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The 50 Greatest Welterweights of All-Time Part Five: 10-1

Matt McGrain

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 by Matt McGrain

It's the end.

I can't say I'm sorry.  Separating this mix of animals and geniuses was almost as difficult as ordering and researching the cracking fighters that make the lower reaches of this list, and those who barely missed out.  The top ten is supposed to be a bit of a gimmee once the groundwork has been done in the earlier parts, but the mere ordering kept me awake at night.  This was the best I could do with the information I've processed over the past few months.  Give me another few months and we'll make a start on the monsters at lightweight – possible competition for the ultra-stacked middleweight division.

For now, listen.

This, is how I have them:

 

#10 –  Ted “Kid” Lewis (192-32-14; Newspaper Decisions 40-14-10)

 

Originally, I ranked Ted “Kid” Lewis below Tommy Ryan. Then I crunched the numbers. Lewis engaged in twenty-seven world championship fights at the weight. He lost nine of these – but for the most part, these were to the deadly Jack Britton, a fighter he had the atrocious luck to share an era with and with whom he fought the most incredible series in boxing history. They met nineteen times, and although Britton got the best of this astonishing series, the very fact that they were deemed good enough to be matched so often over a period of just six years, and almost exclusively for the welterweight championship of the world, speaks volumes.

Lewis was perhaps the ultimate marauder at the weight and certainly he has only Joe Walcott and Mickey Walker for company; a jackal of a fighter who placed his opponents under relentless pressure with a view to breaking, outworking or stopping them. Aggressive to a fault, perpetual motion was a philosophy he embraced as completely as anyone since the heyday of Harry Greb.  Lewis fought eighteen times in 1918, twelve times in 1919, eleven times in 1920, winning an overwhelming majority of these contests. In his peak year of 1917, he was generally held to have received the nod in four consecutive no-decisions against Britton. A two-time welterweight champion of the world, he achieved this feat despite sharing an era with a great fighter who was also his stylistic kryptonite. Taken in tandem with what is perhaps the most impressive longevity of any swarmer, at any weight, fifteen victories in title fights and a consistently impressive level of  welterweight opposition, a spot just inside the top-ten is his due.

Other Top Fifty Welterweights Defeated: Mike Glover (#37), Jack Britton (3).

#09 – Floyd Mayweather (49-0)

 

Floyd Mayweather is a divisive figure, to put it lightly. For his legion of devoted fans, he is nothing less than the greatest fighter in history and, presumably, the greatest welterweight, too.  For those that seek to undermine him — due, in many cases, to personal disdain for one of boxing’s more unpleasant characters — he belongs nowhere near the top ten welterweights in history. This being the case, I’ve endeavored to stay away, as far as it is possible in this entry, from opinion.  I’ll deal in fact.

Floyd Mayweather defeated more ranked welterweight contenders than Thomas Hearns (rankings by Ring/TBRB). He defeated more top five contenders than almost anyone outside the top ten, aside from the likes of Jackie Fields – but Fields also lost to a handful of welterweights.  Mayweather was unbeaten.

Mayweather defeated more welterweight lineal champions than Barney Ross. Working by the scorecards of the judges he was, for the most part, in non-competitive fights at the weight. He made a past-prime Manny Pacquiao, his #1 contender at the weight, look like a journeyman. He defeated more #1 ranked fighters (champions or top rated contenders) than all but the most storied of fighters. He boxed only three unranked men at the weight, two of whom were soft touches (Sharmba Mitchell, his first fight at the weight, and Andre Berto) and Ricky Hatton, the light-welterweight champion of the world and universally recognized pound-for-pounder, who he knocked out. 

He was one of the few men to become a two-time lineal world-welterweight champion and the only man who ever did it without losing a fight, coming out of retirement to do what Barbados Joe Walcott and Benny Leonard both failed to do. During his welterweight career, moments of true danger were extremely rare; he was run close just once, in the first fight with Marcos Rene Maidana, a narrow victory he rendered wide in the rematch. 

What Mayweather didn’t do was beat everyone who was available. He probably should have taken on Antonio Margarito, and Paul Williams was ranked very near the top when he was active in the division. That said, fighters who beat everyone available are close to non-existent. But if it pleases, you can zip on down to the entry on Henry Armstrong to read about a worse offender. 

Nor did Mayweather show either great longevity (at the weight) or have the opportunity to beat another great welterweight, outside of Manny Pacquiao, who he had a chance to meet in his prime and failed to do so (for whatever reason). This is why Mayweather is not #1, nor anywhere near it. The top ten is well within his range however, which I make somewhere between fourteen and eight.

Outside of the ring he was an arrogant, loudmouthed, woman-beating bully bereft of class.  Inside the ring he was a genius.

Other Top Fifty Welterweights Defeated: Shane Mosley (#29), Manny Pacquiao (#22).

#08 – Tommy Hearns (61-5-1)

 

I have often wondered if any fighter, ever, at any weight, was blessed with such a combination of speed, power and laser-guided accuracy as Thomas Hearns. I think one could construct an argument that yes, Ray Robinson outmatches him in a combined sense over these three key departments – but who else, really, matched the lightning speed with which Hearns lashed out a one-two, the frightening effect those punches had on even the hardest of men, and the terrifying regularity with which he dropped the second punch in a combination on the same spot as the discombobulating first? What else but a combination of extraordinary and raw attributes could have carried Hearns all the way from welterweight to cruiserweight? What else could have made him the most feared puncher in a division that contained Pipino Cuevas, who he met in 1980 having scored twenty-six knockouts in twenty-eight fights, most of them early? 

Whatever the detail, Hearns was never more terrifying than when laying out Cuevas, who had not been stopped since his professional debut nearly ten years earlier. Hearns stalked the belt-holder relentlessly and hurt him with every right hand he landed. Cuevas was reduced to feinting, covering up on the ropes and, humiliatingly, running away from his vastly superior opponent.  This meeting between Cuevas, one of the best welterweights of his era, and Hearns, a comparative novice, was non-competitive. Taking a huge step-up in class, Hearns looked like he had been boxing at title-level for years. 

This was not the case, but he had been meeting ranked contenders for some time, taking on Commonwealth champion Clyde Gray in just his fifteenth fight. Gray was a perfect opponent for the green Hearns, game but limited, and the prospect exposed the veteran’s limitations in the tenth and final round, in part because Gray, to his credit, stopped running and went for the knockout.

Between Gray and Cuevas, Hearns beat the resistance out of former belt-holder Angel Espada so casually and one-sidedly that it felt more like sparring than a title-eliminator. This is also the fight in which Tommy’s jab matured; quick, unerringly pointed and bone-rattling, it was a punch that defined and decided the contest – although it was yet another horrible series of right hands, including a digging uppercut to the mid-riff, that sent Espada to the canvas three times before the end of the fourth.

After Cuevas, Tommy’s key contests were against Luis Primera with whom he tested his footwork and even his punch-resistance against an outclassed opponent but one who refused to be cowed and lasted six rounds, and against Randy Shields. Shields had gone a gutsy fifteen with Cuevas eighteen months earlier but here he found a new kind of bravery to extend Hearns to twelve, whereupon he was rescued due to cuts above both eyes. This was a rough fight and a fight in which Hearns, finally, had his engine tested, had his generalship tested, but questions remained: could a really good fighter take advantage of these less stellar attributes?

No. A good fighter, no, never. A good fighter would get his face kicked in by Tommy Hearns, always. But a great fighter – a great fighter might find a way. Ray Leonard found a way in 1981 when these two finally collided, with barely five-minutes remaining in a fight in which Hearns led on all cards. This result gives me pause. Hearns, like Ted Kid Lewis who is ranked at #10, has a high spot without having actually been the finest welterweight of his generation. How high is too high for a generational number two?

The answer is #2 – a slot occupied by Archie Moore on the corresponding list at light-heavyweight despite his having been defeated three times by the #1, Ezzard Charles. So for Hearns, and for Lewis, a high ranking is possible. Hearns probably hits his roof here – but how, really, to rank him behind Floyd Mayweather who seems so utterly, utterly chanceless against him had they, instead of Leonard, shared an era?

Other Top Fifty Welterweights Defeated: Pipino Cuevas (#35)

#07 – Kid Gavilan (108-30-5)

 

Kid Gavilan was probably impossible to out-brawl at 147lbs. He had a collection of attributes that flat-out negated that style. Active, poised, a brilliant general and a terror on the inside, he had a granite jaw and an unsurpassed engine that enabled him to out-work and out-think just about anyone who came to him. He had to be outboxed; in his stunning prime in 1951, 1952 and 1953, during which he reigned as the world’s 147lb champion, no welterweight of any style was able to defeat him.

Unlike Mayweather and Hearns, Gavilan had and matched the competition to prove his irrevocable greatness and my sense is that for this reason we find, at #7, new heights of achievement within the welterweight ranks. Gavilan’s run against a murderer’s row of top five-ranked talent began before his true prime however, when he matched Tommy Bell in 1948. Bell had dropped Sugar Ray Robinson for a count two years earlier and although Sugar Ray had rocked back off the canvas to take a fifteen round decision, Bell was credited with providing Robinson with tough opposition. Despite the fact he had started to slip, Bell had ambitions of matching Robinson once more but it was the underdog Gavilan who emerged with the victory.  So it was he who got not one, but two stabs at Robinson, fending off the wonderful Ike Williams on two occasions in between receiving two invaluable lessons in boxing from Sugar. 

In the wake of these, and other hard lessons, his prime began, probably with a split-decision victory over Billy Graham in late 1950. This was revenge for Gavilan, who lost a controversial split against Graham earlier in the year. The two met four times; Gavilan won the series 3-1 but there was no definitive victor in any of their contests until their fourth and final fight when Gavilan boxed Graham to a standstill. The following year, 1951, Gavilan had hoisted the title Robinson had left behind him when he departed for middleweight and in addition to Graham, repelled Bobby Dykes, Gil Turner, number five contender Chuck Davey (in what passes for a soft-touch for Gavilan, but also a fighter he utterly destroyed), Johnny Bratton and Carmen Basilio before the wear and tear began to show. 

