Rinsing Off the Mouthpiece
Poem of the Month
By Tom Smario
The 2005 CBZ Year-End Awards
By J.D. Vena
Women to Watch For in 2006
Lou DiBella: No Joe Palooka
By Dave Iamaele
Lamon Brewster, Unplugged
By Juan C.
Touching Gloves with...
Iron Mike Tyson: Myth or Monster?
Jess Sandoval: The Coach Says,
The Legend of the Cuban Baron,
By Enrique Encinsoa
By Pete Ehrman
Battling Nelson: Always Battered,
By Tracy Callis
the Cuban Bon Bon
By Monte Cox
BOOK REVIEWS AND EXCERPTS:
Photographs by Jim
The Iceman Diaries
by John Scully
The Boxing Bookshelf
by Dave Iamele
Iron Mike Tyson:
By Jim Trunzo
If the title of this piece is misleading due to Tyson's outside-the-ring
activities, it's understandable; the use of "monster" can easily be misconstrued. However,
the point being made refers to the Mike Tyson inside the ropes, the Mike Tyson who at one
time looked like he might become the best heavyweight in the history of boxing.
Just as it seemed a simple task to anoint Tyson as an all-time great in the division when
he was a razor-edged scythe among the chaff that was the heavyweight division during the
mid-80's through 1991, it seems equally simple to dismiss the post-prison Tyson as a
bullying fraud. In retrospect, Mike Tyson is neither. Looking at Iron Mike's body of work
as a whole, one might more realistically come to the conclusion that Tyson was somewhat
overrated early on but unfairly trashed because of his recent pitiful performances.
The real Mike Tyson is a combination of both the ferocious man-eater that thrilled boxing
fans with his raw power and blindingly fast hands and the blustering Mike Tyson who seemed
to fall apart when opponents refused to be intimidated by his mere presence. The truth is
that the merger of the two Tysons had far more to do with the psyche of Tyson than with
his physical condition, a point too often overlooked when dealing with Tyson's career as a
"No one will like me if I lose."
Tyson spoke these words to Teddy Atlas, prior to an
amateur fight, then buried his head in Atlas' shoulder and began to cry. The scene was
caught on film and might well be the most accurate gauge of the inner turmoil that has
chewed up Iron Mike throughout his career.
On one hand, Tyson exhibited savage disdain for the mere mortals whom he faced in the
ring: fighters who didn't have his brutal power or undeniably fast hands or solid chin. On
the other hand, Tyson was deathly afraid of losing the affection of those who either were
or pretended to be his friend. This Tyson based being liked on winning; this Tyson never
truly believed he was worth liking.
It's devastating for a fighter to lose a fight that costs him a spot in the ranking or a
potential big payday or both; how much more devastating, then, if a defeat means losing
the only kindness, the only affection, the only sense of being cared about you've ever
experienced? It should come as no surprise to read incidents of Tyson disappearing only
days before fights and having to be tracked down and convinced to show for the event. It
should not be the least bit shocking to discover the number of times Iron Mike proclaimed
he was through, that he was giving up boxing, and that he didn't want to fight any more.
And this was Tyson's actions while he was either approaching or in his prime!
One can only guess at what has taken place inside a Mike Tyson who has lost the only true
skills that he possessed, that he had a chance to believe it, his physical tools. The
side-show that Tyson has become, both in and out of the ring, is in many ways more tragic
than disgusting, albeit the line between the two is thin!
WHO DOES MIKE TYSON BEAT AND WHO BEATS MIKE TYSON?
A close look at Tyson's record on his way to the title fails to confirm what boxing
pundits have long touted as "the kind of fighter who beats Tyson." Conventional wisdom
states that Tyson, due in a large part to his 5-foot-11 height and his short 71-inch
reach, is susceptible to taller heavyweights, who possess a good right hand and a good
left jab. Oh, really? Don't most fighters have trouble with tall, orthodox fighters with
the two essential punches necessary in a boxing arsenal -- a left jab and good right?
The so-called experts point to Buster Douglas, who on his night of nights weighed in at
231 pounds, stood 6-foot-3 and had an 83-inch reach (a 12-inch advantage over the
short-armed Tyson). Shortly before the Douglas fight, Tyson had destroyed Frank Bruno who
weighted in at 228 pounds, stood 6-foot-3 and had an 82-inch reach!
James "Quick" Tillis extended Tyson the full 10 rounds and stood 6-foot-1, weighted only
208 and had a minimal reach advantage at 76 inches. Tony Tubbs, who was two inches taller
than Tillis and 30 pounds heavier, with a reach of 79 inches (3 inches more than Tillis
and 8 inches more than Tyson) fell in two rounds to Iron Mike.
The point is that for every tall orthodox fighter with a decent jab and right hand who
took Tyson the distance, there's a comparable fighter -- both talent-wise and physically
-- that Tyson dismantled. For every punch and clutch Bonecrusher Smith, there's a Pinklon
Thomas. If you want to reduce it to numbers, Evander Holyfield and Trevor Berbick are both
6-foot-2, have 77 1/2 inch reaches, and weighed in at 218 pounds for their fights against
Tyson. Berbick lasted two rounds and we know what Holyfield accomplished against Mike in
their first meeting, a grueling 11th round TKO for Holyfield, prior to feeding Tyson in
their second bout.
The physical analysis fails to tilt one way or another. Height, reach and weight alone
never beat Mike Tyson. Movement, intellect, a solid chin and heart beat Mike Tyson, as
they do most fighters. It's also worth noting that Tyson had hit age 30 by the time he met
Holyfield, had been fighting for 12 years and had endured his lengthy prison term. Tyson
was already 36 when he walked toward the slaughter -- err, the ring! -- when he faced
An old boxing adage proclaims: The legs go first; the punch goes last. Well, Tyson without
his legs that, at his best, allowed him to move rapidly in and out and cut off the ring,
was half a fighter; one who only had a punch and a prayer to rely on.
Armed with an appreciation of what made Mike Tyson tick, as well as an appreciation of his
physical skills and limitations, the question still remains, "How good was Mike Tyson?"
The answer is very good but not great.
Contact Jim Trunzo at