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The Fifty Greatest Middleweights of All Time Part Two: 40-31

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In the introduction to Part One I alluded to the astonishing depth of the middleweight division; that depth is illustrated by the array of talent in Part Two. It is not unusual to stumble across a fighter ranked in the thirties on a list like this that can meet with the very best that lie above on their own terms, but we meet now a swathe of them – head-to-head monsters that were swallowed up by the leviathan of modern weight categorisation abound, but are not alone. Sacred cows, too, are slaughtered on the rocks of superior resume – at least three of the men ranked herein can be seen in top tens elsewhere.

And the frightening thing is that the middleweights are only going to get greater.

#40 MIKE MCCALLUM (49-5-1)

Among the greatest light-middleweights of all time, Mike McCallum’s career up at middleweight remains a nearly – nearly lineal middleweight champion of the world, nearly the conqueror of James Toney. In the end, a draw and a majority loss in two fights that could have been scored any one of three ways was the final result of his pair with Toney at 160lbs and it dooms McCallum to the #40 spot where a single point on a single card of the drawn first fight between the two would have propelled him up the list; such are the tiny screws upon which boxing greatness are turned.

Still, McCallum probably overachieved given the limited amount of time he spent in the division. He boxed as few as seven times at 160lbs and won just four of those contests. Outside of those two razor thin failures against Toney, McCallum also went 1-1 with Sumbu Kalambay, making him 1-2-1 with men on this list, but what men. James Toney, a simmering poisonous stew of hostility and near-genius can be read about later in this installment; for details concerning his disastrous loss to Kalambay in their first fight see Part One – as to his vengeance, earned in a split decision three years later, it was a desperately close fight that illustrated McCallum’s exquisite ability for identifying and boxing to an opponent’s killzone while underlining his limitations at the weight. He just didn’t have the physicality to bully Kalambay out of there in the first half of the fight and Kalambay insidiously boxed his way back in and the contest became another desperately close one that could have gone either way.

Still, when allowed to dominate as he was against another superb technician, Michael Watson, he was lethal, remorseless in his heavy-bagging of the world-class Watson who McCallum broke in eleven. He couldn’t break a spirited and green Steve Collins though and he was run extremely close by a riffing, winging Herol Graham – and that, really, is the story of McCallum at middleweight. It is not enough to see him given a higher slot but the teak-tough, keen-eyed Bodysnatcher belongs.

#39 – GEORGIE ABRAMS (48-10-3)

Compact and aggressive, Georgie Abrams was credited by Sugar Ray Robinson of giving him one of the hardest fights of his career. “He knows how to make you throw a punch and miss it” Sugar complained as though he hadn’t met some of the most astonishing talent ever to take to a boxing ring. Never a champion, he clashed with an incredible line-up of former and future champions belonging to the 1930s and 1940s all while wearing the demeanour and physicality of a failed ice-cream vendor.

First up was a creaking Teddy Yarosz, who a relatively green Abrams out punched over ten rounds to a split decision while neutralising Teddy’s lethal left. Next was strap holder Lou Brouillard, followed quickly by future belt-holder Billy Soose, who went for a second time in 1940 after being dropped in the first by a sizzling right-hand. The conciseness of his work always surprises, perhaps due to the absurd raggedness of his personal appearance.

After the second Soose triumph, Abrams took a break from championship opposition but continued to take on royalty, matching the peerless Charley Burley – and holding him to a draw, a rally in the ninth and tenth rescuing him from a defeat that at one point seemed sure. Another desperately close fight followed against another uncrowned champion in Cocoa Kid, the difference between the two narrow enough to serve as a draw but Abrams took the split of the decision. He then defeated Soose once more in a one-sided contest that surely entitled him to a shot at Soose’s belt; in a story as old as boxing, Soose declined.

Abrams tended to lose to the best he faced – Marcel Cerdan, Ray Robinson and Tony Zale all got over on him in important fights – but he did enough damage against enough outstanding fighters that a spot in the top forty is justified.

#38 – MARCEL CERDAN (111-4)

It is impossible to persistently undermine popular thinking in writing without exercising critical thinking, but equally it is hard to persistently undermine accepted thinking without overworking in defence of the new idea. The new idea here is that Marcel Cerdan, while superb and to be ranked among the greatest middleweights in history, is not among the very greatest as is held by Boxing Scene (12), the IBRO (7) and Herb Goldman (5) among many others. I have him dragging his heels here in the thirties. Why?

First of all, Cerdan’s extraordinary paper record is a little deceptive when it comes to ranking him as a middleweight; when he first fought in a meaningful middleweight contest, he was already 88-2, having established himself in the war years first and foremost as a welterweight. The end of the war was a signal for the 5’8 Cerdan to step up to the 160lb division where he was indeed dominant over European competition in his native France before boarding a steamship to the United States. The competition that Cerdan bested in this time was not bad, but nor did any of the middleweights he bested emerge as top contenders or champions or make any mark upon middleweight history in their own right. It was not until he made it to America that Cerdan marked himself truly special – allowing that he had already established his excellence, professionalism and consistency – with a victory over the wonderful Holman Williams. Williams, a veteran of one-hundred and seventy contests, was clearly beginning to slip and had recently been beaten by Bert Lytell; of the sixteen fights that remained Williams, he would win just five.

Nevertheless, he was a significant scalp for a visiting fighter, as was that of Georgie Abrams.

Abrams was also past his prime and had only one more career win ahead of him but was still dangerous and Cerdan hit the trenches in order that he might best him. Both fighters emerged cut from a bruising encounter that seems to narrowly but clearly belonged to Cerdan; after which he set sail for Europe to pick up the European title from a fighter called Leon Fouquet, who is listed by Boxrec as 2-4-1 going in. After returning to America and hammering the solid Jean Walzack and then going back to Europe to go 1-1 with Cyrille Delannoit, Cerdan got his title shot at Tony Zale.

It would be Zale’s last ever fight and Cerdan was extraordinary in taking the title, his left hook in particular, a thing of beauty and a punch he would use to force “The Man of Steel” to the canvas win the eleventh round. Zale did not emerge from the twelfth.

Cerdan was the lineal middleweight champion but he completed no successful defences, injuring his shoulder swinging for Jake LaMotta in their celebrated contest and then killed in a plane crash before their re-match. This is tragic but it restricted the number of years Cerdan fought in the division to five; this is the same as the number of ranked opponents he defeated. Two losses in that time is a fantastic return but ranked just above Cerdan is Randy Turpin. Turpin, like Cerdan, staged but a single defence of the title but whereas Cerdan beat a faded Zale, Turpin beat one Sugar Ray Robinson; their relative placement is arguable, yes, but that is because it is close. Above him is Michael Nunn. Nunn staged four defences of the lineal title to Cerdan’s one (plus additional defences of his strap) and defeated just as many ranked fighters; I also think he looks better than Cerdan on film at his best, and should be favoured could the two ever meet. The latter is debatable; the former is not. Why then, would Cerdan be ranked above Nunn? What reason exists? Because he built a better paper record at welterweight? I submit that Cerdan, though special, did nothing to distinguish himself from Nunn and nothing to distinguish himself from the fighters ranked above Nunn. Clearly excellent, he no more belongs in the top twenty at the weight than any of these men and any argument to include him there is by definition unsubstantiated.

#37 – RANDY TURPIN (66-8-1)

There is a statue of Randy Turpin in his hometown. They love him there. That he died the darkest of deaths does not matter to the population of Warwick, England. He rose to do the impossible. He rose to defeat the great Sugar Ray Robinson.

Robinson took to the road after his defeat of Jake LaMotta for the world’s middleweight champion in early 1951 and defeated European contenders in Italy, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and France accruing cash and glory as he travelled. In London, Turpin lay wait, and plotted.

He was an old-fashioned fighter. He stabbed with his jab, the old fencing jab that birthed the punch, springing in with his arm held stiff like a foil, but he was fast and accurate. On defence, he leaned back, even reared up in the face of assault, trying to ride punches while defending with his shoulders, his hands low, turning and turning with whatever fuselage came his way. But he embraced, also, modern tools in his mission to overcome the invincible Robinson, whose record stood at 128-1-2. Already an obsessional trainer who had worked on his physical strength both in the gym and in a job obtained specifically to strengthen him further as a builder’s labourer, Turpin now sat patiently as films of Robinson boxing were run for him over and over again in order that he might first absorb the man he had sworn to defeat. It worked. Robinson’s two-fisted attack to the body, deployed against stronger opponents while going away from them in clinches was euthanized simply by drawing Robinson close and cracking him to the back and side of the head with whipped in punches bereft of arrowhead but loaded with scree. Robinson’s sneak right hand to the body around the corner just before or just after clinches were smothered by his bobbing out of a squat and into straight-backed conformity just before or just after a clinch was made. To dominate at range, he employed a technique as old to him as combat itself.

