Ireland's "Big" Joe Egan Recalls His Sparring Days With Mike Tyson

by James Slater - Today, on The Steve Bunce Boxing Hour on Setanta T.V, a man former heavyweight king Mike Tyson once called "The toughest white man on the planet" was a studio guest. Ireland's "Big" Joe Egan, who sparred countless round with the peaking Tyson was present and he shared with the viewers his memories of working out with "The Baddest Man On The Planet," while also revealing the personal side of "Iron Mike.."

First, Egan told of how he first met Mike Tyson.

"I've known Mike Tyson for twenty-five years," Egan said. "I was fighting (as an amateur) in America, in Atlantic City. Floyd Patterson was in attendance and even though I lost he liked what he saw and he made it possible for me to stay in The U.S. I went to Gleason's gym, I was seventeen, and I sparred at Gleasons.

"Al Gavin and Bob Jackson took me to The Catskills to spar with another guy who was the same age as me. I thought it would be great to work with another fighter the same age as me. We got to The Catskills - I'd never even heard of Tyson then, even though he was making big news in America - and he was shorter than me. I thought, 'this will be handy!'"

Egan, however, soon found out firsthand how lethal even the teenage Mike Tyson was, and that his softly-spoken demeanour and his size were deceiving.

"He was a lovely fella. We went out jogging the next morning and he took off like a Gazelle," Egan said. "I thought, 'that's right you tire yourself out, and I'll beat you up in sparring.' Anyway, the first sparring partner got in with him and he was sparked out. I got in with Mike and he battered me from pillar to post but I remained on my feet. Then I got in with him again and I got battered again, but I stayed on my feet again.

"I went six minutes with him that day. I thought I'd get the better of him one day - but I never did!"

It was later that day that Tyson gave Egan his huge compliment.

"At the end of the sparring Tyson said, 'Joe Egan is the toughest white man on the planet,'" Egan said. "I wasn't - I was just the toughest white man in the gym that day."

A good friend of Mike's, Big Joe had nothing but good things to say about the controversial former champ.

"He does so much for charity. People don't realise, he's a good person. And he's not a machine, he's just a human being like all of us and he's made mistakes like all of us. The thing is, he's been abused by so many people - inside and outside of boxing."

Egan then spoke about the new Tyson movie that is on release.

"I watched it last week, and it was very sad to watch. He could have been the first billionaire athlete, had so many people not abused him and robbed him. The movie brought it all back to me and it's a chance for the world to see how badly he was abused.

"As a fighter, it was his speed that I remember most. That was what made him special, not his power. I remember in sparring, his first punch missed me and I felt the draught. I think the draught gave me pneumonia!"

An articulate and funny guy, it was a pleasure to have Big Joe recall his time with a man who remains one of the most fascinating boxers of all-time.

Article posted on 02.04.2009

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