Mayweather vs McGregor for the Casual Fan

Mayweather-McGregor-1024x739

I’m writing this for my friends who aren’t necessarily boxing fans, but are curious about this weekend’s upcoming boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor. It’s received a lot of attention, and will probably sell quite well on pay-per-view. I’ve seen quite a few friends who I know aren’t hardcore boxing fans talking about this match.

Well, here’s a handy primer for the curious:

The Participants:

Floyd Mayweather is a semi-retired 40 year old who has been one of the two or three best boxers (regardless of weight class) over the past 20 years, and is arguably among the 50 greatest boxers ever. He’s 5’7″ish, and has spent most of the last decade fighting as a welterweight (147 pounds). In his later years, he has matured into a fairly low-output, extremely accurate counter-puncher. His defensive acumen is among the best of the last 40 years, and is the primary tool for setting up his offense. He has moderate (but not insignificant) power, underrated physical strength, excellent handspeed, and superb balance. His judgement of timing and distance is maybe the best since Pernell Whitaker made elite fighters look silly 25 years ago. He has demonstrated solid durability and recuperative powers, but he has rarely been tagged cleanly, and hasn’t had to demonstrate that toughness very often.

Floyd has a few weaknesses, but they have yet to force him to officially lose a fight. His punch output is low, he tends to pick his shots carefully, and he starts slowly, often ceding early rounds to otherwise inferior opponents. Owing in part to brittle hands, as well as an aversion to back-and-forth slugging, he is often content to coast late in fights, doing enough to win rounds, but not enough to force a stoppage. Volume and pressure have given him trouble, but usually not for the whole fight. On just two occasions out of forty-nine, a solid argument could be made that he lost or drew with his opponent. The educated pressure and underrated skills of Jose Luis Castillo pushed Mayweather to the brink way back in 2002, when both men were mere lightweights. And more recently, the hyper aggressive caveman style of Marcos Maidana pushed Floyd out of his comfort zone and made for an even fight on my scorecard.

Beyond that, Floyd Mayweather, even two years removed from his last professional bout, would likely be made a significant favorite against almost every boxer currently competing between 140 and 154 pounds. He’s a future hall-of-famer, and one of the greats.

Next up is Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor is not a boxer.

Okay, that’s it.

I’m kidding. Mostly.

Conor McGregor is an elite mixed martial arts participant. He stands around 5’9″, and has jumped around weightclasses, but has primarily fought at 155 pounds in recent years.

Fighting for the UFC, he has established himself as a talented striker. His boxing skills are considered quite good for MMA, and he had some experience as a teenager in amateur boxing.

That said, Conor has never boxed as a professional. Boxing skills in mixed martial arts don’t translate directly to boxing. The techniques tend to be different, owing (in part) to much different footwork. Boxers don’t need to worry about kicks or wrestling takedowns, so they are able to focus purely on punching (and punch defense) in a way that MMA practitioners aren’t. Boxers are able to “sit down” on their punches, putting significantly greater power into their shots. MMA fighters planting themselves to punch, boxing style, become vulnerable to a leg kick or takedown that would spell trouble.

In addition, the elites in both sports generally take up their craft at young ages, often before puberty. The mental conditioning and muscle memory that is developed from literally growing up with the sport is absolutely essential in separating the good from the special.

Conor boxed some in his teens, but has entirely focused on MMA for the past decade. Meanwhile, Floyd was raised by his father and two uncles – all three being talented pro boxers. Floyd fought as an amateur while still in elementary school. By the time he turned professional in 1996, he had already spent more than a decade in and around the ring.

So all that being said, what should a viewer expect?

Well, this fight will be held in Mayweather’s comfort zone – boxing. If Floyd had agreed to face McGregor in the octagon, this discussion would be a very different one. But this is going to be a boxing match.

So, to any casual fan who may have heard of these guys, but doesnt know all that much detail, let me tell you now – this won’t be competitive. At all.

Floyd Mayweather is more than a decade older, he hasn’t fought in 2 years, and he’s naturally smaller, standing an inch or two shorter, and walking around 20 or 30 pounds lighter.

And none of that should matter.

Mayweather’s last few opponents (save for Maidana) all shared the distinction of being somewhat past their prime when they faced Floyd. And each of those men are now, a few years later, either retired, or basically washed up. And all of them, right now, each old and creaky, would embarrass Conor McGregor in the ring, without much effort.

The difference in applicable skill and experience is going to be too much for the Irishman to overcome. If Floyd is rusty and out of shape, it may be possible that he would start slowly, taking his time, and occasionally appear uncomfortable with Conor’s awkward bumrushing. This might create some false hope among the McGregor fans. But Floyd will be able to get comfortable, find his rhythm, and start making Conor look like… well, a novice boxer. The difference in size and strength will mean little if McGregor can’t get close to Mayweather. After 4 or 5 rounds of swinging and missing, Conor will discover that boxing conditioning is different from MMA conditioning. He’s going to be exhausted, demoralized, and likely eating sharp crosses and hooks every time Floyd allows him to get close.

