Breaking down Mike Tyson

Got something special for you today.

Today you are going to get a 2 for 1 on one of my favorite fighters of all time Mike Tyson, I’ve got quite a bit to say about him but first let me just dispel some myths. 1. He isn’t the hardest puncher ever. That title goes to either Earnie Shavers or George Foreman (yes the grill salesman) 2. He wasn’t some unskilled brawler who was blessed with enough speed and power to mow down the heavyweight division. 3 He absolutely does his best work on the counter.

The first opponent

Reggie Gross (white trunks) is several inches taller than the up and coming Mike Tyson so he is going to need to use his long jab to keep the power puncher away from him and maintain space and smother him in the clinch on the inside. He opens up jabbing. Tyson’s entire style on the outside is built around 2 things, using his head movement to get around and inside of the jab or doing what is called “catch and pitch” which is shooting your own punch when ever your opponent throws his. This style of fighting is more commonly known as the Peek-a-Boo and was taught to him by the greatly respected trainer Cus D’Amato. D’Amato had trained several world champions including heavyweight champ Floyd Patterson. Cus became a father figure to Tyson and even formally adopted the young and often troubled kid. Here we see the Peek-a-Boo in action as Tyson slips inside toward the opponents power hand (more on this later) before Reggie throws another and takes a counter overhand right over the top of his jab.

The upside of getting low

More jabs from Reggie, Tyson countering his way in with jabs and head movement. Tyson gets inside and drops his level as Reggie’s left hook goes over Tyson’s back as he ducks in and slips an uppercut before Reggie backs out. Because Tyson is so short at 5’10” and his near constant head movement he makes his head an incredibly small and elusive target for the bigger man. As Reggie backs into the ropes watch how Reggie just sticks his left hand in front of Tyson’s face. This limits Tyson’s vision but also tells Tyson that a right hand is on the way. Tyson slips deeply to the inside to avoid the right hand.

The body hook/ uppercut combo

This is Tyson’s bread and butter. He prefers to land it with his more powerful right hand so when Tyson gets inside it is not unusual to see him switch stances, putting his right foot forward so he can better dig that right hook in to the belly and push off and get his hips going underneath the uppercut. These punches work really well together because when you get hit hard to the body you tend to double over a bit which makes it much easier to sneak that powerful uppercut up in between the gloves.

Nobody trained Reggie to tie up

This is suicide. Fighting on the inside with a shorter, much faster, much more powerful puncher isn’t going to do anything for a tall fighter but get him beat up. Reggie needs to grab one of Tyson’s arms, hang on for dear life untill the ref seperates them so Reggie can get back to his jabbing, moving game plan. Tyson continues the body hook/uppercut assault and Reggie has no answers for him on the inside.

A beautiful day to die

Reggie goes for broke against the better fighter. Tyson shows beautiful head movement. The key to understanding how Tyson can do this is knowing that 9 times out of 10 the right hand follows the left and that your opponent will try to get you to weave into their punches. When Reggie starts throwing those overhand rights Tyson ducks down and to his right to get out of the way, it opens up the uppercut for him but Tyson is very aware of it and immediately starts moving away from it, taking a lot of the power off the punch by moving with the flight path of it. He ducks one more right hand before weaving over to his left side and loading up on a picture perfect left hook that puts Reggie out.


The second opponent

Tyrell Biggs is yet another guy who physically dwarfs Tyson at 6’5″ (over 2 meters for my metric using followers) and 230 lbs (103 KG). A very smooth technical fighter with a great jab, good movement and a title belt of his own.

The use of an educated Jab

Early on in the fight every time Biggs threw his incredibly long Jab at Tyson, Tyson wouldn’t really try to jab back (catch and pitch) instead relying on his head movement tot try and get underneath the much longer fighter. Biggs was smart enough to see it. So he throws a jab at Tyson to get his head moving, which leaves Tyson open to the body jab. Not a hugely powerful punch but it scores points and keeps Tyson at the distance Biggs prefers. Tyson tries to step in and Biggs wisely gets the hell off the ropes before resetting back in the center of the ring. Very intelligent.

Herding with punches

Another wonderful skill that Tyson put to great use was his ability to make his opponents move in the direction that his punches are coming from. Biggs lands another body jab before Tyson jabs his way in. Biggs starts circling out to Tyson’s left to get away from the ropes, Tyson starts throwing powerful left hooks and gets in front of Biggs taking one extra step to his left when Biggs is on the ropes. This totally limits Biggs to moving into Tyson’s right hand to get off of the ropes. Both guys knew Biggs had to move into Tyson’s right and Tyson cracks him with it. Tyson forced him into that trap with his brilliant ring IQ.

This Is the Peek-a-boo at work

In Tyson’s hands the style became less of a Peek-a-boo and more of a “Thuprithe, Motherfucker”. He slips inside Biggs jab and then outside another. He slips inside again as Biggs throws a left uppercut transfering his weight to his left side for a powerful left hook. Look at how low Biggs’ right hand is. More on this later.

The catch and pitch, hooking off the jab and the double hook

Biggs throws his jab as Tyson is stepping in, Tyson counters simultainously with his own jab that pushes Biggs back into the ropes. Tyson then throws a left hook off of his left jab. This is very tricky because as I mentioned earlier most fighters follow the jab with the right hand. Fighters train to instictively defend the right hand hence why Biggs had his left in the path of Tyson’s right when he throws the hook. It falls just short but it also puts Tyson at an angle to again force Biggs to step into Tyson’s power hand. Biggs does a good job keeping his hands up here taking the first right hook on the gloves, but Tyson changes targets and lands a hard right hook to the body before Biggs can get away. Tyson is a master of his craft and proves it here.



Tyson again jabs his way in here as Biggs is reaching down to his knee for this uppercut. Tyson sees it coming and gets his lead hand in the way of the big uppercut as he loads up a straight right hand of his own. You cannot telegraph your punches that badly against a guy as smart and fast as Mike Tyson. But Biggs keeps his head (momentarily) and ducks underneath Tyson’s follow up left hook.

Using the clinch

Biggs has been getting beat up, even on the outside at his best range. He starts to clinch up every time Tyson tries to step in with this big right hand. So after the ref breaks them up Tyson decides to try again except this time he uses the body jab to keep the distance between the two and prevent the clinch as he lands this bomb.

Biggs is done here

He spent the better portion of this round trying to clinch and Tyson spent the round going to the body with powerful hooks before Biggs could get his hands on him. Tyson again herds Biggs into his left hooks before he can tie him up again.

The Knockdown

Tyson waits for Biggs to punch again countering his left hook with a faster straighter jab before stepping in with a left hook and leveling him as Biggs throws an uppercut. Nothing but respect to Biggs here, he got up when a lot of guys wouldn’t.

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Tyson step in with a huge overhand right and goes with a left/right to the body before Biggs tries to tie him up. Remember Biggs low right hand hand that I mentioned earlier? It comes back to bite him in the ass as Tyson pushes him off and lands another left hook right on the jaw putting him down and the ref jumps in to stop it.

Sweet sweet slow-mo

Thank you guys again for reading this far. Tyson is one of the most divisive men in the history of the sport. Many people think he was some kind of unstoppable monster in his very short prime. That partying, drugs, and that scumbag Don King ruined him and he got beat by lesser fighters because he his mind wasn’t in it. Others think he was just a fast, hard hitting guy who lost as soon as he fought somebody he couldn’t overpower. As usual I believe the truth falls somewhere in between. He had the style to give anybody a hard short night but like any other other fighter he had habits that could be exploited and turned against him. That said he is one of the most insane and unintentionally hilarious people I have ever heard speak.

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