Canada’s Greatest Boxers Of All-Time
By: Patrick Mascoe
Anytime you create a list like this you are really just asking for an argument. So let me apologize right now. Judging fighters from different eras is extremely difficult and highly subjective. For example, I have only seen two of the fighters on this list fight in the ring. The others fought well before I was ever conceived and are known, not from what I have witnessed but from what I have read regarding the history of boxing. It can also be argued that most of Canada’s greatest boxers are not even Canadian. So, for the purpose of this list, the definition of a Canadian boxer is anyone who was born in Canada or moved to Canada at a young age and has called Canada home. This means one of two things: Canada as a nation has not produced a lot of home grown talent or Canada is a land of opportunity for those who wish to pursue a career in boxing. Let’s go with the second option.
If you are a Canadian reading this list, you will notice one glaring omission. George Chuvalo, who is easily Canada’s most famous boxer, was not necessarily one of our greatest boxers. Chuvalo twice challenged for the heavyweight title but lost both times by decision. In 93 professional fights, Chuvalo was never knocked down and that includes fighting the likes of Muhammad Ali (twice), George Forman, Joe Frazier, Cleveland Williams, Jimmy Ellis, and Buster Mathis. What keeps George Chuvalo off this list, and makes him an honourable mention, is that unlike all the other fighters on this list, he was never inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. However, any man who went fifteen rounds with Muhammad Ali and then bragged, “When it was all over, he was the guy who went to the hospital because he was pissing blood. Me? I went dancing with my wife” deserves to be mentioned when talking about Canadian boxers.
Without further ado, here is my countdown of Canada’s 5 greatest boxers of all-time:
5. Arturo Gatti (1972- 2009): Arturo Gatti was born in Cassino, Italy, but moved to Montreal as a child and eventually competed as a member of Canada’s National Boxing Team before deciding to turn pro. Gatti was known as a blood and guts fighter who possessed power in both hands. He was also extremely resilient and absorbed incredible amounts of punishment before coming back and winning fights he had no right to win. To say that he had a fan-friendly style is an understatement. Gatti was not great in the traditional sense. He did not have Pernell Whittaker’s defence. He did not have Ali’s speed. Nor did he have Mayweather’s technical skill. What he had was a warrior’s spirit and an entertaining style that made fans love him. He was a fearless all-action fighter. He held the IBF Jr. Lightweight Title from 1995-1998 and the WBC Super Lightweight Title from 2004-2005. He retired with a record of 40-9. Gatti was involved in the Ring’s “Fight of the Year” on four different occasions. Arturo Gatti may very well have been the most exciting fighter of his generation.
4. Jimmy McLarnin (1907 – 2004): McLarnin was born in Ireland and moved to Canada at the age of three. He took up boxing at the age of ten. Three years later he caught the eye of a former professional boxer named Charles Foster who believed McLarnin would one day be a world champion. McLarnin started his professional career fighting in Vancouver but was dissatisfied by the low pay and decided to pursue his craft in the United States. His youthful appearance was a hindrance, so he had to lie about his age. However, once in the ring there was no mistaking his power. It was for that reason he was known as the “Baby-faced Assassin.”
In 1928, he had a title shot against world lightweight champion, Sammy Mandell, but lost the fight by decision. Despite the fact that he beat Mandell twice in the following two years, as well as knocking out Benny Leonard, one of the greatest fighters of all-time, he was made to wait five years before getting another shot at the title. This time, when his opportunity came, he made the most of it by knocking out Young Corbett III in the first round to win the world welterweight title. He would lose his title to Barney Ross, then win it back again in a rematch, only to lose it again in their third match. Unlike many boxers of that era, McLarnin decided to retire while still at the top of his game. In his final two fights, he defeated hall of famers Tony Canzoneri and Lou Ambers. Despite many generous offers, McLarnin refused to come out of retirement. He certainly didn’t need the money as he had invested wisely and was a very wealthy man.
