Connect with us

Featured Articles

The Top Ten Super Featherweights of the Decade: 2010-2019

Matt McGrain

Published

on

The-Top-Ten-Super-Featherweights-of-the-Decade-2010-2019

Super-featherweight has been refreshing after the minefield that was 140lbs and has contained the best fights I have reviewed during this series. There was a complication in that many of the top fighters of the decade only came to the dance once with an equal; there was far too much dusting of unranked fighters, journeymen and alphabet mandatories unqualified for the shot.

This has made the weighing of individual wins more pertinent than in other weight classes and you may find more words about given fights than is normal. Hunt some of those fights down if you missed them; I named this the most exciting division in boxing in 2016 and it certainly delivered.

Rankings are by Ring from January 2010 until October 2012 and thereafter by TBRB.

10 – Orlando Salido

Peak Ranking: 2 Record for the Decade: 10-4-2 Ranked For: 25% of the decade

We have run into some strange and interesting number tens during this series, but perhaps none more so than Orlando Salido. Siri, the veteran, the great survivor of the sub 135lb decade, makes the list essentially on the strength of two draws.

In April of 2014 Salido was spanked, fair and square, by Roman Martinez, the Puerto Rican, who used his equalising straight right hand to drop Salido and secured the decision over twelve. This was a punch Salido remained unable to neutralise even in their rematch fought five months later,  Martinez managing to drop him once more, but in truth, Salido bossed their second encounter, ceaseless, blank-faced pressure catching up to the younger man who was lucky to escape with the draw. Salido, if not quite robbed, had been pick-pocketed.

The judging was perfectly reasonable in his next fight, a June 2016 draw fought with the mighty Francisco Vargas in one of the better fights of the decade. I scored it a draw, two of the judges scored it a draw, and while talk that Salido had the better of this fight too is overstated, he did not have the look or feel of a man defeated.

Salido won fights at the poundage, but nothing that meaningful. It is these drawn performances that put him in contention but the real reason he slips in are the shortcomings of his rivals for the spot.  Albert Merchado defeated Jezzrel Corrales who was butchered by Andrew Cancio who was ripped up by Rene Alvarado. Juan Carlos Salgado and Argenis Mendez cancelled one another out and offered little besides, Gervonta Davis’s best win is number eight contender Jose Pedraza and the excellent Takashi Miura defeated the similarly ranked Gamaliel Diaz on his best night. In the end, by a process of painful elimination it became clear that the most reasoned argument was Salido, who probably should have been awarded a victory over Martinez (ranked 9 here) and who fought Vargas (ranked six) to a standstill.

09 – Roman Martinez

Peak Ranking: 2 Record for the Decade: 7-4-2 Ranked For: 68% of the decade

Roman Martinez had a strange and troubling super-featherweight career defined by oddities and questionable draws. He was lucky to get away with the share against Juan Carlos Burgos in 2013 and equally so against Orlando Salido in their 2015 rematch and had either of these fights been scored against him he likely would have had to make way for his conqueror. Draws are what came back though so he pitches up here ahead of both in the number nine spot.

Key to his placement is his performance in his first fight with Salido. Martinez boxed with the cooler head of a more experienced fighter that night, staying organised despite being subjected to ceaseless pressure, moving laterally at speed and countering Salido with consistent, clean punches.

Martinez also turned in a spirited, clever performance against number ten contender Diego Magdaleno two years prior to his meeting with Salido, taking an earned split decision. This second win over a made man threatens to propel him up a list comprised in part of one-hit wonders but those draws, and his being on the fortunate end of them, pin him back.

Unexceptional, that right hand excepted, Martinez has remained a figure of significance within the super-featherweight division for nearly 70% of the decade; this, in tandem with the Salido victory makes him difficult to exclude.

08 – Ricky Burns

Peak Ranking: 2 Record for the Decade: 16-6-1 Ranked For: 11% of the decade

Ricky Burns is another reason for Martinez ranking no higher than nine.  In short, it is difficult to rank Burns any higher and more difficult still to rank Martinez ahead of Burns, for the best of reasons: Burns beat him.

It remains the most outstanding performance of Ricky’s career, a performance of great competence over a fighter who echoed his best attributes. Both these men were superbly conditioned and capable of performances of real courage but were limited in both power and speed. Burns, far and away the lesser of the two punchers and with no equivalent of the Martinez right hand, was firmly outgunned. Technical surety and superb temperament brought him the clean win. Burns was hurt badly in the first round by one of those Martinez right hands; by the end of the sixth he all but had the fight wrapped up having won every round since.

Martinez wasn’t for quitting of course, and he damaged Burns with surging, wild attacks through the middle rounds to narrow the fight up but Burns closed like a champion, winning the eleventh and twelfth with room to spare. It was a rousing performance that demonstrated everything Burns did well.  One of his generation’s underrated jabbers, he was cool under the most vicious of fire and brave to a fault.

Burns exited 130lbs the following year, unbeaten at the poundage that decade, 5-0, having mastered, in Martinez, a fighter of worth.

