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The Fifty Greatest Light-Heavyweights of All Time Part Two – 40-31



Welcome to Part Two of the Greatest Light-Heavyweights of All Time, something of a generational sweep for the last decade with no fewer than four of the ten entrants for Part Two active in the last two years. With no truly dominant figure emerging among Glen Johnson, Bernard Hopkins, Chad Dawson, and Tarver it was inevitable that they would all rank in the same clutch; still, I was surprised to see them ranked in this ten rather than the last ten, or even outside the top fifty all-together.

Having done the groundwork for a similar project at middleweight I can advise that 160lbs has roughly double the depth of 175lbs, but there are reasons for this. Firstly, middleweight is much older and the years upon which light-heavyweight missed out were as rich as any period in fistic history. Even when the division was established fighters and promoters were generally suspicious of it and a fighter weighing 165lbs was far more likely to call himself a contender to the middleweight title than the light-heavyweight title. There was an unhealthy suspicion of anything different in boxing as 1899 became 1900 and the emerging 175lb division was no different.

Having said all that, light-heavyweight produced fewer truly elite boxers than middleweight or welterweight even after it had become enshrined as one of the “original eight”, a mistruth that is told and re-told by modern historians for the sake of convenience. But I personally am glad of a certain lack of depth outside the top twenty-five, it has given me a chance to include champions and contenders who perhaps did not box a career at the weight but were nevertheless extraordinary and deserving of praise.

Beginning with a fighter who quite happily admitted that he was not the best but “just the guy who fought the best.”

#40 – GLEN JOHNSON (54-20-2)

Fifty-four, twenty, and two.

And this isn’t some monstrous battler lurching out of the stacked 1920s division with the scalps of a dozen world-class opponents hanging from his bloodied belt, some hideous fistic bogeyman that enjoyed a murderous prime before suffering some terrible drop off in form and talent as his body betrayed him to drunkenness and women. No, this is a modern day road-warrior who racked up numerous losses at middleweight, super-middleweight, and at light-heavyweight, where our interests lie.

But the career of Glengoffe Johnson, out of Jamaica and in to almost every major boxing nation on earth, is more complex than any set of raw statistics could ever capture.

He stepped up to light-heavyweight in the summer of 2001, stopping Thomas Ulrich in six before meeting Las Vegas regular Derrick Harmon in the Hard Rock. The judges saw it a clear ten round decision in favour of Harmon; the crowd voiced displeasure after what I saw as a narrow win for Johnson. Next up was an ugly loss to former Roy Jones victim Julio Cesar Gonzalez in a razor thin decision that one judge managed to score 98-92. I had it a draw.

Johnson managed an actual draw in his very next fight, with the prospect Daniel Judah; the problem was, Johnson dominated Judah almost bell to bell, clearly losing only one round, the eighth. I scored it, ironically, 98-92. In November of 2011, Johnson travelled to the UK and met ranked tough Clinton Woods and fought a draw in a fight I scored him winner. He lost a rematch in 2006 in a fight that again, looked like a narrow but certain Johnson win. Johnson was twice beaten by Chad Dawson as the decade trundled to an end, but again, I thought he was hard done by in their first fight, a clear win for Johnson and a signal for the crowd, once again, to boo a Glen Johnson loss.

This makes appraising him extremely difficult. Between his arriving in the division in 2001 and the end of 2009, I have him losing just twice, to divisional bosses Antonio Tarver and Chad Dawson – according to paid judges he lost six. The job here is to strike a balance between my sense that Johnson’s career is the most tragic in modern boxing, the inevitable realisation of perhaps the most badly run professional sport in world, a perfect storm of bad luck and bad officiating – and what the men paid to be ringside saw. Fortunately, Johnson props himself up with excellent wins that the officials did manage to see, or, as was the case in his famous detonation of huge favourite Roy Jones Jnr., fights he denied them the right to judge.

Johnson launched himself at Roy Jones and threw punches at parts of his anatomy that Jones wasn’t aware he had. At the end of a particularly aggressive fifth, Orlando Cuellar told a bemused Johnson in his corner that “this is what it will take to win this fight!” Johnson looked like a man who had been told riches beyond his wildest dreams were at his finger-tips if only he could swallow a bull. But Johnson stayed the course. He took the snapping punishment Jones crackled into him and maintained a more tempered version of this attack for the rounds that followed, bulldozing Jones into unconsciousness in the ninth. Jones had already been defeated by Antonio Tarver, setting up a showdown between him and Johnson, a showdown Johnson won making him the premier light-heavyweight in the world.

It is enough, along with victories over ranked men Clinton Woods and Eric Harding to place him under consideration for a top fifty spot; the injustice that served him throughout a career fought on the road sees him ranked here at the bottom end of the second ten. Some may not care for this elevated ranking given the losses he suffered, but it is my contention that Johnson is inarguably a better and more significant fighter than his paper record allows.

#39 – GUS LESNEVICH (60-14-5)

Depending upon your point of view, Gus Lesnevich either committed perhaps the most shameful duck in the history of the light-heavyweight title or was a fighter whose legacy was compromised by the outbreak of World War Two. After being thrashed by Jimmy Bivins in a non-title match in 1942, manager Lew Diamond told press that there would be no chance of a rematch between Bivins and Lesnevich. Lesnevich disappeared into the war-time coastguard – his title frozen for the duration, he remained true to his manager’s word. What this adds up to is a title reign of around seven years – but one which encompassed a total of only five successful defences against only three different fighters.

Nevertheless there is much to admire about Lesnevich, not least an outstanding persistence and hearty directness that earned him status as a fan favourite. Thrashed by Billy Conn in his first title shot in November of 1939, Lesnevich was so popular that he was handed a second title shot in the summer of the following year. Beaten again, he nevertheless was able to win more than the four rounds generally reported in the first fight, and it can have been of little surprise when Lesnevich received a third title shot a year later, this time beating out Anton Christoforidis. After making two successful defences against the unranked Tami Mauriello (the first of them desperately close) and the beating at the hands of Jimmy Bivins, the service got Lesnevich and when he re-emerged in 1946 it was thought that he, like peers Billy Conn and Joe Louis, would have left his best behind him. This seemed confirmed when he was smashed out by Bruce Woodcock up at heavyweight, the only time in his career that Lesnevich heard the ten. But Lesnevich came again, and in fact was the Ring fighter of the year in 1947. His brutal stoppage of British rival Freddie Mills, as savage a knockout as can be seen on film, was likely the highlight of this second career; but it was Mills who would take the title from him in 1948 over fifteen after a torrid first round that left Lesnevich cut and hurt.

