12. Robert Colay — Oct. 25, 1985 — KO, first-round
This was Tyson’s 10th professional fight and it ended like the majority of his fights early in his career—in the first-round.
Tyson landed his most devastating punch, the rising left hook, flush against the taller fighter turning out Colay’s lights.
11. Tony Tubbs — March 21, 1988 — TKO, second-round
This was Tyson’s first fight in Tokyo, where he famously lost to Buster Douglas two years later in one of sport’s greatest upsets.
Iron Mike actually took some good shots from Tubbs who was holding his own until Tyson landed some precise shots late in the second, including one left hook that disoriented Tubbs and turned his legs into spaghetti.
10. Clifford Etienne — Feb. 22, 2003 — KO, first-round
At age 36, this was Tyson’s last professional win and it didn’t take long for him to get it. This was a crowd-pleasing knockout since Etienne’s right knee buckled after Tyson clocked him clean with a right hand Etienne never saw coming. This one’s also one of the weirder knockouts you’ll ever see since Etienne removed his mouth guard the second he was fully splayed out on the canvas and then barely moved until he was counted out. Tyson picked him up and gave him a hug the second referee Bill Clancy waived it off :49 in the first.
9. Carl Williams — July 21, 1989 — KO, first-round
Williams came out firing against Tyson, unlike most of his opponents, and landed a few good shots trying to use his massive 6” height advantage and a comical 14” reach advantage. But it was Tyson who snuck in a left hook that rocked Williams right into the ropes.
He managed to get up, but when we referee Randy Neumann asked Williams if he wanted to continue, Neumann didn’t like the look in Williams’s eyes and he called the fight 1:33 in the opening round.
8. Francois Botha — Jan. 16, 1999 — KO, fifth-round
This was a rough, rugged, and ugly fight that Tyson was losing on the scorecards through four rounds. The Iron Mike of old was nowhere to be found this night in Las Vegas, but considering it was Tyson’s first bout since serving a 19-month suspension for biting Evander Holyfield’s ear off, his performance wasn’t terribly surprising.
But one left flush to the face with the fifth-round winding down was all it took to completely forget Tyson’s blah boxing. Botha was stunned by the punch, fell to the canvas, and stumbled his way into the ropes where referee Richard Steele called it.
7. Buster Mathis — Dec. 16, 1995 — KO, third-round
Just Tyson’s second fight following his release from prison, he didn’t look like vintage Iron Mike—the aurora surrounding him wasn’t the same at age 29 with a loss on his record and three years out of the ring compared to earlier in his career. But Tyson’s power was still evident and so was the athleticism when he pivoted to give himself a clear angle to land a clean uppercut that was quickly followed by another. Mathis fell backward and couldn’t beat the 10-count to continue the fight.
6. Henry Tillman — June 16, 1990 — KO, first-round
Another one that didn’t last long—like most Tyson fights in the 80s and early 90s. Tillman had a 4” height and 6” reach advantage, but it didn’t matter.
With 26 seconds remaining in the round, Tyson clipped the bigger man with a right to the forehead that rocked Tillman. Except for spitting-out his mouth guard while laid out on the canvas, Tillman barely moved until referee Richard Steele counted to nine.
5. Lorenzo Boyd — July 11, 1987 — KO, second-round
This one flies under the radar compared to many other Tyson knockouts. If you’re basing it on the caliber of competition, I get it. This one is easily forgotten. But if you’re basing it on skill level, technique, and precision, it deserves way more praise. Still three fights away from getting a shot at the heavyweight title, Tyson put down Boyd, a former cop who was studying criminal law at Oklahoma State at the time, with a beautiful finishing combination.
In the blink of an eye, Tyson landed a rib-rattling body punch followed by a missile of an uppercut. Boyd had zero shot of beating the count so referee Sid Rubenstein waved off the fight before getting to 10.
4. Marvis Frazier — July 26, 1986 — TKO, first-round
Tyson, just 20 and in his 25th professional fight, started whaling on Frazier from the opening bell. Less than 20 seconds into the fight, Iron Mike landed two explosive uppercuts that were quickly followed by a brutal 1-2 combination that knocked Frazier out cold. The challenger crumpled to the canvas lifeless, the only thing preventing him from being completely splayed out was the corner stanchion. Tyson actually rushed over out of concern when referee Joe Cortez waived for medical personnel to help Frazier.
3. Trevor Berbick — Nov. 22, 1986 — TKO, second-round
This might be Tyson’s most comical knockout—and his most historic. And that’s no disrespect to Berbick because he tried so hard to survive the second despite falling all over the place after absorbing two big punches. Seriously, Berbick deserves all the props for summoning up every ounce of strength to wobbly pick himself up three times after Tyson clocked him with a hard body shot followed by left hook to the forehead.
Tyson’s power punches were so devastating that Berbick looked drunk in the ring, his equilibrium completely thrown as he stumbled and bumbled off the ropes like it was a comedy sketch. Only this was real, and it was Tyson at his most spectacular. The knockout earned him the WBC heavyweight championship of the world, the youngest ever at just 20 to hold the most pretigious belt in the sport.
2. Larry Holmes — Jan. 22, 1988 — TKO, fourth-round
Some might have this lower on their list because Holmes, the former heavyweight champion of the world, was way past his prime. After a two-year absence from the ring, the 38-year-old Holmes was knocked down three times in the fourth-round. The first KD hurt Holmes, who was wobbly the rest of the round, but heroically tried to fight back against Tyson.
Essentially, Holmes was a sitting duck after that. The final knockdown came via a vicious right hand that dropped Holmes like a sack of potatoes, causing doctors to rush into the ring. Holmes, the former WBC heavyweight champ who held the belt from 1978 to 1983, wouldn’t fight again for another three years.
1. Michael Spinks — June 27, 1988 — KO, first-round
This gets top billing not because it’s the most spectacular of Tyson’s 44 knockouts, but because of the stage and the opponent. The hype for this fight was epic since Tyson put his three belts on the line against Spinks, the lineal heavyweight champion and future Hall of Famer.
After Donald Trump and Muhammad Ali exited the ring following fighter introductions, Tyson mauled Spinks who kept backing away from Iron Mike. A thudding body blow put down Spinks for the first time in his career, and a few seconds after the standing eight-count, Tyson finished him off with clean right that slammed Spinks onto his back 1:31 in the first.
Tyson, who extended his arms out Gladiator style a dozen years before the Oscar-winning movie starring Russell Crowe debuted, scored his 16th first-round knockout in 35 fights.