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Thread: Ezzard Charles is #1: Ranking The Modern Light-Heavyweight Greats

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    Ezzard Charles is #1: Ranking The Modern Light-Heavyweight Greats

    [img]http://B78B.http.cdn.softlayer.net/00B78B/thesweetscience/images/stories/boxing3/Ezzard_3058e.JPG[/img]


    By Thomas Hauser

    Ranking great fighters from different eras, when done seriously, is a daunting task. It’s easy to sit down and put together a shoot-from-the-hip list. But that doesn’t do justice to the fighters.

    In recent years, I’ve sought to quantify ring greatness in a credible way. I’ve compiled lists of great champions who reigned at 135, 147, and 160 pounds and matched them against each other in round-robin tournaments with the results of each fight being predicted by a panel of boxing industry experts.

    This time, it’s modern 175-pound greats.

    The light-heavyweights chosen for the tournament in alphabetical order are Ezzard Charles, Billy Conn, Bob Foster, Roy Jones, Sergey Kovalev, Archie Moore, Matthew Saad Muhammad, and Michael Spinks.

    Six of these fighters tested the heavyweight waters in a meaningful way. Charles and Spinks claimed the legitimate heavyweight championship of the world. Jones bested John Ruiz for the WBA belt. Conn fought Joe Louis twice. Moore vied for the title against Rocky Marciano and Floyd Patterson. Foster fought Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali.

    Charles never won the light-heavyweight title. But he’s included in tournament because many people believe he was at his best at 175 pounds. Here, I should note that Charles fought Archie Moore three times and won each time.

    I didn’t include fighters who plied their trade prior to the mid-1930s because there’s not enough film footage available to properly evaluate them. Where Sergey Kovalev is concerned; his proponents have complained that none of today’s elite fighters will fight him. Now is his chance.

    The panelists were asked to assume for each hypothetical fight that both fighters were at the point in their respective careers when they were able to make 175 pounds and capable of duplicating their best 175-pound performance. One can look to side issues such as same-day weigh-ins versus day-before weigh-ins. And there’s a difference between going twelve rounds as opposed to fifteen. But at the end of the day, either a fighter is very good, great, or the greatest.

    Twenty-six experts participated in the rankings process. Listed alphabetically, the panelists were:

    Trainers: Teddy Atlas, Pat Burns, Naazim Richardson, and Don Turner

    Media: Al Bernstein, Ron Borges, Norm Frauenheim, Jerry Izenberg, Harold Lederman, Paulie Malignaggi, Dan Rafael, and Michael Rosenthal

    Matchmakers: Eric Bottjer, Don Elbaum, Bobby Goodman, Brad Goodman, Ron Katz, Mike Marchionte, Russell Peltz, and Bruce Trampler

    Historians: Craig Hamilton, Bob Mee, Clay Moyle, Adam Pollack, Randy Roberts, and Mike Tyson

    If each of the eight fighters in the tournament had fought the other seven, there would have been 28 fights. And there were 26 panelists. Thus, 728 fight predictions were entered into the data base. Fighters were awarded one point for each predicted win and a half-point for each predicted draw (too close to call). A perfect score would have been 182 points.

    One matchmaker said that he never saw Moore, Charles, or Conn fight and didn’t feel comfortable predicting outcomes for their matches based on film footage. A weighted average from the other electors was used to fill in the fights at issue in his tournament grid.

    In the end, Ezzard Charles was the clear choice for #1.

    The final rankings and point totals are:

    Ezzard Charles 156 points

    Archie Moore 120

    Roy Jones 104.5

    Bob Foster 103.5

    Michael Spinks 88

    Billy Conn 66

    Sergey Kovalev 48

    Matthew Saad Muhammad 42

    Sixteen of the 26 panelists thought that Bob Foster would have beaten Roy Jones. Nine picked Jones, while one said the match-up was too close to call. But Jones’s record against four of the other six fighters in the tournament was superior to Foster’s. That gave Roy a one-point edge in the final rankings.

    Thirteen of the 26 panelists thought that Charles would have won all of his fights. Four thought that Jones would have prevailed in all seven of his bouts. One elector gave Michael Spinks a perfect score.

    Among the comments made by electors were:

    “The old guys were better boxers. The new guys are better athletes. It’s called boxing, isn’t it?”

    “There are some big punchers in this tournament. But it took Rocky Marciano 23 rounds to knock Ezzard Charles out, so I don’t think any of these guys would have done it . . . Moore had a greater career at 175 pounds than Charles did. But Charles had his number . . . I hate to pick against Archie Moore at 175 pounds. But I can’t rewrite history, so I’ll pick Charles over Moore.”

