 3rd attack principle of fainting to draw fighter A’s counter and then countering fighter A’s counter.

In short, what strategy does fighter A use to beat fighter B’s 1st and 3rd attack? Does he feint fighter B’s feint to draw his counter and then counter that and it just go on like that?


Fran September 25, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Thanks Matty.

That scenario will result in a competition in who’s the best defensive counter puncher because the 1st and 3rd phase attack is what a counter puncher will often do. They don’t wait. So, if you feel you could be better at it than your opponent then go for it. If you think the opponent might be a bit better at it than you, then other tactics are needed. Check out this article on Vasyl Lomachenko dealing with a counter puncher. Well worth a read.

Hope this helps Matty.


Dave September 11, 2012 at 3:34 am

After reading Joe’s comment it reminded me about something I either read or maybe it was a short video clip of Sugar Ray Leonard. This was sometime after Sugar Ray Leonards loss to Roberto Duran and before the rematch. Apparently Ali spoke to Ray Leonard and said to him, “If you want to beat Roberto Duran, you have to humiliate him”… the rest is history.
I’m inclined to believe that the ‘Ali in his prime’ would have played the mental game along with the ‘Tyson in his prime’. And if I was forced not to sit on the fence on this one I would be prepared to pick Ali to win (but I wouldn’t be prepared to put my life savings on it though).


Joe September 7, 2012 at 8:21 am

Tyson was clearly hugely talented and had tremendous physical gifts. I think his punching power, speed and accuracy were superior to any other heavyweight in history. This is demonstrated by the fact that several heavies that had never hit the deck before were flattened by him. BUT – boxing is almost as much a test of mental strength as well as the physical and it is in this crucial area that I feel Ali would defeat Tyson. I’m not saying it would be easy for Ali at all but his chin,defensive skills and general boxing mastery I think would secure him a late stoppage or points win over Tyson. It is hard to make a case that Buster Douglas was in the same league as Ali but he absolutely slapped Tyson around for 10 rounds so why not Ali ? Holyfield and Lewis also dominated him. Even journeymen like Mitch Green and James Tillis went the distance with him. He was awesome physically but don’t let that bamboozle you into thinking that he wins against every other fighter. For the record I think Marciano would do well against Tyson due to the competitive spirit but there the size difference might be a tad too much.


Fran September 7, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Great comment Joe. Ali’s mental strength certainly seems to be the winning factor for you and a host of others.

Lewis, Holyfield, Douglas and others did better Tyson, of that there is no doubt. WHat I would say about the pre-1988 opponents of Tyson is that sure some of them went the distance, but they were a million miles away from getting a decision and that’s why boxers get in the ring.

Agree in Marciano, as tough as he was giving away 40lbs+ to peak Tyson is never going to work.

Thanks Joe.


Paul Smith September 4, 2012 at 11:08 pm

That is a supremely excellent and accurate quote Fran, and I love it!
Thanks for sharing.


Paul Smith September 3, 2012 at 12:43 pm

I seriously wonder if Ali would lose to Tyson, or if he was just being humble. Muhammad Ali was the better man for the times and deep down inside of me, I think he was the better boxer, but that uncertainty of victory, or defeat, is what makes boxing such a compelling sport.
In any regard, enjoy this video clip of Ali, Leonard and Tyson on the Arsenio Hall show. I saw this show when it aired back in 1990 and consider it very memorable.



Fran September 4, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Great vid again Paul. Typical though. Ali makes an effort with the full tuxedo rig, Ray and Mike turn up looking like daytime TV kid show presenters.

Ali transcended the sporting world. He was part of the global happening of the 60’s and no boxer will ever match that. There’s a quote I remember (not sure who came up with it) along the lines of “The question is asked whether he is truly the greatest boxer ever, but he was the certainly the greatest man ever to box.” I always liked that quote.


Vince September 1, 2012 at 9:25 pm

Hi Fran,

Great article as always. I admire the way you break down the different fighting styles. More please…



Fran September 4, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Thanks Vince. Always enjoy working on these and I’m glad that they ‘tick the right boxes’ for you.