07 – Rances Barthelemy

Peak Ranking: 3 Record for the Decade: 25-1-1-1 Ranked For: 14% of the decade

The Cuban Rances Barthelemy may seem a rather perverse choice at number seven given that he was never ranked higher than three divisionally, but he had Mikey Garcia and Takashi Uchiyama to contend with. He met neither man in the ring, but his performances in his two fight series with Agenis Mendez are more than enough to justify his placement on this particular list.

In their first fight, in January of 2014, Barthelemy seemed a fighter unassailable.  His left hook seemed ear-drum shattering; his body-punches drew air in through the collective teeth of those who witnessed them; his jab put commentary in mind of George Foreman. Mendez landed as few as three punches in the first. The left uppercut, left jab and left hook Rances landed in combination to drop Mendez in the second was a thing of absolute beauty; the two wide hooks he landed from square shortly thereafter to knock Mendez out, less so, not least because they came after the bell.

Barthelemy’s knockout victory was changed to a no-decision, the correct decision, and a rematch was ordered.

Barthelemy was not the fighter he appeared to be in that first astonishing fight with Mendez, but he looked the clear superior of Mendez once more, taking a clear decision win despite dropping points for clumsy low blows in both the ninth and tenth round. Mendez, it should be remembered, was no joke. The world’s number two contender, he had split a series with the excellent Juan Carlos Salgado, winning their second fight by way of fourth round knockout and rendering himself one of the best super-featherweights in the world. Barthelemy usurped him, then defeated Argentine tough Fernando David Saucedo and departed for lightweight.

That makes him undefeated at the poundage and in combination with those two superb wins, he’s earned the number seven spot.

06 – Francisco Vargas

Peak Ranking: 2 Record for the Decade: 26-2-2 Ranked For: 43% of the decade

Japanese puncher Takashi Miura, ranked two, is the key fight of Francisco Vargas’s career, the totality of which was boxed between January 2010 and December of 2019, almost all of it at the 130lb limit, no small matter in rating him here.

Miura, an onslaught southpaw who traded on thudding punches and sheer aggression had put away a series of good opponents in the course of raising and defending his strap, key among them Gamaliel Diaz, who he had dispatched in nine in 2013; Vargas met him in 2015 and in a thrilling first round took his legs and challenged his heart with a zinging right-hand wedded to some exceptional short-arm work behind. Takashi, too hard to succumb, battled back and a superb fight was sparked, dominated early by Vargas to the point of one-sidedness. Takashi though seemed wrought of iron, insidiously fighting back before dropping Vargas with a stunning one-two behind a delightful uppercut.

This was a nice wrinkle to the fight, Takashi suddenly producing superb, technically adept punches to swing it into his lane, but it was Vargas now who took a turn in proving his heart and guts. Cut, bruised, Vargas rallied thrillingly in the sixth round as the two exchanged vicious body shots and opposed straights. Behind on the cards, hurt and then punished at the end of the eighth, Vargas sent Takashi scrambling to and then from the canvas in the first seconds of the ninth before blasting him out to win perhaps the best fight of the super-featherweight decade by way of stoppage. It was an exceptional performance.

Almost as astonishing was Vargas’s first fight of the following year, against Orlando Salido. A wonderful ebb and flow war, savage in culture, the official scorecards read 115-113 to Vargas and 114-114 twice, which echoed my own.

Worn by these battles, Vargas was eventually chased from the division by Miguel Berchelt. As we shall see, there is no shame in that.

05 – Mikey Garcia

Peak Ranking: 2 Record for the Decade: 22-1 Ranked For: 11% of the decade

Mikey Garcia, fleeting as always, spent a short spell in the rankings at 130lbs but also served a modicum of his apprenticeship there, putting meat on the bones of his 2013/14 campaign. In these years, Garcia bought the number five spot on this list.

In 2013 he met Roman Martinez, no slouch as we have seen, and who had a good first round; but in the second Garcia established that glorious left-handed jab as Martinez, content to wait outside, seemed lost. Then Martinez sprang his trap, the same trap he sprung against Salido, that wrought straight right and Garcia was on the seat of his trunks looking up.

He was also calm personified, reassuring his corner, making eye contact with the referee then up at six and took control of the fight. That left jab made way for the straight right which in turn made way for the left hook, a staged attack any general would be proud of. Martinez was finished in eight, struggling desperately for breath behind a superb left hook to the body.

Three months later, Garcia met Juan Carlos Burgos who was coming off the rough end of two split draws. Burgos made it difficult for Garcia early with his range but once Garcia found him, he won every remaining round.

Garcia dashes through divisions so quickly it is hard for him to make a meaningful impact and he was not helped at 130lbs by contractual disputes which kept him out of the ring for some months; when he returned it was as a lightweight. Here, there are enough shallow but exciting legacies to see him into the top five. Garcia’s style may not inspire passion, but it is to be admired.