I would imagine that Floyd, not being in the ring with an elite boxer, will feel safe enough to put on a show. But at some point, he’ll likely get bored of playing matador. He’ll start planting his feet and putting anger into his shots sometime between rounds 3 and 6, depending on his level of interest, and McGregor’s fatigue. Floyd can and likely will choose to end the fight whenever he wants, especially after giving the fans some time to get drunk.

Conor’s only hope may be to take a page out of the Marcos Maidana playbook. Back in 2014, Maidana combined an absurdly high-output attack with strange angles, lots of shoving, and borderline (sometimes clear) fouls to take an early lead and win 5 or 6 total rounds against Floyd, mostly by keeping him off balance and on constant defense.

Conor may want to try something like that, but it’s doubtful he could maintain the sort of frenetic pace that Maidana set. And even Marcos eventually slowed down as the fight wore on. Also, Maidana, despite possessing a relatively crude technique, still owned a decent jab, and had a command of basic boxing footwork. Conor would look far less polished than even the caveman from Argentina.

My record with predictions is a spotty one. Boxing is notoriously unpredictable, and multiple factors can alter the course of a fight. But if I were to make a prediction, I would say Floyd plays defense over the first three or four rounds, juking, dodging, blocking, and in general making Conor swing and miss over and over. Floyd will understand he could open up and drop McGregor pretty much at will, so he’ll restrict his offense to relatively light counters – just enough to slow the Irishman down. But by the fourth or fifth round, McGregor will be winded, his hands will drop, and Floyd will decide to end the fight in style. Expect a brave McGregor to pick himself off the mat a few times, and be saved by the referee somewhere between rounds 5 and 7.

Muhammad Ali fought a quasi mixed martial arts fight with Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki. Archie Moore boxed against a pro wrestler in his final fight. Floyd Patterson defended the Heavyweight Championship against a former Olympian making his pro debut. Chuck Wepner sort-of fought Andre the Giant. Goofy exhibitions are not unheard of in boxing. Several prominent boxers have also tried their gloves at MMA, to mostly limited success. The fact that this fight is a pointless farce may not turn people away. Hell, it may even turn out to be a fun show. If someone wants to spend the money, I hope they have a good time. But it should be understood that this is a semi-retired star boxer facing off in a boxing match against a complete novice. It won’t mean anything in the actual world of boxing or mixed martial arts. But it will make some people a lot of money. Which I suppose was always the point.

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Number 172 – Michael Dokes

Gerrie Coetzee and Michael Dokes Fighting

from boxrec.com

Michael Dokes
Akron, Ohio, USA
August 10, 1958 – August 12, 2012
6’3″ / 78″ reach / 198-290 lbs
53-6-2-0 (34) from 10/15/1976 to 10/11/1997 (21y0m)

1-4-0-1(1) against the top ten – #142 total and #134 +/-
0-2-0-0(0) against linear champions – #89 total and #107 +/-
0-2-0-0(0) against hall-of-famers – #109 total and #96 +/-
0-1-0-0(0) for the linear championship

Top ten opponents: W-TKO-1 Mike Weaver, D-15 Mike Weaver, L-KO-10 Gerrie Coetzee, L-TKO-10 Evander Holyfield, L-TKO-4 Donovan Ruddock, L-TKO-1 Riddick Bowe

-0.5 total score (1 + -3+ 0.5 + 1)

It’s no secret that boxing is a hard sport. But when I say that it’s hard, I don’t just mean the training, or the physical difficulty of actual fighting. Jimmy Cannon famously described boxing as “the red light district of sports.” It’s full of rough characters and macho personalities. It’s poorly regulated, has been manipulated by criminals, and is frequently corrupt. A huge number of participants have met untimely ends, and not always in the ring. Fighters frequently fall victim to drugs and alcohol. Performance-enhancing drugs are prevalent. It really is a rough world.

Michael Dokes is a famous example of a fighter caught up in the seedier side of the business. It kept him from performing to his impressive potential. But even with a “disappointing” career, Dokes managed to fight professionally for 21 years, and stepped into the ring with a multitude of top contenders. He managed to win an alphabet belt, won the Comeback of the Year Award from the Ring Magazine in 1988, and was one half of arguably the best heavyweight fight of the 1980s.

Dokes came out of Akron, Ohio, and had a sterling amateur career, compiling a record of 147-7. He won multiple amateur titles at light heavyweight and heavyweight, including the 1976 Heavyweight Golden Gloves. That title included victories over future professional beltholders Greg Page and John Tate. He would lose in the Olympic qualifiers against Tate in a rematch in 1976, and would just miss out on a great American Olympic team.

