David Haye does not rank Mike Tyson among the greatest heavyweights in history as talk of the American returning to the ring to face former nemesis Evander Holyfield hots up.
Talks have begun between the pair – who have both posted training videos ahead of a potential trilogy fight – over a bout, despite the duo being in their 50s.
The news has captured the imagination of boxing fans – many of whom consider the former heavyweight kings to be among the greatest to have ever lived – but Haye admitted he wouldn’t put Tyson in his all-time top five.
‘I think that particular Mike Tyson had a chance to beat anyone. But I would have liked to see that Tyson we saw that night [in 1988, defeating Michael Spinks in 91 seconds] be pushed in rounds six, seven and eight where he had to go soul searching,’ Haye told BBC Radio 5 Live.
‘I don’t know whether he could have turned it around then because we never really saw it. The only time we saw it when he really needed to was against Buster Douglas and he didn’t.
‘How many fights did he really have when he was behind on points? Where he got put down, hurt, and came back? That’s the question.
‘If he fights [Muhammad] Ali, hits him in the first round and has him on the ropes and finishes him off – okay, he can beat Ali.
‘But if Ali boxes his head off, gets him tired, ties him up, taunts him, gets him missing, makes him pay – does Tyson have the mental capacity and the mental fortitude to get through that problem? I haven’t seen him get through many problems. Ever.
‘There was never a fight I can remember where Tyson was having to bring it back around. The moment he started to lose or it started to get tough, it seemed to go the other way. Buster Douglas, Holyfield twice, even Danny Williams.
‘Obviously that’s way down the line when he’s completely washed up but so was Danny Williams at the time. No one gave him a chance.
‘Many fighters – Holyfield, Lennox Lewis – they’ve all had tough fights where they’ve been on the brink of losing and found a way to win. I’ve never seen that happen with Tyson. That’s how I see it.
‘I find it hard to say someone is in the top-five of all time if they’ve never had a fight they were losing that they came back to win.
‘You can’t just be an on-top fighter, win all the fights you’ve won and never really suffer punishment and pain and come back and find a way to win. That’s the way I see it.’
Haye does believe, however, that things could have been very different for Tyson and he could have been the greatest heavyweight of all time.
‘If he’s 21 there, he’s a baby in boxing terms. He was only going to get better.
‘But what happened was he peaked at 21 and didn’t get any better. In fact he got worse. He did less training, less sparring, had less discipline. He got worse and worse until he lost.
‘The version of Tyson that lost to Buster Douglas was a significantly worse fighter than the one that went in with Spinks.
‘If he wouldn’t have fell off, if he’d had people looking after him, investing his money, looking out for him – he could have been No. 1 without a doubt.’
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