Monthly Archives: June 2011

Wlad Klitschko’s 50th KO Celebration, aka Mr. David Haye

Flash back 8 years ago and few of Boxing‘s cognescenti and broadcasting wunderkinds would have been predicting the dominant title reign of Wlad Klitschko, but my how the landscape has changed. He’s even been mooted for IBHOF entry by some, but of course a few certain others who need no identification have been publicly picking against him for the duration.

Well, there’s no accounting for their public affinity for self flagellation, but the masochists have a new white knight in shining armour to make their wildest dreams come true when, or rather IF Mr. David Haye takes the long walk to the ring to toe it up against the Ring/IBF/WBO/IBO champ who already beat up the geniune undefeated WBA champ, Ruslan Chagaev some two years ago.

I say IF only because Mr. Haye has delivered a series of soft level WBA fights after announcing he would move to the heavy division and clean it up in between walking out on several Klitschko fights. The beleaguered British public failed to read the fine print that it was actually the WBA heavyweight division where he would be taking out the rubbish, so they made Mr. Haye something of a reality media star. By natural progression of their modern reality world, they figure this fracas is to be Mr. Haye’s coronation into King David, so they will be flocking to tune in come what may of the result.

Hayemaker Time

Hayemaker Time

At one time Mr. Haye was actually a blood and guts action warrior who briefly held the cruiserweight titles, but that seems ages ago. As a heavyweight contender, he has followed the three ring circus approach much in the way of Odlanier Solis who was demolished in the first round by brother Vitali last March.

I imagine Mr. Haye’s brain trust looked at that fight and plan to break out his fleet footed strategy that takes him into later rounds where presumably he will have a better feel for having his face jabbed into mincemeat.

I will be more than happy to give Mr. Haye due credit if he upsets the big favorite, but given the farcical nature of his heavyweight career with his general disrespect of fans and boxing, Mr. Haye has earned a level of disrespect that cannot easily be dismissed.

WBA Beatdown #1

WBA Beatdown #1

The easy prediction is Wlad notches his 50th knockout in a walkover . His trainer, Manny Steward has been predicting all these great things Wlad is going to do, but he’s a very cautious technician who prefers to set his own tempo, so I look for a late KO as he carefully walks down Mr. Haye much like he did Eddie Chambers.

If Mr. Haye wants to come straight at Wlad early, that would be thrilling for fans, but Wlad made easy work of the previous WBA champ, Ruslan Chagaev, and similar results are expected against their newest WBA hopeful, Mr. Haye.

Objectivity deserves a better place in boxing though, so Mr. Haye either has to produce a dynamic performance well above his previous efforts, not likely at this stage of his career, or Wlad has to revert back to the form of one of his 3 losses.

Could Mr. Haye leverage one of those off performances?

The best and most comprehensive win over Wlad was when the tricky fast handed South African southpaw Corrie Sanders put him down 5x for the TKO stoppage, but what is forgotten in that fight was the unintentional headbutt to Wlad before the first punch landed.

The strangest loss was to Lamon Brewster who absorbed a ferocious beat down and survived two knockdowns when Wlad mysteriously ran out of steam and collapsed after the bell ended the 5th round. Oddsmakers suspended betting on that fight days before because of a mysterious surge for Brewster who scarcely landed a punch on Wlad.

Wlad’s first ever loss was to big journeyman, Ross Puritty, who also absorbed a beatdown for the ages through 11 rds, a fight he could’ve been stopped for being noncompetitive. He surprised the tiring 22 year old Wlad with a sudden attack good enough that Wlad’s trainers threw in the towel.

This is Wlad’s 59th pro fight and a fighter only has so many bullets to fire, so even Clint Eastwood had to ask the punk, “Are you feeling lucky today?

“Well, do you Mr. Haye?”

Alternately entitled Dirty Wlad’s WBA Beatdown #2, coming soon enough(we hope and pray with fingers crossed xx), Saturday, July 2nd at Imtech-Arena, Hamburg, Germany.

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Modern P4P Rankings–Manny Pacquiao vs Floyd Mayweather Jr

by Bobby Mac

OK, let’s start with a brief primer of the history of the P4P concept that is poorly understood by modern boxing fans who too often only want to justify their favorite P4P fighters rather than to impartially compare top fighters across the divisions. Other less than honorable fans are only bent on destructive argumentation lacking any merit based on their personal dislike of certain fighters that may even bleed into unseemly hatred for a fighter.