Dokes would shrug off his Olympic rejection, and turn pro in October 1976. He would start his career impressively, scoring 17 straight wins (8 by knockout) to kick off his pro career. That run included a decision victory over former contender (and still crafty) Jimmy Young. In April 1980, Dokes would suffer his first setback, being held to a draw against fringe contender Ossie Ocasio. Two months later, the man known as “Dynamite” would gain revenge, blasting Ocasio out in 1 painful round. Two fights later, and Dokes would outpoint fellow prospect Randall “Tex” Cobb over 10. By this point, Dokes had filled out from his initial slender physique from the start of his career, and was fighting between 212 and 216 pounds. His power improved, and he began doing more damage, to go along with his fast hands.

Dokes would sport a 25-0-1(14) record and a top 3 ranking going into his December 1982 match with fellow top 3 contender (and WBA beltholder) Mike Weaver. Dokes jumped on the slow-starting Weaver quickly, and put Weaver down with a pair of left hooks in the first round. Weaver appeared to recover well, and wasn’t badly hurt. However, Dokes pressured him into the ropes and went for the kill immediately. Weaver was covering up, and not taking too much punishment, when referee Joey Curtis apparently panicked and stopped the fight. Weaver’s camp protested, and a fight broke out between the fighter’s corners in the ring. Most agreed that Weaver was in no immediate danger, including the ring doctor. Nevertheless, Dokes officially scored a first round TKO over a top contender and titlist. Dokes became the number 1 contender, second only to Champion Larry Holmes.

Due to the nature of the last fight, Dokes and Weaver agreed to do it again. May 1983, the two men went toe-to-toe for 15 exciting rounds. After injuring his thumb in the 3rd round, Dokes’ jab seemed to slow, and Weaver’s pressure started getting to Dokes. Dynamite never quit, but Weaver appeared to get the better of him later in the fight. Most observers scored the fight as a Weaver victory by 2 or 3 rounds. They were angered when a draw was declared. Dokes retained the WBA belt in controversial fashion, albeit a different type of controversy from their last go-round.

Dokes was now a name in the boxing world, for reasons both good and bad. But he was definitely a top heavyweight. Taking on number 3 ranked South African banger Gerrie Coetzee, Dokes was a significant favorite. But Dokes fought surprisingly poorly in what was meant to be something of a homecoming fight. The limited but powerful Coetzee dropped Dokes with his vaunted right hand in the 5th, and then again for the count in the 10th. Ring Magazine called it their Upset of the Year for 1983. Dokes admitted he was unprepared for the fight having “trained on Jack Daniels and cocaine.”

Dokes took almost a year off, and spent much of the time in between Coetzee and his comeback partying. Cocaine, marijuana, alcohol…. he just used and wasted money, and blew away his winnings. He would keep fighting, but mostly journeymen. He did score an unsatisfying technical decision over Tex Cobb in a rematch in 1985. Otherwise, he was just treading water, and faded out of contention, and into the criminal justice system.

After the Cobb fight, Dokes would be inactive for more than two years. He ballooned in weight, spent a couple months in jail, and was in general, a mess. But in boxing, there’s always a comeback just around the corner. In this case, Dokes stepped back into the ring in December 1987, now weighing 245 pounds. Over the next year, he would fight his way back into shape, and gradually back into contention. One year into his comeback, Dokes would have eight straight wins under his belt, and a shot at former unified cruiserweight champion and (new heavyweight contender) Evander Holyfield.

Dokes had been worn down by drug use and late nights, and a career not exactly conducive to long-term health. But he forced himself into shape, and in March 1989, Dokes and Holyfield went to war. Dokes put on his last great performance, taking the fight to the younger, fresher man, and forcing Holyfield to brawl. Dokes didn’t move as well as he did in his prime, but his hands were still fast, and he stayed competitive in a classic fight.

After 9 rounds, Holyfield was ahead on the cards, but the fight itself was contested on even terms. But youth would prevail, and Holyfield would break through in the 10th, catching Dokes with a pair of big left hooks that drove him into the ropes and out on his feet. Richard Steele stepped in and stopped the fight.

It was arguably Dokes’ finest hour, and it was still a loss. He could hold his head high, and was a legit contender once again. But the demons remained, and Dokes would continue to struggle with drug use. Four straight wins over uninspiring opponents would follow, along with arrests for possession. Dokes would take on Canadian power puncher Donovan “Razor” Ruddock in April 1990, and was overweight, undertrained, and distracted. Ruddock absolutely trucked Dokes, knocking him completely unconscious in the 4th round.

But a clear pattern had emerged with Dokes, and he seemed hellbent on repeating it. A big loss, followed by a break, wins over relative nobodies, leading to another big loss. Rinse and repeat.

And sure enough, over a year would pass without a fight, then Dokes would start taking on journeymen in rapid succession. Nine straight wins would lead to an embarrassing 1st round blowout loss to heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe. Dokes had no business being in the ring that night, and Bowe proved it.

