Teddy Atlas is skeptical when it comes to Mike Tyson.
In his heyday, ‘Iron’ Mike was one of the scariest heavyweights to ever grace the boxing ring. The former champion and hall-of-famer began his pro career in 1985 and went on to pick up 50 wins, with 44 of those coming by way of knockout, before his retirement fight in 2005.
While Tyson’s power proved to be too much of a problem for most of his opponents, he wasn’t entirely unstoppable, with only six fighters being able to defeat him in his insane run.
‘I Don’t Know If He Was Ever Great’
Atlas, a famed boxing trainer and commentator, sees holes in Tyson’s overall legacy.
“I don’t know if he was ever great,” Atlas said of Tyson on the Lex Fridman Podcast. “I know he was sensational. I know he was the greatest mix of maybe speed and power ever. I know he was one of the greatest punchers from either side of the plate, left or right. There’s been great punchers with just the right hand like Earnie Shavers and Deontay Wilder and Max Baer. I don’t know if there’s ever been anyone who could punch as good as he did on either side with either hand other than Joe Louis and a few others.
“I don’t know if there’s ever been such a combination of speed and power to that pure level that he had, and it was a pure level. I don’t know if there was ever as good a fighter as Tyson was for maybe 1 night he was great. He wasn’t tested, but he might have been ready to be tested that 1 night against Michael Spinks— when he took him apart in 90 seconds. I think I saw a great fighter that night.”
With some props given, Atlas still casts doubts on Tyson’s greatness.
“I don’t think you can be great unless you have all the requirements of being great,” Atlas noted.
Going By Atlas’ Definition
What does it take to be great? Atlas has his answer.
“To not rely on someone’s house’s weakness to be strong, to be strong on your own,” Atlas said on what it takes to be truly great. “Too often, he relied on other people’s weakness, whether it’s by being intimidated or whether it’s because his talent was so much greater than theirs that it was like putting a monster truck in there with a Volkswagen.
“The Volkswagen was gonna get crushed. No matter how much horsepower the Volkswagen might’ve had under the hood, it was gonna get crushed. The monster truck was not gonna allow it to be a contest. [Being great is] to be able to find a way when your talent wasn’t enough. He didn’t find a way when his talent wasn’t enough.
“A fight is not a fight until there’s something to overcome,” Atlas added. “So, if you go by my definition, not Webster’s… Mike Tyson was only in [six] fights in his life. The fights that there was something to overcome, he didn’t overcome it.”
Do you agree with Teddy Atlas’ take on Mike Tyson?