Paul Smith August 31, 2012 at 12:26 pm

This may be my favourite article thus far on this forum. Great comments too btw, especially about the strong mind of Muhammad Ali.
I loved Muhammad Ali and still do to this day, but if both fighters were in their prime and best boxing states, Mike Tyson would have beat him, in my opinion.
I’ve have a collection of just about every fight Ali had and also have an equal collection of Tyson’s fights and one thing stands out, the taller Ali danced, jabbed and moved around alot – but mostly to his left. His one-two punches were usually very effective this way, due to his speed, height and reach advantages.
Now, the shorter, faster ‘Iron Mike’ would have loved that. He would have bobbed and weaved, rolled, slipped and ducked, then quickly intercepted Ali with body-rocking hooks, uppercuts and leaping straight rights that would have put ‘The Greatest’ on his back foot and force him to go right – where Tyson’s un-telegraphed and powerful left hooks would be waiting to put him on his behind.
IMO, Marciano would have been no match for Ali and would probably ‘fall in the round that Ali would call’. Rocky would have been swarmed by Iron Mike and would have suffered a similar fate as Michael Spinks. He was one dimensional and too reliant on his right hand and though he was a relentless fighter, he was nowhere near as fast, or as powerful a puncher as Tyson.
The deciding influence for me regarding who was the best boxer, comes down to the trainer – Cus D’Amato!

Check out this clip.
Notice how Cus tagged Ali within seconds?


Dave Waterman August 31, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Nice clip, Paul…never seen that one before. (I’m assuming you’re not the professional boxer from Franny’s home town who busted his hand against George Groves).


Matt September 21, 2012 at 10:49 am

Hi Paul. I saw your post and became intrigued. I too started kickboxing and from that became more interested as you put it so well, in the ‘science of boxing’, far more so than kickboxing. Do you still train in a kickboxing environment or are you in a boxing gym now?



Fran September 4, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Brilliant clip Paul. Some things are just lovely to watch and this is definitely one of them. D’Amato was quite a man too, remarkable character really who was very outspoken against organised crime in boxing in the fifties and early sixties and some considerable risk to himself. So, as well as being an incredible boxing brain he had real moral fibre too. Great to watch these two interact though.

By the way, your prediction as to the possible outcome of the fight has some really technical style considerations. Very well thought through. Thanks Paul.


Paul Smith September 4, 2012 at 11:02 pm

Hi Fran,
I have a considerable amount of admiration for Cus D’amato as well.
Is there a a patron saint of boxers? If not, then I genuinely think Cus D’amato should be that saint.

I also can certainly appreciate your appraisal of my fight theory and feel wonderful about it Fran, but deep, deep, down inside of me, I really feel the same as Dave and his analysis of Ali’s mind. It helped me to my new found belief, that Muhammad Ali would have probably wiped the floor with Tyson, just as he did with Liston, Patterson, Foreman and so many others. The final decider for me were the epic battles Ali had with Joe Frazier, Ken Norton and later in his career with Leon Spinks.
Mike Tyson never came anywhere close to building that type of legendary status. He was an awesome puncher and fighter, and for a brief time he really was ‘the baddest man on the planet’, but he believed his own hype (in the worst way possible) and then lost the discipline and respect that made him a champion and was so completely outclassed by Evander Holyfield, that I now realise he was destined to never, ever, be seriously considered, as better than – ‘The Greatest’.


Fran September 7, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Hear, Hear. When Mr Smith and Mr Waterman make a point it always lands clean!

Thanks mate


Sultan August 30, 2012 at 9:42 pm

Thanks coach ,as always excellent analysis
I totally agree with you and you have answered the question
About the change of stance in the right time,
I hope you analyze Oscar de lahoya style.


Fran September 4, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Thanks Sultan. And yes, Oscar is definitely on the list!


Steve August 30, 2012 at 8:53 pm

I wish there was someone like Tyson cleaning up today’s heavyweight division!


Dave Waterman August 29, 2012 at 8:55 pm


I think Michael Spinks was a fairly commendable scalp for Tyson to capture before the loss to Buster Douglas. Admittedly, one might argue that he was just a blown up Light-Heavyweight, but he was unbeaten with two consecutive wins over Larry Holmes.


Ivan August 30, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Hi Dave,
Michael Spinks got the decision in the first fight against Holmes because Holmes was 48-0 and was threatening the record and unique standing of Marciano’s 49-0. Rocky’s relatives and a mug gallery of the New York Families occupied the ring side waiting for the right decision if Spinks remained on his feet. The fight was closer than expected, but still makes any list of bad decisions. The frustration prompted Holmes to say”Rocky Marciano couldn’t carry my jockstrap”, tactless but true. After that Holmes fell out of favor with the boxing tycoons.

Since it’s Tyson we are chewing up, he would have KOed Rocky in less than a round.


Dave Waterman August 31, 2012 at 6:44 am

Interesting comment about Rocky, mate. You really think he would have been knocked out in the first round against Tyson? Personally, I think The Rock might be one of the most overrated fighters of all time, but he was as durable as hell and would have met Tyson head on and gave him a bit of trouble. I think it’s beyond doubt that the fight wouldn’t have gone the distance (although a 15 round affair would be an interesting concept for Tyson, who appeared to run out of ideas the longer the fight went on) and it would be Tyson’s hand held aloft at the end; but Marciano would have still been on his feet in the fourth round.


