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Rumble In The Jungle: Ali/Foreman vs TysonFury/Wladimir Klitschko

In honor of the impending heavyweight fight of the millennium between Wladimir Klitschko and Tyson Fury, or at least what we the people do hope to see out of this injury delayed fall dustup, let us recall the memories of one of the most poorly organized, yet all time heroic heavyweight fall classics of the modern era that had a similar injury delay. That would be The Rumble In The Jungle, George Foreman vs Muhammad Ali back in 1974, 41 amazing years ago.

What a horrible place to hold a fight, a 3rd world, backwater African state, Zaire, run by a brutally unrepentant kleptocrat, Mobutu. Out of the billions he stole from his impoverished, terrorized people, his $5 million guaranteed purse each for George and Ali was but mere miscellaneous loose change rattling round his pockets, yet the publicity turned out to be priceless for Mobutu.

We know now that the conditions were even worse than we suspected back then. To put it bluntly in modern hindsight, Big George was never going to beat Ali in Zaire. All the cards were stacked against him from the gitgo when all The Fates and half the Zaire locals conspired to shove pins into his voodoo mockup doll likenesses to weaken his spirit. As soon as he arrives, the locals were already riled up against him after having Ali whip up their animosity over the many weeks before. “Ali boma ye,” screamed out at him, translated as “Ali kill him,” and those shouts tormented the Big Guy wherever he went from his first to last day in Zaire. During the wrap up of the acclimation and training process, a light sparring session typically consisting of generally going through the moves with the fight so close, he was suddently caught a strategically placed elbow speared across his brow, a really nasty gash that delayed the fight some 5 weeks. He’s now stuck in a country ruled by the brutal Motubu who has invited the challenger, Ali, to live and be feted in the presidential palace while George, the champ, is put up in a local army barrack so as to properly know his place in this fight.

A Good Buddy

A Good Buddy

Thousands of AK47 packing soldiers are milling about everywhere, feasting their eyes on him, waiting for any untoward move that their president might not like. He’s not allowed to leave the country to seek treatment in France, in effect being held a hostage in a dangerous, hostile environment. Obviously he cannot spar and risk reopening the cut, so his training is reduced to the heavy bag and runs. At least he eventually managed to upgrade his living quarters to the local hotel, a big step forward for civilization in this backwater.

Then Angelo Dundee loosens the ropes before the fight as he tried to do against Frazier in the Fight of the Century three years earlier. The ring is built over the prison and his dressing room is in a dungeon where untold thousands were tortured to death. How many echos of the dead and dying rang out for the sensitive Big Man, billed by era tabloid boxing media as some kind of monstrous, primeval beast in spite of having a philosophical, religious sort of  fun loving sensitivity that he was never credited with until he later returned from his self imposed decade of exile. The bout is held in the dead of the early morning hours, 4 AM local time so as to be broadcast primetime hours on closed circuit TV in America. Some 60,000 screaming African meemmies in the stands add to his uneasiness.

Jeez, he’s been held hostage in Africa for ages now and the fight has yet to start.

Now George is desperate to fight so he can vacate this hellhole. His trainer, Dick Saddler, had been using a neat trick guaranteed to make Foreman especially brutal in quicktime when the bell rang by dehydrating and starving him before the weighin, rendering him crazy mad before launching him on hapless opponents. Only this time just before fight time, Saddler gives him a small bottle of water that George greedily inhales before spitting the remnants out it was so foul tasting.

When I saw the opening minutes of the fight, George looked like some kind of dead zombie, so much so that my first thoughts were screaming out inside of me that he was drugged. George Plimpton had a similar reaction as noted by his friend Norman Mailer when he screamed out at ringside that the fight was fixed after seeing George lurch around like a clumsy mummy, ironically Ali’s nickname for him, as Ali peppered him with rapidfire nothing shots that scored points. After a few rounds, George seemed to shake off his stupor and get into the fight to really lay it on Ali, some really vicious body shots that Ali later admitted to his biographer had him out on his feet a couple times, yet a few rounds later Big George tired almost to a standstill. Just as announcers were certain that George had punched himself out and was done, he got his second wind and returned to pound on Ali in the 8th. As Foreman trapped Ali on the ropes, he threw a left hand that Ali slipped. The missed momentum of the punch left George awkwardly facing down over the ring apron with his neck stretched over the rope, about the most vulnerable position a tired fighter could ever wish to never be in.

Now, Ali had been looking really hard at this shot the whole fight every time George missed, yet always held back, holding back, and keep on holding back until now, the perfect moment in time during a really brutal fight. Ali jumped on it. He delivered a beautifully timed right handed rabbit punch to the back of George’s noggin that violently compressed his throat, neck arteries, and veins against the top rope resulting in a momentary loss of blood flow to the brain with a localized spike of blood pressure as George rebounded off the ropes in a crazy, hazy, daze of confusion. Quick as a flash Ali finished with a highlight combination for the ages that has been shown a billion times no doubt, culminating in a perfect right hand to George’s temple as he did a lurching pirouette on the way to the canvas.

No dramatist could ever dream up such a scenario as the great monster lay wounded, the first time he had ever touched the canvas as amateur or pro. George was cognizant though, watching his corner for instructions as he was trained to do, so when they signaled to rise, he rose after 9 secs on the clock had lapsed, however the ref,  Zach Clayton, waved him off, leaving him in effect as it turned out, permanently frozen out of the title picture by Ali. It was never supposed to end like that for such powerful 25 year old fighter, and it shouldn’t have ended like that, but it did.

As an unrated 19 year old 1968 Mexico Olympic hopeful, Big George competed at the grueling altitude of some 7200 foot altitude tainted with some really bad smog with no problems, winning the gold medal in spectacular knockout style, the ultimate natural fighting man. After this fight, his critics forever stereotyped him as the big slugger with stamina problems who couldn’t go the distance and quit boxing.

The newly reincarnated Ali had defied all the odds for the 2nd time in his career, but almost immediately collapsed in the aftermath for a 30 count that gave great cause for concern by his team. Ali’s personal physician, Ferdie Pacheco, flatly stated that Ali took far too much punishment in that bout, that it was too risky for him to fight George ever again.

Ali in his Playboy interview after the fight says he was offered $7.5 million for the Foreman rematch in Djakarta, Indonesia, by a black oilman who wanted to promote his country, yet five months later for $1.6 million he’s going against a liquor salesman, Chuck Wepner, in Richfield, Ohio of all places, pretty much proving Ferdie’s point. George was out of the picture and Ali was willing to fight much easier fights in Podunkville, except that he never made them look easy because he could no longer train so exquisitely as he had been able in his prime, generally a tubby shadow of his best.

On ABC Duty in Yeller Suit...

