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Bobby Mac Sez This Ain’t Yer Pappy’s Top Ten Heavyweights in History!

A directive was recently issued to me, that of a compilation of the greatest top 10 heavyweights of all time, a daunting task for the serious aficionado full of disputation to be sure. The criteria ain’t specified other than the assumption of my own unique perspective, so with me and myself having seen and made so many such lists as to become fuzzy over time, I am going to recreate two lists based on two distinct criteria; that of the overall excellence of record, and that of looking at heavies who had the biggest impact on boxing and the world in which they lived, both leavened with the unique opportunities and obstacles of their eras.

The first list is the boxing and world impact, both of which have the biggest influence in boxing.

1.Joe Louis…It don’t get any bigger worldwide than the rematch with Max Schmeling on the eve of WW2 in a bout that was relayed worldwide via the nascent radio of the era. Joe was the first black American heavyweight the overwhelming white majority could rally around and set the stage for the post WW2 integration of Major League Baseball and the US armed forces and subsequent civil rights movements. Need I add that Joe was also a major inspiration in the development of Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King as young boys avidly listening to his fights on the radio?

2.The Klitschko brothers…Their collective was 109-7, 94 KO and never once took a ten count that averages ot to 55-4, 47 KO. Between them they moved the heavyweight division to Germany and knocked Don King out of the heavy division to usher in the continuing saga of East European dominance of the heavier boxing divisions.

3.Bob Fitzsimmons…A rare trifecta of being part the first proposed full length feature cinematographic project by Thomas Edison’s Black Maria Studio, the first title fight against James J Corbett to be held in Dallas, Texas, circa 1895 that was cancelled when the Texas Legislature made prize fighting illegal. The always overly dramatic Corbett publicly forfeited his title that was then fought over near Langtry, Texas by Fitz and Peter Maher.

Maher had previously claimed the forfeited Corbett title in November of 1895 against Steve O’Donnell with a 1st rd KO. Fitz and Maher were situated in 1896 on a spit island in the middle of the Rio Grande(Bravo) for the first failed full length feature cinematographic project by Thomas Edison. Tragically the crew could not not get properly set up in misty conditions before Maher became his own victim of a first round KO as his claims to the title transferred to Ruby Robert. Whatever may have been filmed has thus far been lost in time though hope springs eternal that it may possibly turn up.

The 1897 Corbett vs Fitz fight held in Reno, Nevada, the first ever successful full length feature film that additionally became the first ever national and international blockbuster that established art of cinematography permanently in the world. Subsequently James J Jeffries helped develop the art of cinematography further when he knocked out Fitz to claim the title though sadly almost all of the Jeffries film has be either lost or waiting to be rediscovered. The first non boxing blockbuster featuring actors was The Great Train Robbery 6 years later in 1903, a film of only 10 minutes for perspective that introduced the first ever silent screen star to the public, Bronco Billy.

4.John L Sullivan, 39-1-1, 33 KO. John L was the first and only unified Bareknucks and Gloved Queensbury champ and the first American to consolidate titles that had previously belonged exclusively to the British. John L first set up the worldwide heavyweight stage in a growing age of literacy and media expansion, where they remained save for a nanoblip by Ingemar Johansson for a century before Lennox Lewis upset the American monopoly.

5A.Jack Dempsey, 55-6-8, 45 KO. Established the modern spectacle of boxing that is seldom matched and never exceeded.

5B.Muhammad Ali, 56-5, 37 KO. Perhaps the 2nd best known fighter in the world only exceeded by the modern phenomenon of Manny Pacquiao and his 3 billion Asian population base enhanced with modern communication broadcasting.

5C.Mike Tyson, 50-6, 44 KO. Youngest ever champ who cleaned up the derelict post Ali era to unify the titles and temporarily wipe Don King’s slate clean. He had already held the record for career purse earnings before King and Robin Givens ever sunk their claws into him.

OK, now, and what about the greatest records?

1.Joe Louis, 66-3, 52 KO. Nominally his 26(27)-1 heavyweight title records were exceeded, but, overall never surpassed. The 27th was Lee Savold who claimed both the white heavy title and the BBBC heavyweight title that Joe is seldom credited with after knocking him out.

2.The Klitschko brothers, 109-7, 94 KO and bukos title fights with nary a 10 count between them. Collectively they smashed the Louis record, and though individually Wlad exceeded his total career heavyweight title fights, he fell short of the overall Louis record. They may well hold the heavyweight record of the most winning rounds scored as overmatched opponents seldom penetrated their defense.  More importantly they put down Don King for years of 10 counts and transferred heavyweight title fights to Germany-HERESY to be sure!

3.Rocky, 49-0, 43 KO. The most iconic record in all of boxing. My next door neighbor who knows shinola about boxing can recite Rocky’s record like a mantra.

4.Sam Langford, 178-29-39, 126 KO. Mere numerical records FAIL to capture Sam’s greatness, not the least being the sheer number of fights he had against HOF fighters that greatly exceed all such fights by other fighters.

5.Anthony Joshua, 22-0, 21 KO. Going into his 8th title fight as a unified belt holder, no heavyweight as yet has done as much with such a limited number of fights. I always like to include a current great in rankings just to PO dusty mossbacks not understanding that all the greats in the making were moderns in their day as Josh is.

