Saturday, April 01, 2023  |



The best of all time A to Z: Walker

Fighters Network

This is the 23rd 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 who were considered. Also, noted author and boxing historian Bert Sugar — who provided input — tells us where he ranks our choices among the greatest fighters pound-for-pound and gives us a thought on each selection. And, finally, we’d love to get your thoughts on the project. Here goes ÔǪ today’s letter: “W.”

Lifespan: 1901-81
Hometown: Elizabeth, N.J.
Record: 94-19-4 (60 knockouts)
Active: 1919-35
Weight class: Welterweight through heavyweight
Titles: World welterweight and middleweight
Sugar’s ranking: No. 11
The thought process: Walker was one of boxing’s great characters during and after his career. The fun-loving “Toy Bulldog” won world championships in dangerously deep welterweight and middleweight divisions in spite of unpolished skills and more than his fair share of alcohol. Later, believe it or not, he became a noted primitive painter. That in itself is enough to make Walker one of the more important boxers of his or any time. However, that’s not what stands out: Walker, only 5-foot-7 (170cm), built a rabid following for superhuman toughness — and a devastating left hook — that allowed him to fight and beat men who were much bigger than he was. He was the only former welterweight champion to become a serious heavyweight contender, although he never won the title. He was outweighed by 29 pounds against Hall of Famer Jack Sharkey – 198¾ pounds (90.2kg) to 169¾ (77kg) — yet earned a draw. His contemporaries had great respect for him. Nat Fleischer, founder of THE RING, reportedly wrote: “”He rated close to the top. A terrific hitter with an abundance of courage, he fought in every division from welterweight through heavyweight. Though far outweighed, he always gave a thrilling performance.” Walker was dominating against men his own size. He outpointed Hall of Famer Jack Britton to win the welterweight title in 1922 and held it until another Hall of Famer, Pete Latzo, beat him in 1926. He lost a close decision to the great Harry Greb in an attempt to win the middleweight title while he was welterweight champ, in 1925, but won it in a disputed decision over Tiger Flowers the following year. He gave it up in 1931, which means he was a world champion for almost nine solid years. Walker lost to Mike McTigue, Tommy Loughran and Maxie Rosenbloom – three more Hall of Famers — in bids to win the light heavyweight title but his run at the heavyweight crown was more interesting. He beat Johnny Risko, King Levinsky and Paolino Uzcudun – and drew with Sharkey — to build momentum but took a brutal beating from Max Schmeling in 1932 and was never a heavyweight factor again. He fought on for another three years before giving up boxing for painting and golf, another passion. He left behind one of the great legacies in boxing history, one of a warrior who loved to fight and knew no fear. “Mickey Walker will best be remembered as the middleweight who had the best left hook and the biggest thirst in the business,” wrote legendary columnist Jim Murray. “If it hadn't been for the one, the thirst, the other, the hook, might have made him the only 155-pound heavyweight champ in modern history.”
Five more (alphabetical order): “Barbados” Joe Walcott, Freddie Welsh, Pernell Whitaker, Jimmy Wilde and Ike Williams. (Note: This was perhaps the deepest letter in the series. Three or four other fighters were worthy of the additional five.)
Sugar quote: “This man with the happy-go-lucky attitude, the smile on his playful Irish face and the penchant for attempting seemingly impossible odds, will forever be known as boxing’s version of ‘The Happy Warrior.'”

A: Armstrong:

B: Burley:

C: Charles:

D: Duran:

E: Elorde:

F: Foreman:

G: Greb:

H: Hagler:

I: Ibeabuchi:

J: Johnson:

K: Ketchel:

L: Louis:

M: Moore:

N: Napoles:

O: Olivares:

P: Pep:

Q: Qawi:

R: Robinson:

S: Saddler:

T: Tunney:

U: Uzcudun:

V: Villa: