Connect with us

Featured Articles

The 50 Greatest Lightweights of all Time Part Two: 40-31

Published

on

Floyd Mayweather

by Matt McGrain

Rules are everything.

Whether it’s the laws of physics describing the impact of a left hook upon a granite jaw or the Sweet Science’s editor applying the rules of grammar to the work we writers “bless” him with, they describe what we see, do and feel.  The process of ordering the Fifty Greatest Lightweights of all time, too, is a process described by rules.

Often, these rules throw up numbering that is counter-intuitive.  There is a fine example in this, the second installment in this series, at numbers 38 through 35.  At 38 and 37, I name two of the greatest fighters in history, while at 36 and 35 I name two fighters who were never named true champion and who own but a modicum of the fame commanded by the two men they rank directly above.  But the rules of this process say that actual achievement within the given division is far and away the most important factor and that fame and overall greatness achieved out-with the division count for less.  This is why we run across rankings that are counter-intuitive.

36 and 35 just did more at lightweight than 37 and 38.  They defeated more ranked contenders, achieved greater longevity in the division and also happened to be among the very, very best fighters at the poundage in their own eras.

Keep that in mind as we run down the fortieth to thirty-first greatest lightweights in history.

 

#40 – Billy Petrolle (89-21-10; Newspaper Decisions 34-4-6)

Billy Petrolle did wonders at the limit of 140lbs and against small welterweights.  He took scalps like Jimmy McLarnin, Battling Battalino and Jimmy Goodrich above the limit that interests us here, spreading his excellence over three weight divisions and perhaps not getting his due upon any of these lists for that fact.

Luck, too, was against him, in his career.

1932: after more than 100 contests, Petrolle finally gets his shot at the lightweight title.  The champion is Tony Canzoneri, a hideous vapor of feints and counter-intuition.  Canzoneri’s left was never better and for many, this was the absolute peak of his incredible career.  Petrolle, maybe – maybe – could have matched or run him close at his own spectacular best but he had a disastrous battle with the poundage in the week before the fight.  His bob and weave, normally so difficult to time, repeatedly saw him bob up onto the Canzoneri left; he dropped a fifteen round decision.  He would never be champion.

This was all the more frustrating because two months before Canzoneri lifted the lightweight title, Petrolle had beaten him.  Stopped only twice at the poundage, by injury, he had courage and pressure to match that chin and he had a left-hook as fine as any in that stacked division outside of perhaps Canzoneri himself.  1-1 is nothing to sniff at, but working entirely within the weight range we are interested in, his next best scalp belongs to Jack “Kid” Berg, and again, Petrolle failed to prove his superiority going 1-1-1.  A series of defeats to the likes of Ray Miller (with whom he also went 1-1-1), Sammy Mandell, King Tut and Tommy Herman also exercises some drag, and for all that it must be allowed that a breakneck schedule like the one he fought to – Petrolle made as many as 24 matches in a year – is going to kick up some losses, Billy had a habit of losing the fight that really mattered.

This puts him below fighters who never proved themselves quite as special but who were a little luckier.

#39 – Edwin Rosario (47-6)

Edwin Rosario had the same unfortunate habit as Petrolle, namely that of losing to the best fighters he fought.  This is a typical habit and one held to by surprisingly great fighters, but in Rosario’s case it is hard to argue that Jose Luis Ramirez, Hector Camacho and Julio Cesar Chavez are the most gifted fighters “Chapo” tangled with.  But for all that Chavez dominated him, these three didn’t have it all their own way and against Ramirez, at least, he also posted a win.  That win, for me, was slightly fortuitous and I think Ramirez can count himself a little unlucky.  Rosario dialed in his right hand in the opening six, which he dominated, but Ramirez’s wonderful shepherding footwork and body attack took its toll late and Rosario found himself unable to control the action, his seemingly perennially injured right no longer a factor.  Regardless the judges gave Rosario the fight.

If he was fortunate (and that’s just one man’s opinion) he didn’t hide behind his fortune; in defense of the vacant strap he won against Ramirez he met ranked men, blasting out Roberto Elizondo in a single round in 1984, that right the most important punch once more, and taking a decision from Howard Davis Jr.  Decking Davis with a left hand in the last round is what made the difference in another desperately close fight, underlining the Puerto Rican’s two-handedness, but Ramirez then exacted a terrible revenge, stopping him in four.

After another hurtful (but close) loss to Hector Camacho, Rosario came again, stopping the superb Livingstone Bramble in just two rounds before Julio Cesar Chavez arrived on the scene.

After that terrible encounter, Rosario would never defeat another ranked fighter.

This leaves him with a ledger of 4-3 against Ring ranked lightweights.  Numerically, it’s not a great mark to leave upon the sport, but Rosario ran into some tough hombres.

#38 – Floyd Mayweather Jr. (49-0)

Floyd Mayweather staged a brief, jabbing drive-by of the lightweight division in 2002 to 2003, a visitation defined by his two-fight rivalry with Jose Luis Castillo (more of whom later).The first fight is the most controversial in the Mayweather canon.  Starting aggressively, Mayweather stabbed with the jab, bagged the first four rounds on my card and seemed in total control.  Then, one of two things happened.  Either Floyd exacerbated a shoulder-injury sustained in training or the clash of styles favored Castillo enough that Mayweather found himself under unprecedented pressure.  Certainly, Castillo made him work, getting closer and closer, buying inches with every half-step and forcing Floyd to flee before him.  This was Mayweather at the end of his first career (Pretty Boy) and beginning of his second (Money) without yet having the studied economy that would sustain him in his quest to dominate bigger men.

Castillo was able to build a head of steam, rattling after him with handfuls of bruising body-punches.  My card says Castillo won, barely, and for those who were dismayed by the rise and rise of the man called “Money”, this fight would remain the crown-jewel of their criticism and certainly it is the closest this Rolls Royce came to engine trouble.  For me, the result was not so controversial.  I thought many of the rounds were close, arguable, and although I do not care for the official scorecards, I think a narrow Mayweather win would have been reasonable.