    “Archie Moore didn’t have the best chin in the world, but he knew how to protect it and he knew how to disarm punchers . . . No modern-day fighter beats Archie Moore at 175-pounds. He knew all the tricks, and fighters today don’t know those tricks . . . I know Charles beat Moore three times. But a fighter has to prove himnself every time. On Moore’s best night, I’m going with Moore.”

    “Jones is the most athletically-gifted one in the group. He would have given all of the others trouble . . . The question about Roy is his chin. He’d be beating a lot of these guys until he got hit. Then, who knows . . . Roy wouldn’t have been able to fight these guys with his hands behind his back.”

    “Some of these fighters – especially Jones and Foster - had questionable chins. And all of them could whack. So the guys with questionable chins could have gotten knocked out at any point.”

    “I don’t care who you were. If you weighed 175 pounds and Bob Foster hit you on the chin, you were in trouble . . . Foster lost to some great fighters. How many great fighters did he beat?”

    “People don’t realize how clever Michael Spinks was. He was old-school in a lot of ways.”

    “Billy Conn fought 76 times. He got stopped by some guy right after he turned pro. And the only fighter who knocked him out after that was Joe Louis. Most of the guys on your list could punch. But none of them could punch as hard as Joe Louis . . . Billy Conn had great footwork. He knew how to control distance with his legs, and his legs were great. Styles make fights, and Conn had the style to beat a lot of these guys . . . Conn weighed in at 169 pounds and was ahead of Joe Louis on the scorecards after twelve rounds.”

    “Kovalev hasn’t shown that he’s ready for this level of competition yet.”

    “I love Matthew Saad Muhammad. He was the most courageous fighter I‘ve ever seen, but I don’t see him doing well in this tournament. He took what he had to take and always came back punching. But he was too easy to hit, and I don’t think he could have taken the punishment that these guys were capable of handing out . . . Saad Muhammad was life and death with opponents who weren’t nearly as good as the fighters on this list.”

    “They’re in good company; all of them.”

    Charts #1 and #2 contain underlying statistical data from the tournament.

    Chart #1 shows that the trainers, matchmakers, media representatives, and historians all ranked Charles in the #1 slot. There was a divergence of opinion after that.

    Chart #2 shows how the panelists thought each fighter would have fared against the other seven.

    INSERT CHARTS HERE

    Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book (A Hurting Sport: An Inside Look at Another Year in Boxing) was published by the University of Arkansas Press.






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    Re: Ezzard Charles is #1: Ranking The Modern Light-Heavyweight Greats

    Nice sweet science writing. And no dumb-@$$ demagoguery and sneaky dogma trying to be peddled as science. T-Ha is da MAN! Holla!

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    Re: Ezzard Charles is #1: Ranking The Modern Light-Heavyweight Greats

    Like many greats who hang on too long, Charles faded into obscurity, especially after his last draining fight against Marciano. And from 1955 until his retirement in 1959, he fought twenty four times, winning only ten which, of course, diluted to some extent his legacy. However, nothing can ever dilute the following encapsulation reflecting, in part, the incredible level of his opposition:

    Rocky Marciano (twice) IBHF/WBHF
    Joe Louis IBHF/WBHF
    Jersey Joe Walcott (four times) IBHF/WBHF
    Archie Moore (thrice) IBHF/WBHF
    Rex Layne (thrice)
    Joe Maxim (five times) IBHF/WBHF
    Jimmy Bivins (four times) IBHF/WBHF
    Charley Burley (twice) IBHF/WBHF
    Lloyd Marshall (thrice) WBHF
    Gus Lesnevich WBHF
    Ken Overlin (twice)
    Elmer Ray (twice)
    Harold Johnson IBHF/WBHF
    Bob Satterfield

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    Re: Ezzard Charles is #1: Ranking The Modern Light-Heavyweight Greats

    While I agree wholeheartedly with Charles being labeled Light-Heavy King, I'm not so sure about the label "boxing expert".

    Please explain to me what constitutes a boxing expert. How many exist in the world, what actually qualifies someone for such a lofty title. Anyone?

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    Re: Ezzard Charles is #1: Ranking The Modern Light-Heavyweight Greats

    Quote Originally Posted by dino da vinci View Post
    While I agree wholeheartedly with Charles being labeled Light-Heavy King, I'm not so sure about the label "boxing expert".

    Please explain to me what constitutes a boxing expert. How many exist in the world, what actually qualifies someone for such a lofty title. Anyone?
    Wonderful request. I've always wanted to know those experts. and I have always instead referred to them as "so-called (and so alleged) experts." Holla!

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    Re: Ezzard Charles is #1: Ranking The Modern Light-Heavyweight Greats

    A boxing expert is (surely) someone that knows every iota (iota = every single minute amount) of the boxing game.

    http://www.thesweetscience.com/forum...ll=1#post44182

    Or, it could be someone that understands the game and all its nuances well enough to reliably and regularly profit from it.

    Or, it simply could be an unobtainable threshold that many dream of.

