Sunday, April 02, 2023  |


The best of all time A to Z: Burley

Fighters Network

This is the second in a 26-part series in which endeavors to name the best boxers of all time based on last name – A to Z. We’ll post one letter each day for 26 days. Our criteria in making the selections were fairly simple: Accomplishments in the ring, with heavy emphasis on strength of opposition, as well as impact on the sport. This wasn’t easy, as our first installment – the letter “A” – demonstrated. However, we’re confident that our choices are arguably the best. We also are including five more fighters for each letter to indicate others that were considered. Also, noted author and boxing historian Bert Sugar – whose book “The Ultimate Book of Boxing Lists,” co-written with Teddy Atlas, is due out soon – gives us a thought on each selection and we indicate where our choices rank on his most-recent Top 100 list. And, finally, we’d love to get your thoughts on the project. And, finally, we’d love to get your thoughts on the project. Here goes ÔǪ today’s letter: “B.”

Lifespan: 1917-92
Hometown: Pittsburgh
Record: 83-12-2 (50 KOs)
Active: 1936-50
Weight class: Welterweight, middleweight, light heavyweight
Titles: None
Sugar’s ranking: No. 59
The thought process: Burley is often called the greatest fighter never to win a world championship. He never even fought for one – in part because he was “too good for his own good,” as many said, and in part because he was black – even though he was a Top 10 fighter for much of his career and beat the likes of Archie Moore and Fritzie Zivic. Hall of Famers Sugar Ray Robinson and Billy Conn were among those who reportedly wanted no part of him. He ended up in a group of gifted but shunned black fighters called “Murderers Row,” composed of Bert Lytell, Holman Williams, Oakland Billy Smith, Charley Banks, Joe Carter and Burley. They fought each other numerous times while others claimed fame and fortune in championship fights. And he often fought – and beat – men who were bigger than he was if that’s what it took to get a fight. Burley was a magnificent boxer who was extremely difficult to hit, “as slick as lard and twice as greasy,” Moore said. He also was a tremendous puncher, as his impressive knockout ratio indicates. He was rated No. 86 among the biggest punchers of all time by THE RING magazine. Burley is remembered primarily by boxing buffs but those who saw him fight never forgot him. The great trainer Eddie Futch, who saw many of the greatest fighters of the 20th century, said: “People ask me ÔǪ give me the best fighter you ever saw. It would be Charley Burley. Charley Burley was an exception. Charley Burley is a legend in boxing but the public doesn’t know him because he never got the press.”
Five more (alphabetical order): Marco Antonio Barrera, Carmen Basilio, Wilfredo Benitez, Jackie “Kid” Berg and Jack Britton.
Sugar quote: “He was the man most fighters loved to duck. He was just too damned good.”