3. Tommy Burns (1881 – 1955): Tommy Burns is the only Canadian-born boxer to ever hold the world heavyweight title. He was born in Hanover, Ontario in 1881. Burns was an extremely small heavyweight, standing only 5 ft. 7 in. tall and weighing 175 pounds. In 1906, Burns was a 2 to 1 underdog when he faced heavyweight champion Marvin Hart. Not only did Burns win the heavyweight title, he went on to defend it eleven times.
Tommy Burns was a man well ahead of his time. Historically, his legacy should be far greater than it is. He is known as the boxer who was defeated by Jack Johnson, who became the first fighter of African descent to win the heavyweight title. As much as history recognizes Johnson’s feat, Burns also deserves a great deal of credit, as he was the first white boxer willing to put the heavyweight title on the line against a fighter of colour. At a time when boxing was almost completely divisive and no white fighter wanted anything to do with Jack Johnson, Tommy Burns had fought half a dozen bouts versus black boxers. He hired and worked out with black sparring partners, and was married for a time to a black woman. He claimed that he would defend his title against all comers and that no one was barred. “I propose to be the champion of the world. If I am not the best man in the heavyweight division then I don’t want the title.” Without this attitude of inclusion, Jack Johnson might not have been given the chance to make history. Johnson said as much in 1909, when he addressed an audience in Vancouver, saying that Burns deserved credit for being the only white heavyweight fighter willing to give a black man a chance to fight for the title.
Although Tommy Burns retired from boxing a wealthy man, he lost everything in the Stock Market Crash of 1929. He ended his career taking jobs as an insurance salesman and security guard. He died at the age of 73 of a heart attack.
2. Samuel Langford (1883 – 1956): According to ESPN, Sam Langford was the “Greatest Fighter Nobody Knows.” Born in Weymouth Falls, Nova Scotia, Canada, Langford started his pro career fighting out of Boston. This explains why he was known as the Boston Bonecrusher, the Boston Terror, and the infamous Boston Tar Baby. Despite standing only 5 ft. 7 ½ in., Langford fought from lightweight to heavyweight. Even though he always gave up either height or weight, he only lost 29 times out of an alleged 300 professional fights. The legendary, Jack Dempsey, once described Samual Langford as the greatest fighter we ever had.
One year after turning professional, Langford defeated World Lightweight Champion Joe Gans in a 15-round non-title fight. On April 26th, 1906 Langford fought future World Heavyweight Champion Jack Johnson. Langford gave up 30 pounds to Johnson and lost a 15-round decision. Apparently, Langford showed enough skill in that first fight to make sure that there would never be a rematch. Throughout his career, Johnson repeatedly refused to fight Langford, even though he was considered by many to be Johnson’s most dangerous challenger. Battling Jim Johnson, a man Langford had beaten nine times and had never lost to, was given a title shot against Jack Johnson, while Langford was left waiting. Langford never did get a rematch against Jack Johnson. When Jack Johnson, the baddest man on the planet, avoids you like the plague, then you know you possess greatness.
1. Lennox Lewis (1965 – Present): Lewis was born in London, England and moved to Canada at the age of 12. He represented Canada at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, winning a gold medal. He defeated Riddick Bowe in the final. After winning his first 22 professional fights, he was once again slated to fight Bowe, this time for his WBC Heavyweight Title. Rather than face Lewis, Bowe vacated the title and Lewis was declared the new champion. After defending his title three times, he suffered an upset loss to Oliver McCall. On February 7th 1997, Lewis got his revenge by stopping McCall in the fifth round and regaining the WBC Title.
On March 13th, 1999, Lewis faced WBA and IBF Heavyweight Champion Evander Holyfield. Lewis clearly won the match, out landing Holyfield 348 to 130, but somehow the match was declared a draw. A rematch was immediately ordered and this time the judges saw what everyone else in attendance saw – a clear unanimous decision victory for Lewis. He defended his titles three more times before again being upset by an underdog named Hasim Rahman. He fought Rahman again in an immediate rematch and won back his titles by way of 5th round knockout. He fought twice more after that, knocking out International Boxing Hall of Fame fighters Mike Tyson in 8 rounds and Vitali Klitschko in 6 rounds. Lennox Lewis retired with a 41-2-1 record and rebounded to defeat the only two men to ever beat him. Lewis, along with Ingemar Johansson and Rocky Marciano, are the only world heavyweight champions to retire with victories over every man they ever faced as a professional.