On ABC Duty in Yeller Suit…

After moping around in a depressive funk over being unable to secure the Ali rematch, something George had already stated he wanted the immediate rematch in the post fight interview, Ali remained as uncommitted as he was in his post fight interview when he put the questioner off. So finally George starts to regroup from scratch. On April, 26th, 1975, he waged a remarkable exhibition against Alonzo JohnsonJerry JudgeTerry Daniels, Charley Polite, and Boone Kirkman at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Canada, broadcast on ABC Wide World of Sports. Foreman knocked out Johnson, Judge, and Daniels, but Polite and Kirkman were able to survive all three rounds. Ringside commentator Howard Cosell, repeatedly deplored the event as an embarrassment, a circus sideshow act, yet there he was in Toronto in his official capacity complete with yeller ABC sport jacket droning endlessly in melodramatic maliciousness as George took on the five.  Muhammad Ali, who was working the ringside next to Cosell, repeatedly heckled Foreman as the crowd of about 5,500 alternately booed and cheered Foreman throughout. Occasionally they even stirred up for some chants that Ali led. At least they had a wonderful time, but not Big George with Ali and the press demeaning him.

Ali finally got so worked up as he often did during the “theatrical” portions of his career, that he turned outright nasty, jumping up to call George horribly vile things, screaming over and over that he was never going to get a rematch as security restrained him from entering the ring. Thought Howie was sure to lose his toupee in the ruckus. Would’ve been hilarious and offset Howie’s suffocatingly, overbearing officiousness as well as add contrast to Ali’s vicious outbursts.

So he publicly refused to rematch Big George, yet there he was in Tokyo at the start of the very next year in the most pitiful boxing “exhibition” by a world champ ever seen against renown Japanese martial artist, Antonio Inoki, who had to be repeatedly pulled off Ali all night in this 15 rounder by American judo legend Gene Labelle. Because of the stifling rules limitations on him, Inoki was mostly reduced to a crab like scurrying around the ring on his back as he repeatedly kicked out Ali’s left leg, taking him down twice and hurting him so badly that he ended up in the hospital on a death watch. Ali never landed the few punches he attempted, his best offensive effort being an extension of his Toronto screaming mimmies, ie, “Inoki girl, Inoki girl” epitaphs. Docs ended up debating on whether to amputate his legs to prevent leg clots from breaking loose that could hurtle fatally into his brain. Ali managed to dodge the biggest bullet of his career in the end to return somewhat shakily to boxing. That fight did him no favors at all as far as his overall health and declining abilities in the ring showed.

Tyson Fury of course has a long ways to go to match up to the legends of Ali and Big George, but folks have an unfortunate way of forgetting that they also started off without legendary status in the beginning. Wlad has certainly earned legendary status as he enters the Joe Louis legendary heavyweight title record domain. His longstanding problem in the US/UK market was of being the wrong color, the wrong nationality, the wrong intelligence, and beating up Americans so badly in his reign they finally relinquished over 100 years of heavyweight superiority for something akin to Grade C inferior status.

Now Wlad may have an opportunity of an exciting career signature fight against Fury, who despite his woeful critics, is one of the most genuine “true fighters” in this dying era filled with posers and other pussyfooted, featherdusters. Fury is equipped with plenty of physical attributes, swag, size, and reach, that of being 6-9 in height with a 85″ reach backed a general weight range of 245-260 lbs.

Fury laying on a touch of Irish blarney

Fury laying on a touch of Irish blarney

He’s not limited to size either in that his stamina has never failed him, nor his chin, nor his punches. He has a high work rate for big men, and thus far, his ring IQ has pulled him out of the few mistakes he has made that give rabid succor to his sworn critics. He’s young, he’s cocksure, he’s breezy about the chance. Plenty of fans are sleeping on this fight, convinced he’ll be easy work for Wlad. Possibly, but if he steps out of his own considerable shadow with his personal best ever fight, could be a long era of history ended and a new history begun. It’s a long stretch to think this fight could ever match the Rumble in the Jungle, but boxing has a strange history of the biggest upsets that nobody expects.

Lookee here, Ma, it's Batman Fury to the rescue!

Lookee here, Ma, it’s Batman Fury to the rescue!

 

 

 

 

Top of the Food Chain, Joe Louis or Muhammad Ali?

 

These kind of discussions over the internet tend to favor moderns who are want to express opinions without context or factual basis as to why their hero is is #1.

Bert Sugar perhaps infamously chose Cleveland fullback Jim Brown for his all time greatest athlete. Never mind that teammate Marion Motley has a higher career rushing average and did it basketball hightops because no football cleats could be found then to fit his monstrous feet. Motley could also clear out the defense in support of his running back and quarterback, hard, gritty work that was beneath Brown, and Motley also pulled fulltime duty as linebacker, a two way, 60 minute player, something the coddled Brown was never good for. But of course Brown was also such a great lacrosse player, never mind that Wilt Chamberlain proved in two footraces that he was significantly faster than Brown and could turn him upside down to shake all his change loose at will not to mention being a collegiate, multi-event track and field star during his down time from basketball. Wilt a world class volleyball player in his retirement, the best in his day. Wilt didn’t even like basketball because of it’s stupid rules and the stupid media always pestering him, but it was the most lucrative option for him, so he made the best of it as a record setter both on offense and defense. Even did a stint with the Harlem Globetrotters before his NBA career, damned hard to top that.

Now modern media “experts” claim Michel Jordan is the best athlete ever, never mind he wasn’t even a mediocre division B minor league baseball player and only a modestly endowed golfer. Jim Thorpe, fresh off an Indian reservation, won both Pentathlon and Decathlon Olympic gold medals in Sweden, then played major league baseball for several years before co-founding and becoming the first ever star of the National Football League. It don’t get any better than that as an athlete, but moderns just shrug and say, Jim Who?

So, here we go, Bobby Mac’s Facts Update, just the facts ma’am, so:

What are the career records of Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali?

Joe 66-3, 52 KO vs Ali 56-5, 37 KO

OK, clearly Joe is vastly superior, but there are records and then there are RECORDS, so let’s delve deeper.

ProDebut:

Joe, age 20 yrs, 1 month, 22 days, coming off winning the United States National AAU tournament with a final record of 50-4, 43 KO, debuted @ 181 lbs against Jack Kracken, 27-7-3, in the “city of the big shoulders,” Chicago, July 4th, 1934, US Independence Day. Drops Kracken in the opening seconds and then blasts him through the ropes into the lap of the shocked Illinois commish to formally announce to the world the transformation from Joe Barrow to Joe Louis. Has there ever been a better boxing debut than that? Prior he was no more than a po’ sharecropper’s boy from Podunk, Alabama. The $59 depression purse went a long ways in those days, the most money he had ever earned in his life.

Ali, age 18 yrs, 9 months and 12 days, coming off Olympic Lightheavy Gold glory with a multitude of final ama record claims, debuts @ 192 lbs, October 29th, 1960, in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky against Tunney Hunsaker, 16-9-1, a Sunday School teacher and police chief of Fayetteville, West Virginia. Ali touched up Hunsaker some with a bloody nose and cut eye for a 6 round unanimous decision and a healthy $2000 purse for the day. Solid hometown pro debut for such a young kid, but no comparison to the spectacular 4th of July fireworks set off by Joe.

