A Look at Three of the Most Underrated Boxers of All Time
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!
The Pound for Pound All-Time Best: Ray Robinson, Henry Armstrong or Willie Pep
By: Ken Hissner
Three boxers are usually always on everyone’s pound for pound best fighter of all-time. This writer’s choice is “Sugar” Ray Robinson. He once defeated Henry “Homicide Hank” Armstrong when the latter was well past his fighting days. Armstrong is another considered to be an all time great as is Willie “Will o’ the Wisp” Pep.
It should be noted that none of these three fought with their names at birth. Robinson was born Walker Smith, Jr., Armstrong was Henry Jackson and Pep was Gugliermo Papaleo.
Robinson had a record of 174-19-6 with 109 stoppages. He held the World Welterweight Title from December 1946 to February 1951 before winning the middleweight title for the first time from February 1951 to July 1951. He would regain it a second time in September 1951 to December 1952. He then won it for a third time holding it from December 1955 to January 1957. Finally for a fourth time from March 1956 to January 1960.
He won his first 40 fights. Robinson lost for the first time to Jake LaMotta but won the next five times they fought. LaMotta commented on fighting Robinson those six times with “I fought Sugar Ray so often, I almost got diabetes.” After reversing a loss to Gene Fullmer he knocked out Fullmer. When Fullmer got off his stool he asked “why is Robinson jumping around?” He was told “because he just knocked you out!”
Robinson challenged for the Light Heavyweight Title that Joey Maxim held and was well ahead after thirteen rounds but couldn’t come out for the fourteenth due to heat exhaustion. The temperature at ringside was 103 degrees. It was the only time in his career he was stopped. He was 132-3-2 and retired for the first time. He came back after thirty months and his record from there on was 42-16-4. Like too many boxer’s he stayed around too long. He defeated fifteen former, reigning, or future world champions.
When Robinson left boxing he dabbled in acting. He was also known for the best rope jumper and a great dancer. In 1069 he founded the Sugar Ray Robinson Youth Foundation in Los Angeles.
Armstrong was 152-21-9 with 101 stoppages. He first won the World Featherweight Title holding it from October 1937 to September 1938. He jumped over the World Lightweight Title and won the World Welterweight title holding it from May of 1938 to October of 1940. During this period he won the World Lightweight Title holding it from August of 1938 to August of 1939. He attempted to win the Middleweight Title from Ceferino Garcia who was recognized in California and New York but the decision ended in a draw.
This is when there was one organization and 10 contenders. Much different than today with 4 or 5 organizations with at least 60 or more contenders. All three were inducted into the IBHOF in 1990.
After retiring Armstrong became an ordained Minister and devoted himself to underprivileged children.
One of Pep’s comments toward Middleweight Champion Rocky Graziano was “you couldn’t hit me with a fist full of stones!” Then pertaining to being married six times he said “All my wives were great housekeepers, after every divorce they kept the house!” Pep won his first 62 fights.
Pep had a record of 229-11-1 with 65 stoppages. Pep held the World Featherweight Title from November 1942 to October 1948. Then, from February 1949 to September 1950. He was 134-1-1 when he lost his title to Sandy Saddler in October of 1948.
Pep came back in March of 1965 after a four year and two month retirement. In his second fight back this writer was at ringside when he defeated Philly’s Jackie Lennon in April of 1965 over six rounds at the Philadelphia Arena. At age 42 he still looked good to me. In his comeback he won 9 straight before losing his final fight in March of 1966.
After retirement Pep became a prominent referee and a Connecticut Boxing Commissioner.
Bert Sugar’s 100 greatest fighters list was No. 1 Robinson, No. 2 Armstrong and No. 3 Pep. I find it hard to argue with that. How about you?
More Boxing History
Frank Warren’s ‘The Time is Now’ Breakdown
By: Oliver McManus
FRANK WARREN announced his first show of the new season for October 6th. Taking place at the Leicester Arena, “The Time is Now” has had five fighters confirmed for the bill – with more to come – and seeing as we’re still two months out from fight night this isn’t as much of a preview as it is my, personal, thoughts on the fighters / fights confirmed;
Nicola Adams OBE
The Lioness from Leeds, Nicola Adams will be one of the main attractions of this fight night with the super flyweight set to challenge for either an interim or full world title in only her fifth professional fight. A history maker and a trailblazer for women’s boxing, the two-time Olympic Champion has looked calm and composed throughout her four fights thus far and, though she didn’t appear as frequently as she would have hoped in 2017, this year is all about establishing herself at the top of the division.
Last time out in May she fought, former world title challenger, Soledad del Valle Frias who is an opponent far better than her, 13-11-4, record at the time suggests. Even though there was some mild controversy with the timekeeper believing the bout was set for three minute rounds as opposed to two minutes, Adams showed blistering hand speed and power to catapult her Argentine opponent out of the ring within the first round. A supreme performance.
Looking at the structure of the women’s super-fly division I find it hard to see world champions who Adams wouldn’t have, AT LEAST, a 50-50 chance of winning going into the fight which is a strong testament to her amateur pedigree and certainly with, the two likeliest contenders for October, Raja Amasheh or Maribel Ramirez there’s a distinct potential that we could witness the crowning of a new British world champion.
Jack Catterall vs Ohara Davies
Now this, this is a fight and a half. Two contrasting personalities but, in equal measure, imperious boxers with exciting futures.