Having taken the decision against the world’s best lightweight in controversial circumstances, Mayweather dealt the closest thing he would ever have to a nemesis back in with an immediate rematch.  Here began the Mayweather “procession,” his relentless spearing of a bigger man who came to apply pressure, a style not beloved by the fans but one that made him the richest boxer in history.  In truth, there were breathtaking moments.  In the eleventh, with the fight still in the balance, Mayweather turned in a wonderful variety of punches, leading with rights, countering with uppercuts, snapping off the left hook that had been the bane of Castillo throughout.  When Castillo dropped his head to bull, Mayweather would throw that left, countering not just Castillo’s movements but his very essence.  This fight is closer than is generally accepted in my opinion, but there was only one winner.

Depending upon your own personal view of the term lineage, one or the other of these fights made Mayweather the first lineal champion since Pernell Whitaker, and sealed his legacy at the weight.  One of the true jab clinics against Victoriano Sosa and an astonishing show against puncher Phillip Ndou built upon the right hand were the defenses he staged of the lineal title and sneaks him into the top forty.

So lightweight delivers head-to-head monsters in just the second sitting.

#37 – Julio Cesar Chavez (107-6-2)

Here is another one.

Just as Mosley’s lightweight career mirrors Crawford’s, so the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez’s mirrors that of fellow great Mayweather.  While Mayweather jabbed and slipped his way to pre-eminence in his stay at the poundage, Chavez marauded his way to the top.  Although Mayweather spent more time in the ring with ranked men, Chavez destroyed his with such imperiousness and those men were of such quality that he stands a barrier to a higher ranking for Mayweather.

Enjoying the occasional sojourn from 130lbs to 135lbs as he cut his teeth at the lighter poundage, Chavez arrived in earnest in the division in 1987 at the expense of the superb Edwin Rosario.

Rosario was a wonderful lightweight and a wonderful puncher; Chavez brushed him aside like he was nothing.  It was an astonishing performance, one of the best that can be seen on film at any weight and perhaps the single best performance by any lightweight ranked outside the top ten.  Chavez wove punches through the eye of the proverbial needle that night and from the very first round.  Rasario is disciplined, neat in defense, but Chavez, using the bare minimum in terms of room, happily found him with combinations as complex as a double-uppercut, liver-shot  with withering regularity.  Much of the success Rosario had on offense was left-handed – Chavez swallowed the puncher’s blows without a blink, kept him smothered, did the superior work.  On the rare occasions he allowed Rosario to charge, he out-flanked him with head-movement and surging counter-attacks.  He didn’t lose a round.

While Mayweather beat a wonderful drum with his jab, Chavez gave a clinic in combination punching and all that stopped him was the inevitable crumble of his world-class opponent.  After ten rounds of hard work taking fire from a world class puncher, Chavez literally runs out of his corner for the eleventh.  You could almost see Rosario deflate.  He lasted another two minutes, full of guts.

Another first rate lightweight, Jose Luis Ramirez was in desperate need of guts when he met Chavez a year later.  Here, Chavez boxed quite differently, the drip-torture feed of his numbing right hand and his terrifying economy in wasting so few punches proving far too much for the veteran when a clash of heads and resulting cut to Ramirez called for the judges scorecards after ten.

Chavez was on rare form at 135lbs and perhaps could have ruled until Whitaker.  A shallow resume and a paucity of quality title-defenses keep him from the royal climates above, but he was a devastating lightweight.

#36 – Lockport Jimmy Duffy (36-8-4; Newspaper Decisions 60-12-26)

Lockport Jimmy Duffy turned professional in 1908, so while his record indicates he fell four wins short of the magical 100 mark, in reality he probably managed it; even among the elite for the era, fights tended to go unrecorded.

What we know about Duffy, though, makes him more than qualified for this list.

He never fought for the world title, but he bested champions, most prominent among them the great Freddie Welsh.  Duffy was never the pre-eminent lightweight during his career, but he got the best of a series with a man who was, beating Welsh twice to one loss, even dropping him for a short count in their second encounter in 1914.  He also took a decision from Johnny Dundee, the great featherweight and a contender for the #50 slot on this lightweight list.

Joe Shugrue was a superb boxer whose career was cut short by eye trouble and one who, despite inconsistency, was able to beat almost anyone on his day, including one Benny Leonard – Duffy took a ten round decision from him during World War One.  Leach Cross defeated Battling Nelson in November of 1912, but two months either side of this excellent result he dropped a DQ loss and a newspaper decision to Duffy.  Jack Britton, one of the greatest welterweights of all time, had the clear beating of Duffy at 147lbs, but during his lightweight apprenticeship, Duffy twice got the better of him.

Duffy was a giant, for his era, standing more than 5’10” with a reach pushing 72”, making him both taller and rangier than the most recent lineal champion, Terence Crawford.  He used his gifts, pumping out a left jab, keeping opponents at range while piling up points on the cards.

It made him one of the crack lightweights of a golden era, and a name sadly lost, for the most part, to boxing in 2016.  This is unjust.

#35 – Sid Terris (93-13-4; Newspaper Decisions 6-0-1)

Sid Terris was a contemporary of the great Benny Leonard and according to some, at least, bore comparison for all that he was clearly the inferior model.  “Terris was fondled like a second Benny Leonard in New York,” wrote Sam Levy in late 1926.  “Sidney could move with the speed of the old champion and he was just about his equal as a boxer, but lacked his prestigious hitting power.”  He noted, however, that there was an “existing doubt in the minds of the fistic jurists regarding the courage of Terris.”

This doubt was placed in the mind of the “fistic jurists” by a 1924 loss to Eddie Wagner, a six round stoppage in which Terris was said to show yellow.  Terris avenged himself on Wagner and went on a 45-1-1 tear up through the lightweight division that saw him out-think and out-move a veritable smorgasbord of contenders.