Da Preem vs Joe Louis

Da Preem vs Joe Louis

Longest Title reign and record:

Joe 11 years, 252 days, 26-0, 23 KOs vs Ali three combined title runs of 3 years, 63 days + 3 years, 108 days + 284 days = 7 years, 90 days, 22-2. OK, but Joe had three more title fights, 1 competitive decision loss to Charles in his comeback and a knockout of Lee Savold who held the BBBC version of the split title + the last white heavy belt for a final title record of 27-1 vs Ali’s humiliation KO loss to Holmes for a final title record of 22-3.

Now, if we extend out the Ali years up to the first Frazier fight, they’d be just short of Joe, but, remember, Ali also relinquished his Ring belt early so his good buddy Jimmy Ellis could fight for it. Ring never awarded the belt to Ellis yet kept Ali as Champion through 1969. Joe is still superior and lost just as many prime years as Ali did under dangerous flying conditions in the US Army.

First and last Ring Top 10 ratings:

Joe #1 in his first year of eligibility, age 20 vs Ali #9 in his first year of eligibility, age 19.

Joe #5 when he challenged Champion Charles in 1950, age 36, and #6 against #2 Marciano in 1951, age 37. Ali was last ranked as Champion in 1978, age 36.

Joe clearly superior though Ali managed to slide into Ring ratings a year earlier than Joe because of his earlier debut.

HOF fights:

Joe 13 such fights, 10-3 9 KO vs Ali 14 such fights, 11-3, 8 KO. Joe with 2 KO losses vs Ali with 1 KO loss.

Joe earliest HOFer and win @ age 21 yr, 4 month, 11 days over Baer vs Ali earliest HOFer and win @ age 20 yr, 9 months, 28 days over Moore.

Joe last HOF win @ age 37 yr, 3 month and a day over Blivins vs Ali last HOF win @ age 34 yr, 8 months, 11 days over Ken Norton, a hotly disputed decision.

Ali with tiny edge in total HOF fight, Joe with KOs, and Ali with one less KO loss. Joe a few months older for first HOF fight vs Ali a bit younger, but Joe considerably older for last HOF win than Ali. They both lost their last HOF fights by KO, but Joe in his 8th fight over 10 months in his 37th year gave Marciano all he could handle for 8 rounds vs Ali out of retirement carried mercifully by Holmes trying to get the fight stopped with no damage to Ali. Joe definitely finished the stronger fighter overall.

Controversial fights:

Joe only had two, the first Buddy Baer and JJWalcott fights which he quickly avenged with savage KOs in the rematches vs far too many controversial fights for Ali, really too embarrassing to mention that he always benefited from every controversy. Big advantage Joe who consistently took care of business in a more professional way than did Ali who needed a lot of help from the suits.

Unified America behind him:

Joe

Split up America over him:

Ali

Won a Supreme Court Decision:

Ali, of course, major props and maybe the highlight of his life.

Young Cassius

Young Cassius “The Greatest” Clay

Summoned to the White House by the President for consultation on impending military desegregation policy:

Joe, the one and only.

Inspiration for the two most prominent black civil rights spokesmen in history:

Both Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela count Joe Louis as providing the inspiration for a higher dignity and purpose of what their people might achieve if allowed their civil rights.

Who loses to Leon?

Ali, of course. Joe on his worst day in shackles and blindfolded could never lose to Leon.

Now, lest this take on a wholly one sided analysis, in general most fans would agree that Joe Frazier and George Foreman are better than the best Joe took on, but Ali never really showed he was better than Frazier. Most can finally admit Joe whooped the holy jinn out of him the first fight, and did it in spite of referee Mercante near poking out his only good eye midway through the fight. The second fight was competitive and close, and the third a happenstance of incredible good fortune when Frazier’s scout couldn’t make it from Ali’s corner to Frazier’s corner to tell them Ali was quitting. Joe was on his feet bouncing around like a rubber ball waiting to be unleashed when Eddie Futch pulled the plug as Ali stood up and collapsed. Nor could the terribly grievous conditions in Zaire that all favored Ali ever be replicated, thus no rematch with George who only spent 9 seconds on the canvas in his first career knockdown, yet was counted out. Compare to Ali who collapsed seconds later for a 30 count that took his legions to elevate him over to his corner.

Yeah, and maybe Sonny Liston was better than Joe’s best too, but Joe could easily beat a fighter who quit on his stool and take a dive as well as the next guy, so let’s keep it real…over and out.

 

 

Nat Fleischer On The Push To Make Ali Great

After the magnificent performance, skill, heart, and courage of Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali in the 1971 Fight of the Century that roused not only a country, but the rest of the world, there was an heavy push back on Nat Fleischer to revise his All Time Top 10 Heavyweight rankings. 

Nat, of course, was the founding father of gathering and cataloging fighter records, and in time because of the seminal nature of his work, his copious contributions, his ringside witness to so many great fights, he and Ring Magazine became synonymous as The Bible of Boxing, so any of his pronouncements and observations were literally taken as being passed as the Word of God. Boxing fans studied his edicts religiously as Nat coasted along secure in being at top of his game.

But the landscape soon changed when Ali was convicted of dodging the draft and suspended from boxing for 3 1/2 years as he battled all the way to the US Supreme Court. The push to make Ali great began to gather steam during this Ali lull. Miraculously, Ali’s conviction was overturned and he was allowed to return to boxing.

Then the unthinkable. Down goes Ali. Frazier whoops Ali.

A very interesting period piece of journalism followed as Fleischer holds his ground, not stubbornly, but rather in well thought out logical explanations that may have given succor to the larger base of boxing fans, but did nothing to satisfy Ali supporters. They incredibly insisted their man won the Fight of the Century and demanded that Ali be put in Nat’s top 10, a veritable flood filling his mailbox every month.

Down Goes Ali, Down Goes Ali

Down Goes Ali, Down Goes Ali

Now as we have over 40 years of hindsight, it’s easy for moderns to look at Nat’s list and see how silly it looks, but back then he was one of the few willing to publish such a list at the risk of great personal criticism. One thing to note is the fighters on his list were long retired, meaning no way was Nat going to rate some young whippersnapper just entering the middle of his career. Since he passed in 1972, he never got to see Ali upset George Foreman in Zaire, so we can’t say how that might of altered his view of things, though I suspect very little as to adding a currently active heavyweight to his list. We can say within a year or two after the Foreman upset as I recollect, Ring came out with a revised list that had Ali at or near the top of the 10 in a vast rearrangement of Nat’s list. In the encapsulated words of the immortal Chuck Berry and Hank Williams, “Roll over Beethoven ’cause the big dog’s moving in”

In Nat’s own words:

As I have had it listed in The Ring Record Book for some years, my all-time rating of heavyweights is as follows: 1. Jack Johnson, 2. Jim Jeffries, 3. Bob Fitzsimmons, 4. Jack Dempsey, 5. James J. Corbett, 6. Joe Louis, 7. Sam Langford, 8. Gene Tunney, 9. Max Schmeling, 10. Rocky Marciano.

I started the annual ranking of heavyweights in the 1953 with only six listed: 1. Jack Johnson, 2. Jim Jeffries, 3. Bob Fitzsimmons, 4. Jack Dempsey, 5. James J. Corbett, 6. Joe Louis.

