Friday, March 24, 2023  |



The best of all time A to Z: Charles


This is the third 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” (Armstrong vs. Ali) – demonstrates. 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 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. Here goes ÔǪ today’s letter: “C.”

Lifespan: 1921-75
Hometown: Cincinnati
Record: 93-25-1 (52 KOs)
Active: 1940-59
Weight classes: Light heavyweight, heavyweight
Titles: World heavyweight
Sugar’s ranking: No. 24
The thought process: Charles had the same misfortune of Larry Holmes – succeeding a legend as heavyweight champion. “The Cincinnati Cobra” beat Jersey Joe Walcott to win the sports’ greatest prize after Louis retired and then beat Louis when “The Brown Bomber” unretired to earn universal recognition as champion and the enmity of many fans. Charles was so much more than that, though. Many believe he was the greatest light heavyweight who ever lived even though he never fought for the 175-pound title. Some evidence: He went 10-0 against Hall of Famers Archie Moore (3-0), Charley Burley (2-0) and Joey Maxim (5-0). Think about that! He moved up to the sport’s glamour division in the late ’40s and continued to win consistently even though he was undersized, ultimately earning a shot at the vacant NBA heavyweight title against Jersey Joe Walcott in 1949. Charles won a convincing decision to win the belt but knew he’d yet to beat the people’s champion – Louis. He finally did so in 1950, winning another one-sided decision over the fading ring idol even though he was outweighed by 33¾ pounds. Charles had more important victories but his fortunes began to turn shortly after the Louis fight. He would go 1-2 and lose the title in three more fights with Walcott, lose two epic battles with Rocky Marciano and then lose the majority of his final fights after his skills had faded. However, his legacy was set. He was perhaps the greatest light heavyweight ever and also won the heavyweight championship, even if a public had a hard time accepting him because of his predecessor. Hard to top that. ÔǪ Charles was hardly a no-brainer. Canzoneri beat a slew of Hall of Famers in a dominating career and could’ve been the choice here. We simply thought Charles’ domination at 175 pounds and successs at heavyweight trumped narrowly trumped Canzoneri.

Five more (alphabetical order): Tony Canzoneri, Cassius Clay, Marcel Cerdan, Julio Cesar Chavez and Billy Conn.

Sugar quote: “Charles was one of the greatest technical fighters of all time. He wasn’t overly exciting but you have to understand that he took on Rocky Marciano in the twilight of his career and almost beat him.”