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Dougie’s Friday mailbag (rating Wladimir Klitschko, Calzaghe vs. Conn, Parker vs. Fa)

Wladimir Klitschko.  Photo by Guido Kirchner/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
01
May

RATING THE GREATS

Morning Dougie,

Hope things are going well with you and the family.

MM:



The King (you know who) vs Too Sharp Johnson @ 112/115

The King vs Inoue @ 115 (when it was being discussed prior to The King’s loss to SSR)

Salvador Sanchez vs Eder Jofre @ 126

Keep the first question quick – last time I wrote in, we agreed on the difference between “better” (who wins head to head) and “greater” (who accomplished more). We all know that Hagler was better than Hearns but who was greater? (I just assumed that it would be Hagler since I agree with you that weight jumping is overrated as hell but damn if Tommy didn’t accomplish a lot over the 6 weight classes he competed in).

Secondly, I was reading something about ranking the accomplishments of Wlad Klitschko the other day and the one mark that keeps getting brought up against him was that he never fought or beat another ATG in their prime. A lot of people use this criteria for their ATG ratings but is it fair? Looking over the time Wlad was active, there are no ATG in their prime who he could have fought (Lewis, Holyfield and Tyson were all past it at the times those fights could have happened and Vitali didn’t do enough to establish himself as ATG, he merely had the potential to be one). Remove those names and there are no fighters that Wlad could have fought at any point that could be considered ATG up to now (I’m referring to Fury/Joshua who may go on to be ATG but haven’t proven it at time of writing).

Considering this, do you agree with me about this being unfair criteria and what do you think are fair ranking criteria when ranking ATGs? Thanks again. – Euan, Dunfermline, Scotland

ATG stands for All-Time Great, Euan, so the criteria WILL BE ridiculously high, and perhaps a bit unfair for potentially great fighters who didn’t have great or potentially great rivals to face during their prime years.

Wladdy collected his share of heavyweight title belts. We’re partial to the one over his shoulder.

If somebody doesn’t view Klitschko as an ATG, I don’t think there’s anything you can say or show them that will change their mind. I would just point to his career stats – mainly his title defenses (which includes retaining the IBF belt 18 consecutive times), which only Joe Louis and Larry Holmes can top (in terms of consecutive defenses). He’s in all-time great company.

And for what it’s worth, I think he’s a first-ballot hall of famer. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s worthy of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, even though as of right now, there are no hall of famers on his resume (I think that will change with time, as I’m sure you do).

However, there are other fighters enshrined in the IBHOF who do not (currently) have fellow HOFers on their resume, among them are former WBA/IBF junior lightweight titleholder Brian Mitchell and IBF flyweight and IBF/WBO junior bantamweight king Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson. You better believe that both are worthy of their hall of fame status. Like Klitschko, they fought several solid contenders during distinguished title reigns. The talent was better in the lighter weight classes, but Klitschko had a longer reign than the little guys, made more title defenses, and also unified all but the WBC belt (Wladdy also earned The Ring Magazine title).

Your Mythical Matchups:

The King (you know who) vs Too Sharp Johnson @ 112/115 – I think Johnson was at his absolute peak at flyweight, a complete boxer-puncher with elite-level skill and athleticism, so I’m going with Too Sharp via close UD in a sensational fight; but as awesome as Johnson was at 112, there was a noticeable drop off at 115 (as there was with Chocolatito), so I see that as a much closer contest (and very entertaining). I’m gonna go with Gonzalez by close, maybe majority or split nod in a macho barnburner (with less skill on display than the flyweight showdown).

Roman Gonzalez (left) with Naoya Inoue. Photo by Naoki Fukuda

The King vs Inoue @ 115 (when it was being discussed prior to The King’s loss to SSR) – There was a small window for this little superfight to happen at 115 pounds. If you recall, Inoue won a major 115-pound belt (the WBO title) first by blasting Omar Narvaez in his eighth pro bout in December 2014. Chocolatito edged Carlos Cuadras for the WBC 115-pound belt in September 2016. He lost the title to Srisaket in March 2017. So, we’re talking a matter of months, but in the “mythical matchup” realm, I guess we can pretend that instead of facing Sor Rungvisai in early 2017 “The King” took on “The Monster” in a unification fight. I think the two national heroes would have clashed in a great fight, and I think Gonzalez would have struggled in the early rounds, maybe even get dropped, before cutting the ring off on Inoue and taking the young phenom into deep waters. I’m gonna go with Gonzalez by late TKO in an epic fight. Inoue is bigger, stronger and better suited at the weight than the Nicaraguan, but he was still developing into the monster we now see back in early 2017 (when he had only 11 or 12 pro fights). Chocolatito was pushing it at 115 and had the wear and tear of 46 pro bouts, but he also had the experience from all those fights. And Gonzalez proved vs. Cuadras and the first bout with Sor Rungvisai that he could battle balls-to-the-wall for 12 brutal rounds. I recall the notes I took on Inoue during his U.S. debut (on the Sor Rungvisai-Gonzalez undercard in September 2017) and while an obvious uber-talent, he still had some holes in game that a savvy vet like Gonzalez could take advantage of if properly prepared and focused.

