Most boxing historians hold Mike Tyson just outside of the top ten heavyweight boxers of all time, which is probably about right. He couldn’t fight going backwards, if he couldn’t dissuade a man with his power he had a problem, and he showed a proclivity for buckling mentally when the man in front of him refused to be bullied, like Buster Douglas and Evander Holyfield did.
However, in his short lived prime he was a monster of epic proportions. He massacred people. Scientists watched his fights with incredible dedication, studying his flaunting of basic theories of inertia. CSI agents stood on standby at the venues. In his early twenties he hit so hard that getting into the same elevator as him violated eight out of ten life insurance policies in the federal United States. Every one of his fights came with a free lifetime speech impediment. Let’s re-live his 5 greatest acts of savagery.
#5 – HENRY TILLMAN (LAS VEGAS, NV — 1990)
I’m not sure which warlocks it took to convince poor Henry Tillman that an intelligent life and career decision for him would be to fight Mike Tyson in his first comeback fight after his shock loss to Buster Douglas, but black magic aside, this fight happened.
Tillman realized pretty early on that he was there to be cannon fodder. Probably five minutes after he signed the contract and the occult voodoo wore off. In the ring announcements he paced around nervously and for the first two and a half minutes of the first round he danced from post to post trying to avoid as much of the dynamite in Tyson’s gloves as possible. But he could only survive for so long.
Tyson started to time Tillman’s movement, and began to corral him with left hooks that halted his lateral movement. And then just when Tillman thought he might see the end of the round and possibly, his family again, God shook his head and said “enough of that shit”, planting Tillman’s feet just long enough for Mike Tyson to unleash an overhand right hand to Henry’s temple that landed so hard he forgot most of his childhood.
It is important to note that in the video Tillman can clearly be seen to be both conscious and sober after being knocked down by that landmine. But he would not be getting up. Not after having his brain dislodged by a gloved punch from a man to whom gravity and basic physics clearly did not apply. He took the count out and substantial internal bleeding and packed together the remnants of his skull, to go on and continue the rest of his life in relative peace.
#4 – LARRY HOLMES (ATLANTIC CITY, NJ — 1988)
Larry Holmes was a badass. Because he has a lisp and the face of a young African baby pondering complex trigonometry, people tend to overlook this fact. He broke his hand against Roy Williams and still fought to a unanimous decision win. He took the unholy mother of all punches from Earnie Shavers and not only got up where most were knocked out, but got up to win. After deciding he didn’t like reigning Heavyweight champion Trevor Berbick one night, he ran up onto the hood of a car and jumped off and drop-kicked Berbick in the face.
Unfortunately that was then and this was now and Larry was old and Mike Tyson was in dreadnought mode. We’re talking full-on cheat-code version, where he was training from 4am in the morning and keeping his body in shape by dining on old World War 2 shrapnel and the refrigerated corpses of Norse Gods.
Poor old Larry had made a career out of keeping his opponents at the end of his long, all-time great caliber jab. Sadly Tyson, a naturally short heavy weight, trained to get inside jabs like R.Kelly trained to get inside high school proms, and in any case, was high on raw meat and bad intentions. While Larry circled and shot the jab at the places he and nine out of ten laws of physics dictated Mike Tyson should have been, Mike darted in and out and then in where he remained, to beat Holmes like an erection.
Holmes had always been susceptible to an over hand right and that was the punch that did the damage to him in the end. You didn’t stand in front of a prime Mike Tyson and expect to be able to tell that story with a mouth accommodating a full set of teeth. That was just not how things went. And that’s not how it went that night. Tyson uncorked a punch that hit him like a medieval hand grenade made out of VX poison gas and several conjoined erections and Larry never did figure out the answer to that trigonometry question. He just stayed as far away from the beautiful light until the ring officials and the members of his corner were able to coax the life back into his body.
#3 – MICHAEL JACK JOHNSON (ATLANTIC CITY, NJ — 1985)
“Mike might have to run around the boardwalk to get his work out for the night”
Michael Jack Johnson got hit so hard so early into his fight with the prehistoric animal posing as Mike Tyson, that the ring timer reflected the time of knockout as sixteen BC. It was even earlier than that when it became apparent this was a homicide waiting to happen, as MJJ waded out into centre ring with his hands held up in the same position that Irish men in the prohibition era and sorority sisters in the modern era do when they fight. He also had his socks pulled up and a hair cut that offended both Simon Cowell and Carrot Top.