Consolidating the two lists by working backwards using my fighter ratings as their points totals, that’s Josh with 5 points, Sam with 4 points, Rocky with 3 points, The Ks with 2, and Louis with 1.

Then we have Dempsey, Ali, and Tyson tied with 5 each, John L with 4, Fitz at 3, the Ks at 2 and Louis at 1.

Adding up the two lists with fighters not appearing on both lists being assigned a place value of 6 to keep my rankings on keel, That’s Louis 1+1 with 2 pts, the Ks 2+2 with 4, Fitz 3+6 with 9, John L 4+6 with 10, Dempsey, Ali, and Tyson, all 5+6 with 11 each, Josh 5+6 with 11, Sam with 10, Rocky with 7. Divided by 2 to get the final point rankings in numerical order:Louis 1, Ks 2, Rocky 3.5, Fitz 4.5, John L 5, Sam 5, and Dempsey, Ali, Tyson, and Josh 5.5

Translated into standard numerical ranking order:Louis 1, Ks 2, Rocky 3, Fitz 4, John L 5A and Sam 5B, Dempsey, Ali, Tyson, and Joshua 7A, 7B, 7C, 7 D.

So technically that 11 heavyweights if we split the Klitschko brothers, but they were such a dominating force in boxing that they really have to be consolidated as one unit to understand their impact.

Honorable mention goes to Manny Pacquiao who has a super duty heavyweight heart encapsulated into that compact frame. He’s become a huge name both here and in the largest potential boxing market in the world, the Asian culture. His dynamic style and willingness to take on, beat, and knock out the most Ring P4Pers in history at the start of the 3rd Millennium after being born into one of the poorest families in history in the 3rd world resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars of career purses, most of which was returned to his native peoples in the forms of schools, hospitals, and other desperately needed infrastructure developments as well as holding Congressional duties as well as too many other interests to stagger reality.

Yeah, I know it ain’t yer Pappy’s top 10 heavyweight rankings, but I ain’t much for feeling like your pappy. It’s my list and the one I’m sticking with for now since their is no agreement on how to rank fighters. I at least gave my methodology combining two important elements. Another ranking method many use is who beats who in a fantasy fight. While interesting from various physical and stylistic attributes, seldom do these rankers specify uniform rules and rounds that would average out the wide ranging eras of  the competing fighters and always disputes as to who beats who even before fighters glove up with each other today.

Fighting is the nature of boxing!

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.

 

 

Future Destiny In Waiting~Wladimir Klitschko vs Kubrat Pulev

***Fight postponed due to Wladimir injury reported alternately as a hamstring pull or left bicep tear. Sad but true perhaps this warning shot across the bow of the aging Klitschko juggernaut as he dragged Shannon Briggs across the landscape that left him shaking his right hand. Not much else in the story, but link here for confirmation:

http://www.espn.co.uk/boxing/sport/story/336929.html

Wladimir Klitschko is back in action to defend his myriad collection of world title belts against IBF mandatory Kubrat Pulev at O2 World Arena in Hamburg, Germany on Saturday, September 6th. He is coming off a successful defense against his WBO mandatory Alex Leapai who was well tenderized before being knocked out in the 6th round, but there’s much more at stake than just this upcoming title defense.

The Combatants

The Combatants

Klitschko is currently 23-2, 17 KOs in title fights coming into his his 26th title fight. Only the immortal Joe Louis was in more heavyweight title fights, sporting a 26-1 record with the 26 all consecutive wins, one record heavyweights will likely never break. A win against Pulev puts Wladimir within two title fights of tying Joe’s 26 title wins record and breaking his 27 total title fights record.

Records are fascinating reflections of the eras in which they occur and most will eventually be broken as the rules and culture changes, but boxing has a history of pulling the plug on modern fighters approaching Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 heavyweight record. The Joe Louis records may be even more revered as we may discover once Wlad tries to cross that threshold. This is the first recorded instance of a modern heavyweight champion also simultaneously approaching the Joe Louis final record of 66-3, 52 KO, dead square within his sights with Wlad currently at 62-3, 52 KO and still on top of his game. There will be much moaning and wringing of limp hands about this heavy division being soft by the grandsons of the same moaning critics of previous eras who were never satisfied with the greats who do pass through their eras, always preferring the good old days of their misguided besotted youth when the biggest impressions are made on the soft clay of their memory.

The perfect modern era example of that misanthropic thinking is the stellar record of two division champ Dariusz Michalczweski who was the long time “lineal” lightheavyweight champ according to the varied arcane claims kept by persnickety purist “boxing experts” as he waged one of the best title runs in history. He approached the Rocky Marciano career mark of 49-0 as he also made a bid to tie the Joe Louis record of 26 consecutive title wins. During his span of 9 years the aptly monikered “Tiger” defended his WBO lightheavy title while adding the WBO cruiserweight title that he never defended and the IBF, WBA, and “lineal” titles when he beat HOFer Virgil Hill.

The Fates could not have arranged for a more eventful challenge to boxing history, but being such fastidiously fickle sisters, they upped their ante on this poor Polish boy by booting him into Germany where he became a huge star with the expected accumulating hubris as he played out his preordained destiny before adoring fans.