Salvador Sanchez vs Eder Jofre @126 – Excellent matchup, lots of skill, technique, power and guts would be on display for 15 rounds (and don’t expect either man to tire out), but I think Sal, who was much better suited at featherweight than the Brazilian hero, would earn a close UD. Jofre was better at 118 pounds IMO.

Last time I wrote in, we agreed on the difference between “better” (who wins head to head) and “greater” (who accomplished more). We both just repeated what Breadman Edwards posed in his own mailbag, but, yeah, I think we were on the same page. (It’s really not a difficult concept, although it seems to keep much of #Boxing Twitter baffled and antagonistic.)

Photo from The Ring archive

We all know that Hagler was better than Hearns but who was greater? (I just assumed that it would be Hagler since I agree with you that weight jumping is overrated as hell but damn if Tommy didn’t accomplish a lot over the 6 weight classes he competed in). You know what? I think I’m going to give Tommy the slightest of edges in the “better” category. He would have earned a decision over Sugar Ray Leonard had their epic welterweight showdown been scheduled for 12 rounds, and he deserved the decision with their rematch at super middleweight (which ended in a controversial draw). He outpointed Wilfred Benitez and annihilated Roberto Duran at 154 pounds (his best weight class). Those are three ATGs. He blasted Pipino Cuevas at welterweight and outpointed Virgil Hill at light heavyweight (as the 3-to-1 underdog). Those are two hall of famers. That’s not just “weight hopping” and collecting belts here and there, those are historically significant victories and performances.

 

POST-LOCKDOWN BOXING

Hi Dougie,

I hope you and your family are well. I’ve been following the news and its looks like parts of your country are really suffering.

I wanted to write in about the status of the heavyweight division as we get closer to possible studio fights. I’m writing from New Zealand. Here, we are starting to work our way out of lockdown and are looking to start getting back to normal in the coming weeks/months. This has me thinking about a matchup between our two top heavyweights, Joe Parker and Junior Fa.

Apparently the camps for both fighters have engaged in talks but not been able to come to an agreement. My thought is that this could be the perfect time for these fighters to get the attention of international fight fans and media. Given that our country is closer to getting out of lockdown, a closed door fight here should be achievable far in advance of most other nations. This could give what would otherwise be a B or C-level fight in terms of its international appeal proper A-level status, given the massive desire for live content. I think Parker should win decisively, but at least we could get a real boxing card for the first time in weeks. Surely ESPN of DAZN would love to put this fight on now.

Based on this, I wanted to ask you:

  1. What do you think about this fight/do you think fight fans outside of NZ will care either in or out of quarantine?
  2. Can you think of any fights that could potentially benefit from being staged now, as closed door fights with less competition for viewers? and 3. I’ve been using this time at home to watch a lot of older fights. Sp since I’m on the topic: What are some of the best domestic level rivalries you can think of that didn’t necessarily have a major title, or major significance outside of their home state or country?

Cheers, and sorry for being a bit longwinded. – Isaac from NZ

It’s all good, Isaac.

Joseph Parker. Photo by Lawrence Lustig

From what I’ve read, Team Parker and Team Fa are far from agreeing to any terms they’ve heard so far, but hypothetically speaking if they were able to consummate the all-Kiwi showdown and present the “un-civil war” on a major platform before the end of June, I think hardcore boxing fans around the world would tune in. Bottom line: We’re starved for live boxing, and Parker is former heavyweight titleholder who has been in major fights that were staged in the UK and televised or streamed live in the U.S. He’s a legit contender (rated No. 7 by The Ring). Parker’s a respected player in the glamor division. Fa isn’t as well known but he’s promoted by Lou DiBella and has appeared on U.S. shows that were streamed on ESPN+ and UFC Fight Pass, which has garnered a lot of boxing website coverage, so he’s got some name recognition too. Their fight wouldn’t do super ratings, but it would move the needle.

What do you think about this fight/do you think fight fans outside of NZ will care either in or out of quarantine? It’s not a matchup that I’ve clamored for. I’d rather see Parker in with a fellow contender, such as Michael Hunter or Oscar Rivas, than a heavyweight hopeful like Fa. I know that Fa beat Parker twice in the amateur ranks, but he hasn’t faced anyone of note as a pro. Parker is two years younger than Fa but is far more advanced. Still, I understand that it would be a big deal in their home nation. Outside of New Zealand, I think it will create a minor buzz in the UK, but only attract the attention of hardcore heads in America.

