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Dougie’s Monday Mailbag (ranking 168-pound titleholders, Ezzard Charles & Ray Robinson)

The Showtime Super Six tournament established Andre Ward's status as the best super middleweight in the world.
08
Jun

RANKING THE ALL-TIME BEST SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPS

Afternoon Dougie,

Thanks as always for responding to my (and everyone else’s) questions. Also, thanks for highlighting how miserable fans (and people) on Twitter can be since you’ve validated my reasoning for never getting a Twitter account.

I was going to ask you this in my last email but it was already lengthy and I didn’t want to be rude.



You recently had a very good question from a fan about rating various fighters at 135 (Duran, Floyd, Whittaker etc, etc). Your answer seemed to be based on these fighters’ abilities and specifically what they accomplished at 135. Please could you do the same for the following fighters at 168?

Roy Jones Jr., James Toney, Andre Ward, Carl Froch, James DeGale, Badou Jack, George Groves and Mikkel Kessler – I’ve left Calzaghe off of this list since if you’re basing rankings on what was accomplished at 168 and 168 only, he is a clear number 1 (feel free to disagree).

Side note: I was prompted by a fan post on Bad Left Hook to watch and score Erik Morales vs Marcos Maidana (this person has been posting links to several fights with controversial scoring and asking people for their input). I’d never seen this fight before so watched it and scored it… a clear 116-112 for Morales. Is it just me or did he get robbed?

MM:

Michael Spinks (that fought Larry Holmes) vs Tokyo Douglas

Salvador Sanchez vs Erik Morales

Finally, can you please get the following message to Mike Tyson? “Just….no mate.”

As ever, we appreciate your time, knowledge and responses on all things boxing. – Euan, Dunfermline, Scotland

Thanks for the kind words, Euan. I’m not in communication with Tyson, but I’ll pass your message on to your fellow Scotsman Tom Gray, who occasionally is.

Mythical matchups: I gotta go with the version of Buster Douglas that beat Tyson over the version of Spinks that upset Holmes, and Sal over El Terrible by close but unanimous decision.

“Tokyo” Douglas had Larry’s size and skills (including the jab) but was busier and so much sharper than the fading veteran who got outworked by the great (and awkward) light heavyweight. Douglas by unanimous decision or late stoppage.

Regarding Maidana-Morales, I was ringside for that “closet classic” 10 years ago (and worked the international broadcast with Dave Bontempo). I expected Morales to rise to the occasion but was in total awe of his performance, especially given the rough start and early injury to one of his eyes. After 12 rounds of dramatic back-and-forth battle, I recall thinking that a draw would have been fair (and I’m pretty sure I said that on air). Maybe you watched the bout with “Nostalgia Goggles” and gave El Terrible the benefit of the doubt in close rounds, or maybe I need to watch the fight again. (I haven’t seen it in its entirety since I witnessed it live.)

You recently had a very good question from a fan about rating various fighters at 135 (Duran, Floyd, Whittaker, etc, etc). Yeah, I remember the email, it was the lead question in the May 15 Friday mailbag. It was a bit strange to me because he only went with WBC lightweight titleholders, but it was an interesting mix of hall of famers and recent standouts. 

Your answer seemed to be based on these fighters’ abilities and specifically what they accomplished at 135. It was mostly based on their accomplishments at lightweight and the quality of their opposition.

Please could you do the same for the following fighters at 168? Sure!

Roy Jones Jr., James Toney, Andre Ward, Carl Froch, James DeGale, Badou Jack, George Groves and Mikkel Kessler – I’ve left Calzaghe off of this list since if you’re basing rankings on what was accomplished at 168 and 168 only, he is a clear number 1 (feel free to disagree). I don’t disagree but you never know unless you compare and contrast their records. If you just go by pure stats and accomplishments – number of title defenses, length of title reign, title unifications – Calzaghe is clearly the man, but if you factor in quality of opposition, who knows? He could have some competition for that top spot.

Choosing who’s No. 1 among the eight 168-pound champs and titleholders, and then ranking them, was not an easy task. Jones Jr. (the guy I’d make the top dog if we were ranking them according to sheer dominance and their peak-performance ability) has Toney’s scalp on his resume, and Lights Out is a future hall of famer/arguably ATG, Ward made the most consecutive title defenses and earned The Ring championship, and Froch fought the most Ring-rated fighters (eight of which were back-to-back).

I went with my fellow Halfrican in the No. 1 spot, proving once and for all that Ward can do no wrong!

