Muhammad Ali absolutely earned his nickname as “The Greatest.” At the time, he was the greatest in the world. However, if he is the greatest of all time is a theory that is impossible to put to the test. Tyson Fury is top of his game now.
Although we all love imagining putting the greatest fighters in history head-to-head, it cannot be done. Directly that is.
However, the team at Vegas Betting has created a helpful tool for us to make a smart comparison. By creating a chain of six links between the two fighters, we can indirectly compare Muhammad Ali and the current heavyweight champion Tyson Fury.
It would help if you used the tool to make your own conclusions. What seems to clear to me is that Tyson Fury in 2015 was even better than Ali in 1980. I will explain how I got there, fight by fight, link by link. I will also talk about an important caveat to the way we have answered this millennial question.
The first fight connected to the two heroes is the 2015 bout between Tyson Fury and the Ukrainian fighter, Wladimir Klitschko. Fury went up against the younger of the Klitschko brothers and cleaned up easily.
Fury landed 65% more hits and was able to close out the match in the twelfth round. The chain starts with Fury having the upper-hand.
In this 2008 fight, Klitschko goes against Hasim Rahman. Rahman himself is no small fry; as recently as 2006, he was the reigning world heavyweight champion. However, Klitschko cleaned his clock without a problem.
Rahman landed a mere 30 punches before being TKO’d in the seventh round. So far, our analysis shows Fury on top, having to beat Klitschko, who beat Rahman.
In 2002, Evander Holyfield humiliated Rahman. This match was a giants’ clash, as Rahman earned the title of heavyweight champion just the year before. However, against Holyfield, he did not stand a chance.
Holyfield delivered a brutal headbutt in round seven. Rahman only lasted one more round before going home with a black and purple forehead.
Holyfield beat Rahman, who beat Klitschko, who lost to Fury. This makes Holyfield the best fighter in our, except for Fury.
This is one of the most famous fights of all time. Poor Holyfield was never the same after Mike Tyson bit his ear right from his head. Who could ever forget this fight?
Less known is that Holyfield decided to continue the fight even though the referee originally disqualified him. Tyson then bit his other ear! In the end, it was clear the Holyfield was the stronger fighter.
Hang in there-we’re almost to the end of our chain!
This was the fastest fight on our list. Larry Holmes only lasted three rounds until Tyson finished him off with a TKO in the fourth.
This loss was very consequential for Holmes, who retired shortly after the match. At 41-years old, it came as no surprise and, in some sense, as a relief. On the other hand, this stated one of the most successful streaks for Mike Tyson as he embarked on an exciting world tour.
The final link in our chain that connects Fury to Ali is this 1980 match. Ali went up against Holmes. Ali attempted to win the heavyweight championship for an unprecedented fourth time. However, that was never going to happen.
Holmes was simply in much better shape than his competitor. Ali lost in the tenth round. In fact, Ali never went on to win another match.
Using this chain, we can see that Fury in 2015 was much better than Ali was in 1980. Because Ali lost to Holmes, who lost to Tyson, who lost to Holyfield, we could easily see him as significantly worse than Holyfield at this point in his career.
However, Fury came out on top in his fight, starting the chain. While this conclusion comes from indirect evidence, it is perhaps the best we can do when imagining fights between legends across decades.
Another important caveat is that we can only measure at specific points in their career. If we could compare them both from the peak of their career, we might get better results.
Explore the tool at Vegas Betting, and draw your own conclusions.