Peek-A-Boo Hacking With Mike Tyson (part 1)


What is the peek-a-boo actually? Introduction to the peek-a-boo by Cus D’Amato using examples from Mike Tyson’s fights.


In our articles, we distinguish between Mike Tyson’s style of fighting and the Peek-A-Boo by Cus D’Amato for a reason. The goal is to collect all evidence from creditable sources on the peek-a-boo and evaluate it against footages from mostly Mike Tyson’s fights without any foreknowledge or preconception. This would be a controversial and exciting research.

Mike Tyson’s best years

The opinion of experts is that Mike Tyson as a pro fighter was at peak against Micheal Spinks on June 27, 1988 [1]. However, Cus D’Amato died on November 4, 1985, three days after Mike Tyson’s 11th pro fight against Sterling Benjamin [2,3,12]. This poses a question till when Mike Tyson was at peak as a peek-a-boo practitioner?

Chicken-and-egg problem

We do not know what the peek-a-boo really is. We need to know what the peek-a-boo is to determine the best examples of the peek-a-boo for the analysis. In this series of article, we will examine all available footages of Mike Tyson and filter out various things:

  • Elements of common boxing techniques and moves
  • Borrowed and adopted technical elements from footages of Mike Tyson’s favourite fighters
  • What Kevin Rooney, Teddy Atlas & other coaches might have added from their own boxing experience
  • Some original Mike’s inventions and spontaneous reactions
  • Things Mike could no longer do because the opponents got tougher

In other words, we will try to argue what the peek-a-boo is definitely not and hope that the remainder, the original intention and logic behind Cus D’Amato peekaboo style, will be what we are looking for.

The Science of Boxing

Let’s try to place all known statements from people related to the peek-a-boo into a logical sequence and find support in video footages of Mike Tyson’s training, sparring and fighting.

Cus D’Amato [4,5]:

“When you can hit your opponent but he can’t hit you, that’s when you are a fighter. That’s what the science of boxing is all about.”

Below is an example of Mike Tyson hitting his opponent and making him miss:

Kevin Rooney [2, 6]:

“As long as the fighter is trying to be elusive, he is going to be alright.”

Cus D’Amato [??]:

“You don’t get hit, you don’t lose. It’s as simple as that. Once you learn to stay low and tuck behind your gloves, in constant motion, no one is gonna be able to land nothing.”

Mike Tyson [7]:

“Cus’s offense started with a good defense. He thought of paramount importance for his fighter not to get hit.”

Below is an example of Mike Tyson easily slipping punches:

We see that the philosophy of boxing of Cus D’Amato and his followers was pretty much the same old “hit and do not get hit” [7]. There is nothing really new here at this level. The main principle is the same. The difference we are looking for might found in the way the principles are applied in a form of some system.

The Peek-A-Boo System

The words of Cus D’Amato came in the flesh as Mike Tyson.

Cus D’Amato [4,5]:

“Boxing is entertainment, so to be successful, a [professional] fighter must not only win, but he must win in an exciting manner. He must throw punches with bad intentions.”

According to Cus D’Amato, success in professional boxing = winning bouts & bringing excitement. The main tool for the victory and excitement are punches: a fighter must throw punches that would look solid and do actual damage. Apparently, the fighter must be physically capable of doing it, but apart from that, the attitude, the bad intentions, is important. Here is where lies the first problem:

Steven Lott [2,9]:

“Many fighters do not throw [punches] with bad intentions because they are worried about getting hit.”

Watch 99% of boxing bouts: there is not much action in round one because fighters normally try to feel step by step the punching power of the opponent. They rarely throw any power shot (right hand) within the first minute of round one. Contrary to that, the first round of practically all Mike Tyson’s fights of was one of the most intense.

The solution to this problem is the peek-a-boo system:

Steven Lott [2,9]:

“Cus D’Amato devised the system to consistently move your head.”

