30.06.04 – By Frank Lotierzo: On May 21st 1966 Heavyweight Champ Muhammad Ali made the fourth defense of his title stopping Henry Cooper in the sixth round. Forty days later on June 30th 1966 future Heavyweight Champ Mike Tyson was born. Who would’ve ever thought it, but Mike Tyson turns 38 years old today. It seems like just a few short years ago we were watching him fight James “Quick” Tillis and Jesse Ferguson on ABC and Mitch Green on HBO. Hard to fathom that those fights took place in between February and May of 1986. It certainly doesn’t feel like 18 years ago too me. I thought I was getting old watching Muhammad Ali’s 50th Birthday party on TV back in 1992, I still can’t believe Tyson is 38.
I remember watching Muhammad Ali as a kid thinking that he would be forever young. While watching Tyson I felt the same thing, that youth was his forever. Following Tyson on his way up (1985-90) through Buster Douglas, I was between 25 and 30. Man did those years fly. I don’t care what anyone says, but following Boxing in the 70’s & 80’s was better and more fun than it has been from the 90’s through today. That was a time when the good fighters actually fought each other on a regular basis. On top of that we saw good/outstanding fights almost every weekend on NBC, ABC, and CBS with the big fights reserved exclusively for HBO and PPV.
Here’s something to ponder. Mike Tyson is the same age now as George Foreman was when he came back in 1987 after a 10 year retirement. What a 19 years it’s been since Tyson knocked out Hector Mercedes in the first round of his pro-debut on March 6th 1985. Since then he became the youngest Heavyweight Champ in history along with being the youngest ex-Champ.
Tyson has been a lightning rod ever since he turned pro. Some love him and think he’s the greatest ever, or at the least could’ve been. Others loathe him and think he’s been overrated since he turned pro, who lost every time when he fought the best. Although both are an over statement, I think he is overrated at his best. Something I’m sure won’t sit well with Tyson fans. However, I’ve heard all the excuses, the bottom line is he was a great fighter at his best, but definitely not an all time top ten great in my opinion.
As of this writing Tyson is scheduled to fight British Heavyweight Danny Williams at the end of July. He has fought exactly 49 seconds in the last two years. With reports of Tyson being back in the gym, many are excited and hopeful that he’ll make one last run at the title. The problem is that Tyson doesn’t fight enough. He is always working his way back to form versus hand picked opponents. It seems as if he’s been starting over since the night he bit Evander Holyfield’s ears back in June of 1997.
Since June of 1997, Tyson has fought 8 times going 5-1 with 2 NC. Since Losing to Buster Douglas in February of 1990, he’s fought 18 times going 13-3 with 2 NC. If you really think about it the last good fighter he defeated was Razor Ruddock on June 28th of 1991, two days before his 25th birthday. Here we are 13 years later and some are still hoping for Tyson to emerge as a force in the division again.
Although Tyson has not defeated a quality opponent since he was 25, it’s not out of the question that he could get back in the title picture. All he needs is a couple wins. Who they come against doesn’t matter, not that it ever did with Tyson. As long as he wins and scores a few knockouts, he’ll be in the title mix. And that is the exact strategy he should adopt.
What Mike Tyson should do at this stage of his career is follow the George Foreman comeback plan. That’s right, fight nothing but fringe contenders every other month for the next year. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea for Tyson to take short money and fight a few journeymen on ESPN Friday night fights, just like Foreman did on USA Network when he started on his comeback. This would put him back in the Boxing public’s eye. If he was smart, he’d take another page out of Foreman’s playbook and give some good interviews with a few one liners after the fight. It wouldn’t be too long before Tyson was the good guy again like he was on the way up.
After a year of fighting on a regular schedule, he’d been in shape mentally and physically to challenge a top contender or a belt holder. On top of that the public would be salivating to see him in with a Klitschko, Byrd, or Toney.
Of course some would mock and ridicule Tyson, just as they did Foreman. After a year of steady fighting and training Tyson would be as ready as he’ll ever be at this stage of his career. At age 38, he would be best served by working his way back into the mix. Instead of jumping in with a top opponent now just for a pay day. All he has to do is follow the George Foreman playbook.
Is Mike Tyson really 38? Yes, and the clock hasn’t run out on him yet. Never thought I’d be saying that. If someone asked me the night he beat Ruddock in their rematch how much longer he would be around? I would’ve said by the time he’s 33 or 34 he’ll be a year old ghost. As I evaluate him and the current Heavyweight division, I can say at age 38 I wouldn’t be surprised if Tyson won a piece of the title again, it’s not like he has to be a great fighter to accomplish it. In today’s Heavyweight climate he doesn’t have to be a reborn “Kid Dynamite.” However, Mike Tyson with a belt is a mega star again. The question is does he have it in him or does he even want to stay active for a solid year? Since June of 1997, the answer is No. Maybe at age 38 the urgency will finally take hold.