Who wins a fight between Sonny Liston and Joe Frazier in their primes?
Your Pal, Al
Most historians believe that Liston was slightly past his prime by the time he knocked out Floyd Patterson to win the heavyweight title in 1962. So let’s say, for discussion’s sake, we’re talking about Liston in ’59 and ’60, when he won nine in a row, eight via knockout. His victims during this streak included top contenders Cleveland Williams (twice), Zora Folley, and Eddie Machen (the only one among the nine who went the distance). As far as Frazier is concerned, I think his prime came from 1968 to ’71, culminating with his victory over Muhammad Ali.
While this is an extremely tough call, I’m going with “Smokin’ Joe.” Despite his many outstanding qualities, Liston was a bully who intimidated many opponents even before the first bell sounded. Frazier, however, was never intimidated by anybody and would not have been spooked by the prospect of facing Sonny. Ali aside, Frazier’s nemesis was George Foreman, who twice stopped him. Both Liston and Foreman were big punchers, but George was approximately three-inches taller than Liston and considerably heavier. Finally, regardless of the reason, Liston quit in his first fight with Ali, while Frazier never quit, not even in his TKO defeats to Foreman and Ali.
I see a pitched battle with Frazier surviving Liston’s best punches to win a close but comprehensive decision by outworking Sonny down the stretch.
I noticed in the lead photo for the “Unforeseen Consequences” article in the September 2011 issue that George Groves is wearing a Lonsdale belt around his waist. Why no mention of it anywhere in the feature?
The prestigious Lonsdale belt is emblematic of the British championship, and the fact that James DeGale entered the contest as the British champion is mentioned in the second paragraph.
Thus far this year’s been great for boxing fans. We’ve seen major upsets, unification matches, anticipated matches finally bearing fruit, veterans ending their careers, and new prospects coming up the ranks. Related to this, I have two questions:
First, do you think boxing’s going through a renaissance in terms of popularity? I recently saw an article on Seth Mitchell in the Washington Post, and caught a Post reporter who was drafting an article about Dusty Harrison at the Old School Boxing Gym a few weeks ago. Having read the Post for nearly a decade, it’s been rarer than unicorn doo-doo to see boxing articles in this major publication. Obviously the sport’s never going to gain the fame of prior eras, but it does seem as if folks are starting to take notice.
Second, as a local boxing fan, what can I do to raise my town’s profile? D.C. has got a few great prospects right now (Dusty Harrison, Seth Mitchell, Gary Russell, and the Peterson Brothers to name a few), but with few venues hosting cards these guys fight elsewhere. I would love to watch top-level fights live without having to drive to Atlantic City.
Enrique Fernández Roberts
I’m not sure that boxing is enjoying a “renaissance,” but, on the other hand, I don’t think it’s as bad off as most of the mainstream media would have us believe. Boxing does have many problems, but there’s not enough space here to discuss all of them. However, one that is fresh in my mind, because I wrote about it in my “Ringside” editorial in the October 2011 issue, is that the really big fight, the ones fans pay $60 to watch on pay-per-view, have not, of late, delivered value for money. Although I’m not holding my breath, it would give the sport a gigantic boost if the upcoming Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz and Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez extravaganzas are both great fights.
As far as big-time boxing returning to D.C. or most major metropolitan areas is concerned, I don’t think it’s going to happen. In order to pay the massive purses elite fighters earn, the promotions need the site fees that casinos pay to host the events. Taxes are another problem. For example, New York City still attracts large crowds, especially when Puerto Rican boxers are involved, but taxes cut so deeply into the gate, promoters are very hesitant to take the risk.
I’m a big fan of Mike Tyson. Did Tyson’s championship reign look spectacular due to a weak era? Who do you feel was Tyson’s toughest challenge pre-Buster Douglas? Did Douglas have the best momentum and form coming into his challenge in Tokyo? Looking forward to your thoughts and response.
While I do think that the heavyweight division was weak during Tyson’s prime, that wasn’t his fault. He fought the best available and looked fantastic doing it. Prior to Buster Douglas, nobody came close to beating Tyson, but James “Quick” Tillis, already past his best, gave him trouble when he became the first to last the distance with Iron Mike, a fact that Tyson has admitted on a number of occasions.
Douglas always had most of the attributes of an outstanding fighter, except one: He really didn’t enjoy fighting. Perhaps inspired by the death of his mother and the magnitude of the occasion, Douglas fought a magnificent fight and won the heavyweight championship. He was never anywhere as good before or after.
I am a huge Sergio Martinez fan, and I am very disappointed with the lack of opposition. What would be the top five possible fights you would like to see him in, how would they go, and how likely are they? I personally would love to see him against Mayweather (if Floyd and Pac-Man don’t fight) and Lucian Bute.
Keep up the great work,
Martinez’s sensational KO of Paul Williams was a mixed blessing. It earned Sergio The Ring’s Fighter of the Year honor for 2010 and pushed him high on the pound-for-pound list, but also eliminated the fighter many considered his top rival. Right now, the list of middleweight contenders is pretty thin, so it seems that Martinez will have to look both north and south to find attractive challengers. Even though Sergio has offered to drop down to 154 pound to fight either Pacquiao or Mayweather, I don’t think either will fight him. After the Antonio Margarito fight, Freddie Roach said he did not want Pacquiao fighting at junior middleweight again. I think it is even more unlikely that Mayweather would fight him. After all, Floyd has been extremely cautious in selecting his opponents in recent years and I see no indication that this will change. Anyway, here is my list (in no particular order):
1. Yes, I agree with you: Martinez-Bute would be an outstanding contest. But Bute has been making very nice money fighting far easier opponents, so what’s the upside for him? It’s possible but not probable.
2. Alfredo Angulo at either 160 or 154. Now that Angulo has signed with Golden Boy, he will be back in action soon and probably eventually be allowed to fight in the U.S. again. After a few high-profile showings by the Mexican puncher, the risk-reward factor just might be good enough for Golden Boy to take a chance.
3. Saul Alvarez, also at either 154 or 160. “Canelo’s” popularity and aggressive style could easily make this a massive moneymaker. Moreover, if the Mexican continues to improve, Golden Boy might be willing to roll the dice. True, it’s a long shot right now, but a year from now, who knows?
4. Miguel Cotto, providing he wins his rematch with Margarito and looks good doing it. Bob Arum has never been reluctant to put Cotto in with the very best, so why not?
5. Andre Ward, if he beats Carl Froch in the “Super Six” final. Unlike Froch, Ward is not a huge super middleweight and has never been hesitant about fighting the best available opposition. Showtime would love to televise Bute (who is under contract to the network) vs. Ward, but if that doesn’t happen, Martinez-Ward would be an outstanding alternative.
Martinez is 36, but if any of the above matches are made within the next 18 to 24 months, I like Martinez to win all of them.
Does Omar Narvaez now hold the record for the longest reign of a world flyweight champion, beating the record of my compatriot Jimmy Wilde?
While the undefeated Narvaez held the WBO flyweight strap from May 2005 until June 2009, he was never “world” champion, so Wilde’s record is safe. Narvaez is now campaigning at 115 pounds, where he has held an alphabet belt since May 2010.
Bernard Hopkins didn’t win the world middleweight title until he beat Felix Trinidad. That means only the defenses he has made after that fight should be counted for the true title, and those defenses are less than 14. Carlos Monzon still holds the record for most defenses of the true 160-pound crown. And please don’t give me that nonsense about Monzon being stripped of his title by the WBC. The fact is that Monzon was recognized as champ by The Ring for all of his defenses. That’s all that really matters.
You make an interesting point, one with which I’m sure others would agree. And while the WBC stripping of Monzon was indeed “nonsense,” it remains an unfortunate fact that is tough to ignore. It is also a fact that The Ring did not have a championship policy during Hopkins reign as IBF titleholder, even though he was our No. 1 contender for much of that time. Sadly, things are seldom as straightforward as we would wish in boxing, but I’m glad that at least we agree that The Ring title is the one “that really matters.”
Which of the following matchups do you think would generate more revenue: Pacquiao-Mayweather or Klitschko-Klitschko? I know the former is a possibility, and the latter has virtually no chance of happening. But I think it’s an interesting question that I’ve never seen posed by anybody.
Although the brother vs. brother match would stir up quite a lot of interest due to its bizarre nature, I think that Pacquiao-Mayweather would garner considerably greater revenue due to the fact that Pacquiao has a worldwide fan base, while the Klitschko brothers’ constituency is mainly based in continental European. Then there’s this: Although The Ring is circulated throughout the world, its three biggest markets are the U.S., Canada and the UK, and in those countries covers featuring either of the Klitschkos do not sell even remotely as well as Pacquiao covers, and to a lesser but still significant degree, Mayweather covers.
I’m a huge fan of the magazine and I think the way you approach rating fighters is brilliant. However, after looking at the updates in the ratings this week, I was a little bit confused. I saw that Amir Khan was upgraded to No. 1 in the junior welterweights, which considering Tim Bradley’s inactivity, Bradley’s rejection to a fight with Khan, and Khans demolition of Judah is fair. But how is it that Bradley is No. 6 on the pound-for-pound list and Khan doesn’t feature?
Quite a few readers have asked the same question, so I’m using your letter to answers all similar queries:
The thing that must be kept in mind is that there is a highly significant difference between the divisional ratings and pound-for-pound ratings. Divisional ratings are, as much as humanly possible, strictly objective and based on results within the divisions. Pound-for-pounds rankings, however, are much more subjective and also take into consideration the opinions of The Ring Ratings Advisory Panel and the editors, as well as the fighters’ overall body of work. Khan was advanced over Bradley in the divisional ratings due to greater activity, but Bradley’s pound-for-pound ranking was not affected.
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