Duddy has followed the same Emerald path across the Atlantic earlier taken by fellow Irishmen such as former world champions Steve “Celtic Warrior” Collins and Wayne “Pocket Rocket” McCullough. In less than a year and one-half, despite seven months of inactivity due to passport problems, the Derry (Northern Ireland) native and now Queens (NY) resident has continued the strong Irish tradition in boxing, already establishing him as one of boxing’s most exciting prospects.
“Things were still good back home,” Duddy explained his move, “but boxing is a dying sport in Ireland, and there was nothing more there for me. I saw a lot of Irish fighters step across the water who’ve done well like Collins and McCullough. The reason I came here (New York City) was for boxing knowledge. Nowhere could I learn as much about boxing than working and training in New York City. I don’t feel any pressure here being an Irish fighter.”
Duddy was born into boxing. His father, Mickey, fought professionally as a lightweight in 1981-83, posting a 3-4 (1 KO) record. He sparred with former world champions Barry “The Clones Cyclone” McGuigan and Ken Buchanan, as well as ex-European title-holder Charlie Nash. John started training at the age of five, made his amateur debut at seven, and won his first National title at 15. After registering a 100-30 amateur record. John’s amateur coaches, his father Mickey and Charlie Nash in Ireland, as well as Neil Ferrara in New York City, all advised him to turn pro and relocate in New York City.
“I was lucky enough as an amateur to travel to Russia, Cuba, Romania, America and other countries,” John noted. “I knew I had to come to New York City to get to where I want to be.”
The McLoughlin brothers took Duddy under their wings and eventually became his manager. The late, great Al Gavin served as cutman for his first four fights, Harry Keith has taken over as his head coach, and John now works out of the Irish Ropes Boxing Club in Far Rockaway, New York.
Unbeaten in his first seven pro fights, all by knockout, Duddy has been somewhat surprised by his KO streak because he had very few as an amateur. “I think I’m a better boxer as a pro than amateur because there was a lot I didn’t know as an amateur,” he explained. “I’m planting my feet, opening my toes, and punching better. All of the little things I’m learning add up into results.”
Duddy hasn’t been fed a steady diet of tomato cans, either. Three of his last four victims have been (10-4-1) Ken Hock and a pair of previously undefeated boxers, (7-0) Victor Paz and (3-0) Glen Dunnings.
John’s long-range goal is to become the first Irish-born middleweight champion of the world since the original, “Non-pareil” Jack Dempsey in the 1880’s. “I’m just happy to be fighting at this time,” the modest Duddy remarked. “Any fighter dreams of winning the world title. I’m very realistic and don’t like shouting too much about myself. You’re only as good as your next fight.
“I’ve been very fortunate. The only sport I’ve loved since the first day has been boxing. Everything else fell by the wayside. Hopefully, I’ll be good enough to be mentioned with the likes of Barry McGuigan and Sugar Ray Leonard. I’m excited about the start of my career.”
So are his many fans on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
When “Gentleman Glen” squares off against consensus light heavyweight champion Antonio “Magic Man” Tarver this Saturday night (HBO World Championship Boxing, 9PM ET/6PM PT live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA), more will be at stake than the IBO light heavyweight championship. Even more than The Ring championship, for that matter. While the winner will undoubtedly be hailed as the best light heavyweight on the planet, many boxing scribes are also looking at this fight to anoint the winner as Fighter of the Year for 2004.
Neither is a scenario Johnson had envisioned becoming a reality even after upsetting Roy Jones in what has been the biggest win of his career, to date.
“Like I pretty much said at the end of the fight in the post-fight interview, I don’t need to be the best, I just want to fight the best,” Johnson told TheSweetScience.com while preparing for the Tarver showdown this weekend. “Fighting Roy was a dream come true for me, but certainly not the end of my dream. I always said that when I retire, I wanted to go out knowing that I faced everyone and tried my hardest. I didn’t think I would beat them all, but I surely wanted to meet them all.”
Certainly a refreshing change from your average fighter, champion or otherwise, who normally sits on the side and waits for one big fight to come along rather than working one’s way toward the top. In fact, Tarver fits the very same mold. It was his decision to rematch Eric Harding that earned him the respect of the boxing community. Here was a fighter who was Roy Jones’ #1 contender in the WBC, and soon to be mandatory challenger in the IBF and WBA as well. Rather than sit on his lead – as Roy had been accused of doing for much of his light heavyweight run to that point – Tarver opted for a rematch with the one man that defeated him in the ring.
The gamble paid off big time, though it required Antonio to rally from behind in order to catch Harding with a perfect shot that would permanently turn the tide in his favor before stopping him in five. Just like that, Tarver went from wasted talent to perennial contender. Never before had a win over a top contender look so good.
That is, until Johnson turned the trick less than a year later. This would be the first of three occasions where Johnson would pull the in-the-ring version of “anything you can do, I can do better.”
After recovering from the Tarver debacle, Harding was looking for a comeback fight, and Johnson was looking for a win. He had been blatantly robbed in his first two bouts of 2003 – a hotly contested split decision loss to Julio Gonzalez on Telefutura, and a draw to undefeated Daniel Judah just six weeks prior to the Harding fight. The Judah fight was so bad that Daniel himself thought that Johnson won. Unfortunately, his opinion didn’t change the fact that Johnson hadn’t won a fight on American soil since the Clinton administration.
Fast forward to fight night in the Bronx, where Johnson and Harding squared off on FoxSports. In typical Johnson form, he sprinted out to an early lead. Only this time, he didn’t ease off the gas, as he arguable won seven of the first nine rounds against a surprisingly lethargic Harding. Eric was able to pick up the pace down the final three rounds, but had fallen too far behind early to catch up, thus dropping a unanimous decision to Johnson. Just ten months after Tarver had dropped and subsequently stopped Harding, Johnson beat the former world title challenger in his very next fight.
“The win was big for me, because it said that I can beat the top fighters. I can beat the same guys that others fight and beat in trying to claim that they are the best. This let me know that I was ready to fight for a world title.”
The world title he had hoped to fight for were the two that Tarver had picked up in scoring a unanimous decision over Montell Griffin just a month prior. In an unprecedented move, the bout was for the vacant WBC AND IBF titles, as they were
the top two contenders for both alphabet organizations. After winning the titles, Tarver remained determined to score a showdown with longtime nemesis Roy Jones. While Tarver sought Roy, Johnson searched for opportunity to build on his newfound momentum.