The “modern” concept of boxing “Pound for Pound” dates back to a series  of many P4P tributes to the incomparable Sugar Ray Robinson who turned pro to much acclaim after an undefeated amateur career.  I’d imagine there are earlier references to the concept of P4P framed in different terminology probably going back to the 18th century bare knucks era and beyond to the David vs Goliath era and then beyond that.

Every new generation tends to rediscover a concept to reframe for their own understanding, leaving the original concept in an increasingly fuzzy state. For the blessed purpose of establishing a set of base level P4P guidelines, let us start with a representative comment penned a few years later in 1951 by Wilfred Smith that is typical of the P4P accolades heaped on  Sugar Ray Robinson:

“Ray Robinson has been called the finest fighting man for his pounds in the history of pugilism.”

The early P4P concept incorporates the values of weight disparities, excellence of application, and skills. The mid 1900s concept of weight is important because the original weight class dating back to the days of James Figg was an open one, i.e., the fighters could weigh whatever they wanted which ultimately became the heavyweight division by way of general consensus. Naturally folks took note when a smaller fighter challenged a bigger one, so fighters were weighed to satisfy curiosity, but in truth, the ritual was constructed in order to harden the betting line since the bigger fighter usually prevailed.

Weight stipulations begin working their way down from that original open class in order to more closely match up fighters of different weights that eventually began to be known as middleweight and welterweight divisions that were further split into the some 17-18 modern weight classes we have today. Weights and ages of fighters were almost important as the claimed records of the fighters in those unregulated bare-knuckled days.

Sugar Ray Robinson fought in the middle range of modern divisions, starting his career at 130 lbs and working up to 160lbs at his peak. He was often matched against larger fighters as was the norm back then, and was always victorious save the first Lamotta loss, his only anomaly in his first 140 fights. The importance of weight was such that appropriately skilled fighters with an established record of excellence across these weight disparities were naturally lauded as the top fighters. The thinking was` that when proportionately sized up and down various weight classes in his era, Robinson could beat every fighter regardless of weight, the ultimate fantasy culmination of a rabid boxing enthusiast come true.

Objective interpretation of the attributes needed today when comparing fighters across widely disparate weight classes would follow:

1. SIZE, as in results of fights with obvious height, weight, and reach disparities that are the historical holy trinity of significant boxing physical measurement records. Successfully moving up through weight classes is very important to today’s generation of more heavily regulated fighters who usually are no longer allowed to make matches against much heavier opponents save the open heavyweight division that sees the dramatic size differences..

2. Skills, as in the number of skills and strategic nuance the fighter shows on offense and defense.

3. Dominance, as in the excellence of application of natural talents and abilities over opponents.

4. Quality of Opposition as in a record full of quality, ranked or otherwise highly regarded fighters.

5. Power, as in genuine knockout power that takes the result out of the hands of subjective judges.

OK, now with the essential historical background and modern concepts of P4P established, how about we move to the main course, the meat of this P4P debate, Pacquiao vs Mayweather. To get to the main course, I have to make proper preparations such as asking the essential question that nobody ever bothers to ask and then look at the answers.

Exactly what are the actual Ring P4P histories of Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr?

Manny Pacquiao

Manny Pacquiao

Starting in sequential side by side career order, Manny Pacquiao as the younger fighter was the first to turn professional as so many future boxers do in impoverished “3rd World” countries lacking a public education system. It was 1995 at age 16, when this skinny junior flyweight scaling 106 lbs entered the ring to earn a hard fought 4 round decision. The very next year, 1996, Floyd Mayweather Jr turned pro after a stellar amateur record including a bronze medal in the Olympic Games. He was age 19 at 129 lbs campaigning as a super featherweight, usually winning by knockout.

Floyd Mayweather Jr

Floyd Mayweather Jr

Mayweather was the first to win a title in 1998, the WBC superfeatherweight belt that he took from the highly regarded Genero Hernandez, 38-1-1 by way of 8th round KO. He was now age 21 in his 3rd year of boxing and earned his first Ring P4P ranking with the win at the #10 spot.

Pacquiao followed a couple of months later by winning his first title, the WBC flyweight title that he took from highly regarded Chatchai Sasakul, 33-1, also by way of 8th round KO. Pacquiao was now age 19 in his 4th yr of boxing, but he did not earn Ring P4P honors.

So, to sum up 1998, both hold their first titles, a WBC belt  for each with Mayweather earning an additional Ring P4P ranking. Neither had yet to fight much less beat a Ring ranked P4Per. Remember though, Ring Magazine is American based and Mayweather was well known to the voters, whereas Pacquiao was almost completely unknown in America and certainly not yet fighting in Vegas on American broadcasts as Mayweather was from the gitgo of his career.

Mayweather beats a Ring P4Per for the first time when he knocks out #5 Diego Corrales in 2001. That upgrades him to the Ring #8 spot by the start of 2002 with Eric Morales, Kostya Tszyu, Oscar de la Hoya, and Marco Antonio Barrera notably ranked over him. 2002 happens to also be the year Pacquiao fights his first ever Ring P4Per, beating #3 Barerra that earns him the #6 Ring ranking, just under #5 Mayweather by the start of 2003.

So, by 2003, these natural adversaries are starting to look like two peas in the P4P pod, but Pacquiao has to become a marquee name across the globe before the P4P debate between these two becomes serious.

Since Pacquiao quickly becomes the best known boxer across the globe, than by all means, let the serious fun begin.

2004 starts the year with some shakeout of the Ring rankings due to losses resulting in Mayweather being bumped up to #2.  Manny moves into Floyd’s old #5 slot and fights his 2nd P4P fight ever against the #6 making his P4P debut, Juan Manual Marquez, in their forever controversially fabled draw. Other notable P4P names that year at or near their divisions ` are #3 Kostya Tszyu, #7 Barrera, #8 Morales.

2005 starts with Mayweather in the #1 slot courtesy of Jermaine Taylor who dethroned #1 Bernard Hopkins. #3 is Barrera who worked his way back up with back to back wins over #6 Morales. #4 is Ricky Hatton with #5 occupied by Pacquiao, notable because he fights #6 Morales who wins a close decision. That would be Pacquiao’s 3rd P4P fight. Marquez is #7, and noteworthy that old Mayweather foe, Jose Luis Castillo makes his P4Pdebut at #9 followed by Zab Judah’s return to the rankings at #10 after a 4 yr absence thanks to a big upset of reigning welter champ Cory Spinks that earned Judah the unified title.

So, 2006 starts with Mayweather still in the #1 slot and scheduled to fight #10 Judah, but Judah is upset by unknown journeyman Carlos Baldomir, negating Mayweather’s opportunity to match up against his 2nd ever Ring P4P. Meanwhile, Pacquiao has fought his way to #2 before twice knocking out #6, Morales in back to back fights that are Pacquiao’s  4th and 5th opportunities against a P4P fighter.

2007 starts again with Mayweather still in as #1. In his 2nd ever P4P fight, he knocks out #8 Ricky Hatton and then retires. Pacquiao and Marquez are #2 and #3 with Miguel Cotto making his debut at #7. Pacquiao doesn’t make any P4P fights in 2007.

2008 sees Mayweather retired with Pacquiao installed as the new #1. He promptly makes his 6th ever P4P fight, beating the new #2, Marquez. Antonio Margarito makes his P4P debut at #6 while Cotto is bumped to #8 and Hatton goes to #10.

2009 sees #1 Pacquiao has his 7th and 8th P4P fights, knocking out #9 Hatton and #8 Cotto while Mayweather returns to beat #2 Marquez in his 3rd ever P4P fight. Noteworthy is Shane Mosley returning to the P4P rankings after a long absence to #5 by knocking out Margarito who has his boxing license suspended and is promptly stripped of his Ring P4P and welter rankings.

2010 sees #1 Pacquiao and #2 Mayweather scheduled to fight in March and then later in November, but Mayweather mysteriously backs of both of the fights and dates, choosing instead to fight #5 Mosley in May, Mayweather’s 4th ever P4P fight. After winning a decision, Mayweather announces a 2 yr retirement.

So, the current  P4P tally is #1 Pacquiao holding a career 6-1-1, 5 KO record against Ring ranked P4P fighters in comparison to #2 Mayweather at 4-0, 2 KO.