In later years I found it necessary to expand the ratings in all classes to top 10, with these top listings: heavyweights, Jack Johnson; light heavies, Kid McCoy; middleweights, Stan Ketchel; welters, Joe Walcott; lightweights, Joe Gans; feathers, Terry McGovern; bantams, George Dixon; flyweights, Jimmy Wilde.

For some time now I have been under great pressure from some readers of The Ring magazine and of The Ring Record Book, as well, to revise my ratings, especially in the heavyweight division.

Here is a strange facet to this pressure move. It has concerned, chiefly, Cassius Clay.

Never before in the history of the ratings did I find myself pressured to revise the listing of a heavyweight, right on top of a defeat.

There was considerable pressure to include Clay among the Top 10 during his 3 1/2-year interlude of inactivity.

But the campaign became stronger after Clay had returned with knockout victories over Jerry Quarry and Oscar Bonavena. The demand on behalf of Clay became strongest after he had been beaten by world champion Joe Frazier in a 15-round contest that saw Cassius decked in the final heat.

Clay’s fight with Frazier left thousands of his admirers, who had seen the contest over television, protesting that Clay had won and that the unanimous decision of referee Arthur Mercante and judges Artie Aidala and Bill Recht, was a hoax, or worse.

Before we go any farther, let us dispose of this point. Frazier was declared the winner without a dissenting vote because he was the winner with unanimous force and unbiased conviction.

Clay never hurt Frazier. He messed up Joe’s left eye and made it look as if there had been an indecisive result, or a definite verdict in favor of Clay. Clay’s gloves reached Frazier more often than Frazier’s punches reached Clay. But Cassius lacked force.

Clay was hurt, especially in the 11th and 15th rounds. Clay came near being knocked out in the play-acting 11th. Clay’s constant retreat to the ropes was the tipoff on the fight.

I sat in the first press row in the Garden and emphatically saw Clay beaten. However, we have thousands of Clay backers insisting that he had established himself as one of the all time Top 10.

I did not regard Ali as a member of the leading 10 before he got into his argument with the Federal Courts. I did not see, in the Clay record as it stood after his seven-round knockout of Zora Folley in New York on March 22, 1967, any reason for my revising the heavyweight listing to include Cassius among the all-time 10. Nor did the Quarry, Bonavena, and Frazier fights impress me to the point at which I found myself considering ousting one of my Great 10 to make room for Clay.

Suppose I suffered an aberration and decided to include Clay among the top 10. This would mean ousting Marciano to make room for Ali as my all-time number l0. That would be farcical. Clay never could have beaten Marciano. Clay’s record is not the superior of the one the tragic Rocky left behind him when he retired from boxing unbeaten.

I even had something to do with Clay’s winning the Olympic light heavyweight championship in Rome in 1960. I spotted him for a likely Gold Medal, but I did not like the way he was training–or rather, not training. Cassius was entertaining the gals of the Italian capital, with gags and harmonica playing, and forgetting what he had been entered for.

I gave him a lecture and a warning. Maybe it had something to do with his victory. Maybe he would have won just the same. But I doubt if my talk did any harm.

After Cassius had won the title I felt that we had another Floyd Patterson in the making. He did not have Patterson’s speed of hands at that time, but he had more speed of foot. And more animation, which, of course, is an understatement. Floyd never has been a paragon of vivacity.

As Clay left the Olympic ring a champion, I saw him growing fast into a heavyweight. And I treated myself to a dream. I said to myself, “This kid could go far. It all depends on his attitude, his ability to tackle his job earnestly and seriously. Some of his laughter could be a real asset.” Ultimately it was.

Neither animus nor bias, neither bigotry nor misjudgment, can be cited against me in my relations with Cassius Clay. After he had been found guilty of a felony by a Federal jury in Houston, and Judge Joe Ingraham had sentenced Ali to five years in a penitentiary and a fine of $10,000, there was a rush to take the title from the draft-refusing champion.

The Ring magazine refused to join in the campaign against Clay, a stand now thoroughly vindicated. The Ring insisted that Cassius was entitled to his day in court, and that his title could be taken from him only if he lost it in the ring, or he retired from boxing, as Marciano, Tunney, and Jeffries had done before him.

Pressure on The Ring was tremendous. But this magazine would not recede one iota from its never relaxed policy of fighting for Law and Order.

Only when Muhammad Ali announced that he would fight no more and asked permission to give The Ring world championship belt to the winner of the Frazier-Jimmy Ellis fight, did The Ring declare the title vacated and drop Clay from the ratings.

With Clay’s return to the ring, The Ring revived his rating among the top 10 heavyweights. Not until Frazier knocked out Ellis in five rounds did The Ring allocate the vacant world title to Joe.

I do not mean to derogate Clay as a boxer. I am thoroughly cognizant of every fistic attribute he throws into the arena, every impressive quality he displayed on his way to the title and in fighting off the challenges of Sonny Liston, Floyd Patterson, George Chuvalo, Henry Cooper, Brian London, Karl Mildenberger, Cleveland Williams, Ernie Terrell, and Zora Folley.

When Ali went into his 3 1/2-year retirement, he had not yet achieved his personal crest. Nor did the fights with Quarry, Bonavena and Frazier, which marked his return to action, send him any farther in the direction of fulfillment of claims of his loyal supporters.

The way Cassius Clay stands, he does not qualify for rating with the greatest heavyweights of all time. Nor, the way the future shapes up for him, is he likely to qualify. Now his hands are quick. His footwork is quick. His punch is not the type that is calculated to stop a man forthwith, no matter what he did to Sonny Liston in their second encounter, at Lewiston, Maine.

Cassius has got to wear down his opponent. He has got to flick his glove into the eyes of the opposition, the way he did against Frazier. He has a style all his own. But its sui generis quality does not make him one of the top 10.

I want to give credit to Clay for punching boxing out of the doldrums into which it fell with the rise of Liston to the championship. Liston could not get a license in New York. Liston had a bad personal record. Liston was emphatically not good for boxing. Into the midst of this title situation came the effervescent kid from Louisville, favored by conditions, by his potential, by his personality and his clean personal record.

The situation called for a Clay and, fortunately, the situation was favored with one. He was the counterpart, in boxing, of Babe Ruth in baseball, after the Black Sox Scandal.

Through superior punching power, Frazier is Clay’s current better as a ringster. But Frazier has yet to develop the overall influence that Clay exercised. Nor does it appear likely that Joe will ever be to boxing what Cassius was when he became the world champion and when he stirred up world boxing with his exploits against the best opposition available pending the development of Frazier, another Olympic hero.

I have the utmost admiration for Cassius Clay as a ring technician. Certainly not for his attitude toward the United States and its armed forces. Of that mess he is legally clear.

I do not see Cassius Clay as a candidate for a place among the top 10 heavyweights. Nor may Frazier, his conqueror, eventually force me to revise my all-time heavyweight ratings.

Zou Shiming Debut, Macao, China–Hawaiian Punch Brian Viloria Too!