“He didn’t need a lot of teaching,” said Ron Stefani, his first fistic trainer some years after Turpin’s death. “It just seemed to come naturally to him…he didn’t have to manoeuvre round for openings, and as soon as they were there, bang!”

Turpin banged Robinson repeatedly, and it was not long before one of the greatest fighters of them all looked nothing short of lost in the ring. It was not a close fight; Turpin dominated him inside and out.

Famously, he held the title for just sixty-four days before Robinson ripped it from him once more by explosive stoppage; Turpin never again approached the astonishing peak he reached that night in London against Robinson. Indeed, his wider resume is only respectable – ranked contenders like George Angelo and Charles Humez brutalised like Robinson was brutalised if not quite so spectacularly – but the other top men he met like Bobo Olson and Tiberio Mitri brushed him aside.

But what price a domination of Sugar Ray Robinson in 1951? High enough that he is guaranteed a spot on this list.

#36 – MICHAEL NUNN (58-4)

Michael Nunn was huge, fast, powerful and a southpaw, an absolutely terrifying mix of attributes that made him one of the most feared fighters on the planet in the late 1980s.

Nursed a little through his early years as a professional, decent wins over unranked fighters like Darnell Knox and Willie Harris seemed perhaps to have left him unprepared for his first ranked opponent, strap holder Frank Tate, a fighter who held two victories over Nunn in the amateurs and who was 23-0 as a professional. Watching the fight now, one can see what it was that Tate set out to do, namely nail down a flashy, elusive opponent with textbook boxing and patient pressure, but he was completely outclassed. Nunn had such speed and accuracy that he could find punches that Tate was not equipped to deal with, reaching all the way across himself with a trailing left to land a power-punch below Tate’s right elbow after blasting him with a more traditional southpaw jab. Meanwhile Tate’s own punches, for the most part, were lost to the wind as Nunn ditched them with a reaction’s based defence that left Tate clawing at the air. The left-hand Nunn used to fold Tate to the canvas at the end of the eighth looked almost incidental to the general sea of leather Nunn crashed down on Tate’s shore but it heralded the end in round nine among a tsunami of hooks that forced referee Mills Lane to intervene.

Nunn had taken his amateur style and fused it to the cornerstones of a professional fighter, throwing with bad intentions and boxing with a heart-fuelled determination to dominate his opponent. It was a heady combination and his victory over Tate heralded four years of fearsome middleweight tyranny that included a three year reign as the lineal middleweight champion. This most important of titles was sealed after his brutal retirement of the old warhorse Juan Domingo Roldan with the most astonishing knockout of 1989, his first round dispatch of Sumbu Kalambay.

Kalambay was supposed to be a step up for Nunn, a class apart from what had gone before. Nunn destroyed him with a single punch, and more impressive, a single punch of exactly the type that Kalambay excelled in throwing, a straight thrown against an opponent who had been manoeuvred directly across him. Kalambay victim Iran Barkley was up next, and he provided his usual level of stubborn resistance, even taking a draw on one of the official scorecards (and mine), Nunn winning by a narrow margin from an aggressive opponent. Uncertainty regarding Nunn’s fighting qualities, rampant before his destruction of Kalambay, re-emerged. These were deepened still further by a desperately close majority decision win over Marlon Starling, the wonderful welterweight champion. Nunn, bigger than most of his middleweight opposition, held an almost comical size advantage over Starling but the welterweight king repeatedly found his larger opponent with lead right-hands. Nunn reclaimed some ground overwhelming another former welterweight champion, Don Curry, in ten, but then a menacing and full-sized middleweight stepped out of the shadow and knocked him catastrophically out; with that the reign of James Toney began.

The end of Nunn’s reign signalled eternal speculation as to his great potential and why he didn’t fulfil it. The reason he didn’t fulfil it is simple: it wasn’t there. Nunn was no better and no worse than his record indicates. Just as the harsh realities of boxing dictate that it is Nunn who holds Sumbu Kalambay’s reigns in terms of his historical standing, so it is that Toney holds Nunn’s.

#35 ROY JONES JNR. (61-8)

I can only imagine the horror with which acolytes of Roy Jones greet his “lowly” position upon the list, and below so many men who never boxed in colour. For the sake of the Jonesites of this world (assuming any are still reading), a quick reminder of the criteria, described with more completeness in Part One.

Firstly, nothing that Jones accomplished outside the confines of middleweight plus a few pounds is considered here; his inherent superiority over James Toney was proven, yes, but that was in a fight that occurred in a different weight division, and in the meantime it must be considered that Toney achieved more at middleweight, as shall be seen. Achievements, who a fighter beat, how long he held the title should he have come to it, and how dominant he was over his era stand in excess of how good a fighter looks on film.

