By David Martinez / Boxing Historian
Let me bring you a feature story that you will probably not read any where regarding, all together, the five best black heavyweights at the turn of the 20th century.
I got the idea when I over heard some mutual friends talking about the best black baseball players that never got the chance to play in the major leagues, and had to settle playing against each other in the old negro league.
I have rated many boxers in many categories throughout my over 50 years of boxing … on this website alone you will find that I have rated the best heavyweights, the best lightweights, the best Mexicans fighters, and now I will personally rate the best black heavyweights in a time period that but only one of them, Jack Johnson, had the opportunity to fight for the heavyweight championship.
By Tom Donelson
(Member Boxing Writers Assc.)
On NBC, it was a night of heavyweight beginning with Bryant Jennings facing Steve Collins. Collins came into the fight with only one knock out in his last fourteen victories after winning his first eleven fights by knockout. The first round was a feeling out round as neither fighter threw much but Jennings got his jab going and started to open up.
This became more prominent in the third round as Jennings added his left hook and right hand to the mix as he started to score. In the fifth round, Jennings landed two left jabs followed by a right hand which sent Collins to the rope and the only thing that kept Collins from going down was the rope.
From this point, it was all Jennings but there were times that Jennings relaxed and allowed Collins to stay in the fight. Collins could no longer hurt Jennings after the third round and Jennings landed several combinations including upper cuts, right hands along with hooks to the body and head. The biggest flaw was his failure to finish off Steve Collins; who had nothing left over the last two rounds and wasn’t even really throwing any punches. Collins was hoping to make it through the last two rounds to end the fight on his feet. Jennings won the fight easy and showed growth but part of growth as a Heavyweight contender is to stop people who are your inferior.
In the main event featured Tomasz Adamek and Fast Eddie Chambers in a bout between two heavyweights who want one more shot at a title and a loss could end that shot. Chambers came into the fight at the lightest in his career and Adamek came in slightly heavier. Chambers began the fight by jabbing and moving while Adamek moved forward but unable to connect on solid shots due to Chambers’ defense.
Here is my list of the 15 best punchers in the heavyweight division from the start of the Marquis of Queensberry era, (i.e.) 1892 to the present. A formula that I am using to help illustrate this for each boxer is to show their percentage of knockouts which is calculated by the number of wins they had with the number of knockouts in those wins. This formula isn’t intended to determine the order in which I have placed them; the order also includes my opinion of them as punchers.
I am not concerned about “who beat who”, how many times they were knocked out themselves or the results if they would have fought each other. Their physical size or if they were a world champion has no bearing – this is strictly based on strength of punching power with the opponents they fought. Why isn’t Muhammad Ali on this list? Personally, I would take Ali to beat any of these punchers on my list – but mostly by decision wins and not by knockouts. When I write rankings of boxers in any capacity I always get disagreements and feedback, so please know that I respect your opinions, and hope you will respect mine.
#1) Joe Louis (66 wins / 52 by KO = 78.7 %) Heavyweight champion 1940-1949. Defended title a record 25 times. He was a smooth, deadly puncher with tremendous power in either hand. His combinations had perfect accuracy with overwhelming power.
#2) George Foreman (76 wins / 69 by KO = 90.7 %) Two time heavyweight champion 1973-1974 and 1994-1997. He is recognized as one of the hardest hitters ever in boxing in any weight division. He is forth on my list in the percentage category of knockouts.
#3) Sonny Liston (50 wins / 39 by KO – 78.0 %) Heavyweight champion 1962-1964. The most intimidating heavyweight ever, his left jab alone was so powerful that it knocked opponents out – the jab – and his left hook was nothing less than devastating.
#4) Rocky Marciano (49 wins / 43 by KO = 87.7 %) Heavyweight champion 1952-1956. He retired undefeated. Had limited skills and had a weight disadvantage, but his tremendous will to win overshadowed that with bigger opponents; his fights averaged a remarkable fewer than 5 rounds per bout. Was responsible for the greatest knockout in heavyweight history in his 1952 title win over Jersey Joe Walcott in round 13 despite being behind on all scorecards.
By Jim Amato / Senior Boxing Writer
Hopefully the one time heavyweight champion of the world Riddick Bowe will never fight again. His post career problems have been well documented.