Was Sam Langford the Most Feared Fighter in Boxing History ?
By: Ken Hissner
This writer still remembers former heavyweight champion Jack “Manassa Mauler” Dempsey, 54-6-9 with 44 knockouts saying “I only feared one Fighter!” Though rumors were he was ducking Harry “Black Panther” Wills, 70-9-3, 56 knockouts, of New Orleans, La., few believed it. Wills was 11-2-2 against Sam “Boston Bone Crusher” Langford, who Dempsey claimed he feared.
Langford fought from 1902 to 1926, compiling a 178-29-39, record with 126 knockouts. He started out at 155 lbs. going up to 192 lbs. in 1920. He was only 5:07 ½ born in Canada but lived in Boston. In April of 1906 he was only 156 lbs. when he lost to then “Colored” champ Johnson who was 185 lbs. 1906. He would win the 158 lb “colored title in 1907 and eventually “claim” the heavyweight title in 1909 when Johnson refused to fight him again.
Langford was shorter than most of his opponents. They also had NWS newspaper decisions with the press deciding who won. So you may see two records for boxers back then with and without newspaper decisions.
Langford defeated NWS 6 one of the all-time great Middleweight champions Stanley “The Michigan Assassin” Ketchel, 48-5-4, in Ketchel’s last year of boxing in April of 1910. In October of 1910 Ketchel was shot to death avoiding a rematch. He defeated then World Lightweight champion Joe “Old Master” Gans, 134-8-17, in a non-title fight in December of 1903. He drew with Joe “Barbados Demon” Walcott, 87-15-17, in a World Welterweight bout in December of 2004. He stopped future World Light Heavyweight champion “Philadelphia” Jack O’Brien, 147-13-26, in August of 1911. He knocked out Harry Wills, 22-1-4, in November of 2014 in their first of eighteen meetings. He defeated “Young” Peter Jackson, 75-27-24, what was billed as the World Colored 158 lb Title. He knocked out Iron William Ian Hague, 17-1-1, billed the English Heavyweight Title in May of 2009 in London. He defeated Sam McVea, 54-6-4, in April of 1912, who he fought twelve times.
In 1990 when the IBHOF got started Langford was among the many great’s that was inducted into the IBHOF. He was also inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame.
More Boxing History
Five Fights to Look Forward to in the United Kingdom
By: Oliver McManus
At the top level of the game there are plenty of great fights taking place with Britain blessed to have world champion after world champion but take a step backwards to appreciate the full scene and you’ll find a whole host of tasty match-ups happening at levels of the game –
Jason Welborn vs Tommy Langford
Welborn vs Langford has all the ingredients for a scintillating rematch as the “Battle of the Baggies” moves onto round two (well, technically, rounds 13-24) in Birmingham on September 8th.
First time round in Walsall, Jason Welborn took to the centre of the ring right from the off with an incredible work-rate, targeting the body of Langford whilst the champion, Langford, looked to establish what he believed was his technical superiority.
Both fighters were fast on their feet and willing to trade punches with neither afraid of taking a shot in order to land a flurry of their own and even though Welborn came into the fight the, large, betting underdog, he showed no signs of relenting as went into the championship rounds, staying busy and landing an accumulation of punches.
The fight was up for grabs and in a genuine domestic thriller, Welborn emerged the victor via a narrow split decision (114-113, 114-113, 113-115) and claimed the British Middleweight championship from his rival.
This time round on the undercard of Khan-Vargas, Welborn will be looking to go one step even further than he manged in May and stop Langford within the distance – let’s not forget that Langford was counted in the 2nd round after the ropes had held him up –, enhancing his position as a genuine contender in the packed middleweight scene.