He defeated Mickey Walker’s two-time dance partner Ace Hudkins in a “ten round thriller” that saw him handled in the fourth and seventh but come blazing back to dominate his brutish foe in the tenth for a narrow decision.  Terris was a defensive specialist who may have operated only a single level below the genius Leonard but he was, like The Ghetto Wizard (Terris carried the moniker “Ghetto Ghost”) capable of turning the tables with real violence when called upon to do so.  He was called upon to do so against Billy Petrolle, who he met in 1926.  After a fast start, Terris was savaged by a rampant Petrolle in the eighth and ninth but stood his ground to blast out the tenth and take a narrow decision once more.

These occasionally thrilling battles boosted his popularity and quieted accusations that he was “just a dancer,” a fighter who liked to peck out decisions but was afraid to hit the trenches.  He hit the trenches in 1927 against feared puncher Billy Wallace.  Smashed to the canvas in the first, Terris fought back in a manner Leonard himself would have been proud of, and although ringsiders seem split as to who deserved the decision, it was Terris who got the nod.  Stanislaus Loayza, Jack Bernstein, Basil Galiano, Rocky Kansas, Jimmy Goodrich and Johnny Dundee all got the Terris treatment at one time or another and although many of them, like he, are not household names, they were all ranked men.

Nor is the list exhaustive.  Terris wasn’t a great lightweight and he never held the title, but he lists among the division’s most storied contenders.

#34 – Wesley Ramey (141-28-12; Newspaper Decisions 11-0-2)

Wesley Ramey turned professional as a lightweight in the 1920s and he retired as a lightweight in the 1940s.  Most of the fighters on this list, even legendary lightweights such as Joe Gans and Roberto Duran, did not sacrifice their entire careers to 135lbs.  What this means is that nearly every one of the 150 wins Ramey posted in his career were at the expense of a fellow lightweight and makes his resume at the poundage an exceptional one.

Of course it also means that most of the losses were suffered at 135lbs too, but this needs to be quantified.  He posted six of those losses in the final two years of his lightweight odyssey and several more during his ill-fated tour of Australia which included a loss at welterweight to legendary Ozzy Jack Carroll.  Between his schedule and longevity, losses were inevitable.

Ramey’s greatest night, however, came against legendary lightweight Tony Canzoneri.  Canzoneri, then the reigning lightweight champion of the world, was only a few months removed from his shattering performance against Billy Petrolle, a peak night for one of the great fighters; Ramey thrashed him in a non-title fight, winning all but two of the rounds on the Associated Press scorecard.  Canzoneri promised Ramey a title shot but had already signed to meet one Barney Ross.  Ross took Canzoneri and Ramey was frozen out.  On such moments, history turns.

That didn’t prevent Ramey defeating a long list of ranked contenders across the near twenty years for which he terrorized the division.  In the modern era he would have worn a strap, at the least.

#33 – Young Griffo (68-11-38; Newspaper Decisions 50-1-30)

A fighter like Young Griffo really tests a project such as this one.

Joe Gans named him the best defensive boxer he ever met; given the level of competition Gans was faced with in the course of his career this makes him as good as almost anyone to come out of boxing’s first fifty years.  But as Gans himself also observed, Griffo didn’t take his profession any more seriously than he took his training and seemed more enamored by hellraising than fighting, coming to the ring against even the greatest of his peers underprepared

Furthermore there is anecdotal evidence that Griffo’s main priority was to avoid defeat, not to achieve victory.  The rules of the day, which called for dominance in order that judges (or newspapers) might name a victor meant that there was a vast grey area in which a fighter could achieve a draw.  This made avoiding defeat a cinch for a fighter of Griffo’s great talent.

And so he scored many – nearly seventy of them, in fact, according to his most complete record.  That is absurd and makes judging him absurdly difficult.  Apart from Gans, with whom he boxed two draws, he fought stalemates with Frank Erne, Kid Lavigne and George Dixon, each of them among the very best fighters of their era.

But Griffo posted no wins in this type of company and many of those contests were farcical.  Chaotic draws with the likes of Lavigne are impressive but do they really forge a great legacy?  And what of persistent rumors that these results were agreed upon beforehand or that Griffo elicited his opponent’s co-operation during the contest?  The Australian will be back to torture me at featherweight, but as for lightweight, I can force him no higher.  It’s frustrating, because if he had applied himself in the same way that Wesley Ramey did, a spot in the top ten would have been his likely reward.  Even Gans and the other monstrous lightweights of his era may not have been able to stop his rise to the title – as it is we will never know, and Young Griffo fails to penetrate the top thirty.

#32 – Hector Camacho (79-6-3)

Despite boxing his way through the whole of the 1990s, Camacho never made the lightweight limit after 1986 and spent the early years of his career flitting between 130 and 135lbs.  No career lightweight then but the judderingly quick southpaw did inflict serious suffering upon the division in the early and mid-1980s.  Included in the suffering were two that readers of Part One and Two will be familiar with — Jose Luis Ramirez and Edwin Rosario.

Against Ramirez, Camacho’s dominance was a wonder.  He turned in a perfect performance, a true showcase for his wonderful speed; Camacho, arguably, is the fastest lightweight to appear on film and Ramirez is the fight where he really demonstrated that speed.  In the third, he dropped an axe-fall left hand on Ramirez to see him to the deck and only Ramirez’s equally wonderful toughness keeps him from the “ten” in this fight.

Rosario gave him more problems.  Quicker pressure, and that dangerous right-hand left Camacho wide open for lefts in the fifth and the eleventh and saw him on rubbery legs on two occasions.  Still, a wonderful engine kept Camacho a step ahead for seven of the twelve rounds and bought him a desperate split decision.  Lucky to avoid a point deduction for persistent fouling and arguably on the receiving end of a 10-8 round in the fifth, a draw would have been a reasonable result but given the referee’s position on the fouls, I think a Camacho win is the right result.