Pacquiao is scheduled to fight his 9th ever P4P fight, the current Ring # 4 P4P, Marquez, in their long anticipated rubber match this coming November. The results of that fight are obviously pending. Mayweather announced his return from retirement with a fight against the new WBC welter champ, Vicious Victor Ortiz, this coming September 17th. Ortiz who has no P4P ranking yet, so for 2011 Mayweather looks set with 4 total career P4P fights to Pacquiao’s anticipated 9th ever P4P fight.

It’s probable that the Pacquiao has already set some P4P records that may never be broken in both the number of P4P fights he has already had, 8, and the number of P4P wins he has notched, 6, and the # of P4P knockouts he has, 5.

The average ranking of Pacquiao’s eight P4P  opponents is a 6 with Marquez being the highest at #2, Barrera #3, Morales #6 x3, Marquez again at #6, Cotto #8, and Hatton at #9. Noteworthy is that against 3 of these P4Pers, Pacquiao simultaneously made his divisional debut against the 2 best fighters at that weight, Barrera at featherweight, and Hatton at juniorwelter. Pacquiao could have made his 3rd divisional debut against #1 Barrera who had moved to the superfeather division, but Barrera refused to exercise his rematch clause since he didn’t want to risk losing the new plaudits he found in his new division. Pacquiao’s divisional P4P debut record is 2-0, 2 KO.

The average ranking of Mayweather’s 4 opponents is #5 with Marquez being the highest at #2, Corrales #5, Mosley #5, and Hatton #8. Mayweather has no divisional debut P4P fights in his record.

Also noteworthy is that Pacquiao also eventually beat the #2 fighter, Marquez in this case, to consolidate his #1 status, the only fighter in the brief history of P4P rankings that I can recall having done this.

The more inventively argumentative might claim that former #1 Mayweather later returned after a two year absence to beat the #2 in Marquez, but that seems a lesser achievement since Marquez had to jump two weight divisions to where he was unranked just to make that fight happen, technically a fight between two divisionally unranked fighters designed as an unlikely and unexpected novelty bout that attracted quite a bit of interest, it’s only intent.

Lest anyone need a reminder, Pacquiao already beat #2 at #2’s best weight at the apex of Marquez’s career. Why Mayweather has steadfastly refused to challenge #1 after repeatedly teasing the boxing public by having his team hammering out expensive, arduous negotiations leading to agreed upon terms that Mayweather then chose to reject may end up as the ultimate unsolved mystery of 21st Century boxing.

Mr. P4P

Mr. P4P

Few would doubt the overall skills, dominance and quality of opposition of each fighter. As prime fighters, they generally match up well against most of the greats in history in my opinion regardless of where any fighter ranks.

Pacquiao has also established a significant edge in moving through weight classes, winning belts in 8 divisions and has held all the major belts at one time or the other, the WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO, IBO, and Ring belts. Mayweather has been  successful in winning belts as he moved through 5 divisional belts, but he is more limited in the variety of those belts, confining himself to the WBC and Ring belts though technically he also won the IBF belt from the disgraced Judah after he was beaten into ignominy by the ancient journeyman Carlos Baldomir. Baldomir in any fair world deserved that IBF strap  to go with his WBA and WBC belts, but boxing doesn’t always operate under fair terms.

Pacquiao also has a significant advantage in power as he moved up, notching several serious knockouts of P4P opposition, whereas Mayweather just has two of those kind of knockouts.

So, there it is folks, the current history of the P4P careers of Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. Make of it what you may at your own peril since P4P rankings are still evolving. Many fighters have been able to make P4P lists on the excellence of their records without beating an actual P4P ranked fighter.  Fighters often don’t have an available P4P fighter near their division to fight, so it’s always a bonus when two P4Pers do fight, but that’s no guarantee of memorable classic like the fans are want to project when they dream of these fights happening.

I deliberately chose to ignore the broader overall career record comparison because that’s been done to death and just muddies waters that need clarification. I am more interested in the narrow focus of the historical Ring P4P rankings regarding these two to sharpen any objective differences rather than run off on another subjective dead end, and that was accomplished in this case.

I recall Ring Magazine not long ago updating their P4P rankings by noting that P4P rankings are “mythical.” I would add that all rankings are “mythical”, including past or current Ring divisional rankings. The only thing “tangible” in boxing is who holds which belt, and as we all know, the belt holder may not come close to being considered the best in their division nor may he have any financial or personal interest in even fighting the best.