Tommy, on the other hand, will be looking for redemption and bounce back from his second loss in the space of 13 months – the first, a fifth round TKO loss to Avtandil Khurtsidze – with a dedicated, technical performance that, prior to these potential hiccups, had seen him being targeted for an all-British showdown with Billy Joe Saunders.
Indeed Langford wasn’t on his A Game when the first fight occurred, not that we should take any credit away from Welborn, and you could argue that he adapted a little too much to the game-plan of his challenger – stick to the basics, work the jab and that’s when Langford really hits his stride.
Jeff Ofori vs Jumaane Camero
Has this fight been mentioned enough recently? Spot the sarcasm because this fight is, put simply, A FIGHT. One better than that, it’s a fight that you genuinely cannot pick a winner from.
It’s a fight that you don’t want to HAVE to pick a winner from, either, both of these guys are genuine, humble people who haven’t forgotten where they come from. Ultimately, though, on September 15th one of these lightweights will emerge as the Southern Area champion – Camero having defended it successfully or Ofori having mounted a victorious challenge.
Stylistically the two are vastly different with Camero having, typically, been the more patient and measured boxer who likes to control the fight at his own tempo and has quite a unique style but, make no mistake, is capable of packing a whack so you do not want to be on the end of one of those big punches.
As Jumaane says, himself, he is “freakishly long limbed” and possess a style that makes dealing with him incredibly awkward – Ofori, on the other hand, is much more of your typical aggressor, seeking to take each and every fight with a high-tempo, guns-blazing style of boxing.
At the end of June, Ofori faced a tough journeyman, Luke Fash, in full knowledge that this Southern Area fight was to follow and Jeff looked imperious, cutting off the ring really well and attacking the body of Fash with vim and vigour – speaking to Ofori afterwards, however, he said he wanted more rounds to get used to the longer distances, as opposed to his fourth round knockout.
This will be Ofori’s first ten round bout but with both men talking as though they expect it not to last the scheduled distance there is no doubt that September 15th will see fireworks aplenty – Ofori needs to keep up his aggression, work the short uppercut when he’s on the ropes whilst Camero should look to use his awkward style and height advantage to the best of his ability, the styles will mesh and produce a sumptuous bout so all that’s left to do is buy the tickets because you do not want to miss this.
Cello Renda vs Luke Cowcroft
Cello Renda is a man who, for a long time now, has always promised much and whilst he has achieved one hell of a lot – current Southern Area champion, challenged for the English and British belts – there’s been a distinct feeling that, actually, he could be coming into the best years of his fighting career.
A win against Leon McKenzie, last year, re-established himself on the map and look at his record, you’ll see he’s fought Liam Conroy, Jack Arnfield, Sam Horton, Martin Murray, Danny Butler, Tom Doran, Paul Smith and these are not names to be sniffed at by any stretch of the imagination.
But, as mentioned, it was that fight against McKenzie that really seemed to, on paper, ignite something within him as he demonstrated his power, precision and sheer toughness to an absolute tee – Renda was in a war and he came out on top. Since then he’s been targeting the English title that Darryll Williams holds and this fight against Cowcroft is serving as an eliminator for that belt.
Cowcroft, on the other hand, is taking a huge step in quality but Stefy Bull clearly thinks he’s talented enough to carry off an upset and the mood around the Doncaster light-heavyweight is distinctly upbeat and it’s clear to see that he’s improved significantly in the three years that he’s been out of the ring.
Not so much of a power puncher as Renda, Cowcroft has an absolute engine within him and will be looking to out-work Cello, tiring the Southern Area champion, before mounting a late surging attack as he, to boot, looks to prove any doubters wrong.
This fight has all the makings of an absolute classic, Cello Renda looked the best he’s ever looked up against Leon McKenzie, punch-perfect stoppage, and Luke Cowcroft is constantly developing, constantly learning and not just in training but in the ring, too, up against Renda he will need to have learnt an awful lot but if anyone can secure such an upset, surely, it’s the man from Doncaster.