04 – Jezzrel Corrales

Peak Ranking: 2 Record for the Decade: 22-2 Ranked For: 23% of the decade

Jezzrel Corrales missed weight in October of 2017 for his match with Alberto Machado and was promptly stopped in the eighth round of a lacklustre performance. At the 130lb limit, he was never beaten.

It is fitting, too that he is the only member of the one-hit wonder club that makes the top five. His one hit is actually two, and far and away the best of the bunch.

In 2016, Takashi Uchiyama was the undisputed number one super-featherweight on the planet and remained in the habit of importing and dominating quality fighters from outside his native Japan.  Corrales, a Panamanian stylist, seemed just the latest in a long line to leave Japan with nothing but wounds and Yen.

Corrales claimed ring centre, unafraid, rearing and ducking the worst of Uchiyama’s attentions, punching at every opportunity. This is hardly a layered plan but Corrales has an equaliser as good as a poison-speared punch: he is among the fastest-handed fighters on this list. In the second, he moved off before bringing Uchiyama back to ring centre and pot-shotted, especially with his left.  Repeatedly feinting with a southpaw jab to the body, he bought an Uchiyama counter then blasted over a lighting quick straight that dropped Uchiyama and heavily. The Japanese’s reign was essentially over, although he was able to stagger his way through to the final seconds of the round before succumbing.

Jezzrel Corrales owns the single best win of any fighter on this list.

He arguably owns the second best, too, returning to Japan for a rematch eight months later, once again triumphing, this time on the cards. Flashed off balance in the fifth, Corrales nevertheless earned a decision, the fact that it only came on two of the three cards probably flattering Uchiyama.

A strange, pawing, dipping fighter, Corrales interested me from the start with that low lead, varied feints and riffing style. He achieved little else of note divisionally but undoing the clear divisional number one on two separate occasions is more than enough to earn him a top five spot.

03 – Vasyl Lomachenko

Peak Ranking: 1 Record for the Decade: 14-1 Ranked For: 18% of the decade

Too low?

Arguably, but for anyone who has been tuning in regularly, it’s clear that these lists are driven not by the how but the who; Vasyl Lomachenko receives maximum points for the how, but in terms of the who, he really does come up short. Clearly better than the one-hit wonders that populate much of the rest of the list, he is clearly worse off than the men ranked above him. Lomachenko’s assault on lightweight was all conquering and saw him outwit and outhit the best the division had to offer, at 130lbs he never faced a man in the top five.

The highest ranked fighter Lomachenko met at 130lbs was Roman Martinez, number six. Martinez, a fighter we have run into over and again, finally reaches the end of his super-featherweight journey.  Lomachenko tore him apart like a wolfpack before dispatching him with an uppercut/hook combination as astonishing as anything I have seen. In his next three fights, Lomachenko forced the retirements of three different men, most impressively Nicholas Walters, then met with the man that makes his ranking so malleable: Guillermo Rigondeaux. Lomachenko beat Rigondeaux clean and clear; it was not a close fight. Rigondeaux retired in his corner with an injury but did so after being outclassed by the better man. The problem is that Rigondeaux, a genuine pound-for-pound force moved two weight classes north to make the contest happen. So how much meaning should be allowed? The final word, perhaps, should belong to Lomachenko himself:

“This is not his weight, so it’s not a big win for me.”

Rigondeaux achieved nothing at 130lbs, before or since. That is weighted here – Lomachenko ranks three.

02 – Takashi Uchiyama

Peak Ranking: 1 Record for the Decade: 11-2-1 Ranked For: 61% of the decade

Takashi Uchiyama was the darling of the hardcore boxing fan in the early part of the decade. When he met Juan Carlos Salgado in the first month of 2010 it was not the slipping version that would go 1-1 with Argenis Mendez in coming years, but rather the monster that had knocked out no less a figure than Jorge Linares the year before – in one round.

Uchiyama met Salgado ring centre and established himself as the more accurate and heavier puncher then went to work breaking him down. A technically superb performance, it was capped by a savage assault in the eleventh which culminated in a hooking clinic in the twelfth, for all that it was a tiring one, followed by a vicious stoppage with just seconds remaining. The purists were hooked.

In truth, this was something of a summit for Uchiyama, which was a shame because the feeling was he might make pound-for-pound. He never left his Japanese stronghold and the invitees were of middling quality. Still, he inflicted an impressive number of first defeats and in 2011 imported a slipping Jorge Solis, against whom he perpetrated an astonishing one-punch knockout in the eleventh having arguably won every single round up to that point.

There were quick knockouts, too, like the one he scored against the prodigy Jomthong Chwatana and when he needed the cards they were usually wide. His shocking defeat at the hands of Corrales and his insistence upon remaining home keep him from the top spot here, but that’s a judgment call.  Placing him at the top would be valid.

01 – Miguel Berchelt

Peak Ranking: 1 Record for the Decade: 37-1 Ranked For: 27% of the decade

I suspect that this is my first genuinely controversial placement of the series but justifying heralding Miguel Berchelt as the most accomplished super-featherweight of the decade will be easy. That is because he is the right choice.

