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Ali versus Trevor Berbick…
Frank Bruno, Tim Witherspoon and Mike Tyson

Trevor Berbick, who beat up the aged Ali who already had the two hemispheres of his brain separating, was duly humiliated by Tyson and eventually killed by his own brother with a machete. It is inconceivable that Trevor would have been anything other than a mouse toy for the Ali in his prime to play with like a sadistic cat.

Frank Bruno was a wooden-footed fighter who must have suffered from a social infection of his rhythm center from having grown up under English cultural norms. Watching him move was like imagining “humungus" the hockey mask and diaper wearing villain of The Road Warrior dancing ballet with crab mallets. Ali would have done to Bruno exactly what he did to Cleveland Williams, knocked him out while moving backwards.

Tim Witherspoon is hugely underrated because he did not play ball with Don King and was deprived most meaningful matches. He had the best overhand right in boxing history, a ridiculous punch that almost killed Anders Eckland and smashed Frank Bruno like a spike being driven into a beam. Ali was uniquely susceptible to this punch due to his height, his low hand lead and his moving to the left. Suggesting that “Terrible” Tim Witherspoon could defeat Ali has probably already caused a room to be reserved for me in Hell, so—-what the hell! If Norton could break Ali’s jaw with that punch, Witherspoon would have, and Witherspoon was a savage. Ali would get knocked the flock out of his nest, with three consecutive trips to the canvas convincing his little handler Dundee or the ref to rescue him from his ego. After an extensive recovery, during which his poetic rantings would be graciously disabled, Ali would dismantle Witherspoon in a rematch so convincingly that no rubber match would be called for.

“Iron” Mike Tyson, against the guys that gave Ali trouble, Frazier & Norton, he would have eaten them alive, backed them up and ripped them apart. He would have also wrecked the second tier heavy’s of the 1960s and 70s. Against Ali, however, Tyson would look the fool. For one thing, Tyson operated most effectively throwing combinations, which Ali was good at frustrating with his reach, his movement and his clinching. When Tyson was not effective it was against big men who clinched, like “Bone Crusher” Smith [which was how Ali dealt with Frazier in Manilla] or against tall, boxer punchers who moved and had no fear. Ali feared nothing and he could move and punch as good as Buster Douglas or Lennox Lewis, the two men who dismantled Tyson most convincingly. Buster Douglas was literally imitating Ali when he destroyed Tyson. Ali would do to Tyson what he did to Gus D’amato’s other champion, Floyd Patterson, shut down his by-the-numbers punch system and torment him. Also, since Tyson was his most effective at an early age, having a young prime, he would have been mentally victimized by Ali, with the term “boy” most likely spoken in record numbers, with invalidating venom, during their match. Tyson, who lacked Patterson’s character, would then bite Ali and get disqualified or stagger around following him as he got schooled until the final bell sounded.

The Punishing Art

Add Comment
ShepAugust 16, 2018 10:40 PM UTC

"Frank Bruno is built like a Greek statue, but not nearly as mobile"

—some sportswriter
ShepAugust 16, 2018 10:10 PM UTC

It's kinda pretentious to disagree with a subject-matter expert, but I want to suggest an asterisk for the Ali-Tyson matchup. If it's peak Tyson vs. peak Ali, I think the Ali-Frazier matchup is the template. Tyson was a heavier, faster, more skillful version of Frazier, and if Smokin' Joe could give Ali so many great battles, Tyson—on paper—would look to do even better.

Now, if it's peak Tyson vs. peak Cassius Clay, maybe it's a different story. Wasn't the last round of the Cleveland Williams fight supposed to be "The Greatest's" absolute apex? If that's who Kid Dynamite is facing, then it's probably a different story, because we have no example of a Tyson/Frazier/Marciano-type fighter doing anything against Clay prior to his forced hiatus.
responds:August 17, 2018 1:54 PM UTC

Great points, Shep, and it's not hard for me to imagine Tyson beating Ali. Now, the Ali I'm using here would be the one we never saw, before he ever fought Frazier, so I'm assuming Clay speed with more maturity. For me it turns on Tyson's clinchability. In that sense Clay might do worse than the mature Ali.