Nonetheless, Ring Rankings establish a general framework for a consensus benchmark in a sport that is too often is one of the most of the most subjective sports. Boxing desperately needs objective oversight for any true understanding, but that won’t stop every fan, boxing analyst and their grandmothers from constructing their own personal P4P lists, dismissing all lists that came before them, so I won’t bore anyone with my own P4P rankings.

Interestingly, however, I have often suggested combining P4P consensus rankings to get a broader consensus average ranking, which led to me constructing the BSIBRO alltime heavyweight ranking a few years back. That would be the Boxing Scene all time heavyweight rankings compiled by vote by one dedicated fellow named Hurricane that I combined with the International Boxing Research Organization ratings, an amalgamation of the largest fan boxing website with the most established boxing “historian” organization.

Though the top two rankings remained the same with Joe Louis edging out Muhammad Ali, more modern heavies from the 70s era on up dominated the Boxing Scene poll compared to the IBRO poll of older “gentlemen” who preferred the older heavies. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that folks tend to like and vote for fighters they grew up knowing about rather than rate by any serious objective standard that isn’t even established anyway, so in that regard, putting together the BSIBRO poll highlighted the bias that I had long noticed in “objective” Ring rankings.

So, that concludes the Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr Ring P4P comparison. It was a tedious exercise for me, but worth the information and understanding it ultimately imparted.

More Mexico vs England–Saul Alvarez vs Ryan Rhodes

British veteran and European champ Ryan Rhodes challenges WBC light middleweight champ Saul Alvarez Saturday, June 18 in another Mexico vs England title match, this time in Alvarez’s home environs, Arena VFG, Guadalajara, Mexico.

Canelo

Canelo

Last time out young Alvarez picked up his first ever world title against EBU welter champ and British veteran Matthew Hatton. It was a lopsided drubbing, though Hatton did have his moments and made Alvarez work every step of the way.

Rhodes is considerably older, age 34, but seems to be at the high point of his career and doubtless training his fanny off for this once of a career opportunity. He’s also naturally larger and stronger than Hatton with better power, fighting as high as supermiddleweight, so he represents a different type of threat for the 20 year old phenom, Canelo.

Ryan Rhodes

Ryan Rhodes

Rhodes comes into the bout sporting a higher Ring ranking than Alvarez, 4th as opposed to Alvarez’s #9 ranking. Rhodes technically has the edge in fight experience, 45-4, 31 KO in comparison to the perfect career of Alvarez thus far, currently at 36-0-1, 26 KO.  That is a bit misleading since both have logged near identical professional rounds, 235 for Rhodes compared to 225 for Alvarez.

They won’t be fighting paper records, so what are the styles, strengths, and weakness contrasts between the fighters you might ask?

What I know about Rhodes is he’s a top quality European fighter with all around capability, so this bout looks like a competitive handful for Alvarez who has taken some stick for his form of late despite knocking out 4 of his last 6 opponents. All were very durable, capable, and experienced veterans of the ring, so in that regard, Rhodes is following in the same type of opponent mold for Alvarez.

Perhaps Canelo has let his recent fame as the biggest thing in Mexico get his machismo up since of late, he has generally neglected his all around skills to bull forward in straight lines while swinging for the fences. However, against the very stylistically difficult Lovemore N’dou, he boxed carefully, beautifully shutting down what could’ve been a very difficult bout.

Facts are that Canelo boxed well during his teenaged years through judicious use of applied skills and strategy, so it becomes a matter of what style Alvarez will chose rather than him being a limited fighter as so many boxing fans who don’t understand the history of his career are claiming.

A potential slip up for Alvarez is that Rhodes represents the first significant southpaw fighter he has faced, unbelievable given the explosion of southpaw fighters in the past few generations.

Perhaps that’s the reason Alvarez relocated his training camp  to the Big Bear facilities that Oscar de la Hoya always favored. Reports are that he will be finishing up by sparring against lefthanders only, a significant departure from his traditional Mexican training camps.

Canelo Time

Canelo Time

Oscar de la Hoya may finally be starting to take the kid seriously now that Alvarez recently landed on the cover of Ring Magazine. 