Dokes would take off another year and change, and this time he was fighting around 280 pounds. He beat a trio of clubfighters in 1995 and 1996, and then finally ceased to even be able to beat that level, losing twice in 1997 to non-contenders.

In 1998, the troubled Dokes brutally assaulted his girlfriend, and after two years of legal wrangling, would be sent to prison, where he remained until 2008. He returned home to Akron upon his release, and managed to get by on his name, signing autographs and appearing at events. He died in 2012 of liver cancer at the age of 54.

Boxing claimed yet another victim. The lifestyle chewed him up and spat him out. But Dokes was talented enough that he still managed to carve out a good career.

An excellent profile on Dokes can be found at the link below:

 

http://thecruelestsport.com/2015/08/12/one-long-season-in-hell-michael-dokes-1958-2012/

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Number 173 – Lem Franklin

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Lem Franklin (tied for 173)
Mobile, Alabama, USA
May 30, 1916 – August 3, 1944
6’2” / 76″ reach / 190-210 lbs
32-13-1-2(28) from 07/30/1937 to 07/24/1944 (7y0m)

1-5-0-0(1) against the top ten – #142 total and #157 +/-
0-0-0-0(0) against linear champions – #89 total and #175 +/-
1-0-0-0(1) against hall-of-famers – #58 total and #35 +/-
No fights for the linear championship

Top ten opponents: W-TKO-5 Abe Simon, L-KO-8 Bob Pastor, L-KO-1 Harry Bobo, L-KO-10, L-KO-8 Lee Savold, L-UD-10 Gus Dorazio

-1 total score (1 + -4+ 0 + 2)

Lem Franklin is a fighter that seems to have been largely forgotten. However, for a few brief years he was not only a top contender, but a feared puncher and was acknowledged as a scary opponent. He also is another fighter on this list whose career ended in tragedy.

“Lammin'” Lem’s (they don’t make nicknames like that anymore) professional career started inauspiciously, with a majority decision loss to fellow prospect Paul Williams. His early career from mid 1937 until the end of 1938 was a learning experience, featuring more losses than we normally see from modern boxing prospects. Franklin would start off 8-3-0-1(7), including a no contest against Paul Williams, and a brutal loss to journeyman Eddie Simms.

Following the Simms loss, Lem would bounce back, scoring a quick knockout over future contender Lee Savold, and a decision win over another future contender in Abe Simon. He would then lose to yet another future contender, a decision against Tony Musto. Had those three fights occurred a few years later, his ranking here might be quite a bit higher.

He would take a few months off following that loss, and come back fighting to a draw against Clarence Brown. Another loss to Eddie Simms, and a no-contest against Andy Miller would occur soon after, but be mixed in with wins over prospect Perk Daniels and fringe contenders Buddy Millard and Willie Reddish. Franklin would go on a tear through 1940 and 1941, beating an array of fringe contenders, prospects, and tough journeymen. In July 1941, Lem would mount a rousing comeback to stop future top contender (and future Hall-of-Famer) Jimmy Bivins nine rounds into an exciting fight. Less than a month later, he would finally get a win over Eddie Simms, knocking him out in 7. He would then obilterate future contender Curtis Sheppard in 5, blast out Tony Musto in 2, and then smash Abe Simon in 5. That win over Simon was his first win over a currently-ranked contender. At that point, it was October 1941, and Franklin was on a heck of a roll. He would finish the year ranked number 2 in the division, just behind Billy Conn and champion Joe Louis. He had won 16 straight fights, including 14 by knockout. He was pushing hard for a shot at Louis, following the Simon win, and was confidently predicting a victory, should the shot arrive.

Of course, this is boxing, and boxing is nothing if not cruel to almost all its participants. Franklin’s success would not last. Two more wins would start 1942, but then his career would unravel quickly. Bob Pastor knocked Lem out in 8 rounds in late February. One month later, Franklin and Harry Bobo would exchange knockdowns in the first round, but Bobo would score more of them, winning in that very first round. Three months after that, prospect Joe Muscato would score a first round TKO over Lem.

Three straight knockout losses immediately following a number 2 ranking was discouraging to say the least. A sixth month layoff followed, and then a quick knockout win over Altus Allen helped put Lem back into the win column. He would then rematch Lee Savold, who himself was now a legit contender. Franklin started strong, dropping Savold early, and building a big points lead. But by the eight round, Savold had turned the tide, and was beating Franklin up. In the 10th, a huge right hand landed for Lee, and put Lem down for the count. A third fight between the two men occurred just two months later. This time, Franklin started strong again, scoring knockdowns in the first and second, but he wilted faster than before, and Savold knocked him out in the eighth.

Two more months followed, and this time Lem lasted the distance, but still lost, to top contender Gus Dorazio. Two more months, and this time he couldn’t keep his feet, getting knocked out for the ten count by Dan Merritt, a club fighter with a losing record. He dropped Merritt hard twice in the first, but walked right into a sloppy right hand that ended things in that first round.

