Jose Ribalta: “I was amazed at Mike Tyson’s hand speed, but I didn’t really think he hit as hard as people expected”

28 Submitted by on Mon, 27 January 2014, 22:56

In this special “On The Ropes” Boxing Radio interview, I catch up with former heavyweight boxer, Jose Ribalta. Jose was one of the tougher heavyweight trial horses for many of the top fighters and champions of the 80’s and 90’s. Ribalta amassed a career record of 38-17-1 with (27 KO’s) and fought the likes of Mike Tyson, Larry Holmes, Tim Witherspoon, and Vitali Klitschko just to name a few, and had some controversial defeats against some of his better competition. Jose speaks in detail about some of the moments from his career and talks about his book “Courage in the ring” that chronicles his life both in and outside the ring. Here are some excerpts from the interview. (Press play on the player to hear the interview in it’s entirety)

On his book “Courage in the ring”

Jose Ribalta: The book is called “Courage in the Ring” it’s on The book is pretty much about my career. I talk about me and the world champions that I boxed in my book. I fought “Razor” Ruddock, Tony Tubbs, Michael Dokes, Larry Holmes and Mike Tyson. The fight with Mike Tyson was a very brutal fight and I explain it to people, pretty much round for round, what took place in these rounds.

People are gonna get the struggles that I’ve been through, coming from Cuba and also a lot of bad decision I got here. Even when I fought Axel Schulz, I fought him and I got a real bad decision and even against Pierre Coetzer, James “Bonecrusher” Smith and Tim Witherspoon. I beat a lot of these guys and got real bad decisions in these past fights that I had.

Dealing with bad decisions

Jose Ribalta: When I fought Tim Witherspoon, it was so sad because they scored the fight a draw, I was so upset because I really felt I won that fight. Then 15-20 minutes later, they changed the decision and gave Tim Witherspoon the fight. I was really upset by that fight.

The only fight I really shed tears was when I fought James “Bonecrusher” Smith, because this was my beginning, my first experience of being in a fight and clearly winning the fight and not getting the decision. I really started crying after that fight.

Experiences with Muhammad Ali

Jose Ribalta: I sparred Muhammad Ali in 1984, towards the end of 1984. I sparred with him when he had a gym in Miami, Florida. He really had a quick jab, I said to myself, “Man, this guy still has decent speed in his jab.” We sparred 3 rounds, it was real good sparring.

Then eventually I fought “Bonecrusher” Smith in 1985 and Ali came to my fight, he told me pretty much how to fight Smith because I’m pretty sure he had seen him fight before in the past, therefore he told me, “Listen you go out there and stick and move, he’s a big strong guy but you have good speed, so you should be able to beat him.”

After the fight, after the bad decision that was given, Ali just looked at me and he said to me, “Man I’m sorry, you really won this fight but these things happen, continue being strong, you’re a good boxer.” That’s that he told me, I said, “Thanks Ali, I really do appreciate that.” After he spoke to me, that’s when I really started crying, I really felt bad about that.

On fighting Mike Tyson

Jose Ribalta: I remember on channel 7 on TV, my mother was alive at that time, and channel 7 had said, “Ribalta is not expected to go past 2 or 3 rounds against this up and coming fighter named Mike Tyson.” Then I looked at my mother and I said to her, “You know mom, no way he’s gonna knock me out or beat me,” and she threw a kiss at me and said, “I know that.”

When I fought Tyson, one of the reasons I was really confident against Tyson was because he was really similar to guys that I had boxed before in the past. I was just amazed at the speed that he had once I had encountered him in the boxing ring. I was amazed at his hand speed, his punching power was obviously great also, but I didn’t really think he hit as hard as people expected.

On the heavyweight fighters of today, and facing Vitali Klitschko

Jose Ribalta: The heavyweight champions of today, I really don’t think too much of them. When I fought Klitschko, I really thought that Klitschko really couldn’t punch that hard. He was a decent puncher, but in that fight, I fought Klitschko with a fever, and the doctors knew that and the commission knew that. They told me I had to fight because there were too many tickets sol and I couldn’t pull out.

I went ahead and I fought Klitschko, and when he hit me in the first round, I went down and I got back up but I felt so depleted, I really had no power for that fight. Taking nothing away from the Klitschko’s, they are good boxers, both of them. I wish I had been in better conditions as far as not having a fever when I fought Klitschko.

How he feels about boxing and the stars of today

Jose Ribalta: Pacquiao is not a bad fighter, but the only fighters I really respect are Floyd Mayweather and Bernard Hopkins because these are the only two guys I see that continue doing old school boxing. The old school boxing is still what Mayweather has, that’s maintaining him beating these guys, same thing with Hopkins.

Old school boxing is really what’s winning these fights for them. These young guys today are the one’s that do the same thing, they come out with this new type of boxing, hands down, the technique is completely different.

Click here to purchase Jose Ribalta’s book

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28 Responses to "Jose Ribalta: “I was amazed at Mike Tyson’s hand speed, but I didn’t really think he hit as hard as people expected”"
  1. yeahright says:

    oh yeah, old school boxing, that’s why you got schooled by tyson. if all boxers are fighting the way oldschool boxing is then boxing will be a boring sport. sometimes changes are required to make things more exciting and that does not exempt the sport of boxing

    • Anonymous says:

      Ribalta fought so many contenders, prospects stars, some in adverse situations boxing needs all types and if you wanted to be great you had to get past Ribalta, Jose gave great service to the sport of boxing fought everybody. Well done Sir..

