5. Donovan Razor Ruddock
In 1991, Mike Tyson was on the comeback trail after a shocking defeat by the 42-1 underdog James “Buster” Douglas. Canadian Donovan Razor Ruddock had already beaten Michael Dokes and James “Bonecrusher” Smith on route to 25-1 in the pros.
Most still thought he’d prove to be an easy win for the recently dethroned champion but the fight proved hard fought, with Tyson prevailing via a controversial TKO in the seventh, a stoppage that many felt was premature. Post Tyson, Ruddock knocked out top contenders Greg Page and Phil Jackson before losing to Lennox Lewis in a WBC world title eliminator.
4. Frank Bruno
Britain’s Frank Bruno had proved an upright, powerful but also vulnerable contender as he came through the ranks, easily capturing the European title and posting an excellent 32-1 record.
Many in Britain thought he could beat Tyson when they fought in 1989. Yet Tyson stopped him fairly straightforwardly in five rounds. Bruno would later capture the WBC world crown from Oliver McCall.
3. Tony Tucker
Perhaps one of if not the biggest moment of Tyson’s career was when he won the Don King heavyweight tournament to become the undisputed world heavyweight champion, capturing all three heavyweight belts in the process. Tucker was unbeaten (34-0) when he faced Tyson, fresh off a spectacular KO win over future world champion James “Buster” Douglas to capture the IBF title.
In an often forgotten 1980s fight Tyson bullied him over twelve rounds to easily take a one-sided decision.
2. Larry Holmes
Legendary heavyweight great Larry “The Eastern Assassin” Holmes had long since staked his own claim to greatness. He’d held the recognised heavyweight crown from the late 70s right through till the mid-eighties before losing it to fellow great Michael Spinks in 1985.
In 1988, at 38, he was unarguably a pinch past his best but would still go on to take many more big wins, including one in 1991 over previously undefeated Olympic champion Ray Mercer. Tyson brutally dispatched him in four rounds, demonstrating a chilling combination of brilliant defensive head movement and concussive power with an awesome display.
1. Michael Spinks
No one had ever found a way to beat Spinks and he was 31-0 with 21 by knockout when he challenged a prime Mike Tyson to his three belts in 1988. Since beating Holmes a second time, Spinks had scored two big KO wins in title defences, and his bout with Tyson, then 34-0, was one of the biggest heavyweight fights in boxing history.
Incredibly, Tyson clinically walked through Spinks in the very first round, brutalising him with body shots before knocking him out with a vicious right hand. Spinks never fought again, retiring as a renowned two-weight world champion with the sole loss on his record to Tyson. The victory, and the manner of it, propelled Tyson to new heights and solidified his reputation as a heavyweight great