His punch resistance was seemingly shot, he had lost 4 in a row, and 7 out of 8. And now he had been stopped in 1 by a clubfighter. Franklin officially announced his retirement after the Merritt debacle.

But the lure of the ring is a strong one. Comebacks are common. Franklin decided to try one just 11 months after losing to Dan Merritt.  And in this case, his comeback would be a tragic mistake. In July 1944, Franklin made a comeback attempt against 8-6-3 Colion Chaney. It was a barnburner of a scrap, with both fighters tasting the canvas. Franklin prevailed in 5 rounds, but his chin was still clearly a liability.

Just three weeks later, Franklin was in the ring with veteran gatekeeper Larry Lane. Lane was a stocky, strong fighter with a reasonably good punch, but he wasn’t a world-beater. Nonetheless, he had too much for Franklin to handle at this point, and he knocked Franklin after in nine tough rounds. Franklin would remain unconscious for an hour, and would suffer a brain injury that would kill him less than two weeks later.

“Lammin'” Lem Franklin was a good fighter who suffered from some bad luck early, and a lot of bad luck later. He beat some good opponents who were not quite yet legitimate contenders when he got to them. His punch resistance faded pretty quickly through his career, and may have led to his untimely death. Considering how his comeback went, it was probably ill-advised. But for a time, he was a scary fighter with a huge punch. He made for exciting fights, and gave his all every time out. And of course, that nickname.

Lem Franklin deserves to be remembered.

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Number 174 – Joe Erskine

Joe_Erskine3

from boxrec.com

Joe Erskine (tied for 173)
Cardiff, Wales, UK
January 26, 1934 – February 2, 1990
5’11” / 190-212 lbs
45-8-1-0(13) from 03/09/1954 to 10/27/1964 (10y7m)

1-5-0-0(1) against the top ten – #142 total and #157 +/-
0-1-0-0(0) against linear champions – #89 total and #58 +/-
1-1-0-0(0) against hall-of-famers – #58 total and #35 +/-
No fights for the linear championship

Top ten opponents: W-UD-10 Willie Pastrano, L-TKO-13 Ingemar Johansson, L-TKO-12, L-TKO-5, L-TKO-9 Henry Cooper, L-UD-10 Karl Mildenberger

-1 total score (1 + -4+ 0 + 2)

Joe Erskine came along during a rather deep era for British heavyweights. Henry Cooper, Dick Richardson, Don Cockell, Jack Bodell, Joe Bygraves, and Brian London all roamed the heavyweight division, each contending at or near a world-class level. And Erskine faced almost all of them.

Erskine was a smallish heavyweight with good speed and underrated slickness. He was a deceptively nimble boxer, and had received quite a bit of praise from American trainers, including Muhammad Ali’s trainer, Angelo Dundee. It was generally agreed what held Erskine back from greatness was his relatively small stature and lack of a big punch.

After a lengthy and successful amateur career, Erskine turned pro in 1954. Over his first three years, he would amass a 29-0-1(10) record. His best wins during this span included 10 round decisions over young versions of Henry Cooper and Dick Richardson, and a 15 round decision over Johnny Williams for the British Heavyweight title.

It should also be noted that he fought Simon Templar and Ansell Adams back to back. When I came across those names in boxrec.com, I assumed it was a prank or an error. But the best I was able to ascertain, there were indeed two heavyweight boxers in the late 1950s by those names. I figured that the Saint could probably handle himself in the ring, but I guessed that Adams should probably have stuck with photography.

But I digress.

Erskine finally lost when he stepped up against longtime contender Nino Valdes in his 31st pro fight. Valdes caught him early with a big shot, dropping him 30 seconds into the contest. Erskine was up before 10, but the big Cuban poured on the pressure, and forced the stoppage in the first round.

Erskine bounced back quickly, beating Peter Bates three months later. He then decisioned Henry Cooper in a defense of the British title, and then Joe Bygraves immediately after. This led to what would essentially amount to a title eliminator against up-and-coming Swedish banger Ingemar Johansson. The winner of the fight was promised a shot at Floyd Patterson. Johansson would prove to be too big, too skilled, and too powerful. He imposed his size and strength on Erskine from the beginning, and was way ahead on points when he finally chopped Erskine down in the 13th round.

Four months later, Erskine would take on regional rival Brian London, and would be surprisingly knocked out in just 8 rounds by his fellow Brit. Erskine would take 5 months off, and return with a win over a club fighter in a get-well fight. He would then notch his first win over a top contender, beating former light heavyweight champion Willie Pastrano via 10 round decision. Two more 10 round wins would bring Erskine back into the ring against old for Henry Cooper, in November 1959. This time, Cooper was no longer green and inexperienced. Henry took the fight to Erskine, and battered him into submission in the 12th round.

