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Dougie’s Monday Mailbag (Mythical Matchups, ’80s heavyweights, Tyson vs. Witherspoon)

Tim Witherspoon was one of the best of the forgotten generation of heavyweight titleholders of the 1980s.
04
May

QUARANTINE QUERIES

Good afternoon Dougie,

Writing poolside in my cutoff Maxboxing shirt. Speaking of the good old days with the quarantine in effect, been catching up on old school cards and PPVs on YouTube, mainly 80s/90s heavyweight and 90s/early 2000s 147-160.

Couple mental masturbation mythical matchups:



Tourney at 154:

DLH v Winky

Terry Norris v Vernon Forrest

 

Morrison v Ibeabuchi

Gatti v Corrales @ 140

 

Lastly rank these robberies:

Santa Cruz v Casamayor

Holyfield v Lewis

Shumenov v Campillo 2 (met you at that one)

Thanks. – Brian, Tucson, AZ

No. 1 is Joel Casamayor’s gift decision over Jose Armando Santa Cruz. Hands down, that was the worst even though it was a one-point margin on all three scorecards (two for JC, one for JASC). Leo’s big bro soundly outworked the Cuban over 12 rounds at Madison Square Garden (I was ringside for that one, doing an HBO B.A.D. tryout “phantom” broadcast with Bob Papa and Lennox Lewis and I don’t think either of us scored more than three or four rounds for Casamayor). Santa Cruz deserved to win The Ring Magazine lightweight title that night (and extra props to the hardnosed Southern California gym legend for rocking a MaxBoxing.com T-shirt into the ring). Anyone who thinks otherwise, please don’t @ me.

Evander Holyfield’s gift draw vs. Lewis is No. 2. The scorecards, especially Eugenia Williams’ criminal 115-113 for The Real Deal and the 115-115 tally, were as egregious as those for Casamayor-Santa Cruz (personally, I had Double L winning nine rounds), but at least Lewis wasn’t handed an ‘L’ or lose his WBC title. And because heavyweights attract attention and MONEY (HBO’s TVKO did 1 million pay-per-view buys in the U.S.), there was a public outcry as well as the industry’s need for immediate rematch. So, Lewis was better off than poor Jose Armando, who nobody cared about and would never receive rematch against Casamayor, and therefor got less of the proverbial shaft.

A close No. 3 is Beibut Shumenov’s gift rematch decision over Gabe Campillo, which robbed the Spaniard of the WBA 175-pound belt. I was part of that live Fox Sports broadcast (with the great Col. Bob Sheridan) and I scored it 116-112 for the slick and busy southpaw. I thought I was being generous to Shumenov, who was his own promoter for that show. I thought Patricia Morse Jarman’s 117-111 tally for Shumy was dreadful, but I hung out and chatted it up with a lot of fans at the Hard Rock Casino that night (you included, evidently) and a few admittedly casual fans told me that they didn’t have a problem with the decision. They just saw an entertaining, hotly contested light heavyweight fight. They were half right. It was a good scrap but a dookie decision. It still bugs me that Campillo got screwed in this title bout AND a subsequent shot at a major belt (vs. Tavoris Cloud for the IBF strap). Dude could have been a unified titleholder had there been competent official judges at ringside.

Your MMMMs:

Tourney at 154:

DLH v Winky

Terry Norris v Vernon Forrest

Wright narrowly outpoints De La Hoya in a tactical battle of jabs (and a bout that #salty hardcore heads decisively score for Winky), Norris narrowly outpoints Forrest in a heated chess match, and Terrible Terry outworks and outmaneuvers Wright to win the tournament by majority decision. (Wright, of course, believes he deserved the nod, but gives Norris respect.)

Morrison v Ibeabuchi – Ike survives a brutal opening-round onslaught from Morrison, decks The Duke in Round 2 and takes out fierce-punching Midwesterner in Round 3 of a crowd-pleasing shootout.