Can you think of any fights that could potentially benefit from being staged now, as closed door fights with less competition for viewers? Of course! If a major promoter, such as top Rank, were able to reschedule championship bouts nixed by COVID-19 in studio settings or in empty smaller venues, good matchups like Ramirez-Postol and Inoue-Casimero, there’s no doubt in my mind that they would attract serious viewership to their broadcast partner (ESPN/ESPN+).

Oba Carr

I’ve been using this time at home to watch a lot of older fights. So since I’m on the topic: What are some of the best domestic level rivalries you can think of that didn’t necessarily have a major title, or major significance outside of their home state or country? It’s funny, I was recently talking to Tom Loeffler about a fight that fits this description that involved a fighter he used to manage – Oba Carr. We were talking about when Carr, a two-time welterweight title challenger at the time but still a top contender, faced two-time lightweight title challenger Anthony “Baby” Jones in Auburn Hills, Michigan (right outside of their hometown of Detroit) in 1997. The junior middleweight crossroads bout was televised on USA Network’s Tuesday Night Fights series, and what many thought would be “easy work” for Carr (42-2 at the time) turned into a hard-fought battle that ended in a 10-round draw. As Tom told me: “Detroit bragging rights were on the line that night, so Jones trained hard and showed up.” Both boxers had Kronk Gym roots as well, so I’m sure the pride of that storied boxing club fueled the flames of competition as well. One other note about this matchup: it involved two excellent boxers that would have won world titles had they come around at a different time. Carr was valiant but came up short in titles challenges to undefeated prime versions of Felix Trinidad, Ike Quartey and Oscar De La Hoya. Jones challenged hall of famer Edwin Rosario for the WBA 135-pound belt and the late, great Pernell Whitaker when “Sweet Pea” was the undisputed lightweight champ.

 

JOE CALZAGHE

Hi Doug!

I am a Welshman who cannot understand your love of Joe Calzaghe. Every time he is in a mythical matchup you have him victorious (to the best of my knowledge). Calzaghe beating Conn was the final straw. What do you base this on?

I have watched boxing for 30 years and have come to the conclusion that a fighters length of reign, number of title defenses and number of titles at various weight classes means less than how many wins a person has over tremendous fighters at or near their prime. Afterall, Kevin McBride can dine out on beating Mike Tyson and Enzo Macarinelli can boast of beating Roy Jones.

Manny Pacquaio has lost 7 times, but has a record of 6-2-1 against Barrera, Morales and Marquez. When did Calzaghe fight at this level of competition? He did not. Roy Jones in boxing terms had rigor mortis, Hopkins was 42 and nowhere near the fighter he had been, Kessler was a good competitive world class fighter and has there ever been a more overrated victory in the history of boxing than his win over Jeff Lacy? The way people talk about the Lacy victory is as if he had beaten a Roberto Duran in his pomp!

Ken Buchanan lost to Duran, Freddie Welsh lost to Benny Leonard, Tony Sibson lost to Hagler, Dave Boy Green lost to Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Farr lost to Joe Louis. This list could go on and on, but there was no shame in these British fighters losing to greats of the past in their primes. Did Calzaghe fight this type of competition? You only get a true reflection of a boxers ability by the competition that they took on, otherwise you are fabricating things. I totally understand that it is a bit of fun, but you cannot keep giving credit to someone who has not fully earned it. Calzaghe was a really good fighter who beat a number of good fighters, but nothing resembling great. There is a big difference between beating a really good fighter and a great one. For the record, I believe Conn would beat Calzaghe. Thanks. – Jonathan (Wales)

That’s fair. Conn is an all-time great. I rate him higher pound-for-pound than most boxing writers/historians (which I noted in the same mailbag post that triggered you). If you ask me who is “greater,” Conn or Calzaghe? It’s a no-brainer. The Pittsburgh Kid fought the best of the 1930s and early ’40s, from middleweight to heavyweight, including six hall of famers. I know he’s great. I know about the guys he DOESN’T get any credit for beating, such as Fred Apostoli, Teddy Yarosz, Young Corbett III and Solly Krieger.

Calzaghe is a hall of famer. He had an excellent career, a 10-year super middleweight title reign that included unification bouts vs. fellow undefeated beltholders, and a two-bout 175-pound stint that saw him notch wins against two aging modern greats. But I don’t consider Calzaghe great.