Basilio accounted for some of that wear and tear; their fight was a fascinating surge and ebb of flow. A truly great general, Gavilan forced Basilio to wait whether he was taking tiny shuffling steps, waiting, circling, or a mixture of the three. He chose when and how Basilio would fight him, whether he was winning the fifteenth almost entirely with his left hand, or hashing it out up close with one of the division’s best infighters. As good on the inside as the outside and truly exceptional at controlling which of those distances the fight would be fought at, Gavilan is a fine herald for the coming of the greatest welterweights of all time.

Other Top Fifty Welterweights Defeated: Billy Graham (#31), Carmen Basilio (#21).

#06 – Henry Armstrong (151-21-9)

 

Henry Armstrong was a monstrous welterweight and a natural 135 pounder. This makes for a confusing title reign.

It's confusing in three parts. First, Armstrong made a habit of fighting lightweights in welterweight title defenses. He contested the 147lb title against Baby Arizmendi in a 1939 defense that was thrilling, bloody but staged against a fighter who weighed 135.5lbs. Davey Day weighed 136lbs. Lew Feldman, 134. There are other examples. One can only imagine the reaction should Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao have taken a welterweight title or strap and then defended it against a series of 135lb men. 

Armstrong himself was often barely above the lightweight limit but that is not the point. The point is, Armstrong wasn't exposed to the true rigors of the welterweight division in these contests. So yes, Armstrong staged a lot of defences, and he was a busy champion, but a handful of these contests were fought against fighters who, frankly, were not welterweights. He was also given to boxing title-matches with fighters who were not qualified to be in such contests. Howard Scott had lost six in six when he got the call. Phil Furr had lost three of his last four.  There were quality defences, but a lot of chaff.

Finally, Armstrong's management – stress that, not Armstrong, his management – didn't seem keen on taking on some of the tougher challenges available. Charley Burley was repeatedly told that Armstrong was to depart for lightweight and so a title fight was not possible, only to box match after match at the weight. Cocoa Kid was, perhaps, deserving of a shot and no shot materialized. The tiny Joe Gnouly, 3-4 in his last seven, did get a title fight, however.

All of this said, Armstrong's destruction of Barney Ross was terrifying. He mangled Ross when he took the championship in 1938. He defeated #1 contender Ceferino Garcia in his first, thrilling title defense, a war fought toe-to-toe. And perhaps that is the point. Armstrong, like Mickey Walker before him, did not make any great concession in style when he met these bigger men. He did what he always did, swarmed all over them trying to dominate and out-land them.  It was a frightening strategy but he made it work throughout one of the busiest title reigns in history. More, he continued battering contenders even after he lost his championship to Zivic, even beating his usurper in a third non-title fight. This is incredible longevity for such a busy fighter employing such an aggressive, killing style.

But I stand by a ranking that may be considered a little lower than expected. It is impossible to imagine a top ten without him, but given the wonderful quality of fighter that lies above, I can't quite squeeze him into the top five.

Other Top Fifty Welterweights Defeated: Fritzie Zivic (#30), Barney Ross (#15),

#05 – Emile Griffith (85-24-2)

 

In just his sixteenth fight, Emile Griffith met the legendary Friday Night Fights veteran Gaspar Ortega. It was an astonishing move but one that Griffith’s trainer and right hand, Gil Clancy, seemed relaxed about. Griffith won a split decision; he rewarded Ortega's efforts with a second fight, a year later by which time Griffith was the welterweight champion of the world. The beating he administered his old foe was brutal and one-sided, Griffith’s left hook a terrifying specter throughout.

Jorge Jose Fernandez, another veteran of enormous experience and also dangerous punching ability, met Griffith early too; Fernandez was unlucky to drop a split so Griffith immediately rematched him and turned matador, slipping, ducking, moving and punching his way to a decision. Fernandez received the same questionable reward for that first tough fight that Ortega did, Griffith winning a weird rematch by ninth round TKO after landing a low blow. 

He was a kindly, humble soul and Clancy described his frustration at watching Griffith hold back if he liked his opponent or felt sorry for him. But properly motivated, he was a machine; a lethal combination of strength, maul, beautiful accuracy and a total grasp of the technical aspects of the sport, for all that he adapted them for awkward, practical purposes. Griffith may be the most difficult fighter on this list to actually fight.

“Any title I have I don’t believe in putting it on the shelf,” Griffith would say. “I believe in letting the other guy have a crack at it.” When people label Griffith inconsistent, it is worth keeping this quote in mind. 