De La Hoya’s recently apologized to Manny Pacquiao and Bob Arum, offering an olive branch of reconciliation for the promotion of future fights, so a Miguel Cotto fight against Saul Alvarez could be in the works. It certainly ticks the Puerto Rico vs Mexican rivalry boxes to go with Cotto attempting to avenge the knockout of his brother at the hands of Alvarez, not to mention both having the star power to pull the superfight PPV numbers that every promoter dreams of.

First things first, though, the baby fresh kid vs the crafty ol’ git, Mexico vs England, so who you gonna go with for all the marbles? 

===Parallels=== of Muhammad Ali & Jerry Quarry

by Bobby Mac

Muhammad Ali and Jerry Quarry fought each other twice in the early 70s, never for a world title but for the opportunity of projected future stakes.

Ali vs Quarry

Ali vs Quarry

Ali won both times via early cut stoppages that always lent an anti-climatic ending to the fights before they seemed to be properly warmed up. The best action of the abbreviated series for me was the 2nd fight when Quarry picked up Ali on his shoulder at one frustrating point and threatened to dump him onto the arena concrete floor before setting him down again.

Quarry was understandably upset both times with the stoppages, yet always in vain since The Powers That Be that conspire with The Fates always had bigger things in store for the Gold Medalist darling of the 1960 Olympic Games who was well on his way to becoming Muhammad Ali of legend.

Despite the divergence of their careers,  Ali the long time champ with Quarry as the long time contender, there are enough parallels between Ali and Quarry that it could almost be said that Ali was the long lost “eldestth” brother of Jerry, Mike, Bobby and James Quarry.

OK, so Ali had his own brother in boxing, Rudy, so maybe that’s stretching things too far, but hear me out on the parallels as we follow their timelines.

Ali and Quarry both turned pro as popular teenagers after acclaimed amateur careers and experienced great success. Ali  got his first title shot at age 22 against Sonny Liston, whereas 22yr old Quarry proved himself against the widely ducked contender of the 50-60s, Eddie Machen. Though there was a stark difference in results, I thought Quarry did enough to pocket the win against the crafty Machen in their non title affair. The close loss against a defensive minded Machen turned out to be a plague that resurfaced like a bad rash at the most inopportune moments for the rest of Quarry’s career.

Both Ail and Quarry were involved in Ring Fights of the Year for their first title shots, Ali against aforementioned Liston in 1964, and Quarry in 1969 against a prime Joe Frazier in what is surely the most ferociously fought battle of the modern heavyweight era. The blistering pace and the bruising phone booth style slugging that sees Quarry and Frazier hammer each other back and forth across the ring simply has to be witnessed to be believed.:

Follow the relevant links to the conclusion:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqGZIYpOF9M

Jerry Quarry was three years younger than Ali and one year younger than Frazier, first appearing in Ring rankings during Ali’s last year of boxing, 1967, the fateful year that Ali’s draft conviction propelled him into exile. It fell to Quarry, Jimmy Ellis, and Joe Frazier primarily to fight the prime lot of late 60s contenders that Ali missed out on, names like Buster Mathis, Oscar Bonavena, Bob Foster, and each other, all fought before Ali got to them in the 70s.

That late 60s era was as vibrant and competitive as any in history, yet is often overlooked as though boxing had officially ended when Ali went into exile. We can envision Ali fans all queuing up Don McLean’s big hit, The Day the Music Died when Ali announces that he is vacating his title. Boxing may have died for Ali fans, but the many compelling heavyweight fights waged during the Ali exile were often ambitious undertakings that deserve a special niche in heavyweight history.

More important to the still developing Jerry Quarry was his part in the late ‘60s eight man WBA elimination tourney that saw him defeat Floyd Patterson and Thad Spencer before just losing out to defensive minded Jimmy Ellis in the finals. That fight, again, could have just as easily gone Quarry’s way as the more active aggressor landing the bigger shots, a role that the naturally counterpunching Quarry was forced into adapting to make the fight happen after the elusive jab & move style of Ellis negated much of Quarry’s bread and butter counterpunch style at ring center.

Quarry retained his high Ring rankings into the mid 70s, so during 1970 when Ali scrambled to find a venue to stage his return to the ring, Atlanta, Georgia as it turned out, it was Jerry Quarry who was willing to run the public political gauntlet to get the fight made at a backwater venue lacking a boxing commission. Beating Quarry in his highly publicized comeback enabled Ali’s push towards his goal of challenging Joe Frazier for the rights to his old title, the fabled Fight of the Century promotion.