That said, prowess in the ring cannot be ignored, nor can skillsets, athletic excellence or the probable outcome of imagined meetings with the rest of the field. This is just as well for Roy and his many fans because, to be absolutely frank, Roy doesn’t belong on this list based upon what he did at middleweight. The reason he’s ranked here is specifically because he was so special.

Jones turned professional in 1989 at 160lbs and did not part with the division until 1994, by which time he had amassed a record of 25-0. Included in that record were three fights fought at super-middleweight leaving us twenty-three middleweight contests. Roy’s fifteenth fight was fought against a boxer named Lester Yardbrough, who carried with him to the ring a record of 12-16-1. It is fair to say that Jones was very heavily protected in the early part of his career – there was even speculation that his father and manager, who ruled Roy with an iron fist at that time, refused to extend his fighter and son the challenges he so clearly required.

In his sixteenth fight though, Roy met with the washed up, undersized Jorge Vaca, hardly world-beating opposition but a valid opponent for a young fighter. Jones disposed of him in a round. A few months later he met the hugely experienced Jorge Fernando Castro, unranked at middleweight but previously ranked at light-middle, and for the first time was extended the distance. Showing either good judgement or a surprising level of paranoia depending upon your point of view, his sense that Castro was trying to “lure him in” probably cost him the stoppage. He did stop his next three opponents in a total of thirteen rounds but still, none of them were ranked. His second to last opponent at the weight though, was ranked: one Bernard Hopkins.

But he was ranked in the bottom half of the middleweight top ten. Hopkins was a long way from prime, his style’s perfection reliant upon pacing, strategy, distance and angles, all learned attributes that Hopkins, who had never defeated a ranked contender and was still a year from being dropped twice on his way to a draw with Segundo Mercado, had yet to master. If Roy’s impressive, one-sided domination of Hopkins is the hook his legacy hangs on, he is grossly overrated at #35, not underrated.

Thankfully, it does not. There is room here for good legacy, which Jones has, married to exceptional talent. A justifiable argument could be made for ranking Michael Nunn ahead of him, but what of the feeling that he would probably bamboozle Nunn while playing him delightedly at his own game? Roy moved up to super-middleweight after Hopkins, but he came back down for a single defence of the strap he picked up against the man who would become The Executioner, and took out the ranked Thomas Tate in short order. Jones looked, in that fight, like he came from another planet. If he has a “middleweight prime” it lasted those two rounds Tate spent with him 1994. It’s special enough to see him ranked alongside fighters who defeated legitimate all-time great fighters in or around their primes. Those who consider him underrated would do well to remember this.

#34 – BILLY CONN (64-11-1)

History’s eye alights only momentarily upon fighters like Georgie Abrams but Billy Conn is among the most recognised fighters in boxing, a smiling Irishman who reigned as the world’s light-heavyweight champion and who came within minutes of taking the world’s heavyweight title from Joe Louis before instead suffering the most glorious defeat in the history of the sport. Still, I suspect that while Abram’s placement in the top forty at middleweight will breeze by unnoticed, Conn’s will raise a few eyebrows; it should not. Conn achieved great things long before he set foot in the light-heavyweight division.

He turned professional as a scrawny teenage lightweight but soon filled out into the middleweight division where he served a demanding apprenticeship across five fights with the absurdly tough Honey Boy Jones before dominating a creaking Ralph Chong and squeaking by the legendary, but physically overmatched, Fritzie Zivic. Zivic represented something of a graduation night for Conn and it is no coincidence that in the wake of that points victory he began his run against champions and greats of the middleweight division. Babe Risko, a strap holder just one year before, went first, but was outclassed by the young Conn over ten. Centurion Vince Dundee went next. On the comeback trail it was some three years since Dundee had held a belt, but Conn named this his hardest fight to that date. Nevertheless, he won it with points to spare and drew the admiration of both Dundee and the Pennsylvania crowd.

Things got harder for Conn in his very next fight as he met with ranked tough Oscar Rankins, who was coming off a win over the excellent Solly Krieger. He came very close to adding Billy to the resume when in the second round he caught him with a steaming right hand high on the jaw. Conn delivered himself to the canvas face-first and looked to all intents and purposes beaten. Up at nine, he was driven around the ring by a merciless Rankins body-attack; but he did not succumb. Depending upon which press reports you prefer, Conn came driving back with a matchless gameness to smuggle out a deserved split decision, or Rankins was jobbed after winning the necessary six out of ten rounds. My own guess is that this was a desperately close fight that could have gone either way but unsurprisingly went to the teenage Irish prospect over the solid African-American contender.

Conn forged ahead fighting two pairs with the much more experienced Teddy Yarosz and, as detailed elsewhere in this series, Young Corbett. Yarosz dominated Conn early in their first fight, but Conn, exalting audibly in his own conditioning between rounds, forced his way back into the contest with a left-hook in the fourth and a right-hand in the fifth, both of which troubled Yarosz; after six, the fight seemed even and as to what occurred next, each judge, newspaperman and fan present seemed to tell a different story. The outcome was once again a desperately narrow split in Conn’s favour. A rematch was a necessity but solved nothing; sportswriter Regis Welsh under the headline “It’s An Argument: Second Conn-Yarosz Just As Debatable As The First” suggested that Yarosz needed to gather more stamina in support of his style to prevent the disastrous fade he suffered in the second fight and that Conn, breaks or not, was forcing upon him, but also hinted that the decision was “off-colour”. Without the mitigation of film, it is not for me to overturn an official decision, but it can be said perhaps that Conn did not prove his definitive superiority to Yarosz – while accepting that Yarosz certainly did not prove his superiority to Conn.

Yarosz, the reader can rest assured, features nearer the summit than Conn. This is due simply to the fact that he spent many more years boxing in the weight-class while Conn, after a loss to Solly Krieger in his very next contest, departed for light-heavyweight.

Conn spread himself too thinly to make either the top thirty at middleweight or the top fifteen at light-heavyweight but rather straddles both division’s – and even heavyweight – making an indelible pound-for-pound mark upon history.

#33 – TONY ZALE (67-18-2)

Tony Zale was the man who wound the rope that unravelled when the great Micky Walker vacated the middleweight title. He held the lineal championship in an astounding seven calendar years, a feat worthy of inclusion inside the top ten at the weight, were it not for the fact that the war interrupted Zale’s prime. He did not defend his title in 1942, 1943, 1944 or 1945, preferring to take a crack at the wonderful Billy Conn up at light-heavyweight before turning his attention to the Japanese in the wake of Pearl Harbour. He served in the navy.

Before the war, Zale was a force to be reckoned with, losing just one fight at middleweight between May of 1939 and enlisting, against an inspired Billy Soose. Among his victims was strap holder Al Hostak, who dropped Zale in the first round but also went to drop all five of the closing rounds in a non-title fight. This made a title-fight inevitable, and when it came, Zale didn’t miss his chance, breaking a supposedly below-par Hostak down gradually, forcing the referee’s intervention in the thirteenth.

With typical dramatic flair Zale, a private and by all accounts understated man outside of the ring, may have rescued himself from a draw in the tenth and final round by dropping the superb Fred Apostoli to win their non-title meeting, his finest win. After quickly dispatching a now broken Hostak in another fight and meeting some unranked competition, Zale legitimised his reign and unified a middleweight title that had been fractured since the retirement of Micky Walker, against Georgie Abrams. Abrams dropped Zale early but was a decisive loser as Zale met him with a savage body-attack for which he remains famous; this may have been his single best performance.

It was post-war that he achieved immortality, boxing in a famous trilogy with Rocky Graziano. I suspect that if Zale were in his pre-war prime there would have been no trilogy and that perhaps even one fight would have been enough; that aside, he lost the middle of three, reclaiming his middleweight championship before having his title blasted from him by Marcel Cerdan.

Generally held in higher regard than his placement here, it should be noted that I’ve recounted Zale’s wins against ranked contenders in this short appraisal in its entirety. He was a special middleweight but one who in no way earned the occasional top ten slot awarded him by historians and fans based upon what he actually did in the ring.

#32 – JAMES TONEY (76-9-3)

I googled James Toney’s name tonight with a view to a final review of some details to appear for his entry and found, to my surprise – to my distress – that he had a fight scheduled for that very night. A long time ago Toney’s menace dropped away from him and he became nothing more than a parody of himself; a pretender to his own throne where he had once sat as the most intimidating force in a very good middleweight division and, when Tyson was incarcerated for rape, in all of boxing.

“I fight with anger,” he once told a reporter. “I look at my opponent, I see my dad, so I have to take him out of there. I have to kill him.”