Griffith met Luis Manuel Rodriguez four times, Benny Paret three times, Jorge Jose Fernandez three times, Ralph Dupas twice, Gaspar Ortega twice, Eddie Pace, Jose Stable, Brian Curvis and the terrifying puncher Florentino Fernandez. Of course he lost a few.  But in welterweight title fights he is 10-3; of the losses, there was the brave past-prime effort against the great Jose Napoles (had he won that, Griffith would be ranked #2), a questionable decision loss to Benny Paret, avenged, and finally a dropped decision to all time-great head-to-head monster Rodriguez, which he also avenged – and because that decision was questioned, he fought and beat him again. He was a three-time lineal champion not because of inconsistency but because he fought the best and with the single exception of Jose Napoles, he beat the best.

Other Top Fifty Welterweights Defeated: Benny Paret (#47), Luis Manuel Rodriguez (#18),

#04 – Jose Napoles (81-7)

 

Jose Napoles was run out of Cuba by Fidel Castro’s ban on professional sports. Mexico welcomed him with open arms and as is so often the case, the massed banditry of Mexican opposition hued a fighter made of stone. Napoles emerged from twin-educations in the boxing hotbeds of Cuba and Mexico tough, schooled and savvy to the point of brilliance. He was also ready to box for the welterweight championship, then in the hands of the brilliant Curtis Cokes.

Few welterweights were blessed with a left hand better than Cokes, but Napoles was such a man; even this, however, couldn't entirely explain the outcome of their April 1969 contest. Cokes won not a round on my card and the judges found only one or two for him, before he quit on his stool at the end of the thirteenth, the finish line in sight. It was possibly the most consummate title-winning effort in history, at any weight; it may also have been the definitive boxing clinic ever performed. Napoles was effortless in his excellence, doubling up the jab even when he missed, hitting something with the second, an arm, a glove, making him difficult to counter. He added a right and when Cokes was forced to let him inside despite a reach advantage of two inches, a diet of double-handed uppercuts his reward. Meanwhile the Cokes left seemed to vanish in thin air as he threw it, Napoles countering him so hard and often that he became afraid to punch. A rematch a few months later saw Cokes quit at the end of the tenth, his face bloody and his right eye swollen almost shut by that hideous, persistent left. He described the same “inability to get going” against Napoles that you sometimes hear from opponents of Floyd Mayweather and Bernard Hopkins. Napoles was able to place the same hex on world-class opposition, but he did it whilst boxing much, much more aggressively.

Having taken the title from a near-great welterweight, Napoles staged his first defense against a true great from the last generation, Emile Griffith. Griffith was past-prime and returning to the welterweight division having swapped the 160lb title back and forth with Nino Benvenuti, but he still had victories over the monstrous Dick Tiger, among others, in his immediate future, making Jose's total dominance of him all the more astonishing. It was not a close fight; it was another wide decision victory for Napoles, who even sent the granite-jawed Griffith to the deck with a neat counter in the third.

A stoppage of the highly ranked Ernie Lopez (who he also beat in a rematch) followed before Jose's single weakness was exposed by Billy Backus; Napoles had a propensity to cut, often exaggerated, but impossible to ignore. He was stopped in the fourth, won a rematch, and then staged an astonishing eleven defenses in a row, before John Stracey stopped him on a cut in 1975 to take his title. Napoles then called it a day.

Had he not suffered that cut against Backus, it is likely that Napoles would have managed sixteen consecutive victories in title fights, boxed generally against a high level of opposition. In Hedgemon Lewis, Ernie Lopez, Emile Griffith, Adolph Pruitt, Roger Menetrey, Billy Backus, Cyde Gray and Curtis Cokes he dispatched a wonderful collection of competition ranked in the division's top five, to say nothing of men such as Horacio Saldano and Armando Muniz, who were ranked in the bottom half of the top ten. Even carrying such a disadvantage as vulnerable skin, he is likely one of three or four best welterweights ever to have taken to the ring and his legacy is such that a spot outside the top five would seem unreasonable.

Other Top Fifty Welterweights Defeated: Curtis Cokes (#17), Emile Griffith (#5).

#03 – Jack Britton (103-29-20; 137-28-22)

 

Of the men to make the top ten, Jack Britton is the only one of whom I have seen no footage. I'm sad about that.  Britton was likely one of the greatest defensive fighters in history.

Having fought in around 350 contest (that we know of) and having been stopped only once (in an early fight), his chin is confirmed both as granite and hard to reach; having knocked out only one in ten of his recorded opponents, he was also almost entirely without power. Think, for a moment, of the level of skill necessary to become the single greatest welterweight of your generation despite boxing to a schedule that would have pricked Harry Greb's ears over the course of no fewer than four decades and doing it all without a power punch and you begin to understand the absolute wonder that was Britton. 

I once wrote that it is impossible to provide even a cursory explanation of Britton's career on the internet and that if ever a fighter needed a really good book, it is him. In truth, even surmising his drawn out series with Ted “Kid” Lewis, his mortal enemy and a man he repeatedly fought in contesting the welterweight championship, is impossible. The details of these contests, so numerous and closely contested are too numerous to account here, so, in summary: he won. He won numerically but he also staged an almost impossible moral and literal victory. Champions boxing in the teens of the last century could make a vanquished opponent wait as long as they liked for a rematch with usually the market determining if a defeated foe was in line for another crack. Britton, who claimed the title after his defeat of Mike Glover, had been beaten by Lewis for the title. The fledgling American Boxing Association was flexing its newfound muscle, however, and Britton found himself back in the ring with his mortal enemy, this time boxing a draw. He then defeated Lewis in a six-round non-title fight earning him, in the early part of 1919, a re-match for the title.

