When it comes to great video games of the ’80s, it is impossible not to think of the legendary “Punch-Out!”, the Nintendo fighting game that revolutionized the arcade industry, but more than anything else, kept hundreds of children and teenagers glued to their TVs to be crowned boxing champions.

Thanks to its huge success, it led to many sequels that we still see today, but the most remembered is Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!!, released in 1987 for the NES. A title that was not like any traditional boxing game, but an avalanche of action with a large dose of fun, catchy tunes, and fast-paced difficulty.

And although the entire game deserves analysis, here we will remember all the boxers who participated in this adventure, from those who were already part of the saga to the new stars.

Beyond their level of difficulty and special moves, the best part about the characters in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out for the NES are their personalities, which surely made you laugh more than once (although they also gave you a good beating). These are

The Main Characters From Mike Tyson’s Punch Out

Little Mac

You control the character Little Mac in Punch Out
  • Age: 17
  • Weight: 107 lbs
  • Height: 5’7″
  • From: Bronx, New York, USA
  • Signature move: Uppercut

Although he is now recognized as the main character of the saga, Little Mac wasn’t introduced until 1987, or at least that’s when he was finally given a name and a personality for the main wrestler in green shorts.

Barely 17 years old and raised on the streets of the Bronx in New York, this young Italian-American saw boxing as a unique opportunity to fight his insecurity and better himself.

His goal is to reach the World Circuit, the most prestigious division in boxing, but for that he must start from the bottom, going through the Minor and Major circuits. 

Good thing he has Doc Louis by his side, a retired boxer who won everything in his career, and sees Little Mac as his successor.

Of course, the road is not easy for our hero, as Louis is quite demanding with his training, but Little Mac’s dream is to become one of the greats, and he will fight anyone to achieve it.

Little Mac is slim and much smaller than most of his rivals, but he has the most powerful quality of all: he is the protagonist. That is, it’s up to you to define how strong Little Mac will be, even though he’ll just yell “I’m tired Doc!” or “I can’t win, Doc!”

His arsenal of moves consists mainly of jabs and body blows, although the strongest is the Star Punch uppercut, which you can perform as long as you have a star earned. Stars are obtained when you hit your opponent just before he attacks you.

Doc Louis

Doc Louis is in your corner
  • Age: 55
  • Weight: 232 lbs
  • Height: 5’3″
  • From: Brooklyn, New York, USA

The trainer of the adventure and the creator of the Star Punch. If Little Mac is now part of popular culture, it was thanks to Doc.

He was created as an inspiration from Tony “Duke” Evers Sr., fighter of the Rocky Balboa saga, and Joe Louis, an African-American boxer of the 40s.

During his time as a boxer, Doc Louis was one of the biggest names in the sport, being a heavyweight champion. He was fierce against all his opponents, but the one who stood up to him the most was the Turkish Bald Bull.

It’s been a while since Doc Louis “hung up his boots” but he never left the ring. In one of his wanderings, he crossed paths with Little Mac by pure chance, and very few would have given a chance to that small and weak youngster, but Doc saw a spark in him, and since then he has not stopped accompanying him in his corner of the ring.

Doc Louis is quite demanding, but he never fails to help you out by giving tips and warnings of when to attack like “Listen Mac!!!! Catch him off-guard to stun him! Then unload on him!” or “Listen Mac! Give him a fast upper-cut when he’s stunned!”.

Referee Mario

Mario is the Referee in the ring
  • Age: ?
  • Weight: ?
  • Height: ?
  • From: The Mushroom Kingdom

Plumber by day, referee (and many other jobs) by night. Such was the life of Super Mario in the 80s when Nintendo put him in almost every game.

In the first Punch-Out!!!, Mario was already in the audience alongside Donkey Kong, but he got tired of being a mere spectator and jumped into the ring to supervise the fights.

Unfortunately, in this game, we can’t hear his classic lines due to the technical limitations of the NES, but starting with Super Punch-Out!! on the SNES, Charles Martinet gives voice to everyone’s favorite plumber errr… ref.

Beyond this, Mario fulfills his role professionally (except for the fact that he occasionally breaks the ring ropes when he enters) in the game, although he keeps his red cap that he wouldn’t take off for anything.

You can’t fight against him either, and I think it’s a very smart decision on Nintendo’s part because let’s be clear, Mario would wipe the floor with you.

Now let’s move on to Little Mac’s opponents, in order of appearance.

