Who would have won? Muhammad Ali vs. Mike Tyson
I recently was completely baffled after seeing the legendary computer fight between Muhammad Ali and Rocky Marciano, in which Marciano was declared the winner. I’ll tell you now, that’s unrealistic. Marciano was a tough and talented fighter, but other than fighting an aging Joe Louis, Marciano’s era was quite weak overall. Muhammad Ali would have systematically dismantled Marciano’s straight ahead, “take 2 to land 1″ approach with his jab, hand speed, and footwork.
That said, Ali is widely considered the greatest Heavyweight fighter of all time. I think he may have had the overall best skill set. But, in my mind I can’t see anyone, and I do mean anyone, beating Mike Tyson when he was 20 years old. Before his career became a downward spiral of bad decisions and a media circus, a Cus D’Amato backed Tyson was the most ferocious and naturally talented boxer the ring has ever seen. I know Ali fought during a bit of a tougher generation, but I think I can say with ease Tyson would have had no problem beating any of the same fighters Ali did.
I got to wondering, who really would win if both were in their primes, using the same equipment, and the same rules; Ali or Tyson? I am going analyze each aspect of both guys’ repertoires and find out once and for all who would come out on top along with a prediction.
Length: 12 Rounds
Saved By The Bell: Yes
Stoppage: Referee Discretion
TALE OF THE TAPE
At first glance, this category looks like a no brainer for Tyson. But don’t be fooled. Just because Ali was so skilled in other facets that he didn’t have to always use his power, doesn’t mean he didn’t have any. 37 of his 56 career wins were by way of knockout, so he could definitely pack a punch when needed.
The advantage for Tyson in this category comes in several forms. It is true that he had a harder punch than Ali, but both had knockout power. The edge for Tyson is the quantity and quality in which he threw his power shots. Tyson had a willingness to walk into or bob and weave around a jab to unleash a deadly combination of power hooks, body shots, and uppercuts; sometimes 5-6 punches in one flurry. If he landed even three of them it was usually lights out for his hapless opponent.
Ali was a finesse fighter who used his footwork, jab, and reach to rattle and frustrate opponents; his willingness to use his power shots came second to these things. It is for this reason that Tyson takes the power category
Here’s another category that one would think is an easy win for Ali, but not too fast. As I mentioned above, Tyson threw power combinations at will, and with speed. He could land 4 shots in a blinding flurry and all of a sudden his opponent is on the canvas. I’d have to say his hand speed was stellar when he got inside, but given his short, stocky frame Tyson’s hand speed was of no use to him on the outside.
It is the exact opposite for Ali. His height and significant reach advantage would enable his hand speed to be more of a factor against an opponent like Tyson. Ali is probably the fastest Heavyweight in history, but his hand speed use would be situational against Tyson to avoid making a mistake and getting caught. He could keep Tyson at bay on the outside throwing jab after jab at a torrid pace, as well as attempting the occasional combination.
In summary, Tyson on the inside has the edge in hand speed, while Ali on the outside has the edge. Ali staying on the outside is a likely scenario in this fight, which would frustrate Tyson. On the flip side, if Tyson got inside on Ali he would have the chance to do some serious damage.
This category is the one that would give Ali the edge he would need to avoid being caught up inside by the constant pressure Tyson would be bringing. Given that Tyson is not only ultra-aggressive, but also accurate and fast with power combos, Ali would have to rely heavily on his ability to anticipate Tyson’s actions and beat him to the punch, literally.
When matching these two greats, I believe Ali’s footwork is the only clear-cut advantage he has over Tyson. Ali would have to be flawless in picking his spots from the outside, and it begins with his fancy and fast feet that keep him just out of reach of his opponent.
The reason Tyson’s footwork is a non-factor is because although he is aggressive, he tends to watch his opponent, and then pick the perfect time to unleash. It would be Ali controlling the pace for the most part, but that doesn’t really matter because Tyson is able to offset that bringing constant pressure. Seeing Ali’s movement strategy would be one of the more intriguing subplots of the fight.
When in the ring, both guys look like they are always in control, no matter what their opponent seems to be trying to do. This is the classic case of “something’s gotta give.” Ali would display control by using his foot speed and jab to his advantage, trying to pick apart Tyson from the outside. Tyson would display generalship by not being scared to walk right through Ali’s jab to get him on the ropes and go to work.
Seeing’s how both fighters control the ring in different styles, they will both have their moments doing so. But that makes it hard to pick a clean victor in this category.
This is a tricky category to decide. Ali’s reach advantage and superior jabbing would most likely result in a more accurate landing percentage. The paradox here is that there’s no way he would win on the cards by just jabbing all night, because sooner or later Tyson would get inside and take control in the power punch category and possibly score a knockout. It would then be up to the judges to say what is more impressive: the fact that Ali had a higher connect rate and threw more punches, or that Tyson landed less but they were more significant shots.
Ali could possibly set-up the time he takes risks with his jab, because he would definitely have to get in there and throw some combinations and power punches, probably at least once a round. But I firmly believe Tyson would win on the power exchanges. Overall, I have to say that Ali’s reach would serve him well, and he would be successful in setting up his combinations from the outside. It would rest on how often he takes those risks.
The accuracy would go to Ali by a small margin, although Tyson’s power punch numbers would be better.
The biggest mistake Ali could make is attempting his famed “rope-a-dope” method. While it worked a few times, I have serious doubts he could take a beating from Mike Tyson on the ropes round after round until he decides to fight back. Tyson is far too powerful and accurate, and to make himself a non-moving target would be a death sentence for Ali, even if he thought he could pull it off. If Ali rope-a-dopes, he loses big. He would probably have to go by the protocol, control the action from the outside with his reach, and try to frustrate Tyson. Couple that with taking calculated risks with power shots and willingness to engage, and Ali could have a formula for success to defeat Mike Tyson.
For Tyson, he would have to just go right at Ali, and be relentless. Using his “peek-a-boo” style of bobbing and weaving, he could neutralize Ali’s jab and really get inside to do some damage. He would definitely have to make his punches count the times he gets inside, and throw 5-6 punch combinations. It is not out of the realm of possibility for Tyson to score a knockout if he gets Ali tied up inside enough times. He’s not going to outbox Ali, but Tyson definitely has the goods to get the job done on the power end of things.
I just don’t see Ali being able to do enough to win on the cards. He will jab, he will land more, and he will have a higher connect percentage. But, in order for him to also throw power punches, he will have to get inside and trade with Iron Mike. And it is during those exchanges I think Tyson will win the fight. He scores a better chance of a knockout, and will keep the rounds close to even having the advantage in power punches. Let us not forget Tyson was the youngest champ ever at age 20 and hadn’t even lost or been knocked down up to that point. Ali holds a big advantage in his footwork, but Tyson isn’t a follower. He would let Ali dance then pick the perfect spot to unleash his power, and he was right most of the time in the spots he picked.
I see this fight being a late knockout or stoppage, the winner being Mike Tyson. Especially if Ali rope-a-dopes. It would be a thrilling fight, Ali’s chance for victory would lie in how often he can keep Tyson from getting inside but also land significant punches beyond his jab. There’s no way he could keep Tyson at bay all fight, and Mike would make the most of it when he got inside or when Ali decided to trade with him. The chance of a knockout for Tyson is greater than the chance of Ali surviving 12 rounds and doing enough to win it on the cards.