Tyson has received offers from a host of faces in the combat sports world since releasing a string of impressive pad workouts and topless shadow boxing routines that shows Iron Mike hasn’t gathered much ring rust, even explicitly announcing “I’m back” in one sweat-drenched clip.
Fellow boxers and MMA fighters have expressed interest, as well as a lucrative $20 million-plus offer from the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC) to make an ungloved return 34 years after he became the youngest ever heavyweight champion aged 20 years, 4 months and 22 days when he demolished Trevor Berbick in two rounds for the WBC title.
The New Yorker says he’s set to announce a comeback opponent “this week”, but with so many hats thrown into the proverbial ring, it can be difficult to work out the contenders from the pretenders. Here, RT Sport gives you a rundown of the Top 5 potential opponents who could test Iron Mike’s mettle.
Evander Holyfield – The Rematch option
‘The Real Deal’ has laced up the gloves once again and linked up with fellow former heavyweight ruler Wladimir Klitschko and former light-heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver to whip himself into shape for a charity bout at the grand old age of 57.
Unsurprisingly, the three-time world heavyweight champion’s return to full-time, Rocky-style training has sparked talk that he and Tyson could extend their famous rivalry to a trilogy over two decades after they contested the then-most expensive fights in heavyweight history.
The $35 million and $30 million that Holyfield and Tyson respectively earned for their 1997 rematch was the summit of box office money in the 1990s, but the fight will forever be remembered for Tyson’s third-round disqualification for biting both of Holyfield’s ears.
Holyfield had won their original match in 1996, springing a huge upset in what many thought was simply a proud warrior’s last stand to batter Tyson into an 11th-round TKO loss that shattered the mythical aura of the former ‘baddest man on the planet’.
A third fight between two bonafide and legitimate boxing legends would undoubtedly be the most credible and marketable fight available for Tyson and Holyfield, who wrapped up a career of 44 wins and 10 losses in 2011 at the spritely age of 49.
After their last fight ended with Tyson being banned from boxing and fined $3 million you’d be hard pushed to find anyone who doesn’t want to see a third installment.
Wanderlei Silva – The Bare Knuckle option
Former UFC hero and former PRIDE champion Wanderlei Silva at least has the ring nicknames to rival Tyson. The man known as ‘Mad Dog’ and ‘The Axe Murderer’ was mooted by Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC) chief David Feldman when discussing possible opponents subject to an improved offer to tempt Tyson into the BKB ring.
Feldman told MMA fighting: “I think a Wanderlei Silva, someone of that nature. No matter how old Silva gets, he’s dangerous, and I think that would be an intriguing matchup. Something like that, but I don’t actually have anything in mind right now.”
Silva is a legend in MMA circles but last fought in Bellator in 2018 and is deemed well below someone of Tyson’s stature in pulling power and fighting ability, however diminished those skills have become.
The fact Silva represents a crossover into MMA and therefore would attract those from that sport is only lightly regarded in this case, as if there are any mixed martial arts fans who aren’t interested in watching Tyson fight full stop, then they frankly aren’t fans of fighting.
It was unthinkable during Tyson’s glittering career, in which he amassed and then squandered $300 million in fight purses that it would be possible, but should he be swayed by the $20 million-plus purse offered by BKFC, it looks like Silva is the only concrete option.
Sergei Kharitonov – The Russian MMA option
Russian MMA fighter Sergei Kharitonov has been active more during the coronavirus outbreak than in many of his fights during his 30-7 professional career. The heavyweight has waged war on protective face masks, calling them ‘muzzles’ and insisting anyone who wears them are considered “clowns and cannon fodder” by experts.
The former Bellator and Strikeforce fighter became known as the man who purposefully tried to infect himself with coronavirus by standing in places where people cough in Moscow in an attempt to “feel the virus” for himself.
But his battle against the Covid-19 safety measures grain isn’t the biggest fight he has accepted, after accepting a potential fight with Mike Tyson after confirming he had been preliminarily offered a bout by Russian promoter Vlad Khrunyov.
“I never dreamed of facing Tyson. In my childhood I was a fan of his and he was my idol,” Kharitonov said earlier this month. “I think that if we fight in the rules of boxing, then we will give a great fight, show great technique and gather many fans of boxing and the sprt will be even more popular in our country. Therefore I accept the call.”
However, Kharitonov is in worse shape at 39 and having fought in only February than the bulking, toned Tyson at 53. If power is the last thing to go, Kharitonov will stand no chance in the squared ring and any hype surrounding his callout should be treated with a pinch of salt, if not ridiculed completely.
Sonny-Bill Williams – The charity option
New Zealand international rugby player Sonny-Bill Williams is the most unlikely of any contender to be named. Although more famous on the rugby field, Williams does have a handy 7-0 undefeated record as a professional boxer, last turning out in 2015, although the calibre of the All Black’s competition leaves a lot to be desired.
Kiwi Williams sheepishly said he’d love to tangle with Tyson in a charity match. “If it’s for a good cause, I’d love to get in the ring with Mike Tyson. It would be an honour,” the 35-year-old said. However Tyson empathically shot down Sonny Bill’s dreams by calling it an “insult to boxing” if he fought a rugby player.
Despite there being a clear chasm in boxing skills, Tyson and Williams do share a common opponent in South African Frans Botha; Tyson tucked away Botha with a 5th-round highlight reel straight right KO in 1999 despite a lackluster performance at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Williams on the other hand labored to a 10-round decision over a 44-year-old ‘White Buffalo’ in 2013 in Auckland. Judging by their respective performances, it would be silly to even suggest a potential fight – even if only for charity.
Tito Ortiz – The former champ option
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz is a legend in mixed martial arts and had been rumored to be in the reckoning to fight Tyson in his comeback match, going as far as to say he’d been contacted with regards to the fight.
Ortiz is certainly keen to, in his words, ‘double’ the money made by Floyd Mayweather Jr and conor McGregor for their 2017 crossover match, the biggest ever spectacle involving combatants from boxing and MMA.
“I got a phone call and someone started asking me, ‘What do you think about fighting Mike Tyson?’ I was like, ‘Really?’ This is an opportunity that I like. I’m in,” Ortiz told TMZ, adding that he didn’t yet know whether the bout would be under MMA or Marquess of Queensberry rules.
Ortiz, who was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2012, admitted that he’d be comfortable stepping into a ring with Tyson, and claimed his boxing skills may be brought onto a level playing field on account of Tyson’s inactivity.
“I’ve been boxing for 20 years. My boxing skills have gotten better and better. They may not be at the same level as Tyson, but has Tyson been punched in the face in the last 15 years? No he hasn’t,” Ortiz added. “I have been. I’ve been able to subdue everyone I’ve competed against over the last four years.”