Minor Circuit Boxers

Glass Joe

Glass Joe is the easiest Punch Out Character to beat
  • Age: 38
  • Weight: 112 lbs
  • Height: 5’10”
  • From: Paris, France
  • Record: 1-99
  • Signature Move: Taunt Punch (or be knocked out in just seconds)

Who would have thought that such a wimpy opponent would become the most popular Punch-Out!! fighter after Little Mac.

The French Glass Joe lives up to his name because no matter how bad his opponent is, he’s always going to go down first. But hey, he always shows up to fight, year after year. He lacks talent, but at least he’s persevering.

The only opponent up to Glass Joe’s standards is himself because no one can be as incompetent as he is. And yes, he throws the occasional punch, but they’re pretty weak and his cowardice makes him make mistakes, so much so that if you connect one punch before he does his signature move, you’re going to knock him out immediately, even if his life bar is full.

He is the weakest fighter in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out and he’s a perfect punching bag, although time has made him a star. It’s a win for me.

Von Kaiser

Von Kaiser is your second opponent
  • Age: 42
  • Weight: 144 lbs
  • Height: 6’0″
  • From: Berlin, Germany
  • Record: 23-13
  • Signature Move: Right Uppercut

Better known as “The German Steel Machine”, this wrestler and trainer out of Berlin is quite intimidating, to begin with, and seems a big step up in difficulty from the fearful Glass Joe.

While he is stronger and has a better defense than his first opponent, Von Kaiser is no problem for more experienced players.

Instead, he is the perfect opponent to test the skills of novices who thought the game was too easy after beating Glass Joe. However, it is quite easy to anticipate the German’s moves, as he always shakes his head or crouches, which leaves you a margin of time to cut off his attack with a punch.

A cool detail regarding this character is that in his presentation, an excerpt of the theme “Ride of the Valkyries”, a jewel of classical music composed by the German Richard Wagner, is played. The entertainment industry has used this theme many times for battle scenes, and it suits the German Von Kaiser, even though he barely gives a minute of fight.

Piston Honda

The Champion Piston Honda
  • Age: 28
  • Weight: 174 lbs
  • Height: 6’2″
  • From: Tokyo, Japan
  • Record: 21-1 
  • Signature Move: Honda Rush Attack

With this Japanese fighter, things change for Little Mac, as he is the first serious obstacle on his way to the title. Just look at his record.

Muscular and tall, Piston Honda (who later changed his name to Piston Hondo because, you know, legal problems) has good speed and stamina. He’s not too much of a challenge either, just make sure you don’t get caught by the Honda Rush Attack, a combination of a jab, hook, and uppercut that will leave you on the canvas. 

Unless you’re experienced, you probably won’t be able to take the first round, although in the second you should already notice his signs of attack, such as his eyebrow raise or when he sets up his right hook.

But an opponent like Piston Honda will not give up so easily, as you will find him again in the World Circuit, much stronger and eager for revenge. This time, you can also counter his attacks, but you have to be a lot quicker.

In short, the first headache of the game that frustrates many novice players, especially because of his threatening eyebrows.

Major Circuit Boxers

Don Flamenco

Boxer Don Flamenco
  • Age: 23
  • Weight: 152 lbs
  • Height: 6’1″
  • From: Madrid, Spain
  • Record: 22-3
  • Signature Move: Flamenco Punch

Inspired by the character Vega from the Street Fighter saga, Don Flamenco is the first opponent you’ll encounter on the Major Circuit.

He may be vain, and always enters the ring as if it were a fashion runway, with a rose in his mouth, but don’t let your guard down with this opponent, as he has more than one ace up his sleeve.

His fighting style is based on provoking, tempting you to move forward by saying “c’mon, c’mon, c’mon”, and if you make the mistake of falling into his trap, be prepared to receive a Flamenco Punch, a destructive uppercut that kills a quarter of your life bar. 

Although with a little experience, you can dodge this attack, and once the fight progresses, Don Flamenco will lose patience, throwing punches erratically but also becoming a perfect target. 

And since there is nothing better than hurting the pride of a vain man, with a little practice, you can KO Don Flamenco in less than 20 seconds. All in all, he’s a Glass Joe who thinks he’s good.

Although he did manage to make it to the World Circuit for a rematch, in which he boasts better stamina that will hold you to at least the second round unless you’re really good… I still see him like Glass Joe, sorry.

King Hippo

King Hippo
  • Age:  Unknown
  • Weight: Unknown (although it must be a lot of pounds for sure)
  • Height: Unknown
  • From: Hippo Islands, South Pacific
  • Record: 18-9
  • Signature Move: Hippo Rush

This South Pacific giant has been an enigma to the Punch-Out community, as many important aspects of his life are unknown and the little you can find are mere assumptions, but what is 100% certain is that he overdid it a little with his food, just a little.