Moving head in boxing seems obvious because a fighter has to avoid | duck | slip punches. Cus D’Amato is not talking about mere reacting to opponents punches, because here is another problem:

Cus D’Amato [4,5]:

“A man who’s worrying about getting hit is not going to have a good sense of anticipation. He will, in fact, get hit.”

Worried literally means you are aware of the possibility of getting hit and anticipating the opponent to throw a punch. In this case, the defense would depend on reflexes, split second timing, like that of Muhammand Ali, which Cus D’Amato did not like due to the risk involved [10]. Basically, you are gambling. This is why the requirements of the system are higher:

Cus D’Amato [5]:

“Stay in constant motion.”

It means, the head should not stay at the same spot for too long. This is where the consistency of moving the head comes from. However, again there is another problem here. In the example below, after successfully slipping two punches by moving his head down, Mike Tyson (boxer in black trunks) returns his head in the original position. He forgets to move the head into the new position. As Mike Tyson straightens his body in waist, he got hit by the left uppercut which clearly staggered him:

OPEN GFYCAT in a new window. Watch on YouTube in a new window.

This is why it is important not just to move the head, but move the head to the new spot:

Cus D’Amato [5]:

“The head ain’t never again where he last seen it.”

Below is an example of Mike Tyson slipping punches EXACTLY like Cus D’Amato wanted him to do:

Watch original version on YouTube in a new window. Watch version with sound YouTube in a new window.

The standard defensive | evasive moves (slip, roll under, bob, etc ) in the form used by fighters over 100 years have one extra drawback: they are standard.

Example from other fighters and styles

In this series, apart from examples by Mike Tyson, we will use other fighters and fights. Here is the first one: Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Wilfredo Benitez. Benitez is a model for a shorter fighter with shorter reach compared to Sugar Ray Leonard. Moreover, Benitez was a masterfull un-orthodox defender, while Sugar Ray Leonard was the classical orthodox boxer. In the example below, Benitez attempts head movements to get into range, but they seemed standard to Sugar Ray, who quickly nailed Benitez by punching in the middle without hesitation:

As a side note, Manny Pacquiao used often similar move as Benitez. Top pro fighters keep track of the opponents head. It may take few rounds, but as soon as they are able to identify defensive patterns so that they can predict the head position of the opponent, they will set you up for a KO shot [11]. This is why it is important to develop and use new trajectories of the head movements. Later, we will compare pre and post prison Mike Tyson’s defense to illustrate this point.

The concept of constant, off-rhyme and non-repetitive head movements is not so new all at in boxing. They were practiced by many many old timers before Mike Tyson. In fact, as we are going to explore it in this series, Mike Tyson borrowed and adopted many moves from the old timers.

The principles of the peek-a-boo

These are the principles of the peek-a-boo. Ideally, you have to consistently:

  • move you head all the time
  • always to the new spot
  • avoid short, repetitive or well known patterns

Notice, we did not discuss yet how exactly you should move your head and how would you punch when doing it.


1. Unreleased HBO Documentary. Mike Tyson vs Muhammad Ali: Who Wins? (Year). youtube

  1. Mike Tyson’s Greatest Hits (Year?). youtube 1; youtube 2

  2. Remembering Cus D’Amato! .

  3. Watch Me Now (1983). youtube 1; youtube 2

  4. Quotes by Cus D’Amato.

  5. McNeil, William F. The Rise of Mike Tyson, Heavyweight (Year?). McFarland.

  6. Mike Tyson. Undisputed Truth (2013). Penguin.

  7. Kenny Weldon. Boxing Defined. youtube

  8. The secret behind Mike Tyson’s fighting style – Cus D’Amato. youtube clip

  9. Muhammad Ali & Cus D’Amato (1970). youtube short clip; youtube long clip

  10. Sugar Ray Leonard in England. youtube

  11. Steve Lott Cus D’amato passes away This Day in Boxing November 4, 1985. (2015)

Original article:

About the Author Ricardo Vasquez