Toney badmouthed Michael Nunn all the way through the build up to their 1991 title fight, putting his hands on Nunn at the weigh in and threatening to “kill his bones”. Nunn, for his part, vowed to “punish” Toney in the ring for his many transgressions. Toney scowled his way to the ring and Nunn did indeed set out to punish him, but here my version of events and those of the judges part slightly. For the judges, Nunn dominated the next ten rounds of action whereas the way I see it, Nunn dominated early and Toney closed the gap late. None of this matters though, because after assuring his corner after the tenth that “I got him”, Toney dropped Nunn with a savage, winging hook and followed up with a hoodlum barrage of punches that left Nunn stricken. The lineal reign of Michael Nunn was over and the lineal reign of James Toney had begun.

He managed six successful defences which is deeply impressive…but – Toney was lucky.

He twice met with the wonderful Mike McCallum in protection of his title and each time the fights, the first ruled a draw, the second a majority decision for Toney, were so desperately close that any one of three decisions could reasonably have been rendered. Against top contender Reggie Johnson, his first defence, Toney ran out a legitimate winner but he needed to win the twelfth to take the decision. He was an uninspiring champion.

An uninspiring champion who was the beneficiary of a gift against David Tiberi, who dominated him in his fourth defence, Toney could have relinquished his title on any one of four occasions but should have done so against Tiberi, who was such a huge outsider going in that it was impossible to get odds on their fight.

Slick, fearless, interesting in his style and consistently in extremely close rounds with good fighters, Toney’s career is a contradiction; he is a fighter who both under-achieved and over-achieved and a champion who both proved his greatness and underwhelmed.

#31 – LLOYD MARSHALL (70-25-4)

Whether appraising Lloyd Marshall pound-for-pound (where I ranked him #83 all-time) or light-heavyweight (where I ranked him at #17) or here, at middleweight, it is a challenging task. Emerging footage of Marshall has illustrated a true gunslinger, a riffmaster general of whatever division he was gracing, a fighter as exciting and excellent and as flat-out different as anything else that has been seen.

He was also superb, serpentine, lethal, sudden and deadly. Big at the weight, he struggled to make the 160lb limit and was inarguably among the best super-middleweights in history many years before the division was conceived; he defeated Ezzard Charles while weighing 165lbs, Holman Williams at the same weight, Anton Chistoforidis at 168lbs – it is a prestigious list and one too lengthy to enter into here.

Adhering strictly to our criteria, which limits middleweight contests to 164lbs and below, Marshall is more limited by his size – but he did more than enough to be included here in the top forty.

Take Jake LaMotta, the Bronx Bull; a great middleweight by anyone’s standards – Marshall crushed him, outclassed him, cut his cheek, his nose and even rocked the man with perhaps the greatest chin in boxing history in the fifth round. Along with fellow greats Fritzie Zivic and Sugar Ray Robinson he would be the only man to beat the bull in the five year period that arguably constituted his savage prime.

Charley Burley, the Don of the Murderer’s Row that terrorised the welterweight and middleweight division in the 1940s, too, couldn’t quite fathom Marshall’s astonishing style, although a hairline fracture to the hand probably didn’t help the Pittsburgher. Marshall emerged with the hairline decision.

Surging aggression, as well as unpredictability, was his friend, as when he met Billy Soose, a fighter with huge experience who still had his best years in front of him in 1938. Despite a damaged eye, Marshall boiled into the breach left by Overlin’s apparent fatigue to take a narrow decision.

Other ranked men he bamboozled included Joe Carter and Jack Chase, both of whom fell to this jazz-man slaughterer of champions, but in truth he probably did not belong at middleweight and this, in combination with numerous losses, often coming against key opponents, limits his ranking here, despite genuine domination of some truly great middles.

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Michael Dutchover Remains Undefeated in Ontario, Calif.

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ONTARIO-Calif.-Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

Lightweight prospect Dutchover (11-0, 8 KOs) knocked out southpaw Aguilera (14-4-1, 4 KOs) in the fifth round with a barrage of body blows that left the Costa Rican limp at the Doubletree Hotel.

For two rounds Aguilar used an awkward counter-punching style that had Dutchover a little tentative. But once he figured out that combination punching was the key, he opened up with barrages and floored Aguilar with body shots at the end of round four.

That signaled doom for Aguilar.

The fifth round saw Dutchover target the body with impunity as Aguilar tried holding, running and covering up with no success. Referee Wayne Hedgepeth signaled the fight over at 2:31 of the fifth round giving Dutchover the win by knockout.