A true test of character for Camacho, there are those that believe that this fight turned him from an aggressive speedster into a stick-and-move merchant.  There is probably some truth to this; certainly for his next and last lightweight contest, against Cornelius Boza-Edwards, Camacho boxed carefully in taking a much more comfortable decision.

Then he bid the lightweight division, and any chance of making the top thirty on this list, adieu.

 #31 – Beau Jack (91-24-5)

Beau Jack only made the lightweight limit once after 1944 in his doomed tilt at the great Ike Williams, who then held the undisputed title.  Jack was a wonderful fighter, but one who stepped up in pursuit of cash and glory, leaving the poundage which best suited him behind.

Above the lightweight limit he scored great victories over the likes of Bob Montgomery, Bummy Davis, Sammy Angott, Lew Jenkins, Fritzie Zivic, and, most impressively, Henry Armstrong.  These are the results that made Beau Jack great but readers of these series’ will understand that he receives no credit for these victories here but rather is credited at welterweight and, of course, in a pound for pound sense.

His glittering ambition – which made him one of the most bankable stars of the era – limited his standing at lightweight to that which he achieved before 1944.  These are considerable, but not of the ilk that explains his high placement on Boxing Scene’s excellent top twenty-five.  Let’s take a look.

Jack’s finest win was over Bob Montgomery at the lightweight limit late in 1943 winning as many as ten and as few as seven on the scorecards of judges and ringsiders, but in all events winning more than his heavily favored opponent.  Montgomery was favored because he had defeated Jack for Jack’s lightweight strap six months before.  A brutal body attack registered early and by the end Jack was hanging on in desperation; in the rematch, he smothered the new belt-holder’s attack by keeping close and working hard.  The two fought on two more occasions, but Montgomery took the lightweight rubber to prove himself the better fighter at the 135lb limit.

Looking back over his earlier days in the division, Jack did good, but not great work.  His knockout victory over Tippy Larkin was impressive, and executed in just three rounds for the vacant NYSAC belt.  His best performance may have come during his run to that belt, a seven round hammering of number one contender Allie Stolz, who was heavily favored to beat him.  The United Press described his style as “hell-for-leather primitive pummelling” but the more scientifically gifted Stolz, who was riding a hot streak, hardly won a round.  A “menacing bundle of wiry muscle,” Jack applied fierce pressure upon the favorite, who melted before him.  I suspect Jack was never better at the weight, but if he was, it was probably against Juan Zurita, the NBA strapholder who forced Jack to the ring at 136lbs in order that his title would remain at his waist regardless.  Jack was made to miss often by Zurita but kept the pressure on to hammer out a ten round decision from the inside.

Jack beat both beltholders during his lightweight prime and was unquestionably the best lightweight in the world for a spell after his defeat of Montgomery and before Montgomery’s revenge; but he was never the lineal champion and, as described, the overwhelming number of his best wins came at 138lbs or above.

 

Featured Articles

Oleksandr Usyk from a Historical Perspective 

Published

on

Oleksandr-Usyk-from-a-Historical-Perspective

Oleksandr Usyk flipped the heavyweight division onto its head this past Saturday night in the Kingdom Arena, Riyadh, travelling a long way from home to seal his greatest victory. Usyk, small by modern heavyweight standards, towers over most men at 6’3″ and 220lbs and sporting a reach that lineal champions Ezzard Charles or Joe Walcott would have killed for. Things have changed though, and in the middle rounds of his war with Tyson Fury, Usyk suddenly appeared tiny. Fury, a giant at around 6’8” and over 260lbs seems a heavyweight for this century. Usyk, a journeyman in the most ancient sense of the word, feels like a throwback to a more savage time. His greatest achievements have taken place on foreign soil. The last time he boxed at home was almost a decade ago and given the situation in Ukraine and given Usyk’s 37 years, it is unlikely he will ever box there again.

Usyk took chances in the seventh and especially the eighth to take charge of a fight that seemed to be slipping away from him. In the vertigo inducing ninth, it was he, not Fury who appeared the giant. Usyk draped the Englishman over the ropes like so much fresh meat and tenderised him to within an inch of unconsciousness, the sheer hugeness of Fury perhaps preventing a referee’s intervention on behalf of his opponent, and not for the first time. Against both Deontay Wilder (the first fight) and Otto Wallin, a more squeamish official would have stepped in and stopped the fight, and here, too, there was a case. If Usyk seems a throwback, then Fury has been refereed like one, spared stoppages likely to be inflicted upon his peers, he was allowed once again to continue boxing, as Joe Louis was against Max Schmeling, or Jack Dempsey was against Luis Pirpo. But with Fury buckled at the knees, Usyk seemed the true heavy man in the ring.

In historical terms, Usyk is not a small heavyweight. He would have dwarfed “The Galveston Giant” Jack Johnson in the ring and loomed large over “Big” George Foreman. Usyk has every attribute necessary to make an unpleasant evening for Joe Louis, but it should be noted that while his footwork and speed and technical excellence would be the source of the discomfort, his excess of height and reach are the wildcards. Usyk would seem two to three weight classes bigger than Rocky Marciano, mainly because he is, and the towering Sonny Liston would look up. Circus strongman Jess Willard and the mob-sponsored Primo Carnera would both look down on Usyk – but not by that much. Usyk would stand eye to eye with Muhammad Ali but prime-for-prime he would outweigh him by ten pounds, as he would Larry Holmes. We must skip Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield and reach all the way into the Lennox Lewis era before we find men from history that truly out-size Usyk on a consistent basis.