The question now is, where does Bowe rank among the great heavyweights of all time? How would he have fared against Louis, Marciano, Frazier or even dream fights in his own time against Lewis or Tyson? Here is a boxer who may have never realized his full potential. When he was near it his career declined due to his own self-indulgence.
After Lennox Lewis stopped Riddick in the 1988 Olympics, Bowe was considered a risky project. Rock Newman took the risk of managing Bowe and convinced the skeptical but astute Eddie Futch to undertake the task of molding Riddick. The rest is history. Bowe progressed nicely thru the ranks, turning pro in 1989 by halting future contender Lionel Butler in two rounds. In 1990 he stopped faded ex-champion Pinklon Thomas in nine. He also destroyed Bert Cooper in two.
In 1991 he kayoed Tyrell Biggs in eight and outscored ex-champ Tony Tubbs. He later kayoed future titleholder Bruce Seldon in one round. In 1992 he cemented a shot at the title by halting South African Pierre Coetzer in seven rounds.
Finally Riddick “Big Daddy” Bowe was in the ring facing heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield. The well-schooled and well-conditioned Bowe won a hard fought but convincing decision and the crown. Was this the turning point of his career? Was it the beginning of the end? The night Bowe won the title from Holyfield he could have arguably competed with any heavyweight who ever lived. He was that good.
So where did it all go wrong? Did Riddick believe he was unbeatable? Easy defenses against ex-champ Michael Dokes and shopworn journeyman Jesse Ferguson did little to sharpen his skills. His weight as well as his ego began to swell. By the time he met Holyfield in their rematch he had become a different fighter. So had Evander who had totally dedicated himself in training. Their second bout is mainly remembered for the “Fan Man” incident but in reality it was a highly entertaining fight. Even at the height of his skills against an ill prepared Bowe, Evander had all he could do to win the decision and regain the title. Without the championship, Riddick had become an enigma to himself. Would he rededicate himself or let the talent he had slip through his fists.
Riddick began his march toward reclaiming his crown. He would beat once highly regarded Herbie Hide and knock out overrated Jorge Luis Gonzalez who had beaten Riddick in the amateurs. He would again meet a now ex-champion Holyfield in a rubber match. He would pick himself off the canvas to knock out Evander and it appeared Riddick was still a prime player in the heavyweight sweepstakes. All that came crashing down following two brutal and highly controversial bouts against Andrew Golota.
In rememberence of Muhammad Ali’s 70th birthday this week, January 17, I am bringing back one of my favorite features on THE GREATEST that was part of a series I did for for this Web site. Here now, for your enjoyment, is that story. Happy Birthday Champ!
By David Martinez / Boxing HistorianThis is the last of a six part series on Muhammad Ali. It has truly been my pleasure to share with you my personal accounts of THE GREATEST heavyweight champion in my era of boxing.
For those of you who have missed any of this special series, you can simply go to the menu on this website and click on the category, “Ali”, to view each part.
So, in my final, part six, I will take you back to Saturday afternoon, March 5, 2005. The location was the Stevens Steak House, Commerce, California. The event was the annual California Boxing Hall of Fame Inductee ceremonies.
This wasn’t even a live fight, but I will simply recognize it as one of the most memorable events that I have attended in my almost fifty years of involvement in boxing.
As the ceremonies were just about to conclude, the doors opened at the restaurant and the 600-plus SRO crowd started to chant “Ali, Ali, Ali, Ali, Ali” as the three time heavyweight champion entered the room. It was so electric, it was as if the Pope himself had walked into the room, and it was one of those moments in time where one just had to be there to witness and feel it.
Hard Luck: The Triumph And Tragedy Of “Irish” Jerry Quarry
AUTHORS – Steve Springer and Blake Chavez
FOREWORD by George Foreman
I have always been a big fan of Jerry Quarry. He was a mainstay in the talent laden heavyweight division during the late 1960s and into the 70′s. His multitude of fans shared in his triumphs and his disappointments throughout his roller coaster career. Whenever you counted Jerry out he would win a major fight to propel himself back to the heavyweight forefront. His victories over Floyd Patterson,Thad Spencer,Buster Mathis Sr.,Mac Foster,Ron Lyle and Earnie Shavers always kept him in the thick of the heavyweight title picture. Then there were the losses to Ali and Frazier who both defeated Jerry twice. There were the losses to Jimmy Ellis, George Chuvalo and later in his career to Kenny Norton.
