WHAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED?
With little happening this weekend (except Mikkel Kessler vs Allan Green for the “prestigious” WBC Silver Light Heavyweight title!) I thought I’d pick your brains on something I’ve been thinking about for a while (and try to get a top 5 from you!).
On Monday you put Muhammad Ali as number 5 in your all-time greats. I wouldn’t disagree: his comeback after being banned, his great battles with other all-time greats and his ability to transcend the sport warrant it. However, in arguably his most famous battle (with George Foreman) he had many of the advantages leading up to and during the fight which may or may not have prevented George from winning (a quick internet search can provide far more info than I can). My question is: if George had won, how would his career (and that of Ali’s) have progressed? I think Ali would have bounced back like he always seemed to do. My view is that George lost his “air of invincibility” and was never the same fighter again. The same has been seen in many other fighters.
This leads me on to my top 5 for you: what is your top 5 of losses that prevented what could’ve been? Which fighters lost the edge from their first loss or which losses took the wind out of the sails of bigger fights down the line?
I hope this makes the mailbag despite the overly-abundant use of brackets (sorry about that!). – Ollie, Cairo, Egypt
No need for apologies, Ollie. I’m just thrilled to get an email from a boxing fan in Cairo. The reach of both boxing and the internet never ceases to amaze me.
Before I answer your question and provide my top 5 list, I want to note that I almost left Ali out of my all-time top five. Fighters I considered for that spot include Ezzard Charles, Joe Louis, Harry Greb and Roberto Duran. However, Ali had more than enough “points” in the categories you mentioned, as well as “talent” and “quality of opposition.” The two decades of Ali’s legendary pro career – the 1960s and ‘70s – were a golden age for the heavyweight division, and Foreman was a major part of it.
I agree that Big George lost his “air of invincibility” after his loss to Ali, but I disagree that he was “never the same fighter.” Two of his most impressive victories (in my not-so humble opinion) – a pair of fifth-round KOs of Ron Lyle (in a thrilling up-from-the-canvas shootout) and Joe Frazier – occurred immediately after “The Rumble in the Jungle.” And then, of course, we have Foreman’s improbable and inspirational comeback all the way to regaining the championship after a 10-year retirement.
What would have happened had Foreman beat Ali in 1974 is question worthy of Uatu the Watcher. For starters Foreman, who was 40-0 with 37 knockouts going into the fight, would have been lauded as the most devastating heavyweight champ of all time, more fearsome than Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis or his idol at the time, Sonny Liston.
I think it’s very likely that Ali would have rebounded, as you suggest, probably with a rematch against Foreman. He lost his first bouts with Ken Norton and Frazier, only to come back and win rematches, so it makes sense that he’d want to try to balance the scales against Foreman.
However, I’d like to pose this possibility (in the mighty Marvel manner): WHAT IF Ali retired after losing to Foreman? He spoke openly about hanging up his gloves immediately after beating Foreman, and said preserving his health was one of the main motivations for doing so. Perhaps a loss at age 32, particularly if it was by knockout, would have convinced him to move on. Had that happened – had Ali retired in 1974 – he would not have suffered through damaging rubber matches with Frazier and Norton, or punishing bouts with Earnie Shavers, Leon Spinks and Larry Holmes.
He wouldn’t be the worldwide legend he is today, but he might be more able bodied than he is now.
Anyway, here’s my top five losses that “prevented what could have been” (which is limited to fighters and fights that I’ve covered as boxing media):
5. Shane Mosley’s unanimous decision loss to Vernon Forrest
4. Kelly Pavlik’s unanimous decision loss to Bernard Hopkins
3. Felix Trinidad’s 12-round TKO to Hopkins
2. David Reid’s unanimous decision loss to Trinidad
1. Fernando Vargas’ 12-round TKO to Tito
Some fighters were never the same after victories, such as Diego Corrales’ 10th-round TKO of Jose Luis Castillo.
