No Deontay, You Wouldn’t Have Kicked the Hell Out of Vintage Tyson

Yeah, I’ve seen enough and agree that WBC heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder would’ve kicked the hell out of vintage Mike Tyson circa 1986 when Mike at age 20 won his first title, which also happened to be the WBC version. And if I become shaky on that pick, Wilder will reinforce me because that’s what he says he believes. And let me inform you, I’m very shaky!

Last month Wilder took many in the boxing community by surprise when he said he’d destroy prime Tyson. “Me vs Tyson in ‘86, I’d kick the hell outta that guy,” said Wilder. “Listen, I’ve got to keep it real. I know people always go back to the old school or look at the new school and there’s no school where I’m not no. 1 on earth.”

Sometimes it’s hard to determine when fighters are serious or just talking to attract attention. I recently took elite welterweights Terence Crawford and Errol Spence to task for not being more verbally assertive but Wilder sounds like a fool insinuating he’d compete, let alone kick the hell out of a prime Tyson.

Wilder is undefeated and has knocked out 38 of his 39 opponents, but it’s plausible that a full decade into his professional career he’s faced the weakest opposition of any heavyweight title holder in history. Most of the boxing aficionados whose opinion I value share my skepticism regarding how good Wilder is, aside from having a big right hand.

When I hear it said how athletic Wilder is, well, that’s laugh out loud funny. He’s tightened his punches a little bit, or at least it looked that way versus Bermane Stiverne in his last fight, but Bermane offered little resistance or movement before he was planted to the canvas. Wilder’s fundamentals are so-so at best and his game is very one-dimensional, seeking to land the big right hand regardless of how many times it misses and leaves him off-balance and open. When I think of athletic fighters, Wilder is the last guy who comes to mind because he’s all over the place.

Tyson faced some dreadful opposition through his first 15 bouts but by the end of his first 12 months as a pro he’d fought James Tillis who was then 31-8 and would have been a monumental favorite over every opponent Wilder has met through his entire 10-year career with the possible exception of Stiverne. In Tyson’s 28th bout, a little more than a year and a half after turning pro, he TKO’d defending WBC champ Trevor Berbick (31-4) in two rounds. Berbick would also be favored over everybody that Wilder has fought and probably over Deontay as well.

From November 1986 through June 1991 while Tyson was between 20 and 25 years old, he defeated, among others, Bonecrusher Smith 19-5, Pinklon Thomas 29-1-1, Tony Tucker 34-0, Tyrell Briggs 15-0, Larry Holmes 48-2, Tony Tubbs 24-1, Michael Spinks 31-0, Frank Bruno 32-2, Carl Williams 22-2 and Razor Ruddock 25-1-1. His one setback, as we all know, was against Buster Douglas who was 29-4-1.

At the time that didn’t look like a murderers row, but looking back there were some pretty good fighters in that group. In fact, I would contend that every one of them would be highly favored over every opponent that Wilder has faced and, furthermore, I would contend Thomas, Tucker, Holmes, Spinks and Ruddock would also be the betting favorite over Wilder, and that’s being nice. And Buster Douglas on the night he beat Tyson would take Wilder apart. By the time Tyson was 25 he’d defeated nine title holders. Wilder has faced two; Siarhei Liakhovich seven years after he lost the title to Shannon Briggs and Stiverne who in their first meeting was making his first title defense.

Wilder seemingly likes to mock old school fighters. Are you kidding me?! The guy who looks like a windmill with poor footwork who was out-jabbed by a former USC football player in Gerald Washington is dissing the old school? Does Deontay realize Tyson would’ve been booed and laughed out of the arena if he had fought the same opposition with the exception of Stiverne? Doesn’t he grasp that Tyson , just a year and  half into his career, was fighting and devastating better opponents than he’s fought in 10 years?

After hearing Wilder’s remarks, one of Tyson’s rivals, Lennox Lewis, went on social media and posted his thoughts.

“I just heard Deontay Wilder said he would destroy a young Mike Tyson. My thoughts are that it’s easy to talk until you actually get in the ring. I like Wilder but he’s never been in there with someone that ferocious who truly wants to break his ribs with every punch.”

Lewis’s words are profound. At times I’ve been a staunch critic of Tyson, but nowadays he’s probably a little underrated, whereas a few years ago he was overrated. For a time Tyson was one of the best blends of speed, power and combination punching in heavyweight history. From a physical skill vantage point, it’s impossible to name five heavyweights in history who were more gifted. Tyson’s issues were his mental character but only Buster Douglas and Evander Holyfield beat him before his 31st birthday. And he took Douglas lightly and still dropped him with an uppercut that might’ve lifted Wilder into flight as if he were wearing a cape. In regard to Holyfield, he’s one of the toughest fighters ever in any weight class and it took his best effort to best Tyson.

“My hand speed, I’m too long, I’m too tall, my athleticism, my foot work, all that gives me an advantage, it plays a big part.”

As far as being “too long, too tall,” Tyrell Biggs, Tony Tucker, and Jose Ribalta were all 6’5”, and Mitch Green was 6’5 ½”. They all had reaches about equal to Wilder’s too. They were all sound technically and three of those guys could move. I don’t remember any of them doing very well with Mike. Does Deontay think the difference is his added 1 1/2 to 2 inches in height? And Ribalta, Green and Tucker all took a terrific punch. Call it a hunch, but I’d be willing to bet that when Wilder’s chin is finally tested we’ll be in agreement that these three will be thought of as taking a better shot than Wilder.

“No disrespect to Mike Tyson, in his era he was the best but this is a new era. No old school fighter should beat a new school fighter. Look at the technology we have.

“Nobody has a natural killer instinct as I do, ain’t anybody could ever knock me out. I’m very confident in what I say and I speak what I do.”

So says the champ who can claim only two meaningful career wins, both over Stiverne. Had Wilder fought the best Tyson, it would’ve ended in a spectacular fashion. Tyson would’ve stormed out of his corner with good side-to-side head movement and Wilder would have panicked, not knowing whether to punch, run or hold. And while he was deciding on his survival, not his battle plan, he would’ve been cut down by Tyson’s body punching and looping head shots, and Lord help him if he leans in with his head down, because Tyson’s right uppercut would’ve straightened him up before he fell.

Wilder would’ve been stymied by a target coming at him fast while forcing him to punch down. He’d never get near Tyson with his wide looping telegraphed shots and Mike would’ve made him pay for his misses. Some may say Tyson was bothered by tall fighters with a good jab who could box. And if Wilder ever becomes that fighter, he might have something. However, the fighter who just took out Stiverne in one round would be a sitting duck for an undefeated Tyson who didn’t lack confidence having never tasted defeat.

Then again, maybe Deontay is just trying to get back at Tyson for Tyson saying last year that Anthony Joshua is the future of the heavyweight division. Either way, Wilder needs to prove he can beat Luis Ortiz and Joshua before he starts dropping names like Tyson and other old school greats.

In all honesty, I like Wilder to a degree because he works hard, but I’m not sold he’s an outstanding heavyweight, let alone a near great. After 10 years as a pro, many observers still question his chin, his form, and his balance, not to mention the quality of his opposition. Ortiz hasn’t been overwhelming for two and a half years, yet represents his first real test….let’s see how that turns out. I expect him to beat Luis Ortiz who may be a willing conspirator, but I also believe that Wilder could lose to any top contender who shows up in the opposing corner.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at

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