Ivan September 1, 2012 at 7:25 am

I don’t mean to be picking on Rocky, you can’t argue with a 49-0 (may be you could question the way it was piled up). He may have had certain qualities as a boxer, but defense wasn’t one of them, he was practically defenseless in boxing terms. Speed wasn’t on his side either, and he busted up easily. In an honest fight, he wouldn’t survive Tyson, not to mention some of the true champions like Ali, Foreman, etc.


Fran September 4, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Combine the lack of defence with the drawback of being 30 to 40lb (and more) lighter than the other guys, that’s a big problem despite his undoubted toughness.

Fran September 4, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Marciano was incredibly tough Dave. The big thing that works against him for me is his lack of size when compared to Ali or Tyson. Granted he gave away 30lb to Joe Louis, but that was an older Louis. Interestingly, after their fight Joe Louis said he couldn’t lift his arms for a week because Marciano used to smash hooks into the covered up arms of opponents as part of his strategy. That’s what you call attrition!


Ivan August 29, 2012 at 8:20 pm

I also admire Tyson’s boxing style and believe he was one of the most technical heavyweights. He did everything at a speed unnatural for the heavyweight division and even though it’s the power that mesmerizes the mases, it’s the speed and strict form that made him effective, at least in the early rounds of his early period.
He did have more than enough power, but it wasn’t phenomenal as they say. However the variety of his attack and the ability to throw a quick short bomb “they didn’t see” with both hands was exceptional. His stamina and especially his chin were up to the task as well.
Alongside the hand speed and footwork, he had exceptionally fast body movement. I think he could slip, duck or bob and weave faster than any heavyweight in history.
As to the comparison with Ali or other greats, it won’t be in Tyson’s favor. Mike could knock a bum out faster than anyone, but had to watch out not to turn into one when under pressure.Tyson simply lost all of his big fights. Whether he fought like a man or freaked out, he just blew them. Whenever he fought Somebody, he invariably lost (he lost to nobodies too, but that was years after he stopped training).
Let’s face it, who did he beat before the Douglas upset? Tucker and Biggs could be his best wins, since Larry Holmes was 39 years old when they fought. Even before the Douglas fight, one “Bone-crusher” Smith had sort of exposed the prime Tyson in the late rounds of their bout and left the blueprint on how to fight Mike for those interested. Holyfield listened and went as far as calling Tyson a fraud, an intimidation artist and a circus show before their first fight. I rooted for Tyson as usual, and still would today.


Fran September 4, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Very interesting Ivan, and my apologies for the delay in responding.

Every top heavyweight has fought their share of ‘victims.’ Hell, Joe Louis’ 25 defences were often referred to as ‘Bum of the Month’ events, I don’t think that harmed his reputation too much. Tyson’s early years most definitely coincided with a serious decline in the quality of the heavyweight ranks which if nothing else adds a certain ‘unknown’ to our dream match-ups with heavies from other any other era.

All of your points on the technique are very much on the money for me, especially the body movement. And the fundamental weakness in him was his mental stamina. Ali and certainly Holyfield had that attribute in abundance and boxing being an ‘all round’ game they both rank way higher than Mike for me. Like you though, can’t help but root for him.

Thanks Ivan


R Mayor August 29, 2012 at 4:39 pm

I agree this article is spot on and think that Mike just did not take Buster Douglas seriously. Also I would love to see an article on Evander Holyfeild, because in my opinion Evander and then Mike are the best ever.


Fran September 4, 2012 at 5:31 pm

Thanks. I’m just reading the biography of Holyfield and like you I had great admiration for him. As article will be produced!


Dave Waterman August 29, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I wonder whether this post will attract your greatest number of responses, Fran? If I were a betting man I’d have a pound or two on it being so.

Ben Doughty would argue quite vociferously against your assertion that Tyson would beat Ali, and a Sands v Doughty discussion over this would be a fascinating and enlightening thing to read. However, I’m not sure how easy it would be to tempt Ben away from the threads on his own Facebook page.

So without Ben’s thoughts, I’ll present my own and look forward to your sharp counters, Fran 🙂

I think it’s a little unfair to define the terms of reference for Tyson, and specify particularly his peak period of 86-88, and not do the same for Ali. It’s beyond doubt that Tyson, as the rampaging monster that took 20 seconds to render Marvis Frazier unconscious in 1986, would have beaten the Ali that shared a ring with Larry Holmes in 1980.