PACQUIAO’S ANTI-GAY COMMENTS
What’s going on Doug?!
Thanks for responding in your last blog! In the wake of Manny Pacquiao’s recent comments about the homosexual community, would it be fair for Floyd Mayweather to take a poll of all those in the gay community who would’ve purchased/attended the fight, and use that as leverage to demand a 60/40 split? I can’t see how PacMan hasn’t cost that potential match up some profits based on his comments. Believe me when I tell you the gay community will not purchase/attend that fight just to see Mayweather beat on Manny, because they will still see it as putting money in PacMan’s pocket. Please don’t bring up Floyd’s comments on Jeremy Lin, because Asians will still purchase the potential match up, 1. to support Manny and 2. to see if he thrashes Money!
Arum is unbelievable. Ever since Manny became a superstar, all of his opponents have been in house. He forgets that it was Golden Boy fighters that pushed him to this stardom (i.e Oscar and Hatton)! So for him to say that if the fighters want to fight then the fight will happen to Jim Lampley is complete BS. Sergio Martinez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. want to fight (supposedly), will we get that fight? Yuriorkis Gamboa and JuanMa Lopez (both Top Rank fighters BTW) wanted to fight, did we get that fight? …. The only time he will throw his fighter in against fighters from a different promotional company is when he thinks it is clear his fighter will win! He’s learned his lesson since the Margarito/Mosley fight!
Dream Match Ups:
1. Roy Jones Jr. Vs Sugar Ray Leonard (Middleweight)
2. Erik Morales vs Julio Cesar Chavez (Super Featherweight)
3. Floyd Mayweather vs Aaron Pryor (Junior Welterweight)
— CJ, Norfolk, VA
Thanks for the email, CJ. I’ll start with your first question: “Would it be fair for Floyd Mayweather to take a poll of all those in the gay community who would’ve purchased/attended the fight, and use that as leverage to demand a 60/40 split?”
Sure it would. All is fair in love, war and boxing.
However, although I’m sure Pacquiao has lost fans and potential supporters with his stance on same-sex marriage, the controversy of his comments put his name out in the public to a greater degree than it normally would be at this stage of a fight promotion against a generally unknown opponent (Tim Bradley). Here in Southern California, Pacquiao was the lead story on some of local evening network news shows on Wednesday night (in part because he was banned by the L.A. Grove shopping complex). Yesterday morning he was the subject of numerous drive-time morning radio shows.
I hate to say it, but I think this controversy – which HBO’s 24/7 program will likely run with – might actually help to sell his pay-per-view fight with Bradley.
Think about it. When has negative press on a star fighter ever hurt a pay-per-view event? Being convicted of rape and doing a few years in jail certainly didn’t hurt Mike Tyson’s box office appeal in the mid-1990s. Did Mayweather’s domestic violence conviction damage his popularity, industry respect or the pay-per-view numbers to the Cotto fight? I dare say that Antonio Margarito’s handwrap scandal actually helped MAKE him into a pay-per-view player (as a villainous B-side).
Arum is totally believable AND predictable. He’s a cold businessman. End of story. He won’t share profits with others unless he’s out of other options. In this way, he and Mayweather are alike.
1. Jones by close decision in a disappointingly cautious bout.
2. Chavez by close decision in a brutal, bloody action fight.
3. Pryor by competitive but clear decision.
MONDAY MAILBAG MAY-HATE
I see that you are back to the Mayweather hating. While I tend to somewhat agree with you regarding the outcome of mythical Mayweather fights with all-time greats (except Hitman and the “Panamanian Badarse” as Money would win by SD and UD respectively), you continue to discount Money especially in his Cotto fight, and historically.