The IBF would come through, as they announced an elimination bout, where the winner of the proposed November 2003 fight between Johnson and Clinton Woods would square off against the winner of Jones-Tarver I. It wasn’t a title shot, but Glen was happy enough to be in the position where he only needed one more win to get there.
He would be even happier with last minute news that the fight would be upgraded to world title fight, as Tarver elected to vacate his title the week of the fight. Johnson was elated, though somehow sensed that the timing wasn’t right.
“I guess I still wasn’t used to the judges allowing me to win a fight” Johnson now jokes. “But something told me that I wasn’t leaving Sheffield (Woods’ hometown, where the fight was staged) with a world title, no matter how bad I beat that boy.”
He was right, as many in attendance – again, this is Woods’ hometown – felt that Johnson had done more than enough to pick up the vacant strap. For the third time in four fights in that calendar year, the judges disagreed with the masses, as they declared the bout a draw. In a year where Johnson arguably could have went 4-0 and would have been a strong contender for Fighter of the Year, he instead walked away 1-1-2 – and beltless.
Three months later, Johnson returned to the scene of the crime, determined to prove that he could somehow win a decision in Sheffield. “The decision was simple,” Johnson recalls. “That’s where the most money was at the time, so why not go back. I beat him once, I knew I could beat him again.”
Glen was right, and this time, so were the judges. After twelve dominant rounds, Johnson left England a champion. Once again, ten months after Tarver scored the biggest win of his career, Johnson comes along and follows suit. Only now, Johnson had a world title, while Tarver was coming off of a disputed majority decision loss to Jones and bracing for the rematch.
In May, Tarver landed the left hand heard ‘round the world, knocking Roy Jones out with a single shot to regain his WBC world title, and re-claim his spot atop the light heavyweight division. Even though Johnson at the time was training for a return trip to England with a Joe Calzaghe fight and career payday waiting in the wings, you could almost sense that Glencoffe would come along and find a way to match and possibly top the feat.
Two postponements and a permanent cancellation later, Johnson received the opportunity of a lifetime – only a few states away from home.
“Man, Calzaghe drove me crazy, pulling out of the original date, pushing it back, coming up with another excuse to postpone… I just said forget it. It’s not worth going to England with him and (promoter Frank) Warren playing games. So, when Roy’s people called me up, I told him it was on.”
With Roy looking both to rebound and regain some leverage for a possible rubber match with Tarver, he turned to Johnson in hopes of picking up the IBF title and securing his 50th win. Only Roy “must’ve forgot” that Johnson’s days of divisional steppingstone were long over.
“We knew going in that it was to be just another fight we were supposed to lose. But I trained hard for that fight. I knew that if Tarver could find a way, so could I.”
Nine rounds later, Johnson did just that. Jumping on a seemingly shell-shocked Roy from the opening bell, Johnson fought no worse than on even terms through the first four rounds before taking over for good in the fifth. By the ninth round, everyone was simultaneously stunned and bracing for the inevitable – the permanent demise of Roy. When Johnson landed that final overhand right that put Roy on the canvas for nearly five minutes afterward, Tarver sat in attendance and watched a potential career high payday go flying out the window. He also watched Johnson once again duplicate his best fight just one fight later.
Enough was enough, Tarver decided. So determined to get Johnson in the ring, that he was willing to pass on a $2 million payday that would have came with facing mandatory challenger Paul Briggs, and instead set his sights on the man that managed to match all that Tarver had achieved in the past twenty-four months. He even dumped his WBC belt in the nearest receptacle. And once again, Johnson matched the feat, vacating his IBF title and passing on a mandatory defense against Rico Hoye in a fight that would have paid low six figures, in favor of a seven-figure payday and the final main event on HBO’s 2004 boxing calendar.
“I wish that it could have worked out another way. I was disappointed that the IBF did what they did in taking my title. But in the end, I did what is best for my family. Now, I have to do what’s best for boxing – beat Antonio Tarver. I beat Harding right after he did. I won a world title right after he did. I beat Roy right after he did. I proved that I can do everything he can do. Now, I plan to become the best light heavyweight in the world, one fight after he did.”
The only question remains – if he beats Tarver, would he be willing to fight himself next? That’s the only way he could possibly follow suit. Right?
“I beat myself enough in my career. Some decisions shouldn’t have gone that way, others I simply do what I needed to do to win. So, this would have to be one time where I can’t outdo what Tarver did the fight before. Because I no longer have it in me to lose.”
“It’s gonna be a helluva night of boxing, an early Christmas gift to all you diehard boxing fans,” Tarver said, “and we’re determined to finish off this year with a bang. I worked very hard in preparation for this fight and I’m not taking anything lightly. I’m focused, hungry, and I’m ready to go.”
Antonio Tarver is pound-for-pound one of the fight game’s biggest stars. He is also pound-for-pound one of boxing’s best talkers.
“I have a lot of respect for Glen Johnson,” said Tarver. “When you look at his career, the guy has had a lot of bad decisions against him after he obviously won the fight. He had some bumps along the way. He came up short on some really bogus decisions. The political game of boxing has not been good for him, but you have to respect a guy who, no matter how rough it gets, he always seems to land on his feet.”
Tarver also always lands on his feet. He is a boxer. He is a puncher. He is a thinking man’s fighter.
“I know what Johnson is thinking. I see it in him. He is thinking that this is an opportunity of a lifetime. I just need to get past Antonio Tarver. Glen Johnson is looking at me like a piece of juicy steak. I’m very aware of what I have to lose. I’m not taking this fight for granted. I am taking this fight because I have always, always welcomed risk when it comes to boxing, risk in order to prove that I stand alone at the top.”
Tarver made a career out of taking chances. It’s his life’s work.
“Very few fighters today take the risk that I take,” he said. “Just look back on my career. After my first eight, nine or ten fights, I would beg anybody in the top‑ten to just face me. When I was the number one contender across the board, the champion refused to fight me. I had to go into his backyard after he captured the world by winning the heavyweight championship. I said, ‘Roy, you might be standing tall today, but we all know that you did not take a step up in competition. Rather, you took a step down. You are avoiding your biggest challenge.’ I prophesized that when I asked him, ‘When am I going to get my chance at history?’ He said ‘what history?’ I said ‘the history I will earn after I knock you out.’”
Knocking out Roy Jones with a single punch was a dream-come-true for Antonio Tarver.
“Now I am telling the world that I am on a mission,” Tarver declared. “My dream does not begin and end with Roy Jones. He just happened to be the man in my way. I was the first to really challenge Roy Jones. I was the first to really challenge his myth, his image, his status. I challenged everything Roy Jones could have brought, because I believed in myself. I always felt that I was the better fighter. I proved that on November 8, regardless of who they say won that fight, and November 8 allowed me to knock Roy Jones out May 15, and whatever happened after that was just a formality.”
