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TSS Survey: 30 Notables Weigh in on the Most Overrated and Underrated Boxers

Ted Sares

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Overrated

PART ONE (A-K)  OF A TWO-PART SURVEY — In this month’s survey, we asked our respondents to name the most overrated and most underrated boxers, active or retired. There was little agreement in the overrated category although Joe Calzaghe and Mike Tyson were both named twice. This was not the case with the most underrated where Ezzard Charles (pictured) made a strong showing as did Mike McCallum. John Scully and J. Russell Peltz threw us a curve call by nominating Rocky Marciano in both categories.

Here are the responses with the respondents listed in alphabetical order:

MATT ANRZEJEWSKI – TSS boxing writerMost underrated: Junior Jones. He has a Hall of Fame resume that includes wins against Hall of Famers Marco Antonio Barrera and Orlando Canizales. Jones had tremendous boxing ability and one of the top jabs of his era. He is unfortunately judged too much on some losses, particularly a couple early in his career, but his body of work is outstanding and, in my opinion, he belongs in Canastota. The most overrated is Adrien Broner. I am not talking the current version of Broner but the prime version of a few years ago. Broner is a guy who beat up on “C” level fighters, struggled with “B” level type fighters and lost when he took any steps further up in class. Yes, he won some belts along the way but that is more the era we are in along with some excellent management.

JOE BRUNO former New York City sportswriter; prolific author: Overrated – Muhammad Ali, without a doubt. He was only the greatest because he said so. Lost a decision to Leon Spinks in Spinks eighth pro fight. Five losses total. Enough said. Underrated- Rocky Marciano – won 49 straight, 43 by KO and people still question his ability. He fought the best of his time; some of them twice. What else could he have done?

STEVE CANTON – author, historian and President of the Florida Boxing Hall Of Fame: Among the most underrated boxers, in my opinion, would have to be Davey Moore, the Springfield Rifle, featherweight champion from the 1950’s and 60’s. He was our U.S. representative in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and went on to a great professional career and was a dominant world champion until his untimely death following his ill-fated bout with Sugar Ramos. His final record was 59-7-1-1. Sadly, he has been overlooked for enshrinement into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Two other names who I feel are also underrated are Italian junior welterweight champion Duilio Loi who won two of three from the great Carlos Ortiz along with defeating many other top names and retired with a final record of 115-3-8 and Mike McCallum, who retired with a professional record of 49-5-1 and was 240-10 as an amateur. Although both Loi and McCallum have been inducted into the IBHOF their names are not really brought up with the all-time greats and they should be.

CHARLIE DWYER – former professional referee and member of U.S. Marine Corps Boxing Hall of Fame: The most underrated boxer is Ezzard Charles. He was heavyweight champion and fought the metal of his division. What is forgotten is the fact that he was one of the best light heavyweights of all time. He defeated many top light heavy contenders and KO’d the “Old Mongoose” Archie Moore. Most of Ezzard’s losses were near the end of his career when he probably shouldn’t have been fighting. He never got his just due.

The most overrated boxer was Lamar Clark. As a heavyweight out of Utah in the late 50’s, he was knocking out everyone in sight. He was a stablemate of middleweight champion Gene Fullmer. Lamar had about 30 KOs in a row; in fact, on one show in late 1958, he KOd six opponents in one night. Because of his punching power, size, and the region he came from, Lamar was being hailed as the second coming of Jack Dempsey. Finally in early 1960, Lamar was matched with tough fringe contender Bartolo Soni. After going all out for a KO and flooring Soni, Clark faded and was stopped on his feet late in the fight. In 1961 Clark was KOd in two rounds by an upcoming Cassius Clay but not before staggering Clay with an overhand right in the first round. Lamar made some noise, but never lived up to the hype.

JEFFREY FREEMAN (aka Boxing Digest) – TSS New England correspondent: Olympian Teófilo Stevenson was grossly overrated by a left-leaning U.S. media that shamelessly promoted him over his professional American counterparts with little or nothing to go on. “Stevenson would’ve beaten Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes.” No, he would not have. Better than being embarrassed like Jorge Luis Gonzalez against Riddick Bowe, Stevenson is now the undefeated heavyweight champion of many imaginations. We found out exactly what happens when Cuba sends their best. Does Rigo ring a bell? Yuriorkis Gamboa or bust? Maybe Odlanier Solis and Luis Ortiz should have never turned pro and just stayed amateur.