But there was a complication. Lewis, in keeping with his era, met Britton in a No Decision bout, a bout where no scorecards were rendered and no judges were present, outside of the newspapermen who would often declare a winner in print in their paper's next edition. The only way for the title to pass on to the challenger was for him to knock the champion out. Given Lewis's iron mandible and Britton's lack of power this seemed impossible.

So Britton did the impossible. He stopped Lewis in the ninth round of a scheduled ten, fighting with uncommon spite, dropping Lewis repeatedly before ripping the title from him. He never lost to Lewis again, running away with their series in repeated defeats of his nemesis.

There is so much more to Britton than Lewis but Lewis did define him. Winning the greatest series in boxing history, despite the hyena hounding him for his title, scrapes him past Napoles and into the top three. 

Other Top Fifty Welterweights Defeated: Mike Glover (#37), Ted “Kid” Lewis (#10).

#02 – Ray Leonard (36-3-1)

 

Making himself great in a mere blink of Jack Britton's eye, Leonard required just forty fights to make himself even greater than that welterweight legend and very nearly the greatest of them all.  Sure, he was flashy, anointed, arguably blessed with an arrogance equalled only by his physical gifts and led a private life every bit as objectionable as that of Floyd Mayweather (with a healthy cocaine habit tossed in for good measure), but Leonard isn't a pre-eminent boxer due to his fame or his infamy. Leonard was a true fistic great.

He began battering ranked contenders in 1978 at just 13-0, taking on one Floyd Mayweather Sr. and stopping him in ten. This is a mature performance for such a green fighter, Leonard giving up his wonderful jab in favor of mid-range two-handed aggressive fighting, the right move against a non-puncher with brittle hands. Randy Shields went next, losing a ten round decision in a surprisingly dirty fight which even saw the referee replaced after he was cut while trying to separate the fighters during an exchange. When he stopped the excellent John Gant in eight in the first month of 1979, he had defeated three ranked men in little over four months. This is important; compared to most of the men on this list, Leonard hardly boxed a career – what is significant is that he defeated more ranked contenders than most of them. Leonard didn't hang around and his rush through the division, once it began, was a destructive one. Pete Ranzany, stopped in four; Andy Price crushed in one; Davey Green and Bruce Finch, too, were butchered without offering much in the way of resistance. Common-garden contenders just weren't able to extend Leonard – he was too good.

But the three results that really make Leonard an all-time great welterweight were posted against the other three all-time great fighters he met at the poundage. Wilfred Benitez, the Puerto-Rican defensive genius and welterweight champion of the world was up first; Leonard boxed brilliantly and within himself, out-waiting and out-jabbing his brilliant foe from the outside, opening up and hurting him frequently between the third and the fifteenth, when he dropped, then stopped Benitez on his feet with mere seconds of the fight remaining. This busy, rather brutal fifteenth confirmed his engine and his ring generalship, which always appeared solid but now seemed supernatural.

 That would be called into question by the next great he met in the ring as he seemed determined to fight the savage Roberto Duran toe-to-toe. Duran taught Leonard his last great lesson; he took it to heart and completely bamboozled his much more experienced opponent with a fleet-footed box-moving style in the rematch. Last up was Thomas Hearns; Hearns, as described above was a quick-handed power-punching master-boxer; Leonard was out-boxed, found a new gear and totaled the suddenly giraffe-like Hearns in the fourteenth round.

Leonard once described himself as a dancer who could punch; I like that, but I'd probably term him a puncher that could dance. He obliterated Hearns in the dying minutes of a fight he was losing, the only welterweight ever to turn the trick. He was also the only welterweight ever to stop Benitez, and, technically, Duran, who was also only stopped at higher weights.

He can almost be called the most well-rounded and dangerous 147lb man in history.

Almost.

Other Top Fifty Welterweights Defeated: Wilfed Benitez (#34), Roberto Duran (#20), Tommy Hearns (#8).

 

#01 – Sugar Ray Robinson (173-19-6)

If Ray Leonard rocketed through the welterweight division and to the title, Sugar Ray Robinson was forced to take a different approach. Denied a title shot by champions Red Cochrane and Marty Servo, Robinson instead set up a slaughterhouse on the champion's lawn and performed summary executions of ranked men while the curtains feverishly twitched.

His career as an executioner got off to a rocky start in a close one with Fritzie Zivic; at least one ringsider thought the veteran deserved a draw with the tall, lightning-fisted prospect. So Robinson re-matched him. Impressed with Fritzie's impressive ability “to make a man butt open his own eye,” Robinson was careful in the clinches and worked hard to the body. Physically brilliant he was learning the fistic arts at great pace; a fighter who had fought him close in October of 1941 didn't make it out of the tenth in January of 1942.