Kayoing Jones was the accomplishment of a lifetime, but Tarver is not resting on his laurels.
“I see way past that,” he said. “You are looking at history in the making. I want the world to recognize Antonio Tarver as one of the best, one of the greatest that ever lived. You know why? Because I am fighting the second-best light heavyweight in the world and we are going to get it on to see who is the ultimate champion. When you get two people who in their hearts feel that they are the best, that is trouble. I know it is going to be tough. He is not going to quit and I am not going to quit. When my hand is raised, then they can bring on the next guy, because I will continue to accept the challenges ‑ the big challenges ‑ and when it is all said and done you will have to respect me as one of the best whoever did it. I know that there are a lot of stars in Los Angeles, but on December 18, I will be the biggest star shining."
Ringside will be a star-studded. Tarver’s fists will do the talking in LA.
“I think I’ve perfected the sweet science,” said the champ. “When you look at boxing, it’s to hit and not be hit, and I think my biggest asset is my reflexes, and then again my mind, thinking in the ring. That’s carried me through my amateur days and even in my professional days. I can box. I can punch. I’m a great counterpuncher. I’ve really studied the sport, the sweet science of the game, and I’ve tried to perfect it.”
Tarver was stripped of his titles for making this fight, for doing it his way rather than the man’s.
“It was a tough decision, but when you look at the big picture, I think, when it’s all said and done, first and foremost you have to take care of business, because that’s all you’re going to have when the crowds stop cheering and the lights are out. I feel I have to make this statement, because I think Glen and I right now have lightening in the bottle and I don’t think this fight could have ever been as big as it is now. We’re taking advantage of the moment and I think the winner of this fight comes out better for it. Regardless of who wears those belts, the world will know there’s only one champion out there after December 18.”
Tarver is the champion - no matter what anyone says.
“The way I look at it, you can’t take any of those belts to pay your light bill or feed the kids,” Tarver said. “But there’s the tradition, so they are very important. I’m coming back for my championships. Make no mistake about it. As long as I reign at the light heavyweight division, I’m gonna get my belts back. And I plan on getting all of them back.”
Many hope Tarver will move up in weight to start battling with the big boys.
“It all depends on what opportunities come my way. I’m not dumb by any means. I’m a businessman. They gave Roy Jones $10 million to go fight what some call the least talented heavyweight champ in history in John Ruiz. I’m using that as a measuring stick. I’m a transcender and I’m looking to transcend the game,” Tarver said. “So I’m listening.”
We too are listening, because Tarver talks the talk. We are also watching, because Tarver walks the walk.
Last summer Williams scored one of the biggest upsets of the year in boxing when he toppled former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson in the fourth round. Against Klitschko, Williams was never in the fight and took a one-sided beating for eight rounds. During the fight Klitschko completely out-fought and out-thought Williams. And like Lennox Lewis learned to do later in his career, Klitschko is utilizing his size and reach more effectively in each fight. In his last two fights against Corrie Sanders and Danny Williams, Klitschko was in control whether he was moving forward attacking, or stepping back and countering.
Vitali Klitschko has emerged as the fighter to beat in today's pedestrian heavyweight division. Right now I think he is the most formidable heavyweight in boxing. I'm sure for many of his fans and loyal followers that's not high enough praise. Probably anything short of referring to him as an all-time great would be seen as a slight. But in reality, Klitschko has not achieved greatness, nor is he a great fighter, yet. And I would vehemently question the boxing intellect or agenda of anyone who thinks he is.
However, that is exactly what is being said among some boxing writers and fans. And unfortunately it's not the first time a champion in the infancy of his title tenure will prematurely be validated an all-time great. The last fighter anointed great before he achieved it was Mike Tyson. And Tyson looked more unbeatable than Klitschko on the way up. Sure, Tyson was a great fighter, but the greatness he actually attained isn't close to what it was talked about at one time.
Had Mike Tyson retired after beating Michael Spinks at 21, he would've wrongly gone down as one of the three or four greatest heavyweight champs in history. And that's a perfect example why it's best to wait until a fighter's career has heard its last bell before attempting to place him historically. In the NFL, players have to be retired for five years before they're eligible to be inducted into the Hall-of-Fame. Not a bad policy, in my opinion.
I was amazed at the time when some actually fathomed Tyson the greatest heavyweight ever after he defeated Michael Spinks. Twenty months after fighting Spinks, Tyson became the youngest ex-heavyweight champ in history when at age 23, and in his prime, he was knocked out by James "Buster" Douglas. Of course many afford Tyson every excuse in the world after a loss, but that's just what they are, excuses
As his career progressed, Tyson's lack of character, never coming back to win a single fight he was losing, identified him as much as his hand speed and power. He was also convincingly defeated by the two great heavyweights of his era. And he can't even use age as an excuse since he's four years younger than Evander Holyfield, and one year younger than Lennox Lewis. Not to mention he was better protected than both Holyfield and Lewis, who fought every top fighter in the division, something that cannot be said about Tyson.
Now Vitali Klitschko is having expectations placed on him that he will probably never meet. Who could? What I can't figure out is why a meaningful segment of the boxing community have to start attaching the G-word to his name? The word great is thrown around way too much today, and it's starting to lose some of its meaning.
Vitali Klitschko is an outstanding fighter and is starting to ignite a little interest in the heavyweight division. And maybe when he retires he'll be remembered as one of the greats. However, he's not there yet! And it is conveniently forgotten by some that two fighters have already defeated him. That's not saying they were better, just that they beat him. Sometimes the truth can be construed as harsh, but the truth is the two best fighters he's been in the ring with, IBF heavyweight champ Chris Byrd and former champ Lennox Lewis, both appear in the loss column of his record.
It's also true that he was leading in the fight against Chris Byrd when he injured his rotator cuff. He was also ahead in the scoring against Lennox Lewis when the fight was stopped due to a severely cut left eye – which was the result of a punch landed by Lewis. The fact is, Klitschko went into the ring with two fighters and he wasn't able to finish the fight. That's boxing.
The problem with rating Klitschko an all-time great after just one title defense is twofold. What if he happens to lose, or is stopped in one of his upcoming title defenses in the next couple years? Sure, it doesn't look very likely now, but it's not a given that he'll go undefeated either. To me, Klitschko doesn't look as unbeatable as Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman or Mike Tyson did before they fought Cassius Clay, George Foreman, Muhammad Ali, and Buster Douglas.