First, there is his paper record, which is one of the best on the list. Berchelt (pictured) suffered a single loss in 2014 and since then has smeared a series of ranked men all over the ring, mostly by way of knockout. He has fewer losses than Uchiyama, more wins, and more wins against ranked opposition. Although Lomachenko has no losses at the weight, he has significantly fewer wins and fewer wins against top men.

Most of all, what impresses about Berchelt is that he has been doing his business among the top five. While Lomachenko was matched exclusively outside the absolute best of the best, Berchelt has operated frequently in such company.

Most of all, it his domination over that company that has impressed.

Berchelt took the step up against Francisco Vargas in 2017 and handed the superb Vargas a vicious beating. Vargas out-sped Berchelt by a margin which was a problem for him for perhaps four minutes. Berchelt’s greatest strength is his ring-awareness; he knows where he is at all times and he knows where his opponent is at all times. This perennially puts him in position, or something like it; Vargas meanwhile was relying on technical ability and speed to keep him in control. He was repeatedly hurt in the second in what looks in retrospect to be the beginning of the end. After losing most of the intervening rounds in a fight that mounted in intensity and savagery as it progressed, Vargas was stopped in the eleventh, his face coming apart.

In his next fight Berchelt, not one for resting upon laurels, matched number four contender Takashi Miura unveiling a new horror at championship level. Berchelt, who is the best puncher in the super-featherweight division, is also the best mover. He circled Miura as mercilessly as he beat him, bringing the brave Japanese onto a series of stiffening punches. By the fifth, Miura had given up boxing and pressure both in favour of single-shot hail-Mary left hands, some of which landed but never in quantities high enough to win him a single round on my card, or the card of judge Max DeLuca.

The following year, 2018, Berchelt thrashed mortal enemy and number five contender Miguel Roman in nine then rematched Vargas. By now he was peaking. Compact shots follow each other quickly to the target, his hand speed maximised on combination punching, but it is his accuracy during clutch exchanges that sets him aside. Berchelt cracked Vargas in just six rounds and exited the decade the unequivocal number one active super-featherweight. Uchiyama was ranked number one in January of 2010, and it is fitting that these two duke it out for the decadal top spot.

Berchelt is my choice based upon his having more wins, fewer losses and his having beaten more highly ranked fighters.

 

The other lists:

Heavyweight

Cruiserweight

Light-Heavyweight

Super-Middleweight

Middleweight

Light-Middleweight

Welterweight

Light-Welterweight

Lightweights

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

To comment in this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Featured Articles

Vic Pasillas: An East L.A. Fighter

David A. Avila

Published

on

Vic-Pasillas-An-East-LA-Fighter

When East L.A.’s Vic Pasillas enters the prize ring this weekend he follows a path that many from his area have trod before. Not all were successful, but those that succeed become near legendary.

But it’s definitely not easy being from East L.A.

Pasillas (16-0, 9 KOs) meets Michigan’s Raeese Aleem (17-0, 11 KOs) for the vacant interim WBA featherweight title on Saturday Jan. 23, at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. Showtime will televise live.

Once again, a fighter from East L.A. stands pivoted for greatness. Can Pasillas go all the way?

For the past 130 years, prizefighters from East Los Angeles have developed into some of the best in the world if you can get them into the prize ring. Oscar De La Hoya and Leo Santa Cruz are two who were able to duck drugs, crime, street gangs and longtime allegiances that can often mislead aspiring boxers toward deadly endings.

One of the first featherweight champions in history lived in East L.A. Solly Garcia Smith won the world championship in 1893. He was the first Latino to ever win a world title.

There are many others from “East Los” who were talented prizefighters that were sidetracked into oblivion. Talented pugilists like brothers Panchito Bojado and Angel Bojado were derailed by mysterious obstacles that East Los Angeles presents. Others like Frankie Gomez and Julian Rodriguez showed dazzling promise but disappeared.

It’s almost as if a curse hangs over East L.A. area like a blanket of smog.

Many were surefire champions. But for some reason East L.A. or East Los as it’s called by those living in the 20 square mile radius, seems to have a dark lingering spell that makes it extra difficult for prizefighters to succeed.

Back in the 1950s a supremely talented fighter named Keeny Teran was skyrocketing to fame when heroin dropped him like an invisible left hook. Celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Danny Kaye were his biggest backers. Yet, not even they could help Teran.

Drugs almost took Pasillas too.

The fighter known as “Vicious” Vic Pasillas could have tripped into one of those sad stories from East L.A. you often hear about from your abuelitas. The streets can easily claim you if you let your guard down. Who is a friend and who is a foe are not often clear as the colors brown or white. It’s a potholed journey to navigate the barrio streets that look tame during the day, but ominous when the darkness arrives.

Barrio Life

Growing up with parents who were incarcerated led Pasillas to find loyalty from the vatos on the street. They treated him well and gave him protection and a sense of family, but often led to being involved in petty and major crimes.