They also made sure that Michalczweski was to be infamously and quite immediately stripped of his hard won WBA and IBF baubles that Roy Jones Jr then moved up to claim to much more acclaim that in turn secured his own lock as a first ballot International Boxing Hall of Famer that Dariusz currently remains locked out of. Roy fought many of the same fighters Dariusz fought, often after Dariusz had already taken care of business in advance. As Dariusz approached those legendary boxing milestones, he and his team obviously developed a sense of history and wanted affirmation from American media that historically define prevailing boxing media content. They flew to America for an HBO televised Jones title match where he publicly lobbies for a Jones unification fight to no avail. Jones and his HBO paymasters blithely snubbed what would have been the biggest money purse in Roy’s career. You could ask them why, but I doubt there will be any truth forthcoming. You see, all that big money was only if the fight were held in Germany with a German broadcaster that HBO either could not or would not match in a home setting for Roy. Nor would Roy travel abroad for a big fight much like the the current crop of acclaimed undefeated American P4Pers whose names are already forgotten in the span of time.

Instead Roy settled for the much touted Don King canned WBA heavyweight challenge against John Ruiz with King contractually keeping that title “in house” for well over a decade before his own inevitable decline finally saw him lose his grip. So King held the WBA heavy option on Roy for one year to no avail when Roy simply refused to defend, instead holding a King’s Court as suitors supplicated themselves before him with a dozen heavyweight and cruiserweight big fight offers before vacating the heavyweight title which, cough, cough, immediately reverted back to the justly maligned John Ruiz.  Roy did finally return and beat Antonio Tarver to an unexpected savaging by critics who finally saw their estimation of his otherworldly talents and career dashed on the rocks of their own misguided expectations of Roy cleaning out the heavyweight division.

‘T’ain’t ever easy being the best ever in the best of times when the times savagely turn on you.

The discouraged Dariusz instead held his historic bout against the light swatting Julio Gonzalez whom Roy had previously beaten in 12 lackluster rounds. Gonzalez was the best Dariusz could find under the circumstances, yet a poor substitute that showed in his own lackluster performance where he looked to be sleep walking underwater for the first half of the fight as the gentle pitty-pattering rain of Gonzalez racked up the points. Then the switch gets turns on as Dariusz finds his timing and desire to chase and pound on Gonzalez down the stretch. I thought Dariusz showed the heart of a champ under adverse conditions to win those rounds, but instead the judges denied him that fight and his place in history with a razor thin split decision loss.

Dariusz record here: Dariusz Michalczewski

The modestly equipped Gonzalez could do nothing with the belt but to promptly drop it to talented undefeated Hungarian Zsolt Erdei who had his own problems making big fights with Americans. So the great Roy Jones thus became something of arcane anomaly after all his storied dozens of title fights in never having once held the “Lineal” belt holder in any of the four divisions he held the belt.

So the extensive history of the above/\ is the backdrop setting in this upcoming international fistic play as we get back to the robust upcoming challenge ahead to Wlad’s own considerable legacy.

The 33 year old Bulgarian Pulev is a rugged 6-5, 250 lbs who doesn’t give away any size or strength worth noting. He has recently beat 3 “giant” heavyweights in a row, knocking out top 20 contenders Alexander Dimitrenko and Alexander Ustinov and then beating top 10 Tony Thompson by decision. Though his record pales compared to Wlad, only 20-0, 11 KO, he seems like the type of fighter who fights up or down to the importance of the fight and this his biggest fight ever.

The Klitschko brothers’ K2 Promotions won the IBF mandatory purse bid over Pulev promoter Saureland promotions which was the only way this fight could have been made since both are big German promotional rivals who seldom work with each other unless circumstances force them.

Sound familiar?

Pulev has managed to go a bit further in the prefight than previous Wlad opponents, claiming he, Pulev, is drug tested 6x per year and demanding Wlad take his same tests. Wlad only undergoes post fight drug testing under the auspices of the German Boxing Federation, approximately 2-3x per year dependent on his fight schedule, so no Olympic drug testing controversy this one. The recent Felix Sturm/Sam Soliman bombardment of vicious charges and counter charges over the legality of a nominal compound used in vitamins and supplements highlights the shameless incompetence of cartels and commissions who crudely rule over this untidy sport. If the illicit cartels and commishes ever establish themselves to be as well tested and competently trained as the fighters that they attempt to pass judgement on, then some day the public might take these clowns seriously. Yeah, fat chance that, but such is the way life is everywhere, so we the people of the world adjust to modern prefight and prework drug testing posturing the best we can.

The Cannon Iced!

The Cannon Iced!

And speaking of going further than normal in prefight posturing, a special mention must be made for the grotesquely abnormal pre-prefight posturing of Shannon Briggs in a frothing, rabid state of hysteria during the weeks to the lead up to this fight. He had been stalking Klitschko in his Florida training regimen with what looked like staged video setups, the first of which showed him taking off a shoe to throw at Wlad who was having his hands taped. OK, just some harmless goofy stuff that gets the usual suspects all riled up, but five weeks away from the Pulev fight Briggs stormed a restaurant Klitscko was dining at, screaming hysterically before grabbing his plate to wolf down Wlad’s meal. Wlad blithely joked around before pouring ice water over his bald noggin which flashed Briggs to sweep the table clear in a shattering violent explosion before a bodyguard wrapped him up to cart off outside where Briggs fled to the local hospital with cut hands and feet. Wlad may have cut or broken his right hand as well as he was looking at the palm and shaking something off.