Would the assessment that Vitali Klitschko of 2004 could have defeated George Foreman and Larry Holmes go up in smoke if he was upset by Hasim Rahman in 2005? Another problem with prematurely rating Klitschko historically is no one can say for certain when he was in his prime or at his best. Again, a fighter should be retired or close to retirement in order to accurately rank him historically.
Arguing who was greater or who would've won between two great fighters in the same division from different eras is a boxing tradition. Over the last three or four years I've written about 9 or 10 What IF articles. However, I have a rule that I adhere to before writing the article. That is I must know for a fact when both fighters were at their best so I can evaluate them fairly. Recently I was asked to write a What IF Marvin Hagler versus Bernard Hopkins for a boxing magazine. Although Hopkins is still active, he's past his prime and on the down side. And I know when and what he fought like at his best, just as I know what Hagler looked and fought like during his peak.
Here it is less than a week after Klitschko's first title defense, a title he won just eight months ago, and far too many writers have started writing about hypothetical match ups between Klitschko and other past heavyweight greats? Not only is that absurd, it's not fair to place those type expectations on Vitali, and it's insulting to the past greats he's being measured against.
How could anyone, even as joke, try to historically rank a fighter who has been a title holder for eight months and 2-1 in world title fights. Does beating Kirk Johnson, Corrie Sanders, and Danny Williams justify him being matched against Jim Jefferies, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Evander Holyfield, and Lennox Lewis?
What amazes me is that a majority of those who have already seen enough from Vitali Klitschko to anoint him among the greatest of the great heavyweight champions, couldn't have been more wrong about the last fighter they viewed as a future great. For the better part of the last eight years, the most astute and knowledgeable Klitschko followers have been telling anyone who would listen that Wladimir Klitschko was the better fighter and had the better future? And this wasn't speculation, it was an opinion derived by adamantly chronicling both fighters for eight years. And despite having a 50/50 shot to be right, they were wrong. Now they say in absolute terms that the likes of Louis, Ali, Foreman, and Holmes, just to name a few, wouldn't have been able to handle Vitali? I find tremendous fault with that.
At this time WBC heavyweight champ Vitali Klitschko would be favored over any other heavyweight in the world. But just as it doesn't mean the fighters who defeated him are necessarily better than he is, it's likewise not a given that he would defeat every other heavyweight in the world because he would be favored to.
The old saying is, of course, “as goes the heavyweight division so goes boxing.” Maybe the heavyweight division now has a fighter who can carry the baton, transcending the Tyson, Holyfield, Bowe, Lewis eras and who will usher in the Klitschko era. And maybe in the year 2014 he'll be mentioned among the greatest of the greats. But that's not the case at this time. Klitschko is providing a good reason to watch and follow the heavyweight division. And if he does go onto be one of the greats, I'll be the first one starting the fights, arguments, and debates regarding who he could or couldn't have beat.
It was just a little over 10 years ago that Lennox Lewis was knocked out by Oliver McCall and lost his title. If someone said to me the next day Lennox Lewis would not only be remembered as an all-time great, but he would retire from boxing winning more heavyweight title bouts than any other heavyweight champion in history, other than Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, and Larry Holmes, I no doubt would've turned to them and said, "you're out of your mind!"
This past February Lennox Lewis retired as heavyweight champion. And today he is regarded as an all-time great. On top of that, Lewis ranks fourth all-time in number of heavyweight title bouts won. Only Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, and Larry Holmes have won more.
Is Vitali Klitschko an all-time great at this time? No. Can he retire and be remembered as an all-time great? Only a fool would say no, and I'm not a fool. Just as a majority of the great fighters before him had to wait before they were lauded great, I'll hold Vitali to the same standard.
Tarver is considered too big, too fresh, too powerful and just too good for the gutsy Johnson. Consider that 18 of the 20 experts on The Sweet Science.com team picked Tarver to win.
But the experts have been wrong before. Here's a look at five recent upsets that featured a so-called limited challenger upsetting the more talented champion.
Gerrie Coetzee KO 10 Michael Dokes, Sept. 23, 1983: Dokes, as bloated as he often looked, was considered the heir apparent to recognized champion Larry Holmes. A gifted fighter with blazing hand and foot speed, Dokes lacked power – but made up for it with quickness. He had won the WBA heavyweight title nine months prior, stopping Mike Weaver on a controversial TKO. He drew with Weaver in the rematch, but was still expected to overwhelm South Africa’s Coetzee. Known as the “Bionic Man”, Coetzee had his right fist surgically repaired to create perhaps the hardest wallop in the heavyweight division. But he was slow and immobile, and Dokes was expected to box circles around him. Surprise! Coetzee breaks out with a jab, of all things, and dominates the lifeless Dokes with boxing skills. Of course, Dokes’ well-documented drug problems may have contributed to his demise. But Coetzee was a different fighter on this night, fighting through a cut and finally taking Dokes out with a vicious barrage. It would be the best night of Coetzee’s career. He lost the title to Greg Page 13 months later. Dokes made a gutsy last stand in 1989, giving Evander Holyfield hell before falling in the 10th. He was never the same after that.
Iran Barkley KO 3 Thomas Hearns, June 3, 1988: Hearns was fading by this point, having to struggle before knocking out Juan Domingo Roldan for the vacant WBC middleweight title in October 1987. But he was still a formidable force, considered more-than-capable of destroying most middleweights placed before him. Only the superstars of the day were thought capable of defeating him. Barkley was not considered the very best. He was rough and tough and he was sure fun to watch. But he was also easy to hit and cut-prone and susceptible to knockouts and knockdowns. Still, he earned the shot with a surprise knockout of favored Michael Olajide in March 1988. For 2 ½ rounds, the fight went as expected. Hearns punched, and Barkley reeled. “The Hitman” ripped up Barkley’s face, and had him wobbly on more than one occasion. But “The Blade” survived the onslaught, and in the third round, his courage was rewarded. He caught Hearns with a big right hand that stunned him, and another that flattened him. Hearns staggered up before falling through the ropes, and ref Richard Steele correctly stopped the fight and made Barkley an unlikely champion. Hearns continued his remarkable career with a draw (it should’ve been a win) with Leonard in ’89 and an upset of Virgil Hill in 1991. Meanwhile, Barkley made his first defense against Roberto Duran.