In a bantamweight clash Santa Ana’s Mario Hernandez (7-0-1, 3 KOs) and Mexico City’s Ivan Gonzalez (4-1-2, 1 KO) fought to a majority draw after six back and forth rounds.

Hernandez targeted the body against the taller Gonzalez who relied on long range counters. Both found success but neither could prove superiority after six turbulent rounds.

After six rounds one judge saw it 58-56 for Gonzalez but the two other judges saw it 57-57 for a majority draw.

Other bouts

South Central L.A.’s Ruben Torres (7-0, 6 KOs) extended his undefeated streak with a knockout over Mexico’s Eder “El Koreano” Amaro (6-6, 2 KOs) in a lightweight fight. But it wasn’t easy.

Amaro switched from southpaw to orthodox and was matching Torres for two rounds until the taller local fighter began blasting away to the body and head with precision. Many in the crowd cheered “Koreano” in unison but it couldn’t help once Torres zeroed in.

At the end of the fourth round Amaro could not continue and the fight was stopped giving a knockout for Torres.

Richard Brewart Jr. (2-0) mowed through Edward Aceves (0-5) flooring him with body shots in the first round then overwhelming him in the second. After seven unanswered blows referee Eddie Hernandez stopped the fight at 1:32 of round two giving Rancho Cucamonga’s Brewart the win by knockout in the super welterweight bout.

Southpaw David Ortiz (1-0) won his pro debut by unanimous decision after four rounds in a welterweight match against San Diego’s Mario Angeles (2-11-2). Ortiz lives in Bloomington, Calif. and is trained by Henry Ramirez. No knockdowns were scored.

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Charr-Oquendo Scuttled When Charr Tests Positive; the Odious WBA Saves Face

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Manuel Charr

Manuel Charr and Fres Oquendo were scheduled to fight in Cologne, Germany, later this month (Sept. 29). Charr would be defending his WBA world heavyweight title, the “regular” version of it, not the “super” version which rests in the hands of Anthony Joshua.

The bout was quickly cancelled when it was revealed that Charr had tested positive for two banned anabolic steroids. The test was performed by VADA, the anti-doping agency identified with Las Vegas neurologist Dr. Margaret Goodman.

The 33-year-old Charr, born in Lebanon but a resident of Germany since the age of three, won the belt in his last start with a unanimous decision over 281-pound Russian behemoth Alexander Ustinov in Oberhausen, Germany. The title was vacant. Charr won the right to fight for it with a 10-round decision over Albanian slug Sefer Seferi. The victory over Ustinov elevated his record to 31-4. He has been stopped three times, by Vitali Klitschko, Alexander Povetkin, and Mairis Briedis.

If it wasn’t for bad luck, as the old saying goes, Fres Oquendo wouldn’t have any luck at all. For various reasons, his fights keep falling out. Before long he’ll be drawing social security. Well, not exactly, but he turned 45 in April and hasn’t fought in more than four years.

Oquendo has competed for this belt before. In his last ring appearance in July of 2014, he lost a majority decision to Russia’s Ruslan Chagaev in Grozny, Russia. As a concession for taking the fight on short notice, Team Oquendo negotiated a rematch clause in the contract, but a shoulder injury prevented Fres from activating it. When the injury healed, he had to go to court to compel Chagaev to fulfill his obligation. But then the Russian retired, muddling the water.

The WBA was legally bound to find Oquendo a title fight and in desperation turned to ancient Shannon Briggs. But the Oquendo-Briggs fight, scheduled for June 3 of last year in Hollywood, Florida, fell out when Briggs’ urine specimen showed an abnormally high level of testosterone.

Fres Oquendo was dogged by bad luck even before these recent developments. His professional record, 37-8, is somewhat misleading as six of his eight defeats were razor-thin including his 2003 setback to Chris Byrd and his 2006 setback to Evander Holyfield. However, Oquendo, something of a cutie, was never a crowd-pleaser and in none of his narrow defeats was there a public clamor for a rematch.

The cancellation of Charr-Oquendo cuts the World Boxing Association out of a sanctioning fee, but one would think that the WBA honchos are actually rather pleased by this turn of events. The fight, more precisely the WBA’s world title imprimatur, would have brought more unwanted publicity to the Panama-based organization.

ESPN’s Dan Rafael, who has the largest platform of any boxing writer, has been a persistent critic of the organization which once recognized 41 “champions” in 17 weight classes. In 2009, Rafael wrote, “(The WBA) has become such an absolute farce that even somebody like me, who follows boxing closely, sometimes has a hard time keeping track of all the nonsensical so-called world title belts the WBA has been doling out at an alarming rate. It almost reminds me of the ladies at Costco who hand out various samples on a busy Saturday afternoon.”

