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Who Would Make Bert Sugar’s Top 100 List Today?

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“Who was the greatest?” and “Who was better, fighter #1 or fighter #2?” are the questions that begin two timeless conversations between boxing fans. These arguments that take place in venues varying from barbershops to bars always need fodder. Whether you loved or hated him, Bert Randolph Sugar filled that void with his two editions ranking boxing’s 100 greatest fighters of all time.

Sugar, who passed away in 2012, published two editions of “Boxing’s Greatest Fighters.” The first was released in 1984. The second edition was released 22 years later with Sugar Ray Robinson still holding the top spot and Mike Tyson debuting on the list on its final rung. Additional fighters whose careers began in between the two volumes, including Evander Holyfield, Pernell Whitaker, Roy Jones, Jr., and Bernard Hopkins, made the list as well.

In compiling these lists, Sugar wrote that he, “considered each fighter as a scientist would a specimen, studying their punching power, their defensive skill, and in still others, their perceived greatness at the time.” In addition, he factored in each fighter’s level of competition and the durability of their greatness. Sugar did clarify that failed comebacks were not factored, writing, “because so many greats end their careers not with a bang, but with an “L” as in loss, we would be forced to conclude, erroneously of course, that an Alvin Green was better than an Ezzard Charles, or a Trevor Berbick was better than a Muhammad Ali, or a Chester Slider better than a Henry Armstrong, on and on and on…”

Considering the average length of a great’s career is more than 10 years, releasing a ranking every two decades is probably the optimal interval. There are numerous boxing writers with the knowledge and years covering the sport to take up this mantle so here’s hoping that one of them does so and releases a new edition sometime in the 2020s.

However, it has been almost ten years since the last edition was released. Based on the events during that period, it is safe to assess which fighters have a shot at making the list. Here are a few worth exploring.

• Bernard Hopkins (Ranked #91): When Sugar completed this list, Hopkins had just lost his middleweight title to Jermain Taylor and had said that he would not fight beyond the age of 40. Since then, he has moved up to light heavyweight, defeated Antonio Tarver, avenged his loss to Roy Jones, Jr., and has the opportunity to unify the light heavyweight title before he turns 50. He would definitely move past Jones (Ranked #88) and into the high 80s. The only question that a historian would have to answer is if he should pass Jack Dempsey, The Nonpareil (Ranked #82), the standard by which middleweights were first measured.

• Oscar De La Hoya (Honorable Mention): Entering 2006, De La Hoya’s last fight had been a 2004 knockout loss at the hands of Hopkins. His final four fights were wins over Ricardo Mayorga and Steve Forbes, a split decision loss to Floyd Mayweather and a brutal fight with Manny Pacquiao, where he ended his career on his stool. As great as De La Hoya’s career was, those final four fights would not put him on this list.

• Floyd Mayweather, Jr. (Honorable Mention): When Sugar’s book was published, Mayweather was a mercurial 34-0 fighter who had just moved up to welterweight and was ranked as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Eight years later, he is 46-0, still moody and still the top pound-for-pound fighter. So he hasn’t fought Pacquiao. His long-standing dominance will vault him onto this list. Only time will tell how high.

• Manny Pacquiao (Not Listed): In the last eight years, Pacquiao has been the most exciting fighter in boxing, but his body of work will likely not put him on this list. Losses, spotty performances and not fighting Mayweather hang over his legacy. Pacquiao’s a multi-millionaire and a favorite son of his native Philippines, but if he wants to make this list, he needs to fight Mayweather… and he needs to win.

• Wladimir Klitschko (Not Listed): When this book was published, no one – and I mean no one – would have even expected Klitschko to ever be considered for future rankings. However, following his knockout loss to Lamon Brewster in 2004, Klitschko retooled his game and has gone 20-0 since then. The current IBF and WBO Heavyweight champion now has 16 consecutive title defenses to his name and will defend the belts for a 17th time against Kubrat Pulev in September. Although the current state of the heavyweight division may cause argument against his entry on this list, his length of dominance is only behind Joe Louis and Larry Holmes. If another ranking comes out, he will be on it. How he climbs will be up to him.

Of course, there can be arguments against each one and on additions that should be made, but boxing as we know it is more than 130 years old. Only a handful of fighters from each decade make this list. To do so, a boxer has to be dominant against the best of his era.

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2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura

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The WBC World Super Featherweight title bout between Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura came on one of the biggest boxing stages of 2015, as the bout served as the HBO pay-per-view’s co-main event on November 21st, in support of Miguel Cotto vs Saul Alvarez.

Miura entered the fight with a (29-2-2) record and he was making the fifth defense of his world title, while Vargas entered the fight with an undefeated mark of (22-0-1) in what was his first world title fight. Both men had a reputation for all-out fighting, with Miura especially earning high praise for his title defense in Mexico where he defeated Sergio Thompson in a fiercely contested battle.