Diego Corrales vs. Arturo Gatti. Art by Coyote Duran

Diego Corrales vs. Arturo Gatti. Art by Coyote Duran

Gatti v Corrales @ 140 – Chico is outboxed in the early rounds, hurt and dropped at least once during the middle rounds, prompting Gatti to go for the finish, which is ultimately Thunder’s undoing as he gets sucked into a brutal, bloody battle of attrition. Corrales forces a stoppage between Rounds 8 and 10. Both wild warriors end the slugfest looking like they went upside each other’s heads with Louisville Sluggers, but give each other love and respect after the fight and at the hospital.

 

EIGHTIES HEAVYWEIGHTS

Hi Doug.

About the only good thing about this lockdown is that it allows us to delve into the boxing archives.

I don’t know what it was like on your side of the pond but I remember back in the eighties, when I was just a kid, how people were moaning to high heaven about how bad the heavyweights were (I’m talking about the period from Ali’s first retirement to the start of Tyson’s reign).

Larry Holmes was the man and he became a great heavyweight champion, but he was also kind of like Lennox Lewis in the sense that people weren’t that crazy about him until he was no longer there.

I spent the last week rewatching all the title fights (WBA and later WBC and IBF) of the other players in the division and let me tell you: they were actually pretty good. Not as good as the seventies, and I would put the nineties above them too, but they all had something.

Tate had good ring generalship, Weaver was gritty as hell with good stamina, Dokes and Tubbs had great handspeed and Tubbs was very agile for such an ungainly looking guy. Coetzee had the bionic right, Page had pretty good feet and reflexes, Pinklon Thomas had a great jab and even Berbick was busy and awkward as hell with those rushes. Bonecrusher, well, his nickname was accurate.

They were certainly much better than the heavyweights of the Klitschko era.

How would you rank the different heavyweight decades starting from the last century?

There were also some pretty good fights. Witherspoon-Thomas was a hell of a fight that no one talks about. I think the beating Thomas took against Tyson effectively finished a very good heavyweight. That Tyson win is so much more impressive to me now.

I have said this before but out of the lot not named Holmes, I think Witherspoon was the best. He had everything and how uncanny is it that his opponents couldn’t stay out of the way of that right hand?

How do you think he would have done against Tyson, Holyfield and the two Klitschkos? I think it is 50/50 with Tyson, Holyfield may have been able to outpoint him but he would have stopped Wlad and outhustled Vitali.

Micheal Spinks was a great fighter but not a great heavyweight. I think he managed and timed his run at heavyweight perfectly. If he had to fight a handful of the above mentioned names I don’t think he would have made it to the Tyson pay day. Not sure if he would have made it past Tucker. What do you think?

I had fun with this, I think I’ll go check out some Khaosai Galaxy fights now. Regards. – Droeks Malan, South Africa

Hey, Droeks, thanks for sharing this ample food for thought.

Tyson (right) comes out blazing against Spinks. Photo: THE RING Archive

I think Spinks knew he wasn’t a real heavyweight. That’s why he abdicated the IBF title he won from Holmes rather than risk his unbeaten record (and lineal/Ring Magazine champ status) against mandatory challenger Tony Tucker. I wouldn’t count Spinks out against all of the various heavyweight beltholders of the 1980s because many of them were hot-and-cold competitors – one fight they could look like the future ruler of the division, next fight they could perform like s__t – Mike Tyson brought some much-needed consistency at the top (along with an electrifying style and charisma). I can see Spinks catching some of them sleeping, but I doubt he would have rolled the dice vs. a legit big man beyond Holmes (who he knew he was catching at the right time). Spinks and his main adviser, the late Butch Lewis, were holding out of the big-money/retirement fund payout vs. Tyson.  

