Muhammad Ali is among the most talented fighters ever stepped into a boxing ring. That is why there is no doubt that he is part of any credible discussion about who the greatest boxer of all time should be. He has undoubtedly had an everlasting impact on the fighting game.
His charming persona, lightning-fast hands, and belief in that which is right changed how we saw the sport. Because of how timeless Ali’s legacy is, questions are often posed about how he would fare against the modern-day Heavyweight champions.
This includes a match-up against the legendary Mike Tyson, British Heavyweight Anthony Joshua, or current Heavyweight champions Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk. Finding some form of objective measures to compare these fighters is complicated. That is why the best way to go about it is to look at three of the most important aspects of a fighter – speed, power, and stamina.
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Muhammad Ali Vs Tyson Fury
Probably one of the biggest questions to be answered is how Ali will do against the reigning heavyweight champion of the world. Fury holds one of the belts and has been coming in and out of retirement for the last period (speaking of 2022). With a stellar career and a fantastic story, Fury is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in boxing.
Fury has made a name for himself as someone who moves exceptionally well for someone of his size. This is probably a comparison between 2 of the fastest heavyweights in the history of boxing. He has a massive frame but moves his head and feet well.
Of course, the fact that you can move well does not mean that you could possibly keep up with Ali. In terms of head movement, it might still be pretty even, but Ali was undoubtedly much lighter on his feet as he fought the back foot.
Head movement and footwork aside, how do they match up in terms of hand speed? This one has to go to Ali. He had a blistering jab and a straight as quick as lightning. That one-two landed flush before any opponent could even think about blocking it.
Ali would use his speed to his advantage to cancel out Fury’s reach advantage. Ali is in an entirely different class when it comes to hand speed, but Fury deserves some credit. His jab is utilized well with a good pace behind it. He uses his hands to confuse opponents… feint, feint, and boom, the quickfire jab lands.
A match-up between the two would have been really interesting. Fury would not be accustomed to Ali’s pace, not having previously fought anyone with similar hand speed. He would have to bully Ali as he did to Wilder in the final bout of their trilogy. Quite frankly, Ali also cannot say that he really has fought someone like Fury.
Foreman had a lot of power but stagnated compared to Fury. The same goes for Liston. At least, both fighters would certainly step into somewhat uncertain territory. However, looking at footwork, hand speed, and head movement, Ali takes the battle for speed.
Power is a different ball game. Neither one of these fighters was mainly known for their power. Fury is a stylish boxer who can outclass opponents. The charming Ali was the same in that regard because he showed us that boxing is more of an art form than we really knew. When considering power, looking at some of the statistics might be helpful.
Fury has stepped into the ring as a professional 33 times. He drew only one out of his 33 fights and won the other 32. His 32 wins saw him win the fight by stoppage on 23 occasions, meaning he maintained a KO percentage of 72%. Ali, on the other hand, fought to his total of 56 wins and five losses. He won 37 fights by way of KO, leading to a KO percentage of 66%.
Okay, so the stats did not really help that much. There is no significant difference in percentages; Ali fought almost 30 more fights than Fury. So power will not necessarily be that big of an advantage to either of the two fighters. However, something to consider also is the size difference. Ali weighed in at about 220 pounds all his life.
This makes him seem like a cruiserweight compared to Fury, who weighed about 265 pounds for his most recent outing against Dillian Whyte. As mentioned previously, Fury could use his weight to his advantage. This is a common tactic for more prominent fighters – they lean on their opponents and clinch a lot in an attempt to try and pin them down. This wears down the smaller fighter, which is when the heavier guy capitalizes.
Fury and Ali are neither known for having particularly strong or weak chins. The only question remains: since both fighters are pretty evenly matched in terms of power, how well do they take power? Fury has been knocked down a few times early on in his career. Later in his trilogy against the powerful Bronzebomber, he has knocked down a total of 4 times! Fury got up all four times and never lost a fight.
On the other hand, Ali was also never knocked out in his entire career. He hit the canvas on four separate occasions, with the most memorable knockdown being against Joe Frazier in the fight of the century! The power advantage is minor, but Fury deserves to take the crown. The physicality battle belongs to him, even if only because of his size advantage.
Stamina is another problematic comparison to make. Fury boasts a huge frame but has never proved unfit or showed signs of fatigue during a fight. He boxed 12 rounds with the Wilder and Klitschko and never slowed down. The real question is, has he ever had to deal with someone who has Ali’s pace… the answer is an obvious NO!
Quite frankly, very few heavyweights of today would be able to keep up with the pace at which Ali fought. Not only did the man have fast hands, but he threw those fast hands consistently. In his fights against Frazier, we saw Ali slow down after taking a few heavy shots. But as soon as that second breath kicked in, Frazier was chasing Ali while he was floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee.
What ultimately hands Ali the stamina battle is his experience in 15 rounds fights. In modern boxing, fights are a maximum of 12 rounds. However, this was not the case in Ali’s time. Training for and participating in 15-round fights forced Ali to be extra fit.
Speed and stamina go to Ali, power to Fury – so in a very close split decision result, the winner is…. Ali!
Muhammad Ali Vs Anthony Joshua
Despite the two losses that he has suffered, the Britton still seems like the appropriate face of the Heavyweight division. AJ has an incredible story, working his way through hardship towards winning that Olympic Golden Medal. He might be the face of modern boxing, but AJ is far away from the legacy that Ali has left behind. A fantasy fight between these two would be mouth-watering, to say the least.
It seems redundant in a certain sense to continuously compare Ali’s speed to the heavyweights of today. This is because 9 out of 10 times, it is really one-sided. Ali had blistering hand speed, but by now, everybody knows this. What really was the most impressive was how Ali utilized his speed. He seemed so comfortable on the back foot, firing out that jab at an incredible pace.
Furthermore, he used ferocious combinations. It would not be just an ordinary one-two. No, instead, Ali through multiple combinations that came so quickly that they were impossible to defend.
AJ has decent hand speed for a heavyweight. He is often quick to counter punch, and once that uppercut comes through down the middle, it usually signals the end of the fight. However, he is nowhere near Ali when it comes to pace. Unfortunately, this is most evident from his two losses.
The first one came against the massive underdog in the form of Andy ‘the Destroyer’ Ruiz. Ruiz came in as a late replacement; at first, it seemed AJ’s power would be too much for the challenger. That is, at least, until that massive hook landed and AJ went crashing down. The reason – a knocked down Ruiz’s counterpunching was simply too fast for AJ.
The second time around, a much improved AJ lost against Oleksandr Usyk. Usyk is as technical as they come – “The Loma” of the heavier weights. His technique, work rate, and the pace became too much for AJ to handle. He was in and out, working off that jab before the Britton could land anything meaningful. That is why, in a battle between Ali and AJ, Ali’s speed is miles above anything that AJ has shown us so far.
Power is relatively straightforward – AJ is the man to back when it comes to who has dynamite in their hands. But first, credit must go to Ali. His opponents often underestimated his power, which he used to his advantage. Sonny Liston was the meanest, cruelest boxer out there.
He was knocking people out left, right, and center. The same can be said for big old George Foreman – who did light work on Joe Frazier. Ali knocked both of them out after dancing around them for a few rounds.
But AJ is a different kind of beast. He has the power of a straight in his jab, and his right hand is phenomenal. Whenever he manages to land a clean punch, someone falls. Klitschko, Ruiz, Povetkin, Whyte, and Pulev are just a list of some of the top-class heavyweights he has faced and dropped.
AJ has developed a lot as a fighter over the past few years. We have seen him switch styles entirely from one fight to another. His two losses stain his nearly perfect record, but he deserves all the praise he gets for that 85% KO ratio. The power battle definitely belongs to Ali.
Stamina will almost always be Ali’s strong point. He was in tip-top shape and always fought at an extremely high work rate. That is part of why he often seemed too much for his opponents. Again, the fact that Ali boxed during a time when there were 15-round fights does count in his favor. It means that, physically and mentally, Ali prepared for a fight that lasted 45 minutes!
On the other hand, the jury is still out on Joshua’s stamina. He boxed 12 rounds with Joseph Parker. It was a good fight, and he clearly deserved the decision. He also proved his worth against Klitschko, diving deep for that second breath later in the fight.
However, his most recent loss against Usyk raises the question of whether Joshua could go 12 rounds with Ali. The noteworthy thing is that Usyk fought at the pace of a cruiserweight, which is more or less where you will find Ali.
Some people might disagree, but there is room to argue that AJ did well in that fight. He is also dragged back by the fact that most of his fights do not last longer than 7 or 8 rounds – so he does not have that much experience in the championship rounds.
Unfortunately, there is simply too much counting in Ali’s favor. With that, he takes the battle for stamina and secures another split decision victory. Will ‘the greatest’ meet a noteworthy opponent?