A rare knockout ten months later against a journeyman followed, and then a decision over German fringe contender Ulli Ritter. These wins pushed Joe back into the ring for a fourth fight with Henry Cooper. And this time, Cooper blew him away with easy, dominating the fight with just his jab, slicing Erskine up and forcing him to quit after 5 rounds.

Erskine was looking like a potentially spent force, but he still had some fight left in him. He would score a disqualification win over rising prospect George Chuvalo after 5 rounds, in a rough fight. He would then face Cooper once more, and once again Cooper would blow Erskine away, taking 9 rounds this time.

After the 5th match with Cooper, Erskine would fade from contention, posting a 6-2(1) record against solid competition over the next two years. Joe would retire after a 10 round loss to British prospect Johnny Walker.

Erskine is a good example of a heavyweight who might have benefited from having a cruiserweight division. He gave great fighters tough fights, and was surprisingly quick and skilled. But he was always just a bit underpowered against the best of the big men.

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Number 175 – Joe Kahut

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from findagrave.com

Joe Kahut (tied for 173)
Woodburn, Oregon, USA
June 22, 1923 – October 4, 1990
5’10” / 145-189 lbs
58-27-7-1(38) from 01/17/1941 to 01/28/1954 (13y0m)

1-5-0-0(0) against the top ten – #142 total and #157 +/-
0-1-0-0(0) against linear champions – #89 total and #58 +/-
1-3-0-0(0) against hall-of-famers – #109 total and #96 +/-
No fights for the linear championship

Top ten opponents: W-SD-15 Joey Maxim, L-UD-10 Joey Maxim, L-UD-12 Rex Layne, L-KO-8 Ezzard Charles, L-UD-10 Cesar Brion, L-KO-2 Earl Walls

-1 total score (1 + -4+ 0 + 2)

The pride of Woodburn, Oregon started his career as a tall, lanky welterweight in 1941 at just 17 years old. He fought seven times over 6 months, scoring six wins and a draw, before taking 18 months off. Kahut returned in December 1942 fighting between middleweight and light heavyweight. He wouldn’t lose until his 26th fight, against the great Lloyd Marshall, at light heavyweight.

Fighting primarily in Portland, Oregon, Kahut would make his heavyweight debut in March 1945, knocking out a solid club fighter in Jack Huber, just 3 rounds into the contest. The formerly lanky boxer had filled out to a solid 180 pounds. He spent most of the year at heavyweight, but his final fight of 1945 occurred in a good win against Fitzie Fitzpatrick at light heavy, securing himself a top ten rating at 175.

Kahut was scheduled to face light heavyweight champion Gus Lesnevich in January 1946, but Kahut was struggling to make weight, and the fight was eventually changed to a non-title heavyweight bout. Lesnevich landed a good right hand early that shook Kahut, and he overwhelmed and stopped the Oregonian in the first round.

Kahut bounced back quickly, however, and would fight 9 more times that year, against both heavyweights and light heavyweights. He would beat Fitzie Fitzpatrick twice more, as well as fighting to a draw against him. He would lose for a second time against Costello Cruz. And Kahut would outpoint the much larger heavyweight former contender Freddie Schott.

Hovering around 180 pounds allowed Kahut to switch between the two largest divisions, but once 1947 started, he seemed to settle in as a smallish heavyweight for good. He would lose a close one against Bobby Zander, in 1947, then sit out until 1947, where he would lose to Bill Peterson and the great Joey Maxim. But Kahut would also knock Zander out in a return bout, and beat Roy Hawkins, Jerry McSwain, and even controversially edge Maxim in a rematch. The Maxim win was unpopular, but it did give Kahut his first top ten heavyweight scalp.

After that, Kahut would mostly face fringe contenders and regional favorites, usually in Portland. In 1950, Kahut would barely drop a decision to former contender Rusty Payne. He would also lose to Rex Layne, get beat up in a no-decision against Payne again, and lose decisions to Frank Buford, Ron Whittle, and Pat Comiskey, the last of which had been a contender years prior.

Kahut would settle into gatekeeper status from there. He would beat journeymen like Billy Carter (three times), and Bernie Reynolds, lose to greats like Ezzard Charles and good contenders like Cesar Brion and Freddie Beshore.

Kahut would fight on to 1954, where he ended his career losing three straight – a decision to Bill Boatsman, a quick knockout against Earl Walls, and a 9th round knockout to clubfighter Jimmy Byrne.

Kahut was never a great fighter, but he was a skilled boxer who was good enough to contend in two weight classes. As he aged, he provided a solid test for great fighters, and acted as a gatekeeper against those not good enough to reach contender status.

