By: Donna Jo
To rise to the top of the boxing world, an athlete must be intelligent, physically fit, dedicated, aware, and, as many former champs have attested to, a little bit lucky. Because so much is demanded of boxers—because there’s always a younger, hungrier, and more skillful opponent on the horizon—some high-level competitors fly under the radar; that is, their accomplishments and capabilities are overlooked as a result of the sport’s breakneck speed.
Today’s starts soak up the entirety of the spotlight, while yesterday’s stars don’t usually receive much respect.
Let’s take a quick look at three of the most underrated boxers of all time—boxers who recorded magnificent achievements and made their mark, but who don’t necessarily receive their due from contemporary pundits.
Jake “The Bronx Bull” LaMotta was the subject of Martin Scorsese’s famed Raging Bull film, and in many ways, his out-of-ring pursuits overshadowed his boxing achievements. Consequently, LaMotta is remembered today as something of a media figure.
He was a media figure, to be sure, but there’s no denying that LaMotta was also a legendary practitioner of the sweet science. The New York native channeled his aggression and troublesome personal habits into training, and with the help of his brother and an unrelenting will, he became one of the most notable boxers of Forties and Fifties.
LaMotta wasn’t knocked down or stopped with strikes until the twilight of his career; he fought Sugar Ray Robinson six times, in what was one of the most fantastic rivalries in boxing; and he gave a number of skillful opponents a very, very hard time in the ring.
Take a quick trip to YouTube to see LaMotta’s refusal to quit in action.
There’s a lot more to George Foreman’s achievements than his multi-million-dollar grills.
Throughout his 28-year boxing career—which spanned from the time he was 20 until he was nearly 49—Foreman was finished just once, by none other than Muhammad Ali, who also happened to snap Foreman’s 40-0 professional record. 68 of Foreman’s 76 wins came via knockout, and overall, he lost just five matches—roughly six percent of the fights he accepted throughout three decades!
The quality of Foreman’s career is further amplified by the fact that he made a successful comeback, which came when he was nearing 50 years of age. At 47 (almost 48) years old, Foreman topped Crawford Grimsley for the WBU and IBA heavyweight titles—Grimsley, a 23-year-old star who hadn’t been defeated! In short, comebacks like this almost never happen in the “real world”–or in the movies!
It can safely be stated that George Foreman, even in his ripe old age, can safely dispatch younger opponents; the man doesn’t need a bodyguard, a home security system, or any other type of protection. He’s got it under control!
Evander Holyfield has had his share of ups and downs in and out of the ring, but taken as a whole, his boxing career is terribly underrated.
Most people remember when Mike Tyson infamously bit Holyfield’s ear, but few remember when Holyfield defeated Tyson via TKO in their first fight, which came at a time when Tyson was viciously dominating the competition. The same is true of Holyfield’s one-in-a-million bout against George Foreman. Similarly, Holyfield’s riveting series with John Ruiz isn’t often mentioned, nor is the fact that Holyfield managed to do what so many of history’s greatest boxers were unable to: retire on a win.
Hopefully this list provides some newer boxing fans with the information and foundation they need to learn about the sport’s most underrated competitors. Boxing’s history is rich, and in between today’s many exciting matches, viewers should flip on the computer and relive the many exhilarating contests that the twentieth century brought with it.
Thanks for reading, and here’s to the magic and appeal of the sweet science!