Muhammad Ali [1970s] vs Mike Tyson [1988]

 

Muhammad Ali, as he predicted during the very early stages of his career, is widely regarded as quite simply the Greatest. With a boxing resume including the likes of Big George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, Floyd Patterson, Archie Moore, Sonny Liston, Ali’s opponents could fill a ‘Heavyweight Greats’ list of their own. Boxing wise – Ali was equipped with blistering hand speed, unparalleled footwork and a great ability to use varying tactics to break down each opponent. The rope-a-dope mastermind was certainly gifted, inside and outside of the ring.

 

Mike Tyson, the most feared man on the planet. He said it best himself – “I’m the best ever. I’m the most brutal and vicious, and most ruthless champion there’s ever been” – and although he may now tell you that those were the words of a naïve and blood-thirsty character, he was a bad man in his prime. Tyson’s prime saw him defeat an ageing Larry Holmes, the undefeated Michael Spinks and much-loved Brit Frank Bruno. The most important factor regarding Tyson is not the opponents that he defeated, but the way in which he brutally dispatched of them.

 

Tyson of 1988 had ferocious aggression, great head movement and calculated power-punching that would certainly clean out the majority of heavyweights from any generation. Ali himself has gone on record to state that Tyson would have beaten him had they fought, but we’re not entirely sure. The Greatest could absorb a huge amount of punishment and keep firing back at full tilt, as he showed against Foreman, and adapted to deal with a very similar fighter to Tyson in Frazier. The difficulties that Frazier, a fighter who imposed a similar pressure as Iron Mike, gave Ali during their first fight suggest that the Louisville Lip would have struggled with Mike Tyson to say the least. But, as far as outcomes go, this is probably the toughest ‘fantasy fight’ to call.

 

 

Joe Calzaghe vs Carl Froch

 

With Froch recently stating that he believes he would have defeated Calzaghe, it only seems fitting to discuss this ‘what if?’ fight. Calzaghe retired at 46-0, ending his reign with career-defining victories over Roy Jones Jr an Bernard Hopkins in Las Vegas.

 

Calzaghe is the longest-reigning super-middleweight world champion in boxing history to date, having held the WBO title for over 10 years and making 21 successful defences before moving up to light-heavyweight. His fitness, punch output and accuracy was sensational and he acquired a stunning ability to outclass his opponents… just ask Jeff ‘Left Hook’ Lacy, who barely landed a shot on Super Joe.

 

There is no doubt that Froch had a granite chin, and could take some real punishment in order to grind his opponents down. The Cobra was not amazing technically but could dish out damage and take most fighters to a place that they had never been before. And, of course, we can’t forget ‘that right hand’ he landed on George Groves… in front of 80,000 fans. He obviously has genuine punch power to put a man of Groves’ class out cold like that, and he brings a relentless pressure.

 

Although Froch would have probably made it to the final bell, we feel that Calzaghe’s skill and brilliant ring craft would be enough to outpoint the Cobra, as Andre Ward did back in 2011. Calzaghe, we believe, would have used his accuracy and defensive prowess to frustrate Froch, slowly breaking him down with flurries of punches.

 

 

Marvin Hagler vs Gennady Golovkin

 

‘Marvellous’ Marvin Hagler vs Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin. It is difficult to describe how great a fight this could have been, with both fighters able to apply calculated pressure and destructive power punches. With 86 knockouts between them, these two would have undoubtedly gone to war. Hagler’s southpaw stance could have posed a different problem for GGG to deal with, and GGG’s relentlessness and thudding power would have tested the chin of Hagler, that’s for sure. The two actually have a small (and random) connection, as Hagler lost to Willie Monroe back in 1976 (Hagler knocked him out in the rematch), the great uncle of the Willie Monroe Jnr that GGG dispatched of in 2015.

 

These two would have certainly made for a real dog-fight, as both are tough, durable and fierce fighters. They had the same aura of invincibility about them in their primes, and are probably up there as two of the most feared boxers ever. Who you favour in this fantasy fight may depend on how old you are, with those who lived during Hagler’s prime probably backing him, and those who have lived (or are living through) GGG’s reign being likely to back him.
Prediction: sitting on the fence.

 

Other fantasy fights of note include Floyd Mayweather Jr vs Sugar Ray Leonard and Juan Manuel Marquez vs Alexis Arguello. Both of which would have been very contrasting bouts of skill and ring-craft from Mayweather and Sugar Ray, contrasting with the grit and determination of JMM and Arguello.

 

Often, as is the case with the fantasy fights listed above, it is purely the fact that fighters were parts of different generations that stopped them from boxing each other. Nevertheless, every so often, it is politics rather than timing that obstructs fights from happening. The current state of boxing is a promising one, with the best often willing to fight the best. Take AJ-Klitschko, GGG-Canelo, Ward-Kovalev, Garcia-Thurman (at the time), and of course with the introduction of the WBSS – Groves-Smith, Usyk-Gassiev for example. When big money is involved, egos and politics can obscure what the sport is all about, the best fighting the best. As AJ and Wilder stall their negotiations, and with the fight currently looking ever more unlikely to happen until late 2019/2020 at best, here’s to hoping that today’s heavyweight champions do not become part of the ‘what if?’ category.

 

By Cai Bradley (@AstarBoxing), for Ultimate Boxxer.