Liverpool’s Tony “Bomber” Bellew is the most underrated active fighter out there. He’ll get beat by anybody half decent they say. Really? Bellew is a light heavyweight who won a cruiserweight world title and remains undefeated (2-0 with two TKOs of David Haye) at heavyweight where his biggest dreams might yet come true. If Bellew fights comebacking clown Tyson Fury, my money is on the good little man who takes his career more seriously. If Bellew goes back down to cruiserweight for a shot at Oleksandr Usyk, don’t be too shocked if Bellew emerges with the undisputed cruiserweight championships or a hell of a good story to tell in the pubs someday.

CLARENCE GEORGE – boxing writer and historian: Plenty of candidates on both sides of the aisle, but Ingemar Johansson stands out among the underrated. His performances against Eddie Machen and Floyd Patterson were very impressive, and he had a magnificent right hand — “He left it perched on the side of his chin like a pigeon on a cornice,” wrote A. J. Liebling, “depending on it to take flight when its moment came.” Although not one of the giants, he nevertheless deserves greater appreciation. That’s on the one hand. On the other, Keith Thurman’s reputation is mystifying. His inactivity alone is cause for re-evaluation. His last three fights took place in July 2015, June 2016, and, most “recently,” in March 2017. Elaine Benes would not deem him at all “sponge-worthy.”

LEE GROVES – author, writer and CompuBox wizard:  Underrated — Gene Tunney: Only one loss and one draw in nearly 80 fights, and that loss (to all-time pound-for-pound great Harry Greb, no less) was avenged several times over. Incredibly intelligent inside and outside the ring, Tunney also possessed enough grit and resourcefulness to survive a horrific beating and bloodletting at Greb’s hands and to fend off (and later knock down) a rampaging Jack Dempsey in their rematch. Yes, his time as heavyweight champion was limited to two fights, but he made the most of his opportunities, and before he dethroned Dempsey he was long considered one of the world’s best light heavyweights. “The Fighting Marine” was a truly underrated — and under-appreciated — fighter.

Overrated — Ingemar Johansson: My criterion for this category may be a bit different than most. To me, Johansson is overrated because he was elected into the International Boxing Hall of Fame by a majority of voters in 2002 despite going 1-2 in championship fights (where the strongest cases for induction are created), and, in both losses, he was knocked out by the man he dethroned. Champions, especially heavyweights since that division is so deeply historic, normally have a pretty high bar to clear in order to be considered (much less inducted), but, apparently, his one magical night against Patterson — and it was indeed magical — was enough in itself to merit induction in enough eyes.

HENRY HASCUP – historian; President of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame: Underrated -Luis Manuel Rodriguez. Most people point to his loses to Emile Griffith but they fought four times and any one of those fights could have been scored the other way. He beat some of the best fighters from welterweight to light heavyweight. He is also one of ONLY two fighters in history who, after fighting 100 pro bouts, held a win over every opponent he had met in a pro ring.

Overrated is much harder as I never like to downgrade anyone that ever stepped into the squared circle.

DANNY HOWARD – boxing writer: Underrated? Michael Moorer. Was a dominant light heavyweight champ before becoming the second 175lb champ to win a belt at heavyweight and the first southpaw heavyweight champ ever. He was a top 5 heavy in the 90s in a deep era.

Overrated? Joe Calzaghe. Played it safe and his best win was against a never-was in Jeff Lacy.

JEFF JOWETTlongtime boxing scribe: Underrated: Georgie Benton. What boxing should be all about. A master technician who could stand toe-to-toe without being hit with a solid punch while getting enough leverage to deal out punishing blows in return, as opposed to defensive boxers who circle the ring on their toes, cut down on actual combat time and lack power. This was the sport at its best, a balance between defense and offense that made for exciting fights without having just two opponents blasting away on each other’s heads. Because of the economics and politics of boxing, there was a generation of post-war African-American master boxers who didn’t have a level playing field, Benton among them. Stevie Farhood once wrote an article in Kayo magazine about the 12 best boxers never to get a title shot, and ten of them were African-Americans, mostly post-war but before this writer’s time. So, my personal pick would be Georgie Benton.

Overrated: Barry McGuigan. Sorry about this; he really just represents a whole class of manufactured title holders since the devolution of the very meaning of “champion”, and so could be easily interchanged with a whole host of boxers with similar careers; meteoric rise and precipitous fall from grace, followed by little of note. He lost decisively while at the pinnacle, then instead of immediately launching a campaign to regain the title and recoup his reputation, stayed out for two critical years (I don’t know why; probably contracts), won three decent contests and then got knocked out, never fighting again. OK, so what’s so terrible about this? A good career, yes, and deserving of recognition in its own right. But he’s in the International Boxing Hall of Fame!!! This just isn’t my idea of a genuine HOF career; hence, overrated.

STUART KIRSCHENBAUM – Boxing Commissioner Emeritus, State of Michigan: I rate Rocky Marciano as the most overrated boxer of all time. Before I get in trouble with the American Italian Anti-Defamation League, I base my opinion on my years of experience approving boxing matches as a Commissioner. Let me dissect Rocky’s iconic 49-0 unbeaten heavyweight record.  In his first 15 fights only one opponent had more than nine fights. In his next 34 fights his opponents had collectively 471 loses. His wins were over aging boxers on their way down the ladder as Rocky climbed over them to the top.

I rate Charley Burley as the most underrated boxer of all time. Charley never had a chance to fight for a world championship. During his career he defeated future world champions Fritzie Zivic, Billy Soose and Archie Moore. He won 84 of his 98 professional fights without ever being stopped. My late friend Allen Rosenfeld wrote the book “Charley Burley, The Life and Hard Times of an Uncrowned Champion”. The book is over 600 pages…a biblical treatise supporting my choice.

BRUCE KIELTY- boxing matchmaker, manager, and historian: I rate Wesley Ramey, master boxer, as one of the most underrated. He was too good for his own good and was not a major ticket seller (due to his slick style instead of blood and guts) so promoters did not have an incentive to give him a title shot. Heck, if respected boxing historian Hank Kaplan didn’t cite Ramey’s credentials during his own (Kaplan’s) IBHOF induction speech, Ramey might not have ever entered the HOF himself.

Thanks to all the contributors and especially Jim Lampley who took time out from his busy schedule to write an in-depth response to our survey questions. Lampley’s provocative entry opens Part Two arriving shortly. Stay tuned.

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Berchelt TKOs Valenzuela in Mexico City

David A. Avila

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Mexico’s Miguel Berchelt hammered his way to a decisive knockout victory over fellow Mexican Eleazar Valenzuela in a non-title light fight on Saturday.

After nearly nine months off, WBC super featherweight titlist Berchelt (38-1, 34 KOs) unraveled a withering body attack including numerous low blows but Valenzuela remained upright in front of a sparse TV studio audience until he could take it no longer.

Berchelt used a seven-punch combination to knock the senses out of the very tough Valenzuela who hails from Sinaloa. The referee saw enough and stopped the fight with Valenzuela leaning against the ropes with a dazed look.

The champion from Cancun used a triple left hook in the first round to floor Valenzuela and it looked like the fight would not last more than two rounds. But Valenzuela, a sturdy veteran, bored into Berchelt to keep him off balance and was able to stop the momentum.

It did not last.

A vicious attack to the body sapped the energy from Valenzuela who has fought many elite fighters in the past, but none like Berchelt. He was able to batter the veteran round after round.

Valenzuela sought to reverse the momentum with some combinations of his own. Berchelt opened up with some combinations from the outside and cracked his foe with some skull-numbing blows that clearly affected Valenzuela’s senses. The referee wisely stopped the fight at 1:03 of the sixth round to give the win to Berchelt by knockout.

The victory opens the door to a potential clash with featherweight world titlist Oscar Valdez of Nogales, Mexico who has a fight of his own planned next month. Both champions are promoted by Top Rank.

Other Bouts       

Omar Aguilar (18-0, 17 KOs) bushwacked veteran Dante Jardon (32-7, 23 KOs) within a minute of the first round to win by technical knockout. A barrage of blows by Ensenada’s Aguilar opened up the fight and a four-punch combination forced the referee to stop the super lightweight fight with Mexico City’s Jardon against the ropes.

A battle between super bantamweights saw the taller Alan Picasso (14-1) out-hustle Florentino Perez (14-6-2) in an eight round clash between Mexican fighters. Mexico City’s Picasso fought effectively inside against the shorter Perez of Monterrey and was able to maintain a consistent pace. Neither fighter approved the use of a jab but Picasso was more effective inside with body shots and uppercuts and dominated the last half of the fight.  The six judges scored in favor of Picasso.