Size, as Usyk has proven, is far from everything. Big by historical standards, he is small by modern standards. What else is now true in the wake of the seismic fistic events of Saturday night? Firstly, Usyk is unquestionably ranked the #1 heavyweight in the world. Of this, there can be no dispute. Accounting for his two wonderful defeats of another “super” heavyweight, Anthony Joshua, he is 3-0 against the rest of the top five and sitting unassailably at the head of the heavyweight table. More, and I have been surprised to see it disputed in some corners, Usyk is now almost as equally unassailably the pound-for-pound number one. The only fighter breathing the same air as Usyk right now is Naoya Inoue. Inoue has been operating at or near the highest level for longer, but the level of his opposition has not been as rarefied. Comparing the first phase opposition defeated by Naoya to the murderer’s row of cruiserweights that Usyk ran into during the Super Six series can lead to only one conclusion. Although Naoya’s busy, weight-class-bursting style has topped him out for most of the past two to three years, only one of these men has consistently been beating bigger, taller, longer opposition at the highest level, and that is Usyk. It is not a matter of opinion – he is the smallest man in my heavyweight top ten.

01 – Oleksandr Usyk

02 – Anthony Joshua

03 – Joseph Parker

04 – Tyson Fury

05 – Filip Hrgovic

06 – Zhilei Zhang

07 – Agit Kabayel

08 – Daneil Dubois

09 – Martin Bakole

10 – Joe Joyce

Usyk lives among giants now and where there is parity of height (Kabayel) he is the lighter man by 15 pounds. This is not true of Naoya, who despite his weight-hopping, still manages to run into fighters of the same height and of shorter reach. The opposition argument is narrow, but the relative size opposition is not and there is no pound-for-pound credential more significant than that of consistently out-fighting bigger men. Usyk has done so and will continue to do so for as long as he fights. There is simply no smaller man in his class.

Not since the heyday of Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield has a lineal heavyweight champion consistently fought bigger men and not since Mike’s hype-infused prime has a heavyweight menaced the number one pound-for-pound spot. Usyk has not enjoyed anything like the same machine support as Mike did; indeed, he has laboured in the shadow of more prominent men until such time as he thrashed them. He is a true manifestation of pound-for-pound glory in the unlimited class. Where does this leave him in terms of all-time standing?

I am reluctant to rate active fighters for reasons that are obvious enough; Usyk could be pole-axed in three by an irate Fury in a December rematch and all this ink is for naught. But what I am willing to do is play let’s pretend and imagine Usyk as retired and consider his place in heavyweight history now.

Usyk’s raw numbers are low-grade at just 22-0 with 14 knockouts. Worse, most of this was built in the cruiserweight division and not the heavyweight division. Against men weighing in as heavyweights, Uysk is essentially 7-0, and only 3-0 against ranked opposition. On the other hand, one of these victories came against Daniel Dubois, now ranked, and the 3-0 was posted against Tyson Fury, generally held to be the best or second-best heavyweight in the world, and Anthony Joshua, ranked behind only Fury at the time of his first fight with Usyk. So, when he stepped up, he stepped up to tackle the best in the world and has become lineal as a result. It’s a hard ledger to wrestle with, but fortunately we have a career that is comparable in the shape of Gene Tunney.

Tunney, a career light-heavyweight, earned a heavyweight legacy built of essentially one man: Jack Dempsey. Past-prime and inactive, Dempsey was ripped apart by Tunney in their legendary first fight and did better in a losing effort against the genius “Fighting Marine” in a rematch, much like Joshua did against Usyk. Tunney then boxed the limited but game Tom Heeney and retired. The rest of his heavyweight career was spent beating great middleweights like Harry Greb and limited losing-streak gatekeepers like Charley Weinert and Martin Burke. One thing that must be noted is that Tunney is matching men who are smaller than Usyk’s cruiserweight opposition to his heavyweight credit. Men like Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev would have been big men in Tunney’s era, but they aren’t counted towards heavyweight legacy for the Ukrainian – either would constitute Tunney’s second-best heavyweight scalp, I think. Tunney’s wider resume does not necessarily include fighters who compare that favourably even to Dereck Chisora or Chaz Witherspoon, the men who make up Usyk’s second layer of opposition.

The point is, Tunney was made a legend for defeating a champion. Both Fury and Joshua were active, physically enormous fighters that Usyk simply unmanned with a type of genius Gene Tunney would have stood to applaud. Tunney appended to his light-heavyweight career the important part of a heavyweight career – the part where you fight and beat the champion, and it has made him a stalwart of heavyweight history. This, Usyk too has achieved, but I have been more impressed with Usyk’s summit than Tunney’s. To be direct: Usyk should rate higher at heavyweight than Tunney.

What that means is that the top twenty at heavyweight is the minimum Usyk can expect from history’s eye should he retire undefeated. In such a case, I would place Usyk in this sort of company:

18 – Ezzard Charles

19 – Oleksandr Usyk

20 – Jersey Joe Walcott

21 – James J Corbett

22 – Peter Jackson

23 – Ken Norton

24 – Max Schmeling

25 – Vitali Klitschko

26 – Riddick Bowe

27 – Gene Tunney

Also illustrative of a point is Tunney’s career pre-heavyweight. Tunney, every bit as brilliant as Usyk in the ring (although notably smaller, and successful against notably smaller opposition), laced up his gloves on close to ninety occasions and his level of competition dwarfs that of Usyk. That is no indictment. All it really means is that Usyk isn’t among the thirty greatest fighters ever to have drawn breath, like Tunney is. He can join an enormous and star-studded cast that includes Mike Tyson, Bernard Hopkins and Carlos Monzon in that. I do think, though, that Oleksandr Usyk’s career, were it to end tomorrow, could be readily compared to that of Evander Holyfield and that means that an unbeaten Usyk, lineal cruiserweight and heavyweight champion of the world, current pound-for-pound king, is within spitting distance of a list that captures the fifty greatest fighters in history.

