George Foreman on what would have happened had he fought Mike Tyson

“What f*****g excitement!” a well known boxing promoter speaking in 1990 on the possibility of a Mike Tyson-George Foreman super-fight

It remains one of the most talked about “dream fights,” or super-fights that never took place. It is the biggest of all heavyweight collisions: George Foreman Vs. Mike Tyson. The fight came close to happening in the early 1990s, but, as living legend Foreman recently explained when speaking on the CBS Sports radio show Brown and Scoop, for some reason the fight didn’t happen: “I couldn’t get him, I just don’t know why,” Foreman said. “I tried.”

Fans are divided as to what would have happened if Foreman had “got him.” In 1990, the first time the fight was looked at as a serious, seemingly inevitable fight, Foreman was 41-years-old and 20 fights, all wins, all but one by KO, into the comeback he launched in 1987. Tyson was 24-years-old, he was 37-1 (33) and he had been upset in quite shocking fashion by one James “Buster” Douglas. Foreman and Tyson appeared on a doubleheader that June, with the plan being for fan interest, already at fever pitch, to be increased further with the two monstrous punchers scoring showcase KO’s against decent (at best) opposition.

But, for what ever reason, after Tyson decimated old amateur nemesis Henry Tillman and Foreman reeled off a tidy KO over fringe contender Adilson Rodrigues, the second doubleheader and then the ultimate super-fight, dubbed by some The Immovable object Vs. The Unstoppable force, didn’t happen. Instead, Foreman fought Buster’s successor Evander Holyfield, acquitting himself well despite losing a 12-round decision in ’91, and Tyson went to prison.

Talk of a Foreman-Tyson rumble began again in 1994, when Foreman smashed new king Michael Moorer to regain the titles at the age of 45 and Tyson was a couple of fights into his own comeback following his release from prison. Again, it failed to materialise.

So who would have won had the two heavyweight greats collided?

Today, on the radio show, Foreman gives little away, saying only, with a joke, how he would have “come back with both ears,” a nod, of course, towards what happened in the infamous “Bite Fight” rematch Tyson had with Holyfield. On his Twitter page, Foreman is often asked by fans what would have happened, and the modest former two-time ruler gives Tyson plenty of respect, Tweeting things like: “It should have happened, it still scares me to think about it!” and “Tyson [had] the best uppercut in boxing.” and “I would have been scared, Tyson was some champ.”

But Foreman, if he had entered the super-fight of super-fights with plenty of fear, would have the experience of overcoming this fear. Joe Frazier terrified Foreman, yet he challenged the fear into a performance that saw him brutalise the made-for-him shorter aggressor. Some fans feel we would have witnessed a similarly short fight to Foreman’s annihilation of Frazier had he fought Tyson.

How would Tyson have handled the fear he would have been carrying with him as the big fight approached? Tyson, a student of the game, would have known he could not intimidate Foreman the way he had guys like Michael Spinks and Bonecrusher Smith. But how would Foreman have handled Tyson’s amazing speed, of hand especially? How well would Tyson have been able to take a solid Foreman body shot? Would Tyson have grown frustrated and done something crazy if he used himself up, throwing his best shots, with no signs of a result?

It would have been very nasty in there if Tyson had tried to bite Foreman the way he did Holyfield, that much is certain (interestingly, Holyfield being a fighter who managed to halt Tyson but couldn’t budge Foreman). All these years later and fans still wonder what would have happened if Tyson and Foreman had fought in the 1990s. I’ve never heard Tyson talk about this particular near miss of a fight, but George does think about it, even today.