“I moved out of the neighborhood. I had to get away from my friends. No disrespect to them but I knew that I would end up in jail,” said Pasillas who moved to Riverside, Calif. which is 60 miles east of East L.A. “Nobody knew where I was.”

One thing certain: prizefighting was his gift. All that he encountered recognized his boxing ability.

“He was always a gifted fighter,” said Joe Estrada, who would often take him to tournaments around California or in other states. “Every tournament he entered he won. He has always had speed, power, and defense. He’s always been a great boxer, but trouble was always around him.”

Gangs had always been a part of Pasillas life. He was born into gangs in South El Monte and even after moving to East L.A. it was not an escape. It was vatos locos that took him under their wing and showed him love and respect. They took care of him; some were also boxers.

East L.A. is an area much like a spider web. You can travel a quarter mile in one direction and suddenly you are in enemy turf. Gangs are everywhere. If you are an adult male you can’t simply walk outside a door without looking in all directions. It makes you razor sharp in recognizing danger. You always look out for danger.

Pasillas loved boxing and loved his friends, the big homies, but cutting off one for the other was the most difficult decision. He would train, fight, and win but then hang with the homies and end up being arrested with the rest of them.

“The cops would come and everybody would run so I would run,” said Pasillas. “I didn’t do anything, but I would get busted with everybody else for trying to evade the police.”

Things remained the same until he met his wife. The streets never had a chance. Once married he moved to the Riverside area. It was 2011 and newly married he needed to make a decision on whether to try and make the Olympic team or turn professional.

“I was ready to go to the Olympics. First, I was going to smash everybody but my wife got pregnant at 2011. It forced me to get a job at a warehouse. I was making 50 dollars a week. Pennies,” said Pasillas. “I got a call from Cameron Dunkin and Top Rank. They offered me a fight on the third Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez fight. That was my pro debut.”

Sadly, the streets reclaimed him again.

Reckoning

A move to northern California seemed to change things but the struggle to stay outside the grasp of the streets remained real even hundreds of miles away. Despite the dark times Pasillas still had friends and admirers.

Seniesa Estrada, who holds the interim WBA flyweight title and is poised to fight for a world title in March, remembers sparring with Pasillas when she could not find girls to spar.

“Vic was always very good. He would take it easy on me, of course, but I would learn so much from sparring with guys like him and Jojo Diaz and Frankie Gomez,” said Estrada, who grew up and still lives in East L.A.

Pasillas, 28, had more than 300 amateur fights. He lost only eight times. Anyone who ever saw him fight immediately recognized his immense talent.

“Vic is one of the best fighters I ever saw,” said Joe Estrada. “Everyone knew that when he’s in shape he can’t be beat. Just so much talent.”

That talent will be tested on Saturday when he meets Michigan’s undefeated Aleem. Whoever wins their battle will meet the winner between Angelo Leo and Stephen Fulton who fight for the WBO super bantamweight title.

“I want to fight the best now, and Pasillas is one of the best fighters in the division. I’m not ducking or dodging anyone. I’m going to be a world champion by all means necessary,” said Aleem who now fights out of Las Vegas.

Pasillas doesn’t doubt that Aleem has talent.

“I don’t want to give up my game plan but best believe I’m going to do whatever it takes to win this fight. If he wants to bang, then we’ll bang, if he wants to box, we’ll box. I’ve seen so many different styles in the amateurs, there is nothing that he brings that I haven’t seen. My power is what he’s going to have to deal with,” Pasillas said.

It’s been an incredible up and down journey so far for Pasillas; a lifetime of dealing with hidden traps on East L.A. streets that have toppled many previous fighters now long forgotten.

Or will those same streets show the way to glittering success as former champions De La Hoya, Santa Cruz, Joey Olivo, Richie Lemos, Newsboy Brown and Solly Garcia Smith discovered.

One thing Pasillas already discovered was his own family.

“People invite me all the time to events and parties but I tell them I already have plans with my family,” said Pasillas who has a wife and two elementary age children. “I never really had a family like other people.”

Now he has his own family. Something he didn’t have during his youth due to drugs and the streets.

“It’s just a domino effect. I’m making sure I’m going to stop that s—t,” says Pasillas. “It’s going to be good for East Los. I’m a born and bred fighter from East Los.”

Sometimes the streets can break you or make you.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading

Featured Articles

Hank Aaron and Muhammad Ali

Thomas Hauser

Published

on

Hank-Aaron-and-Muhammad-Ali

Hank Aaron, one of the greatest players in baseball history, died today (January 22) at age 86.

Aaron is best known for breaking Babe Ruth’s mark of 714 career home runs. He finished his sojourn through baseball with 755 homers, a record that stood until 2007 when it was eclipsed by Barry Bonds. He still holds the MLB career records for most RBIs, most total bases, and most extra base hits while ranking third on the list for most hits and most games played and fourth in runs scored. He was a thoughtful gracious man who inspired a generation.