Roberto Duran W 12 Iran Barkley, Feb. 24, 1989: The victory over Hearns was a surprise, but Barkley was still considered a big favorite over natural lightweight Duran when they met for Barkley’s newly-won WBC middleweight title in Atlantic City. Duran probably didn’t deserve the chance, but had reeled off a modest win-streak to qualify. His last great effort had come three years prior, a close points loss to Robbie Sims. He was also 38, and at a serious size disadvantage: Barkley stood 6-foot-1, to Duran’s 5-7. It was a physical mismatch, and with Barkley’s power, it didn’t figure to last long. Shockingly, Duran won it by brawling with Barkley in 89’s “Fight of the Year”. Barkley showed marked improvement from the Hearns fight, doing almost everything right: Jabbing, throwing in combination, going to the body. But Duran refused to go away. And, in the 11th, “Manos de Piedra” put Barkley on the canvas. It was the difference in a close split decision victory for one of the top five greatest fighters to ever walk the earth. It was also the last great victory of Duran’s career. He lost a third fight to Sugar Ray Leonard 10 months later. Barkley resurfaced in 1992 with another upset of Hearns, this time by decision.
Michael Bentt KO 1 Tommy Morrison, Oct. 30, 1993: Michael who? That’s what people were thinking when Morrison took on Bentt as a tuneup for an expected 1994 title shot. Bentt came in with modest credentials, while Morrison was coming off the biggest win of his career, a decision over George Foreman in June 1993. Seconds into round one, Morrison’s Oklahoma City homecoming turned nightmarish as Bentt put the top contender down. Morrison got up, but it wasn’t long before he was down again, and in serious trouble. Bentt finally put Morrison out of his misery, and that title shot disappeared. The fight exposed Morrison’s primary weakness: A shaky chin. He would get one more chance at a big name, but was outclassed by Lennox Lewis in 1995. Bentt was never a factor, and stopped by Herbie Hide in ’94.
Oliver McCall KO 2 Lennox Lewis, Sept. 24, 1994: A year before doing away with Morrison, Lewis fell victim to an underdog himself. The undefeated Englishman wore the WBC heavyweight title, and though he struggled with the likes of Frank Bruno and Tony Tucker, he was thought to be the best heavyweight in the world. He took on the unheralded McCall in his native London, probably thinking the Chicago-based “Atomic Bull” would serve as a good warmup to fellow champion Michael Moorer. Those plans were changed with one punch, an overhand right, that clipped Lewis right on the chin in the second round. Lewis crashed to the deck. He got up, but the fight was stopped with a buckle of the knees. It would have been the “Upset of theYear” if not for two months later, when George Foreman shocked Moorer with one punch in the 10th round. McCall lost the title to Bruno in 1995. Lewis beat McCall in a rematch in 1997 and went on to become one of the greatest heavyweights of all time (but not before falling to another underdog, Hasim Rahman, in 2001).
1. Floyd Mayweather Jr. gets the credit he deserves -- "Pretty Boy" Floyd is simply the best boxer in the sport. He possesses blinding hand speed, fantastic defensive skills, and a set of stones as big as anyone in boxing. He has repeatedly stepped into the ring against the best in the division, even when it wasn't necessary. When Mayweather moved up to lightweight, he very easily could have taken on then IBF champ Paul Spadafora - a fighter who presented very little danger. Instead, Mayweather took on Jose Luis Castillo, a rough and tumble fighter who would make life as difficult for Mayweather as anyone he has ever faced. And then he fought him again after some questioned his victory.
2. Floyd Mayweather Sr. goes away - While he may be a good trainer, he doesn't seem to realize that trainers don't sell tickets, especially ones that are difficult to understand. His diatribe against Jack Mosley before the De La Hoya - Mosley fight was not only classless, but also inaccurate.
3. A heavyweight emerges - All three heavyweight champs look very beatable. While there is plenty of talent in the lower divisions, it would be nice if a true heavyweight king arrives. I have a feeling that person isn't on the national scene yet. He's probably 5-0 and working out in some backwater gym somewhere. But maybe, just maybe, we'll get lucky and someone can emerge and shake things up.
4. Mike Tyson either wins the heavyweight title or goes away - Mike Tyson isn't interesting as a used up shell of a fighter. He's becoming a caricature of himself outside of the ring. If somehow Tyson was granted another shot and actually won - wow! That would be just the kind of shake up I'm looking for. However, assuming that doesn't happen, let's not pay any more attention to him until he proves that he can still compete with someone in the top 20.
5. Bernard Hopkins goes out with a bang - I have immensely enjoyed watching Bernard Hopkins over the years. All he does is show up in shape and get rid of whoever is standing in front of him. Whether it's a mega fight with De La Hoya or a snoozer with Hakkar, Hopkins takes his job seriously and works effectively. He reminds me of Hagler in that way. He deserves to go out on a high note and I hope he can do it in another mega-fight, perhaps by knocking out Trinidad even earlier this time.
6. I'm proven right about Felix Trinidad - Many greater boxing minds than mine believe Trinidad was and still is an all time great. I have always believed he was the most overrated boxer of our time. He has skills, power and especially heart - traits that I admire. However, his chin is not only suspect, it's downright weak. The man goes down more than Little Oral Annie. But because of his tremendous heart he has been able to get up and persevere. He lost to De La Hoya (no matter what the scorecards say) and got blown out by Hopkins. He's a very good fighter, but not an all time great. I hope that Hopkins (or someone else) will prove me right, because it's an argument that is not easy to win.
7. Morales - Barrera IV - Boxing fans always point to the Gatti - Ward trilogy as the greatest three fight set of this generation. But I think that title belongs to Morales - Barrera. The first fight was simply the best I'd ever seen. All three fights were so close, why not do it again and see if one can finally emerge to dominate the other? And if they can't, they'll just have to fight a fifth time.
8. Lennox Lewis stays retired - Lewis was a very good heavyweight champion. He never disgraced the title (unless you count showing up overweight in his last fight) and was exciting when he wanted to be. Even if he came back for one fight to school Klitschko, so what? I like when boxers go out on their own terms and stay retired. It goes against the stereotype and if anyone has the ability to represent the sport in a positive light, it's Lennox Lewis.
9. Poor officiating gets fixed -- Officials are human beings and they're going to get some calls wrong. But the officiating in boxing is much worse than the major sports. Why Larry O'Connell is still allowed to judge and subsequently ruin fights is a mystery. And there are plenty of others. Look at a sport like baseball. Sure the umps blow a call every now and then, but for the most part they do an outstanding job. I can deal with a judge who gets a round or two wrong once in a great while, or a ref who misses a foul or knockdown, but not with the frequency that it currently occurs. I think the only solution would be to rank judges and refs and assign the big fights based on those rankings.
