What if Mike Tyson stages a comeback?
By Robert Ecksel on November 30, 2020
Tyson’s power was his calling card, no less than the stuff of legend. (Photo: Robert Ecksel)
“First your legs go. Then you lose your reflexes. Then you lose your friends.”—Former featherweight champion Willie Pep
Based on Saturday’s exhibition between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr., it’s impossible to confirm that the last thing a heavyweight loses is his power. During his heyday, Tyson’s power was his calling card, no less than the stuff of legend; and even after losing to Buster Douglas, Evander Holyfield (twice), and Lennox Lewis, and lesser known talents like Danny Williams and Kevin McBride the years progressed, an aura still surrounds his destructive prowess—even though he is 54 and was forbidden from knocking 51-year-old Roy Jones Jr. down and out.
But speculation persists as to whether the one-time baddest man on the planet still has what it takes to win a heavyweight title. Opinions vary, between both the casuals and cognoscenti, and disputes exist even within those two distinct camps. And while there’s no shortage of boxing insiders willing to weigh-in on the subject, two former champions and one heavyweight personality shared their thoughts about Mike Tyson’s ostensible comeback.
The most enthusiastic of the three men was George Foreman. He twice held the heavyweight title and was an iconic banger in his own right. Big George liked what he saw, was impressed by Tyson’s performance, and foresees big things in Mike’s future should he decide to take that path.
“Tyson looked great,” Foreman told USA Today. “He really did. And Roy Jones had to use every old skill out of the book to keep himself from being knocked out.”
The agreed upon rules going in made that impossible.
“I just couldn’t believe what I saw. And that was just an exhibition. Just think if he had some activity the last two years. He’d be in line to be the champion of the world again at 54, 55.”
But for Tyson to “be in line to be the champion of the world again” comes with conditions.
“If he gets in shape like he’s in now, and then gets his timing back, and all the other things fall into place, he can have an opportunity to fight for the title,” speculated Foreman. “If he can be managed right, a champion, the right champion, will come to him. And if the right one comes, he can knock him out.
“You have to have a really good manager to navigate you who to fight and who not to fight. But if he gets someone who can do some creative moves, he can be in the big time quickly.”
Less sanguine about Tyson turning pro, and considerably less was talkative, was the “Easton Assassin,” Larry Holmes.
“I was not impressed," Holmes said. “[Tyson] couldn’t get close on him. And by the time he did get close, it was a wrestling match. That’s what it was.”
When Teddy Atlas was asked about Saturday’s exhibition, he didn’t pull his punches.
“It would be a joke,” he said. “It would be a one-round debacle.”
But what if Tyson were to catch one of the reigning heavyweight champions on the point of the chin?
“Speed goes, timing goes, reflexes go,” said Teddy. “But as George Foreman proved, power stays. Power is one of the last things to run away on you.
“But you could see that there were opportunities to catch Tyson as he’s coming in. Jones wasn’t able to stand in that sort of pocket, if you will, and throw a straight right hand. Tyson, as he’s coming in, he starts to launch a left hook, and he starts to create an opening that can be filled. Jones wasn’t able to do that. He was physically and mentally not able to do that.”
Nobody’s talking about Roy Jones staging a comeback and for good reason. But Tyson is theoretically another story.
“I also saw a guy that was old,” concluded Atlas, “who’d just get destroyed by hard jabs and straight punches before he ever got close.”