So, Wlad has to effectively negotiate through Shannon “The Loose Cannon” Briggs first who may well be stalking him in his return to Germany as he has done in the past before Wlad can fight Pulev. We shall see soon enough if these were publicity set ups if and when Wlad schedules the desperate Briggs for his next fight. Video here:

At the very least the best heavyweight champion of this era will meet yet another of his main rivals, something that seldom happens in the US at the lesser weights they represent these days.

It should be noted that Wladimir’s brother Vitali was recently elected mayor of Kiev in Ukraine which is currently engaged in a tragically escalating border war against Russia. Hard to say how those political and war distractions add up, but Wlad should be the betting favorite by a good margin over Pulev who looks like he’s durable enough to be dangerous over all 12 rounds.

The usual anti social media monkeys male bonded in a fury of vitriol over Klitschko’s excessive holding against Russian Alexander Povetkin last year and then piled on over the quality of Alex Leapai as a fighter. Wlad looked like a proctologist grown weary of his profession as he gazed down upon Povetkin in a reflective pause before donning the rubber gloves for the perfunctory examination, but look a little closer and you can almost see a return to the original London Prize Ring Rules with 3 hard knockdowns and otherwise manhandling the surprisingly game Povetkin to toss him about the ring old school style into the ropes and onto the canvas like a rag doll. This Pulev fellow looks too strong and densely built for that, but at the end of the day, Wlad has been executing his various mandatory defenses by the textbook, meaning Pulev is likely well pulped by the end of their session however the means.

Is Pulev made of greater stuff than just another lumped up, lopsided heavybag twisting on the chains for Wladimir? Been much bigger upsets than this one which could be interesting on many fronts. Just you watch and wait and see history in the making…

The Essentials

The Essentials

A Tribute to the “Champion”

What Champion is that you ask?

It just so happens that the order of “Revelation” goes Kirk Douglas, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, and Jack Dempsey  that was sparked by wondering if Kirk Douglas was still living?

There have been a plethora of boxing films made, too many poorly made and lost in ignominy, but the “Champion” refers to a 1949 release of an acclaimed adaptation of a Ring Lardner story starring Kirk Douglas that was one of the true fight film standouts.

“Champion” was  a breakout film for Douglas and his first ever starring role. It garnered a slew of Academy nominations and one award.

The Champ

The Champ

Douglas plays a young impoverished man abandoned as a boy, Midge Kelly. He’s recruited into a gritty boxing gym where he is transformed from clumsy beginnings into an all action slugger in the mold of a Rocky Graziano who was a very popular middleweight champ of the era. Midge seduces or is seduced by several women whom he abandons while stepping on everyone he meets as he fights his way up to the championship. It’s a dark black and white period film with buckets of blood, mafia, knockouts, and heartbreaks galore.

The finale finds Midge hallucinating, suffering the after effects of a vicious bout he has to come from behind to win, dying from a brain hemorrhage on his training table. It happens that dying in the ring or shortly thereafter was an all too frequent occurrence in the 1940s, the highest ring fatality decade of all time by a fair number. Going into the 50s, things didn’t improve much.

Here’s Midge being transformed from two left feet into a slugger. Guess the theme music:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mbe1YJVUm-s&feature=related

Here he’s a ruthless King of his World:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDF3lPt42WE

Realistically, the actual boxing in “boxing movies” is terrible with only few exceptions. Hollywood uses boxing movies as their reenactment of the fight business that gave Hollywood a business model and new technology that Hollywood transformed into the megalomaniacal pyrotechnics special effects recycled action series that we see today.

Fight movies as done by Hollywood are sorta like Civil War reenactments as if play acting lends true understanding to the horror of spilled blood and guts of dead and wounded, boys mostly, more than all the other American wars combined. I guess they mean well and can be interesting now and again.

So imagine my surprise to find that cartoon boxing movie, Rocky, was chosen to be on the National Film Registry list, and not Champion. Kirk Douglas was one of the finest actors ever and star of maybe the most inspirational combat movie ever, Spartacus.

Kirk Douglas turns 95 years young this year, so Happy Birthday Kirk!

Spartacus

Spartacus

Love At First Strike

Love At First Strike

I’ve already written an open letter to the NFR asking why the 1897 heavyweight title fight between James Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons was not chosen in their 2 decades long compilation of movies. It’s only the core history of film making the NFR are ignoring, but lest I digress any further, you can see my open letter here:

Any way, in checking the existent footage of Champion available on Youtube, naturally it’s easy to get distracted with suggestions of like-minded videos, and lo and behold, wouldn’t you know I got some great footage of Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali, two of the greatest champs ever, and then Jack Dempsey.

My inquiries are furthered with Kirk Douglas paying tribute to Rocky shortly after his untimely death by introducing some classic clips of Rock winning the title from Jersey Joe Walcott. Kirk recounts the funny story of when he first met Rocky when both were in training in an Los Angelas gym in 1949.

Then that led to the 1969-70 Murray Woroner Computer Super Fight that featured Rocky knocking out Ali in the final, but not many know an alternate ending was distributed in Europe where Ali stopped Rocky on cuts. I had never seen that footage, so what a thrill it was to finally see the alternate ending.