I don’t know what it was like on your side of the pond but I remember back in the eighties, when I was just a kid, how people were moaning to high heaven about how bad the heavyweights were (I’m talking about the period from Ali’s first retirement to the start of Tyson’s reign). Yeah, I heard and read about that all the time and I was more than happy to accept that take on the division because A) the retired Ali was my hero and I didn’t want anyone to take his place at the throne (I couldn’t even accept Holmes, who I knew was good), and B) I had lost interest in the sport from 1982 through Sugar Ray Leonard’s comeback challenge to Marvin Hagler, so I missed the years of Holmes’ gradual decline while your boy Coetzee, Witherspoon, Thomas, Page and Tubbs were playing hot potato with the other WBA and WBC titles.

Pinklon Thomas (right) vs. Tim Witherspoon. Photo by The Ring Archive

But by the end of the decade I was a bona-fide boxing junkie and I had to consume as much boxing as my college schedule would allow me to watch and read, so I gradually collected VHS tapes of those heavyweight title bouts that I missed during my junior high and high school years, and I observed the same thing that you did – that those guys could BOX their asses off. They had all-around talent, especially Witherspoon, Thomas and Tubbs. Others, like Dokes and Weaver, were physical marvels. Unfortunately, too many of the standouts were derailed by drug problems. Some simply couldn’t handle success. They were always better as the underdog or the challenger, not as the “champ.”

Larry Holmes was the man and he became a great heavyweight champion, but he was also kind of like Lennox Lewis in the sense that people weren’t that crazy about him until he was no longer there. Count me as one of them. His style and personality did not do it for me. I was way more into Holmes during his early-‘90s comeback.

I spent the last week rewatching all the title fights (WBA and later WBC and IBF) of the other players in the division and let me tell you: they were actually pretty good. Two things: 1) You have more free time than I do. 2) They were better than “pretty good.” On average, they had proper fundamentals, solid technique and complete game. Not one of them was as raw as Deontay Wilder.

Not as good as the seventies, and I would put the nineties above them too, but they all had something. Agreed. And I believe that at their peak form (on their best days), more than a few of the 1980s standouts (Witherspoon, Tubbs, Thomas) could have taken the some of the top contenders of the ‘70s and ‘90s to school.

Tony Tubbs (left) in action against Riddick Bowe. Photo by The Ring Archive

Tate had good ring generalship, Weaver was gritty as hell with good stamina, Dokes and Tubbs had great handspeed and Tubbs was very agile for such an ungainly looking guy. Tubbs had a ridiculously quick hands for a fat man, and he had the amateur background, ring smarts and savvy to back up that speed. That skillset of his allowed him to serve as a pretty good gatekeeper during the early ’90s. Check out his 1991 ten rounder vs. a 22-0 Riddick Bowe. Class was in session.

Coetzee had the bionic right, Page had pretty good feet and reflexes, Pinklon Thomas had a great jab and even Berbick was busy and awkward as hell with those rushes. Bonecrusher, well, his nickname was accurate. Yep. Berbick was also a certifiable nut cake, which somehow worked for him.

They were certainly much better than the heavyweights of the Klitschko era. I agree, but it’s their fault that they didn’t get more about of their talent and skillsets, and thus go unrecognized by most boxing fans and media. (And, no, I don’t blame Don King for all of their various setbacks.) There was a lot of mediocre heavyweight contenders during Klitschko’s title reign, from Calvin Broch to Bryant Jennings, but at least those guys got the most out of their talent.

How would you rank the different heavyweight decades starting from the last century? No. 1 is the 1970s, No. 2 is the 1990s, No. 3 is the 1960s, No. 4 is the 1950s, No. 5 is the 1980s, No. 6. is the 1940s, Nos. 7-12 can be any order of the 1900-‘30s and the 2000-‘10s.

There were also some pretty good fights. Are you sure quarantine hasn’t lowered your standards, Droeks?

Witherspoon-Thomas was a hell of a fight that no one talks about. I guess I’ll have to give that one another look, but don’t expect me to rush to YouTube after I post this mailbag.

I think the beating Thomas took against Tyson effectively finished a very good heavyweight. No doubt about it. His own lifestyle choices didn’t help, either.

Thomas jabs Tyson. Photo by The Ring Archive

That Tyson win is so much more impressive to me now. I was impressed at the time Tyson scored that sixth-round stoppage. Angelo Dundee, who never bought into the “Tyson is invincible” mantra, trained Thomas for that fight and told the press that his man was ready. He wasn’t bulls__ting, and I knew the master motivator would have the 7-to-1 underdog believing in himself. Thomas would have beat a lot of really good heavyweights that night. I still think the Thomas stoppage is Tyson’s best prime performance, better than the Spinks blitz, the Biggs beatdown, or the Holmes KO.

I have said this before but out of the lot not named Holmes, I think Witherspoon was the best. He had everything and how uncanny is it that his opponents couldn’t stay out of the way of that right hand? ‘Spoon could fight. He was a near-elite-level big man for as long as he was motivated, which, unfortunately, seldom lasted more than a year at a given time.

How do you think he would have done against Tyson, Holyfield and the two Klitschkos? I think it is 50/50 with Tyson, Holyfield may have been able to outpoint him but he would have stopped Wlad and outhustled Vitali. I agree that Vitali outworks Witherspoon to a late stoppage or decision, the pre-2008 version of Wlad gest stopped late but the post-2008 earns a legit decision, Holyfield outguts him every time in a very close bout, and ‘Spoon and Tyson are a toss-up depending on the year they fight and whether the Philly fighter makes it out of the early rounds.

 

TYSON VS. ‘SPOON

Hi Dougie,

Tyson vs Witherspoon

1986

1989

1996

Thanks mate. – Will

Witherspoon makes the cover of Ring after beating Tubbs.

I think the 1986 version of Witherspoon that outpointed Tony Tubbs and stopped Frank Bruno late (during the first half of that year) could earn a close decision over the version Tyson from the same time frame (provided the judges are honest). Remember, we’re talking about a pre-title shot version of Tyson (who wouldn’t challenge Trevor Berbick for the WBC belt until November of that year) and version of Witherspoon that had yet to implode from promotional stress and bad habits (which happened when he was blitzed by Boncrusher Smith one month after Tyson beat Berbick).

I favor the 1989 version of Tyson stop the ’89 version of ‘Spoon in the third or fourth round of a fun shootout. Both fighters would be badly rocked in the opening round. Tyson, who split ways with Kevin Rooney after the Spinks fight in ’88, was beginning to slip in terms of discipline and technique but he still had enough of form and conditioning to breakdown the comebacking version of Witherspoon that was still dangerous with that overhand right but had stamina issues past in a brisk fight. And we know Tyson would set a torrid pace.

The 1996 versions of Tyson and ‘Spoon make for a very close fight, which I think the star of the division would edge on points. Both are physically past their primes, but Tim is mentally/spiritually

The 1996 version of Tyson was still a beast in the early rounds as Frank Bruno experienced during their rematch. Photo by The Ring

better off than Mike, who has soured on the sport, is battling demons and being pulled in a thousand directions. Tyson, however, is still dangerous in the early rounds. I think his respect for Witherspoon would force him to train hard and get his body in the

best possible shape (even though he lacked strong guidance from his trainers at this time). Tyson would start very strong and either score a knockdown or put Witherspoon on the defensive between Rounds 1-3, ‘Spoon would keep his cool and gradually work his way back into the fight with his jab and right hand during the middle rounds, tying up and banging the smaller man’s body and hips whenever Mike got too close. Witherspoon would survive sporadic big shots from a frustrated Tyson during the late rounds, and he’d score more consistently, but he’d also fade a bit down the stretch, preventing a dramatic Holyfieldesque late stoppage. Tyson would get the benefit of the doubt on the official scorecards.

 

BOXING MOVIES

Hi Doug, thanks for continuing the mailbags especially in these tough times. I have just finished watching all 6 Rocky movies and both Creeds with my 10 year old daughter – it’s my idea of home schooling. She has no interest in boxing but really enjoyed all the films. How would you rank them? For the Rocky series I go 2, 1, 4, 3, 6, 5. Like everyone I like 5 least but I do still think it’s a good watch. I like both Creed films and think they are worthy additions to the Rocky universe.

When I got seriously into boxing many years ago I lost a bit of love for these films because I found the fight scenes so over dramatic & the punishment Rocky took just too unrealistic. However, I now realize that this has to be the case to pull in the non-boxing fans (like my daughter). Does it bother you when you see things in boxing movies that just wouldn’t happen in real boxing?

What are your favorite boxing movies (including the ones I’ve already mentioned) & which fighters would you like to see a film based on – I’d pay to see a film about Jack Dempsey & Gene Tunney.

Stay safe, thanks. – Darryl, Sheffield, England

Floyd Patterson and Sonny Liston weigh-in.
Photo by The Ring Magazine/Getty Images

Hey, Darryl. I’d also pay to see a quality film about the Dempsey-Tunney fights. I’d also like to see what a great filmmaker could do with the backstories and personalities of the two Sonny Liston-Floyd Patterson championship bouts and the Nigel Benn-Chris Eubank rivalry. Other iconic or famous boxers I’d like to see good biopics on include Joe Gans, Harry Greb, Kid Chocolate, Panama Al Brown, Henry Armstrong, Sugar Ray Robinson, Emile Griffith, Jerry Quarry, Ken Norton, Bobby Chacon, Tommy Morrison and Johnny Tapia.  

My five favorite boxing movies are The Harder They Fall, Requiem for a Heavyweight, Raging Bull, Rocky I and The Champ (1931 version). I’ve been told The Setup (a 1949 noir starring Robert Ryan in the lead role) is the best ever, but I haven’t seen it yet.

I have just finished watching all 6 Rocky movies and both Creeds with my 10 year old daughter – it’s my idea of home schooling. She has no interest in boxing but really enjoyed all the films. My girls have no interest in boxing, and sadly, I think I missed the opportunity to introduce them to the world of boxing films. At 12 and 16, they think they know everything and they suggest what I should watch.

How would you rank them? For the Rocky series I go 2, 1, 4, 3, 6, 5. Like everyone I like 5 least but I do still think it’s a good watch. I enjoyed 5, too, even though it pretty much sucked. Morrison did alright for an acting newbie, and I got a kick out of that Don King analog. They can pretend it’s not part of Rocky continuity all the want, we know it happened. Here’s how I rank ’em: 1, 3 (because the Apollo-Rocky mentorship dynamic/bromance makes it by far the GAYEST of them all and one of the most unabashedly EIGHTIES movies of that decade, regardless of genre), 2, 4, 6 and 5.  

I like both Creed films and think they are worthy additions to the Rocky universe. I only saw the first Creed. I enjoyed it, as did my wife, but she thought the fight scenes and the way they were set up were too unrealistic to take seriously. I told her the flick is “part of Rocky canon,” it’s not supposed to be realistic.

When I got seriously into boxing many years ago I lost a bit of love for these films because I found the fight scenes so over dramatic & the punishment Rocky took just too unrealistic. The only thing that ever turned me off about the Rocky franchise was that shortly after the first movie some kids at school told me that Rocky would kick Muhammad Ali’s ass. I tried to argue that Ali was the heavyweight champion of the world and that Rocky Balboa was a fictional character, but it was basically like your average Boxing Twitter interaction.

However, I now realize that this has to be the case to pull in the non-boxing fans (like my daughter). Hey, mainstream movies are meant to entertain and make money, if you want to see boxing (or anything) depicted realistically, you’re gonna have to seek out a documentary or independent film on the subject.

Does it bother you when you see things in boxing movies that just wouldn’t happen in real boxing? Not at all. I go to the movies for an escape, a couple hours of fun time with the family. I seriously lower my expectations when it comes to mainstream “Hollywood” flicks (I don’t even call them films) and I check my inner-critic at the door.

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer, and join him, Tom Loeffler and Coach Schwartz on Periscope every Sunday from Kevin Costner’s backyard palm tree studio.

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