Muhammad Ali Vs Oleksandr Usyk
Usyk v Ali – a fight for the ages. Usyk poses a much different threat to Ali than Fury or AJ. Usyk is the complete fighter – a technical mastermind with great IQ and speed. Unlike Fury and AJ, Usyk focuses on outclassing his opponents rather than bullying them or knocking them out. Ali would match Usyk’s ferocious pace with his lightning-quick combinations and technical abilities.
Has Ali finally met his match? Is it possible that someone could keep up with the incredible pace that ‘the greatest’ fought at? There is a perfect chance that if there is someone who can, it will be none other than current heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk.
Usyk fought at cruiserweight for most of his life and also won the Olympic Gold at a lighter weight than AJ. This is the most significant advantage and factor that counts in Usyk’s favor. He is a short guy compared to the likes of Fury and AJ, but man, can he move!
Usyk is extremely good at the scoring game – he lands punches without absorbing any punishment. In his most recent encounter with AJ, the champ has proved that he has the pace and the stamina to keep it up for 12 rounds.
How does Usyk’s style compare with Ali’s? This is an essential consideration in determining who would win this fight. Make no mistake, Usyk does not have Ali’s hand speed. Ali is extremely fast, and that is in general, not just because he fought as a heavyweight.
However, even though Usyk does not have the blistering combinations, his Ring IQ and footwork make him highly awkward to face. In short, although he does not have the hand speed that Ali possessed, it can be said that he has the work rate and footwork to match Ali’s pace.
This might seem like an odd comparison, which it is. But the main thing is that Ali and Usyk possess speed in different aspects – Ali boasts the title of having the fastest hands, whereas Usyk moves smoother and quicker.
Usyk and Ali would really be an exciting match-up. This is partly because they are the ex- and the current champions. But also, to add to the interesting factors, they are both many different fighters from Fury and AJ. Ali has lost the previous two battles for power, but it seems that may change.
Usyk is not mainly known for his incredible power. In fact, out of the 19 victories that he has had, only 13 of those came by way of knockout. Now that more or less amounts to the same KO ratio that Ali has had. But one crucial thing to consider is that Usyk has fought most of his career as a cruiserweight.
It is a simple conclusion: if you do not have massive KO power as a cruiserweight, you probably will not be able to start knocking people out left and right as a heavyweight. On the other hand, Ali has managed to break down some of the toughest fighters this sport had to offer.
The likes of Liston and Foreman all plummeted when they felt the full force of those blistering combinations. That is why, out of all the heavyweights so far, Usyk is the one who will not have a power advantage over Ali. Ali is simply too fast, too strong, and too accustomed to fighting the big boys for Usyk to have this advantage.
It must also be noted that it is unlikely that Ali would have knocked Usyk out or seriously hurt him. A match between them would probably lead to a technical fight worthy of drooling over. In Usyk’s defense, he has never looked seriously hurt or been knocked down before.
Beterbiev made him go down with an incredible body shot in the amateurs. Still, ever since, Usyk has fought all his fights standing up. Therefore, Usyk has the chin to take some severe punishment. But the power battle still belongs to Ali.
Stamina is another close battle. There is very little separating the two fighters if any difference. The fact that Usyk moved up from cruiserweight counted against him in terms of power depends on his favor when considering the fighters’ tanks.
Ali has had the stamina advantage so far. It put him miles ahead of modern-day fighters in terms of stamina. There was nothing that Fury or Joshua had shown to prove that they could keep up with Ali since he had trained for 15-round fights.
But, that is where Usyk changes the game. He has fought at cruiserweight and even as a middleweight in the amateurs. He is accustomed to fighting at an incredibly high pace for a complete 12 rounds. Since Usyk is not your average KO puncher, he has become used to going the complete 12 rounds and having the work hard in the championship rounds.
This gives Usyk the edge over Fury and AJ in terms of stamina. It also makes him the heavyweight that can most likely keep up with Ali’s incredible pace throughout 12 rounds.
Usyk can keep up with Ali but does not have enough to win the stamina battle. It is another close encounter and perhaps Ali’s toughest challenge yet. The judges’ scores are in, and it is a close, split decision victory. “Annndddd stillllll, your champion is Muhammad Ali.”
Muhammad Ali Vs Mike Tyson
A match-up of legends, the incredible Muhammad Ali versus one of the greatest heavyweights of the 1980s, ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson. The battle of speed, power, and stamina will lead these two to create one of the most exciting fights of all time. Several fans have pondered about what such an outcome would be? So an analysis of the speed these fighters possess only seems appropriate.