Decades ago, I was conducting research for the book that would become Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times. As part of this process, I interviewed many great athletes. Some, like Jim Brown, had played an important role in Ali’s life. Others had interacted with Muhammad in a less significant manner. The people I spoke with included sports legends like Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, and Reggie Jackson. On September 5, 1989, I was privileged to talk with Aaron.

Aaron had broken Babe Ruth’s record in 1974, the year that Ali dethroned George Foreman to reclaim the heavyweight championship of the world. The thoughts that Aaron shared with me – one great athlete talking about another – follow:

“I was born in Mobile, Alabama, in 1934. I came up with the Braves when I was twenty. And coming from Mobile, I was very shy. I wasn’t satisfied with the way things were, but I felt like I had to do something special in baseball in order to get people to listen to me. By the time Ali came along, things were a little different but not that much. My first awareness of him was when he won the gold medal. And I saw greatness stamped all over him. How great, I didn’t know. But I was impressed by his ability and his confidence.

“Being a gifted athlete, being one of the best in the world at what you do, is a great feeling. But sometimes it’s kind of eerie because you wonder why you’re blessed with so much ability. I’d go up to the plate to face a pitcher and I’d know that, before the night was over, I was going to hit one out of the ballpark. I felt that, and I’m sure Ali felt the same way. That no matter who he got in the ring with, he was better and he’d figure them out. He had all kinds of confidence. And I was the same way. The only thing that scared me was, when I was approaching Babe Ruth’s record, I got a lot of threatening letters. I’m sure Ali went through the same thing with letters from people who didn’t want him to be heavyweight champion. Most of that stuff is nothing but cranks. But one of them might be for real, and you never know which one.

“I don’t think there’ll ever be another fighter like Muhammad Ali. I’m not putting anybody else down. Maybe someone could have beaten Ali in his prime, but I’m not concerned about that. There’s just no one who could possibly be as beautiful in the ring as he was. For a guy to be that big and move the way he did; it was like music, poetry, no question about it. And for what he did outside the ring, Ali will always be remembered. When you start talking about sports, when you start talking about history; you can’t do it unless you mention Ali. Children in this country should be taught forever how he stood by his convictions and lived his life. He’s someone that black people, white people, people all across the country whatever their color, can be proud of. I know, I’m glad I had the opportunity to live in his time and bear witness to what he accomplished. God gave Ali the gift, and Ali used it right.”

I remember very clearly reading to Ali what Hank Aaron had said about him. And Muhammad responded, “Hank Aaron said that about me? I’m honored.”

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – Staredown: Another Year Inside Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, Hauser was selected for induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading

Featured Articles

The Ups and Downs of Hall of Fame Boxing Writer Jack Fiske

Arne K. Lang

Published

on

The-Ups-and-Downs-of-Hall-of-Fame-Boxing-Writer-Jack-Fiske

Hall of Fame boxing writer Jack Fiske passed away 15 years ago this coming Sunday, Jan. 24, 2006. Fiske was 88 years old.

Fiske was one of the last of the breed, a full-time boxing writer for a major metropolitan daily. They don’t make them like that anymore.

In his final years as a journalist, however, Fiske no longer worked for the San Francisco Chronicle, his longtime employer. To read his stuff required a subscription to a newsletter. And the newsletter, in common with Fiske, had become a dinosaur in a world where the only constant is change. It went belly-up several weeks before Fiske passed away.

Born in New York City in 1917, Jack Fiske attended the University of Alabama where he covered the school’s boxing team for the school newspaper. The star of the team, Fiske was fond of recollecting, was a fiery bantamweight, George Wallace. America would come to know Wallace as the fiery segregationist who served four terms as Governor of Alabama and was a failed U.S. presidential candidate.

After graduation, Fiske worked for a paper in Virginia and two small papers in the Bay Area before latching on with the Chronicle. In addition to covering the fights as a ringside reporter, Fiske authored a twice-weekly feature called “Punching The Bag” that circulated widely among hard-core fans and industry insiders.

Fiske had to be on his toes because for much of his tenure at the paper the arch-rival San Francisco Examiner had a fine full-time boxing man of their own, Eddie Muller, whose son of the same name hosts “Noir Alley” on Turner Classic Movies.

“Punching The Bag” was jam-packed with information and editorial content. Fiske had little tolerance for inept ring officials and regulators who owed their cushy jobs to political connections. First-time promoters, the lifeblood of the sport, were assured of positive ink. But once a promoter became established, he had to earn his props by making competitive matches.

During Fiske’s early days with the Chronicle, the top sports in terms of newspaper coverage were baseball, horseracing, and boxing, and the Bay Area was a beehive of boxing activity. In 1955, there were 73 boxing shows in San Francisco, Oakland, and nearby Richmond. The biggest shows were usually held at the Cow Palace. Ten title fights were staged here beginning with Ezzard Charles’ 1949 world heavyweight title defense against local fan favorite Pat Valentino.