56 – Ruben Olivares

57 – Wilfredo Gomez

58 – Vicente Saldivar

59 – Oleksandr Usyk

60 – Evander Holyfield

61 – Ted Kid Lewis

62 – Lou Ambers

63 – Rocky Marciano

64 – Abe Attell

65 – Manuel Ortiz

A retired Naoya Inoue would join him in the top seventy, I think, and a retired Bud Crawford the top ninety.

Boxing is dead, haven’t you heard?

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading

Featured Articles

Another Victory for Ukraine as Berinchyk Upsets Navarrete in San Diego

Published

on

Another-Victory-for-Ukraine-as-Berinchyk-Upsets-Navarrete-in-San-Diego

Whether it was inspiration or perspiration, Ukraine’s Denys Berinchyk motored past Mexico’s Emanuel Navarrete by split decision to become the WBO lightweight world titlist on Saturday.

Just hours after his fellow countryman Oleksandr Usyk became undisputed heavyweight world champion, Berinchyk joined the club.

“This is a great night for all people of Ukraine,” Berinchyk said.

The undefeated Ukrainian Berinchyk (19-0, 9 KOs) gutted out a win over Navarrete (38-2-1, 31 KOs) who was attempting to join Mexico’s four-division world champion club in San Diego. The lanky fighter known as “Vaquero” fell a little short.

Through all 12 rounds neither fighter was able to dominate and neither was able to score a knockdown. Just when it seemed one fighter gathered enough momentum, the other fighter would rally.

A butt caused a slight cut on Navarrete in the 10th round. That seemed to ignite anger from the Mexican fighter and he powered through the Ukrainian fighter the next two rounds.

In the final round Berinchyk bore down and slugged it out with the Mexican fighter as both relied on their weapons of choice. For most of the night Navarrete scored with long-range uppercuts and Berinchyk scored with overhand rights.

After 12 rounds two judges scored it 115-113, 116-112 for Berinchyk and one 116-112 for Navarrete. Ukraine gained its third world titlist in one a week. Berinchyk joins Usyk and Vasyl Lomachenko as world titlists.

“He’s a very tough guy,” said Berinchyk of Navarrete.

Welterweights

A battle between undefeated welterweights saw Brian Norman (26-0, 20 KOs) knock out Giovany Santillan (32-1, 17 KOs) in the 10th round to become the interim WBO titlist.

For nine rounds both welterweights engaged in brutal inside warfare as each tried to beat the sense out of each other.

Norman worked the body early as Santillan targeted the head. Neither fought more than two inches from each other.

The younger Norman, 23, connected with a right cross during an exchange that wobbled Santillan in the eighth round. From that point on the Georgia fighter began setting up for his power shots. Finally, in the 10th round, uppercuts dropped Santillan twice. In the second knockdown Santillan went down hard as referee Ray Corona stopped the fight immediately at 1:33 of the 10th round.

Other Bouts

Heavyweight Richard Torrez (10-0, 10 KOs) knocked out Brandon Moore (14-1) in the fifth round for a regional title.

Lightweight Alan Garcia (10-0) defeated Wilfredo Flores (10-3-1) by decision after eight.

Photo credit: German Villasenor

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

 

Continue Reading

Featured Articles

UNDISPUTED ! – Usyk Defeats Fury ! – Plus Undercard Results from Riyadh

Published

on

Undisputed-Usyk-Defeats-Fury-Plua-Undercard-Results-from-Riyadh

The most ballyhooed fight of the young century played out today at Riyadh Arena in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where Ukraine’s amazing Oleksandr Usyk became an undisputed world champion in a second weight class with a split decision over WBC and lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury.

This was a memorable fight with twists and turns. Usyk had some good moments early, but the middle rounds belonged to the Gypsy King. Heading into the second half of the bout, the old saying that a good big man will always beat a good little man, appeared to be holding up once again. Fury was having good success working the body as his trainer SugarHill Steward exhorted him to do, and when he went upstairs, he rattled Usyk, notably in round five when a big uppercut appeared to lift the Ukrainian off his feet. But Usyk finished round seven strong, a prelude of what was to come.

Usyk plainly won round eight and in round nine, he came within a whisper of ending it. A flurry of punches sent Fury reeling. He crashed into the ring ropes which dictated a standing-8 count from referee Mark Nelson. If Nelson had waited a few more seconds, he would have likely waved the fight off as Fury was on queer street. But this dramatic turnaround came late in the round and the Gypsy King was saved by the bell.

Among other things, Tyson Fury is known for his amazing powers of recuperation. He not only stayed the course, but appeared to win the final round. But in the end, Oleksandr Usyk, now 22-0 (14) saddled Fury (34-1-1) with his first defeat. Two of the judges favored him (115-112, 114-113) with the dissenter scoring it for Fury 114-113.

A draw wouldn’t have caused much of a stink and now they will do it again. The sequel is tentatively scheduled for October. Both are getting a little long in the tooth – Usyk is 37 and Fury is 35 – so we will be surprised if the rematch lives up to the hype.

Semi-wind-up

The first encounter between Jai Opetaia and Mairis Briedis was a grueling fight. Opetaia, an Australian Olympian at age 16, won the battle (a fair decision) but yet took the worst of it. Early in that bout, he had his jaw fractured in two places and for the next two months was forced to eat out of a straw.

The rematch tonight in Riyadh was a monotonous fight through the first nine rounds. Briedis, now 39 years old and inactive since their first meeting, looked old and rusty. But the fight heated up in round 10 and the championship rounds belonged to the Latvian.

It came too little, too late, however, as Briedis needed a knockout to win. At the conclusion, the judges favored the Aussie by scores of 117-111 and 116-112 twice.

Opetaia, 28, improved to 25-0 (19).  Briedis, who has defeated everyone that he has fought with the exceptions of Opetaia and Oleksandr Usyk (and the Usyk fight was close) falls to 28-3.

