Glad to see the thread inspires interest I freely admit that Tyson scored a steady string of victories over fringe contenders through the 1990s. I mean, I wrote a profile of his career in this period and could hardly escape wins over the Brunos, Bothas and Norrises of the world. The thing a Tyson-lover needs to recognize is that without that, Tyson could not even get on a list of top fighters in the 1990s. However, that alone does not earn a high ranking spot. Let's face it: Tyson only fought Top 5 type fighters twice: Holyfield and Lewis. He plainly only took the Lewis fight to earn a big payday. Tyson's whole career in the 1990s was defined by cherry-picking and avoiding anyone who could pose a threat to him unless the fight paid very, very well. He could only do this because of his existing persona. I don't hold it against him, but I don't read anything more into it than what it is. P.S. Since this started, I got to Ike Ibeabuchi, David Tua, and Chris Byrd.
When I think of phrases like "anvil-jawed" or "concrete chin" I always equate those with being at least one full notch above simply being able to take a punch. The guy in question should have a skull so tough that eating punches counts as part of his ring generalship. So, keeping that in mind... Marvin Hagler is the guy who brought us the dictum that in a battle of punches, it is the guy who catches best who wins. "Destruct and Destruction" was a hard man to hurt. Ray Mercer had a chin so tough that, in his prime, he ate Lennox Lewis's best shots, and Evander Holyfield could only drop him by busting his ribs (and not his head)! In his prime, Julio Cesar Chavez also had an outstanding chin. George Chuvalo's durability was legendary.
Bonavena was one of the solid contenders who made the era so special. It really was a time span that was deep with talent, although many of them would be cruiserweights today. So here is a question: Larry Holmes came in at the end of this period. He got the last good fight out of Ken Norton, and a couple of bouts in with Earnie Shavers. How do you think he would have done if he had been four or five years older, and therefore could have mixed it up with the Golden Age generation in their heyday? Holmes vs. Lyle; Holmes vs. Foreman; Holmes vs. Quarry? And so on...
Sven Ottke had a weak chin. The guy got knocked out cold by his wife.
Floyd Patterson certainly was "chinny." I wouldn't say he had a glass jaw, but he was below average in that respect.
I think Naseem Hamed's problem wasn't that he had a glass jaw. Instead, much like Felix Trinidad, he had bad balance. If you clipped him at the right time, he would fall right over. He was rarely ever truly hurt. He just became overbalanced.
Tommy Hearns lost his ability to take a punch as he went higher on the scales. At welterweight he had a good (not great) chin, but merely average at middleweight and worse above that.
Bruce Seldon isn't even a fringe contender, and everyone who was there at the time bemoaned that he was able to win a world title in the first place. Bruno, Savarese, Botha, Mathis, etc. were all fringe contenders. If any of them ever peeked into the Top 10, it was just barely, and none ever beat a Top 5 fighter. Botha, since you mention him, had his best performance drawing Shannon Briggs, another fringe contender. Tyson's merits during the first half of his career can be argued, but in the second half ... before going to jail he beat Donovan Ruddock twice (who basically lost all his big fights), and then got soundly defeated by Holyfield and Lewis. In the era under consideration, he was a contender based on beating so many fringe contenders, but it is pretty clear that whenever he left that safety zone, he got his ass whomped. I've since written this piece about Ike Ibeabuchi. Enjoy!
I beg to differ. I will take up just Evander Holyfield, who was of a size that would have matched up well against the heavies of the 1960s and 1970s (the unarguable Golden Age of the division), rather than a giant like Lewis or Bowe. I'd give Holyfield even odds or better against the likes of Earnie Shavers, Ron Lyle, the older Floyd Patterson of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Jimmy Ellis, Jimmy Young, Oscar Bonavena, George Chuvalo, and even Jerry Quarry and Ken Norton. Was Holyfield in the same league as Ali or the late 20s Joe Frazier? Nope, but few are.
About Mercer: I'm of the school that if a fighter's stock goes up in a loss, that loss obviously isn't of the same caliber as getting a spanking. Mercer had some good wins and some good losses. On the basis of both, he certainly deserves a spot in the middle.