I’ve often been transfixed by the sports of boxing and wrestling, as well as by the martial arts. I myself joined a boxing club early in life, studied professional boxing throughout the 1970s and 80s, and kept tabs on the sport. In Junior High and High School I competed on the wrestling team, wrestled in the off-season at AAU tournaments, attending wrestling camps during the summer, and competed against some profoundly gifted wrestlers such as Jim Spangler from Awalt High, Bobby Arata from Peterson High, Ryan Kawaoka from James Lick High, and the most accomplished wrestler I ever had to go up against, the late great Dave Schultz from Palo Alto High, who went on to become both an NCAA champion and an Olympic Gold Medalist.
With respect to the martial arts, I was blessed to have some amazing instructors, including Alfred Urquidez (the brother of Kickboxing sensation Benny The Jet Urquidez), Greg Molinar, Michael Barkhuff and his teacher, Grand Master Johnny Conway, Jr., who was a direct student of the Founder of American Kenpo, Ed Parker.
People like me fantasize at times about dream match-ups. We sometimes like to ponder what would happen in a fantasy match-up between, say, a prime George Foreman vs. a prime Mike Tyson. Of course, such bouts remain in the realm of fantasy and speculation, and therefore, impossible to know for certain what might happen in such a bout.
Or what about a scenario such as a seasoned and dangerous martial artist such as Bruce Lee, Johnny Conway Jr., or Ed Parker vs. Mike Tyson?
I can imagine such a scenario.
If Bruce Lee, Johnny Conway, Jr., or Ed Parker, in their primes, were to go up against Mike Tyson in his prime, it would really depend on the nature of the battleground.
It we are talking about a traditional boxing match, with gloves, mouthpieces, a ring, and a referee, I can pretty much guarantee Tyson would destroy any of those three. Why? Because those martial artists would be fighting Mike Tyson’s kind of fight. They would be wearing boxing gloves. They would be limited to only punching and blocking, bobbing and weaving, etc. That’s Tyson’s domain. That’s his kind of fight. He would win, by knockout. They would lose, decisively.
However, let’s change the battleground.
If we are talking about a no-holds barred street fight, things may well not go in Tyson’s favor. Because now, you’ve got an admittedly much smaller man in Bruce Lee, but a man who is no longer bound by the strictures of boxing gloves and the rules of an official boxing match. Now you’ve got Bruce Lee who can move freely since there is no boxing ring limiting his mobility. There are no rules barring what Bruce Lee can do. Tyson wouldn’t be bound by rules either; he could bite off one’s ear without repercussion. However, Tyson would be subjected to things on the street that he would never encounter in a boxing ring. Bruce Lee would almost certainly initiate lightning-fast strikes to Tyson’s eyes, effectively blinding him. At that point, Bruce Lee would have to be certain not to get tagged by one of Tyson’s powerful fists, or he would get knocked unconscious. Barring such a knockout, Bruce Lee would systematically pick Tyson apart, breaking his nose, shattering his eardrums, striking various nerves, crushing Tyson’s throat, etc. Tyson would be a sitting duck.
The same would be true for men such as Johnny Conway Jr., and Ed Parker. Both of them are big men, on par with Tyson’s size. They would engage in very sophisticated and subtle, nuanced fakes, and feints, drawing Tyson in like a bull in a China shop, but then delivering near-lethal roundhouse kicks that could puncture Tyson’s kidney, followed by devastating side kicks into the inside of Tyson’s knee, shattering the joint, causing Tyson to collapse. From there, they would make short work of Tyson, maneuvering behind him and possibly snapping his neck. Tyson would not only lose the fight, he could lose his life if that is what Conway or Parker wanted.
I suppose the life lesson from all of this is to work out your battles on your terms and on your turf. Never fight in someone else’s preferred arena. A boxer should never engage in ground fighting with a wrestler or with a jiu-jitsu master. And a jiu-jitsu master should never put on boxing gloves and get into the ring with an experienced boxer because he will lose. We need to stay in the type of arena that is suited to our skills.
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