One can guess where this is heading. Bit by bit, the Bay Area boxing scene became fallow. In the eyes of the Chronicle higher-ups, Fiske came to be seen as superfluous. In 1992, the paper let him go. “Punching The Bag” died after an amazing 43-year run.

Fiske hastened his demise as a newspaperman by his disinclination to become more versatile. He never wanted to cover any sport other than boxing. His attraction to the sweet science was manifested in his vast collection of boxing memorabilia which dominated every room of his home.

In 1994, Fiske was persuaded to resurrect his column for “Professional Boxing Update” and its sister publication, “Flash.” These were 12-page newsletters cranked out by a fellow from Capitola, CA, named Virgil Thrasher, a big boxing buff with a second sideline as a blues harmonica player.

At their peak, Thrasher’s newsletters had 6000 subscribers, 10 percent overseas. Circulation-wise, this was a big comedown for Fiske, but he was too professional to approach his assignments half-heartedly. Although he held a grudge against his former employer, his bitterness surfaced only once.

When the Chronicle made no mention of the passing of World War II era lightweight champion Ike Williams, Fiske carped that the sports department was run by clowns more attuned to women’s volleyball than to matters of significance.

“Professional Boxing Update” and “Flash” were modest endeavors, but the contributors were first-rate, most especially during the mid-1990s. Jack Fiske was then in good form, as was acerbic Las Vegas oddsmaker Herb Lambeck, a peerless boxing pricemaker. In those days, no one was better at dissecting a forthcoming fight than lead writer Graham Houston, himself a Future Hall of Famer. Houston, who was the North American correspondent for several British publications, stayed on with Thrasher’s newsletters until the very end.

For some subscribers, these publications functioned mostly as tip sheets. When the opinions of Houston and Lambeck dovetailed, one could wager with a high degree of confidence.

Within four years of joining PBU/Flash, Jack Fiske’s health began to fail and he was unable to meet his deadlines. To ease Fiske’s slide to infirmity, Thrasher took to reprinting some of his old Chronicle columns.

When Virgil Thrasher launched his newsletters in 1985, he stole readers from established magazines by delivering information in a timelier fashion. Ironically, he became a victim of the same force. A new generation of fight fans, weaned on the internet, demanded updates quicker than the mailman could bring.

It would have been nice if Thrasher had continued on for a few more weeks, thereby affording readers a tribute to Jack Fiske on the occasion of his passing. But at least Fiske wasn’t entirely forgotten.

In 2003, at age 85, Fiske was ushered into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. As is the custom when an inductee passes away, the flag atop the Canastota shrine was lowered to half-staff when news arrived of his passing.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Eddy-Reynoso-is-the-TSS-2020-Trainer-of-the-Year.jpg
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Eddy Reynoso is the TSS 2020 Trainer of the Year

Austin-Ammo-Williams-is-the-TSS-2020-Prospect-of-the-Year
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Austin “Ammo” Williams is the TSS 2020 Prospect of the Year

Goodbye-To-All-That-A-Review-of-Mike-Silver's-The-Night-The-Referee-Hit-Back
Book Review2 weeks ago

Goodbye To All Of That: A Review of Mike Silver’s ‘The Night the Referee Hit Back’

Kazuto-Ioka-Sensationally-Crushes-Kosei-Tanaka-in-Japanese-Superfight
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Kazuto Ioka Sensationally Crushes Kosei Tanaka in Japanese Superfight

Fast-Results-from-the-Big-D-Garcia-KOs-Campbell-A-Split-for-the-Alvrado-Twins
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Fast Results from the “Big D”: Garcia KOs Campbell; A Split for the Alvarado Twins

How-I-Became-a-Boxing-Writer
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

How I Became a Boxing Writer

Boxing-in-the-Age-of-the-New-Normal-2020-in-Review
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

 Boxing in the Age of the New Normal: 2020 in Review

Boxers-Fighting-the-Best-and-Doing-It-Again-for-the-First-Time
Featured Articles5 days ago

Boxers Fighting the Best and Doing It Again for the First Time: Part One

Avila-Perspective-Chap-120-Boxing's-Best-Pound-for-Pound
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 120: Boxing’s Best Pound for Pound

George-Foreman-vs-Ron-Lyle-A-Watershed-Fight-in-the-Annals-of-Modern-Boxing
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

George Foreman vs. Ron Lyle: A Watershed Fight in the Annals of Modern Boxing

Did-The-Hoodlum-Element-Rule-Boxing-in-the-1950s?-A-Dissenting-Opinion
Book Review2 weeks ago

Did The Hoodlum Element Rule Boxing in the 1950s? A Dissenting Opinion

HITS-and-MISSES-Ryan-Garcia-Kazuto-Ioka-and-More
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

HITS and MISSES: Ryan Garcia, Kazuto Ioka and More

For-Whom-The-Bell-Tolled-2020-Boxing-Obituaries-Part-Two
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

For Whom The Bell Tolled: 2020 Boxing Obituaries PART TWO

Teofimo-Lopez-is-the-TSS-2020-Fighter-of-the-Year
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Teofimo Lopez is the TSS 2020 Fighter of the Year

Can-Luke-Campbell-Dim-Ryan-Garcia's-Bright-Star
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Can Luke Campbell Dim Ryan Garcia’s Bright Star?