But then that led to a Howard Cosell interview of a 69 yr old Dempsey and Rocky along with a couple of boxing writers the following Saturday after Ali won his controversial rematch with Liston. Rocky was very astute in his observations but made it clear that he wasn’t in any position to actually know how hard the phantom punch landed. Dempsey was more direct, saying he didn’t bother to attend the fight because he thought some funny business was going on, and he agreed with Rocky that the punch seemed fairly weak overall.

So, I wanted to expand the appreciation of these great champs by including the clips.

Rocky explains how to beat Ali:

Basic Computer fight: These are actual filmed sessions between Ali and Rocky who trained hard to get into shape to break a long period of inactivity each had fallen into during this period. They became fast friends by the end.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XKcGRREcaM&feature=related

Ali explains how to beat Rock:

Alternate ending: Angelo Dundee’s brother, Chris stops the bout!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SpGgop1Luc&feature=related

Cosell interview of Dempsey and Rocky:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuLWvYRpVR4&feature=related

Cosell asked Walcott, the referee if he wanted to be on the show, but, naturally, he refused. His performance that infamous night was as poor as ever recorded out of a referee, maybe his last bout.

History as it was made, fantastic stuff and a Big Shout to all the gentlemen who put together these clips. Might want to check out their offerings at their main sites.

Joe Louis—Born on the 4th of July

Dateline-4TH of JULY, 1934:

Mighty Young Joe

Mighty Young Joe

Alabama sharecropper’s son, Joe Louis was birthed as a professional boxer at Bacon’s Arena, Chicago, Illinois, forever altering the history of the known world.

Need I remind anyone the miserable state of affairs in the world in 1934, particularly gruesome in Asia, Britain and Europe?

The storied Joe Louis  left hook made it’s debut, knocking down Jack Kracken, 10-6, to open the first round. One good punch shortly thereafter and the world was officially put  on alert when Louis knocked Kracken OUT of the ring into the lap of the startled Illinois Athletic Commissioner overseeing the bout. The ruckus stirred up so much havoc that the poor timekeep never got out of the gate to record the time of the first round KO.

Nobody needed to wave the Red, White, and Blue or strike up the Brass Band. The fireworks he staged in the ring were impressive enough to be remembered forever.

Joe earned $52 for his efforts, a pittance by inflated modern standards, but nothing for a sharecropper’s boy to sneer at in those morbid Depression era years, yet so much greater riches and acclaim awaited in the wings than he could ever imagine in his wildest dreams.

Some 20 years prior, Joseph Louis Barrow made a more typical entry as a bouncing baby boy in Lafayette, Alabama, May 13th, 1914 from the union of Munroe Barrow and Lillie (Reese) Barrow, the seventh of eight children. He weighed 11 pounds at birth, already a heavyweight. The champion, Jack Johnson was in his last year as an exile in France. The next year he would lose his title in Cuba to big Jesse Willard, leaving the door ajar for Louis to slam shut some 22 years later.

The purpose of this article is not a blow by blow account of Joe’s rise to the top of the heap. You can peruse his chronological record here, read the fight reports, and click on his bio: Joe Louis

No sir, I bring up that hot 4th of July introduction of Joe Louis to cheer your countenance and warm your cockles on these frigid winter days and lend perspective why he is usually considered the greatest pure heavyweight in history.

The entire fate of the Free World, indeed, the entire world of high and mighty down to common folk and other sharecropper’s sons and daughters resided in the dynamite of his fists not even 4 yrs later, June 22, 1938.

Joe & Max

Joe & Max

70 million folks in every imaginable time zone and of every imaginable nationality, race, religion, and class across the world listened to THE FIGHT, the first ever truly international broadcast of a championship fight.

By Jove, can JOE LOUIS GET ANY BIGGER THAN THE UNIVERSAL TRUTH without the Sun exploding in OUTRAGEOUS RIGHTEOUSNESS? 

Creation

Creation

Some intriguing Joe Louis ring essentials defy all logic:

~~Louis finished his debut year in the Ring rankings.

~~First full year of boxing and Louis finishes as Ring #1 with James Braddock being the new champ.

~~Third full year of boxing and Louis, barely a month after turning 23, wins the title, already sporting a record of 4-1, 4 KOs against future HOFers.

~~Joe was still in his prime when he volunteered for the US Army at the start of World War II resulting in 3+ yrs of professional boxing inactivity, yet remained invincible in his return to the ring with a 4-0, 3 KO title defense record, 3 of those wins being against future HOFers.

~~Fourteenth year of boxing and Joe Louis retires as unbeaten, untied, universally beloved champion, still holding the current never to be broken record of 25 defenses and near 12 yrs as champ. His record was an incredible 58-1, 50 KO. He had just turned 34 and beaten all of his competition out of sight for the immediate future.

Of all the championship modern heavies passing through the gates of time since, only Wladimir Klitschko has come close to that record, currently age 34 and 55-3, 49 KO. Take almost 4 years out of his career to match Louis, and he wouldn’t even be close.

~~Louis makes comeback after two years retirement at age 36, taking on The Great Champion of the day without a tuneup, Ezzard Charles, and dropping a hard fought decision. Joe soldiers on, winning 8 straight against era contenders in becoming Ring #1, beating yet another future HOFer, Jimmy Bivins, before succumbing an all time legend, Rocky Marciano, putting up a tough fight before going out on his shield.