Just like Quarry in 1969, Ali lost out to the pulverizing Frazier in 1971’s Ring Fight of the Year, one of the truly memorial classics that bookmark people’s exact moment in their lives forever.

Was Smokin’ Joe ever in a dull fight?

When Ali beat Quarry again in 1972, Ali was again successfully maneuvering his way through the changing heavyweight landscape that ultimately saw him challenge and defeat the new champ, George Foreman,  in the 1974 Rumble in the Jungle.

Jerry Quarry could never quite put together the correct winning sequence of fights to manage a crack against Big George, but the fight was out there, waiting for the right moment like so many great fights that never get made.

Foreman vs Quarry

Foreman vs Quarry

Nonetheless, Quarry stayed more than relevant with his own “best ever” performances, knocking out undefeated KO artist Mac Foster along side a stunning 1st round KO of Ernie Shavers to go with his beatdown of Ron Lyle well before Ali ever laid a glove to them.

That’s three of some of the hardest hitting preeminent sluggers of any era who took it hard to Ali big time, yet they were chopped down as if they were nothing more than a pesky patch of scrub brush to be cleared by Quarry.

And yet there was nothing more Irish Jerry Quarry could ever do that was enough to reclaim another challenge to the title after his only two shots fell short in 1969. He was helpless to prevent the Standers, Romans, Wepners, Coopmans, and Dunns from staking their “challenges” to the title. Time and promoters had simply bypassed Quarry who had the ultimate misfortune to be tagged by the media with the “Great White Hope” and “He cuts” monikers, dismissing him as a bloody hapless no hoper, the pugilistic kiss of death.

Like Ali, Quarry toyed with retirement and then soldiered on past his twilight years, neither one ever finding that graceful exit from the sport that brought them so much acclaim that it becomes an addictive way of life.

Like Ali, Quarry’s health took a precipitous decline as he aged, suffering from a morbidly flat affectation that robbed him of his sharp personality and wit. Of all the guest commentators over the years that I’ve seen at big matches, Jerry Quarry was by far the most intelligent and insightful with the ability to translate the boxing in the ring into a common, easy to understand language for the public, but that Jerry Quarry was soon lost forever.

Jerry Quarry

Jerry Quarry

Just as with Ali, it was tragic to see him robbed of his speech and ability to care for himself, these cocky, two physically compelling iron chinned warriors who defined their heavyweight eras. Perhaps the most chilling part of what should have been his post career highlight is to see the mid 50ish Jerry Quarry interviewed on the eve of his induction to the World Boxing Hall of Fame looking as helpless as a little lost lamb at a barbecue when he looks feebly down at his feet after a question.

It was from a distant place far, far away in his mind when Jerry Quarry is barely able to mumble, “I feel……like an old man.”

The widely acclaimed Ali has more notably declined before our very eyes, to the point of needing a wheelchair when he was sometimes so enfeebled, but some good news is that his medical team in charge of his therapy has seemingly revitalized him to some extent, probably with the latest drug developments. The last I saw him, he was looking fairly well and sturdy again even if he needs the assistance of his wife and a female aid to keep him in an upright position as he shuffles about.

But it’s already been a couple of years since I’ve seen him in public, so as Ali nears his allotted three score and 10 years, any good health still possessed by him is sure to become more uncertain.

Ali the Hawk

Ali the Hawk

Yet in the midst of their incapacities, there were always inner glimpses of the warriors of old when Ali and Quarry momentarily find a glint of that ruthless, hawkish, predator mentality that looks to swoop down on helpless prey for the finish.

And like Jerry Quarry, Ali also has his own Irish links. Yes, Virginia, that was a leprechaun a dancin’a jig in the ol’ Kintuck woodpile.

 Ali returned to the roots of his Irish great grandfather’s birthplace, visting Ennis,  County Clare, Ireland to his usual throng of admiring crowds only two years ago.

Mama Clay at Play

Mama Clay at Play

Ali’s great-grandfather, Abe Grady eventually settled in the US state of Kentucky in the 1860s and married a freed slave. One of their grandchildren, Odessa Lee Grady Clay, gave birth to Ali, AKA Cassius Clay, and Ali truly did love his Mama dearly.