Maxie Berger was in the process of transitioning from contender to gatekeeper when Robinson slaughtered him that February in two; he became the first man to stop the #10 welterweight in the world when he was matched with Norman Rubio in March; he nearly beheaded Tony Motisi, also ranked, when he caught him with a perfect left-hook in the first round of their August meeting. More testing opponents followed in the shape of Izzy Jannazzo, Jackie Wilson and Ralph Zanelli but in truth, only Wilson extended him. Jannazzo didn't win a round and Zannelli, though game and aggressive, did not receive more than three of the ten rounds on any card seen by this writer.

Then, Henry Armstrong.

Much has been written about Armstrong's meeting with Robinson. For the most part, the notion is that Armstrong was busted, a shadow of his former self. Certainly, he was past his prime but he had several good victories over stiff competition ahead of him (after a brief retirement). More, he had defeated the excellent Willie Joyce and the great Sammy Angott earlier the same year; Armstrong was no longer his lethal self but he was still a highly ranked welterweight contender capable of beating fine fighters. Robinson, according to some sources, did not lose a single minute of a single round to Henry Armstrong.  It was a shut-out.

Victories over ranked men Jimmy McDaniels and Sammy Angott (who fought his way to contendership after Armstrong defeated him) followed. All this, before he even came to the title.  No champion would give Robinson the shot but when Servo vacated the title, there was no logic that could keep Sugar from the championship ring that would start a new and glittering lineage.  More than one contender declined to meet Robinson for his coronation such was his withering reputation, but former victim Tommy Bell stepped up. To his credit, he turned that coronation into a hard night's work, but Robinson scrambled from the canvas after a 7-count suffered in the early part of the fight to win a wide decision. Five defenses followed, including one against the great Kid Gavilan who Robinson outpointed twice. 

Over the years Robinson has become the de-facto #1 at welterweight which has perhaps obscured the wonderful work he did in the division before he became the champion. If something is not in doubt the temptation is not to look at the detail.

The detail is overwhelmingly in his favor. Ray Robinson is clearly the greatest of the welterweights; unbeaten in a division stuffed with excellent fighters, he departed it to run amok among the middleweights. One imagines the terrorized victims of his rampage at 147lbs were not sad to see the back of him. 

His equal has never since walked the earth.

 

Other Top Fifty Welterweights Defeated: Fritzie Zivic (#30), Kid Gavilan (#7), Henry Armstrong (#6).

 

 

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Wilder – Fury Predictions & Analyses from the TSS Panel of Writers

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Whenever there is a big fight with a high level of intrigue, we survey members of our writing community to get their thoughts. In terms of pre-fight intrigue, Saturday’s rematch in Las Vegas between fellow unbeatens Deontay Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KOs) and Tyson Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs) ranks among the top heavyweight title fights of all time.

As is our usual custom, we are listing our panelists alphabetically. The graphic is by Colorado comic book cover artist ROB AYALA whose work has attracted a lot of buzz. Ayala’s specialty is combat sports. Check out more of his very cool work at his web site fight posium.

MATT ANDRZEJEWSKI — In the first fight, my prediction was that Fury would easily out-box Wilder. I am sticking to my guns with the same prediction for the second fight. I know Fury is making a lot of noise about knocking out Wilder but I think this is more psychological than anything else. Fury will box cautiously behind the jab, pick his spots to counter and focus very carefully on his defense. He is not going to go for the knockout and will turn this into an even more tactical affair than the first fight. But he will be more successful this time and coast to a wide unanimous decision victory.

BERNARD FERNANDEZ — Fury is saying he’s going to meet Wilder in the center of the ring and take him out in two rounds. I’m guessing that’s a ruse, so I don’t put much stock in it. But even if the big Brit elects to outbox Wilder over 12 rounds, which he is capable of doing, that means he has to avoid getting clocked with a huge right hand for 12 rounds. Gotta go with the home run hitter here. Wilder by KO or stoppage in eight rounds.

JEFFREY FREEMAN — Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder are equally charged with restoring much needed prestige to the heavyweight division in America. It’s a long slow slog. As a result, the powers caring about this have to be careful not to give away what they can sell. That’s why the first Wilder-Fury fight was called a draw. Neither fighter can afford a loss on their undefeated record and Bob Arum won’t be giving paying fans an actual result in exchange for their hard earned PPV dollars. Not yet anyway. So, it’s going to happen again! Wilder-Fury II ends in another draw but don’t worry, you can pay for the trilogy rubber-match “tie breaker” spectacular soon enough!

ARNE LANG – We performed this exercise before the first-Wilder Fury fight. No one was more bullish on Wilder than me. Properly chastened, I am going to pass the buck this time. Here are the observations of a long-time friend who resides on the Isle of Man and is known for having a sharp opinion: “Fury was cut badly in his last fight and will be very cautious, having tasted Wilder’s power. Training at Kronk isn’t the same without Manny Steward there. Fury has had multiple distractions and I don’t regard him as a world class puncher. DW has 36 minutes to land the one punch that will turn the tide.”