The 2012 Cotto version got a SICK and hand injured Money. I’m pretty sure you read your “heavyweight” boxing scribe Rafael’s blog on May 7. To beat a surefire HOF’er (although admittedly lower level) in that condition 9 rounds to 3 says something about Mayweather’s stones. But I digress because I know you will never give him any real objective respect. Whatever props you do give him always has some sort of disclaimer, essentially negating whatever supposed compliments you were bestowing on him. I am a Floyd fan, however I am also a realist and I give respect where it is due. Floyd has fought and beat everyone in front of him. We can hypothesize about who would win any hypothetical match all we want, but we are living in the present day, and the fights happening now are the only ones that matter when judging ones career.
Floyd’s defensive mastery is second to none (except maybe Sweet Pea) and coupled with the more aggressive style he has employed since his destruction of Hatton, would win most of his fights with the greats and all of the potential fights currently. Sergio Martinez is a little too big and Pac is probably too small, but I believe that a healthy Floyd would beat both soundly. Martinez would try to be pretty with Floyd and preen and dance and stick his face out and would get pot-shotted most of the night. Pac would be countered all night and by round 7-9 he would be hesitant to pull the trigger like he was with Marquez. Right now there is no one really capable of beating Floyd, and I believe the same would ring true for most any one in his weight classes historically. – Wiley Harris III
Feel free to call me a “hater” because I don’t believe Mayweather is an all-time great and I can’t envision him beating Thomas Hearns or Robert Duran, but you need to realize that you are not just a “Floyd fan” – you’re a stone-cold Floyd “lover” if you think the Hitman and Hands of Stone couldn’t handle him.
We are definitely polar opposites in our opinions of Mayweather. You saw him dominate a future hall of famer in Cotto. I saw him struggle with a 6-to-1 underdog who was all but dismissed before their fight, just as I expected him to.
You’re amazed that he could have mustered such an incredible display of will and mettle (yes, I’m being sarcastic) when he was, gasp, sick with a cold and hampered with a sore hand.
I don’t buy his excuses (or the B.S. that he “chose” to stand and trade more than usual to be more entertaining). I know that it’s very rare that boxers – or any athlete, pro or amateur – are 100 percent healthy when it’s time to do their thing. (Did you notice that when I wrote in the Monday mailbag that the version of Duran that lost a close 15-round decision to Marvin Hagler would have defeated Mayweather, I didn’t mention that Duran fought Hagler with a broken hand? Do you know why? Because truly great fighters don’t need to make excuses and they don’t need others to make excuses for them.)
You look at what Mayweather’s done so far and you believe there’s nothing else for him to accomplish.
I look at the top 10 list that Lee Groves compiled on Mayweather’s greatest fights and wonder how a supposedly “great” fighter can have bouts against Philip Ndou and Angel Manfredy among his best performances.
Now, I guess, Groves could have substituted bouts against Oscar De La Hoya, Zab Judah or Jose Luis Castillo in the place of Ndou and Manfredy – but then again, the love of your life struggled in those bouts, didn’t he? I know you’ve probably got an excuse for him in each fight or you simply thought that he dominated all three fighters. However, being the hater I am, I just can’t imagine that a guy who was backed up by De La Hoya’s and Castillo’s jab and bothered by Judah’s speed would have an answer for Hearns’ lighting fast left stick and killer-right follow up.
(I mean, seriously, Wiley, you really think Mayweather would outpoint Hearns? You are aware that the Hitman was ahead on points when Leonard stopped him, right? You do know that he outpointed Wilfred Benitez, a taller, harder-punching defensive wizard than Mayweather, right?) But I digress because I know, being a Floyd lover, you will never critique Mayweather with any real objectivity.
MAYWEATHER IS NOT AN ALL-TIME GREAT
I have been reading your column for over 11 years going back to the maxboxing days. I have finally decided to write you concerning two things.
My first issue is that I feel like I am the only person who thinks that Andy Lee should be the favorite going into his fight with Chavez Jr. I know that the fight is going to be in Texas under the fair and watchful eye of Dickey Cole, however I cannot believe how it seems that people are talking about this fight as if this were a mere tune up to get ready for Martinez. Other than Rubio, what live body has Junior ever fought? What are your thoughts?