The WBC instituted the extra judges as a means of tabulating score cards efficiently. Three judges scored from the television studios and another three judges scored from the USA. It was the second time WBC judges officiated remotely and all six scorecards were official.

Photo credit: Zanfer Promotions

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Big Baby Miller, Roberto Duran and More

Arne K. Lang

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Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller just can’t keep his hands out of the cookie jar. It was announced today (Saturday, June 27) that the jumbo-sized heavyweight from Brooklyn tested positive for a banned substance, forcing him out of a July 9 fight at the MGM Grand “Bubble” against Jerry Forrest. The story was broken by Mike Coppinger of The Athletic who breaks more hard news stories than any other boxing writer.

Miller, needless to say is a repeat offender. He failed three different PED tests in a span of three days for three different banned substances leading into his planned June 2019 match at Madison Square Garden with WBA/IBF/WBO world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. That cost him the fight and a reported $5 million-plus payday. Andy Ruiz filled the void and scored an historic upset.

When the first test came back positive, Miller wailed that he was the victim of a faulty test. “My team and I stand for integrity, decency and honesty and will fight this with everything we have,” he said in a prepared statement. He later changed his tune. “I messed up,” he said.

In a story that appeared on these pages, Thomas Hauser noted that Big Baby had a history of PED use dating to 2014. In that year, he was slapped with a nine-month suspension by the California Athletic Commission following a kickboxing event in Los Angeles.

Counting this latest revelation, it’s five strikes for Big Baby. He’s taking quite a roasting right now on social media. Some of the harshest criticism is coming from his fellow boxers.

Assuming that Top Rank can’t find a replacement for Miller, this is another tough break for Jerry Forrest, a 32-year-old southpaw from Virginia with a 26-3 (20) record. Forrest was scheduled to fight hot prospect Filip Hrgovic on April 17 on a card at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, a show swept away by the coronavirus outbreak. Forrest has been matched very soft throughout his career, but he acquitted himself well in his lone previous TV appearance, losing a split decision to undefeated Jermaine Franklin on “Showtime: The New Generation.” The decision was controversial.

There’s talk now that Carlos Takam is angling to replace Big Baby. The French-Cameroonian, a former world title challenger who turns 40 in December, was billed out of Henderson, Nevada, in his last ring appearance that saw him winning a unanimous decision over fellow greybeard Fabio Maldonado in Huntington, NY.

—-

When it comes to Murphy’s Law (“anything that can go wrong, will”), there’s no sport quite like boxing. Just ask Bob Arum. The most mouth-watering matchup in his ESPN “summer series” fell out this week when Eleider Alvarez suffered a shoulder injury in training, forcing a postponement of his July 16 date with Joe Smith Jr. The match between Alvarez (25-1, 13 KOs) and Smith (25-3, 20 KOs) would have been a 12-rounder with the winner guaranteed a shot at the vacant WBO light heavyweight title, a diadem that Alvarez previously owned.

Joe Smith Jr, a Long Island construction worker once dismissed as nothing more than a club fighter, won legions of new fans in his last start, a one-sided (to everyone except one myopic judge) win over Jesse Hart in Atlantic City.

Cancelled matches have become a recurrent theme in ESPN’s semi-weekly boxing series. The very first card in the series lost what shaped up as its most competitive fight when Mikaela Mayer tested positive for COVID-19, scuttling her bout with Helen Joseph. In subsequent weeks, the manager of Mikkel Les Pierre tested positive for COVID-19 as did WBO junior lightweight champion Jamel Herring. Those bad test results forced the postponement of two main events. Then earlier this week, hot lightweight prospect Joseph Adorno was lopped off Tuesday’s card after feeling sick after coming in overweight at the previous day’s weigh-in.

The undercards of the Tuesday/Thursday ESPN fights have left something to be desired, but that’s understandable. As Bob Arum noted in a conversation with veteran boxing scribe Keith Idec, Top Rank’s matchmakers Bruce Trampler and Brad “Abdul” Goodman have had a hard time fleshing out the cards because with so many gyms closed there’s a shortage of boxers who are in shape to fight on short notice. Then there are the COVID-19 travel restrictions and (something Arum did not acknowledge) budgetary restrictions more severe than an ordinary Top Rank card. Most of the undercard fighters have come from neighboring states such as Utah, saving Top Rank the cost of air fare. Fighters from faraway places, with some exceptions, were already training in Las Vegas.

Kudos to the entire Top Rank staff for keeping boxing alive during these challenging times.

It’s old news now, but Panamanian boxing legend Roberto Duran, 69, tested positive for the coronavirus and was hospitalized in Panama City with a viral infection. There’s been no update on his condition but his son Robin Duran wrote on Instagram that his father is not having any symptoms beyond those associated with a common cold. We will update you when new details become available.

Duran’s hospitalization came just a few days after the 40th anniversary of his first fight with Sugar Ray Leonard in what would say was Duran’s finest hour. They met on June 20, 1980 at Olympic Stadium in Montreal.

Duran won a unanimous decision. Converting the “10-point must” system into rounds, Duran prevailed by scores of 3-2-10, 6-5-4, and 6-4-5. As Yogi would have said, you could look it up.

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Fast Results from the Bubble: Jason Moloney TKOs Baez

Arne K. Lang

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Top Rank was back inside the MGM Grand “Bubble” tonight for chapter six of their semi-weekly ESPN summer series. Jason Moloney, one-half of Australia’s Moloney twins, accomplished what his brother Andrew Moloney was unable to accomplish in this ring on Tuesday night, adding a “W” to his ledger and looking good doing it. It came at the expense of Mexicali’s Leonardo Baez.

It was Jason Moloney’s second start on U.S. soil after coming up just a tad short in a bid for the vacant IBF world bantamweight title at Orlando in October of 2018. Against Baez, he fought a smart tactical fight, blunting the Mexican’s superior reach by fighting him at close quarters. Baez fought from the third round on with a cut over his right eye and then suffered a cut over his left eye in the seventh round. By then the fight was becoming increasingly one-sided and Baez’s corner did not let him come out for round eight.

Jason Moloney improved to 21-1 with his 18th knockout. Leonardo Baez, who took the fight on short notice after Maloney’s original opponent Oscar Negrete was forced to withdraw with a detached retina, slumped to 18-3.

Co-Feature

In the 10-round co-feature, Abraham Nova advanced to 19-0 with a unanimous decision over Philadelphia’s Avery Sparrow but won no new fans with a lackadaisical performance. Nova, born in Puerto Rico to parents from the Dominican Republic and raised in Albany, NY, showed little but his jab through the first seven rounds until hurting Sparrow with a big right hand in the eighth. The judges had it 96-94, 97-93, and 99-91.

Sparrow (10-2), whose lone previous loss was by disqualification, was making his first start in 15 months. He was slated to fight Ryan Garcia in Los Angeles last Sept. 14 but never made it to the weigh-in after being arrested by U.S. marshals on a charge of threatening a woman with a gun after she threw his clothes out the window…

Other Bouts

In an 8-round featherweight contest, Puerto Rican southpaw Orlando Gonzalez advanced to 15-0 with a unanimous decision over Ecuador’s Luis Porozo (15-3). The scores were 76-74 and 77-73 twice.

Gonzalez wasn’t particularly impressive although he did score two knockdowns. He decked Porozo near the end of round two with a left hook following a straight left and decked him again near the end of round seven with a left uppercut to the body.

In a rather ho-hum fight, welterweight Vlad Panin improved to 8-1 with 6-round majority decision over San Antonio’s 36-year-old Benjamin Whitaker (13-4). Panin, a Belarusian who grew up in Las Vegas and earned a BA in English from UCLA, has a good back story but seemingly a limited upside in the fight game.

In an entertaining 6-round welterweight clash, Filipino campaigner Reymond Yanon improved to 11-5-1 with a split decision (59-55, 58-56, 56-58) over Clay Burns. A 33-year-old ex-Marine from Fort Worth, Burns declined to 9-8-2.

The opener, a heavyweight bout slated for six rounds, matched two Phoenix-based fighters in a rematch. Kingsley Ibeh, a former standout defensive lineman for the Washburn College Ichabods, avenged his lone defeat and improved to 4-1 with a fourth-round stoppage of Waldo Cortes (5-3). Ibeh, who at 286 had a 39-pound weight advantage, softened Cortes up with a series of uppercuts and Cortes was on his way down when he was tagged with a glancing left hand. He got to his feet, but referee Vic Drakulich waived it off. The official time was 1:41.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams for Top Rank

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