Jose-Zepeda-vs-Ivan-Baranchyk-was-a-Lock-for-the-TSS-Fight-of-the-Year
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Jose Zepeda vs. Ivan Baranchyk Was a Lock for the TSS Fight of the Year

For-Whom-the-Bell-Tolled-2020-Boxing-Obituaries-PART-ONE
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

For Whom the Bell Tolled: 2020 Boxing Obituaries PART ONE

Crossover-Star-Holly-Holm-Adds-New-Dimensions-to-Claressa-Shields
Featured Articles4 days ago

Crossover star Holly Holm Adds New Dimensions to Claressa Shields

Fast-Results-from-LA-Morrell-TKOs-Gavronski-Montiel-Bombs-Out-Kirkland
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Fast Results from LA: Morrell TKOs Gavronski; Montiel Bombs Out Kirkland

At-the-Moment-Boxing-is-Dormant-but-There-Will-Be-Fireworks-Aplenty-in-February
Featured Articles6 days ago

At the Moment Boxing is Dormant, but There Will Be Fireworks Aplenty in February

Vic-Pasillas-An-East-LA-Fighter
Featured Articles7 hours ago

Vic Pasillas: An East L.A. Fighter

Hank-Aaron-and-Muhammad-Ali
Featured Articles14 hours ago

Hank Aaron and Muhammad Ali

The-Ups-and-Downs-of-Hall-of-Fame-Boxing-Writer-Jack-Fiske
Featured Articles1 day ago

The Ups and Downs of Hall of Fame Boxing Writer Jack Fiske

Michael-Coffie-vs-Darmani-Rock-Smacks-of-Joe-Joyce-vs-Daniel-Dubois
Featured Articles3 days ago

Michael Coffie vs. Darmani Rock Smacks of Joe Joyce vs. Daniel Dubois

One-Night-in-Miami-Film-Review-by-Thomas-Hauser
Featured Articles4 days ago

“One Night in Miami”: Film Review by Thomas Hauser

Crossover-Star-Holly-Holm-Adds-New-Dimensions-to-Claressa-Shields
Featured Articles4 days ago

Crossover star Holly Holm Adds New Dimensions to Claressa Shields

Boxers-Fighting-the-Best-and-Doing-It-Again-for-the-First-Time
Featured Articles5 days ago

Boxers Fighting the Best and Doing It Again for the First Time: Part One

At-the-Moment-Boxing-is-Dormant-but-There-Will-Be-Fireworks-Aplenty-in-February
Featured Articles6 days ago

At the Moment Boxing is Dormant, but There Will Be Fireworks Aplenty in February

Avila-Perspective-Chap-121-Boxing-in-2021
Featured Articles1 week ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 121: Prizefighting in 2021

Remembering-Young-Stribling-on-the-Centennial-of-his-First-Pro-Fight
Featured Articles1 week ago

Remembering Young Stribling on the Centennial of his First Pro Fight

R.I.P.-Boxing-Promoter-Mike-Acri
Featured Articles1 week ago

R.I.P. Boxing Promoter Mike Acri

George-Foreman-vs-Ron-Lyle-A-Watershed-Fight-in-the-Annals-of-Modern-Boxing
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

George Foreman vs. Ron Lyle: A Watershed Fight in the Annals of Modern Boxing

Goodbye-To-All-That-A-Review-of-Mike-Silver's-The-Night-The-Referee-Hit-Back
Book Review2 weeks ago

Goodbye To All Of That: A Review of Mike Silver’s ‘The Night the Referee Hit Back’

Avila-Perspective-Chap-120-Boxing's-Best-Pound-for-Pound
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 120: Boxing’s Best Pound for Pound

Did-The-Hoodlum-Element-Rule-Boxing-in-the-1950s?-A-Dissenting-Opinion
Book Review2 weeks ago

Did The Hoodlum Element Rule Boxing in the 1950s? A Dissenting Opinion

HITS-and-MISSES-Ryan-Garcia-Kazuto-Ioka-and-More
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

HITS and MISSES: Ryan Garcia, Kazuto Ioka and More

Boxing-in-the-Age-of-the-New-Normal-2020-in-Review
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

 Boxing in the Age of the New Normal: 2020 in Review

Fast-Results-from-the-Big-D-Garcia-KOs-Campbell-A-Split-for-the-Alvrado-Twins
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Fast Results from the “Big D”: Garcia KOs Campbell; A Split for the Alvarado Twins

Can-Luke-Campbell-Dim-Ryan-Garcia's-Bright-Star
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Can Luke Campbell Dim Ryan Garcia’s Bright Star?

How-I-Became-a-Boxing-Writer
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

How I Became a Boxing Writer

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending

Advertisement