Other fine wins over contenders like Alabama Kid, Ambrose Palmer and Billy Fox help nurse a ranking earned in the main with elbow grease and hard work.

#38 – AL GAINER (77-23)

Al Gainer’s record against the best he faced makes awkward reading. He went 1-1-1 with Tiger Jack Fox; 1-2 with Lou Brouillard; 2-2-1 with Bob Olin, 1-1 with Al McCoy and 1-1 with George Courtney. Splitting a series with Tiger Jack Fox speaks for, not against him, but the Brouillard series is troubling. The Canadian was a middleweight really, and one that had failed on three occasions to best Marcel Thil. Nevertheless, he twice dominated Gainer and for all that Gainer defeated him “easily” in their middle encounter, Brouillard clearly deserved the victory in their series. Aspects of his confrontation with Olin were more debatable but still, Gainer failed to prove his superiority over Olin just as he did Brouillard. Sometimes Gainer’s failure to equalise these fights with what was perhaps the best left hook of the era seems curious, although such matters are abandoned forever to the realm of speculation.

That left hook did, in part, bring him wins over Olin, McCoy, Brouillard and Courtney and that shouldn’t be forgotten for all that his overall record against them feels somewhat underwhelming. He also pounded out a one-sided victory over Joe Knight and several other solid contenders of this era, from Clyde Chastain to Lou Scozza and Dave Shade. Often his displays were dominant, but he, in turn, was dominated by Tony Shucco. They met four times and Gainer failed to return a single victory.

It is this last that in the end leads me to reject Herb Goldman’s ranking of Al Gainer at #25. Gainer was special and names among the most outstanding fighters never to have earned the crown but a place in the top thirty must be beyond him based upon his actual track record.

On the other hand, he was ranked for an entire decade, the 1930s, mostly in the lower reaches of the Ring top ten, but present none-the-less. This, in keeping with a consistently high level of competition smuggles him in to the top forty – but no more for the once sparkling Al Gainer.

#37 – BERNARD HOPKINS (55-7-2)

As ridiculous as it seems now, the twin defeats of Bernard Hopkins by Jermain Taylor in 2005 was seen as something of a terminal for the great middleweight. If not quite finished, he had perhaps boarded the great train to nowhere, even if there was to be a quick stop at light-heavyweight for a beating at the hands of three to one favourite Antonio Tarver. As is so often the case in boxing, the unexpected occurred: Hopkins kicked the shit out of Tarver.

Tarver had had his problems in training, dropping forty pounds he had gained for a performance in a movie while Hopkins, of course, was moving up. It is this writer’s opinion that no practice in boxing hurts a fighter so much as weight-making, and here was yet another beautiful demonstration of that fact. No longer shackled by the manacles of 160lbs, Hopkins weighed in at a liberating 174lbs and re-hydrated to a luscious 182lbs. It was like putting fuel in. He threw almost one-hundred more punches than he had managed in the first Taylor fight and found Tarver with the old unerring accuracy. Inside, he was clearly the stronger man despite being both smaller and older while on the outside he took by far the more steps but his engine remained greased. Aged forty-one years of age, Bernard’s astonishing assault on the light-heavyweight division had begun.

Truly, these past eight years have had their peaks and valleys, but despite a winding road, Hopkins never stepped off the path that led to and through ranked men, except when he was thrashing the undisputed middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, or losing a desperately close fight to pound-for-pounder Joe Calzaghe. It looks like that journey has finally come to an end with a dispiriting, damaging loss against the excellent Sergey Kovalev but I can’t imagine marching into a bookmaker and actually laying a bet against Hopkins scraping together a couple more wins against good opposition in this division in 2015 – and perhaps even gaining another spot on this list.

#36 – MICKEY WALKER (94-19-4; Newspaper Decisions 37-6-2)

The absurd Toy Bulldog, Mickey Walker, would have fought a truck piloted by a meth-fuelled werewolf if the money was right. He was crazy.

He slipped his way onto my top 100 at heavyweight, at #94 no less, and his heroics in that division are well documented. Less well respected are his achievements at light-heavyweight, which is a shame, because they are outstanding. Although he never held the title himself, he defeated not one, not two, but three legitimate light-heavyweight champions of the world. Mike McTigue went first in 1925, the reigning title-holder but willing to meet Walker only in a twelve-round no-decision bout, Walker in need of a knockout in order to lift the title. The Bulldog pounded out a twelve round newspaper decision but couldn’t put his man away; infuriatingly, Walker knocked McTigue, an underrated but carefully nursed champion, quite literally out to dry, hanging him over the second rope in a single round in 1927 – by which time he had been parted from the title.

After his overdue knockout of McTigue, Walker, absolutely no light-heavyweight at 5’7 and a great deal of history at welterweight and middleweight, bowled right into the wonderful Paul Berlenbach, who had lost his title to Jack Delaney just a year earlier. Barely over the middleweight limit, Walker gave away eleven pounds to Delaney who was a body-puncher and boxer of real repute – Walker won “every round” and gave his man “an unmerciful beating” according to The Montreal Gazette, even forcing the bigger man to the canvas with his indomitable left.

Last up was Maxie Rosenbloom. Rosenbloom, inevitably, won the championship match between the two but Walker dropped and bettered the champion in a non-title bout a few months later. It was the second time he had defeated a reigning light-heavyweight champion and he had done so an astonishing seven years apart.

Between, he had dropped a split-decision lost to the great Tommy Loughran and twice bested Leo Lomski. It wasn’t quite meant to be for Walker at light-heavyweight – but few fighters have bested more lineal champions than he.

#35 – CHAD DAWSON (32-4)

All but finished at thirty-two years of age Chad Dawson was obliterated in a single round by Adonis Stevenson in 2013, out-fought by Jean Pascal in 2010 and narrowly edged by Nathan Cleverly victim Tommy Karpency in ten rounds towards the end of 2014. The other hand is weighed heavily in his favour, however. Dawson holds two wins over Glen Johnson, two wins over Antonio Tarver and a win over Bernard Hopkins making him a proud holder of victories over every post-Jones pre-Kovalev light-heavyweight of genuine significance apart from Zsolt Erdei, whose history of avoiding name fighters is legendary. His supplementary wins, too, are superb. He handed 31-0 Tomasz Adamek his first loss; clambered off the canvas to defeat the era’s elite gatekeeper Eric Harding in a bloody, absorbing contest; and firmly outpointed the ranked Adrian Diaconu. I will be frank: I don’t personally care for Dawson as a fighter, in hype, style or fistic class, but leaving him out is impossible and given his thorough defeat of Bernard Hopkins and a resume that is likely superior to The Executioner’s, the disturbing nature of some of his losses can be ignored. He slips in here ahead of both Hopkins and Glen Johnson, despite my personal preference for both.

