For many people, to be considered the greatest or one of the greatest in any sporting discipline, you must have had an elongated career performing at the very top level and chalking enviable success for the most part.
This is the case for Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Leonard, Floyd Mayweather, Lenox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, Mohammed Ali, George Foreman and all who have a case made for them as the greatest or one of.
Tyson happened to be one of the most disputed names on that list. For many, Tyson represents what could have more than what really transpired, he was a potential that didn’t fully get actualised.
His reign was too brief, the profile of his opponent too mediocre and when it mattered most, especially in fights that establish a boxer’s legacy, he lost.
Twice to Holyfield and once to Lewis represents a huge case against Tyson’s feature in the goat debate.
How great was Tyson?
Should Tyson be judged by the profile of those he beat or by those he lost to?
Tyson should be judged differently, his career success should be looked at outside of the conventional means of assessing boxers. This is not because he wasn’t good enough, this is not an excuse for him. I believe that on his day, he could beat anyone in the ring. The two, three years of his are the most devastating any heavyweight could ever be.
He made a very good boxer look ordinary. Alex Steward for instance gave Holyfield and Foreman a lot of problems, he was blown away by Tyson around. We claim Larry Holmes was over the hills, which is true. However, a couple of years later, Holyfield needed a decision to beat him.
Mike Tyson of 85,86,87 to maybe 90 was the optimum level any heavyweight champion ever fought, he was a juggernaut, ferocious and a force comparable to any heavyweight champion in history.
That Tyson was more than a boxer, his fights were like movies.
Ali has a case for being the best in history because he made a cultural impact and influenced awesomely that it is difficult to argue against him. What Tyson did was to bring out the fictional aspect of boxing.
People went to his fights anxious about when it was going to end, you come around late and it could be over.
Such talent, such defining characters usually don’t dominate for long, they come to pay their dues and give way for normalcy to be restored.
That is what happens to Tyson, after the death of Cus D’Amanto in 1985, he was never the same, it is true that he went on to win the title and became undisputed between 87 and 90 but without the man who channelled his inner demons into that angry ferocious boxer the world came to love, he started taking a downslide
Tyson declined way ahead of what was to be his peak, the fight that could have been used to cement his legacy came a bit too late. Truth though is, there was never going to be a perfect time between Tyson vs Louis and Tyson vs Holyfield. Why Tyson was an early bloomer, Louis came up late and Holyfield hard to navigate through the route of cruiserweight
To judge Tyson by the standard measure for measuring all-time greats would be to ignore some more significant contributions he brought to the sport.
Greatness in every sport should go beyond sustained long term performance at the top, the influence on the sport, in terms of its growth and appeal should count.
The man who made people go to real fights with the euphoria that comes with going to the cinema should certainly have to be in the Greatest of all time, even if it means bending the rules.
He didn’t last long like Ali, he didn’t have the resilience of Holyfield, what he has was different, he had the fear factor that made him, though a boxer, appear as though a gladiator.
There has never been any boxer like Tyson and and they’d never be any like him.
Every sporting disciple would place a man who influenced it like Tyson list in its lists of all-time greats and way up there with the very best.