August 21st, 2013 By Pedro Fernandez
TOUGH TO RANK HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPS OF DIFFERENT ERAS
San Francisco, CA- Some of you will be surprised by my list of the top three heavyweight champions I’ve put together. My mentor, the great Jacob Finkelstein who became a Hall of Fame writer writing columns for 40+ years for the San Francisco Chronicle (using the pen name Jack Fiske) was of the opinion that this is an impossible task. Jack felt that you cannot compare fighters of different eras. That being said, I will go against the deceased Godfather of boxing scribes in this instance and rate the top three heavyweights of all time.
WHO WAS “THE GREATEST” HEAVYWEIGHT?
1) Larry Holmes, Easton, PA. With a record of 69-6, 44 KOs, Holmes’ jab and chin are what separates his from the rest. With 19 defenses of (16 WBC & 3 IBF) of the linear heavyweight championship, Holmes got off the deck against Earnie Shavers, the hardest hitter in history, as well as a flush shot he didn’t see coming from Renaldo Snipes, and went on to stop them both. While I think the first fight with Michael Spinks could have gone either way, the second time around Larry was jobbed. Past his peak when he faced Mike Tyson in 1988, I watched Holmes prior to capturing the heavyweight title from Ken Norton in 1978 beating on Muhammad Ali in Deer Lake, PA circa 1974. As far as today’s heavyweights, Larry would have in my mind beaten both Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko.
THE GREATEST REALLY WASN’T?
2) Muhammad Ali, Louisville, KY. From 1960 to 1981, Ali went 56-5, 37 KOs. In most polls, the man born Cassius Clay is #1. The reason why I can’t place him there is because Ali really didn’t have a “prime.” That period of his life was taken away by his refusal to be a tool of the U.S. Government and become an advocate of the Vietnam war. The war against the North Vietnamese, as it turns out was started under false pretenses. Although I have respect for all veterans, the 58,000 that lost their lives and the hundreds of thousands that returned damaged either physically or emotionally, they weren’t fighting for our country, they were tools used by the Military Industrial Complex, as were the men and women that were/are in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ali was a greater public figure than he was in my mind a heavyweight champion.
JACK JOHNSON THIRD BEST HEAVYWEIGHT
3) Jack Johnson, 53-11-9, 34 KOs of Galveston, TX. Having boxed 817 rounds from 1897 to 1931, “Double J” was a threat to the thought of White supremacy here in the USA. His philandering with woman who were Caucasian brought the “Mann Act” which made taking a woman across state lines a crime and Johnson a wanted Felon and forced “JJ” to leave the country. He returned years later and spent 366 days in prison! Although I’ll be the first to admit Jack was bold, cocky, and while he may have pushed the envelope a bit too far, it was racism that took away his prime for the most part. His defending the “colored” title as it was called is significant to me. After a 20 round points loss to Marvin Hart in 1905, Johnson was DQ’d vs. Joe Jeanette whom he beat twice in three more fights with one draw. After beating Stanley Ketchel (1909) and Jim Jeffries in 1910, Johnson fought but four times as he was a “wanted” man and It wasn’t until 1915 that Johnson lost to Jess Williard in Cuba in the 26th round. He won 13 fights before losing in eight to Bob Lawson in 1926. He would lose four more before finishing in 1931 with a “suspicious” win in Kansas over Brad Simmons. Like Ali, his prime might have been taken away by the US Government. In all, the “Galveston Giant” was 67-14-12 including “Newspaper” scored fights as boxing was illegal for a time. Because films of Johnson are so limited, he might have deserved the top spot!