But would a peak era Tyson enjoy the same success against a 1966 era Ali? Personally I don’t think so.

I think it’s fair to say that by 1986 Tyson had created such an intimidating figure of invincibility that many fighters were beaten before they entered the ring. Frazier being a case in point. But Ali would not have been affected mentally by the spectre of a marauding Tyson. In fact, Ali would have overcome the intimidation by publicly ridiculing Tyson much like he did with Joe Frazier. And I think therein lies the key to a peak Ali defeating a peak Tyson. Ali’s mental strength was far greater than Tyson’s, and he could have turned Tyson from the awesome fighting machine that he could be, into a headhunting single puncher (much like how Tyson allowed his dislike of Biggs to get underneath his skin) simply by out psyching him.

I’m not saying that Tyson didn’t possess awesome fighting skills, because he clearly did, and of course he had been tutored so well that his physical shortcomings (Tyson is 5’10”, not the 5’11 1/2 as recorded) were transformed into positive attributes. But without the intimidation would he have been able to overcome the height, reach, athleticism, footwork, power and genius of a 1966 era Ali?

I don’t think so.

All of this is not meant to indicate that I’m a detractor of Mike Tyson, because the reality is that I’m a fan of the man. Neither am I party to the revisionist history thing that seems to be going on where it’s become almost fashionable in boxing circles to dismiss Tyson as a nobody. But like you, I was disappointed to witness the pretty rapid deterioration of the awesome monster that brought such a breath of fresh air to a stagnating heavyweight division in the 80s.

The elements that came together to bring about Tyson’s first defeat are many and would make an interesting stand alone discussion, but one was Douglas’s refusal to be intimidated by Iron Mike.


Fran August 30, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Hey Dave

Great comment as usual. I’m sure Ben would find plenty to focus on here, he does have a very persuasive line of argument that I always enjoy.

In picking the bits of Ali’s career to compare against Tyson, I went for the 1st Liston fight in ’64 and the Foreman bout of ’74. These for me were his career defining victories with the Thrilla in Manilla coming in close 3rd. Like you I couldn’t compare the Ali of any time after ’74, let alone against Larry Holmes.

You have a good point on the mental strength. Ali’s was towering for his entire career and Tyson’s after ’88 was anything but. Is this enough though to say he would have beaten Tyson? If Ali’s pre-fight plan was to get into Tyson’s head, what was his in-fight plan?

Could he have undoubtedly out-jabbed Tyson? I don’t think so. For the reasons I outlined above I think Tyson’s jab would definitely have troubled Ali. Liston was a heavy hitter with a technically very solid jab, but he was slow and cumbersome. Tyson wasn’t.

Could he have fought Tyson on the inside or would he have tied him up? If the up-close strategy is to hold then the odds of winning a decision are slim. Would Ali’s fleet-footed style be effective against the foot-speed, strength and power of Tyson? Again, not easy.

I love Ali. A beautifully talented boxer with the heart of a lion. But against Tyson at that time I would see a stoppage late rounds. He’d never knock Ali out, but he would knock him over enough to force a stoppage. Then, 12 months later they’d fight again, and Ali would turn him inside out. And then if they fought another 100 times, Ali would hammer him every single time. That’s one of the reasons Ali is better than Tyson, he’d learn then come back better. The opposite was true of Mike Tyson post-88.

Really great comment Dave, you did Ben proud.


Mo August 29, 2012 at 11:29 am

One thing people don’t ever mention when talking about tyson is that he really wasnt a very busy inside fighter. He would simply stay at the end of range and explode in to midrange with hooks and uppercuts. When on the inside he did very little work.


Mo August 29, 2012 at 11:33 am

George Chuvalo:

And Tyson. He’s a tough kid. He walks right in. He’s that kind of a guy. He’s got lots of balls too. I like Tyson. I’d like to meet Tyson and show him a couple of things. I could help Mike.

His problem is he doesn’t know how to fight on the inside. If you take a look at his fight with Buster Mathis, Jr., he exposed that. There’s a chi nk in the armor. He’s too straight up on the inside. If he ever pulled his right leg back, his whole upper body would be at a forty five degree angle. He’s have his head on the other guy’s chest. He’d be safe. The other guy would have no room for any leverage and Mike would have all the leverage. His stance works against him on the inside. He’s easy to push back and he can’t fight when he’s going backwards. But Mike is a helluva an athlete. He’s very quick, got great reflexes and punches like a bazooka. He’s the only guy out there in the heavyweights who can give you goosebumps.