The fight started out hotly contested, and the intensity never let up. Vargas seemed to win the first two rounds, but by the fourth round, Miura seemed to pull ahead, scoring a knock-down and fighting with a lot of confidence. After brawling the first four rounds, Miura appeared to settle into a more technical approach. Rounds 5 and 6 saw the pendulum swing back towards Vargas, as he withstood Miura’s rush to open the fifth round and the sixth round saw both men exchanging hard punches.

The big swinging continued, and though Vargas likely edged Miura in rounds 5 and 6, Vargas’ face was cut in at least two spots and Miura started to assert himself again in rounds 7 and 8. Miura was beginning to grow in confidence while it appeared that Vargas was beginning to slow down, and Miura appeared to hurt Vargas at the end of the 8th round.

Vargas turned the tide again at the start of the ninth round, scoring a knock down with an uppercut and a straight right hand that took Miura’s legs and sent him to the canvas. Purely on instinct, Miura got back up and continued to fight, but Vargas was landing frequently and with force. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the fight at the halfway point of round 9 as Miura was sustaining a barrage of punches.

Miura still had a minute and a half to survive if he was going to get out of the round, and it was clear that he was not going to stop fighting.

A back and forth battle of wills between two world championship level fighters, Takashi Miura versus “El Bandido” Vargas wins the 2015 Fight of the Year.

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Jan 9 in Germany – Feigenbutz and De Carolis To Settle Score

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This coming Saturday, January 9th, the stage is set at the Baden Arena in Offenburg, Germany for a re-match between Vincent Feigenbutz and Giovanni De Carolis. The highly anticipated re-match is set to air on SAT.1 in Germany, and Feigenbutz will once again be defending his GBU and interim WBA World titles at Super Middleweight.

The first meeting between the two was less than three months ago, on October 17th and that meeting saw Feigenbutz controversially edge De Carolis on the judge’s cards by scores of (115-113, 114-113 and 115-113). De Carolis scored a flash knock down in the opening round, and he appeared to outbox Feigenbutz in the early going, but the 20 year old German champion came on in the later rounds.

The first bout is described as one of the most crowd-pleasing bouts of the year in Germany, and De Carolis and many observers felt that the Italian had done enough to win.

De Carolis told German language website RAN.DE that he was more prepared for the re-match, and that due to the arrogance Feigenbutz displayed in the aftermath of the first fight, he was confident that he had won over some of the audience. Though De Carolis fell short of predicting victory, he promised a re-vamped strategy tailored to what he has learned about Feigenbutz, whom he termed immature and inexperienced.

The stage is set for Feigenbutz vs De Carolis 2, this Saturday January 9th in Offenburg, Germany. If you can get to the live event do it, if not you have SAT.1 in Germany airing the fights, and The Boxing Channel right back here for full results.

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2015 Knock Out of the Year – Saul Alvarez KO’s James Kirkland

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On May 9th of 2015, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez delivered a resonant knock-out of James Kirkland on HBO that wins the 2015 KO of the Year.

The knock-out itself came in the third round, after slightly more than two minutes of action. The end came when Alvarez delivered a single, big right hand that caught Kirkland on the jaw and left him flat on his back after spinning to the canvas.Alvarez was clearly the big star heading into the fight. The fight was telecast by HBO for free just one week after the controversial and disappointing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fight, and Alvarez was under pressure to deliver the type of finish that people were going to talk about. Kirkland was happy to oblige Alvarez, taking it right to Alvarez from the start. Kirkland’s aggression saw him appear to land blows that troubled the young Mexican in the early going. Alvarez played good defense, and he floored Kirkland in the first round, displaying his power and his technique in knocking down an aggressive opponent.

However, Kirkland kept coming at Alvarez and the fight entered the third round with both men working hard and the feeling that the fight would not go the distance. Kirkland continued to move forward, keeping “Canelo” against the ropes and scoring points with a barrage of punches while looking for an opening.

At around the two minute mark, Alvarez landed an uppercut that sent Kirkland to the canvas again. Kirkland got up, but it was clear that he did not have his legs under him. Kirkland was going to try to survive the round, but Alvarez had an opportunity to close out the fight. The question was would he take it?

Alvarez closed in on Kirkland, putting his opponent’s back to the ropes. Kirkland was hurt, but he was still dangerous, pawing with punches and loading up for one big shot.

But it was the big shot “Canelo” threw that ended the night. Kirkland never saw it coming, as he was loading up with a huge right hand of his own. The right Alvarez threw cracked Kirkland in the jaw, and his eyes went blank. His big right hand whizzed harmlessly over the head of a ducking Alvarez, providing the momentum for the spin that left Kirkland prone on the canvas.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez went on to defeat Miguel Cotto in his second fight of 2015 and he is clearly one of boxing’s biggest stars heading into 2016. On May 9th Alvarez added another reel to his highlight film when he knocked out James Kirkland with the 2015 “Knock Out of the Year”.

Photo by naoki fukuda

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