This, more than any other single factor probably indicates that Dawson has earned his ranking. The facts of the case outweigh my feelings.

#34 – JIMMY SLATTERY (111-13; Newspaper Decisions 3-0)

Welcome our first legitimate centurion, Jimmy Slattery, who stopped a total of forty-nine opponents and won sixty-two decisions.

A lot of this work was done at middleweight where Slattery served a long apprenticeship between 1921, when he turned professional, and 1925, when he began to probe the division above. These early advances bore surprisingly ripe fruit as Slattery netted wins over under-developed legends of the poundage, first Jack Delaney and then Maxie Rosenbloom both over the distance of six rounds – but Slattery’s domination of the blooming Rosenbloom continued into 1926 and 1927 by which time Rosenbloom was ranked at the top of the division. This domination ended, however, when Max came to the title. Always a better fighter with the legitimate championship at his waist, Rosenbloom consistently out-scrambled Slattery when it came to that prize.

Slattery held a strap but never a lineage. He inevitably lost to the wonderful Tommy Loughran, too, but was able to scrape past the superb Lou Scozza with the NYSAC title on the line.

He never really delivered on that astonishing early promise. Part of the problem was that he lived like boxed – on his toes but in search of trouble, a fighter that led the life of a rogue and so could never reach his potential as a boxer. Winning a series with Rosenbloom is impressive but it must be said that every top light-heavy of the era seems to have beaten Max at some point – my feeling is that despite an impressive haul of scalps at 175lbs, Slattery doesn’t quite belong up there with the very best.

#33 – JOEY MAXIM (82-29-4)

A grim persistence on the inside combined with a technical surety on the outside, an iron jaw and staid discipline saw Joey Maxim carve out one of boxing’s most underrated careers – but a huge and surprising amount of his best work was done at heavyweight. Maxim was tackling these bigger men as early as his first year and as we have seen, time spent above 180lbs or matching these bigger men at a lighter weight impacts the standing of light-heavyweights because they cease to box in light-heavyweight contests.

But Maxim was the champion of the world at light-heavyweight, coming to the title in 1951, ten long, hard years after he turned professional. He was never going to hold it long with Archie Moore lurking in the brutal shadows of the murderer’s row, but Maxim should be credited for tackling the universally ducked Moore in the first place – and for the work he did in the division before Moore reached him.

He took the title from Freddie Mills who reportedly lost three teeth and never boxed again as Maxim jabbed and hooked him into retirement. Not a puncher, his unerring consistency, accuracy and a persistence born of great durability and strength of character could nevertheless inflict severe suffering on all but the very best opponents. Certainly he had been too much for Gus Lesnevich, dominating him over fifteen rounds eight months earlier as he was for favourite Bob Murphy in his first title defence.

His third defence was far and away his most famous fight, Maxim defeating Sugar Ray Robinson in thirteen rounds as the middleweight champion of the world quit in appalling conditions, the heat in the ring said to be over one-hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Maxim never received credit for this win – Robinson weighed in as a middleweight, and the heat rather than Maxim was perceived as Robinson’s chief foe (Robinson himself naming the source of his defeat as God himself, perhaps demonstrating the kind of self-belief necessary to blaze a trail from lightweight all the way to light-heavyweight). This is perhaps a little unfair. As Maxim remarked, “did people think I had air conditioning in my corner?” It was a victory for durability and size but it was a victory none the less, for all that it is a difficult one to judge. I’ve treated it here as a successful defence against a dangerous but unranked opponent. Robinson was certainly that, taking the lion’s share of the rounds before he was pulled.

Then Moore came calling and Maxim’s time at the top was over. Maxim wasn’t so much out-classed by Moore as seemingly incapable of winning rounds, many of which were close but almost all of which seemed to be controlled by The Mongoose. Maxim fought Moore three times and at no time recorded a win.

Outside of those title fights, Maxim’s best wins at the weight were likely over Nate Bolden and the wonderful if inexperienced Floyd Patterson but Maxim spent so little time actually boxing against light-heavyweights at light-heavyweight that he must even so rank in the thirties, rather lower than I expected to see him. Any Maxim fans who are disappointed in this could do a lot worse than to track down my heavyweight list, where Maxim’s ranking is surprisingly high.


Eddie Mustafa Muhammad was dropped in the first round of his 1977 contest with Matthew Saad Muhammad but fought his way back to take a narrow, disputed decision on the scorecards. It was a battle of the greenhorns, and their friendship and shared religion would keep them from ever meeting in their respective primes, but both men carved out extraordinary careers independent of one-another. Eddie Mustafa would forever remain the poorer cousin in terms of legacy but he had his own great moments, not least in losing in his premature title shot against Victor Galindez later that same year. Eddie boxed with such patience, with such maturity that he belied his 22-2-1 record dropping a narrow decision against a wonderful world champion, first jabbing, then introducing the right hand, ending in a tactical stalk that fell just short of enough.

In the last round he showed a strange passivity however that was his greatest weakness. Against the colourful James Scott who forged a famous career from behind the bars of Rahway State Prison he boxed shamefully, holding and stalling his way to an inexplicable and wide decision loss. This postponed what had seemed an inevitable title shot for eighteen months, although when it came, against the deadly Marvin Johnson, he grabbed it with both hands, dominating and stopping the out-gunned champion. When he was on, Eddie was outstanding, but he could be placed under control both by counterpunchers and by maulers and when he was tempted, like so many light-heavyweight champions before and after him, by heavyweight riches, he perhaps gave way to his failings permanently. Beefing up to an absurd 200lbs, he followed a careful Renaldo Snipes around the ring for ten rounds dropping a decision over ten. When he had to drain his way back down to 175lbs to meet the brilliant Michael Spinks he left himself chanceless in what was his third title defence, fading down the stretch, a certain passivity beaten into his work by a Spinks who boxed rampantly in the second half of the fight.

“Not a natural fighter” is how old-timers probably would have diagnosed Eddie and although a little harsh, it might be about right. Certainly not fearful of absorbing punishment, he could be beaten or boxed into a kind of premature submission and that hurts his legacy and my appraisal of him head to head. But he had a superb body-attack is an under-appreciated counter-puncher and a good hitter. Even after the twin debacles versus Snipes and Spinks he remained a formidable fighter, his vicious, surreal knockout of the excellent Lottie Mwale probably the highlight. Certainly he belongs on this list, but a nagging sense that he failed to fulfil his potential remains.