However, who would be “better” in a head-to-head mythical matchup is harder to figure. I don’t “love” Calzaghe, as you say, but I recognize that he had a very difficult style for fellow boxers to cope with. He was an athletic, mobile, volume-punching southpaw, who would rise to occasion when faced with a stern challenge. Conn had a lot of the same attributes, especially the fancy footwork, fast hands, combo punching, and fighting spirit, but the 1930s-era fighter was at his best against aggressive types. He beat some terrific boxers (including Yarosz) but those guys did not have the size, speed and agility of Calzaghe. And there were very few southpaws in Conn’s era (they were often converted to right-handers in order to get fights). Joe’s stance would have thrown the American off, and I think Conn would have quickly discovered that he shared the ring with a fellow tactician who as clever and crafty as he is. Like I stated in the previous mailbag, it would have been a high-level chess match between master boxers, hotly contested throughout and very close on the official scorecards. I think Calzaghe’s more consistent punch output, constant movement and creative angles would give him the edge, but who knows? Maybe Conn would be the better craftsman on the inside, maybe he’d be able to slow Joe down with a body attack.   

Anyway, I always get a kick out of hardcore fan reactions to these mythical matchups. When I favor the fighters from the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s, etc., you guys say I’m just glorifying the past or not giving the new generations enough credit and respect. When I favor a fighter from recent decades to beat a Golden Oldie then I must be “in love” with that New Jack.

I’ll put to y’all like this: STYLES MAKE FIGHTS, and that includes DREAM FIGHTS.

I am a Welshman who cannot understand your love of Joe Calzaghe. Every time he is in a mythical matchup you have him victorious (to the best of my knowledge). I favor prime Roy Jones Jr. over Calzaghe at super middleweight.

I have watched boxing for 30 years and have come to the conclusion that a fighters length of reign, number of title defenses and number of titles at various weight classes means less than how many wins a person has over tremendous fighters at or near their prime. I agree 100%, that’s why I rate Conn so highly even though he “only” won one world title (had he fought in an era of previous-day weigh-ins, 17 weight classes and four major belts, he would have collected titles at 154, 160, 168, 175 and cruiserweight), however, length of title reign and number titles/title defense still has merit in evaluating a fighter (especially within his own era).

Afterall, Kevin McBride can dine out on beating Mike Tyson and Enzo Macarinelli can boast of beating Roy Jones. No, they can’t. They were proud to have shared the ring with those icons, and I’m sure it was thrill to have their hands raised against them, but those two are not going around beating their chests and bragging about those victories. They understand that they did not face these men at their best (as every fan and media member does) and they have too much respect for them to celebrate.
Manny Pacquaio has lost 7 times, but has a record of 6-2-1 against Barrera, Morales and Marquez. When did Calzaghe fight at this level of competition? He did not. No s__t.

Roy Jones in boxing terms had rigor mortis, Hopkins was 42 and nowhere near the fighter he had been, Kessler was a good competitive world class fighter and has there ever been a more overrated victory in the history of boxing than his win over Jeff Lacy? There’s nothing overrated about that victory. Lacy was a U.S. Olympian, an undefeated titleholder, a punisher who was a 3-to-1 favorite. Calzaghe took his soul in those 12 rounds and he deserves credit for that. I agree that Jones was a shell, but Hopkins at 42 was still a handful for any light heavyweight. I observed B-Hop’s training camp for that fight and he was ready. He was in good shape and dialed in (in fact, I picked him to win). Calzaghe simply outhustled him. You can’t say B-Hop was nowhere near the fighter he had been because he would go on to score some of the biggest victories of his ATG career AFTER that split-decision loss. Go ahead and boxrec him if you don’t believe me. Kessler was unified titleholder and a total beast. Nobody at 168 pounds wanted to f__k with the Great Dane in the mid-2000s. But Joe accepted that smoke. He gets credit for that in my book.

Ken Buchanan lost to Duran, Freddie Welsh lost to Benny Leonard, Tony Sibson lost to Hagler, Dave Boy Green lost to Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Farr lost to Joe Louis. I know. And none of that has anything to do with Joe Calzaghe.

This list could go on and on, but there was no shame in these British fighters losing to greats of the past in their primes. Yeah, and there’s no shame in Calzaghe NOT losing to anyone he faced during his 15-year career.

Did Calzaghe fight this type of competition? No, he didn’t fight any ATGs during their primes, but Hopkins is in the IBHOF, Jones will be in there soon enough, and I think Chris Eubank Sr. is worthy.

You only get a true reflection of a boxers ability by the competition that they took on, otherwise you are fabricating things. Well, this is not a fabrication, apart from Jones, Hopkins and Eubank, Joe faced seven other men that held major world titles, most of them were Ring rated at 168 pounds, which ain’t too shabby.

 

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer, and join him and Coach Schwartz and friends on Periscope every Sunday from SMC track.

 

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