Much has been documented on Jerry’s career and his battle later in life with Dementia Pugilistica. A battle that would take his life in 1999. The authors of this book do a tremendous job of detailing Jerry’s life and career from the beginning to the bitter end. It brought back a lot of memories both good and bad but it also reminded me of why I was such a fan of Quarry and that era of heavyweight boxing.
This is more than a book on Jerry Quarry. It was like reading and reliving that historic time frame in fistic history. Other then Muhammad Ali himself,no one stirred the pot of controversy better then Quarry during that time frame. Along with his great boxing ability Jerry had something else. Loads of charisma that most of today’s heavyweights lack.
I highly recommend this book to all boxing fans. It is a great read. If you are a Jerry Quarry fan…Well what are you waiting for ???
By David Martinez / Boxing Historian
This past week boxing lost a great champion, Joe Frazier, who passed away after a brief battle with liver cancer at the age of 67.I will always remember Joe, and I am so blessed to have lived in his boxing era and to have witnessed his fights. He was a relentless fighter and fought every round going forward behind a vicious left hook, with his opponents having to withstand constant pressure from Smokin’ Joe.If there were six fights, in my opinion, that absolutely stood out in his career they would have to be:
September 21, 1966 / vs. Oscar Bonavena … Frazier down twice in second round to rally and win a hard fought 10 round decision.
By Jim Amato / Senior Boxing Writer
If I was to tell you there was once a heavyweight who lost his first professional fight by knockout. Also this heavyweight would actually lose half of his first dozen fights. If I told you he would go on to win a piece of the heavyweight crown and be a major player in the division for well over a decade. Would you believe me ?
Well this is a true Cinderella story. It is the career of former WBA heavyweight titleholder Mike “Hercules” Weaver. Who in my opinion for nearly a five year period he was the second best heavyweight in the world.
Mike turned pro in 1972 and he was matched tough from the very beginning. He lost his debut by knockout to future contender Howard “Kayo” Smith. He would then lose a five round decision to Smith in a rematch. Undefeated Billy Ryan would halt him in two rounds and four fights later unbeaten Larry Frazier would stop Mike in the second. In 1974 Weaver would drop a ten round duke to the much bigger Rodney Bobick. Then Mike would be taken out in seven by the streaking Olympian prospect Duane Bobick.
At this point the future of Mike Weaver looked very bleak. Over the next three and a half years though Weaver would put together a fairly impressive eight fight win streak. Among his victims were Tony Doyle,Jody Ballard,Dwain Bonds and hard hitting Pedro Lovell. This put Mike into a fight with the talented Stan Ward for the California heavyweight title. Ward outweighed Weaver by forty pounds and took a twelve round verdict. Seven months later Weaver was matched with Big Leroy Jones for the vacant North American Boxing Federation heavyweight title. Jones outweighed Mike by a whopping sixty six pounds ! Jones boxed his way to a twelve round decision over Weaver to capture the crown.
The determined Weaver with resurge his career by reeling off five straight wins in impressive fashion. He took out the very dangerous Bernardo Mercado in five rounds. He then met Stan Ward in a rematch. The vacant United States Boxing Association heavyweight title was on the line. This time Mike took care of Ward in the ninth round and put himself in a position for a shot at the world’s heavyweight title.
Leon Spinks and David Martinez
( photo taken: October 15, 2004 )
By Tom Donelson
( Member of the Boxing Writers Association and International Boxing Research Organization )
Butch Lewis was a colorful promoter who learned his trade under Bob Arum and even promoted some of Ali’s fight with Arum but he was the man behind the Spinks brothers. He managed Leon’s career to great heights early in his career. After winning the Olympics, Leon won his first seven of eight fights with the other being a draw against Scott LeDoux.
Ali set up a fight with Leon Spinks but Spinks upset the “Greatest” winning the title with a split decision. For one night, Spinks was the greatest but that came down quickly when Ali won an easy decision in New Orleans Superdome in the rematch.