#31 – ANTONIO TARVER (31-6)

Tarver’s elevated position here will be troubling to traditionalist readers but for those men (you never hear it from the fairer, more balanced sex) I have two words: Roy Jones.

Beating Roy Jones is like beating Archie Moore or Harold Johnson. Jones was incredible, a Phenom, a monster, a terrifying mix of power and speed who appeared, from middleweight to heavyweight, the complete superior of all he shared the ring with. The first man to lay him low was always going to establish himself in the annals of history and Tarver has done so.

The first fight was a close decision in favour of Jones, but Roy had been put through his paces, made to fight the fight of his career, Tarver allowing himself to be pushed gently form the box-seat in rounds three to five, Jones fighting to hold it in the eleventh and twelfth. A rematch was inevitable and it is one of the more famous nights in the modern history of the light-heavyweight division. Knocked brutally, unreservedly, spectacularly out by a Tarver left-hand, Roy sat glassy-eyed as Tarver celebrated so raucously that he appeared to inadvertently damage a camera and camera-man; that even Don King seemed reluctant to approach and ingratiate. Immediately, people set out to discredit Tarver – some even produced photographs that appeared to suggest that Tarver “had his eyes closed” when he threw the “lucky punch” that signalled time on one of the greatest ring careers fought entirely in colour, ignoring the beauty of the counter that Tarver unleashed while under fire. So Tarver beat Roy Jones again in a strange and distant fight in which Roy Jones hardly threw and Tarver quietly out-hustled him with economy, patience and an almost uncanny ability to rush the easily startled Jones with near perfect timing.

Tarver was a 6’2 defensively sound southpaw with good athletic ability, and a fine head for distance for all that he could sometimes throw himself off-balance with over-enthusiastic lurching punches, and probably is underestimated in terms of skillset and head-to-head appraisement. In addition to his domination of the series with Jones, Tarver’s most interesting performance may be his revenge TKO of Eric Harding. Harding and Tarver were both inexperienced when they first met in 2000 and went blow-for-blow up until the final third of the fight when Tarver, having suffered a broken jaw at the hands of his surprisingly aggressive opponent, went into survival mode. It was his bravest performance and in many ways I think it made him. By the time of their rematch in 2002 Tarver was a different kind of fighter, exhibiting all that patience and trickery he showed in his third contest with Jones; he took Harding out in five.

Excellent while dominating the veterans Reggie Johnson, Clinton Woods and Montell Griffin, superb in handing Glen Johnson what was arguably the first legitimate loss of Johnson’s light-heavyweight career, Tarver has built a good resume independent of Jones; but those are the wins that absolutely root him in the thirties. Is it possible he cashed in on the decline of Jones to earn his spot? Yes – but it’s always difficult to push a Ferrari off the cliff.

Click here for part One

Click here for part Three

Click here for part Four

Click here for part Five


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U.K. Boxing Montage: Conlan KOed; Wood Regains Title; Billam-Smith Upsets Okolie




British fight fabs had plenty of options last night. Important events were staged in Manchester, in Bournemouth, and in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The locals were delighted in Manchester and Bournemouth, but fans in Belfast were left crestfallen when their hometown hero Michael Conlan, the former two-time Olympian, was on the wrong end of a vicious KO.

Conlan, who was 18-1 heading in, had a four-inch height advantage and three-inch reach advantage over Mexican spoiler Luis Alberto Lopez. The Irishman attracted late money and went to post a small favorite. But Lopez (28-2, 16 KOs) emerged victorious, successfully defending his IBF world featherweight title which he won in British soil over Josh Warrington.

Although Conlan had a rough patch in the second round, he was seemingly in a good position heading into round five when the Mexican invader brought a swift conclusion to the contest, discombobulating Conlan (pictured) with a right uppercut that prompted his trainer Adam Booth to throw in the towel. It was the second time that Conlan came up short in a bid for a world title. He challenged for the WBA version of this belt in March of last year, losing on a spectacular last round knockout to Leigh Wood in a fight that he was winning until the final 90 seconds.


In a scheduled 12-rounder for a WBC featherweight trinket, five-foot-three Liverpool buzzsaw Nick “Wrecking” Ball advanced to 18-0, (11 KOs) with a 12th-round stoppage of South Africa’s previously undefeated Ludumo Lamati (21-1-1, 11 KOs). Lamati’s corner tossed in the towel after Ball landed a series of hard punches in the final frame.

Lamati was on his feet when the bout was stopped but was in dire straits and was removed from the ring on a stretcher. There was no update on his condition as this story was going to press.

In a companion 12-rounder, Belfast’s Anthony “Apache” Cacace (21-1, 7 KOs) successfully defended his fringe 130-pound title with a wide decision over Damian Wrzesinski (26-3-2). The judges had 118-111, 117-111, and 116-112.

Wrzesinski, a 38-year-old Pole, fought with a brace on his right knee. This was the first fight for “Apache” in his hometown in eight years. The win may have set him up for a match with Welshman Joe Cordina, the IBF junior lightweight title-holder, or Shavkat Rakhimov who lost a close decision to Cordina in a bruising tiff last month.


Mauricio Lara didn’t bring his “A” game to England. That became apparent at the weigh-in when he failed to make weight, losing his WBA world featherweight title on the scales. By rule, only Leigh Wood could win it or it would become vacant.

This was a rematch. Fourteen weeks ago, Lara went into Wood’s backyard in Nottingham and stopped him in the seventh round. Lara was behind on the cards when he felled Wood with a crunching left hook. Wood beat the count but his trainer Ben Davison tossed in the towel which struck many, especially Wood, as premature as less than 10 seconds remained in the round.

In a previous trip to England, Lara had broken hearts in Leeds, stopping native son Josh Warrington. The Mexican invader, younger than Leigh Wood by 10 years, was expected to win again, but Wood, 34, simply out-worked him. He knocked Lara down in the second round with an uppercut and methodically kept him at bay, winning by scores of 116-111 and 118-109 twice.


In his first appearance since his controversial defeat to Josh Taylor in Glasgow in February of last year, Jack Catterall improved to 27-1 (15) with a wide decision over Irish-Australian southpaw Darragh Foley (22-5-1).

The Sportsman called the Catterall-Taylor fight, a split decision win for Taylor, the most controversial fight in British boxing history and Catterall became a more sympathetic figure when Taylor, after several postponements, reneged on his promise to give Catterall a rematch, opting instead for a date with Teofimo Lopez.

Although Foley was in action 10 weeks ago, scoring his signature win with a third-round stoppage of favored Robbie Davies Jr., and Catterall was making his first start in 15 months, this was a one-sided fray in Catterall’s favor. He had Foley on the canvas twice en route to winning by scores of 99-88, 98-89, and 97-90.

