Imagine if Roger Federer never faced Rafa Nadal in tennis or if Manchester United and Liverpool never crossed paths in football. Unthinkable, perhaps, but in boxing, so often it has been the case that the best sometimes never share the ring.
Today, Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, 33 and 32, respectively, nearly 60 fights into their professional careers – both heavyweight champions since the mid-’10s and yet – their oft-discussed bout remains frustratingly off the table. And so it has always been,
Back in the 1990s, several of those great potential match-ups that we discussed in last week’s first edition proved elusive or, at best, arrived far too late for true determinations to be provided.
Having looked at some of the biggest match-ups, we’ve taken a deeper look at that brilliant 90s heavyweight era and picked out three more fights that, had they occurred, would only have strengthened that particular period’s claim to boxing immortality.
READMORE: Heavyweight boxing – the fights we missed out on in the 1990s, part one
Mike Tyson vs. George Foreman
A battle of the ages, quite literally. While separated by eighteen years in age, a fight between two of the division’s heaviest hitters could well have occurred during the 1990s.
At the beginning of the decade, Tyson lost his undisputed heavyweight crown to Buster Douglas, while Big George was 24 fights (and wins) into his much-maligned comeback following a knockout victory against former title contender Gerry Cooney some 30 days prior to Tyson’s stunning defeat.
With Tyson beginning his own comeback, rumors had begun to swirl that the two former champions would get it on in what would have been a potentially absorbing and brilliant battle between two of the division’s greatest to lace them up.
However, it has been said that Tyson wanted no part of Foreman, while Foreman has often spoken of his relief at never having had to face the furious fists of the great Iron Mike.
“That guy was a nightmare in the ring,” said Foreman about Tyson. “I didn’t want anything to do with that guy. He was sacred, and I was glad of that. I didn’t want a part of Mike Tyson. He was a monster.
“Those are the kind of guys you see in a nightmare. You want to wake up and say, ‘So glad that’s a dream.’ I didn’t want any part of Mike Tyson – no way.” claimed Foreman.
But what a fight it might have made. Would Foreman, so long in the tooth and battle-hardened, have had the strength to stand up to the power of the young Tyson? Perhaps.
Stopped just once in his entire 81-fight career, Foreman was as tough as nails. A rock with gloves on. Tyson, for his part, was a whirlwind mixture of skill and violence. The fiercest champion of a generation.
Yet sadly for fight fans, this is one fantasy matchup that would remain merely that.
Riddick Bowe vs. Mike Tyson
Two of the strongest and hardest-hitting heavyweight champions of the decade, Riddick Bowe and Mike Tyson, were two of the most talented and controversial fighters to feature heavily at the top of the heavyweight ranks during the 1990s.
Having been incarcerated between 1991 and 1995, Tyson’s return to the sport brought renewed hope that a bout between these two Brooklyn natives and former world champions could finally take place.
While Bowe had surrendered his titles to Evander Holyfield in 1993, a decisive victory in his third and decisive rubber match with the “Real Deal” at the end of 1995 provided further hope that a Tyson vs. Bowe showdown would no longer prove the stuff of mere fancy.
Tyson, a two-time champion having reclaimed the WBC title from Frank Bruno at the beginning of 1996, would instead give up his title before claiming the WBA strap from the lesser-known Bruce Seldon.
For Bowe, those three brutal bouts with Holyfield as well as an inability to maintain weight between fights ensured his peak had passed before his 30th birthday. Brutally exposed by Andrew Golota in 1996 and 1997, Big Daddy called time on his career before any bout with his old Brooklyn buddy could take place.
While a potential clash of these two controversial figures would have done serious numbers, it is said that the pair considered their long-held friendship more valuable than the millions of dollars any clash would have made during the decade.
Yet what a fight it would have been in the early ’90s.
Both men boasted serious power and egos to match – The press tour alone would have been fun and should they have faced off in the ring, we can be sure that is one bout that would not have been quickly forgotten.
However, Big Daddy was in little doubt as to who would have emerged victorious had the fellow New Yorkers met inside the ring.
“Evander Holyfield beat him twice. I beat Holyfield twice. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out I would have beat him with ease.”
“I have [Mike Tyson] I knew with me being a good, big guy with a good left hand, I would have been a lot of trouble for him,” Bowe explained.
“No disrespect. He was smart… he knew he couldn’t win.”
Right or wrong, Bowe vs. Tyson would have been a brilliantly explosive contest that could quite conceivably have broken pay-per-view records at the time. Yet, once more, this local dust-down is one that will have to be filed under ‘if only’.
Andrew Golota vs. Evander Holyfield
Perhaps not one for the purist, an Evander Holyfield and Andrew Golota bout would surely have been an explosive heavyweight fighting occasion during their peaks around the mid-90s.
Holyfield, a man who fought virtually every major contender in his long 27-year professional career, would never trade blows with the big Pole despite both fighters campaigning at the top end of the division for much of the decade and beyond.
While never achieving his dream of a world title, Andrew Golota was one of the most feared and dangerous heavyweight fighters during the era.
Famed for his two disqualification defeats against Riddick Bowe, Golota would face plenty of world champions like Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, John Ruiz and Tim Witherspoon in his career; however, a bout with the legendary Holyfield is one that somehow never came to pass.
Despite possessing all the tools required to make it as an elite heavyweight, Golota’s inability to keep his blows above the waistline in his two bouts with Bowe would surely cost him a chance to challenge Holyfield, who, at that time, had come through two bouts with Mike Tyson to become a three-time heavyweight champion.
With Holyfield instead defending his WBA heavyweight title against Michael Moorer, Golota would challenge Lennox Lewis for the WBC title but would be blown away by a destructive Lewis in little under 90 seconds of the opening round.
Considered two of the dirtiest fighters of the era, it might not have been pretty, but had they met in the winter of 1997, their career trajectories could quite easily have swapped paths.
Holyfield would defeat Moorer before losing his titles to Lennox Lewis, while Golota would never again reach the heights of those dominant performances against Bowe.
A potential throwback fight with both famed for their use of the dark arts inside the ring, this likely all-action affair is one that would merely remain the stuff of wonder.
While experiencing vastly different levels of success in their careers, there can be little doubt that this bout, had it occurred during the mid-90s, would likely have produced fireworks and considering the drama of the era.
Just about anything could have happened had these two contrasting figures collided inside our fabled squared circle.
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