Mike Tyson on Meeting Muhammad Ali for the First time: “It inspired me to want to go truly in that direction”January 18, 2012 – 9:15 am by Chris Fedor
Yesterday was the 70th birthday of the great Muhammad Ali and many people took time to reflect on his career. Full disclosure, I’m only 28-years-old so unfortunately I don’t have many as memories of Muhammad Ali as I would like. What I do know about him has been learned from reading books, watching documentaries, or talking to people who were privileged enough to see him fight in his prime. However when you listen to anyone talk about Ali you can sense the respect in their tone and you can hear the admiration they have for him in their voice. They call him the “G.O.A.T” and rightfully so, but don’t take my word for it, listen to another one of the better heavyweights to come around in Mike Tyson.
Mike Tyson joined 97.5 the Fanatic in Philadelphia with Mike Missanelli to talk about what Muhammad Ali meant to him, what was it about Ali that made him the most famous athlete in the world, what he represented to people outside of boxing, whether or not he thinks Ali is the best boxer of all-time, and what he thinks about the Ali-Frazier rivalry.
What did he mean to you?
“Muhammad Ali meant so much not only to me, but so many other people in the world, different nationalities and different races. When I first had an encounter with Muhammad Ali, this is really strange, I was a young kid in a detention center in New York City, the Bronx and I forget if it was ’77, we watched a movie first, and then he came in. It was totally overwhelming. I had never in my life experienced that feeling before, that particular stage of my life. It inspired me to want to go truly in that direction.”
What was it about him that made him the most famous athlete in the world?
“This is what my mentor (Cus D’Amato) used to tell me about Ali, he always talked about his characteristics more so than his speed or power or anything. He said Ali just wanted it more than any other fighter in the world. He just had so much inner belief and confidence, and that made him the best fighter in the world.”
Outside boxing what did he represent to people?
“A whole bunch of deep down inner-belief and confidence that we could overcome that kind of stuff back then. Those were the 60’s when he was going through the dodge years and I was just born then. The effect rolled down to my mother. She used to talk about it as well. She called him Clay at the time. She admired him so much.”
So he stood up to white America basically at that time, right?
“I believe so, yeah.”
Is he in your mind the greatest boxer of all time?
“He is the greatest heavyweight boxer of all-time, I think. Yeah. No doubt because Ali has qualities you can’t put on a statistic scale like height and weight and reach and all that stuff. He had internal fortitude. He’s just an amazing man and Cus always said you’re never going to see a guy like him again. Cus was the biggest fan of Ali. He just thought that he was the greatest fighter that God ever created.”
What did you make of the Ali/Frazier rivalry?
“I don’t know. I just thought both of them were awesome fighters and I was a great fan of both of them. I know Frazier had beat him the first time and the second time Ali beat him pretty easy and it wasn’t an exciting fight. Then the third fight I would say to myself ‘I wonder if the Ali of ’71 could’ve beaten the Ali of ’75 if they were to fight.”