Eddie Hearn has expressed an interest in matching Catterall with Regis Prograis assuming that Prograis gets past Arnold Barboza on June 17.


England’s Terri Harper (14-1-1), who jumped up three weight classes last year, successfully defended her WBA 154-pound diadem with a unanimous but unimpressive 10-round decision over perennial title challenger Ivana Habazin. The judges had it 98-92 and 99-93 twice.

Harper was slated to fight former pound-for-pound queen Cecilia Braekhus last Saturday in the co-feature to Taylor vs. Cameron in Dublin, but hat match fell out when Braekhus came down with a bad cold following the weight-in.

Harper is seeking a unification fight with countrywoman Natasha Jonas. Habazin, a 33-year-old Croat, fell to 21-5.


In his fourth defense of his WBO world cruiserweight title, previously undefeated Lawrence Okolie was soundly defeated by former sparring partner Chris Billam.-Smith The match was contested in Billam-Smith’s  hometown before a raucous crowd at sold-out Vitality Stadium.

A 3/1 underdog, Billam-Smith, who was 17-1 heading in, proved clearly superior He knocked Okolie down in the fourth round and again in rounds 10 and 11 en route to winning by scores of 116-107, 115-108, and 112-112.

About that curious 112-112 card. It was turned in by U.S. judge  Benjamin Rodriguez who had been working the Illinois-Wisconsin circuit. On social media, his tally is being called the worst scorecard of all time.

Did Billam-Smith’s fans leave happy? The correspondent for British Boxing News called the event “a night of breathtaking boxing action that will never be forgotten.”

The six-foot-five Okolie may have made his last start as a cruiserweight. He aspires to fight Oleksandr Usyk.

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The Sweet Science Rankings: Week of May 22nd, 2023




The Sweet Science Rankings: Week of May 22nd, 2023

Hiroto Kyoguchi departs 108lbs for 112lbs so there’s a reorganisation at the bottom of the 108lbs division.  Fellow Japanese Junto Nakatani’s breathtaking destruction of Andrew Maloney sees him rise to #6 at 115lbs with Maloney dropping to #10; Kosei Tanaki who was also out at the weekend climbs to #9.  Raymond Muratalla is the last mover this week, eliminating Jamaine Ortiz and debuting at #9 at 135lbs.  There are no further changes at lightweight where Lomachenko maintains his ranking at #3.

*Please note that when the fighter’s name appears with an asterisk it represents a movement in ranking from the previous week.


01 – Naoya Inoue

02 – Oleksandr Usyk

03 – Juan Francisco Estrada

04 – Dmitry Bivol

05 – Terence Crawford

06 – Errol Spence Jnr.

07 – Tyson Fury

08 – Saul Alvarez

09 – Artur Beterbiev

10 – Shakur Stevenson



1            Knockout CP Freshmart (Thailand)

2            Petchmanee CP Freshmart (Thailand)

3            Melvin Jerusalem (Philippines)

4            Ginjiro Shigeoka (Japan)

5            Wanheng Menayothin (Thailand)

6            Daniel Valladares (Mexico)

7            Yudai Shigeoka (Japan)

8            Oscar Collazo (USA)

9            Masataka Taniguchi (Japan)

10          Rene Mark Cuarto (Philippines)



1            Kenshiro Teraji (Japan)

2            Jonathan Gonzalez (Puerto Rico)

3            Masamichi Yabuki (Japan)

4            Hekkie Budler (South Africa)

5            Sivenathi Nontshinga (South Africa)

6            Elwin Soto (Mexico)

7            Daniel Matellon (Cuba)

8            Reggie Suganob (Philippines)

9            Shokichi Iwata (Japan)*

10          Esteban Bermudez (Mexico)*



1            Sunny Edwards (England)

2            Artem Dalakian (Ukraine)

3            Julio Cesar Martinez (Mexico)

4            Angel Ayala Lardizabal (Mexico)

5            David Jimenez (Costa Rica)

6            Jesse Rodriguez (USA)

7            Ricardo Sandoval (USA)

8            Felix Alvarado (Nicaragua)

9            Seigo Yuri Akui (Japan)

10          Cristofer Rosales (Nicaragua)



1            Juan Francisco Estrada (Mexico)

2            Roman Gonzalez (Nicaragua)

3            Jesse Rodriguez (USA)

4            Kazuto Ioka (Japan)

5            Joshua Franco (USA)

6            Junto Nakatani (Japan)*

7            Fernando Martinez (Argentina)

8            Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (Thailand)

9            Kosei Tanaka (Japan)*

10          Andrew Moloney (Australia)



1            Emmanuel Rodriguez (Puerto Rico)

2            Jason Moloney (Australia)

3            Nonito Donaire (Philippines)

4            Vincent Astrolabio (Philippines)

5            Gary Antonio Russell (USA)

6            Takuma Inoue (Japan)

7            Alexandro Santiago (Mexico)

8           Ryosuke Nishida (Japan)

9            Keita Kurihara (Japan)

10          Paul Butler (England)



1            Stephen Fulton (USA)

2            Marlo Tapales (Philippines)

3            Luis Nery (Mexico)

4            Murodjon Akhmadaliev (Uzbekistan)

5            Ra’eese Aleem (USA)

6            Azat Hovhannisyan (Armenia)

7            Kevin Gonzalez (Mexico)

8            Takuma Inoue (Japan)

9            John Riel Casimero (Philippines)

10          Fillipus Nghitumbwa (Namibia)



1            Mauricio Lara (Mexico)

2           Brandon Figueroa (USA)

3            Rey Vargas (Mexico)

4            Luis Alberto Lopez (Mexico)

5            Mark Magsayo (Philippines)

6            Leigh Wood (England)

7            Josh Warrington (England)

8            Robeisy Ramirez (Cuba)

9            Reiya Abe (Japan)

10          Otabek Kholmatov (Uzbekistan)



1            Joe Cordina (Wales)

2            Oscar Valdez (Mexico)

3            Hector Garcia (Dominican Republic)

4            O’Shaquie Foster (USA)

5            Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (Tajikistan)