    I must admit it the scale of the question really is too much for this tortured and Stormy soul.


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    Re: Ezzard Charles is #1: Ranking The Modern Light-Heavyweight Greats

    Dino, great question. I have been following boxing in one way or another for close to 65 years. I write, I am in one of the Ring Halls of Fame, and I nominate fighters for the IBHOF. I know a bad uppercut when I see one and I know all the levels of defense. I have reviewed more video footage than there is video footage. Do I consider myself an expert? Heavens no!!!! God no!!!


    The closest thing I have ever seen to a 100% boxing expert is Emmanuel Steward.


    The worse thing I have seen is one writer calling other writers experts, particularly when they are all in the BWAA or in the same NYC Clique. That is especially bile-inducing. Referring to Rafael as an expert makes my stomach rumble--no pun intended.

    I will say that Paulie Malignaggi, aside from his often strange out-of- the -ring-behavior, knows his stuff and he is somebody I listen to carefully. Historians, by definition, are not experts. The late Johnny Bos knew boxing as well.

    Often, posters know more than anyone else. Stormcentre is an example. There is a guy on ESB named TARK who knows as much as anyone I have ever read. The trainer John Bray is pretty savvy as well. As for Hauser, he is a superb writer, but insofar as knowing much about the in's and out's of boxing, he will always need a panel of "experts"

    The entire dilemma is one orgy of cliques and self-congratulatory drivel. IMHO.
    Last edited by Kid Blast; 03-08-2016 at 11:25 PM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member stormcentre's Avatar
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    Re: Ezzard Charles is #1: Ranking The Modern Light-Heavyweight Greats

    Thanks for the kind words KB.

    Not many people here have kind things to say about me.

    But that's fine because not only do I know the (real) reason why - but it doesn't change the fact that I still love them all.




    I agree Paulie usually knows his stuff, and there's no doubt that he always comes across as an extremely pensive guy when it comes to boxing.

    I believe that's because (like most in the sport) he has not quite achieved what he set out to accomplish in boxing, and as a result Paulie has constantly thought about how to bridge that gap before it's too long.

    And along the way he's probably realised that his knowledge is just as good as most other well respected analysts and also that boxing can be subjected to reductionism theory and also a few others.

    Big up to M1 for getting Paulie on board, as his stuff is usually top notch.


    OK, to Emmanuel Steward.

    How could anyone disagree with your comment about him.

    There's no doubt that he was an expert in his field.


    I think more than anyone Steward is the guy that knows how to;

    A) Explain things - complex or otherwise - related to boxing that, at first, may seem intangible . . . . in simple, tangible and elegant ways.

    B) Accurately read a fight and fighter.

    Like (almost) no-one else I have heard.


    The sole exception (for me) is a Russian amateur coach (not listed below) I met years ago, worked with, and currently know now; whom in my opinion is as close to a boxing expert and/or boxing genius as you can get - especially in terms of understanding the sport's skills, psychology, strategy and tactics.

    The proof (for me) is in how he can do most of what Steward did above, and also how many guys he has trained - from early amateur days - that have gone on to become professional regional and/or world champions.

    If ever I wanted to be sure that I had analysed all there was and that I also adopted the correct strategy, in relation to a fight - particularly with international tourneys and therefore potentially foreign styles and tactical problems of sporting combat - he was the guy I would always go back to.

    Doesn't mean Steward is any less an expert in my opinion though.

    As far as experts - at actually the art of boxing/fighting and being able to (speech impediments aside) impart that knowledge (by that I mean guys that know all the moves regardless of whether they were outright successful all the time or not; and not necessarily people that understand other aspects of the game like its business, machinations, and the sports science aspects . .et al) - go; I offer the following (incomplete) list that is not necessarily in any order pf preference . . .

    1) Bredan Ingle.

    2) James Toney.

    3) Bill Miller.

    4) Bouwie Fisher.

    5) Eddie Futch.

    6) Michael Kozlowski

    7) Eddie Mustafa Muhammad.

    8) Alcides Sagarra.

    9) Bernard Hopkins.

    10) Nikolai Khromov.

    11) Alexander Lebzyak.

    12) Enzo Calzaghe.


    13) Nacho Berenstein

    14) Dino da Vinci



    Storm.

    Last edited by stormcentre; 03-09-2016 at 09:03 AM. Reason: Had to add Nacho & DDV (of course)

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    Re: Ezzard Charles is #1: Ranking The Modern Light-Heavyweight Greats

    All good. In the end, an expert IMO is someone who knows what he doesn't know.

  10. #10
    Senior Member stormcentre's Avatar
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    Re: Ezzard Charles is #1: Ranking The Modern Light-Heavyweight Greats

    Is that really possible ("to know what you don't know") for mere mortals that don't exist in the spirit world and are incapable of astral travelling?


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