Secondly, I just watched the Mayweather-Cotto replay and I have to admit I was impressed with Mayweather’s performance. I do think that he clearly won the fight, albeit by very different scores than the official judges’ scores. I do however feel that anyone who thinks that he is the GOAT is certifiably insane. I can name at least four fighters from the last thirty years that would have beaten him at the different weight levels. That is just the last thirty years and it is not even fair to mention Harry Greb, Henry Armstrong, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Willie Pep in the conversation. That would be an insult to their legacies. As far as the four from the last thirty years, here goes….
1. Alexis Arguello at 130- Arguello might have been a bit bothered by Mayweather’s hand speed and footwork, however Arguello would have jabbed and thrown his textbook combinations until he landed one big uppercut or hook that would displace Mayweather from his senses.
How can you be the GOAT when you are not even the greatest of the last thirty years? I would like to know what your take on the Lee-Chavez fight and the dream fights I mentioned above. Sorry for the long e-mail and Happy Mother’s Day and 42nd birthday. Peace. – Greg from Florida
Thanks for the kind words, Greg. It’s nice to hear from a fellow Floyd hater. (It’s interesting how the “haters” always seem to know their history better than the “lovers.”) But I’ll start with the Chavez-Lee fight.
I think it’s a dangerous bout for the unbeaten WBC beltholder and I’m looking forward to it. I’m not picking Lee in the upset because I know Chavez can take a punch and I believe the judges will give him the benefit of the doubt in every competitive round, but I think the Irish southpaw is the most talented fighter Junior has ever faced.
I don’t think Team Chavez is viewing Lee as a “tune-up” fight. They know he’s tall, rangy, fast, mobile, and that he packs decent pop in his shots. However, they also know that he can be muscled around in the ring, especially by a guy who weighs 180 pounds on fight night. They know his one loss is to Brian Vera, a big, strong, durable pressure fighter. They know that Craig McEwan, who’s a lot smaller than Chavez, was getting in Lee’s ass with basic aggression before he got caught in the late rounds of their fight. They probably don’t think Lee looked that great in his rematch with Vera.
I’m sure they figure Chavez can do more damage to Lee than Vera and McEwan. We’ll see.
Regarding Mayweather’s G.O.A.T status, I agree with you. There’s no need for me to go into any detail. I’ve said it all before. “Haters” see it our way. “Lovers” don’t.
But thank you for not putting the old-school likes of Harry Greb, Henry Armstrong, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Willie Pep in the same sentence as Mayweather. They shouldn’t be compared for too many reasons to bother listing. And that’s not me “May-hatin’,” that’s just real love for boxing history.
ROBINSON VS. DURAN AT LIGHTWEIGHT
Who wins between Sugar Ray Robinson at lightweight and Roberto Duran?
Cheers. – Leo
This is a great mythical matchup, Leo. You’re the first to propose it. A lot of fans aren’t aware that Robinson turned pro at lightweight and fought the first 20 or so bouts of his career at or around 135 pounds (including a 10-round decision over future hall of famer Sammy Angott in July of 1941).
Angott, who handed Willie Pep his first pro defeat, is a very underrated former lightweight champ. “The Clutch” was as tough as they come and he tested his mettle against the best of the 1940s, but he didn’t have Duran’s natural talent, athletic ability or technique.
Robinson was something special the moment he turned pro but the lightweight version was young and still maturing. The lightweight version of Duran was arguably at his peak. I like Duran by close decision in an entertaining match that features masterful boxing with spots of ferocious fighting.
STYLES MAKE FIGHTS
Hope all is well. I’m writing in hopes of this making your Friday mailbag. I know this is so 2 weeks ago, but I had to chime in on Mayweather-Cotto. A few things that caught my attention:
1. Mayweather doesn’t seem to be as mobile as he once was and it was still enough to beat a determined Miguel Cotto.
2. Mayweather says “I went toe to toe and GAVE the fans what they wanted.” Ha. Don’t bank on that.
3. With all drama aside I’m glad we fans were treated to a good scrap. I felt it was 60 bucks well spent.
Now heres my 2 cents. Mayweather didn’t GIVE the fans anything. It was obvious that Mayweather couldn’t get away from Cotto. My idea of going toe to toe is squaring off in the center of the ring (not backpedaling while taking shots that you can’t get away from). Sure Mayweather dished and received, but please people, don’t be fooled — Mayweather had no choice in the matter. Cotto was out for blood.
And this all adds up to the same conclusion – styles make fights. Period. At the end of last year people were saying that there was no way Pac-Man could defeat Mayweather since Marquez gave him hell and almost beat him. But I say poppycock. I think if they ever fight it will be a hell of a scrap and even better now that Mayweather’s mobility is definitely not what it once was (but still affective). Their styles present problems for one another. Pacquiao throws from all angles and doesn’t stop throwing unless you knock him out. Mayweather is elusive but showed he can handle pressure and can adjust to getting tagged. They’re made for each other. It’s sad they haven’t fought yet. This match up had the potential to become one of the greatest trilogies in boxing.
Your mythical picks please….
Chavez Sr. vs Valero at 140
De la Hoya vs Sugar Ray Leonard at 147
Shane Mosley vs Roberto Duran at 135
Mike Tyson vs any Klitchko
Thanks for listening. – PB, Houston, TX
Thanks for emailing, PB. I agree with pretty much everything you said about Mayweather-Cotto and the potential Mayweather-Pacquiao matchup. However, I’m all Mayweathered out at this point in the mailbag, so if you don’t mind I’d like to skip right to your mythical matchups:
Chavez Sr. vs Valero at 140 – Holy crap, what a fight that would be. If it were on HBO, Showtime or PPV “parental discretion” would be advised at the start of the program. Valero was my boy, but I gotta go with Chavez, especially at junior welterweight where the Mexican icon is the proven quantity. Valero never fought at 140 pounds. Chavez fought in 22 140-pound title bouts. Nuff said. Chavez’s iron chin and ruthless body attack would eventually wear Valero down to a late stoppage in a bloody, brutal war. There’s a chance Valero’s underrated lateral movement and boxing ability see him to the final bell, but I’d still go with Chavez by hard-fought decision.
De la Hoya vs Sugar Ray Leonard at 147 – Leonard by late stoppage (probably courtesy of a body-head hook combination delivered while De La Hoya is against the ropes). The Golden Boy’s excellent jab, footwork and the threat of his hook would make for a competitive fight through the middle rounds, but once Sugar Ray decides to step up his aggression (and he always knew when to do so), the fight would be over.
Shane Mosley vs Roberto Duran at 135 – Jesus, another rated-R war. There’s no way this matchup would disappoint. Mosley was 32-0 (30) at lightweight for a reason, but Duran is arguably the greatest 135 pounder of all time. Both guys were big lightweights gifted with durability, brute strength, speed and power. However, Duran had better technique and defense than Mosley. I think they would go tit for tat in the early rounds – each displaying his brand of “power boxing” – before settling in on some brutal trench warfare in the middle rounds. Duran would bust Mosley’s face up with hard jabs and right hands; Sugar Shane would hurt the Panamanian with his relentless body attack (remember how Mosley used to go to the body?); but Duran – a 15-round fighter – would be stronger down the stretch. Duran by close but unanimous decision in a great fight.
Mike Tyson vs any Klitschko – Iron Mike would get lucky against Baby Bro and score a chilling come-from-behind mid-rounds KO, but Big Bro will use his jab and backpedaling ability to keep his distance over the first half of the fight and gradually wear Tyson down to a late technical stoppage.
Email Dougie at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dougiefischer