Tyson vs. Lewis in Prime—What Would Have Happened?

Myke Tyson

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One of the most anticipated fights was when Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson met in the ring in Memphis in 2002 after years of hype and long after it should have taken place. Lewis won with an eighth-round KO after a masterful boxing display. Tyson, however, was well past his prime at the time of the bout. But, how might Tyson have fared if both he and Lewis were in their primes when the fight took place?

Sparring Partners

Tyson's original trainer and mentor Cus D'Amato once spoke about how Tyson and Lewis sparred together as teenagers and how he predicted that one day the two would meet in the ring for the heavyweight title.

He proved correct, but D'Amato, who died in 1985, would likely have been surprised that the two would not meet until they were in their late 30s. Indeed, Lewis also recalled those sparring sessions, describing Tyson as "an animal" who he hoped he didn't come up against in the ring one day.

The Reality

Tyson, who won 50 fights in his career—including 44 by knockout—turned pro in 1985, when he was just 19, not long after the sparring sessions. Lewis, by contrast, had a stellar amateur career, winning Olympic gold in boxing in 1988. He turned pro in 1989.

Tyson peaked in the mid to late 1980s, right after he became the undisputed world champion at age 20. Lewis' prime was probably when he actually beat Tyson in 2002 in Memphis. Though Tyson was born in 1966, a year later than Lewis, the two clearly peaked at different times.

Prime Times

Tyson, in his prime, loved fighting taller opponents and used a lot of his head movement, upper-body speed and his low center of gravity to gain leverage for his vicious combinations—which he stopped using later in his career—to great effect against big men.

Lewis is arguably one of the top five greatest heavyweights of all time. He beat every opponent who climbed in the ring with him—even avenging his only two losses—and had all the skills and physical attributes to compete with anyone, combining big heart and toughness for good measure.

Lewis liked to keep his opponents at the end of his long jab but also could go toe-to-toe and fight if needed. Still, the speed, elusiveness and all-around relentlessness a prime-of-career Tyson would have certainly caused a lot more problems for Lewis than when he fought a mere shell of Tyson that night in Memphis. Tyson's combinations, speed, and elusiveness would most probably have caught up with Lewis in the mid to late rounds and more than likely caused a fight stoppage—in Tyson's favor.

There's no way to know, of course, how a prime-time fight might have ended had these two heavyweight legends met at the peak of their powers, but it's fun to speculate.