His previous, more private visit years before to the green emerald had been less heralded but more informative. Like so many Americans influenced by the ground breaking Roots episodic TV movie, he finally saw fit to connect with the Irish side of his heritage after so many years of connecting to African roots.

It was inevitable that Ali was steered in the direction of the undefeated King of the Gypsies, Bartley Gorman, famed Irish Traveler bare knucks champ whose signature finishing move was his legendary Bull Hammer Punch. Gorman is also known as a distant uncle to the up and coming fringe British heavyweight contender Tyson Fury.

Gorman was a great admirer of Ali, so apparently they hit if off immensely, and as legendary encounters of the sweet science are want to go, they staged an historic private sparring session as each put the other through their paces on the way to mutual respect.

Gorman vs Ali

Gorman vs Ali

It’s pure speculation that somewhere in these Irish genes are the roots of the legendary toughness of Muhammad Ali and Jerry Quarry as well as their propensity to suffer immensely from the delayed effects of too many punches, yet they share so many common bonds that defined their early successes and later problems in life that a connection cannot be easily dismissed either.

Ali and Quarry both finished their careers with similar numbers, Ali at 56-5, 37 KO in 61 fights with 550 professional rounds to Quarry at 53-9-4, 32 KO in 66 fights with 419 ring rounds. Quarry is supposed to have first donned the gloves at age 3 and Ali as a young teen, so adding in all their amateur rounds and untold sparring and exhibition rounds that both were very fond of, each is doubtless well into the hundreds of spar sessions over thousands of rounds.

Yet we have examples of fighters with longer professional careers of the same era who aged well with less readily apparent damage to their mental and physical functions in George Foreman, Larry Holmes, and Earnie Shavers. True understanding of pugilistic related declines and maladies is an ongoing process. Athletes from other physical sports suffering from the effects of hard body collisions and head concussions such as American Football, “Soccer,” Ice Hockey, and rodeo are being interviewed and evaluated. Even work related accidents and traffic accidents and now the military have become part of a broader study, yet there can be little doubt that life itself can take a toll on anyone as it usually does as we make our way through our preciously allotted time on this earth, much less adding in too much boxing on top of that.

Jerry Quarry has already been released from his earthly bonds, R.I.P., January 3, 1999. He never reaped the benefits of modern research, but we should all thank our stars above for the opportunity to have borne witness to Muhammad Ali and Jerry Quarry and the rest of their era mixing in with our own timelines.

Go forth with the big right hand of God guiding you gentlemen and thanks for all the great fights and memories.

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr Goes For The Full Monty

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr toes it up tonight at the Staples Center in Los Angeles against the WBC interim Champ, an undefeated German middleweight  making his US debut, Sebastian Zbik. The full WBC title is on the line.

Zbik vs Chavez Jr.

Zbik vs Chavez Jr.

Both fighters are actually undefeated, a  modern development in the fight game as promoters often nurse prospects carefully against overmatched opponents until they can get a crack at one of the dozens of ABC title belts available these days.

Chavez is 42-0-1, 30 KOs with some decent pop, but Zbik’s 30-0-0, 10 KO record suggests a light swatter more comfortable in the Germanic concentric zone he fights out of, relying on the good graces of German appointed officials.

I’ve never seen Zbik fight, but at very least he should have good boxing skills and a decent enough chin to last quite a few rounds, so we might see a good fight before all is said and done.

I’ve seen Junior develop from the scratch beginnings of his pro career with little to no amateur experience to draw upon. His critics are voracious in reminding us that he’s no Senior Chavez, yet they are equally ignorant in understanding that nobody else around is either, so most criticism of junior is worthless or worse.

To be sure, Freddie Roach would not be working with him if he didn’t see some potential, but one thing is certain, the kid can fight and shows some heart even if he wasn’t always showing enough championship discipline during training or in the ring.

Look at that overdeveloped middle knuckle on his left hand and tell me the kid doesn’t put in some hard time in sparring and on the heavy bag these days though. Now is his time and big fights await him if he prevails even if the glory and respect is lagging. With his undefeated brother Omar still waiting in the wings for his first title shot, it’s gonna be a Chavez family affair for a while longer

I’m thinking this proves to be an interesting fight that sees Chavez Jr prevail, so if you want to see a little bit of the Chavez family history at work, tonight is the the night.