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Number 176 – Alejandro Lavorante

20100307215911!ALavorante61Alejandro Lavorante (tied for 173)
Mendoza, Argentina
October 25, 1936 – April 1, 1964
6’3” / 73″ reach / 202-212 lbs
19-5-0-0(15) from 09/22/1959 to 09/21/1962 (3y0m)

1-4-0-0(1) against the top ten – #142 total and #134 +/-
0-1-0-0(0) against linear champions – #89 total and #58 +/-
0-1-0-0(0) against hall-of-famers – #109 total and #60 +/-
No fights for the linear championship

Top ten opponents: W-KO-7 Zora Folley, L-UD-10 Roy Harris, L-SD-10 George Logan, L-TKO-10 Archie Moore, L-KO-5 Muhammad Ali

-1 total score (1 + -3+ 0 + 1)

Boxing is a dangerous sport. That’s about as obvious a statement as it gets. But it shouldn’t be taken for granted that this is a combat sport. Almost every sport that features strenuous physical activity has had participants suffer severe injuries, and even death.

Boxing is different from most sports, in that the entire point is that each event is a literal fistfight. And when two people fight, sometimes they get hurt. And yes, sometimes they die. Modern boxing, even as unregulated corrupt, and chaotic as it can be, still includes safeguards against tragedy. Participants are subject to regular physicals, commissions attempt to keep an eye on the safety of events, and doctors are present at each fight. It could be much worse.

However, when two people are actively trying to hurt one another, sometimes they succeed more than anticipated. Ring deaths have occurred throughout history, and occasionally to well-known boxers. This ranking will include a handful of fighters who died due to ring-inflicted injuries. There are also a few that caused such injury themselves.

Alejandro Lavorante is one such fighter. Lavorante came out of Argentina, with an underrated boxing culture, including a handful of heavyweight greats. Lavorante was a tall, strong prospect, considered by many to be the most promising young heavyweight to hail from Argentina since Luis Firpo some 30 years earlier. He was “discovered” by Firpo’s conqueror Jack Dempsey while he was fighting as an amateur in Venezuela.

Lavorante came to the States and turned pro in 1959, fighting mostly around San Antonio, Texas. He dominated the usual journeymen in his first four fights, but then, quite strangely, was thrown in against a legitimate top ten heavyweight in just his fifth pro fight. Roy Harris had lost in a bid for Floyd Patterson’s heavyweight title a year earlier, and demonstrated his ceiling in that stoppage loss, Nonetheless, he was one of the top ten heavies in the world, and far more experienced than Lavorante. Harris won a wide decision over 10 rounds, outclassing his novice foe.

Lavorante learned a great deal from the experience, and moved on from the loss with renewed fire. Over the next year, he blew away eight journeymen, including tough veterans like Duke Sabedong and Tunney Hunsaker. This led to May 11, 1961. The 12-1 Lavorante stepped into the ring against his second top-ten foe, Zora Folley, The slick and talented Folley had been waiting for some time to get a shot at Floyd Patterson’s title. He suffered a few losses along the way, but maintained his status near the top of the division. He figured to stay busy against a tough but limited opponent in Lavorante. Instead, Lavorante overwhelmed the older man, dropping Folley four times in the 6th and 7th rounds, winning by KO in 7. This win catapulted Lavorante into the top ten, and his handlers reportedly offered champion Floyd Patterson a fight with the Argentine sensation. That fight never came to fruition, but he stayed busy, beating five journeymen in as many months, before facing fellow contender George Logan in December ’61. In Logan’s hometown of Boise, Lavorante was arguably robbed, losing a narrow 10 round split decision. The debatable loss didn’t hurt Alejandro too badly in overall esteem, and he ended 1961 with his top ten ranking intact.

March 1962 was a different story. Lavorante took his 19-2 record into the ring against 214 fight veteran, light heavyweight champion, and boxing legend Archie Moore. The Old Mongoose was 45 years old, and while clearly a diminished force, had forgotten more about boxing than Lavorante could even imagine. Despite size and youth advantages, Moore used his savvy, defense, and underrated physical tools to take the much younger man apart. Moore beat Lavorante to a pulp, and stopped him in ten one-sided rounds. Lavorante was taken from the ring on a stretcher. The loss to Moore did not lead to a rebuilding phase the way we might see now. Instead, Lavorante was sent into battle less than four months later against a rising young contender named Cassius Clay, who you may have heard of. Clay was far too clever and fast for Lavorante, and he punished him, dropping him twice in the 5th, prompting a referee stoppage.

At this point, the two brutal losses just four months apart were cause for concern. A long break would have been warranted, and an honest appraisal of the situation could have led to retirement. Instead, Lavorante’s team decided to jump back in just two months later, this time against an admittedly lesser foe. Journeyman John Riggins was likely considered a “get-well” fight. And for most of five rounds, it seemed to go that way, with Lavorante winning handily. But late in the 5th, Riggins landed a big shot that hurt badly, and Lavorante wasn’t the same in the 6th, being wobbled repeatedly throughout the round. He was finally dropped and counted out, courtesy of a left hook.

At that point, Lavorante fell unconscious, and was taken to the hospital, where he underwent brain surgery for multiple brain bleeds. He was in a coma for over a month, and eventually was brought to a state of semi-consciousness. He spent more than a year unable to open his eyes, though he did respond to some stimuli. Eventually, he died in his native Argentina, on April 1, 1964. He was just 27 years old.

