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Ali vs. Tyson: Who Wins?

Updated on January 30, 2014


They couldn't have been more different. On one hand you have the braggadocios champ from Louisville, Kentucky who talked it as good as he walked it. On the other hand you have a perpetually bitter and angry street-kid from the slums of Brownsville, Brooklyn that liked to let his fists do all the talking. It's the classic dichotomy. The infighter vs. the outside-fighter. The swarmer vs. the measure. Long and lean vs. short and mean. That's what makes this dream match up so intriguing, the fighters impact on the sport aside. The attitudes each fighter brought into the ring were polar opposite but each guy shared the same madness for excellence that would catapult them to the pantheon of their profession. Muhammad Ali knew he was going to beat you and let you know it through trash-talk, body language, and supreme confidence in and out of the ring. Mike Tyson was deathly afraid of losing and his insecurities outside the ring greatly contributed to his success in boxing. Had he not dreamed of his opponents beating him, he would not have trained with such intensity day in and day out. Tyson needed to be told he was going to be a champ. Ali knew it the day he put on the gloves. Mike has been quoted as saying that when his trainer/mentor/father-figure ,Constantine "Cus" D'Amato, told him he would be champ one day he didn't believe him and chalked it up to Cus becoming a senile old man. The point I'm trying to get across here is that Ali was born with natural confidence and Tyson had to slowly work to attain it. The paths each fighter took to the title and subsequent status as boxing immortals may have been dissimilar, but their influence and impact on the fight game is close. When people think about boxing, two names become almost synonymous...Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali. Then the hypotheticals come in to play and people start dreaming up scenarios of how their guy would take out the other. Ali v Tyson has long been the great watercooler topic that people who don't know the sport on an intimate level, seem to have this bumptious opinion on and there's nothing wrong with that. But, I'm going to settle the score once and for all and as someone who's competed as an amateur in the ring and who considers boxing his passion, I ask that you respect my opinion. Let's talk about Mike first and what he brings to the dance.

Tyson's Assets

Head Movement
Combination Punching
Power in both hands
One-shot knockout power
Precision Punching
Size and Strength
Suprising quickness of hand and foot

Mike Tyson

Before he became known as "the baddest man on the planet", Michael Gerard Tyson was born to an unstable mother and an absent father in the worst possible section of Brooklyn, NY. Abandoned tenement buildings, drug-addicts, and violence were pervasive themes throughout Mike's early years. With no supervision he ran rampant on the streets of Brooklyn. He was part of a gang of youths called the "jolly stompers" who were know for beating people unmercifully and with equal opportunity, often rubbing the hands of their victims in the snow to steal the rings of their fingers. It was brutal stuff and by the age of 13 Tyson had a rap sheet that could rival a hardened criminal, getting arrested a total of 38 times! The reason I mention this is to help people understand the environment Mike comes from and to offer up an explanation(I guess...), for his destructive and bizarre behavior. The fact is he come's from a world of destruction and the bizarre. It's all he ever knew. Eventually, he would meet key figures like Bobby Steward and Teddy Atlas that would help turn his life around and create the animal in the ring you've seen in footage. The scary part about Mike Tyson is the first round knockouts that litter his resume. Fighting a young Mike Tyson was like feeding a gladiator to a lion. The carnage was going to be swift and it was going to be violent. When Mike Tyson hit you, you stayed hit and didn't get up. His power is a rare gift that's innate and can't be taught. This is why I feel Ali might run into trouble with a prime Tyson. Joe Frazier had a similar head-bobbing style as Tyson but with a different positioning of the hands and look what he did to shock Ali in the first fight of their trilogy. A prime Mike Tyson was more refined(skill-wise), bigger, stronger, faster, and better defensively. If he could catch Ali clean it's lights out. However, If Ali can survive the first few rounds he might have a shot but there's also a very real possibility of getting caught with one of those hydrogen bombs during the middle to late rounds. Intimidation was another weapon Iron Mike used to beat his opponents before the opening bell. He came in with no robe, black shoes, black trunks, and no socks. Basically, letting his opponent and everyone in the arena know that he's not there to have fun; he's there to tear your jaw in half! The "peek-a-boo style" or the hands against the cheekbones with the elbows tucked in tight to the body, would help Tyson minimize damage from Ali's piston-like left jab and help him get inside on him. And if Tyson can get inside on Ali it can be a real problem for the latter. He isn't big or strong enough to keep Tyson off of him. The pace of the early rounds would be a tell-tale sign of how this dream match up would play out. That being said, let's take a look at what Muhammad Ali brings to the dance.