~~Included in the above post retirement streak was Lee Savold who was the BBB of C recognized Heavyweight Champion of the World, making Louis the first to regain a portion of his heavyweight title. Regrettably, the BBB of C decided to “strip” Joe by recognizing Ezzard Charles the very next day. Savold was also the last known holder of the “white heavyweight title,” a title Joe never claimed nor wanted, but was entitled to by merit.

Final record of 66-3, 52 KO.

G I JOE

G I JOE

While in the US Army, Joe Louis not only ran interference for the Robinson twins, Jackie and Sugar Ray, but he mentored them much as Joe had been mentored by Jack Blackburn and John Roxborough. Without Joe Louis both fiery competitors would have likely ended up in the brig and the sports world deprived of their matured greatness when they emerged from the US Army with honorable discharges.

Joe Louis was awarded the Legion of Merit medal in 1945 for meritorious service during dangerous war conditions endured on both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters after logging more than 21,000 miles and staging 96 boxing exhibitions before two million servicemen, a defacto free pass out of the service. I became acquainted with one of those elderly grizzled service fighters in my youth, a still in fighting trim ex-Navy heavyweight champ, Mr. King, who swelled in obvious pride when he recounted his exhibition with Joe.

The boost in morale Joe Louis gave to the troops was incalculable. He reputedly fought an exhibition at Cheesefoot Head, a very large natural amphitheatre in the Hampshire countryside just outside Winchester, England in front of tens of thousands of gathered Allied troops just days before the massive D-Day invasion of Normandy.

So, when President Harry Truman was turning over the intractable issue of military integration in 1949, Joe Louis was one of the few men whose counsel he solicited, and you better believe that the naturally reticent Joe gave Mr. President the full measure his Army experiences and opinions.

If ever a man was the embodiment of Teddy Roosevelt’s philosophy of walking softly and carrying a big stick, Joe Louis would be that man.

Nelson Mandela cites Ghandi and Joe Louis as his greatest influences growing into his own manhood as does Martin Luther King.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0451527534/ref=sib_rdr_dp/104-3205997-1576710

As the pellet dropped into the container, and the gas curled upward, through the microphone came these words: “Save me, Joe Louis. Save me, Joe Louis. Save me, Joe Louis.”

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5337959

“Every time I hear the name Joe Louis my nose starts to bleed.”- Tommy Farr

Joe Louis by his nature had a very compact, relaxed style both in and out of the ring, never prone to great flashy shows of extemporaneous physical prowess or braggadocio, yet his simple observations are as timeless as his abbreviated knockout punches:

“He can run, but he can’t hide.”

“Everyone has a plan until they’ve been hit.”

“Everyone wants to go the heaven, but nobody wants to die.”

When mocked for his Bum of the Month record by the new champ, Muhammad Ali, Joe kept it simple and on target…

“I’d make you one of my bums too.”

And with my personal favorite, Joe knocked simplicity on it’s noggin when queried by a brusque reporter who noted that Joe didn’t like getting hit to the body…

”Who do?”

When Joe Louis finally passed away a month before his 67th birthday, then President Ronald Reagan ran interference and secured him an esteemed burial plot just below the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery where he was buried with full military honors.

Obituary: http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/joelouis.htm

Posthumously he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Of course, in Detroit, he has an arena named after him with a massive sculpture of his arm and fist, and this year a, 8’ tall bronze statue of Joe was erected at the county courthouse of his birthplace.

There are so many more complexities to the story of Joe Louis from his tragic battles with the IRS and shaky accountants, to the long list of his wives, women, and his friends that layered themselves into the fabric of his greatness, it becomes like trying to bottle lightning whilst reading The Iliad and The Odyssey Through The Looking Glass.

His magnificent boxing records and influence outside the ring may dim in the glittering here today, forgotten tomorrow bling of modern public consciousness, but Joe Louis can never be eclipsed in history.

…………………1 9 3 7 ~ 1 9 4 9 ………………

1937 ~ 1949

1937 ~ 1949

Listen Up: Without Peer, The One & The Only, Archie Moore

by Bobby Mac

First off, a disclaimer needs to be noted. I have always like Archie Moore before ever consciously thinking about what he meant to boxing.

It came about naturally just as the sun comes up in the east and sets in the west.

I mean, what was there not to like about this smiling, affable, congenial, just about every friendly descriptor that could be applied to him up to and including beaming man. Yes, Archie Moore as often as not was literally beaming good vibes, happiness, confidence, just about every positive descriptor that can be conjured and beaming them to every corner of the earth.

“Now, hold on right there podnah,” I can hear you saying, “how old are you, and this Moore fella, was he a saint who boxed or what?”

The Student & The Teacher

The Student & The Teacher

Well, I tell you that The Ol’ Mongoose proved that age was irrelevant, and yes, Archie could be said to be a saint who boxed, a wise sage who boxed, a desperately hungry man who boxed, an assassin who boxed, a grandfather, father, husband, and uncle who boxed. He was all these descriptors and more.

“Oh, come on.” you say, “You’re just gonna launch into another the good ol’ days being better than now. Today’s boxers are better trained and better athletes and this ol’ git would be lucky to be ranked.”