It’s likely that Riggins himself may have been less responsible for Lavorante’s injuries than damage caused in two closely-spaced losses against talented opponents. Riggins just happened to be the last straw on an already-teetering structure.

Many boxing historians tend to scoff at the modern habit of elite boxers only fighting a few times a year. Certainly it makes it more difficult to hone one’s skills when taking 6 months between fights. However, there is something to be said for allowing the body to rest between punishing physical contests. It’s possible that Lavorante may have had a better shot at survival had he waited longer between the Moore and Clay fights. We will never know for certain. But it can be said that boxing is still a dangerous business. And Alejandro Lavorante – young, handsome, talented, and charismatic – paid the ultimate price for embracing that danger.

Here is a good piece detailing Lavorante’s short but exciting career:

http://www.boxing.com/lavorante_rocket_to_the_moon.html

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Number 177 – Alvin “Blue” Lewis

Lewis_Al_Blue

from boxrec.com

Alvin Lewis (tied for 173)
Detroit, Michigan, USA
1943
6’3” / 205-225 lbs
30-6-0-0(19) from 06/21/1966 to 11/14/1973 (7y5m)

1-4-0-0(1) against the top ten – #142 total and #134 +/-
0-1-0-0(0) against linear champions – #89 total and #58 +/-
0-1-0-0(0) against hall-of-famers – #109 total and #60 +/-
No fights for the linear championship

Top ten opponents: W-KO-2 Hector Corletti, L-TKO-9, L-SD-10 Leotis Martin, L-DQ-7 Oscar Bonavena, L-TKO-11 Muhammad Ali

-1 total score (1 + -3+ 0 + 1)

Alvin Lewis is something of a mystery. There isn’t a lot of biographical information on the man known as Blue available on the interwebs.

What is known is that he was a big heavyweight for his era, standing 6’3″, and weighing around 220 in his prime. He had some boxing skills and some power, although he wasn’t outstanding in either category.  He was also known to be a popular sparring partner, having provided sparring work for Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, as well as several other elite heavyweights of the era.

Blue turned pro in June 1966, and won 14 straight bouts over the next year-and-a half. He was upset in December ’67 by 12-11 journeyman Bob Stallings, finding himself stopped in 7 rounds.

Lewis would bounce back quickly, stopping a clubfighter in 7 rounds, four months later, and then rematching Stallings a month after that. This time, Blue won a 10 round decision, and could move on with his career.

In July 1968, Lewis got his first crack at a real contender, and impressed everyone, blowing away Eduardo Corletti in 2 rounds. He’d win a third fight over Bob Stallings, then take on contender Leotis Martin that November. Lewis started out well, dropping the smaller man with the first punch thrown in the fight. But Martin was a smart and crafty boxer, and gradually worked his way back into the fight. He wore Lewis down, and put him on the canvas three times in the 9th to score the stoppage.

Lewis got a shot at immediate redemption, taking a rematch with Martin just three months later. This time, the fight went the distance, but once again, Blue couldn’t quite get past Martin, dropping a 10 round split nod.

Lewis would spend the next couple years working his way back into contention. He won 7 straight, including a knockout over a faded Cleveland Williams. In October 1971, those wins led to a fight with contender Oscar Bonavena. Blue fought well, and held his own, but managed to lose by disqualification in the 7th round.

His performance was solid enough to merit a shot at his former sparring partner (and former champ) Muhammad Ali. The Greatest was on the comeback trail from his loss to Joe Frazier the previous year, and was doing something of a world tour, facing mostly elite opposition. He picked Blue as his dance partner for a fight in Ireland, of all places. The fight itself was the subject of a fun documentary, When Ali Came to Ireland. It also was relatively one sided. Blue came to fight, and occasionally disrupted Ali’s rhythm with sporadic charges. But Ali was in a different class. He knocked Lewis down hard at the end of the 5th round, and had the knockdown occurred with a bit more time in the round, he might have stopped him there. Lewis would endure for a while longer, but Ali gradually took him apart, and forced a referee stoppage in the 11th.

The loss to Ali ended Blue’s time as a contender. He would score a win in his next fight, but then lose to fringe contender (and future actor) Jack O’Halloran in a bit of a surprise. Blue would follow it up with three more wins to close out 1973, but none were against serious contenders.

After that, as mentioned above, I don’t have much information on Lewis, except that he is considered a respected trainer these days in Detroit. And for a few years in the middle of the heavyweight golden age of the late 60s through early 70s, Al “Blue” Lewis was a significant name and occasional contender. He got to fight Ali, and was one half of a good documentary (albeit one that didn’t spend much time on him). If I discover more about the man as I write these, I will update it here.

Posted in boxing, heavyweights, history, The 200 Greatest Heavyweights | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment