The 5 Best Knockouts of Mike Tyson’s Explosive Career

Photo by Attentie Attentie on Unsplash

Mike Tyson compiled a 50–6 record over his boxing career, with 44 of those wins coming by knockout. During his prime from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, he was as explosive as any fighter in the history of the heavyweight division, plowing through opponents with his preternatural mix of power and speed.

So unique were his skills that Tyson’s peak saw him become more than a boxer but a crossover star. Casual fans, along with boxing afficionados, paid to watch his bouts in record numbers, while celebrities flocked to see The Baddest Man on the Planet fight in person.

While Tyson’s incredible ability meant these bouts typically didn’t last long, everyone taking the time to watch knew they were in for a spectacle they wouldn’t soon forget. Looking back on the memorable career of the legendary heavyweight, let’s take a look at five of Iron Mike’s greatest knockouts.

Among the many ways Tyson stood out was his height. At 5’10”, he was unusually short for the heavyweight division and typically found himself squaring off against larger men.

This was especially true against Henry Tillman, a 6’2” opponent who enjoyed a 6” reach advantage. These physical advantages ultimately didn’t get Tillman very far, as Tyson avenged his two losses to the taller fighter in the amateur ranks by throttling him with an overhand right that sent Tillman bouncing off the ropes and down onto the canvas just over two and half minutes into the contest.

The first-round knockout, which came four months after Buster Douglas shockingly handed Iron Mike his first professional loss, showed that Tyson hadn’t yet lost his trademark ruthlessness.

Larry Holmes was a celebrated heavyweight whose Hall of Fame boxing career saw him hold the WBC title for five consecutive years. Unfortunately for him, the 38-year-old was well past his prime and hadn’t stepped into the ring for two years by the time he faced Tyson.

Holmes lasted longer than any other fighter on this list, taking until the third round before being dropped for the first time by Iron Mike. From there, it was only a matter of time.

Tyson knocked down the former champion a second and then a third time in the third round, the final punch a violent right hand that caused Holmes to fall in a heap onto the canvas. The TKO was so disturbing that doctors rushed into the ring to aid Holmes, who would not lace up the gloves again for another three years.

Tyson was only 20 and still making a name for himself when he faced Marvis Frazier, the son of heavyweight legend Joe Frazier. Wasting no time, Tyson rushed Frazier at the start of the first round, connecting with a three-punch combination that included two ferocious right uppercuts.

With his opponent hurt within 20 seconds, Tyson continued the onslaught, finishing Frazier with another devasting combination that saw the fighter fall to his knees, the upper part of his seemingly lifeless body kept upright only by the corner stanchion.

The knockout left Frazier in such a disconcerting state that even Tyson rushed over to check on him. At 30 seconds, the knockout marked the fastest of Tyson’s career and presaged his rise to world champion four bouts later.

This is where The Baddest Man on the Planet fulfilled his early-career promise by becoming WBC world heavyweight champion. Facing Trevor Berbick — a boxer who, like Larry Holmes, had beaten a late-career Muhammad Ali — Tyson dominated the reigning champion.

Tyson floored his opponent for the first time early in the second round, and after Berbick impressively rose to his feet, Tyson dropped him again with a hard body shot followed by a brutal left hook. The champion attempted to get up again, but his legs betrayed him. He then rose once more before losing his equilibrium and stumbling into the ropes, at which point the referee stopped the fight.

Berbick’s memorable disorientation coupled with the stakes — Tyson was aiming to become the youngest world heavyweight champion ever — made this perhaps Iron Mike’s most iconic knockout.

Tyson entered this bout with future Hall of Famer Michael Spinks holding three championship belts. Spinks, for his part, had an undefeated record and was the division’s lineal champion, meaning that he was the boxer who had defeated the previous champion.

The stakes made this the most anticipated matchup of Tyson’s career. He responded by delivering a performance considered by some boxing experts to be his finest. Following the pre-fight introductions — which included an appearance by, among others, Muhammad Ali — Tyson charged a seemingly terrified Spinks.

A vicious body shot from Tyson floored his retreating opponent, the first time in Spinks’ career he had suffered a knockdown. After a standing eight-count, Tyson connected with a clean right hook to the jaw that knocked Spinks out. It was over in only 91 seconds.

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Harvey Bell

Harvey Bell serves as a managing director, team leader, and senior portfolio manager with Morgan Stanley in West Orange, New Jersey.