The fight was scheduled for six rounds but anybody who thought it was going to last that long had clearly not been informed that Mike Tyson wrote novels in less than six rounds. He punched people out in negative time. A shot to the liver put MJJ down and invalidated his donor card simultaneously.
Johnson took a count as he pondered what life would be like without a working digestive system and Tyson formulated a punch that would dislodge the part of the brain that reminded your legs to stand up. After the count finished Tyson walked over and hit him with the punch. MJJ rolled over on to his front and reconnected with his deceased grandmother.
#2 – MICHAEL SPINKS (ATLANTIC CITY, NJ — 1988)
Hindsight is easy. Before Tyson retired Michael Spinks, this unification fight was considered a 50/50 proposition by many learned boxing analysts. Wally Matthews, a very astute fight reporter for New York Newsday picked Spinks to TKO Tyson. Former greats and champions like Tony Zale, Rocky Graziano and one Muhammad Ali all predicted a victory for the undefeated Michael Spinks. They all thought the clever Spinks would outsmart young Tyson.
The first problem with that theory though was that Spinks had the brains but he couldn’t hit Tyson with them. Spinks was also scared. He walked to the ring like a guilty child walking to his mum’s room after she yelled for him. Once there things only got worse, as he had to deal with what is still considered the most intimidating ring entry in boxing history. Tyson entered that night surrounded by his gargantuan entourage, to no music; just a series of animal sounds and clanging metal. Spinks, in the ring, reached inside his shorts to find no trace of his testicles.
Tyson was perhaps at his best that night. Lightning fast, he ripped straight into Spinks, who backed up and didn’t even bother trying to counter-punch, as had been his pre-fight strategy. In his prime, during the time it took your brain to decide to punch and then to transmit that message to the relevant muscles to make that action happen, Mike Tyson had already moved over to the side and cooked breakfast. And lest we forget that Spinks was paralyzed with fear. He would rather have been trapped in a room with a Predator at that point. Spinks tried to tie Tyson up every time he got near, but the kid was smart. And dirty. Tyson threw a short elbow inside that drew a warning from the referee but was enough to dissuade Spinks from tying up again.
The criticism of Mike Tyson that emerged later in his career was that he faded and gave up mentally when he could not bully or intimidate an opponent. Fortunately in this fight from the first bell, Spinks was so intimidated that in clinches he tried to reach inside a pocket to give Tyson his lunch money. A body shot shortly after put Spinks down and then a straight right hand put him on his ass thinking about retirement. He never fought again.
#1 – MARVIS FRAZIER (GLEN FALLS, NY — 1986)
Joe Frazier was one of the greatest Heavyweight champions boxing has ever seen. He was small for the division and still managed to cut a swath across the division during its absolutely stacked golden age. George Chuvalo, Buster Mathis, Oscar Benavena, Jerry Quarry and Bob Foster all fell by the wayside as Smokin’ Joe demolished all-comers. He holds the greatest win in the history of boxing to his legacy – a 15 round decision over the closest version to a prime Muhammad Ali the world ever saw.
Unfortunately for Marvis Frazier, no one seemed to tell him he was not Joe Frazier.
Tyson respect Marvis’ father Joe. But he also respected a right uppercut, which is what he used to eviscerate any desire to fight Marvis Frazier had that night. Frazier backed straight into the ropes, which against a prime Tyson was like noticing Jaws on the horizon and backing straight into the deep water covered in chum. Tyson saw him step back and licked his lips. Frazier waited for Tyson to come in and grabbed at where his elbows were supposed to be to lock him up. Except instead of finding his elbows he found the four horsemen of the apocalypse, three grizzly bears and a vial of small pox. A left hook sent Frazier backwards.
Tyson tasted blood right away, and went at Frazier like a kid whose mom had deleted his saved game. Frazier managed to step backwards and into the corner, where Tyson owns a holiday home specifically for under prepared boxers who expect to stand in a stationary position in front of him. Tyson threw a right to the body and then an uppercut that split both Frazier’s guard and his face. Tyson watched him crumble like a five dollar hooker and then returned the neutral corner where he nodded to his trainer and high fived Hitler.