10. A boxers union finally catches on - Boxers need the healthcare and retirement benefits more than any other athletes. Even if purses don't go up as a result of the union, having just those two benefits would make an enormous difference in many boxers' lives. It's an expensive proposition, but one of the most worthwhile undertakings I have seen in the sweet science.
What is Corrie Sanders doing back in the ring? He trained about as much as I did for the Klitschko fight. If a man can’t get motivated for a fight for the biggest prize in sports, don’t expect me to ever waste my time or money on him again.
Joe Mesi – don’t get back in there either. Whether you can get yourself cleared or not, you suffered a brain injury. That’s some serious shinola. You made some money, you’ll always be remembered as a hard-hitting contender. The risk is just too great.
Tarver – Johnson should be interesting. I can’t decide who I’m pulling for. Johnson is truly one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He so deserves his time in the limelight and the money that comes with it. But let’s face it – Tarver is more exciting and would probably be better for boxing. I’m torn.
Until next time, obey my commands and protect yourself at all times.
Styles make fights, and Tarver will prove that there is a big gap between the two recent Roy Jones slayers. Tarver is tall and rangy, and won't fall victim to Johnson's often-sloppy rushes that proved so successful against the aged Jones. Look for Tarver to avoid most of Johnson's slow, arcing punches with superior speed and reflexes. At other times, he will simply tie up the bullish Johnson. Either way, Johnson will be frustrated while missing wide punches and being countered unmercifully by a younger, sharper, better fighter. Tarver by easy unanimous decision. Matthew Aguilar
Antonio Tarver wants to known as the best light heavyweight in the world today. He has destroyed the myth of Roy Jones Jr. and he is now one fight away from cementing his claim. Tarver's opponent will be the rugged and ringwise Glencoffe Johnson. Glen also hold a KO win over Jones. Who will win and become the "King" of the light heavyweights? I believe that Tarver is on a emotional high and is at the peak of his career. He has 110% belief in himself and his abilities. Johnson is a rough, well traveled veteran. He is by no means a pushover. Still I feel that Tarver will just be too much for him and see Tarver winning by decision or late round KO. Jim Amato
Antonio Tarver should solify his claim as the world's best light heavyweight by outboxing Glen Johnson over twelve rounds. Tarver is no kid at 36, but he's fresher and faster than the transplated Jamaican, who is really just a fringe contender on a hot streak. Tarver, 22-2 (18), blasted out Roy Jones, a feat duplicated by the unheralded Johnson, which earned him this shot, but Tarver is four inches taller than the 5-10 1/2 underdog and should keep him on the end of his speedy right jab all night long. If Tarver gets lucky, a cracking left cross, and a blizzard of leather might end it early. Johnson can also hit, and has a puncher's chance with his right hand, but Tarver is fighting better than ever, and is virtually unbeaten after reversing his two losses to Eric Harding and Jones. If Tarver sticks, moves, and circles the ring, Johnson will have a frustrating night plodding after him: but don't discount him completely: The last eight months have miraculously transformed Johnson from an aging journeyman into a legitmate title challenger, after he suffered an outrageous draw to Daniel Judah in April. He survived another bum draw with Britain's Clinton Woods, before whipping him the second time; then he shocked the world by blasting out Jones. In the last eight months, Johnson, 41-9-2 (28), has really won all his fights, despite some of the verdicts rendered. Knocking out Roy Jones has to make him confident, but you also have to remember from 1999-2000 Johnson lost four matches in a row and was just an "opponent." It's gratifying that both fighters dumped their alphabet belts, which are strangling boxing, and the winner can indeed claim to be the light heavyweight champion of the world. But why is this fight happening in Los Angeles? It belonged in Tampa, Florida -- where Tarver is from. There's going to be a lot of empty seats in the Staples Center. Jim Brady
These fighters are not in the same class. Tarver is the real deal and Johnson accomplished what he did against Roy Jones Jr. primarily because Tarver did it first. Tarver KO 5 Johnson. Robert Cassidy
This may very well be a case where picking with my heart instead of my head comes back to bite me in the you-know-what. But I honestly believe that Johnson has the right style - if not necessarily the skills - to pull off the upset. Many will insist that Tarver is the better boxer, better puncher, better overall fighter of the two. I disagree. He's a better puncher, but it will take more than one shot to get rid of Glengoffe. I believe that by the time Tarver is ready to get going in this one, he'll find himself about four rounds in the hole and spend the rest of the fight playing catchup. I don't believe he'll catch up enough to pull it out. Johnson by split decision, and going on to be Fighter of the Year. Jake Donovan
Tarver will be too much for Johnson. He is too skilled, too fast, he hits too hard. Glen’s kayo of old Roy Jones won’t count for much against Tarver. Tarver will punish Johnson and finish him off late in the fight. Robert Ecksel
I'd like to go way out on a limb for this one, but my instincts won't let me. Tarver's height, his southpaw style and his power will be too much for Johnson. Glen is a tough guy, but Tarver wins by knockout in 10. Rick Folstad
Start by throwing out their respective performances against Roy Jones Jr. and looking at the entire body of work, and one would have to say that Antonio Tarver is the more accomplished fighter at the elite level. He must be careful not to be out-hustled by Johnson, but Tarver’s superior talent should prevail in the end. Tarver by Decision. Chris Gielty
Tarver is too tall, slick and quick for the much-slower Johnson to contend with. Tarver won't stand in front of Johnson begging to be hit with a right hand the way Roy Jones did (I still have trouble believing that really happened!). Tarver's lack of activity will keep him from being as sharp as he could be, but he'll still have plenty on his way to a unanimous decision victory. Randy Gordon
I'll take Tarver over Johnson in this fight. Antonio seems to show a lot of respect towards Johnson in pre-fight interviews and I suppose that's a good thing, not taking his opponent lightly. I like the fact that Tarver trashed the WBC and WBA belts and decided not to fight the WBC mandatory Paul Briggs to take this fight. Tarver shows the heart of a true champion and I don't see him losing that title anytime soon. Sam Gregory
Tarver by decision. Unlike Roy Jones Jr., Tarver will fight back against Johnson and separate himself by the middle rounds before coasting to victory. Tim Graham
Two guys forsaking their titles and fighting for the $$$. Both have earned the right, especially Johnson - finally getting his opportunity. Tarver will control from the onset and take the decision in a rather uneventful match. Mike Indri