Being overweight, it is normal for him to be slow but he also has a good defense, so your best option is to wait for this self-proclaimed King to open his mouth and throw a couple of sledgehammers in the air. That means green light.

When you hit that X on King Hippo’s belly, the giant’s shorts will fall to the canvas, and as he tries to put them back on, you’ll end up leaving him on the same level as his shorts. 

King Hippo is undoubtedly one of the funniest characters in the game and his combat is no joke, although you have to give him some credit, as his pattern is not so easy to recognize for casual players.

Great Tiger

The Great Tiger
  • Age: 29
  • Weight: 132 lbs
  • Height: 5’11”
  • From: Mumbai, India
  • Record: 24-5
  • Signature Move: Tiger Punch

Great Tiger already has a very good physique, an intimidating name, a tiger coat in his corner, and great stamina, but it gets worse when you learn that he is also a wizard…

Great Tiger took a different path than his father, a renowned wizard from India, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a little magic in his veins. He makes that evident with his Tiger Punch, an ability with which he teleports around the ring while throwing a quick flurry of jabs that will destroy your life bar.

The good part is that if you defend yourself from this attack, Great Tiger will tire out, at which point you can hit him with a good punch that will knock him down no matter how much health he has. And the truth is that this is quite logical, it is the law of equivalent exchange in magic, “Man can not get anything without first giving something in return”.

Added to that, the magic ruby on his turban also puts him at a disadvantage at times, as it glows every time he goes to throw a jab. 

At first, this fighter will be a headache for many players, but with practice, you will turn this tiger into a simple kitten.

Bald Bull

Bald Bull is a tough fighter
  • Age: 36
  • Weight: 298 lbs
  • Height: 6’2″
  • From: Istanbul, Turkey
  • Record: 34-4
  • Signature Move: Bull Charge

Glass Joe may be Punch-Out’s most recognizable fighter, but the one who has made the most appearances in video games outside of the series is Bald Bull, the Turkish muscle mountain.

There is a theory that bald people always tend to be villains, or at least that’s what has been seen a lot in Hollywood. I’m not a fan of stereotypes, but Bald Bull is definitely evil and doesn’t go out to the ring just to win, but to completely destroy you.

Proof of this is his special attack, the Bull Charge, which like a raging bull, he moves a little away from Little Mac just to gain momentum and run forward, delivering a tremendous uppercut. Complement that move with hooks, more uppercuts, and jabs and you have a more than powerful fighter.

Unlike other fighters, Bald Bull doesn’t have any props to give away his moves, but in the crowd of spectators, one of them will give you a signal to hit Bald Bull just before he does his special move

But don’t think you’re saved by that, because this Turkish monster is back to make life impossible for you on the World Circuit, where it is much stronger. Your only salvation is again in the audience, although you will have to be more attentive and look for a bearded man who will duck his head just when you have to counterattack the Bull Charge.

World Circuit 

The fighters that reappear in this circuit are Piston Honda, Don Flamenco, and Bald Bull along with these new opponents

Soda Popinski

The renamed Soda Popinski
  • Age: 35
  • Weight: 237 lbs
  • Height: 6’6″
  • From: Moscow, Russia
  • Record: 33-2
  • Signature Move: Triple Trotting Jab

Originally named Vodka Drunkenski, this Russian giant with a red hue that can only evoke communism, can’t fight without a bottle of “soda” by his side, although we all know that the only thing about soda is the label.

But the fact that he is super drunk does not mean that he is an easy opponent, on the contrary, that is where his enormous strength comes from.

In the middle of his drunkenness, he provokes Little Mac with his evil laugh, which has become iconic for gamers. Although it’s all a trap to get you close so he can throw his triple jab blast, or an uppercut that will send you flying through the air.

The best you can do to stand up to Soda Popinski is to rely on your speed and hit him with an uppercut, although there really isn’t an exact trick to this fighter. Be prepared to try it again and again…

Mr. Sandman

Mr Sandman character in Punch Out
  • Age: 31
  • Weight: 284 lbs
  • Height: 6’5″
  • From: Philadelphia, USA
  • Record: 27-2
  • Signature Move: Dreamland Express

Unpredictability made fighter and with almost the same malice as Bald Bull, Mr. Sandman certainly gives you a great welcome (beating) to the elite of the elite. 

All of Mr. Sandman’s characteristics are destructive, but if I have to highlight one of them it would be his incredible ability to recover from uppercuts, that is if you break his defense, and his Dreamland Express, a move that consists of 3 fast and powerful uppercuts with very little reaction margin.