Brian Hawaiian Punch Viloria is the high ranking fighter in this Macao Fists of Gold promotion by a substantial margin. He faces a significant challenge in Juan Francisco Estrada who is coming off a hard fought loss to Roman Gonzalez, the light flyweight king. Viloria’s WBA and WBO straps will put up for grabs.

The card is heavily laden with some other noted champs, contenders, former champs, and prospects such as Roman Martinez,  Wilfredo Vazquez JrDiego MagdalenoDodie Boy Penalosa Jr and his younger brother, Dave Penalosa of the Filipino Penalosa fighting family.

Sounds like a solid highly skilled lineup of action oriented fights, but all to take a backseat to the debut of the first ever Chinese Olympic gold medalist, Zou Shiming, who will be fighting the Mexican novice, Eleazar Valenzuela.

2013-04-06 Zou Shiming debut Venetian Casino & Resort, Macao, Macao S.A.R., China 4
Shiming Fists of Gold

Shiming Fists of Gold

Zou Shiming is a very popular Chinese athlete and seemed to be quite the affable fellow when he and his wife came to America to be wined and dined by Top Rank honcho Bob Arum as they announced his pro debut.  He is nearing 32 years of age, but a reputedly has talent oozing out his pores and looking to become a bigger sensation in China if not also in the rest of the world for as long as his pro career lasts. The venue in Macao, China  for his kickoff is significant in that it has potential to become the number one fight spot for big matches that generate lots of money, possibly usurping Las Vegas’ spot as the premiere destination for big fights.

The supporting cast is a pretty rainbow of primarily Asian fighters, such as   American Brian Viloria having Filipino roots, the pure Filipino Penalosa brothers, Filipino Melindo, a couple of Thai fighters and a couple of Japanese fighters, an Austrialian, and Indonesian. Puerto Ricans are thrown in the mix with Martinez and Vasquez Jr, and Mexicans Estrada and Valenzuela and an Argentine.

Arum is a cagey old salt and knows nationalist rivalries when he sees them, just the kind of stuff to generate a gate with lively interest in some lively bouts. I’m also thinking that Manny Pacquiao will be on prominent display to promote his next bout in either Macao or Singapore sometime in September the thinking goes.

HBO will be broadcasting the bout with Larry Merchant and Big George Foreman reunited for some additional fireworks.

Sounds like a fun place to be for a paying gig, but, alas, I wasn’t invited, que lastima. Maybe next time, but in the meantime, I’ll just have to catch the broadcast like everyone else. Enjoy.

Who BeatsThe Klitschko Brothers in the Great Pantheon of Boxing?

It is well and truly astounding how much the Klitscko brothers have shaken up the world of the heavyweight division since they turned pro. They have been alternately lauded and derided in the most outrageous fashions imaginable for well over a decade now, leaving no sharp stone unturned nor any unruly fan unruffled. 

Their records are such that many in the mainstream boxing press have begun talking them up for the IBHOF, so the time is ripe to examine the best heavyweights in history to ascertain who might be able to beat the Klitschko brothers in their current form.

This 2005 IBRO list is probably the most comprehensive consensus of any of the dozens of heavyweight lists that can be easily conjured up. One may dicker over the individual rankings, but most would agree that these would be top 20 heavyweights overall at the time of the poll .

http://www.ibroresearch.com/?p=52

The IBRO heavies I have selected go against the Klitschkos naturally represent the top echelon of the Great Pantheon of boxing with varied styles to challenge them. I only chose those with a career that shows they could put up a championship quality fight against the brothers. These are best to best match ups, not worst to best as so many unartful types are want to make.

I grouped them into 4 main style categories so that broadly similar fighters can be compared and contrasted for differences in how the fights might go. This exercise is as much about application of styles as it is about the eras and the individual talents, so, lets look at the greats the Klitschos will be facing. 

Boxer/movers: Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes, and Gene Tunney.

Swarmer/bob and weavers: Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson, and Jack Dempsey.

Strongman/Clubber: George Foreman

Boxer/puncher: Lennox Lewis, Joe Louis, and comeback version of George Foreman.

The Klitschko Credentials

Wladimir

Wladimir

Wlad has compiled a 14-0, 10 KO record against the best in the division since his last bizarre loss 7 yrs ago. Vitali is 10-0, 8 KO from his last loss some 8 years ago, including his 4 years of inactive retirement. Nobody has come close to beating either brother during this period as they have steadfastly eliminated almost 2 generations of Ring contenders or ABC beltholder types between them.

Now that Wladimir Klitschko easily if ungracefully snuffed the threat of the Ring ranked #3 British poser, Mr. David Haye, the 35 year old Wlad could comfortably retire with a HOF quality record of 56-3, 49 KO. after having dominated the division in a fashion never seen before.

Vitali the Elder

Vitali the Elder

The same could be said of his 40 yr old brother, Vitali who sports a 42-2, 39 KO record. Vitali even has his own superfight scheduled in a couple of months against the great Polish champ, Tomasz Adamek, now Ring ranked #2 behind Wlad the Ring champ and Vitali the WBC champ and #1 Ring challenger.

Both Klitschkos are prodigious boxers, winning some 90% of all rounds contested between them, as well as knockout artists, both approaching the 90% mark for their careers, unprecedented for all the fighters that predated them. They are also both highly accurate punchers, Wlad due to his incredible jab that is 90% of his offense, and Vitali due to his own jab and straight rights, 90% of his offense, so it’s near impossible to get past their offense into range for a clean shot at them.

The KO in KlitschKO

The KO in KlitschKO

Wlad not only holds the Ring, IBF, WBO, IBO, and WBA belts, but he is also 5th in the Ring P4P ratings and #2 in Boxrec P4P ratings behind Manny Pacquiao. Vitali is #3 in Boxrec P4P ratings with a record 4 yr layoff between consecutive title wins, so their P4P accomplishments transcend the heavyweight division.

Wlad is 17-2, 14 KO in career title fights and Vitali is 12-2, 10 KO for those interested in arcane title comparisons, but titles are a poor substitute for the incredible gauntlets they have passed through on the way to ruling over their dominion.

Klitschko critics still abound though, the complaints ranging from “boring fighters” to “fighting bums in a weak division” to “any great heavyweight from the past would beat them” or my favorite, “too robotic,” among the more popular. Typically the complainants point to past losses as an excuse to ignore their unprecedented successes, a rather primitive denial of the real records.

Since Rocky Marciano was the only undefeated great heavyweight, one would presume that he would automatically be touted as the greatest heavyweight ever, but he isn’t, proving the hypocrisy of that mode of rationalization.

Fantasy fights often roust a primordial instincts in some to rally to their “tribe” or their “favorite” no matter the reasoned analysis discussed, so this article is doubtless not their cup of tea, but given the nature of the Klitscho dominance and their unique style of boxing, the fantasy fights available to them have never been hotter for true boxing fans still tuned in to the current scene.

Philosophically, fantasy fight fans generally fall into two main camps:

1. Golden oldies rule the roost with more heart, discipline, and native fighting ability than moderns.

2. Modern fighters are more scientifically trained and bigger, stronger, and in better shape than ancient greats.

There are elements of truth to both camps, but life and boxing are considerably more complex than two subjective, unproven points of view. It’s important to remember every fighter was modern in his era before falling into the “retired” category which the brothers will be doing soon enough.