Agreed, Glen Johnson is a tough foot soldier, a ritual survivor, who's a late bloomer. Amazing what some serious confidence can do for a fella. However, maturing late and winning the big fights is also Tarver's MO of late. Johnson will try and get Tarver into a rough and tumble contest and Tarver will want to keep it about clean, long range missiles. Tarver has the much bigger punch and Johnson is the much stronger guy on the inside. Both are bald and 35-plus; so, let's say that Tarver's jab gives him the distance to punch and score the big shots. Good enough. Tarver UD12 Johnson. Patrick Kehoe
Glencoffe Johnson will turn 36 in a few weeks - and he's the younger of these two. Tarver probably has a point when he says Johnson 'beat a dead man' when he knocked out Jones. Put it this way: Johnson rarely knocks out anybody at this level. The two Tarver fights obviously did take a lot out of Roy, but Antonio may have paid a price too. This battle of late-blooming light heavyweights could be closer than some may think, but in the end we like Tarver by decision. George Kimball
I feel this fight is going to be a tough one, and tough to score at times. Johnson is active with a decent workrate and Tarver has shown a tendancy to start slow, despite his quick KO of Roy Jones in their rematch. Johnson has fared better at 175 and was robbed twice in his Draw against Clinton Woods and the Draw against Daniel Judah where Judah was heard saying "I thought I lost". Despite the similarity in age, Tarver has a lost fewer ring years on him and that, plus his height edge will be the difference. A close fight after 6 rounds I think Tarver will begin to time his shots and get credit for more effective blows as the fight wears on. Antonio Tarver by Decision in a tactical bout. Joey Knish
I think one thing you can say about both of these boxers is that they are tough. They know how to handle heat in the ring and have come back from adversity. We should see some solid action with neither man backing down. I see this fight close through the first half, with Tarver eventually pulling away in the later rounds. Tarver wins by close unanimous decision. Marc Lichtenfeld
In the fight between Antonio Tarver and Glencoffee Johnson, I see Johnson at a big style disadvantage. No way can Johnson go at Tarver like he did Jones. If Johnson goes at Tarver aggressively and tries to press the fight like he did to Jones, he would be placing himself in a very vulnerable position. By attacking Tarver, he can easily be nailed hard as he's moving in. Tarver would most likely love for Johnson to go right to him. On the other hand if Johnson lays back and tries to counter, Tarver will pick him apart. I think Tarver is physically stronger, and also a better puncher. I think Tarver can win by fighting or boxing. Johnson needs Tarver to have an off night and then make a mistake. Tarver wins. Frank Lotierzo
Forget Roy Jones comparisons, because Johnson knocked out Tarver tenderized meat. Tarver may not get him out of there, but he should handle Johnson. Tarver by decision. David Mayo
Who would have thought we would ever see a match in which both combatants knocked out Roy Jones Jr. in their last fights. This is going to be a good one. My prediction is divided. Either Tarver will win by knockout in the first four rounds. If it goes beyond six, Johnson will win on points. Deon Potgieter
How can you not like two guys who told the Alphabet Bandits to stuff their phony fractional titles, and then signed to fight each other just to see which is the better man? God, it’s better than watching Ed Schuyler fight the kangaroo at The Flame in Vegas. Enough about that. Since I have always like folks in a hurry, except New Yorkers, I guess I have to go with the guy who did in less than six minutes what took the other guy almost a half hour, to put Roy Jones on his back. Tarver by decision. Pat Putnam
Difficult. Johnson has clearly been underestimated most of his career while Tarver, if always regarded as talented, has also had to wait for his time. A throwback fight betwen two expert mechanics. I’ll go with Tarver by disputed decision that will demand a rematch. Jonathan Rendall
Johnson, while a gamer, is going to be dominated by a Tarver anxious to validate his place as the number one light heavyweight in the world. I expect Antonio Tarver to elevate his game and score an impressive and resounding knockout over good guy Glen Johnson no later than the seventh round. Scott Yaniga
The problems for Jirov are that he is not a big guy in a heavyweight division full of super-sized fighters with heavy hands. He earned a reputation for being a tenacious body puncher and was an in-your-face fighter who kept the pressure on his opponents and wore them down. Cruiserweights couldn’t cope with his attacking style and high volume work rate.
However, since his move up to the heavyweight division, Jirov has found that his punches do not have the same impact on his larger opponents and that his opponents can crack pretty well themselves. So for a guy who has always fought coming at his opponents and is there for the hitting, tough decisions lie ahead.
Consecutive defeats to two smaller heavyweights suggest that Jirov is in over his head.
In the fight against Michael Moorer, Jirov was ahead on the cards until being stopped by Moorer. What got Jirov ahead was his solid bodywork and combinations while Moorer was more economical with his punches. In the third round a combination left hook to the body coupled with a clash of heads put Moorer down to a knee for a count. Officially it was scored a knockdown, as the shot to the ribs was significant.
Moorer recovered well, started to pick up his own volume, and by the eighth round the fight was evening up. The end came in the ninth as Jirov came in as he usually does and Moorer peppered him with several solid blows punctuated by a flush one-two combination that sent the Kazakhstan native careening to the canvas. Jirov got up too soon on uneasy legs and would have been best served to take a knee and rise at the count of eight. Instead, Jirov was up right away, fell back into the ropes and came forward off them looking like his legs were ready buckle with one false step. Correctly, the bout was stopped, and so might be Jirov’s heavyweight career.
“The Tiger” made a decent - albeit losing - debut as a heavyweight by coming on strong late in the bout and dropping undefeated Joe Mesi three times. Unfortunately he had been out-boxed for much of the fight and had neither the power nor the time to finish Mesi. At 6’1” and 227-pounds, Joe Mesi is not a big heavyweight by today’s standards and Jirov couldn’t win that fight. Against Moorer he faced an opponent who stood just 6’2” and packed in 247-pounds into his robust frame. Not exactly the biggest and baddest of the bad, but still too big and too much for Jirov.
As a cruiserweight Jirov only suffered one defeat and that was in a very exciting fight to now-heavyweight James Toney. While heavyweight money is better than that paid at cruiserweight, it is clear that Jirov will never be a top heavyweight. Until losing to James Toney most people considered Vassiliy Jirov to be the best sub-200 pound fighter in the world. Of course Wayne Braithwaite, Jean Marc Mormeck and O’Neil Bell would certainly take exception to that claim. So what now?
The choice seems clear for Jirov. There is plenty of competition at cruiserweight and there are big money fights ready to be made. At heavyweight there is no future beyond being out-gunned by bigger stronger fighters as we have already seen.
In boxing the obvious choice isn’t always easy to make and Vassiliy Jirov has some heavy decisions ahead.
