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Mike Tyson won with power. He was one of the most gifted boxers in the history of the sport. He won 50 fights in his professional career, 44 of them coming via knockout. Tyson was quick, powerful, and simply dominant in the ring. He is considered by many to be one of the top boxers ever in the sport. According to one of his former trainers, however, Tyson shouldn’t even be considered one of the top 10 boxers of all time.

Mike Tyson’s early life

Before Mike Tyson made his name in the boxing ring, he endured some very difficult personal pain. When he was 16, his mother Lorna died and his sister died when she was 25. His mother’s death clearly affected him as he felt like she had only memories of his negative behavior.

“I never saw my mother happy with me and proud of me for doing something,” Tyson was quite as saying in a 2010 Bleacher Report article.  “She only knew me as being a wild kid running the streets, coming home with new clothes that she knew I didn’t pay for. I never got a chance to talk to her or know about her. Professionally, it has no effect, but it’s crushing emotionally and personally.”

Tyson began boxing professionally at the age of 18 on March 6, 1985. Tyson won the first 37 bouts of his professional career. He wound up with a record of 50-6 with a pair of no contests.

Tyson meets trainer Teddy Atlas

When Teddy Atlas was young, he was an amateur boxer fighting under the wing of Cus D’Amato, who would go on to become Mike Tyson’s trainer and adopted father. One of Atlas’ later projects was to assist D’Amato in the training of Tyson.

“I had him since 12,”  Atlas said in a 2017 article of Inside Hook. “I would be in the gym every day. Cus would come once a week: ‘Let me see how the project’s going, how this future champ’s coming along.’” Atlas went on to say that Tyson had a ton of natural ability. “God was very good to him,” said Atlas. “If we’re just talking about pure talent, he’s as good as anyone.”

Atlas said Tyson developed a bad habit of holding on to an opponent, something he called a “silent agreement,” meaning he would hold on to catch his breath and the opponent would silently agree to not hit back. “I said, ‘Stop making silent agreements,” Atlas recalled. “Because one day you’ll get a guy who won’t sign a contract.’”

Atlas pointed out this happened against Evander Holyfield twice, both Tyson losses. Atlas called Holyfield ‘a real pro.’ “Some of those punches he landed in that first fight with Holyfield would have knocked out a lot of pretty good fighters,” Atlas said. “But they bounced off the chin of a guy that had that special resolve, that character. A real pro. Tyson was the greatest when he didn’t fight a real pro.”

Atlas’ assessment of Mike Tyson

Teddy Atlas went on to say that Mike Tyson struggled with his mental preparation. Physically, his skills were as good as anyone, but his mental game needed a lot of work. In the Inside Hook article, Atlas said Tyson was “fabulously talented, but just as fabulously flawed and weak when it came to the mental side.”

So where does Atlas rank Tyson among the all-time greats? “Where do you put him in the top 10 list?” he asked rhetorically before answering. “He doesn’t belong there. He’s not near there.”

It should be noted that when Tyson was young, he and Atlas had it out when Tyson reportedly said something inappropriate to a younger female who happened to be a relative of Atlas’ wife. Things got very ugly to the point where Atlas allegedly pulled out a gun, but the two have supposedly made up.

“Life is short; I made amends with everybody,”  Tyson said in 2013. Atlas recalled the apology from Tyson. “He behaved like a man, what can I say,” Atlas said. “He came over, extended his hand, and asked me if I’d shake it and said, ‘You’re not still mad at me, are you? I wish you wouldn’t be.’ … I give him credit for showing a gentleman’s side.”