KELSEY McCARSON — Can you imagine what Deontay Wilder might feel on fight night? Across the ring from him will again be Tyson Fury, the same fighter who ate Wilder’s best punch and got back up on his feet. The only other time Wilder didn’t score a knockout was when he faced Bermane Stiverne in 2015. But Wilder broke his right hand in that fight, so he could explain that mystery away until he got the rematch with Stiverne two years later and ended up folding him in half in the first round like a lawn chair. But neither of Wilder’s hands were broken against Fury. Worse for the 34-year-old American is that Fury outboxed him for the majority of the fight. I like Fury to win the rematch by decision. Wilder will overcommit on his punches, and Fury will box his ears off for the clear victory.

MATT McGRAIN — Predicting a Tyson Fury fight is rather like predicting the weather. Even with all the pertinent information on hand it’s impossible to know exactly what will occur. Fury has been running less but reportedly sparring more; he has spoken openly of targeting 270lbs for the weigh-in; he has a new trainer who may or may not be motivating him; he has looked consistently bored and disinterested at more recent pressers; he has spoken openly of the crushing depression that envelopes him every Sunday. So, we might get an overweight, disinterested, under-motivated Fury on Saturday night. And he still might win. Put me down for Fury on points, but the right answer is, ‘nobody knows’.

SEAN NAM — Tyson Fury’s body may be as taut as its ever been, but his mind is in free-floating mode these days. Between hinting at an early retirement and opening up about certain sexual proclivities, Fury seems to have one foot perpetually out of the ring. In fact, ever since he linked up with Top Rank, it has been one big, gaudy publicity tour after another for the Manchester man. A stint with the WWE, the publication of his autobiography (as though his legacy in the ring had already been set in stone), and repeated desires to fight in an MMA crossover bout give the impression that Fury may not be as dialed-in for the most important fight of his life. Not to mention, Fury inexplicably canned his former trainer, Ben Davison. Meanwhile, Deontay Wilder, he of the thunderous right-hand fame, has been quiet as a church mouse. Wilder TKO9.

TED SARES –  An in-shape Fury schools Wilder in the early to mid rounds with focus and discipline, but then Wilder’s right connects and a stunned Fury backs off. Wilder then presses the action and KOs the giant in the next round – maybe the 9th or 10th – with a windmill shot (left or right) or a paralyzing straight ala Breazeale. We know Fury can go down. We know he can get up. But so also do Wilder and Mark Breland.

PHIL WOOLEVER – Wilder’s KO percentage gives him the coin-flip edge (Fury better remember what happened to Stiverne) but I have no clear idea what might happen where I see another draw just as likely as a decision either way. What intrigues me most are the over/under bet propositions listed around the 11th (take the under) and the possibility of this rematch joining a list of outrageous circumstances like the long count, ear bite or paraglider.

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Hot Prospect Ruben Torres Blasts Out Gabino Cota

David A. Avila

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ONTARIO, Calif.-Those heavy hands of Ruben “Ace” Torres showed up again as he steamrolled by Gabino Cota to win their lightweight clash by knockout on Friday.

Backed by a large fan base Torres (12-0, 10 KOs) rewarded them with a one-sided shellacking of Tijuana’s Cota (19-11-2, 17 KOs) at the Doubletree Hotel. There was never any doubt who packed the heavier firepower on the Thompson Boxing Promotions main event.

Torres opened up the fight behind a solid stiff jab that must have given Cota a quick indication of the power behind it, because the Mexican veteran seldom tried to engage early in the fight. A left hook followed by five blows wobbled Cota who leaned on the ropes in a kneeling position.

It was not ruled a knockdown but easily could have been.

In the next round Torres once again connected with a sweeping left hook and it was visible the blow hurt Cota. It seemed every time the taller Torres connected with the left hook a shock of pain crossed the Tijuana fighters face, but he would not go down.

Everything changed in the fourth round. As Cota waited to avoid the left hook, Torres shot a right cross to the body that took a second for the Mexican to register the pain and down he went. He could not get up and was counted out at 52 seconds of the fourth round.

Torres was ruled the winner by knockout.

“I know I could have stopped him a little earlier but his experience,” said Torres who attended school in Santa Fe Springs. “He was tough. I was definitely waiting for him in the later rounds. I saw he was reacting to the punches that they were hurting him. I’m glad I came out victorious.”

The Santa Fe Springs lightweight has been steadily impressing everyone with his heavy-handed power.

“Line them up and I’m going to do my best to knock them down,” Torres said.

Other Bouts

George Acosta (9-1) defeated Ivan Benitez (14-4) by unanimous decision after six rounds in a fight featuring tall lanky lightweights. Acosta was the busier fighter through most of the match. Scores were 60-54, 59-55, 58-54 for Acosta whose only loss was to Ruben Torres last year.