6            Roger Gutierrez (Venezuela)

7            Lamont Roach (USA)

8            Eduardo Ramirez (Mexico)

9            Kenichi Ogawa (Japan)

10          Robson Conceicao (Brazil)



1            Devin Haney (USA)

2            Gervonta Davis (USA)

3            Vasily Lomachenko (Ukraine)

4            Isaac Cruz (Mexico)

5            William Zepeda Segura (Mexico)

6            Frank Martin (USA)

7            George Kambosos Jnr (Australia)

8            Shakur Stevenson (USA)

9            Raymond Muratalla (USA)*

10          Keyshawn Davis (USA)



1            Josh Taylor (Scotland)

2            Regis Prograis (USA)

3            Jose Ramirez (USA)

4            Jose Zepeda (USA)

5            Jack Catterall (England)

6            Subriel Matias (Puerto Rico)

7            Arnold Barboza Jr. (USA)

8            Gary Antuanne Russell (USA)

9            Zhankosh Turarov (Kazakhstan)

10          Shohjahon Ergashev (Uzbekistan)



1            Errol Spence (USA)

2            Terence Crawford (USA)

3            Yordenis Ugas (Cuba)

4            Vergil Ortiz Jr. (USA)

5            Jaron Ennis (USA)

6            Eimantas Stanionis (Lithuania)

7            David Avanesyan (Russia)

8            Cody Crowley (Canada)

9            Roiman Villa (Columbia)

10          Alexis Rocha (USA)



1            Jermell Charlo (USA)

2           Tim Tszyu (Australia)

3            Brian Castano (Argentina)

4            Brian Mendoza (USA)

5            Liam Smith (England)

6            Jesus Alejandro Ramos (USA)

7            Sebastian Fundora (USA)

8            Michel Soro (Ivory Coast)

9            Erickson Lubin (USA)

10          Magomed Kurbanov (Russia)



1            Gennady Golovkin (Kazakhstan)

2            Jaime Munguia (Mexico)

3            Carlos Adames (Dominican Republic)

4            Janibek Alimkhanuly (Kazakhstan)

5            Liam Smith (England)

6            Erislandy Lara (USA)

7            Sergiy Derevyanchenko (Ukraine)

8            Felix Cash (England)

9            Esquiva Falcao (Brazil)

10          Chris Eubank Jnr. (Poland)



1            Canelo Alvarez (Mexico)

2            David Benavidez (USA)

3            Caleb Plant (USA)

4            Christian Mbilli (France)

5            David Morrell (Cuba)

6            John Ryder (England)

7            Pavel Silyagin (Russia)

8            Vladimir Shishkin (Russia)

9            Carlos Gongora (Ecuador)

10          Demetrius Andrade (USA)



1            Dmitry Bivol (Russia)

2            Artur Beterbiev (Canada)

3            Joshua Buatsi (England)

4            Callum Smith (England)

5            Joe Smith Jr. (USA)

6            Gilberto Ramirez (Mexico)

7            Anthony Yarde (England)

8           Dan Azeez (England)

9            Craig Richards (England)

10          Michael Eifert (Germany)



1            Jai Opetaia (Australia)

2            Mairis Breidis (Latvia)

3            Lawrence Okolie (England)

4            Richard Riakporhe (England)

5            Aleksei Papin (Russia)

6            Badou Jack (Sweden)

7            Chris Billam-Smith (England)

8            Arsen Goulamirian (France)

9            Yuniel Dorticos (Cuba)

10          Mateusz Masternak (Poland)



1            Tyson Fury (England)

2            Oleksandr Usyk (Ukraine)

3            Zhilei Zhang (China)

4            Deontay Wilder (USA)

5            Anthony Joshua (England)

6            Andy Ruiz (USA)

7            Filip Hrgovic (Croatia)

8            Joe Joyce (England)

9            Dillian Whyte (England)

10          Frank Sanchez (Cuba)

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‘How To Box’ by Joe Louis: Part 6 of a 6-Part Series – Putting It All Together




‘How To Box’ by Joe Louis: Part 6 of a 6-Part Series – Putting It All Together

“You got to be a killer, otherwise I’m getting too old to waste time on you.”—Jack Blackburn

Much has been said concerning the Joe Louis duels with Max Schmeling. It was proof that Louis was vulnerable to right hands. It was proof that Louis wasn’t vulnerable to right hands. It was a victory for America over the Nazis. But Schmeling wasn’t a Nazi. It was boxing’s biggest fight. But it wasn’t about boxing. It was what made Louis a hero. But he was already a hero.

One of Abraham Lincoln’s most successful biographers, Roy Basler, wrote that “to know the truth of history is to realize its ultimate myth and its inevitable ambiguity.” Is there a more telling example of this truth in sports than Louis-Schmeling II? Sometimes the tale can obscure the truth. To put it another way: when was the last time you just wondered at it? Wondered at what Joe Louis did to Max Schmeling on a night when, admittedly, the world was on the brink of war and the African-American was on the road to reclaiming himself from the white power structure in the USA? When was the last time you ignored all those very important things and just marvelled at that fight, the recording of which reporter Henry McLemore called “the most faithful recording ever made of human savagery”?

I’m going to invite you here, please, to wonder at it again.

In one moment.

First, we must take a look at Joe’s best performance.

Buddy Baer

The bigger, less celebrated of the Baer brothers had his own rematch with Joe Louis at the beginning of 1942. The first fight had ended in the controversy of a DQ win for Louis and, as he always did when there was the merest hint of scepticism after a title fight, Joe arranged to meet the Giant Californian once again.

A huge man in any era, Buddy tipped the scales at 250 and scraped the ceiling at a little more than 6’6. As noted by the St.Petersburg Times, “a fellow of Baer’s size in good condition, and equipped with the usual quota of arms, legs and eyes must be conceded a chance in any bout, particularly if he has courage and a punch.”

Buddy had both in abundance, but he was not a natural fighter. “We have the feeling he would rather be out picking violets,” is how the Times chose to illustrate the point. While this is a bit much we all know what he means. Louis, who would famously be fighting for free that night in support of the Navy Relief Fund, was a natural gladiator. Buddy Baer was not.

If Max Schmeling is clearly the tougher of the two opponents and Louis wreaked similar havoc on each of them, what is it that makes this Joe’s greatest performance? Baer’s size? Might it be suggested that herein lies the key to arguing Louis the master of all modern super-heavies as he destroys one in this encounter? It’s a reasonable point, but no, it is not that. It was my own favourite line from How to Box by Joe Louis that brought me to this conclusion.

“There are two basic methods of attack,” the1948 manual tells us, “either by force or by skill. The attack by force is used only by the slugger who depends only upon hitting power. The attack by skill is used by the boxer who relies upon his cleverness in feinting, correct leading, drawing and in-fighting.”

This is a fine division, at once elegant and incomplete, of the boxer’s physical abilities versus his technical ability, his gifts as an athlete as weighed against his skill as a boxer. While Joe’s destruction of Schmeling is his most devastating display, he relies often in that short fight upon his natural gifts, his speed, his power. Joe fights ugly for short, vicious stretches against Baer, too, but not before he has demonstrated for us the height of his art.