Once more, Ali’s speed is deserving of praise. Very few fighters have ever managed to move so fast, consistently, and without slowing down. He was agile on his feet, easily cut angles, and danced off his back foot. His balance and agility were unknown to the heavyweight division before his time.
Muhammad Ali will forever be remembered as the man who floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee. He was too fast for his opponents and outclassed them nine times out of 10. But as unique as Ali was, so was Tyson too. Tyson idolized Ali, and in an interview on live TV, Ali admitted that Tyson would have beaten him should they have ever faced off.
When it comes to speed, no one could possibly match Ali except Mike Tyson. He was swift for a heavyweight. This is part of why he was such an unconventional fighter. Tyson was short and had to find ways to compensate for that – he did so by working off his jab and getting inside within a matter of split seconds. He was something different than what the heavyweight division had seen before.
Under the guidance of Cus D’Amato, Tyson developed into an incredibly fast, powerful fighter. He threw blistering combinations and shuffled around his opponents to create the most incredible angles from out of nowhere.
In a fight between Ali and Tyson, speed would be crucial. Ali would be doing his best to keep Tyson at bay. His game plan would be quick jabs and combinations while Tyson would come storming in. But Tyson will soon manage to work his way in. Frazier managed to do so and did not have nearly the same pace as Tyson.
When Tyson comes in, bobbing and weaving in that ever-so-evasive peek-a-boo style, Ali would be taking punishment. Several have tried, but barely anyone has succeeded in keeping a prime Mike Tyson at bay. He was simply too fast and would be too much for Ali to handle.
Unfortunately for Ali, this is a pretty straightforward one. As mentioned previously, Ali had decent power. He took down a few giants with furious combinations. Ali made them miss and made them pay – as simple as that. He had a long reach, perfect for landing stiff jabs and powerful straights, which he loved to follow up with a few hooks here and there. But none of his punches did a lot of damage.
He never really was known as someone who possessed one punch KO power. In his professional career, most of his KOs came by breaking his opponents down and then overwhelming them with combination upon combination.
Tyson was a different kind of animal. He took the boxing world by storm in the 1980s, running through the entire division as if he was having a day of proper sparring. It was not just that Tyson had had incredible power, but rather that he knew precisely how to use that power. Mike was the perfect counter puncher and pressure fighter at the same time.
Cus perfected the peek-a-boo style, which seemed to fit Tyson like a glove. He was fast, and oh man, was he strong. Jabs paved the way for powerful straights, followed by body hooks and ferocious uppercuts. Everything that landed shook his opponents.
More often than not, a clean punch by Tyson would mean his opponent would fall and not get up. Often they could but simply chose not to get up. He had incredible power. In a career of 56 fights, Tyson won 50 and 44 by KO. This speaks volumes about his unbelievable power because he maintained a 76% KO ratio!
The power battle is a clear-cut victory for Tyson. Ali never stood a chance, like most other heavyweights in history would manage to.
Much like power was a one-sided victory for Tyson, so is stamina an easy victory for Ali. The truth is that Iron Mike rarely fought past the 7th round – which is not his fault, but it exposes one of his few weaknesses. Keeping up with Tyson’s ferocious pace for 36 minutes is nearly impossible. Throughout his career, in the few losses he has suffered, most of them came because Tyson was visibly tired in the fight.
Ali, on the other hand, was an absolute animal. The man knew how to fight 45 minutes through and rarely ever showed signs of fatigue. Besides his incredible stamina, Ali maintained a work rate that would scare any middleweight. He was fit enough to keep up with any heavyweight of his time.
Even though Tyson would definitely cause Ali some severe problems in the first few rounds, the real question would be whether Ali can make it to round 7. If Tyson starts to get tired and Ali still has the legs to push through, then Tyson would most definitely be in trouble.
Once Ali can start comfortably dancing around Tyson, there will be problems. Ali would be landing at will and exploit Tyson’s vulnerable defense. It would be game over before Tyson knew it.
Stamina goes to Ali, but is it enough to overcome the incredible power and terrific speed that Tyson possesses? It would all depend on whether Ali could make it out of the first few rounds of the fight. It would be an extremely close call… but the winner by split decision victory is Iron Mike Tyson!
Fantasy fights form a part of most boxing fanatics’ pattern of thought. In having these discussions, we learn a lot about the sport. It becomes clear how the sport has changed and the quality of fights being staged today. It is also the perfect trip down memory lane to pay our respects to the greats of the fighting game.