Seriously, S.O.G. clearly won all of his bouts against a very high level of competition (including fellow future hall of famer Froch), winning the WBA title from the highly regarded and once-beaten Kessler and made six title defenses, including a WBA/WBC unification bout vs. Froch that resulted in The Ring belt and 2011 Fighter of the Year award. Ward was 7-0 in super middleweight title bouts, including defenses against Allan Green, future beltholders Sakio Bika and Arthur Abraham, reigning WBC/Ring light heavyweight champ Chad Dawson, and Edwin Rodriguez. They were all Ring-ranked at the time he faced them. Major props to Mr. Ward.

No. 2 – Jones: the nigh-untouchable force of nature at 168 pounds. He won the IBF title from the

Jones (right) tags James Toney. Photo from The Ring archive

unbeaten (44-0-2) Toney, a top-three pound-for-pound talent at the time, and made five defenses vs. Antoine Byrd, Vinny Pazienza, Tony Thornton, future beltholder Eric Lucas and Bryant Brannon. Paz, Thornton and Brannon were Ring-ranked at the time. During his middleweight title reign, Jones beat future 168-pound beltholder (and Ring-ranked) Thulani “Sugar Boy” Malinga. Prior to his first title bout, he stopped unbeaten (24-0) Glenn Thomas, towering spoiler Percy Harris and tough former title challenger Glenn Wolf (all in super middleweight bouts).

No. 3 – Froch: the Iron Man. He always challenged himself, was willing to travel to enemy territory, could never be counted out, and even when he lost there was no

Froch celebrates unifying two belts with his rematch victory over Kessler.

shame in coming up short vs. Ward (in the U.S.) or Kessler (in Denmark). The Cobra was a three-time titleholder who briefly unified IBF and WBA belts. He won the vacant WBC title from future light heavyweight champ Jean Pascal and made two defenses, vs. former middleweight champ Jermain Taylor and Andre Dirrell (controversial SD in Nottingham). Froch lost the belt to Kessler but regained the vacant green strap by outpointing Abraham. He made once defense of his second reign, vs. former light heavyweight champ Glen Johnson, before losing it to Ward in the Super Six tournament final. Froch won the IBF title by stopping highly regarded and undefeated (30-0) Lucian Bute and made four defenses vs. Yusaf Mack, Kessler (IBF/WBA unification) and Groves (twice). Mack was the only super middleweight Froch faced that wasn’t Ring rated. He also defeated Robin Reid and Brian Magee prior to his first title bout.

Toney (left) tortured Iran Barkley. Photo from The Ring archive

No. 4 – Toney: the tough-and-talented underachiever. Who knows how distinguished his 168-pound reign could have been had better controlled his weight? The old-school badass was the busiest during his reign, fighting seven times in 1993 and five times in ’94, but most of those bouts were over-the-weight non-title bouts. However, his IBF-title winning stoppage of respected veteran Iran Barkley (a borderline HOFer in my opinion) was a brutal masterclass. Toney made three defenses of the belt, beating Tony Thornton, undefeated (24-0) Tim Littles and former IBF 175-pound titleholder Prince Charles Williams. Barkley, Thornton, Littles and Williams were all Ring rated.

No. 5 – Kessler: the fearless, globe-trotting Viking invader. The Great Dane was a three-time titleholder, who also briefly unified (WBA and WBC belts), winning the WBA strap

Kessler traveled to Wales to battle Joe Calzaghe.

from Manny Siaca and defending it four times against the solid opposition of Anthony Mundine (in Australia), Eric Lucas, Markus Beyer (WBA/WBC) and undefeated (24-0) Librado Andrade (shutting out the ultra-rugged contender). He lost his titles to future hall of famer Joe Calzaghe (in Wales), but regained the WBA belt by KOing unheralded Dimitri Sartison and made two defenses against Danilo Haussler and Sumyr Perdomo before losing the title to Ward (in the U.S.). No shame in the losses to Calzaghe and Ward but the three wins between those showdowns were rather meaningless. Kessler regained the WBC title with a close nod over Froch in Denmark but soon vacated the green belt. He regained the WBA title vs. Brian Magee and lost it to Froch in their heated rematch. Kessler also beat Allan, Dingaan Thobela and Julio Cesar Green in non-title bouts.

Groves walks Chris Eubank Jr. into his jab. Photo by WBSS

No. 6 – George Groves: the perennial contender. He’s known more for his two losses to Froch than any of his victories but that’s OK. He gave the future hall of famer hell. Groves won the WBA title from tough Russian Fedor Chudinov and made two defenses against undefeated (24-0) Jamie Cox and once-beaten contender Chris Eubank Jr. He lost the title to Callum Smith in the WBSS tournament final (with the Ring belt on the line). Prior to his title bouts, Groves beat fellow British prospect and Olympic gold medalist James DeGale via close nod, Paul Smith, a faded Glen Johnson and former title challenger Martin Murray. No shame in his split-decision loss to Badou Jack.

Jack nails Groves with a right cross. Photo by Naoki Fukuda

No. 7 – Badou Jack: the hard-luck grinder. Jack owns a close victory over Groves, but he rates below the Londoner because he barely got by in all four of his 168-pound title bouts. He won the WBC belt with an MD over Anthony Dirrell and made three defenses – an SD over Groves, a DQ against Lucian Bute (changed from a draw after the fading veteran failed a doping test), and a draw to James DeGale. Jack also has a pre-title victory over former challenger Rogelio Medina.

No. 8 – I hate to place my other Halfrican brother last, especially because DeGale has got guts and seems like a nice bloke, but despite owning a win over the more accomplished Dirrell brother and holding Jack to a draw (which I thought he clearly lost) I view the

Who do you think won the DeGale-Jack draw?

2008 Olympic middleweight champ’s 168-pound title run as a bit of a disappointment. He looked like a future star beating the likes of Paul Smith, Dyah Davis, unbeaten (18-0-1) Brandon Gonzales and Marco Antonio Periban, but his technique fell off once he got to the world-title level. The unorthodox southpaw switch-hitter got the job done by outpointing Andre Dirrell for the vacant IBF belt but he looked sloppy vs. Bute, “Porky” Medina (who got in his ass) and Jack. Losing the IBF belt to underdog Caleb Truax wasn’t a huge shock to a lot of hardcore fans. Credit to DeGale for regaining the belt from Truax before retiring after dropping a decision to Chris Eubank Jr. (also not a shock to a lot of hardcore heads).

So, there you have it, Euan. (Damn, that was a long answer!) Let the debates begin in the comment section. No problem with anyone rating Jones over Ward, or Toney over Kessler, or Jack over Groves, or DeGale over Jack, etc., etc.

 

WHAT’S HOLDING THAT GUY UP?

Thank you for answering my question regarding Marcel Cerdan last week. I feel that many great fighters have been forgotten to time but diehard boxing fans will never let their memory and glory be forgotten…

Now to my question, what fights have made you wonder what is holding that guy up? My top 3 are Librado Andrande when he fought Mikkel Kessler, Kassim Ouma when he fought Jermain Taylor an Foreman vs Holyfield… All 3 bouts literally had my jaw open amazed that they not only didn’t get knocked out but didn’t even go down – Jeremy

Thanks for sharing your thoughts again, Jeremy.

I wasn’t surprised that Andrade could take Kessler’s best shots for 12 rounds. I knew he was teak-tough and deceptively crafty

Big George teetered but he never fell down vs. Holyfield.

(he knows how to roll with punches, twisting his head right at the moment of impact, something the HBO commentators missed), and though Kessler had a world-class jab, the Dane was not a monster KO-puncher. I wasn’t shocked that Foreman or Ouma went 12 rounds vs. their tormentors without getting dropped. Foreman outweighed Holyfield by nearly 50 pounds and was the heavier puncher. He wasn’t just in there taking a beating, he was dishing it out too. Ouma on the other hand took a brutal pounding from the much bigger Taylor. That was hard to watch, but given what Ouma lived through as a kid, the pain and punishment of the prize ring wasn’t s__t.

I was impressed by Andy Ruiz’s chin in the Anthony Joshua rematch. I know the British star was a bit skittish and mostly on the move, but he periodically planted his feet and nailed the soon-to-be-former heavyweight champ with some monster power punches. Ruiz literally walked through each flush shot, never even seemed wobbled.

Morales (right) at war with Marco Antonio Barrera. Photo by Laura Rauch/ Associated Press

The very faded 140-pound version of Erik Morales that challenged Marcos Maidana awed me by not only staying upright for 12 hard rounds with the Argentine punisher but by dishing out some punishment of his own. El Terrible’s whiskers were impressive during 36 rounds with arch-rival Marco Antonio Barrera and the 12 rounds of his first bout vs. Manny Pacquiao.

Thinking about Morales, reminds me of who solid Wayne McCullough’s jaw was during his 12 rounds with the prime 122-pound version of the Tijuana warlord. The Pocket Rocket’s chin absorbed massive shots in his 12 rounders with Naseem Hamed, Scott Harrison and Oscar Larios (first bout) without his going down. Jake LaMotta would be proud.

 

EZZARD CHARLES AND SUGAR RAY ROBINSON

Hey Dougie,

I want to get your thoughts on the legacy of both Ezzard Charles fighting at heavyweight and Sugar Ray Robinson fighting at light heavyweight.

First, with Charles. Many historians believe he’s the greatest light heavyweight ever but as a heavyweight – where he won a world title – I’ve seen that many experts include him in their 15-20 best heavyweight boxers ever list. Where would you rank Charles amongst the best heavyweight boxers ever?

And how would he fare in mythical matchups in their primes against these foes…

Charles vs Ali

Charles vs Liston

Charles vs Foreman

Charles vs Dempsey

Charles vs Holmes

Charles vs Louis (at their peak)

Charles vs Lennox Lewis

Charles vs Tyson

Second, regarding Ray Robinson at light heavyweight. I think he only fought once in his career at 175 in a title shot against Joey Maxim in 1952 (which as you know he was leading on the scorecards before he collapsed due to heat exhaustion) and I know there is a small sample size with him fighting at the weight but based on how he performed in that fight, how do you think he would fare against the best 175-pounders in history?

Robinson vs Roy Jones, Jr.

Robinson vs Ezzard Charles

Robinson vs Archie Moore

Robinson vs Gene Tunney

Robinson vs Billy Conn

Robinson vs Michael Spinks

Robinson vs Sam Langford

James, Atlanta, GA

SUGAR RAY ROBINSON

I think Robinson is the greatest boxer ever, but I also believe that his limit was 160 pounds. He stood 5-foot-11 but he had the lithe figure of a ballet dancer. He wasn’t as thick boned with the dense musculature of Jones Jr., who is roughly the same height. Robinson was meant to be a great welterweight and middleweight champion with his build – and he achieved his legendary status with his limitless ambition, phenomenal natural talent, smarts, skill, technique, speed, agility, one-punch KO power in both hands and a chin that never failed him in 200 pro bouts. As you noted, only heat exhaustion kept him from going the distance vs. Maxim, a hall of famer who was as tough and cagey as they come but not as talented and skilled the great light heavyweights that you list in your 175-pound mythical matchups with Robinson.

I think Jones Jr., Charles, Tunney and Conn outpoint Robinson by close but unanimous decision. Charles roughs him up pretty good. Moore and Langford were experienced, smart and sneaky enough with their power punches to take him into deep water and stop him late. Spinks could possibly catch Robinson with his “Jinx” right hand, but it likely goes the distance with the naturally bigger man getting a close nod.

First, with Charles. Many historians believe he’s the greatest light heavyweight ever but as a heavyweight – where he won a world title – I’ve seen that many experts include him in their 15-20 best heavyweight boxers ever list. Where would you rank Charles amongst the best heavyweight boxers ever? Just inside the top 10, which is admittedly higher than most rate him. But I think his brief-but-busy heavyweight title reign and post-title run was remarkable. Between June 1949 to May 1951, Charles won the vacant world title and defended it EIGHT times, outpointing fellow hall of famers Jersey Joe Walcott (twice) and the come-backing Joe Louis. The 23-month title run included Ring-rated contenders Gus Lesnevich (a former light heavyweight champ), Pat Valentino, Nick Barone and Lee Oma.

Charles went toe-to-toe with Rocky Marciano for 15 rounds in their brutal first bout.

After Charles lost the championship (to Walcott), he remained a top heavyweight contender for years, scoring victories over hall of famer Jimmy Bivins and Ring-rated Rex Layne and Bob Satterfield (KO 2) before giving Rocky Marciano hell in valiant back-to-back title challenges. The losses to the Marciano do not detract from Charles’ legacy in my view. He was past his prime, but was competitive in the first bout, which went the full 15 rounds. He came close to stopping The Rock with a gruesome nose cut in the rematch, which was The Ring’s 1954 Fight of the Year. And, yes, Louis was faded and inactive when he faced Charles, but the Brown Bomber (58-1 at the time) outweighed Ez by 34 pounds and was still the harder puncher.

And how would he fare in mythical matchups in their primes against these foes…

Charles vs Ali – Ali by close but unanimous decision (maybe Charles has a moment where he wobbles and even drops the dancing master)

Charles vs Liston – Liston by late stoppage

Charles vs Foreman – Foreman by close decision (I actually the older version of George does better with Charles than the “prime” version, who I think would run out of gas in the late rounds and get stunned a few times en route)

Charles vs Dempsey – Charles by close, maybe split decision

Charles vs Holmes – Holmes by close but unanimous decision

Charles vs Louis (at their peak) – Louis by late stoppage

Charles vs Lennox Lewis – Lewis by mid-to-late stoppage

Charles vs Tyson – Tyson by mid-rounds stoppage

 

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 an undisclosed track in Westwood.

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