How about I recount to you a familiar story, the story of Bernard Hopkins who has often compared himself to Archie Moore? How many fights has he won after turning 40, and how many of your modern ABC belts were on the line? 

Hang on before you scurry off, let me save you the trouble, podnah.

Hopkins’ post 40 career record is 6-3, 0 KO and 3-3 in “title” bouts that generously include the light heavy Ring title he fought for 3x. He fought from middleweight to lightheavyweight.

“Not bad for a 40 year old legend,” you say?

Yeah, but the purpose is to compare to THE LEGEND, the Ol’ Mongoose, Archie Moore, the fighter Mr. Hopkins claims to be most like.

Now, grab your crotch, I don’t want the family jewels busting open on the concrete when I give you Archie’s numbers. How’s about 43-4-2 and 10-2 in full unified title bouts, the 10 wins being his undefeated lightheavy title reign and his 2 losses to HOF heavies, Rocky Marciano and Floyd Patterson.

Archie Decks The Rock

Archie Decks The Rock

Most of his fights  and knockouts were against heavies, too many for me to be bothered to count. Generally he’d only fight one or two lightheavy bouts in a year, mainly title defenses, and then cash in for the remainder of the year, most against ranked heavy contenders, fringe contenders and former contenders which was where the money was.

Then we have his last loss near 50 yrs of age against young Cassius Clay. What other old man in the history of boxing goes out on his shield against class like that?  

Now, stop your yelping and listen up. Nobody in any era has come close to that record, so I ain’t trying to skewer the era of your precious Mr. Hopkins. I’m just trying to hammer home some relevant history in your noggin is all.

Moore’s was the era when men were men and didn’t run around like it was Halloween dressed as executioners making silly signs like kids out on a dungeons and dragons lark. Like Liston, Archie was widely reputed to be 2-3 yrs older than his accepted birthday, meaning his post 40 record would be greater than Hopkin’s career record, but I don’t want to rub it in too harshly so as to ruin you for your wife.

Many a HOFer mixed in that post 40  record, many more than Hopkins faced in his career.

“How did he do it,” you ask?

Beats me and most anyone who stepped into the ring with him. I’d guess he was simply a one off fistic genius who was able to meld intelligence and discipline with waning but still formidable physical attributes in a way nobody else has come close to.

 Not sure if he ever divulged all his techniques for training and losing weight, but one famous method is gut wrenching, literally. He would eat a steak by chewing it very slowly and thoroughly, bite by bite, absorbing the juices and nutrients and then spit the spent bite into a bucket.

It’s no wonder he holds the record for the most KOs in boxing. He couldn’t wait for his post fight reward, the eating of the whole steak, a luxury beyond our imagination in his world of hurt.

Buy'em Dinner After the Big KO

Buy'em Dinner After the Big KO

So when the preening wonders of modern boxing science crow about being old school Archie Moore kind of tough, you can rest assured, a gaggle of em couldn’t lift the Ol’ Mongoose’s jock strap to carry it off.

Trust me on that.

An Outsider Looks In On Abraham/Dirrell Results

By Bobby Mac

March 30, 2010

In my preview of this fight, I threw out the possibility that this fight had the potential to be a classic for the ages.

The fighters did their parts, training to their maximum to utilize their styles to the best of their abilities in the difficult circumstances that each style caused for the other. The expected frontrunner ran to a dynamic lead with the late finisher closing strongly in what looked to be a compelling, dramatic fight to the finish.

Dirrell knocks Abraham to the ropesropes

The finish was sudden and dramatic alright, but it turned on an ugly foul that left Arthur Abraham disqualified as Andre Dirrell fell into unconscious convulsions on the canvas.

The good news is that Dirrell was given a thumbs up release from the hospital where he had been taken as a precaution. The bad news is that boxing was given yet another thumbs down black eye for yet another poorly cobbled together bout that left health assistance to Dirrell dangerously delayed and left Abraham and his team puzzled and dissatisfied over his disqualification.

The contrast drawn between the fighters was stark with the fight playing out much like many had suggested. Dirrell melded quick elusive footwork to a busy attack that kept Abraham covered up for much of the first half of the fight. Abraham started to make adjustments and was closing powerfully as tension built for the championship rounds.

Perfect!

Would Dirrell be elusive enough to survive for the certain decision, or would Abraham close the show with another crunching blow to a young contender’s aspirations? Everyone with a pulse filling Joe Louis Arena was in hog heaven dreaming of their fighter proving his mettle down the stretch and cheering him on.

All would be decided with the controversial disqualification of Abraham by referee Laurence Cole at 1:13 of the 11th round.  In spite of ample video evidence, boxing aficionados have their own eyes, so the events are disputed, but the results are certain to stand. Dirrell wins and Abraham loses by DQ.

Dirrell played hard to get in the 11th round as Abraham chased him down. The End turned on a few precious seconds of action as Dirrell moved to the corner as Abraham closed hard, jabbing his way in. A jab lands to Dirrell’s head as his right foot slipped out just before Dirrell launched a left hook that landed on the point of Abraham’s jaw and throat just before that glove hit the canvas. Is that enough busy action for you?

