The Man Mike Tyson Says Was His Strongest Opponent Doesn’t Feel the Same Way and Is Still Hoping for a Rematch 35 Years Later


Mike Tyson, known for his ferocious punch, has long been the subject of speculation about his real-life boxing ability. His most recent comeback, for the pay-per-view fight against Frank Bruno in June, ended in a knockout. But even Tyson, the self-proclaimed “baddest man on the planet,” thinks he still has it. In an interview with Primetime Sports, the fighter said of Bruno: “I was like, ‘Who is this guy?’ and then I figured it was an old guy who couldn’t take it.”. Read more about mike tyson record and let us know what you think.

Mike Tyson is undoubtedly one of the most renowned sportsmen ever to walk the earth, and you don’t have to be a boxing fan to know who he is. But I’m guessing that not many people, even many boxing enthusiasts, are familiar with Jose Ribalta. It’s quite OK if you don’t.

Ribalta was Tyson’s 26th professional opponent and second-to-last opponent before becoming the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history at the age of 20. He’s also the guy who, according to Tyson, was his toughest opponent and had the greatest chin of anybody he’d ever fought. That’s pretty high praise coming from someone who has sparred with Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis.

But the irony is that Ribalta, who gave Tyson everything he had back then and now wants another chance at him, claims that Iron Mike isn’t the toughest hitter he’s ever faced.

Jose Ribalta, according to Mike Tyson, was the toughest opponent he’d ever fought.

On August 17, 1986, Tyson and Ribalta met at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. Since his first pro fight in March 1985, Tyson, the WBA’s top-ranked contender and the WBC’s second-ranked contender, had decimated the heavyweight division, amassing a perfect 25-0 record with 23 knockouts. Ribalta, a 23-year-old Cuban who went pro at the age of 18 in 1982, entered the tournament with a 22-3-1 record and a WBC ranking of ninth.

Most people expected Tyson to finish the fight fast, and he did it in the second round when he delivered this devastating uppercut.

But, to everyone’s astonishment, including Tyson’s, Ribalta rebounded straight back up, and the battle continued from there.

As the battle progressed, both fighters landed many powerful punches, and Tyson once again dropped Ribalta in the eighth round. The young Cuban, though, returned for more. In the tenth and last round, Iron Mike knocked Ribalta down again, but Ribalta got back up. Tyson maintained his onslaught, and referee Rudy Battle, evidently thinking Ribalta had had enough, stopped the fight at the 1:37 mark, to to Ribalta’s chagrin.

“I hit Jose Ribalta with everything, and he absorbed everything and kept coming back for more,” Tyson later told Ring Magazine about Ribalta, who was the strongest opponent he had ever fought and also had the greatest chin. But that wouldn’t be the last time the two would meet.

The Cuban believed he was going to get the championship opportunity that Buster Douglas did, and he subsequently sparred with Iron Mike.

Tyson memorably knocked out Trevor Berbick to win the WBC heavyweight title little over five months after his TKO victory against Ribalta. Three and a half months later, he beat James Smith to earn the WBA championship, and only a few months after, he defeated Tony Tucker to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Iron Mike went on to win his next six bouts by knockout, giving him a 37-0 record as the 1980s drew to a conclusion.

Ribalta, on the other hand, finished the decade on a winning run of his own. Following his defeat to Tyson, he won eight straight fights, including a first-round knockout of former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks, to finish the 1980s with a 31-4-1 record.

Ribalta believed he’d done enough to earn another opportunity against Tyson, and he believed he’d get it in Tokyo in early 1990. But, according to him, Don King was having none of it (h/t

“Don King did not want me to face Mike Tyson, so he chose Buster Douglas, but Douglas was underestimated by Don King. He didn’t want me to face Tyson because he thought I’d be a tough opponent.”

Don King obstructing Jose Ribalta’s championship chance against Mike Tyson, according to Jose Ribalta.

Obviously, King wasn’t the only one who misjudged Douglas. Tyson entered their battle in February 1990 in poor condition and paid the price, losing by knockout in the 10th round in what many consider to be the biggest upset in boxing history.

Ribalta never got his championship opportunity, but he did receive another chance to fight with Tyson, this time as a sparring partner, when Iron Mike returned after a three-year jail term. Ribalta, on the other hand, is still hoping for one more match.

Iron Mike, according to Ribalta, isn’t the toughest hitter he’s ever faced, and he wants to fight Tyson one more time.


Mike Tyson vs. Jose Ribalta in August 1986 Mike Tyson vs. Jose Ribalta, August 1986 | Getty Images via The Ring Magazine

Ribalta’s career went south when he missed out on a chance at Tyson in 1990, and he became regarded as one of those journeyman fighters who was always ready to jump into the ring at a moment’s notice. He was knocked out in his third-to-last bout by Vitali Klitschko, who went on to win the WBO heavyweight title little over a year later. In his second fight, Ribalta was defeated by Chris Byrd, who went on to defeat Klitschko and win the same championship. In October 1999, he was knocked out by Razor Ruddock and retired, finishing his career with a 38-17-1 record.

Ribalta thinks that James “Bonecrusher” Smith, who beat Ribalta by split decision in April 1985, was the toughest hitter he had faced in his 56 bouts.

Tyson retired in 2005 following a humiliating defeat to relative unknown Kevin McBride, but he returned to the ring late last year in a highly-publicized exhibition fight with Roy Jones Jr. Ribalta, now 58, was underwhelmed and believed he would be chosen as Iron Mike’s opponent.

“I believed I’d be chosen because, even after our fight in 1986, millions of fans wanted to see a rematch between Mike Tyson and myself. Individuals like to watch people being struck, especially after spending so much money… It was a terrific battle, but more contact should have been made.”

Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr., according to Jose Ribalta

Ribalta, who now works as a security guard and stays in shape, claims he’s still ready to fight Tyson or any other big-name heavyweight who is doing exhibition fights these days. While the chances of it occurring are low to none these days, you never know in boxing.

RELATED: Why Michael Spinks Refused to Fight Mike Tyson in His Dressing Room

In 1977, Mike Tyson was in his early 20s and he was a wild, hyper, over-the-top angry young boxer. He was an absolute monster. He didn’t know how to act, he didn’t know how to talk to the media, and he’d lost all control of himself in the ring. At the time, Tyson was a rising star in the heavyweight division, and he was on the verge of the biggest fight of his career, a rematch with Don King’s Main Events, against Trevor Berbick.. Read more about mike tyson height and let us know what you think.

This article broadly covered the following related topics:

  • mike tyson record
  • mike tyson height
  • mike tyson wife
  • mike tyson son
  • mike tyson death date

Share this article

Recent posts

Popular categories

Recent comments