Jazza Dickens vs Martin Ward
A rematch for the vacant British super-bantamweight title, made possible by Thomas Patrick Ward withdrawing from the scheduled fight and opting to fight for the IBF European belt instead.
Jazza Dickens has had a frustrating last couple years following his loss to Guillermo Rigondeaux, a fight that resulted in a broken jaw for Dickens, and was unfortunate last year to suffer a cut above the left eye against Patrick Ward that forced the contest to go the scorecards early – Dickens was trailing but had momentum and the fight was shaping up to be a real pick ‘em with everything likely coming down to the final three rounds.
Since then the Liverpool fighter has looked crisp in training, arguably in the shape of his life, and against Martin Ward, on July 27th, there’s every expectation of a better, more convincing performance than the last time they fought (in 2015).
Three years ago this duo fought the full 12 rounds before a split decision rendered Dickens the winner and, in turn, the British champion – Dickens was the fighter pressing the case and working the angles but a split decision was probably accurate.
With Dickens there is little doubt just how talented a fighter he is and the southpaw possess all the technical traits that could see him go all the way, on top of that he has a brilliant energy, work-rate and stamina that marks him out as a complete fighter just waiting to get tested.
Martin Ward, former British and Commonwealth Champion, is not to be underestimated and the experienced fighter relies on a patient game-plan, looking to take the fight at a constant, comfortable pace, often fighting at distance.
Past performances would suggest that Ward has peaked at around the British level with his previous step up to European level resulting in a second round knockout loss to Abigail Medina – not the greatest of opponent but no-one to discredit – and this fight in Houghton Le Spring will be seen as the 30 year old’s golden opportunity to really propel his name back into the talking.
Dickens would, you assume, prevail in this contest especially if he is to reach the heights he is expected but, as happens time and time again, you can never assume anything in boxing and the winner of this contest, Dickens or Ward, will have a couple of cracking clashes in the offing.
Kyle Yousaf vs Tommy Frank
Stefy Bull has been announcing some really good fights as of late – Atif Shafiq vs Andy Townend, Robbie Barrett vs Matty Fagan – and Kyle Yousaf vs Tommy Frank is part of the stellar card taking place in Barnsley on October 5th.
An application has been made to the BBBofC for this bout to be for the English belt and when you look at the domestic shake-up then there can be no qualms about the fight having such status.
Having the poisoned chalice of competing in the lower weight divisions, Yousaf and Frank have had a criminally small amount of media attention throughout their careers despite them both being absolutely phenomenal fighters.
Yousaf, the more experienced with 13 fights, beholds an impressive fighting brain with his ability to pick punches marking him out at an early stage of his career. Not many fighters, when they first turn pro, are mature enough to identify periods of the bout when they don’t need to come out swinging but Yousaf, still only 25, has frequently shown incredible maturity during the ring.
Against Gyula Dodu there was a punch-perfect display from the Golden Kid as he used his left jab repeatedly to keep on top of his opponent before dropping down to the body with some telling right hands to the body. A superb right to the head of Dodu, launched with exquisite timing and precision, finished off the fight and even though the bout lasted 118 seconds, the talent on show was mouthwatering.
Tommy ‘Super Frank’ is the current Central Area Super Flyweight champion and against Craig Derbyshire, in Frank’s seventh fight, the Yorkshire boxer impressed with his fight pace, going 10 rounds but looking comfortable throughout, and his commanding presence at the centre of the ring enables him to cut space off for his opponent, shortening the distance and letting Frank work the inside of his opponent – something he does particularly well.
When the hands get loose, they don’t half pack a punch and with a strong preference for targeting the body, he knows to pressure the opposition onto the ropes before unleashing with a series of alternating shots to the body.
In terms of power Yousaf probably has the upper hand, that should be evident from his superior knockout rate, but this is a fight you don’t see getting stopped early, it’s an enthralling battle between two young, hungry, undefeated fighters and it has all the ingredients of being an absolute barnstormer.