The Diaz vs Irwin Main Event will be one of at least eight scheduled bouts on the Miller Lite Texas Title Belt, Professional Boxing Series card
Diaz (26-0, 12 KO’s) captured the WBA crown in Houston, TX on July 17, 2004, when he out-boxed, out-punched, and out-worked defending champion Lakva Sim to win a unanimous decision victory (W 12). The victory not only made Diaz the youngest world champion in the sport (20 years old), but also made him the youngest world lightweight champion in over 30 years. The 21-year-old Houston, TX native is a junior at the University of Houston Downtown, and is recognized by many boxing insiders as the hottest young fighter in the world. In his last bout on Nov 4, 2004, Diaz successfully defended his title for the first time, pounding former world champion Julien Lorcy to earn a unanimous decision victory (W 12).
Irwin (42-5, 30 KO’s) has won his last eight bouts. The 36-year-old Ontario, Canada native challenged for a world lightweight title on December 16, 2000, losing a unanimous decision to defending IBF champion Paul Spadafora (L 12). Irwin is ranked #10 by the WBA and #14 by the WBC. In his last bout on July 28, 2004, Irwin stopped Lou Bizarro in nine rounds (TKO 9).
Brock (23-0, 19 KO’s) represented the 2000 U.S. Olympic Boxing Team in the super heavyweight division. Since turning pro in Feb 2001, the 29-year-old Charlotte, NC native has knocked out over 80% of his opponents. Brock captured his biggest win as a pro on May 15, 2004, dominating fellow-undefeated heavyweight prospect Terry Smith to earn a unanimous decision victory (W 10).
Etienne (29-2-2, 20 KO’s) has won five of his last six bouts. The 32-year-old Lafayette, LA native has battled many recognizable heavyweights throughout his six year career, such as Mike Tyson, Francois Botha, Fres Oquendo, Lawrence Clay-Bey, and Terrence Lewis. In his last bout on November 27, 2004, Etienne stopped Kenny Craven in two rounds (TKO 2).
Several local Houston boxers will also appear on the card, including the following:
Jose Diaz (5-0, 2 KO’s) - featherweight younger brother of Juan Diaz Benjamin Flores (7-0, 2 KO’s) – junior lightweight Akondayne Fountain (3-0, 1 KO) – middleweight Chris Tamayo (Pro Debut) – featherweight Lucy Contreras (1-0) – junior featherweight Jesus Rodarte (Pro Debut) – lightweight
Undefeated highly-touted San Antonio, TX bantamweight Raul Martinez (5-0, 4 KO’s) will compete in his first scheduled six round bout, while former Mexican champion Julio Cesar Garcia (9-0, 6 KO’s) competes in an eight round jr. lightweight bout.
Main Events is presenting the evening of boxing, in association with Miller Lite.
No, I’m not talking about the World Boxing Council’s offices prior to their collecting a world title-sanctioning fee. I’m talking your yearly Christmas, Kwanzaa, and/or Chanukah holiday, Skeezix.
So, let’s not stand on ceremony. Let’s get right to my holiday wish list . . . and this year it’s a real short one:
I want a dominant heavyweight champion.
That’s it. No Sirius satellite radio. No newfangled mp3 player (I still own 8-tracks, for heaven’s sake). No prime rib/cheese/beer/fruit of the month subscription either. Nope. All I want is for a guy to come along and make me forget—if only for a couple of years—that we as a boxing community are counting on a huge, awkward 33 year old who still hasn’t learned to keep his guard up or how to move laterally away from a punch to be the savior of our sport’s money division.
WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko is a nice, intelligent man. He showed his mettle and physical toughness in that back alley brawl with Lennox Lewis. He has knocked down everyone they’ve set up (no pun intended) in front of him of late, but he’s no standard-bearer for the dreadnaught boys. He seems to be missing that intangible quality that separates a good, earnest fighter from a great fighter.
He may be pushing 6’7” but he fights at times as if he’s the little guy in the ring. It is quite a paradox to watch this Colossus stalk towards an opponent and then see him wave those mighty limbs of his in some unsure, discomfited way until he manages to land a good shot. Then he’ll tear into his foe with those strong, deliberate punches of his - until a counter shot comes his way. At that point his face seems to be gripped in a rictus of fear; eyes widening, mouth agape as he quickly pulls straight back, keeping his arms extended in a clumsy attempt to block punches.
Not at all like a cocksure Muhammad Ali gliding away from danger, or a sneering Larry Holmes doing a paint job with that wicked jab, or a young, snorting Tyson advancing with blood in his eyes and malice in his heart.
No, watching Vitali Klitschko exhibit his ring skills is akin to suffering through Richard Milhous Nixon attempting to do The Twist at a White House soiree. You give the guy credit, but it ain’t real pretty to watch.
And it’s not all Dr. Klitschko’s fault, either, as the current roster of alphabet champs and top-ten remnants aren’t exactly an awe-inspiring bunch. James Toney, Chris Byrd, Hasim Rahman, John Ruiz, Lamon Brewster, Jameel McCline and…Andrew Golota? You’d have to go back to the late 1970s and early ‘80s to find a motlier bunch of pretenders to the throne. Back then at least we had a Larry Holmes ruling the roost. And until his marvelous skills started to slowly erode, we did have a fighter who dominated his challengers and who was interesting to watch. Then disinterest and decrepitude started to show on Larry and we were forced to watch as the likes of Renaldo “Mister” Snipes, Tex Cobb, Lucien Rodriguez and Bonecrusher Smith either gave Larry fits or force him to go the distance in unnecessarily grueling fights.
As for the IBF’s entry in the heavyweight derby, Chris Byrd is still the best and purest boxer in the division. Unfortunately, watching him work is only slightly less entertaining than clipping one’s toenails. The only element of suspense to his fights is his sudden susceptibility to the big punch. His frighteningly close shave at the hands of limited Jameel McCline recently is a not-so-subtle reminder that this beefed-up middleweight is now 34 years of age and starting to pick up speed as he descends that slippery slope of decline.
WBA titleholder John Ruiz is still the best example of what limited skill, combined with a stubborn determination to survive, can accomplish. This guy has elevated “The Clutch” to an art form. His fighting style is uglier than a chicken with lips, but it works for him, much to the detriment of the sport.
So, come on Santa, bring me a big, bouncing heavyweight who chews glass and craps thunderbolts; someone who will strike fear into the rest of the division and will do 1 to 2 million PPV buys every time he has a big fight; a heavyweight champ who will force some of the existing crop of big guys to enter a well-deserved and long overdue retirement, and make some of the younger ones reconsider their current line of employment.