Credible analysis should compare career timelines as well as styles since every fighter starts from scratch and then falls into peaks and valleys representative of their eras and their ablities. No fighter is perfect and all have assorted good and bad days at the office no matter the result. Analysis should have proper context or we could end up having the poorest versions of a fighter against the best versions of other fighters, not valid superfights in the Great Boxing Pantheon for sure.

Since the brothers will be going up against a range of great fighters, let’s start with their strengths and weaknesses so as to not repeat them for every match.

Wlad Strengths: Utilizes his great height, reach, strength and footwork to become one of the best defensive fighters ever, rarely getting hit clean, as well as becoming one of the best ever offensive fighters. He has dominated fights with just his left jab, but he also has a solid right hand and one of the devastating and versatile left hooks in boxing that he seldom uses for some reason. See the last round of the first Peter fight and the KOs of Chambers and Austin as examples of that left hook as well as early and late round knockout power.

Wlad Weaknesses: Has some shaky balance after throwing his right hand which has limited it’s use. He has been hurt and down in the past from big punches, primarily against Corrie Sanders, and has a preference for a hard clinch to a slug out, counter, or brawl, probably because because his timing and mental makeup is all wrong for these inside styles of boxing. Periodically he marks ups  some, but it hasn’t really been a problem because his formidable defense and offense control most of any fight. Had a strange stamina issue earlier in his career that seems to be corrected with some mental discipline.

Vitali strengths: Also utilizes his great height, reach, strength and footwork to become one of the best defensive fighters ever, rarely getting hit clean, as well as becoming one of the best ever offensive fighters. His ability to take a clean punch to the head or body is without question. His ring activity, balance and stamina are excellent and he’s not shy about engaging a slugout or nifty counter as needed. He controls fights with superior command of timing and range such that there is never a need for a crude brawl. He has a heavy handed type of power that few can outlast.

Vitali weaknesses: Though his boxing abilities are still at a zenith in his 40th year, he is 40 now with all the ravages that implies that could cause him to become unstuck in a hard fight as he likely has coming up against Adamek. He has lost 2 fights by “fluke” injury, a torn shoulder and the most shredded face ever seen in modern boxing, so it’s difficult to really count those oddities as a weakness, but like his brother, he has also been marking up slightly in a few fights as expected at his age.

It is telling that both the brothers are pure headhunters like Ali, almost never throwing a body shot, and like Ali, they are arm punchers rather than leveraged punchers as pure sluggers are. Defensively, they also lean away and pull straight back from attacks just like Ali in spite of gross overall differences in style from Ali, so just like Ali, they get away with breaking the rules of boxing convention because it suits their talents and styles.

And like Ali, they absolutely do infuriate their critics to an unhealthy degree, even if they are polar opposites in personalities compared to the flamboyant over the top Ali.

Let’s kickoff the first round with the modern boxer/punchers who were still active in during the start Klitschko era, Lennox Lewis and George Foreman. As such, all fights will be contested under current 12 round, 10 ounce gloves championship rules, a rule that I concede favors the brothers, yet is the most inclusive comparison for all the fighters.

Lewis did pull out a win by the skin of his teeth against the still developing Vitali before hustling off to premature retirement without passing GO to collect the riches of a lifetime. In short, he didn’t fancy the lucrative rematches HBO and fans were begging him for. Critics moan about Lewis’ age, weight, and condition, but the boxing consensus was that he was at the top of his game coming in. I’d favor the improved brothers overall, but perhaps others might chose a younger version of Lewis, say sometime between Golota in 1997 and Tua in 2000, so fair enough, but remember, the brothers are a grade above Golota and Grant, the big men Lewis did defeat handily and wouldn’t be suckered in by Lewis’ brawling tactics in those fights at this stage.

The comeback George seemed to avoid all the big boxer types, but the truth is the 41 yr old version who had Holyfield hanging on for dear life in the closing rounds was good enough to compete with the improved brothers or any heavy in history. His best shot would be against Wlad who has the weaker whiskers, but I’d favor the brothers overall. Still, who can forget a prime Shannon Briggs going on the run after tasting Big George’s power in his last fight nearing 50 yrs of age?

The prime clubber/strongman George, now that’s an all time force of nature right there. Thing is, that Foreman was a wide swinging distance slugger who could struggle against boxers, not a winning recipe for the best distance boxers in history, and he never beat a supersized heavy in his prime. Still, we cannot blithely ignore the chances of one of the strongest, most awkward sluggers in heavyweight history who could cut off the ring quicker than credited, but it’s a different fight going up against the size and style of the brothers. Sam Peter was a poor man’s Foreman as one example. It’s too easy to pick the greater legacy in fantasy matchups as the usual suspects are want to do, but I favor Foreman slightly against Wlad and Vitali against Foreman.

Primo in Numbers

Primo in Numbers

Joe Louis credentials are without question, a near perfect boxer/puncher with perhaps his only real weakness being a leaky defense and shaky chin that sees him on the deck in a number of fights, but then again he was in a BUNCH of title fights! He has the best historical record against supersized heavies such as Primo Carnera, Buddy Baer, and Abe Simon, knocking them out handily by utilizing his underrated footwork, timing and combinations. However, the Klitschkos in their current form are vastly superior to Joe’s big fellas, and both use a new style that leverages their size and strength, also with underrated footwork. Louis was somewhat easy to hit, and as superior boxers at range, the brothers are among the most accurate punchers in boxing history, 99.98% pure head hunters with body shots a rare oddity.

Could Joe ever make it inside for his short counters he was so feared for?

Maybe, but I find it hard to make this more than an even fight in that I feel the 12 rd distance under modern conditions greatly favors the brothers since Joe was something of a slow starter. It’s only the incredible ring achievements of Louis that has me rate him in an otherwise poor style matchup for him. The fight would surely have a lot of tension to it because of the quality of the threats and the boxing nuance.

Let’s move on to the boxer/mover types, Muhammed Ali, Larry Holmes, and Gene Tunney.

Of the three, Gene Tunney is unquestionably the most completely skilled fighter in heavyweight history, he had all the smarts, talents and attributes save size and strength, but does he give up a lotta size, a half foot and some 60 lbs easily. There is little doubt he could move about the ring and avoid most of the punches for 12 rds, but it’s doubtful he’d get credit for a defensive fight only. His offensive forte was at range, another bad style match up against the brothers that gives him little chance.

Holmes vs Cooney

Holmes vs Cooney

Holmes a bigger fighter at 6-3, 210-215 or so, the perfect size for his era which has since fallen by the wayside of today’s heavies. The only titlest he ever beat was Ken Norton in a highly disputed decision with no rematch. The ugly truth was that the Klitschko sized Cooney was outboxing him on the cards before tiring and losing form and points with lowblows. Both brothers are considerably more experienced and proven than Cooney who had feasted on name fighters well past their best to leverage his title shot. Maybe the Holmes rapier jab could open up their faces for a stoppage, his only chance since he cannot outbox them, a distant cutter’s chance for him.

