February 2006

Rinsing Off the Mouthpiece
By GorDoom

Poem of the Month
By Tom Smario

The 2005 CBZ Year-End Awards
By J.D. Vena

Women to Watch For in 2006
By Adam Pollack


Lou DiBella: No Joe Palooka
By Dave Iamaele

Lamon Brewster, Unplugged
By Juan C. Ayllon

Touching Gloves with...
Clyde Gray

By Dan Hanley


Iron Mike Tyson: Myth or Monster?
By Jim Trunzo

Jess Sandoval: The Coach Says,
"Bundle Up"

By Katherine Dunn

The Legend of the Cuban Baron,
Ramon Castillo

By Enrique Encinsoa

Paul Thorn
By Pete Ehrman

Battling Nelson: Always Battered,
Seldom Beaten

By Tracy Callis

Kid Chocolate, the Cuban Bon Bon
By Monte Cox


Shadow Boxers
Photographs by Jim Lommasson

The Iceman Diaries
by John Scully

The Boxing Bookshelf
by Dave Iamele

Iron Mike Tyson:
Myth or Monster?

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 whole.

"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!

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 Lennox Lewis.

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 editors@cyberboxingzone.com.

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