Louis and his ghostwriter, Edward J. Mallory, describe the various feints Louis employed in his championship years and most interesting among them is the left jab to the body, the lie, and then the right uppercut to the head, the truth. It is a difficult move from a technical perspective, calling upon the weight to be transferred from the left foot to the right and for the fighter to move from long distance to the inside, downstairs to up, all without getting caught. Louis pulls this move off against a fresh Baer, twenty-five seconds into the fight.

Baer came out aggressively and Louis was momentarily crowded out of the fight, driven and harried back to his own corner first by Baer’s length, then his size. Buddy’s physical advantages overcame Joe’s technical superiority, for just a moment. They circle, and Louis takes a short step back, employing the draw, before throwing a nothing left hook. Louis notices that the challenger’s tactic upon being jabbed are to dip, then make a grab and try to tie the champion up on the inside, allowing him to use his size and weight to bear down on him. A fine plan for a big man, but in fact the fight is now lost.

A few seconds later Louis is shuffling back and away from Baer once more and as Baer moves forwards Louis throws another jab. Again, Baer dips and tries to crowd but Louis has no intention of landing the jab. Instead, he holsters his left, takes a step to the outside with his left foot and even as Baer draws himself into his shell and prepares his grab, Louis uncorks his right uppercut, slipping his weight across his body as a part of the natural movement of the punch, the absolute perfection of this skill. The punch is not a finisher but note Baer’s reaction when Louis jabs at him once more, moments later. Instead of trying to menace the champion with his size or a counter, he backs up directly; shy of the uppercut that the jab disguised last time around. This is the ultimate realisation of the feint—to imbue in the jab, a hammer blow at the best of times the virtual attributes of the uppercut. Baer has now to abandon his pre-fight plan for Joe’s most important punch, that jab.

Skill has determined that his superior size is now worthless.

Paraffin to the wound seconds later as Louis pulls the trick off once more, this time after following through on the jab. A right-handed uppercut to the jaw—the hardest punch to land from a technical perspective—turns the trick again and now Baer is hurt. Louis plants a left hook behind the glove just above the ear and then he is ready to unleash the combinations that made him famous.

People say Joe Louis has slow feet. There is something to this, although hopefully it has been explained in the proper context in Part 1—The Foundation of Skill. Even then, however, we discuss his speed relative to those opponents who run. Well footwork is not merely a byword for a foot race. I defy anyone who takes the time to pay close enough attention to the speed at which Louis adjusts his feet now as Baer retreats across the ring to name him slow.

Out of position for a left hook as Baer is going away slightly outside his right foot, Louis shimmies—there is no other word for it—a quick step forwards, channelling all his power through his left leg and hips. This allows him to land that deadly, rare, straight right and behind it, even though he each time has to shimmy and hop forwards, he lands a left hook and then that rolling right cross. With each punch he is covering ground and with each punch he touches down long enough to get the torque through his hips and crack home hard punches, knockout punches. Perhaps the most startling thing about this sequence is that if you press pause at the moment these blows are landing, they look as though Louis were punching from a stationary position. His balance is perfect, his rushing attack is in no way affecting the value of his punches, yet he takes literally no time to get set. He is a cobra packing a shotgun.

“Use the weight of the body in every punch,” (my italics) advises How to Box and it is a tenet Louis is married to. My expectation upon placing it under the microscope was that I would have to issue a warning similar to the one I described when analysing Joe’s straight right hand—that it bore sweet fruit when it worked but that it was too detail-specific to be really viable in the ring, and that countermeasures must be employed. To my astonishment I found that Louis threw power punches (if not always his jab) in this fashion without compromising his balance on offense. It is my suspicion that this is a unique skillset above 200 lbs. and that you would have to work to find fighters who can fight like this in even the smallest divisions.

Though the fight is only a minute old, referee Frank Fullam takes his first close look at Baer as he wobbles back to Joe’s short rope behind a left-right combination to the jaw and a right to the body that Louis lands after ducking into a clinch as Baer tried to throw his first punches in some seconds. Louis is made to miss in turn as Baer bores him back and away from the ropes, missing first with the right uppercut and then the left hook. These are the most difficult punches to remain composed behind, but Louis does so, remaining in punching position.

Head-to-head in a maul, Louis appears the loser as he slowly gives ground during an exchange of meaningless shots, but a split second later, he has moved out of the maul that Baer remains bowed solemnly into, and Louis begins the assault again. A bobbing top caught in two opposing tides—his, and the punches Joe is driving home—Baer’s size is now nothing less than a handicap in the face of the genius of Joe’s box-punching.

For the first knockdown Louis slips the non-existent jab he expects when he is on his way in, jabs to the stomach and bombs a right cross over his defence. Watch carefully and you will see Baer’s high guard rappelled right and down by the famous Louis follow-through before snapping back into place as Baer collapses in an enormous heap on the canvas, forty-pound weight advantage and all, the first time he has looked big since that first uppercut landed.

It’s hard to admire a man shooting fish in a barrel but take a moment to appreciate the blinds being drawn and the man Leroy Simerly (Herald-Journal) called “strictly a sixteen-inch gunner” in full flow.

Baer was magnanimous in defeat clutching Joe’s head in his oversized paws, almost comically huge next to the man labelled in newspapers the following morning as “the most destructive puncher the fight game has ever seen.”

Baer figured Louis to be champion for some time to come.

“Maybe my next child will be a son and I can raise him up to do the job.”

Three days later, Louis would pass his army physical. He would never reach the heights of the Buddy Baer fight again. It is a frightening thought, but it is possible that boxing never saw the very best of its greatest champion.

Max Schmeling

“Ain’t no sense foolin’ around like I did last time.”

Louis said more than once in the run up to the fight that he would end Max Schmeling in a single round. For the most part this was dismissed as hyperbole by a press which did not break ranks to predict anything earlier than a third-round knockout. Hyperbole was the furthest thing from the minds of Louis and Blackburn, however. This was a plan with its foundation built firmly upon the scientific reasoning that Schmeling had become so famous for.

When Joe Louis attended the welterweight title fight between Henry Armstrong and Barney Ross, it was not as a fan, although he was one, but as a disciple. It is possible that Armstrong was the only man in the history of the fight game capable of teaching Louis about controlled destructive violence in the ring, but the story goes that he did—and that along with handler Eddie Mead, he convinced Louis and Blackburn that a direct, rushing assault was the best strategy.

And the story had more than just a hint of truth to it. First Joe was seen at Henry’s training camp and then Henry was seen at Joe’s. Louis did not speak of it directly, but Blackburn was less equivocal:

“Last time Chappie fought just the way Schmeling wanted him to. This time it’ll be different. Chappie’s going to learn from Armstrong. He’s going to set a fast pace right from the start.”

Max Machon, trainer to Schmeling, did not see the danger, encouraging Louis to do just that:

“He would be as awkward as a school girl on her first pair of ice skates!”

Schmeling, meanwhile, wasn’t paying attention or had seen a bluff where there was none:

“I think in the first round we will just feel each other out.”

According to the World Telegram, “Schmeling will make no mistake in strategy. Louis doesn’t know what the word means.” This was the prevailing attitude at the time, but in fact a reversal of this equation was happening right under the noses of the dismissive newspapermen. Even those that sniffed out a possible tactical dimension to the Louis battle plan were disdainful of it. Perhaps they were right, and perhaps Blackburn and Mead were the masterminds behind the directness of the violence about to erupt in Yankee Stadium. But the fact is that Louis had been obsessively watching the first Schmeling fight, originally with a journalist (who could not believe that Blackburn had never shown it to the champion and had in fact discouraged him from seeing it), then with his trainer and finally alone.

Over and over again.

“I know how to fight Max now.”

Louis was to fight Schmeling in the opposite style, as far as How to Box is concerned, to the one he would use to destroy Buddy Baer. There, he fought by skill, here it was to be by force—speed, power.

Louis doesn’t stalk or attempt to draw a lead from Schmeling. At the first bell, he is after him straight away and when Schmeling tries to move, Joe moves with him, still in the small steps and still behind that ramrod jab but with more urgency than is normal. The hard jab and a closet left hook are landed before Max moves out of range, but the leaping left hook he uses to drive Max before him is a new flavor of Louis, especially against an unharmed world-class opponent. Louis had reportedly shadowboxed for forty to fifty minutes before emerging from his dressing room wearing two gowns to keep his body warm. Now he was making both Schmeling and Machon foolish in their pre-fight predictions. Not only was Louis wasting absolutely no time in feeling Schmeling out, but he also bore very little resemblance to a schoolgirl on ice skates. He looked more like coiled galvanized steel brought miraculously and terrifyingly to life.

Referee Arthur Donovan would later claim that this left hook caused Max’s face to swell and changed his pallor to a “faint bluish green.”

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The hook also carried him inside, but rather than moving for space Louis dug his heels in and pushed against Schmeling, denying him room, landing three hard uppercuts, pulling out and then stabbing back in with the one-two. When Schmeling puts his left glove over Joe’s right, cupping his own body protectively with his free arm, Louis reverted to his old habits, making room for himself as he punched, adjusting tactically to Schmeling’s increasingly desperate defensive manoeuvres.

After the German lands his only significant punch of the fight—a right hand as the champion moved away—Louis stalked a rattled Schmeling to the far rope and drew the inevitable pressure lead, before going to work with both hands to the midsection and switching upstairs. When Schmeling tries to hide up close after another one-two, Louis pushes him back and away, giving himself room for his aggressive rushes. Here, then, was the culmination of the tactical switch as he drove Schmeling back with the uppercut then invoked the most famous fistic assault between Dempsey and Tyson, hammering Schmeling back with both fists, the German catapulting away but seemingly caught in the Bomber’s horrifying gravity as he catches the rope for support with his right glove and catapults himself right back into the kill zone. Louis is swarming all over him and Schmeling, now half turned away, is nothing more than a slab of meat and one that the champion goes to work upon in earnest, a butcher wielding two cleavers, finally landing perhaps his most famous punch, a right hand just above the kidney that fractured the transverse process of the third and fourth lumbar vertebrae, tearing the muscles surrounding it in the process. The scream that erupted from Schmeling was “half animal, half human” and according to David Margolick author of Beyond Glory: Max Schmeling and Joe Louis was so bloodcurdling that many patrons on that side of the ring reached for their hats as though compelled to retreat. If it occurred, this was a primal reaction but Louis, for me, was not giving the primal showing of legend.

“He is a jungle man,” wrote journalist Henry McLenmore. “As completely primitive as any savage out to destroy the thing he hates. He fought instinctively and not by any man-made pattern.”

This is not true. Louis had re-armed himself with some new tools for this fight and had shown a strategic surety the German came nowhere near matching—Schmeling was outthought for all that he was also slaughtered. When necessary, Louis switched between pure aggression and his drawing, counterpunching style with seamless ease and although he used his physical rather than his technical brilliance to master Schmeling, I would argue that “the hand of man” is more apparent in this performance than any other one of his fights.

“I thought in my mind, “How’s that Mr. Super-race? I was glad he was hurt,” said Louis in response to questions about his thoughts on the punch that had broken Schmeling’s back. Now he did cut loose, battering Max like he was a heavy bag and indeed from this point on the challenger put up about as much resistance. The final punch, when it came, had the same affect upon Schmeling’s face as a baseball bat would an apple, according to the Herald Tribune. The fight ended in confusion and uproar as first the towel, then Max Machon himself stormed the ring but Schmeling was as knocked out as any fighter had ever been. Louis had wiped the floor with him.

His reward, outside of the $400,000 he had just banked, was to be compared in the next few days in the press to every dangerous animal that walked the earth. Lions, tigers, bears, snakes, hawks and most of all panthers were what the champion was like and the racial climate in which he fought makes us look back and shake our heads at the casual racism. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and John F. Kennedy were all in America’s glittering future. But I do not think it was a matter of race—or not only of race.

It is a fact, however, that some of the pressmen that talked about Louis in these terms were black.

Louis himself, by virtue of his skill in the ring would take a hand in steering his race toward calmer waters.

It’s us.

We all look at Louis and see something primal because there is something primal within all of us. He speaks to it.

And that’s fine. Boxing needs its violence every bit as much as it needs its heroes. If this series of articles was about anything it was about stripping away that projection, that stardust, that lie and looking at the fighter underneath, because that is a beautiful thing that all too often is overlooked. Louis had one of the best jabs, one of the best skillsets, was one of the best counterpunchers, one of the best boxers at any weight, ever—and I hope I have shown that his supposed tactical rigidity and strategic naivety is something we have projected onto this “animal” this “killer” this “bomber,” too, for all that these were not his greatest strengths. He had help and Blackburn was an important part of arguably the greatest story our sport has ever known but as Joe Louis said, “Once that bell rings, you are on your own.

“It’s just you and the other guy.”

And I sure wouldn’t want to be the other guy.

For those of you who have taken the considerable time to read these articles on Joe Louis from the first word to the last—thank you.

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