Mike Tyson refused to fight George Foreman at the request of Don King.
The Mike Tyson vs George Foreman fight could be a dream for boxing fans. However, it could turn into a real nightmare for George Foreman…
When George Foreman made his comeback to the boxing ring in 1987 at the age of 38 after a 10-year hiatus, he didn’t hide his ambition to regain the heavyweight championship title he had lost to Muhammad Ali in the famous “Rumble in the Jungle” in 1974. But that was easier said than done, as Mike Tyson was dominating the heavyweight division at that time. So why did the Mike Tyson vs George Foreman fight never happen?
Muhammad Ali warned George Foreman to stay away from Mike Tyson
Nearly 10 years after his loss to Jimmy Young in 1977, George Foreman returned to the ring and immediately knocked out Steve Zouski on March 9, 1987. Foreman certainly didn’t choose opponents on his level when he decided to make a comeback. But he performed remarkably well. He won all five fights in 1987 by way of knockout.
In 1988, the same year Mike Tyson defeated Michael Spinks in 91 seconds, Foreman only fought opponents who were considered lower-ranked. He fought a total of 9 matches that year. Once again, Foreman emerged victorious in all of them by knockout. People began talking about the possibility of a dream fight between Mike Tyson and George Foreman. However, there was at least one person who didn’t want to see it happen. The person who ended Foreman’s first career – Muhammad Ali. Foreman once said to TMZ Sports, “The opponent in the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ told me to stay away from Mike Tyson as much as possible.”
“George, Mike Tyson hits really hard!! George, Mike Tyson can throw punches that you can’t defend! That’s the power of a punch! It’s like a warning. Don’t do it, George!”
But George Foreman didn’t hide the fact that he wanted to fight Mike Tyson in the ring. What he didn’t know was that Mike Tyson didn’t want to fight him.
Both Foreman and Tyson were unbeaten at one point
In 1989, George Foreman participated in five more fights. Once again, he emerged victorious in all of them, and his performance improved with each match. On the other hand, Mike Tyson successfully defended his heavyweight championship title twice without any dispute. He defeated Frank Bruno and Carl “The Truth” Williams, both fights ending in knockout victories.
George remained undefeated during his comeback in 1987-1988. Photo: PDA.
In January 1990, Foreman faced Gerry Cooney, who had only two losses in his career, against Larry Holmes and Michael Spinks. Cooney was on a comeback, having not fought since his loss to Spinks in 1987. Cooney felt confident that he would defeat Foreman. However, that didn’t happen. Foreman defeated Cooney, knocking him out in the second round and forcing him to announce his retirement.
A fight with Mike Tyson seemed imminent, but just 42 days later, James “Buster” Douglas shocked the world. Douglas dethroned the heavyweight legend Mike Tyson in a monumental fight in Tokyo, the most shocking upset in boxing history. But the fans still held on to hope for the Mike Tyson vs George Foreman match.
Tyson’s punches could potentially kill Foreman.
After Mike Tyson’s loss to Douglas, a potential fight with George Foreman seemed to be on the horizon. Rumors circulated that the fight had been signed, and ESPN even ran some segments about it, speculating on the date it would take place. But this ultimate showdown never became a reality. Of course, it wasn’t because both fighters lacked the desire for it.
On June 16, 1990, Tyson and Foreman actually appeared on the same fight card. Mike Tyson sought revenge for his two losses in the 1984 Olympics to Henry Tillman by knocking him out in the first round. Meanwhile, Foreman knocked out top 10 contender Adilson Rodrigues in the second round with a direct blow. But why didn’t they fight each other that night? Clearly, Tyson had no interest in facing Foreman. “Iron Mike” believed he could cause serious harm to his opponent.
Longtime boxing journalist Frank Lotierzo once recounted that Mike Tyson was afraid of landing a punch that could potentially kill Foreman. “You’ll never believe this, but Tyson was scared to death of fighting Foreman. Tyson just didn’t want any part of him. I was there when Don was trying to put the fight together. He was telling Tyson that Foreman would bring in a huge amount of money. Plus, he’s old, slow, and won’t be a problem. Tyson got up and screamed in King’s face, ‘I’m not an animal, I don’t kill old guys.'”
George Foreman admits to not wanting to fight Mike Tyson.
While there is no doubt that George Foreman wanted the opportunity to face Mike Tyson, he later admitted that he would have had a very difficult fight against the man known as “the baddest man on the planet.”
“That guy is a nightmare in the ring. I don’t want to fight that guy. He’s very good, and I’m glad of that. I don’t want to get in the ring with Mike Tyson. He’s a monster. He’s the kind of person you see in a nightmare. You want to wake up and say, ‘Thank God that was just a dream. I don’t want to fight Mike Tyson for a single moment – never.”