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Tyson vs Ribalta: Mike says Cuban was most durable foe

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Let's cycle back to August 1986, three months before Mike Tyson (25-0, 23 KO) defeated Trevor Berbick to become the youngest heavyweight champion ever.

A chiseled 20 year old, Tyson faced Cuban contender Jose Ribalta (then 22-3-1) in bout televised on HBO live from Trump Plaza Hotel, Atlantic City, New Jersey.

By now, Mike has started getting popular and had a reputation for first round knockouts. Not quite mainstream yet, he'd been showcased on ABC several months earlier and had already donned the cover of Sports Illustrated. The media was buzzing about a really special fighter and you couldn't help but think the young man was destined for greatness.

Tyson entered his fight with Ribalta, a scheduled 10 rounder, ranked Nos. 1 and 2 by the WBA and WBC, respectively. Ribalta, ranked No. 8 by the WBA, didn't bring a lot of defense but proved he was ready for Tyson's power.

Tyson floored the 6'5" Ribalta with a nasty 'right hook to the body, massive right uppercut combination' in Round 2 but Ribalta arose and continued to fight. In Round 8, a brutal left hook from Mike sent Ribalta halfway through the ropes but Jose would, again, beat the count. And in Round 10, Tyson floored Jose once more with a left that sent the latter flying, but the cagey Cuban was up at four.

Yes, four.

When the referee asked a tired, beaten up Ribalta if he wanted to continue, Ribala yelled, "Yeah, hell yeah."

Following the third knockdown, Tyson smothered his foe with powershots and, finally, Referee Rudy Battle halted the action. Tyson vs Ribalta was over but Jose, looking lucid and animated, wasn't ready to quit and even protested the stoppage.

"He had it in his mind he'd come to fight and I commend him," Tyson said afterwards.

"He fought back. He had the idea he was going to survive. He was hurt pretty bad, but I couldn't finish him. I was disappointed. I had a bad night."

However, 28 years later in a 2014 interview with RING Magazine, Tyson showed Ribalta a lot more respect. In fact, he insisted Ribalta, not Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, Bonecrusher Smith, Razor Ruddock or Frank Bruno, was the most durable of all of his rivals.

"I hit Jose Ribalta with everything, and he took everything and kept coming back for more," Tyson told RING Magazine.

"Jose Ribalta stood toe to toe with me. He was very strong in the clinches."

Tyson vs Ribalta facts & stats

  • Mike Tyson 25-0 (23 KOs) vs. Jose Ribalta 22-3-1 (15 KOs)
  • Heading into Round 10, Tyson led 9-0, 8-1, 7-2 on the judges' score cards.
  • By the end of the fight, Ribalta seemed to have made some fans as some in attendance chanted "Jose"
  • The loss was the second knockout loss of Ribalta's professional career.
  • Tyson landed a whopping 68 percent (22/326) of his shots; Ribalta connected on 29 percent (94/325)

So, whatever happened to Jose Ribalta?

He would fight 13 more years and serve as a popular "opponent" for up-and-coming heavyweights.

Following the loss to Mike, Ribalta would win his next 9 bouts before dropping 5 in row.

He'd finish his career in 1999 with a record of 38-17-1, 27 KO after having faced a 'who's who' in heavyweight boxing.

Ribalta defeated the likes of Leon Spinks, Steve Zouski and David Jaco, and lost Axel Schultz, Larry Donald, Vitali Klitschko, Chris Byrd, Bonecrusher Smith, Larry Holmes, Marvis Frazier, Tim Witherspoon, Bruce Seldon, Frank Bruno, Pierre Coetzer, Tony Tubbs, Joe Hipp and Razor Ruddock.

 
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