There is a tactic to defeat him, and that is to avoid his flurry of rolling jabs, after which it is your turn to attack him. The first thing Mr. Sandman will do is dodge this attack and throw a hook at you, a perfect opportunity to counterattack him and leave him dizzy for a few seconds, although he won’t leave his face unprotected.

Little by little, you’ll be hurting him that way, but of course, saying it is easier than doing it.

Since he is a fighter with a poorly defined pattern, it is somewhat difficult to recognize when he will throw his rolling jabs, so be prepared to spend some time trying to beat the #1 fighter on the World Circuit.

Super Macho Man

Super Macho Man is the second last boss
  • Age: 27
  • Weight: 242 lbs
  • Height: 6’4″
  • From: Hollywood, California, USA
  • Record: 35-0
  • Signature Move: Macho Spin Punch

The World Circuit champion and a mass of testosterone-filled muscle. Although he may look like an old dude looking to relive his old bodybuilding glories and get his pecs dancing, Super Macho Man is a real challenge that you’d think was the final boss if the game didn’t have Mike Tyson in its name.

His fighting style is similar to Soda Popinski’s, though quite improved if that was even possible. The thing you should be most wary of with Super Macho Man are his Spins. When he does them it looks like he got his career confused and wanted to take up ballet, but then he finishes the spins with a brutal punch.

Generally, he starts with the Spin Punch, in which he first stands still and then does the moves, although the strong version is the Macho Spin Punch, in which he takes more momentum to do the spins, which by the way, you will never know how many he will do exactly although it is a sure certainty that he will knock you out even if you have your life to the max.

In this case, dodging and hitting quickly is the best you can do. You progress slowly but surely, as the Spin Punch is quite treacherous.

Super Macho Man will require more than one attempt to knock him to the canvas, but boy is the reward worth it. The title of World Circuit champion… but that is not the end for our Little Mac.

Mike Tyson

Iron Mike Tyson in the Punch Out Game For NES
  • Age: 21
  • Weight: 220 lbs
  • Weight: 5’10”
  • From: Catskill, NY, USA
  • Record: 31-0
  • Signature Move: Blink Hooks

No title and no fictional World Circuit ranking compares to a fighter who won it all in real life. A two-time heavyweight champion and also the youngest ever to achieve that feat, Mike Tyson is the big rival in this Punch-Out!!!. Let’s see, it’s pretty obvious, it’s not for nothing that his name is on the box.

If the previous bosses were already a pain in the ass, Mike Tyson looks like something out of Dark Souls. At the time, he caused a lot of frustration and broken controllers.

If you haven’t played this game, you’ll surely think it’s an exaggeration, because why would they give up when they’re so close to glory? Well, I recommend you give this fight a try and you’ll understand the frustration of so many 80’s kids who still have nightmares about Mike Tyson today.

Just like in real life, this boxer gives you no respite, and constantly blocking his punches is not the best option either, since it will deplete your life bar little by little.

The best option is to get up your courage and fight him man to man, dodging his blows, especially his Blink Hooks, a fast flurry of hooks. But as always, the theory is easier than practice, and just like in real life, Tyson will probably KO you in less than 5 seconds,

If you are one of the lucky ones who manages to keep up with him, I recommend that you knock him out in the second round at the latest, because in the third round, he gets more aggressive than ever.

As for the rest, I wish you luck, lots of luck… but hey, there’s no better feeling than hearing Tyson say: “Great Fighting! You were tough, Mac! I’ve never seen such Finger Speed before.” Just make sure to memorize the cheat code because you will be entering it often.

As a small mention, there is a second version of Punch-Out! released in 1990 in which the final boss is a boxer named Mr. Dream. This happened because Mike Tyson’s image rights expired for Nintendo, and since he was no longer world champion at the time, they replaced him with that fictional fighter, although he is just as difficult to face as Tyson, plus he has a 99-0 record.

Final Thoughts On The Characters Of Punch Out

Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!! is full of iconic and fun characters that are still in the series today and have even made the jump to other franchises like Super Smash Bros.

At the time they indeed generated some controversy because they were all stereotypical versions of different nations and cultures of the world, but that’s precisely what made them so special.

Beyond their charisma, their epic intros, their movement patterns, and their challenging fights, I think the most valuable thing that all these wrestlers taught us is that we have to learn to laugh at ourselves and our differences. It is something that is more relevant than ever in the digital era we live in.

And of course, I’m not forgetting Little Mac, the living (and pixelated) example that no matter how small you are, with effort and dedication, you can be the greatest in the world.