The perfect heavyweight
At his best, Mike Tyson was the most feared boxer on earth. At that time he was highly rated by many experts. But was he great? Feared indeed.
Lennox Lewis has indicated that he’d like to be remembered, after 8 June 2002, as one of the best heavyweights in history.
Boxing has produced some brilliant heavyweights, a number of good ones and a lot who should not be mentioned in the same breath. But will there ever be a perfect heavyweight?
There may be, because sports freaks have been born, but it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a perfect heavyweight.
To tell the greats from the also-boxed one has to consider a number of factors. One should draw up a list of “ingredients” needed to make the dream heavyweight. That can be done by taking a dozen or so of the best heavies from the immediate past and put together an “identikit” of their best attributes.
I have tried this, considering only boxers from the post-war years as it is just about impossible to go through the whole division from John L Sullivan to Anthony Joshua.
So, remembering that boxing writers, commentators and fans are as imperfect as the boxers, let’s make a list of what a good heavy needs and who had a good supply of it:
AGGRESSION — Rocky Marciano. From the boxing dictionary he knew the word “attack” best. He seldom took a backward step and would throw a continuous barrage of punches until he wore his opponent down. In the ring he was more aggressive than even Tyson.
COMPOSURE — Larry Holmes. He was always composed, calm and calculated as he set up his opponents with the jab. And even under pressure he could outsmart the best by not becoming flustered.
COUNTER-PUNCHING — Jersey Joe Walcott. Jersey Joe had this down to a fine art. His punches, thrown with perfect timing, continually caught his opponents immediately after they had thrown theirs.
COURAGE — Joe Frazier. As proved in his three memorable contests with Muhammad Ali, Joe had tremendous courage and determination. He had some other fine talents too, but his courage stood above them.
DEFENCE — Archie Moore. A light heavy who fought men such as Marciano and Floyd Paterson and remained active until well beyond the average age. Moore took surprisingly little punishment because of his ability to avoid blows and stop others with his gloves.
LEFT HOOK — Earnie Shavers. There have been few better exponents of this punch among the heavyweights. Delivered correctly it is one of the best punches in the book and Ernie knew how to deliver it.
LEFT JAB — Joe Louis. Joe’s jab was out of the instruction book. He delivered it straight from the shoulder and it carried jolting power. (The Bomber had so many attributes one could rate him in most sections.)
PHYSIQUE — Ken Norton. Heavyweights can be too big to be good boxers. As a super heavyweight, Norton had the ideal build, weighing around 100 kg and being 1,88m tall. He was big but mobile. One could also look at Anthony Joshua the Olympic gold medallist and IBF heavyweight champion.
PUNCHING POWER — George Foreman. In his prime George was a ferocious two-fisted puncher who bludgeoned opponents to defeat with sheer power. And well beyond his prime he was still knocking them cold.
RINGCRAFT — Muhammad Ali. As with Joe Louis, Ali could be rated in most sections. He lacked Louis’s explosive punching power, but was possibly the best tactician of all time and dictated contests with clever ring strategy.
RIGHT HAND — Sonny Liston. There have been many bangers with a devastating right, men who knocked out world champions. (Ask Lennox Lewis.) But the brooding Sonny, who could deliver the right hand with sledgehammer force, probably hit harder than anyone else with his right. Joe Louis was also a knockout artist with a 74 percent knockout ratio.
There you have it: the attributes I think will make the perfect heavyweight. It's unlikely there will ever be one. But one can dream; dream of one man with all these talents.