Few fighters—if any— could realistically say they matched up with Mike Tyson from an athleticism standpoint. In his prime, Iron Mike threw thunderous punches that would knock grown men to their knees and left many of them out cold. Tyson’s opponents simply couldn’t match his insane combination of strength, speed and explosive power. But one proposed opponent can capably make a case that his athleticism is right on par with the 53-year-old boxing legend. But for rugby star Sonny Bill Williams, his freakish athletic ability still wouldn’t be enough to take down Mike Tyson in the ring.
Mike Tyson’s legendary boxing career
While young generations may not have witnessed his boxing exploits, anyone who was around to watch Mike Tyson in his prime can attest to his other-worldly dominance. The Baddest Man on the Planet delivered 44 knockouts in 56 fights, and he lost just six times. The heavyweight champion won his first 19 fights via knockout—an unparalleled accomplishment for anyone, let alone a fighter who began his career as a teenager.
Of course, Tyson gained fame as one of the most powerful punchers in the sport. Despite a controversial lifestyle out of the ring, he established a reputation as one of the fiercest competitors in professional sports. His right hand ended fights quicker than they began, including a 91-second knockout against Michael Spinks that ended his boxing career. Without a doubt, Mike Tyson in his prime was an intimidating force who would strike fear into other elite athletes before they even stepped in the ring.
Sonny Bill Williams is a living legend himself in the rugby community
While Mike Tyson is a living legend in the boxing world, his proposed opponent, Sonny Bill Williams, is no athletic slouch. In fact, he’s a championship-level two-sport athlete. Regarded as one of the fittest and most gifted rugby players in the world, Williams has carved out a lengthy career on the pitch as a hard-running, bone-crunching inside center.
Tipping the scales at 6-foot-4, 238 pounds with bulging biceps and thick quads, the 34-year-old has spent more than a decade playing professional rugby. Born in Auckland, Sonny Bill Williams has earned 12 caps for the New Zealand All Blacks—the most dominant rugby team in the world. He’s also gained notoriety for his ability to play both rugby league and rugby union, which have different rules and require much different skill sets and fitness levels. But besides his proficiency on the pitch, SBW has also stepped into the boxing ring on more than a few occasions.
New Zealand All Blacks star is also a championship boxer
A truly elite athlete, Sonny Bill Williams parlayed his passion for boxing into a professional career. He made his in-ring debut in 2009 and defeated Garry Gurr with a technical knockout in the second round. Fighting as a heavyweight, the rugby star won all seven of his pro fights, including three by knockout.
Williams’ last fight occurred five years ago when he took on Chauncy Welliver in Sydney. He won by unanimous points decision against the American. Impressively, he won the 2015 Rugby World Cup as a key member of the All Blacks just eight months later.
Mike Tyson vs. Sonny Bill Williams would end badly for the freakishly gifted rugby star
At first glance, it might be confusing as to why a 34-year-old rugby star and a 53-year-old Mike Tyson are even being mentioned in the same breath. But based on the training video he posted, it looks like Iron Mike is still in fighting shape. That naturally led to speculation about a comeback for the former heavyweight champion. And that inspired Australian boxing promoter Brian Amatruda to offer Mike Tyson $1 million to fight for a charitable cause, with Sonny Bill Williams mentioned as one of his possible opponents.
While the rugby star has certainly earned his stripes in the boxing ring, let’s just say his level of competition didn’t include anyone with a resume like Mike Tyson. Williams may have a 20-year age advantage, but he doesn’t have the technical skill of his proposed competitor. Fitness could be a major issue, and SBW’s legendary training methods have enabled him to carve out championship careers in both rugby and boxing. But at the end of the day, Mike Tyson’s power and experience would enable him to score another victory to his lengthy resume if he indeed took on the $1 million challenge to fight Sonny Bill Williams.