Tag Archives: sam langford

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!

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