The first fight between Opetaia and Briedis was for the IBF cruiserweight title. Tonight’s match is for the vacant IBF cruiserweight title (don’t ask).

Cordina-Cacace

In a major upset, Belfast’s Anthony Cacace, a 12-year pro, captured the IBF 130-pound world title with a seventh-round stoppage of previously undefeated Joe Cordina who went to post a consensus 7/1 favorite. The end came 39 seconds into round seven with Cacace pummeling Cordina against the ropes.

The Irishman was the busier fighter and landed the harder punches, but the bout was not without controversy. In the third frame, Cacace stunned Cordina with a punch that landed after the referee ordered the fighters to break. That put Cordina on the defensive and before the round was over, Cacace put him on the canvas with a wicked uppercut and Cordina, badly hurt, barely survived the round. Cacace (22-1, 8 KOs) had a big sixth round and closed the show in the next stanza.

Cordina, a 2016 Olympian who was undefeated in 17 pro fights heading in, is a close friend and frequent workout partner of Lauren Price who captured the WBC female welterweight title last week. She now stands alone as the only current world champion from Wales.

Kabayel-Sanchez

In a mild upset, Agit Kabayel continued his late career surge with a seventh-round KO of previously undefeated Frank Sanchez. As was the case in his last fight when he upset Arslanbek Makhmudov, Kabayel (25-0, 17 KOs) finished his opponent with body punches. A left-right combination knocked Sanchez to his knees and then, after Sanchez got to his feet, a straight right to the belly sent him down again and he wasn’t able to beat the count.

Sanchez, who was 24-0 heading in, entered the bout with a brace over his right knee that compromised his mobility. Kabayel, the aggressor throughout, was comfortably ahead at the time of the stoppage. The official time was 2:23 of round seven.

Kovalev-Safar

In a dull 10-rounder, unsung Robin Safar, a Swedish-born fighter of Kurdish descent, may have written the finish for the career of Sergey Kovalev. At age 41 in his second fight as a cruiserweight and coming off a two-year layoff, the “Krusher” was a pale imitation of the fighter that won nine straight light heavyweight title fights before losing a controversial decision to Andre Ward in their first encounter.

Safar, who improved to 17-0 (12) punctuated his triumph by knocking down Kovalev (35-5-1) with a big right hand inside the final 10 seconds of the final round. The judges had it 99-90, 97-92, and 95-94.

Two early fights ended in early knockouts.

Moses Itauma, a 19-year-old, six-foot-six southpaw who was raised in London by a Nigerian father and a Slovakian mother, stopped Ilya Mezercev at the 50-second mark of the second round. Mezercev made it to his feet after being decked with a big right hook, but his legs were jelly and the fight was waved off.

Trained by Ben Davison, Itauma (9-0, 7 KOs) has been hailed as the next Anthony Joshua. As an amateur, he was reportedly 24-0. Mezercev, a Germany-based Kazkh, declined to 25-9.

British lightweight Mark “Thunder” Chamberlain (16-0, 12 KOs) looked sensational while blasting out Joshua Oluwaseun Wahab in the opening stanza. Chamberlain had Wahab (23-2) on the deck twice before the bout was waived off at the 2:42 mark.

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Haney-Garcia-Redux-with-the-Focus-on-Harvey-Dock
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Haney-Garcia Redux with the Focus on Harvey Dock

Ramirez-Outpoints-Barthelemy-and-Vergil-Ortiz-Scores-Another-Fast-KO-in-Fresno
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Ramirez Outpoints Barthelemy and Vergil Ortiz Scores Another Fast KO in Fresno

A-Closer-look-at-Weslaco-Heartbreaker-Brandon-Figueroa-and-an-Early-Peek-at-Inoue-vs-Nery
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

A Closer Look at Weslaco ‘Heartbreaker’ Brandon Figueroa and an Early Peek at Inoue vs Nery

Ramon-Cardenas-Channels-Micky-Ward-and-KOs-Eduardo-Ramirez-on-ProBox
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Ramon Cardenas Channels Micky Ward and KOs Eduardo Ramirez on ProBox

Canelo-Alvarez-Turns-Away-Jaime-Munguia-to-Remain-Undisputed-King-at-168
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Canelo Alvarez Turns Away Jaime Munguia to Remain Undisputed King at 168

Philadelphia's-K-&-A-Boxing-Club-and-the-return-of-Carto-and-Boots
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Philadelphia’s K & A Boxing Club plus the return of Carto & Boots

Luis-Nery-is-Devoured-by-a-Monster-in-Tokyo-Naoya-Inoue-KO-6
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Luis Nery is Devoured by a Monster in Tokyo: Naoya Inoue KO 6

Avila-Perspective-Chap-282-Ryan's-Song-Golden-Boy-in-Fresno-and-More
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 282: Ryan’s Song, Golden Boy in Fresno and More

Avila-Perspective-Chap-283-Canelo-and-Munguia-Battle-for-Mexico-and-More-Fight-News
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 283: Canelo and Munguia Battle for Mexico and More Fight News

At-Long-Last-Marvelous-Marvin-Hagler-to-Finally-Get-His-Statue-in-the-City-of-Champions
Featured Articles5 days ago

At Long Last: Marvelous Marvin Hagler to Finally Get His Statue in the ‘City of Champions’

Boxing-Odds-and-Ends-The-Ryan-Garcia-PED-Rumple-and-More
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Boxing Odds and Ends: The Ryan Garcia PED Rumple and More

Thomas-Hauser's-Literary-Notes-Dave-Kindred-and-Robert-Seltzer
Book Review1 week ago

Thomas Hauser’s Literary Notes: Dave Kindred and Robert Seltzer

Lauren-Price-Outclasses-Jessica-McCaskill-in-Cardiffl-Edwards-and-Fury-Win-Too
Featured Articles1 week ago

Lauren Price Outclasses Jessica McCaskill in Cardiff; Edwards and Fury Win Too

A-Closer-Look-at-Elite-Boxing-Trainer-and-2024-Hall-of-Fame-Inductee-Kenny-Adams
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