Not the big Ali fan like so many are, but his chances are compellingly intriguing. First off, I can’t see any form of the comeback version of Ali being competitive in spite of 1972 being his best overall year of boxing against quality contenders and 74 being his best win ever against Foreman not to mention the legendary Thrilla in Manila. None of those fights is remotely akin to a Klitschko fight save gloves and trunks.

Ali vs Terrell

Ali vs Terrell

No sir, we’re talking about a prime, peak ali here, 1966-1967 that is an overrated portion of his career, but one that sees him outclass a near Klitschko quality boxer in Ernie Terrell. Ali was at the height of his mercurial quicksilver reflexes that operated in unpredictable free form, sometimes disappearing for portions of a fight, but then striking without warning to change the fight.

There is no doubt his flighty feet were faster and more unpredictably frustrating than Tunney or Holmes, and he had blinding combination capability when he wanted to let loose, but then again, both the brothers are very patient defensive minded boxers with excellent footwork not prone to wild goose chases and hayemakers. I like Ali’s chances enough to make this an even type of unpredictable fight. Could be a stinker or classic, all dependent on what form of Ali showed up in the ring. Terrell held his own in the early going before damaging his eye on the ropes, even roughing up Ali inside with some rights, but the brothers are pure outside boxers, so that fight has little relevance overall other than Terrell being tallish with a good jab and experience that were useless with his damaged eye.

Finally, the last grouping I give the best chances too, the swarmer/bob and weavers, Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson, and Jack Dempsey.

Actually, I don’t give Smokin Joe much of a chance because he’s down on power compared to Dempsey and Tyson and slower to boot, but he could create some difficulty for as long as he lasted due to the brothers reluctance to throw hooks and uppercuts, perfect offensive weapons against low slung bobbing noggins. Frazier did beat the massive Buster Mathis, a technical boxer who never leveraged his size and strength like the brothers, but Big George destroyed him at distance with crude clubbings, not encouraging against the best controlled distance fighters in history.

Jack the Giant Killer

Jack the Giant Killer

Dempsey destroyed some good sized heavies including a similar fighter to the brothers in Jess Willard, but his was the era of 6 ounce gloves, not the 10 ouncers of modern heavyweight championship boxing, so it’s hard to envision Dempsey doing the same damage as he did against Willard, probably the worst beating in boxing history, broken this and knocked loose that. Still, Dempsey used a cautious style to open before exploding, and that element of surprise and his cat quick reflexes coupled with some of the best combination punching in heavy history makes a prime Dempsey a gamer in any fight.

Last, but certainly not least, the young Mike Tyson when he had a professional Hall of Fame team training and managing him was a near perfect fighter to match the Klitschkos, winning almost every contested round and knocking out most every fighter, usually within a few rounds that always seemed to end up as a highlight. Tyson has a record against Big Men to match Joe Louis, his best win coming over the Klitschko sized Tony Tucker who had similar talents even if he fought in a different style to the brothers. Tucker was in his natural prime for the bout with plenty of experience and undefeated, a very underrated fighter given that he was never beaten again until many years later well past his best against a prime Lennox Lewis.

Bruno vs Tyson

Bruno vs Tyson

Tyson, like Dempsey, had very good handspeed and footwork with combination punching that was devastating once they slipped the gaps inside, but Tyson had some extra 25 lbs of power added to his mix and fought under near identical modern rules.

I favor Tyson who was as naturally gifted as any fighter in history and for a brief time maximized his talents with the best professional team ever assembled in boxing. Nobody is gonna beat the brothers at their range, so it’s gonna have to be an inside style fighter although Tyson was best as a midrange combination puncher rather than a classic inside brawler like Dempsey could be.

So, if I were to rate their chances on a numerical scale, here’s the list.

1. Mike Tyson

2. Muhammad Ali

3. Jack Dempsey

4. Joe Louis

5. George Foreman

6. Lennox Lewis.

7. Joe Frazier

8. Larry Holmes

9. Gene Tunney

There’s a large gap between #1, my only favorite and the rest. The #2, 3, & 4 are all competitive fights that swing either way depending on who was on and who was off on the day of the fight, so it’s the first four greats listed who realistically have a decent shot at dethroning the Klitschkos.

Subjective Fantasy Fight outcomes really don’t mean much to the Great Pantheon of Boxing when we know even big favorites can be upset. Let’s delve deeper into the established criticisms of this era.

Some moan about the Klitschko’s not beating anyone and their era being a weak one, but they said the same thing about Joe Louis. The history is such that the heavyweights have never fully satisfied boxing insiders and boxing fans in any era, all being derided for their weak heavyweights, so the weak argument is just that, a terribly weak argument that has never held water.

Same deal with them not beating anyone. Facts are that when they turned pro, they were obligated by contracts to fight on a German promotional banner that was also starting out, so there were problems breaking into the elite US market at the time. Vitali did fly over for a few Mike Tyson fights in the late 90s to drum up interest, but American boxing isn’t much interested today much less back when. Eventually they broke the Don King stranglehold on the division and have had no problems securing top fights since then, nor any problems disposing of the best competition of their boxing careers.

Still, both brothers were Ring ranked by the end of the 90s with Wlad being #1 for most of the time since 2001. You are welcome to peruse my previous article on the Battle of the Weakest links that examines past great heavies’ weakest defenses compared to Vitali:

https://roberto00.wordpress.com/2010/05/28/the-battle-of-the-weakest-links/

And the article detailing the current top 25 heavyweights in boxing and the Klitschko brothers‘ records against them. Warning….it’s pretty impressive:

https://roberto00.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/the-heavyweight-dilemma-vitali-klitschko-vs-shannon-briggs/

While speculation is never written in stone, records is records and those are written in stone and provide much of the basis of my conclusions. If we had a massive tourney involving all these fighters, at the end of the day the best would take their lumps and losses with the worst of them with some odd results mixed in as happens so often in big matchmaking. Anything is possible

Fighters have always been matched up in theory, the perfect excuse to breaking a fight down stylistically enough to justify picking a winner, so there it all is laid out for whomever wants it:

The Klitschkos vs…….

Who you got?

===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.

Evander Holyfield–When Enough Ain’t Enough

Good golly Miss Folly, when will enough be ENOUGH ALREADY for Evander Holyfield?

"The Greenbriar"

“The Greenbriar”

So as not to be a spoilsport, I’m OK that he is fighting  Sherman Williams at The Greenbrier, a historic high end hotel resort privy to the moneyed bluebloods and the ruling establishment of Washington DC.

Hey, it’s the kind of classy soft landing clubfight venue that fans and former fans of 48 yr old Mr. Holyfield have long pined for after a career spent going against most of the best heavyweights of the 1990s, one of the best heavyweight eras of boxing.

Mr. Field notched his first top ten heavy scalp in 1989 against Michel Dokes in a thrilling fight of the year kinda slugfest that wowed boxing fans everywhere. In between his last top ten scalp against Hasim Rahman in 2002, Mr. Holyfield managed to win 4 heavyweight titles, a new record, but the magic was clearly gone when he had to billygoat his way to victory over Rahman in a bizarre technical win that ended with Rahman sporting a lump the size of a softball over his eye.

