|09-29-2009, 07:49 AM||#1|
New Orleans Hornets
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Warsaw, Poland
Mike Casey on Tyson vs ATG's
I rate Mike Tyson as the ninth greatest heavyweight in history, which some might consider a little generous and others a little mean
Tyson loved Jack Dempsey and is so often compared to the Manassa Mauler. There are similarities to be sure, as I have already touched upon. But to simply lump them together as identical peas in a pod really does betray a quite shocking ignorance on the part of those who profess to know their boxing.
Dempsey�s weaving attack was infinitely more versatile and imaginative than Tyson�s. Jack circled, feinted, even retreated when circumstances demanded. He constantly varied his angle of attack, depending on the size and capability of his adversary. He protected himself well too. Gene Tunney stated that he was unable to get a clean shot at Jack�s jaw over two fights and twenty rounds. Gene quite accurately described Dempsey as an extremely clever fusion of fighter and boxer. Opponents often commented on how hard it was to nail Jack square on the chin. Dempsey�s short range punching was also superior. All these years later, he continues to top that category, by some distance from Joe Louis. When Dempsey was close to the end of the trail, he knocked out Jack Sharkey with one of the shortest left hooks you will ever see. That classic shot was fired from a distance that afforded Jack precious little leverage.
Let us remember too that Tyson was not always consistent in his bobbing and weaving. Even in his early days, as can be seen against Berbick and Pinklon Thomas, Mike would often be standing more or less straight up when he moved into range, such was his confidence that he could decimate whoever stood before him. His defence was sound, but he didn�t possess Dempsey�s clever elusiveness. Although a devastating short range puncher, the arc of Tyson�s punches was sometimes quite wide, but he countered that with his great hand speed and shocking power. Mike could throw any punch too. His left hooks, right crosses and uppercuts were debilitating blows. He could hook as well with his right hand as he could with his left and he could bring a powerful, slamming jab into play when he chose to.
What surprised me about Mike was that he did so little in-fighting, being mainly content to maul and bull his man around. Dempsey, Rocky Marciano and Jim Jeffries were vicious in-fighters, working the body constantly with tremendous digs to the vulnerable points.
My instinct just tells me that Jack, Rocky and Jeff, whose mental strength and fortitude matched their physical gifts, would have found Tyson out and hustled him into blowing a fuse. The incredible Jeffries might just have been the man to achieve that objective most effectively. Phenomenally strong and durable, Jeffries was a 220lb bear of a man whose strength, stamina and durability were arguably unmatched in heavyweight annals. He was a crushing puncher and one of the greatest distance fighters.
When Jeff defeated Sailor Tom Sharkey over 25 torrid rounds at Coney Island in 1899, the ring was a furnace. Quite apart from being a mild November day, the two battlers were toiling beneath 400 arc lamps in what marked the first use of motion pictures under artificial lights.
Jeffries, a faster mover and puncher than he was ever given credit for, was unflinching as he pursued Sharkey all the way. In later life, Sailor Tom would offer the opinion that Jeffries would have beaten Louis and Dempsey.
I believe that Tyson would have grown tired and dispirited from simply hitting Jeff and getting no great return for his troubles. Jeffries, in the meantime, would have been slamming Mike to the body and jaw from his famous crouch.
Joe Louis, rarely a quick starter, would have endured some very uncomfortable moments against a charging Tyson. Mike would surely have tried for the quick knockout over Joe, possibly forcing the Brown Bomber to take a count. But Louis could take his shots and possessed great fighting courage. Sooner or later, I fancy, Joe�s unparalleled precision punching would have begun to unravel Tyson.
Jack Johnson and Muhammad Ali, two of the most cunning chess players and ring generals the game has ever seen, would have been quick to spot and exploit Mike�s mental demons. Jack and Muhammad had the skill and the all-round smarts to torment Tyson, smother his initial rushes, tie him up at close range and quite probably burn his ears with some psychological chat in the clinches. Ali admitted as much some years ago, when he said, �I would have fought Tyson like I did George Foreman, getting him exhausted and then opening up with my best shots.�
And what of the mighty Foreman in his glorious prime going head-to-head with Tyson? Now that would have been some fight! Possibly, Mike would take George by surprise with a sudden death attack, perhaps even floor him. But could Tyson keep Foreman on the canvas? Very unlikely. Big George had a granite chin and only took the ten count against Ali through sheer exhaustion. Clever as Mike was at getting close to his man, he would have had to contend with Foreman�s booming uppercuts and superior strength.
Whereas Dempsey would probably be more circumspect against a bigger man like George, circling and feinting, picking the right moments to attack and possibly looking to drag Foreman into the deep water of the later rounds, Tyson would likely gamble on a slugging match through sheer pride or loss of temper and be out-gunned.
There is one man among my top eight all-time heavyweights whom I believe Tyson could have vanquished: Joe Frazier. But Mike would have needed to be at his absolute best to do so, maximising his advantages in speed, strength and power of punch to force a middle or late rounds stoppage. I certainly don�t share the belief of many that the prime-time Joe would have been quickly crushed by Mike.
Frazier was one of the most courageous, tenacious and persistent fighters that ever graced the stage. His will to win was equal or superior to anyone that came before or after him. He drove himself to the very limit of his endurance in his epic victory over Ali, with a non-stop punching performance that continues to fire the blood whenever we see the film. Joe weighed a trim 208lbs that night at Madison Square Garden and never attained that perfect weight again.
Sadly, Frazier�s subsequent career followed a similar if quieter pattern to that of Tyson. Having claimed one of the greatest scalps of all, Joe could see no more mountains to climb. He eased up on his training, his weight crept up and he paid a savage price for sorely underrating Foreman.
Nevertheless, I have to give Joe the edge over Mike in my all-time perspective, if only because of the historical importance of the Ali trilogy. Frazier beat the nearest version of the prime Muhammad ( a notch on the belt that any heavyweight champion would have cherished) and so nearly overwhelmed Ali in their life-and-death struggle in Manila.
Mike Tyson was a magnificently bright star that lit up a dull and uninteresting sky. At his short-lived peak, he was a terrific fighter and a barnstorming champion. But he was a man who could not tame his rampaging alter-ego, and that is the one great knock against him.
Dr Jekyll, I feel, might just have been as great a fighter as he wanted to be. Alas, he became addicted to the wrong formula and Mr Hyde did him in.