A Closer Look at Elite Boxing Trainer and 2024 Hall of Fame Inductee Kenny Adams

Lomachenko-Turns-in-a-Vintage-Performance-Stops-Kambosos-in-the-11th
Featured Articles1 week ago

Lomachenko Turns in a Vintage Performance; Stops Kambosos in the 11th

Mielnicki-Ramos-and-Scull-Victorious-on-Cinco-de-Mayo-Weekend-in-Las-Vegas
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Mielnicki, Ramos and Scull Victorious on Cinco de Mayo Weekend in Las Vegas

Another-Victory-for-Ukraine-as-Berinchyk-Upsets-Navarrete-in-San-Diego
Featured Articles3 days ago

Another Victory for Ukraine as Berinchyk Upsets Navarrete in San Diego

Avila-Perspective-Chap-284-Tyson-Fury-Oleksandr-Usyk-and-Much-More
Featured Articles4 days ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 284: Tyson Fury, Oleksandr Usyk, and Much More

Fury-Usyk-Who-Wins-and-Why-The-Official-TSS-Prediction-Page
Featured Articles6 days ago

Fury vs. Usyk: Who Wins and Why? – The Official TSS Prediction Page

TSS-News-Wire-Jermall-Charlo-Defrocked-Ryan-Garcia-Partially-Vindicated
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

TSS News Wire: Jarmall Charlo Defrocked; Ryan Garcia Partially Vindicated

Oleksandr-Usyk-from-a-Historical-Perspective
Featured Articles13 hours ago

Oleksandr Usyk from a Historical Perspective 

Another-Victory-for-Ukraine-as-Berinchyk-Upsets-Navarrete-in-San-Diego
Featured Articles3 days ago

Another Victory for Ukraine as Berinchyk Upsets Navarrete in San Diego

Undisputed-Usyk-Defeats-Fury-Plua-Undercard-Results-from-Riyadh
Featured Articles3 days ago

UNDISPUTED ! – Usyk Defeats Fury ! – Plus Undercard Results from Riyadh

Avila-Perspective-Chap-284-Tyson-Fury-Oleksandr-Usyk-and-Much-More
Featured Articles4 days ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 284: Tyson Fury, Oleksandr Usyk, and Much More

At-Long-Last-Marvelous-Marvin-Hagler-to-Finally-Get-His-Statue-in-the-City-of-Champions
Featured Articles5 days ago

At Long Last: Marvelous Marvin Hagler to Finally Get His Statue in the ‘City of Champions’

Fury-Usyk-Who-Wins-and-Why-The-Official-TSS-Prediction-Page
Featured Articles6 days ago

Fury vs. Usyk: Who Wins and Why? – The Official TSS Prediction Page

Will-Kabayel-vs-Sanchez-Prove-to-be-the-Best-Heavyweight-Fight-This-Weekend?
Featured Articles1 week ago

Will Kabayel vs Sanchez Prove to be the Best Heavyweight Fight This Weekend?

Thomas-Hauser's-Literary-Notes-Dave-Kindred-and-Robert-Seltzer
Book Review1 week ago

Thomas Hauser’s Literary Notes: Dave Kindred and Robert Seltzer

Lomachenko-Turns-in-a-Vintage-Performance-Stops-Kambosos-in-the-11th
Featured Articles1 week ago

Lomachenko Turns in a Vintage Performance; Stops Kambosos in the 11th

Lauren-Price-Outclasses-Jessica-McCaskill-in-Cardiffl-Edwards-and-Fury-Win-Too
Featured Articles1 week ago

Lauren Price Outclasses Jessica McCaskill in Cardiff; Edwards and Fury Win Too

A-Closer-Look-at-Elite-Boxing-Trainer-and-2024-Hall-of-Fame-Inductee-Kenny-Adams
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

A Closer Look at Elite Boxing Trainer and 2024 Hall of Fame Inductee Kenny Adams

Philadelphia's-K-&-A-Boxing-Club-and-the-return-of-Carto-and-Boots
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Philadelphia’s K & A Boxing Club plus the return of Carto & Boots

Lipinets-Upends-Davies-in-a-Wednesday-Night-Firefight-in-Florida
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Lipinets Upends Davies in a Wednesday Night Firefight in Florida

TSS-News-Wire-Jermall-Charlo-Defrocked-Ryan-Garcia-Partially-Vindicated
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

TSS News Wire: Jarmall Charlo Defrocked; Ryan Garcia Partially Vindicated

Luis-Nery-is-Devoured-by-a-Monster-in-Tokyo-Naoya-Inoue-KO-6
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Luis Nery is Devoured by a Monster in Tokyo: Naoya Inoue KO 6

Canelo-Alvarez-Turns-Away-Jaime-Munguia-to-Remain-Undisputed-King-at-168
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Canelo Alvarez Turns Away Jaime Munguia to Remain Undisputed King at 168

Mielnicki-Ramos-and-Scull-Victorious-on-Cinco-de-Mayo-Weekend-in-Las-Vegas
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Mielnicki, Ramos and Scull Victorious on Cinco de Mayo Weekend in Las Vegas

Boxing-Odds-and-Ends-The-Ryan-Garcia-PED-Rumple-and-More
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Boxing Odds and Ends: The Ryan Garcia PED Rumple and More

Avila-Perspective-Chap-283-Canelo-and-Munguia-Battle-for-Mexico-and-More-Fight-News
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 283: Canelo and Munguia Battle for Mexico and More Fight News

A-Closer-look-at-Weslaco-Heartbreaker-Brandon-Figueroa-and-an-Early-Peek-at-Inoue-vs-Nery
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

A Closer Look at Weslaco ‘Heartbreaker’ Brandon Figueroa and an Early Peek at Inoue vs Nery

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending

Advertisement