  2. Jose Ribalta, who’s that?

    • Ashok_Just a boxing fan says:

      Hi Manny Pacquiao, huge respect to you. Please watch Jose Ribalta’s fight against Tyson. He is the only one to who took such devastating punches from Tyson, got up and fired right back. You will know.

  3. Holtgrewe says:

    Ribalta is right. Old school boxing is the way. Guys like Pacquiao will never truly be all-time greats because they fight like Amateurs….doing that hands down popping in and out thing. Pac is near the end and will schooled guys like Mayweather and Hopkins can fight till there 50, while Pacman will be retired come April 13th morning.

    • shawn rey says:

      maybe you are old as Ribalta and he is your all time great ha ha ha very funny!

    • Anonymous says:

      Amateur with 8 championship belts in different divisions, I’m sure you’ll read rib altars story, you’re both genius.

  4. Darnell says:

    This guy is a good judge of fighter. Ribalta went 10 rounds with a prime Mike Tyson and was the first that was not afraid of him! He took that man’s best and kept coming. Jose help get the blue print to beat Tyson the same way Marquez wrote the blue print to made Pacquiao look like a bum in the last few years. Good interview.

    • Anonymous says:

      Wtf,FIRST BOXER that wasnt scared to tyson,looool…so everybodys scared,how do you know??????blueprint to beat tyson,hahaha….he knows the blue print to beat tyson but he can’t beat tyson…your so funny…..

      • Anonymous says:

        His blueprint to beating Iron Mike………was to block Tyson’s shots with his chin!!!! wow!!!!

      • Anonymous says:

        I watched the link , now I understand why this guy ribalta is talking this way. He’s heavily damaged with the Tyson fight, maybe he’s not thinking right. Poor guy.

        • Ashok_Just a boxing fan says:

          It is clear you are very ignorant. Watch the toppest fights, how toppest boxers go down in a single punch and how this Jose Ribalta took peak Tyson, took the most devatating punches and fired right back. You do not seem to have any idea of boxing.

    • old school teacher says:

      Yes, color blue were printed on his face. That’s what you mean blue print…hahaha

  5. Anonymous says:

    Absolutely,his record shows everything…

  6. ayi says:

    old school? change is inevitable..

  7. shawn rey says:

    who’s this guy awakened by jenna J from a grave? never heard

  8. richard says:

    this boxer is obviously kissing his own ass. mike tyson didn’t hit as hard as people thinks? f*cking hilarious dude. well surviving 10 rounds against a prime iron mike is indeed a feat. but its still a loss dude. and to say that you had a fever when you fought vitali just because you got knocked down in the 1st round is so waay a lame excuse from a bum. well no wonder you respect floyd cause you see yourself in him your just full of excuses.

  9. BG says:

    You guys about had a heart-attack finding out everyone doesn’t worship Pac

  10. ElGrande says:

    Jose was a great fighter, going practically 10 rounds with one of the scariest heavyweights of all time is a tremendous feat. Tyson himself said that Ribalta was one of the tougher opponents he faced.

  11. leolopez says:

    most people commenting here are bums them selves for being disrespectful, you guys have obiously never boxed in your life. it sucks that its mostly paquiao fans that right away start barking like dogs wen ever someone doesnt worship their main idol.listen guys, paquiao is one of my favorite fighters, forsure hes not a bum, i respect what he has done for boxing,hes great. but the sport of boxing is not jst about paquiao, styles makes fights & you should all respect these guys that put their lives on the line to entertain you guys. there are great fighters with all kinds of styles: brawlers,Technicians,boxer punchers,counterpunchers. on and on.thats why we have different legends from diferent countries, ali, leonard,duran, the klitskos,the prince hameed, chaavez sr, Kostya Tszyu,alexis arguello, rocky marciano, edwin valero,arturo gatti…. the list goes on and on……now we have greats like paquiao,floyd,ggg,hopkins,ward,marquez,mickey garcia,riguondeaux,maravilla,maidana missed alot more but the list goes on…. please paquiao fans be more respectfu.. think about your mothers …. what would they say about you guys talking nonsense and crap… all i gotta say is respect…im out

  12. jay says:

    oh ok… arrogant runner thats the kind of boxers he likes. trust and believe if the fights happens pacquiao will!!!!, destroy mayweather.

  13. Deondre says:

    Why are you mad? Lets see Pacquiao go 10 rounds with a prime Mike Tyson. Thats right he cant do it. Ribalta > Pacquiao

  14. dodge says:

    Ribalta has the guts to say that against Mike? WHAT ? He’s way taller, much heavier and was taking those puches… For me Mike is the most gifted boxers out there, he’s also the most undisciplined who reached the top. for a 5’10” guy who is feared and dominates the heavy weight division.

  15. peter peterson says:

    Mike probably didn’t need to hit at 100% power because he knew it was going to be a knockout. At times Mike was concerned for his opponents after a big knockout. Ribalta went down very quick after a punch so there must have been more than enough power to rock him ….

  16. Freddy Jones says:

    These Pacquiao fanboys can’t stand the truth LMAO

  17. Lilleroy says:

    Tyson sux. Never was the baddest man on the planet. Too small for modern HWs. Stop with all the fanboy shit…Tyson will never love you!