A bantamweight clash saw Saul Sanchez (13-1, 7 KOs) out-hustle Mexico’s Victor Trejo (17-12-2, 8 KOs) to win by decision after six white-hot rounds. Fans were pleased by the nonstop action fight and it was Sanchez first return to the boxing ring after suffering his first loss last August.

Cathedral City’s Jose “Tito” Sanchez (6-0, 4 KOs) defeated the taller Luis Montellano (1-7-2) of Tijuana by unanimous decision after four rounds in a featherweight match-up. Despite the poor record Montellano proved to be a very capable fighter and used his height well until Sanchez took the fight inside and turned it into trench warfare. Sanchez was adept at smothering Montellano’s blows inside while shooting uppercuts. Scores were 40-36 for Sanchez on all three cards.

Rancho Cucamonga’s Richard Brewart (7-0, 3 KOs) won by knockout over Mexico’s Erick Martinez (14-16-1, 8 KOs) in a battle fought at super middleweight. Brewart, who scored a sensational one-punch knockout here in February of last year, weighed only 157 pounds but fought Martinez who weighed 164 pounds and whittled him down to size with a blistering body attack from the opening bell. Finally, at 1:36 of the third round, Brewart sneaked a right uppercut to Martinez’s chin and down he went for good. Referee Rudy Barragan counted out Martinez.

Ivan Zarate (2-0) proved too strong for Mexico’s southpaw Ulises Gabriel (0-2) to win by unanimous decision after four rounds in a super bantamweight fight.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Wilder – Fury 2: Points to Ponder (Plus Official Weights)

Arne K. Lang

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This afternoon’s weigh-in, scheduled for 6 PM ET, will be closely monitored by gamblers who want to inspect the merchandise before making a wager. Tyson Fury has indicated that he will likely tip the scales at about 270 pounds, which would be 13 ½-pounds more than he carried in their first meeting and 15 ½-pounds more than what he carried in his last engagement vs Otto Wallin this past September. Deontay Wilder has also indicated that he plans to carry more weight for the rematch.

Andre Ward, for one, thinks that the added weight will be a detriment to Fury. “250 pounds is plenty big enough to push Wilder around,” said Ward at a media confab yesterday where the former two-division world champion shared the dais with the other talking heads from the networks that will be showing the fight. The implication is that any gains that Fury achieves in strength would be offset by less mobility.

For the record, back in 2009, in his first scheduled 10-rounder, Tyson Fury carried 247 pounds for his match with British countryman John McDermott. That was a difficult fight for the Gypsy King with many in attendance believing he earned no better than a draw. Nine months later he met McDermott again, this time carrying 270 pounds, and Fury dominated en route to a ninth-round stoppage. So, putting on more weight for a rematch worked to his advantage.

Interestingly, Andre Ward doesn’t believe that Deontay Wilder has reached his peak in terms of his ring IQ. Wilder, 34, is a former Olympic bronze medalist but had a very brief amateur career, a “small sample size,” as Ward put it. The Bronze Bomber, he said, “is still learning on the job.”

But he’s still one-dimensional, noted former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis. Asked which fighter he would prefer to fight if he were still in his prime, Lewis opted for Deontay Wilder, saying that Wilder would cause him fewer problems than Fury because Fury “gives you more looks.”

Not once during yesterday’s media confab did anyone address the cut that Fury suffered against Wallin. It was a wicked gash that required 47 stitches. The view from here, and it’s a widely shared opinion, is that the fight would have been stopped if the stakes hadn’t been so high.

cut

Wilder has 36 minutes to land the punch that would turn the tide in his favor and thus far only two of his 43 opponents has lasted until the final bell. But the possibly of the cut re-opening, say several reporters with whom I brain-stormed, is just as likely as the fight ending via one of Wilder’s patented one-punch knockouts.

A shade over five months has elapsed since Fury suffered that bad cut. Was that a sufficient length of time for the cut to heal properly? And with this fight packaged as Chapter Two of a trilogy, a loss on cuts by Fury wouldn’t necessarily damage his pocketbook which may factor into the ring doctor’s decision of whether or not to stop it if this issue rears its head again.

If there is a third fight – and it’s supposedly a done deal – there’s virtually no chance that it will be staged in England. So says co-promoter Bob Arum. That’s because the PPV receipts for a mega-fight are far and away the biggest piece of the revenue pie.

If Wilder-Fury III were to be held in the UK, the fight would start in the late afternoon throughout most of North America. “The pay-per-view disappears when you hold a fight in England,” says Arum. “It’s true that you would pick up more subscribers in Europe, but that’s a little number compared to the big number you would lose.”

“What the heavyweight division has lacked in recent years,” said Mark Kriegel at yesterday’s confab, “has been a great rivalry.” Kriegel alluded to the three-fight series between Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield.

Will the Wilder-Fury rivalry become as celebrated as that intense rivalry or, more ambitiously, become as celebrated as the hallowed rivalry between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier? That’s asking an awful lot but stay tuned.

UPDATE: Tyson Fury tipped the scales at 273 (he weighed in with his shirt and shoes on)

Deontay Wilder came in at 231.

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