Ali's Assets

Unshakeable Confidence
Determination and Will
Lightning Foot Speed
Ring Generalship
Toughness and a Great Chin

Muhammad Ali

The self proclaimed and widely recognized "greatest of all-time" , Muhammad Ali was in a class by himself. This was a heavyweight that moved like a lightweight. He was Willie Pep trapped in a heavyweights body. He was loud, charismatic, charming, and bumptious all in one package. Essentially, he was the anti-Joe Louis. A member of the Nation of Islam and a disciple of Louis Farrakhan and Malcolm X, Ali was unrepentant with his sentiments on black nationalism and the way he expressed them. He was polarizing and controversial and didn't care what you thought about him or the things he said. Ali was a champion for the black man that was tired of being oppressed, and a champion for the masses with all that charm. He revolutionized the sport of boxing by selling the fight on his own during a time where boxers would have their managers or promoters do all the talking. He wasn't always known as Muhammad Ali, in fact his given name was Cassius Clay. Cassius Marcellus Clay was born in Louisville, Kentucky to a stable two parent middle-class household. Quite the stark contrast to the upbringing of Mike Tyson. He only got into boxing to get revenge and whoop the kid who stole his bike. It turned out he was a natural and before you know it he was an AAU national champion, Olympic Gold medalist, and heavyweight champion of the world at the ripe age of 22. Ali was truly a trailblazer in the sport. His unorthodox style of floating around the ring with his quick feet and stinging like a bee with a stinging left jab, made him a tough code to crack. If you over committed, Ali would step and lean back with those cat like reflexes and make you pay with overhand right counters and occasional left hooks and uppercuts. If you stood too far out of range he would pick you apart with his constant circling, angling, and combination punches. There was never and still isn't a fighter that could out-think Muhammad Ali in a boxing ring. They invented the term "ring generalship" for this guy. He dictated the pace even if his opponents didn't want to follow the script. People forget how big and strong Ali was when they get carried away with his blinding speed. He was no small heavyweight standing 6' 3" and weighing around 230 lbs. with a long 80 inch reach that could touch your face up seemingly at will. Like I mentioned with Mike, the early rounds will be a good barometer for the outcome of this fight. If Ali can survive the first few rounds he could manageably outpoint Tyson and coast to an easy judges decision. Now for my final verdict.

My Winner

The winner of this dream match-up goes to...Iron Mike Tyson. It was not easy deciding between these two boxing titans but I had to make a choice one way or the other. The reason I feel prime Tyson beats prime Ali is because of what was revealed during Muhammad's first fight with Joe Frazier. It was tough to deal with a constant swarming attack, learned Ali. Smokin Joe was able to apply the pressure in a similar way Tyson would, and get to his man and hurt him. Frazier floored Ali with a vicious left-hook in their first meeting("The Fight of the Century") and Frazier was not the explosive puncher Tyson was.Tyson would get to his man just like Frazier had, but in a much quicker and more violent fashion. Again, we're talking about primes with the expectancy that Kevin Rooney is in Tyson's corner and Angelo Dundee is in Ali's corner. In my humble opinion, Tyson takes out Ali under 4 rounds due to the fact that Muhammad wouldn't have an answer for his pressure or how to keep him at bay. Tyson's strength is the overriding reason why he destroys Ali. What do you think?

Ali or Tyson?

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    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      4 years ago from San Diego California

      I beg to differ with you. Ali would have eventually worn down Mike Tyson with his speed and his brains. He would not have let Tyson take advantage of his brute force, and would have psyched him out with trash talking. It would have been a long fight, but Ali would have taken him down in the 12th with a series of lightning jabs. Advantage Ali.

    • profile image

      Mike Forbes 

      4 years ago

      Nice article. Good read.


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