That’s a long legendary 13 years against the best, and an even longer 9 years afterwards that sees Mr. Holyfield struggling to show any form against top ten fighters. He has even struggled against retired, inactive heavies on the comeback trail, aka Sherman Williams, 34-11-2, 19 KO as it may happen this Saturday at The Greenbrier.

This fight has been bounced around from venue to venue as promoters struggle to put together a viable package they can market as has happened to many of Mr. Holyfield’s scheduled opponents whose fights ultimately were canceled for lack of promotional and public interest. His next fight is supposed to be on March 5th against Brian Nielsen in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The soon to be 46 yr old former IBO/IBC champ Brian Nielson is another retired heavy announcing a comeback after a sweet 9 year vacation. And why shouldn’t he hop on the newly formed Real Deal Senior Circuit?

Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis and Larry Holmes are reported to have received special viewing invitations at this historic West Virginia landmark, so could be a chance for one or all to scout out the promotion and contemplate their own comebacks against Mr. Holyfield.

And I’m OK with that, this new senior circuit league.

What I’m not OK with is Mr. Holyfield’s incessant quest to not only regain a 5th heavyweight title, but to unify the division, something he could never do in his prime, though he did win and go to defend a unified title 3x before losing it to Riddick Bowe.

Don King leveraged the legend of Mr. Holyfield to maneuver him to two consecutive title challenges in 2007-2008 to WBO champ Sultan Ibragimov and WBA champ NikolayValuev. He could scarcely mount an offensive threat against the champs who were clearly wearing the cuffs, not wishing to be the one blamed for scrambling the remainder of his brains for the rest of his life, or WORSE!

In his prime as a champion, Mr. Holyfield’s KO ratio was abysmal and has only gotten worse as his reflexes abandoned him while aging through the decades. It just ain’t a fairfight anymore unless he gets “assistance” from officials as he now requires.

The Greenbrier “Redemption in America” card has been heavily promoted in Fightnews, seemingly some dozen or more articles every week for several weeks now. He did an interview with boxing fanhouse as part of the leadup to the fight claiming the Klitschkos are ducking him:

http://boxing.fanhouse.com/2011/01/19/evander-holyfield-and-the-klitschkos-can-make-20-million-apiec/

I don’t know what is more laughable, or is it cryable, when Mr. Holyfield followed the ducking charge on the topic of money, how much he made and how much he could make for everyone, splitting $40 million against one of the brothers in ‘Vander World.

Newsflash for Mr. Holyfield:

Top contenders don’t want to fight you because they don’t want to hit you, and as much as you want to hit them, you can’t any more than you could hit the side of a barn with a sawed off shotgun in your current state of decline.

It Happens

It Happens

Give it up and stay on the senior circuit.

I suspect even the rusting 258 lb Sherman “Tank” will give you more fire than team Atlanta has seen since General Sherman marched through the Atlanta cottonfields some 145 yrs ago. The parallel may be lost on you, but fairplay, we know the fight is the perfect prep for a Tyson rubber match, something more in your league, so good luck, but please, keep your delusions to yourself, you’re scarin’ folks.

George Foreman was knocking around a prime Shannon Briggs like a bowling pin at your age, but you ain’t Big Bad George. You were  lucky enough hang on for dear life in the closing rounds to survive him in your prime, a distant 20 yrs ago.

For the sake of boxing, your fans, and more importantly, your family, especially your children, please do find that perfect soft spot to land your retirement on with a semblance of dignity your career deserves.

Oh, did I mention Mr. Holyfield is defending his newly “won” World Boxing Federation heavyweight title he acquired from “knocking out” Kris Kringle in the form of one Frans Botha?

Yah, va con Dios, mi amigo.

The Strange Case of Deontay Wilder, The Last US Olympic Medalist

Deontay Wilder was the sole US Olympic Medalist in boxing from the Beijing Olympics of 2008, the only bright spot among that ill fated Olympic squad.

He won a bronze medal, so perhaps flew under the American radar upon his return given the poor showing by the rest of the team, a far cry from the gold medal bonanzas Americans used to gather in as their birthright in the glory days of yore.

The Bronze Bomber

The Bronze Bomber

Deontay sorta came out of nowhere to win a pair of national amateur titles before qualifying for the Olympics and nabbing a bronze, so he has a limited amateur background. Call him a George Foreman Lite since George surprised a lot of folks by taking gold in 1968 with a very limited amateur background before turning pro.

Difference between Big George’s pro career and Wilder is that Foreman started off facing some pretty stiff competition and quickly became a ranked and greatly feared fighter.

Young Wilder is a month away from turning 25, the start of traditional athletic peak years and coming up on 2 yrs as a pro while sporting an 11-0, 11 KO record. Sounds great, right?

So, in 4 yrs he’d be 22-0, 22 KO and a ranked fighter, right?

WRONG!

He might well be 22-0, 22 KO, but he won’t be within a light year from landing a ranking by facing the poor opposition he’s been feasting on. His last two opponents were 400 and 300 pounders respectively. The 400 pounder had never beaten a fighter who had won a single fight and is so poor that not even boxrec will rank him. The 300 pounder is just under a 500th boxrec ranking, meaning there are almost 500 fighters around the world ranked ahead of him.

I’m sure there are many more qualified folks than I in boxing wondering how Wilder can develop into a contender fighting such morbidly weak fighters?

It’s not like he doesn’t have a strong team behind him either.  Mark Breland is his trainer and is arguably the best amateur boxer in US history, an Olympic Gold Medalist and two time WBA welter champ, so he has some chops. Wilder is managed by Shelly Finkel and promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, high profile insiders.

Did Golden Boy blow a golden opportunity this Saturday to feature The Last US Olympic Medalist as the headliner in Las Vegas on an otherwise dreary weekend in boxing that sees him buried in Mississippi fighting another 38 yr old no hoper flirting with a 600th boxrec ranking?

And Mark Breland relocated from Brooklyn to Mississippi to train Breland for this?

Really?

Or is Deontay Wilder simply not interested in doing more than exploring the bottomless depths of boxing’s empty barrel?

Shame is that he’s a very long, lean, handsome, telegenic type of kid that Americans desperate for a glimmer of hope in the heavy division could really get behind, but the general public has just flat out never seen him or forgot about him if they had even heard of him.

The most damning, obscene words imaginable fail to capture the depths that the long time dominant American Big Man in boxing has fallen into for this and future eras it would appear.

There is HUGE $$$,$$$,$$$ to be made for the next American heavyweight champ, but apparently all you can eat buffets and soft opposition that they can gum are more inviting with this generation.

Nobody with any sense expects the kid to necessarily be fighting fringe contenders in his 2nd full year of professional boxing, but the kid is moving backwards at a faster rate than he’s moving forward. He’s being de-evolved as a prospect, and nowhere near being a contender in this lifetime.

Well, it’s his life and his career and he and his handlers can do with it what they may, but it remains a mystery for a fighter known as the Bronze Bomber.

Who?