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!
By: Sean Crose
Legendary middleweight champion Jake LaMotta has died, leaving a long and memorable legacy upon exiting this world at 95 years of age. Growing up tough in the Bronx (his father reportedly forced him to fight other children so the family could have extra income) LaMotta grew to become one of the most iconic fighters of an iconic era (the 40s through the 50s). One simply doesn’t beat a 40-Ray Robinson without getting some much deserved credit after all. Yet the man known far and wide as “The Raging Bull” (he was also called “The Bronx Bull”) will be remembered for a variety of reasons as time moves on.
First and foremost, there’s the fact that LaMotta could fight. Really fight. Don’t let that single victory against Robinson sway your opinion. LaMotta fought many of the top fighters of his era aside from Robinson, such as Fritzie Zivic and Marcel Cerdan, who he lifted the middleweight title from (Cerdan was unable to meet LaMotta for a rematch because he tragically died in a plane crash before he could face his victor a second time).
What was most memorable about LaMotta in the ring, however, was the brutal style the man chose for himself. Never a slickster or power puncher, the guy would literally take a ton of punishment in order to pull out the win. Not that LaMotta was just some unpolished bruiser. The fighter had skill, as well, enough to keep some of the assaults he took from his opposition from doing more damage than they actually could have. Ultimately, however, LaMotta was the picture of aggression and sheer determination when he was in the ring. He once credited his style with being borne of frustration, as LaMotta reputedly wouldn’t allow himself to have sex before a fight. Whether this assertion was true or not is ultimately irrelevant, however, in the face of the fighter’s incredible bravado.
Yet LaMotta will also be remembered for having a large degree of shadinesss thrown into to his story – at least during the earlier parts of it. He had spent time in a reform school, after all. He also wasn’t much of a role model as an adult, throwing a fight for the mob, going through six marriages and having a history of spousal abuse. To LaMotta’s credit, though, the fighter grew remorseful with age, admitting he had been “a no-good bastard” in his younger years. Bad behavior, it should be noted, doesn’t always bring about remorse, nor does it often bring about a public admission of guilt.
Which, of course, leads to the famed Martin Scorcese film which was – on the most basic level, at least – based on LaMotta’s own life. Buoyed by Robert DeNiro’s classic performance (in which he literally went from fighting shape to overweight in the course of making the film), “Raging Bull” the movie is an intense study of jealousy, brutality and one man’s slow self awareness. And, as far as public consciousness goes, it elevated it’s subject from a famed boxer to memorable figure in the culture at large…something LaMotta remained until his death in Miami on Tuesday, and will most likely remain for years to come.