Rafael took note when WBA president Gilberto Mendoza promised to cull the herd by eliminating “regular” titles, and then became more caustic when Mendoza didn’t follow through. Recently, in one short, punchy diatribe, Rafael blistered the WBA as wretched, vile, and rancid.

Regardless of your opinion, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Fres Oquendo who keeps getting stranded at the altar. No, he’s not fun to watch and a man of his age shouldn’t be taking any more punches, but he has always been an honest workman and by all accounts he’s a very decent man. Born in Puerto Rico but raised in Chicago, Oquendo pitched right in when the island nation of his birth was ravaged by Hurricane Maria. He was personally responsible for relocating Puerto Rican boxing legend Wilfred Benitez and Benitez’s sister, his caregiver, to Chicago where their lives wouldn’t be as hard.

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Bob Arum Hails Terence Crawford (not Lomachenko) as Boxing’s Next Superstar

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Arum says Terence

Top Rank’s Bob Arum says Terence Crawford will become this generation’s Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao–elite boxers who became worldwide celebrity sensations. Arum, who promoted both Mayweather and Pacquiao on the way to their historic crossover statuses expects big things from the undefeated Crawford over the next few years.

“He’s the best fighter in the United States, and he’s so charismatic,” said Arum. “He comes from middle America, and In the next year or so, he will be huge.”

Arum’s assertion is noteworthy for two reasons. First, Arum is also the promoter for Vasyl Lomachenko. Lomachenko is ranked No. 1 pound-for-pound by The Ring, the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. More importantly, Lomachenko seems to have a groundswell of support behind him both in the media and among fight fans.

Lomachenko has also been heavily featured through Top Rank’s television partnership with ESPN. While Crawford has achieved more in his career than Lomachenko (at least in my eyes) and, as noted by Arum, is a homegrown American talent, Lomachenko seems to be considered the more marketable commodity to that network judging by the amount of promotional materials ESPN has pumped out about the fighter over the last year.

The other reason Arum’s claim about Crawford is interesting is the performance of Canelo Alvarez over the weekend in his majority decision rematch win over Gennady Golovkin. Besides Mayweather and Pacquiao, Alvarez is the clear PPV leader among all of boxing’s current commodities, and his status as boxing’s new money fighter should only grow stronger after the best win of his career.

Still, Crawford is one of the few very elite fighters in all of boxing. He’s ranked No. 2 pound-for-pound by The Ring, the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.

While Lomachenko and Alvarez are also candidates to become boxing’s next big thing, there’s no doubt Crawford is also one of the few boxers in the sport right now with the right things in place to become the next Mayweather or Pacquiao.

Omaha’s Crawford is in the midst of an historic run. When he stopped Jeff Horn in round 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in June, Crawford captured a world title in his third different weight class, welterweight. This after Crawford had already captured two lineal boxing championships, as well as multiple alphabet titles, in both the lightweight and junior welterweight divisions.

By any measure, Crawford is truly one of the best boxers in the sport. Not only does he look the part in the ring on fight night (something more and more writers seem to value most when voting for pound-for-pound lists), but the fighter has already accomplished so much in his career that it seems Arum is doing more than the fiduciary duty of promoting his fighter when he ascribes to Crawford such lofty praise.

Crawford, still just 30 years old, is already halfway to matching Mayweather and Pacquiao’s shared record of most lineal championships. Over the course of his career, Mayweather captured lineal championships at junior lightweight, lightweight, welterweight, and junior middleweight. Pacquiao won his as a flyweight, featherweight, junior lightweight, and junior welterweight.

In order for Crawford to grab lineal championship No. 3, most believe he’ll have to go through welterweight phenom Errol Spence. While promotional entanglements might keep this superfight on the shelf for a while, Arum said he had no problem pitting Crawford against Spence in what would be one of the best matchups in recent memory.

“Absolutely,” said Arum when asked about working with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions, who represents Spence, to make the fight. Could any response from him be more exciting? Crawford vs. Spence might be the next superfight in boxing. Both fighters are among the very elite, and unlike what ultimately happened with Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, who fought each other well past their peak years, both would be in the prime of their careers.

Winning that fight would certainly go a long way to making Arum’s vision of Crawford’s future come true. And who knows? Maybe Crawford really is the next Mayweather or Pacquiao. Heck, for all we know, he could even be on his way to doing something more.

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