Cole shouts “STOP” after the glove touches, just before Abraham launches a right hook. As the “P” tails off  Cole’s “STOP” command, Abraham’s hook jolts the jaw of Dirrell, freezing him in place before he falls on his back to the ring apron.

Sheriff sez Hold’em High

These are the split second events that I pieced together from many slow motion replays after the fact. It is important to remember this careful reconstruction is obviously unavailable in that terrible flash  moment of real time when ring action screeches to a stop as chaos breaks out in the ring.

Technically it could be said that Dirrell went down from the Abraham jab that bounced off his noggin, another knockdown that was not called in the fight of another controversy separate from the ending, but regardless, down is down by whatever the means when Abraham’s glove crossed over to Dirrell’s chin.

Viewing things at a distance on video in slow motion after the fact is an odd thing. It gives us superiority over ring officials stuck in the moment in real time. The danger is that we lose perspective of what real ring time means to those making those split second calls. Otherwise, hereto blind men can suddenly see under such advantageous circumstance.

When the slip occurred, Laurence Cole was some distance behind the fighters, not in position to physically intervene. It is unclear how much he was able to see, but Abraham’s back surely blocked much of his view. He may not have seen Dirrell’s left hook bouncing off of Abraham’s jaw, but he seems to have seen the glove fell silent to the canvas a fractional moment before Abraham launches his right hook. It doesn’t seem likely he saw Dirrell’s head a give a little twist upon impact, but perhaps he understood as Abraham has turned to go to neutral corner with gloves up.

Cole advanced as Dirrell goes into convulsions at the most disturbing point of the fight for me. Make that extremely disturbing for me.

Cole seems to wave off the timekeeper’s count at 3 to stand over the convulsing Dirrell. At 10 seconds from impact, Cole yells “FOUL” to someone. A few seconds later he dips down to examine the shaking Dirrell and nearly 20 sec after impact he calls for doctors who enter seconds later.

Cole then walks away and some 30 seconds after impact Cole shouts that Abraham is disqualified and then argues with Abraham about the incident. As far as I could see and hear, the decision was made by Cole without consultation some 10 seconds after impact with his “foul” pronouncement and subsequent “disqualified” pronouncement. That’s the assumption.

So the onus of the disqualification falls upon the actions of Abraham and Cole in those final moments, unless one accepts the premise floated that Dirrell acted out the KO. That seems too implausible for me, a bridge too far, but it’s out there.

So, what of Cole and Abraham is there to assign blame for this travesty? I am but an outsider from distance with no particular insight into the character of either man, but I think it’s a fair and reasonable assessment that both reacted perfectly naturally in the heat of the battle in those final moments. How could they not with the arena screaming their lungs out as Abraham tore into Dirrell for the finish?

It’s mano a mano moments like those that make boxing the King of all sports with the richest, most storied history of all sports, yet this time it all turned bad in a twisted split second that I have no doubt all parties wish they had back to do over again.

King Arthur filed a protest over the unkingly disqualification, but the likely result is that he will just have to live with the loss and learn from it like so many thousands of fighters before him. He is still the tournament leader in good position, but his reputation for good sportsmanship took a hit when he charged Dirrell with acting.

I’ve heard some call for Abraham’s banishment from this tourney, indeed, from boxing itself. I don’t see it. A fighter relies on his fighting reflexes, and I for one cannot fault him for those split second reflexes after coming in with heavy artillery and taking return fire. Ban, boxing if you must, not Rocky Marciano, Marco Antonio Barrera, and too many other storied warriors caught in the heat of battle.

Anthony Dirrell is the winner on paper, gaining his first points and improved rankings. He will have to live with the frightening specter of a shaky threshold of punch resistance in spite of otherwise proving to be a durable fighter in his career.

Laurence Cole has come under scrutiny after previous bouts favoring hometown fighters in Texas and even a suspension. He missed at least two knockdowns and appallingly broke up the action a couple of times for no good reasons when Abraham appeared to have the upper hand.

Why he was chosen for such a high profile bout, and why an out of the mainstream venue like Detroit was chosen after a delay because of an alleged injury are  unanswered questions for a poor promotion that delayed getting what could have been critical medical assistance to Dirrell.

I don’t have the answer on how to make a call like that, but it seems a good deal more discussion was needed to make the call AFTER Dirrell was secured and removed to an ambulance to go to the hospital. I saw a rush to judgment based on fractional technical merit that bore no resemblance to the spirit of the regulations that the letter of the regulations is supposed to represent.

Not even Dirrell’s own team and Showtime can escape scrutiny. His team were cuffing and roughing him about, trying to man him up for a moment he was understandably clueless about and further delayed his transport to the hospital while Jim Gray flitted about trying to gain an interview.

The Super Six Tourney started with a grand gesture by Showtime to bring together fight teams and promoters from America, United Kingdom, Denmark, and Germany in an international diplomatic statement of goodwill. Boxing fans were excited, the excitement spread through the boxing press into the mainstream press. Folks stood up and took notice.

There have been 4 fights with all 4 fights won by the hometown fighter. Three of the fights had controversies revolving around the hometown favoritism. The results have been odd to say the least with a split decision, a technical decision, a disqualification, and a dramatic last second KO.

Let us hope the rest of the tourney is stocked with the best officiating and promotional venues available that these fighters deserve. There will always be disputes, grievances, and complaints, but surely boxing can do better.