Catterall has looked rejuvenated since linking up with Jamie Moore, his new trainer, and the WBO Inter-Continental champion showed bags of heart and grit towards the back end of June when he fought Tyrone McKenna in a bruising encounter – Catterall dug deep, looked calm and dropped his man twice to secure a unanimous decision in a contest that showed he can adapt with relative ease to different fight plans.
Davies secured a highlight-reel knockout of Paul Kamanga on June 23rd with a right hand to the head of the Congolese fighter flooring him like a lightning bolt to an extra chilly penguin and his style is, to the eye, more explosive than Catterall with varied and continuous output to both body and head of his opponents, utilising strong flurries to really wear his man down.
Make no mistake, though, Catterall packs one hell of a punch and has a tendancy to target the body in a sickening fashion, one, two, three slammed into the region between rib and liver to punish and fatigue his counterpart into hiding.
Regardless of whether they win or lose there are huge futures ahead for both fighters with the winner probably being in pole position to face the WBO Champion – currently Maurice Hooker – whilst the loser, and there can be no shame in losing this fight, sets up some blockbuster domestic clashes ahead of a rebuild to world level.
I think the main thing for this is just to respect both guys for taking this fight, it’s going to be a cracker.
Daniel Dubois vs Kevin Johnson
I’m in two minds about this fight, I think it’s a good level of opponent to test Daniel Dubois in only his ninth professional contest but, having said that, if Johnson were to get bounced out within two-three rounds, would I be surprised? Not in the slightest.
And that’s not a slur on the American because he’s been a very good, durable, yardstick to measure up against with Dereck Chisora, Kubrat Pulev, Manuel Charr and Christian Hammer all going the distance with Kingpin. Although, then again, Sefer Seferi went the distance with Manuel Charr so now everything just seems confusing.
Anyway, back to being serious, there can be no disputing that Kevin Johnson is past his prime whether that be as a genuine contender – the bell probably rang on that in 2010 – or, indeed, as a gatekeeper which, feasibly, came to a conclusion after Anthony Joshua pummelled him to a second round knockout back in 2015.
Still, however, I’m in the mind-set that, yeah, it’s about time that Dubois got in the ring with someone of Johnson’s calibre and let’s not forget that he extended Andy Ruiz Jr to the full 10 rounds earlier this year so his chin is still in good nick and unquestionably this is the best opponent that Dubois has faced thus far.
20 years old with eight explosive knockouts on his record, I understand the want of some fans to fasten his development and get him in with even bigger names but we need to remember that Dubois is learning on the job and given that his own personal target was to be world champion in 2020 I don’t think we can judge him too much until we hit the latter end of next year.
A knockout expected, this will definitely be a learning test for Dynamite but there’d be nothing surprising if he sent Johnson into retirement.
Lyon Woodstock Jr vs Archie Sharp
Again this is a fight that you need to sit back from, initially, and just applaud both guys for taking on the contest when they could have had far easier contests but there’s no messing around from either guy and the two will produce a sumptuous display for the fans on October 6th.
Several, seemingly, bitter exchanges between the pair on Twitter have set the tempo for this encounter with Woodstock promising a beat-down over his stablemate, looking to showcase the skills he’s put into place to considerable success over the course of his career thus far.
Woodstock, the local man, is two fights less experienced but has looked punch-perfect over the past 12-18 months with a strong performance against Paul Holt, taking to the centre of the ring and fighting from distance before claiming a shellacking knockout with ferocious hooks against the ropes. If ever there was a performance to mark yourself out as one to watch, this was it.
Nine years as an amateur, nine national junior titles, Frank Warren has called Archie Sharp the “best kept secret in British boxing” and the super featherweight has wasted no time in racking up the wins – 13 without defeat, so far – and whilst Lyon will provide the dynamite in this contest, Sharpe will focus on his fluid movement, controlling the ring from the outset and attempting to dictate the pace of the fight into a tempo more suitable for him and his puppy-like energy.
The winner of this contest will surely be in line for the British title, held by Sam Bowen, and from a neutral perspective this promises to be a really good fight, it’s got the ingredients – young, hungry, unbeaten, powerful, quick on the feet.
WHAT MORE COULD YOU ASK FOR? A great fight.
Talking of the British super featherweight champion, Sam Bowen will also feature on the October 6th card at the Leicester Arena with the 26 year old having signed a three year promotional deal with Frank Warren.
Heralded for a long time by Carl Greaves, Bowen is the epitome of silky smooth with a style that’s easy to watch. Without fail Sam will take to the centre of the ring and keep on bouncing around, causing problems, with a continuous left jab popping into the face of his opponent before, bam, the deceptive power comes into play with the knockout merchant stringing together punishing combinations.
Against a, good, Maxi Hughes earlier this year “Bullet” Bowen pieced together an emphatic display in which everything just seemed to click, dominant movement, rhythmic shot timing, stance switching, a true masterclass from Sam with big shots dropping his man on two occasions.
Now with the backing of a big-time promoter and TV coverage the hope is that Sam Bowen will be able to push on a lot quicker than beforehand with the additional money a big incentive to those who, otherwise, would likely have avoided him.
Scheduled for a British title defence but without an opponent, I’d like to see him in with Ryan Wheeler or Jordan McCorry for October before the youngster looks for even bigger things – a showdown with James Tennysson for the British, European and Commonwealth titles would be PHENOMENAL.
And there we have it that is the first show of the new season for Frank Warren and Queensbury Promotions and, boy, it’s shaping up to be a tasty one!