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Great boxers of the past and their place in history
We are fortunate that one of the best boxers to ever compete in a ring is still active today. The outstanding Manny Pacquiao has won titles in an amazing 8 different weight classes, his speed and power have served him well from Light Flyweight right up to Welterweight. He truly deserves a place among the all time greatest boxers. There are many other fighters who can claim to be among the greatest. Here are a few great boxers of the past, some distant and some from the more recent past.
Boxing matches have been contested in some form or another for centuries. Long before the Queensbury rules were first introduced, fighters would engage in prize fights in front of tens of thousands of people for huge purses. Fights were often over 100 rounds, each round ended when one fighter was knocked down. It was in these gruelling fights that one of the great boxers of the past rose to prominence. William Bendigo Thompson competed in 21 organised bare knuckle fights, some lasting over two hours. Despite the fearsome nature of boxing at this time, he never had a nose bleed or black eye in his whole career. His only losses where as a result of fouls. He retired in 1850 aged 39 after winning his last fight and retiring as the All England Champion.
Bendigo is credited with inventing the left handed, southpaw stance, this is his legacy to boxing and is still widely used today. He often fought much bigger fighters, often giving up several stone in weight and up to a foot in height to his opponents. He weighed in at around 168 lbs so would have most likely fought at Middleweight or even Welterweight today. He usually fought against Heavyweights as no provision was made at that time for weight differences.
Thompson's punches where fast and powerful and his later position as a boxing teacher at Cambridge University suggests that he was an accomplished boxer rather than an untidy brawler. Thompson fought his way from absolute poverty, raised in a workhouse, to a position of wealth and respect. He was a likeable character who unfortunately suffered with alcoholism after his fight career ended. Despite this he still managed to save three people from drowning in a fast flowing river when in his fifties. In his later years he became popular and famous again as a bible preacher despite being illiterate. He died in 1880 aged 69 after a fall at his home and is remembered today as on of the best bare knuckle fighters ever.
Moving forward to the 1920's. another notable fighter from the past is the hard hitting Heavyweight Jack Dempsey. By this time the rules of boxing had advanced and were much like we know today. Boxing had also advanced. Video cameras filmed many of Dempsey's fights and they still survive today. He was a very quick fighter and a brutally hard hitter with a left hook that could win a fight on it's own. He reigned over the Heavyweight division from 1919 to 1926. He fought in front of as many as 70.000 people to win the title in 1919 against the brave Jess Willard who was out classed by Dempsey. The fight was one of the most brutal ever filmed and Willard took a terrible beating.
Dempsey eventually lost his title after a period of three years out of the ring to Gene Tunney. Upon his return he did not have the same speed and power as before. He faired much better in a rematch but controversially lost the second bout due to a long count. Dempsey knocked Tunny down. The referee counted to nine and Tunny got up. The actual length of the count was 14 seconds.
Shortly after Dempsey came a fight who many say rivals Muhammed Ali as the best fighter ever. Joe Lewis was an outstanding boxer who won titles and acclaim despite the added complication of racism which was common at the time. Lewis reigned as Heavyweight champion from 1937 until 1949 winning 27 fights.
He was also very culturally important in the USA as a black champion during World War II, he flew in the face of the Nazi party and was the first black American to become a national hero.
In the 1970's three great boxers of the past came along at once. Joe Frazier, Muhammed Ali and George Forman would have all reigned as Heavyweight champion for years if they were born separately. The 3 engaged in some of the most famous and fascinating bouts ever in what was the golden era of boxing. All three deserve a place among the best fighters of all time.
Other great fighters from the past include Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Leonard, Sugar Ray Robinson, Max Schmeling and more recently Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson and Joe Calzaghe.
NB: article written in 2011
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|Ali and Foreman|
Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Superstars of the Boxing World.
It sometimes feels as though the glory days of heavy weight boxing are over. Undoubtedly there are some fine fighters today, but they just don't seem to have the personality and charisma of the famous boxing legends, among them notably are Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and the late great, Joe Frazier. The main difference is, that even people who were not especially interested in boxing had heard of these top fighters, especially Ali, with his unique humor, everyone including your granny knew who he was and either loved him, or thought he was arrogant and cocky!
For all his humor and boasting, when he put on his boxing gloves, Ali was without a doubt one of the worlds finest fighters. Who could forget the incredible contest with George Foreman at Kinshasa, Zaire in 1974, known as The Rumble in The Jungle? By this time, Ali was thirty two and was considered by many boxing commentators to be a faded prince who had reached the end of the road. George Foreman was not only bigger and stronger, he was a younger man, who had never been beaten and out of forty opponents had knocked out thirty seven of them! The man was formidable, his previous eight fights had all lasted less than six minutes and he had already beaten both Ken Norton and Joe Frazier, who had already won against Ali.
Muhammad Ali was very popular in Africa, everyone had heard of him and he knew how to play to an audience, George Foreman, by contrast was seen as uncommunicative, even surly and he quickly lost the P.R contest. Of course, practice sessions didn't stop at hitting punch bags and eight days before the match Foreman's right eye was injured by his sparring partner and the fight was postponed for five weeks while the injury healed. This was a golden opportunity for Ali to play mind games with Foreman and he mocked him mercilessly to the press, dubbed him the Mummy and said he would dance rings around him when the fight took place.
As soon as the contest began, Ali started a daring attack and landed a hard right, followed by a series of punches which bewildered Foreman. Ali then went to the ropes and seemed to allow Foreman to hit him. This was all part of a cunning strategy and as Foreman continued the onslaught, Ali taunted him, with comments like, "is that all you've got" and "my granny hits harder than you do" The heat was oppressive and Foreman was finding it a problem. Then Ali suddenly launched his own flurry of punches which left George slumped on his stool when the bell rang.
Ali continued taking punches from Foreman, but he also landed plenty of his own and in the eighth, landed two perfectly timed right handers, followed by a left hook, another fine right and George slowly collapsed. The count reached ten, the fight was over and Ali had beaten the unbeatable. So memorable was this fight, that the robe and boxing gloves worn by Muhammad Ali that night, now form part of the collection of National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution.
George Foreman was yesterdays news, he felt humiliated and resented Ali for years, but time has mellowed him, he is now a successful businessman and an ordained Christian minister. He told a journalist this week that while he doesn't see Ali as the best boxer of all time he sees him as the greatest human being he ever met and feels as close to him as a brother. He is also planning to visit Ali, who now suffers from Parkinson's Syndrome partly due to all the punches he had absorbed. There must be many people who would love to be present at that reunion!
Article : Claude Evans - UK Boxing store
|Joe Frazier - Boxing Legend|
Joe Frazier, a Boxing Legend
The untimely death of boxing legend Joe Frazier from cancer of the liver, is the end of an era for boxing and Smokin' Joe as he was nicknamed will be sadly missed by fans, friends and family alike. Joe Frazier was born January 12, 1944 in Beaufort, South Carolina and was the son of Rubin and Dolly Frazier. He began boxing professionally in 1958 and was also a member of a rock and blues band Smokin' Joe and the Knockouts. Joe was a shrewd businessman and the owner of Smokin Joe's Corner restaurant, Joe Frazier & Sons Limousine Service and Joe Frazier's Gymnasium.
Joe grew up on his family's ten acre farm as the youngest of thirteen children. Another brother David died of diphtheria as a baby, making Joe the most youthful sibling of this large family. As was usual in those days, life consisted of hard work in the fields and discipline was strong. The children were expected to obey, their mother's word was law and it was more by accident than anything else that Joe became a boxer. He started going to a gym simply to get in shape but then finding he had a talent, began fighting competitively until he became one of the best amateur heavyweights in the U.S. He was undefeated until he lost to Buster Mathis in the Olympic trials of 1964, but when Mathis suffered a hand injury Joe replaced him in Tokyo and returned home with a gold medal.
In 1965 he turned professional under the guidance of Yank Durham and won eleven matches clear, until the match with Argentinean Oscar Bonavena, in September 1966. Joe was knocked down twice in one round by this hard man, but rallied and won after a ten round contest and a unanimous decision. Most famous of all Joes fights were with Muhammad Ali. On March 8th at Madison Square Gardens, the two met before a sell out audience, the build up to this fight had never before been seen in boxing history and both fighters were paid the then record fee of two and a half million dollars! After fifteen gruelling rounds, Frazier finally landed one of the most famous left hooks in history and dropped Ali who stayed down to the count of four. At the end of the round all three judges agreed and Joe became the undisputed champion.
The two had a re-match on October 1st 1975 in the suffocating heat of Manila in the Philippines. The by then, ageing warriors slugged it out for fourteen rounds in the contest dubbed by Ali "The Thrilla in Manila." Both boxers were exhausted and when Joes eyes were almost swollen closed, his corner stopped the fight and Ali won. He later described the bout as the nearest he had come to dying.
In September 2011, Joe Frazier was diagnosed with liver cancer which progressed rapidly and spread throughout his body. He had to be admitted for hospice care in November and he died on the 7th. When Muhammad Ali heard of his death, he said that the world had lost a great champion and that he would always remember him with respect and admiration. Rest in peace, Smokin' Joe!
Article : Claude Evans - UK Boxing store