Rating the top fighters of this century continues
Today we continue our rankings of the top fighters of this century in the eight original weight classes. If you missed it last week, I am ranking the top three fighters, in my opinion, of this century and I’m not using the junior weight divisions that are around today because they didn’t exist back when many top fighters were around.
To refresh your memory, last week the heavyweight, light heavyweight and middleweight divisions were rated. In the heavyweights, I had Rocky Marciano first, Joe Louis second and Muhammed Ali third. Light heavyweights were Archie Moore, Billy Conn and Bob Foster. Middleweights are Sugar Ray Robinson, Marvin Hagler and Harry Greb.
– In the welterweight division, my top pick is Henry Armstrong. He was the only world champion to ever hold three world titles simultaneously, featherweight and lightweight being the others, not to mention he was a terror in the ring.
2. Sugar Ray Leonard: He was as good as they get in that division and I would have ranked him first except, even though he eventually won the middleweight title on a controversial decision over Hagler, Sugar Ray lost some fights he should have won and retired and unretired enough times to dilute his record.
3. Carmen Basillio: Today Carmen wouldn’t be much of a fighter as they stop fights very quick now compared to when Basilio fought. With Carmen, the fight usually didn’t start until he began to bleed! Then the war was on, and he usually emerged the victor. He was one tough dude.
Honorable mention goes to Kid Gavilan, who invented the famous “Bolo Punch” and was a hard guy to beat.
– In the lightweight class, my top pick is Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran. He was the best lightweight I ever saw, went a bit downhill when he moved up in weight, but as a lightweight he was the best! Practically unbeatable and a true champion. He held the lightweight title for seven years from 1972-79 before relinquishing it when he moved up in weight.
2. Benny Leonard: He held the title from 1917 to 1925 when he retired and was one of the all-time greats in that weight class.
3. Julio Cesar Chavez: Another top lightweight who faded a bit when he moved up in weight. But as a lightweight, Julio was excellent. One of the few fighters around these days with more than 100 wins on his record, Sadly, Julio is still fighting these days. (In fact, Chavez fought just this past Saturday and knocked out someone named Buck Smith in three rounds in Mexico).
Honorable mention – Alexis Arguello: A good champion who also suffered when he moved up in weight. Arguello was a top lightweight champion who fought all comers and beat just about all of them.
– In the featherweight class, Willie Pep in my top pick. Not only did he hold the title from 1942-50, he fought quite often and beat everyone thrown in front of him for a long time before retiring with a 230-11-1 record. I want to note Willie’s record was 135-1-1 before he even won the title. Amazing, wouldn’t you say?
2. Second place has to be Sandy Saddler and if you reversed my picks and put him on top, you wouldn’t get any argument from me. Saddler and Pep were the two best in that division for a long time and when Pep lost the title to Saddler in 1950, Saddler kept it for six years before retiring himself.
3. Salvador Sanchez: A brilliant fighter and champion who was a star and a champion. If he hadn’t been killed in a car crash while still in his prime, who knows where he would have wound up on the all-time list.
– In the bantamweight division, these three are my top picks. Ruben Olivares first, Carlos Zarate second and Eder Jofre third. All tough fighters and good champions but the truth is, other than seeing them fight a few times, I know very little about that weight class.
– The same for the flyweight class. I don’t know very much about it other than the names. I never saw him fight, but Pancho Villa was a top flyweight champion who I will rank first. Fidel LaBarba is my second choice and Ricardo Lopez, who is still fighting, is my third pick.
Well, those are my choices for the top fighters in each weight division and if you agree or disagree, send me your list and we’ll compare them.
– As for the “Fight of the Century” my choice is the light heavyweight title fight between champion Archie Moore and challenger Yvon Durelle. It took place in 1957 and was nationally televised.
In the fight, Moore was down four times in round one (they didn’t have the three-knockdown rule them) including a couple of times when Moore was flat on his back and didn’t look like he had a prayer of beating the 10-count.
Moore made the round but was down again in round 4. Archie was hopelessly behind and looked a beaten fighter when he began his amazing comeback. Moore knocked Durelle down in round 5, knocked him down again a couple of times before stopping the tough Canadian Durelle in round 11.
I only saw that fight once, though I have seen highlights since, and I will never forget it. I’m sure anyone who saw it will say the same of a classic that deserves to be called “The Fight of the Century.”
– Fighter of the Century – Rocky Marciano. Not only did Rocky fight anyone and everyone available and ducked no one, he won every fight he was in.
That’s the bottom line.
No matter who you were, if you entered the ring against Rocky Marciano, you came out a loser. Nobody beat him and that’s the name of that game! Rocky retired as undisputed heavyweight champion with a 49-0 record. Nobody was ever better! At the time there was a lot of pressure put on Marciano to fight one more time and retire with a 50-0 mark, but he never gave it a second thought. When he retired, he stayed retired. Sadly, Rccky, who became a goodwill ambassador for boxing while retired, died in a plane crash at age 46.
He was the best, though, and there shouldn’t be any argument about that!
Alan Rogers is the Nevada Appeal boxing writer.