In this era of perfectly crafted records and coddled champions, few fighters deserve to be called “Throwbacks.” But two fighters, both from England, recently have earned the right. When it was announced recently that Gennady Golovkin will fight welterweight Kell Brook in September, many fans and members of the media considered it another in a series of recent letdowns. While the universal preference may be for GGG to face a rated middleweight, Brook, by accepting the match, is doing something other middleweights were unwilling.
And when Brook steps into the ring on September 10th he will be joining a list of welterweights for whom size didn’t matter. Most recently we saw Bolton’s Amir Khan challenge Saul Alvarez in a catch-weight fight at 155 pounds. Khan was predictably stopped in that match. It was predictable because he has a history – at a lower weight – of being stopped and Alvarez is a notably heavy-handed fighter. Despite that history, Khan showed courage that is rare today simply by rising to the occasion and challenging Alvarez. In recent years only a handful have possessed it and earned the right to be considered a throwback.
Throughout history welterweights such as Marty Servo, Tommy Bell, Red Cochrane, Tony Janiro, Charlie Fusari, Joe Miceli, Jose Napoles, Kid Gavilan, Simon Brown, Marlon Starling, and Benny Paret stepped up to the challenge against fighters the caliber of Rocky Graziano, Jake LaMotta, Gene Fullmer, Michael Nunn, and Carlos Monzon. In recent years Oscar De La Hoya and Vinny Pazienza took their chances against the likes of Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr.
Though those fighters weren’t overly successful at middleweight, many others were. As far back as the 1890s Tommy Ryan was as dominant at middleweight as he was at welter. In the years that followed other welterweights also proved successful against the bigger fighters. Mickey Walker, Lou Brouillard, Ceferino Garcia, Marcel Cerdan, Charley Burley, Cocoa Kid, Carmen Basilio, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Emile Griffith scored many victories at middleweight. Former welterweight champion Luis Rodriguez also carved out a niche among the middleweights, beating contenders such as Bennie Briscoe, Georgie Benton, and Rubin Carter. Even former featherweight champion Henry Armstrong took the plunge and fought Ceferino Garcia to a draw at 160.
And the 1980s saw a trio of greats take their chances against the likes of Marvin Hagler, Iran Barkley, and Juan Roldan. Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, and Roberto Duran scored some of their most important wins against middleweights. More recently Cory Spinks came oh-so-close against Jermain Taylor and Miguel Cotto and Felix Trinidad competed with the heavier fighters.
Now you can add Kell Brook’s name to the list. Unable to for whatever reason to secure big fights at welterweight – including, ironically, against Amir Khan – Brook jumped at the opportunity to challenge not just a middleweight, but the most avoided middleweight in recent years. Not many are giving him much of a chance to win. However, quite a few feel he will be more competitive than some of GGG’s recent foes. Whether or not Brook defeats Golovkin doesn’t matter when it comes to being a throwback. In recent years, not too many can call themselves a throwback. Cotto and Shane Mosley are still hanging around and among the younger fighters only a handful can say they are. Probably less than 10 are throwbacks including Brook and Khan. And in today’s era of multiple belts and organizations, being a throwback might just mean more than being a champion.
Editor’s Note: Jose Corpas’ second book, a biography of Panama Al Brown, will be available after August 1 via Amazon and other leading online booksellers and at selected bookstores in the New York City area. Titled Black Ink: A Story of Boxing, Betrayal, Homophobia, and the First Latino Champion, the book has a forward by Springs Toledo.
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