Fran September 4, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Hey Mo

Thanks for the comment and my apologies for the delay in replying.

For the record, George Chuvalo was one of the toughest men I’ve ever seen in the ring. The shots he took against Ali (and others), both the number of punches and the power of those shots, defied belief.

Just back to your first comment, you are right, Tyson was never prolific on the inside. Maybe this is a curse of the Heavies in the infighting is more often ignored in favour of holding and ‘tying the opponent up’. Tyson had to deal with this lots throughout his career. But, that trick of doing all his damage on the way in makes up for the grappling inside. I don’t believe this was ever more demonstrated with his best knock out of Franz Botha. He recognises this as his best ever knockout. Just class.

Thanks Mo. You really are developing a solid understanding of what boxing is. Long may your learning in the ring continue!


Mark Dodd August 29, 2012 at 2:41 am

Hey Fran, nice post, Tyson was certainly devastating, not only switching his attack ,but always leveraging his punches for maximum impact, ducking to the left and loading up for a left hook to the body or the jaw, or double up for both. One thing I noticed was the incredible number of left arm elbow strikes from Tyson when in close. Have a look at 6.29 for double strike, he opened up Biggs with this, and continued the tactic at every opportunity. This tactic was utilised every time Tyson was in close and it remained unchecked throughout the fight, it reinforced Tyson steely determination to not only beat Biggs but to systematically destroy Biggs. One thing I was really impressed with was Tyson’s discipline in regard to keeping his hands in a great defensive position, even after firing off combinations, he always return his gloves back to his chin to set them back in his stance. Awesome Boxer, I would agree he was the most devastating boxer I have seen.
All the best Fran, and thanks for your insights they are greatly appreciated


Fran August 29, 2012 at 10:02 am

Cheers Mark, I hope that you are well.

I wondered whether anyone would spot the consistent use of the forearm and elbow smashes by Tyson. He really disliked Biggs immensely and I believe that the referee should have been onto that. Did it make a big difference in the final outcome, probably not, but it certainly contributed to the brutality of the beating handed out.

Thanks Mark, great contribution that.


Jason Wright August 28, 2012 at 11:41 pm

Why, as the announcer said over & over, do you suppose Biggs keep his hands so low the entire fight?


Fran August 29, 2012 at 10:00 am

Interesting question Jason. Lots of boxers, particularly the Americans, hold their hands really low when out of range. The thing is that once you are in range, especially against a deadly puncher like Tyson, the hands need to come up. This appears very obvious to me. Tyrell though seemed to tire quite badly early on and with the naturally languid style he possessed the hands dropped. In addition to this I think the ferocity of Tyson and the stress of keeping him at bay took it’s toll.


Ric August 28, 2012 at 10:14 pm

I agree with you a hundred percent on this one coach. Great analysis! From 1986 to 1988 Tyson personified the definition of an ‘unstoppable force’. And, as much as I would like to think that Lennox Lewis, who in my opinion is one of the most underrated heavyweights of all time, could have bested Iron Mike when both were in their prime…I am not so sure. I am sure however, that it would have been ranked as one of the most exciting heavyweight matches of all time. Lennox could box and move as well as Ali but was bigger, stronger and I believe he had faster hands, and, he could hit harder than Alii.


Joel lewis August 20, 2014 at 8:54 pm

I strongly disagree that Lennox had better hand speed than Ali.. No one in the heavyweight division has ever had faster hands than Ali when he was Cassius Clay.. except maybe Tyson at 20 years old.. I’d like to think Ali would be the only one capable of a victory against Tyson then only because his foot speed, stamina, agility and accuracy were all so much better than before the his 3 year ban.


Joel lewis August 20, 2014 at 9:08 pm

CONTINUED: The combination of these, and Ali’s fluid and continuous combinations would (in my opinion) have enabled him to actually use his reach advantage where others have failed due to Tysons relentless pursuit and excellent head-movement.


Fran August 25, 2014 at 6:58 pm

Nice comment Joel, very well argued. Thank you.


Piotr August 28, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Great analysis, thanx!


Fran August 29, 2012 at 9:55 am

You’re welcome Piotr, thank you for the comment.


atlas boxing July 26, 2014 at 10:01 pm

There were no fundamental flaws, holes, or defects in Mike’s style. I’ve studied and followed him for many years. His demise began before he ever stepped into a ring. An horrific childhood and upbringing, given away by his mother to a man (D’amato) that immersed him in a one dimensional alternative, all this led to the mental and emotional undoing of Mike. If you have ever fought for real, you will know that the mental aspect is paramount. Soon after he became champion he was already using drugs. The outcome was inevitable.


Cancel reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: