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

Ted Sares

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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.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

To comment on this article at The Fight Forum, CLICK HERE.

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BJ Saunders Improves to 30-0 at the Expense of Mildewed Martin Murray

Arne K. Lang

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There was a time several months ago when it appeared that Billy Joe Saunders was in the driver’s seat as far as securing a match with Canelo Alvarez. The lucrative assignment went to BJ’s countryman Callum Smith, but there’s a strong possibility that Saunders and Canelo will lock horns in 2021. If so, Saunders will bring an unblemished record. Tonight, behind closed doors at Wembley Arena he advanced his ledger to 30-0 (14) with a predictably one-sided decision over UK veteran Martin Murray. Saunders was appearing in his seventh world title fight and making the second defense of his WBO 168-pound belt.

Saunders, a close friend and training partner of fellow Traveller Tyson Fury, represented England in the Beijing Olympics at the tender age of 17. Now 31 years old (but with the emotional maturity of an adolescent) he is the classic example of a cagey southpaw.  That’s another way of saying that while a purist can appreciate his artistry, he doesn’t have a fan-friendly style. He is the British equivalent of Demetrius Andrade.

Martin Murray was making his fifth stab at a world title. The 38-year-old campaigner from St. Helens, near Liverpool, previously fought Felix Sturm and Arthur Abraham in Germany, Sergio Martinez in Argentina, and Gennadiy Golovkin in Monte Carlo. His fight with Sturm ended in a draw, but that was back in 2011 and Murray has put a lot of mileage on his odometer in the interim. Tonight, that showed as he did not instinctively let his hands go when he saw an opening. The scorecards read 118-110, and 120-109 twice. Those scorecards were similar to Saunders’ tour-de-force vs. David Lemeiux, but that was an unexpected eye-opener, whereas tonight Billy Joe was expected to win as he pleased.

This may have been the last rodeo for Murray (39-6-1), five times a bridesmaid. He can leave with his head held high. Always in shape, only Golovkin was able to stop  him and it took GGG 11 rounds. BJ Saunders hopes to fight the winner of Canelo vs. Callum Smith, but there is also talk of a rematch with Chris Eubank Jr who gave him his toughest test back in 2014.

Co-Feature

In a lightweight match framed as a WBA title eliminator, James Tennyson (28-3, 24 KOs) blasted out previously undefeated Josh O’Reilly, now 16-1, in the opening round. It was the sixth straight win by TKO for Belfast’s Tennyson who moved up in weight after being stopped in the 4th round at Boston in a bid for Tevin Farmer’s IBF 130-pound title. O’Reilly, a Hamilton, Ontario native appearing in his first fight outside Canada, was on the deck twice before the referee waived off the mismatch. The official time was 2:14.

More

Twenty-eight-year-old London light heavyweight Lerrone Richards improved to 14-0 (3) in a monotonous 8-round contest with 36-year-old Finland journeyman Timo Laine, 28-14 (15). Laine fought to survive, not to win, and Richards won every round on the referee’s card.

Undefeated super middleweight Zach Parker (19-0) was scheduled to fight former Edgar Berlanga victim Cesar Nunez, a 35-year-old Spaniard, but the fight fell out when a member of Nunez’s team tested positive for the coronavirus. Parker is ranked #2 by the WBO.

Photo credit: Dave Thompson / Matchroom Boxing

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Boxing Exhibitions: Side Show, New Angle, or Something Else? Part Two

Ted Sares

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Boxing Exhibitions: Side Show, New Angle, or Something Else? Part Two

YouTuber Jake Paul (2-0) says he wants to fight English YouTuber KSI, and then maybe Ryan Garcia, Conor McGregor, and some of the top UFC fighters (using boxing rules). This comes after his recent coldcocking of former NBA star Nate Robinson.

“There is a long list of opponents that I want, you know Conor McGregor, Dillon Danis. I’m going to knock them both out.”– Paul

Jake and his brother Logan are participants in a continuing side show and the more attention they get, the more this freak show will last. In that vein, this writer will no longer mention them except to quote the following from a poster named VashDBasher: “Hopefully these exhibition matches with these retired fighters don’t get out of hand. Not to mention these youtubers with single digit fights making more money than a lot of top prospects and contenders. Boxing is turning into a sham with…”

Exhibitions: The Fire Has Been Ignited; Will It Burn?

Jorge Arce and Julio Cesar Chavez, Sr. launched the tour when they faced off in September in Tijuana but it was done under the radar.

The super-hyped and much anticipated Tyson-Jones exhibition is now in the past, but already it appears that many others will take place. After all, this one—though a stylistic stinker– reportedly pulled in close to 1.2 million PPV buys!

“There’s a sucker born every minute.” – usually attributed to P. T. Barnum

Mike Tyson, coming in at a svelte 220 pounds wants to continue and asserts “my body feels splendid. I want to beat it up some more…I will do it again.” If he does, it may well happen in Europe.

Others are coming out of the woodwork sniffing around like dogs smelling Purina chow but the chow in this case is money and plenty of it. Suddenly, the “seniors tour” seems to enjoy the certainty of a Cher’s final tour. Ex- fighters like Glen McCrory, Lennox Lewis, Riddick Bowe, Johnny Nelson, Buster Douglas, Shannon Briggs, Erik Morales, Evander Holyfield, Marco António Barrera, and possibly Oscar De La Hoya (in a traditional comeback rather than an exhibition) are all looking to get in on the action.

 “The rumors are true, and I’m going to start sparring in the next few weeks.” –De La Hoya

The usually quiet Holyfield in particular has made a lot of noise saying among other things that, “Roy Jones was a good local opponent for Tyson, but a fight with me would be a global event and the only one fight that anyone wants to see is a fight between us. There is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t make it happen…”

But the “Real Deal” also has said he won’t fight for less than 25 million which is pretty much tantamount to saying he doesn’t want to fight.

Tyson vs. Holyfield III? Don’t bet on this one happening.

However, if there is money to be made, Floyd Mayweather Jr will be hovering about like a helicopter perhaps looking to fight Manny Pacquiao in a mega fight, but Manny may be looking to fight everybody’s favorite opponent, UFC star Conor McGregor. A real fight involving Floyd against a risky opponent would be of enormous interest, but keeping in mind that one of his mottos has been “my health is my wealth,” that is not something to bet on.

Ted Sares can be reached at  tedsares@roadrunner.com

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Errol Spence Jr’s Near-Death Experience Has Made Him More Well-Grounded

Bernard Fernandez

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Maybe it’s a good thing that Errol Spence Jr. had to learn the hard way that talent, like life, is a perishable commodity. Even so accomplished a world boxing champion as Spence had to discover that harsh reality in the blink of an eye, or however long as it took for his fast-moving sports car to veer out of control and produce a knockdown far more perilous than anything the man known as “The Truth” ever has had to face in the ring, or likely ever will.

The Errol Spence Jr. (26-0, 21 KOs) who puts his IBF and WBC welterweight championships on the line against two-division former titlist Danny “Swift” Garcia (36-2, 21 KOs) Saturday night in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, could have, and maybe even should have, died in the early morning hours of October 10, 2019, on a virtually open stretch of highway near Interstate 30 in downtown Dallas. Spence’s white Ferrari, capable of hitting speeds up to 200 mph, went over the center median and flipped over several times. It seemed miraculous that Spence (who was cited for misdemeanor driving under the influence), who sustained significant injuries, could be ejected from the car yet somehow recover to the point where he could fight another day.

“It’s just a miracle for things to turn out like they did,” Spence has said. “For anybody to be ejected out of a Ferrari … I mean, it could have been so much worse. I could have lost a leg, an arm. I could have been paralyzed or had brain damage. I could have been killed right then and there. But I didn’t have to deal with any of that. I’m just blessed. I’m definitely going to heed this warning. You go through what I did, you definitely don’t take things for granted as I once did.”

His professional return Saturday night will not only be met with as much public anticipation as is standard for fighters occupying as elite a level as does Spence, but even more so given his career-long 14½-month layoff (his most recent bout was a 12-round split decision over Shawn Porter on September 28, 2019) and questions attendant to how well he has recovered from his near-catastrophic experience. Has the ordeal in any way diminished him physically or psychologically? Was he imprudent in choosing to forego a less-risky tune-up fight for a matchup with the very formidable Garcia, who previously has held the WBC and WBA super lightweight and WBC welterweight belts? Can he demonstrate that he still is as special a fighter as he had been before his car crashed? Or maybe even better?

Not all of the answers will be provided in the Showtime Pay-Per-View main event, but enough will be to ascertain whether Spence can still claim to be the best 147-pound fighter on the planet (as listed in The Ring magazine ratings) or, even if victorious, reveal himself to be at least somewhat damaged goods.

Not that he was prone to preening and chest-thumping before, but, if anything, Spence, although highly confident he will come away with his undefeated record extended, still presents a public posture similar to that of his understated trainer, Derrick James. That is a stark contrast to the bombast for which Garcia’s father-trainer, Angel Garcia, is noted, and has even ratcheted up a notch for this fight. Angel has even gone on record as predicting that Danny will stop Spence in seven rounds.

“He’s going to go out there and show the world what true champions are made of,” Angel said of what he expects from his son, a +340 underdog in contrast to Spence’s -450 favoritism. “Danny don’t just know how to win, he knows how to kick your ass.”

Noting that his date with Spence had already been twice-delayed, the 32-year-old Danny figures all good things come to those who wait, and his patience is about to be rewarded. “Boxing is a sport of timing,” he said. “And the time is now. I feel great. I had a tremendous camp and did everything I’m supposed to do. Now it’s time to go out there and do what I do best, and win.

“I’ve been the underdog in many fights. I don’t worry about the critics or the media. I know that I’m a great champion, and a great fighter. And that’s what I’m going to prove Saturday night.”

James, for his part, is only too glad to yield the megaphone to Angel Garcia. He’s not about to talk smack about the Garcias because, well, he believes no good can come for those who brag about what they expect to do before they do it.

“I don’t make predictions for myself or my guy, but (Angel Garcia) is supposed to believe in himself,” James said. “He’s supposed to believe in what he thinks his son is going to do. Why wouldn’t he? At the same time, we feel the exact same way. I don’t go in there saying we are going to get a knockout. I can’t predict anything like that. But I can predict that we will be victorious.

“My guy’s quiet, I’m quiet. If you believe in yourself, you don’t have to talk about it.”

Any changes in Spence might not be obvious inside the ropes, but he insists his lifestyle has undergone a radical makeover that can only serve to benefit him in the time he has left at or near the top of a brutal sport that chews up and spits out those who can’t appreciate that today’s glory can soon become tomorrow’s memory.  For one thing, he has traded a Ferrari’s massive horsepower for, well, a different sort of horse power.

“I think it did renew my focus and got me back to the thing that got me to the top of the mountain,” he said of his reconfigured priorities stemming from the accident. “After a fight I started taking a week off, then two weeks off to a month off. Now I’m grinding hard again. You realize that having this time on earth is a luxury. Being young (Spence was 29 at the time of the crash, and is now 30), you think you’re invincible. You think nothing bad can happen to you. But when something does happen to you, you realize that time is important, especially time spent with your family and loved ones.

“That’s why I actually moved out of downtown (Dallas), got a ranch with horses, cattle and things like that. I got a pool and I’m outside with my kids. I just had a newborn son.”

Still, Spence knows that saying he’s as good, or better, than he previously had been is not going to convince any doubting Thomases until he delivers the goods. Danny Garcia, proud and tough, poses the test he needs to pass before any lingering suspicions can be laid to rest.

“I’m a realist,” Spence said. “I know people have a lot of questions. Am I still the same? Am I a shadow of myself? Those are questions that need to be answered.”

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