By Ken Hissner: Three of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time suffered “lost years” during their careers. What could have it been if it didn’t happen? Let’s compare their careers.
Joe “The Brown Bomber” Louis, 66-3 with 52 stoppages, was best known for holding the record in the heavyweight division with 25 successful defenses.
In 1934 Louis won the National Golden Gloves and National AAU light heavyweight titles.
Muhammad “The Greatest” Ali, 56-5 with 37 stoppages, was best known for regaining his title three times. He had 19 successful defenses.
In 1960 Ali won the Olympic Gold Medal in Rome, Italy, in the light heavyweight division. He had over 100 wins as an amateur.
“Iron” Mike Tyson, 50-6 with 44 stoppages, was best known to be the youngest fighter to win the heavyweight title at age 20. He had nine successful defenses.
In 1984 Tyson won the National Golden Gloves title.
Louis fought from 1934 to 1951. He holds the record for holding the title the longest, 11 years, eight months, and seven days.
Louis volunteered for the Army and served three years active duty but defended his title twice. Considering he defended his title on average twice a year, his “lost years” were from 1942 to 1945. During this time, he fought many exhibitions, donating most of his purses to the Army Relief Fund.
Ali fought from 1960 to 1981. In 1967, he refused to enter the military and, due to this, had his boxing license revoked. In his “lost years,” he didn’t fight for forty-three months. That was from March of 1967 until returning to the ring in October of 1970. His defense was never quite the same, being almost unhittable to the rope-a-dope style where he took quite a bit of punishment even in winning.
Tyson fought from 1985 to 2005. In his “lost years” from March 1992, he served three years in prison for rape. From his fight in June of 1991, he didn’t fight again until August of 1995.
Similarities between Ali and Tyson were such as Ali’s last opponent was Trevor Berbick in December of 1981 losing a decision. In November 1986, Tyson knocked out Berbick to win the WBC title.
Ali’s only stoppage loss was to Larry “The Easton Assassin” Holmes in October of 1980 after ten rounds not coming out for the eleventh round. Holmes’s only stoppage loss was to Tyson in January of 1988 at 2:55 of the fourth round.
Ali entered the ring the night Holmes and Tyson fought. He had been sitting next to the future president of the United States, Donald Trump. When Ali got into the ring, he touched gloves with Holmes, then walked over to Tyson and whispered something in his ear. “Kick his ass?”
Louis would avenge his first loss by knockout to Max Schmeling in June of 1936 in the twelfth round to scoring a knockout in the first round in June 1938.
Ali lost for the first time to “Smokin” Joe Frazier in March of 1971. He would win their next two meetings by decision in January 1974 and by stoppage in October 1975. His second loss was to Ken Norton in March of 1973 by decision. He would win their next two meetings in September of 1973 and September of 1976 by decision. After losing to Leon Spinks in February of 1978, he defeated Spinks in September of 1978, both decisions.
Tyson only had a rematch after one of his losses to Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield, being stopped in November of 1996 and by DQ in June of 1997.