22.06.06 - By Geoffrey Ciani: Over the past twenty years, the heavyweight division has seen an abundance of talent. To be sure, this period probably did not represent the best twenty year span in the division’s history, but on the flip-side, neither did it represent the worst. Overall, I think there were some pretty talented fighters during this duration.
Article posted on 23.06.2006
We can look back upon certain eras in the history of the sport and discover that certain names have lasted the test of time. Names such as: Jack Johnson, Jack Demsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, and Larry Holmes, just to name a few. These are names that have survived the test of time. As long as there are fans of heavyweight boxing, it is unlikely that these pugilists will ever be forgotten. These fighters have established a legacy.
So, which fighters of the last twenty years are most likely to be remembered in the long haul? Which of these fighters have the best chance at establishing legacies of their own which will survive the test of time?
These are interesting questions to ponder, and I’ve taken it upon myself to try and shed some light on the subject. In terms of legacy, here’s what I would predict for a top ten in descending order:
10. Chris ‘Rapid Fire’ Byrd: Byrd was a small fighter, particularly in the era that he fought. Regardless, he was a talented fighter whose trademark was his defensive prowess. He was very elusive, and often made his opponents look foolish by making them miss with their punches. Byrd’s defensive wizardry enabled him to win a portion of the heavyweight throne.
However, what’s interesting to note about Byrd’s career is the fact that his championship reign was ugly, compared to the earlier portions of his career. After winning the vacant IBF title from an ancient Holyfield, Byrd was awarded a very controversial victory against Fres Oquendo, received a dubious draw against Andrew Golota, won a razor-thin margin against Jameel McCline, and was involved in a lackluster affair against DaVarryl Williamson before his reign came to a brutal end at the hands of career nemesis, Wladimir Klitschko.
Bottom Line: Few might remember that Byrd’s best performances occurred before he became champion, but he will be remembered for a man who made the best of what he had, given his small size.
9. John ‘The Quiet Man’ Ruiz: It’s sad to think that a fighter who was once knocked out in under twenty seconds (including the ten count) would somehow manage to establish any meaningful legacy beyond that infamous feat. However, John Ruiz indeed came back from that shellacking to win a portion of the heavyweight crown by defeating Evander Holyfield in the midst of the most unmemorable trilogy in heavyweight championship history! Regardless, Ruiz has already established a legacy of his own.
Mush of what Ruiz will be remembered for is finding new and unusual ways to hold on to his title. The man has done at all, whether winning because his opponent was DQ’d, winning by initiating a record number of clinches, receiving the gift end of a questionable decision, or having your title handed back to you after a loss because your opponent failed his drug test after the fact. That in itself is truly an amazing feat. Add to this, the fact that Ruiz was the only heavyweight champion to twice lose his title to former middleweights, and this helps solidify an already unusually bizarre career. Oh yeah, and he was also the first ever Latino heavyweight champion (although this is debatable to some).
Bottom Line: Ruiz will be remembered as one of the least talented heavyweight champions of all-time, which is better than being forgotten for having no talent.
8. Michael ‘Double M’ Moorer: Michael Moorer was a solid fighter who first shocked the world when he defeated Evander Holyfield for two-thirds of the heavyweight title. In his very next fight, he would lose that very same title to “Big” George Foreman, but he would once again win back a portion of the heavyweight title when he defeated Axel Shultz. Finally, Moorer would go full-circle, as he would then lose it to the man he had originally captured it from, that being Evander Real Dead Holyfield.
Despite having been a talented fighter at his best, Moorer won’t be remembered for that, nor will he likely be remembered for beating Holyfield, especially in light of the fact he would lose their rematch decisively. What Moorer will best be remembered for is losing a fight which he had dominated against an old man who sells grills.
Bottom Line: Will be remembered as the 26 year old champion who was de-throned by a 45 year old George Foreman.
7. Vitali ‘Dr. Ironfist’ Klitschko: On one hand, I think the nickname Doctor Ironfist is worth remembering in and of itself. But on a more serious note, there was a time when the elder Klitschko was widely considered the best fighter in the heavyweight division. This, of course, came about after the retirement of Lennox Lewis, where most assumed that Vitali’s wear’em down, break’em down style would enable him to beat the best the division had to offer.
Strangely enough, despite the fact Vitali was widely regarded as the best of the bunch, if even for a short time, he will probably be better remembered for his only two losses. He was forced to quit in a bout he was winning against Byrd when his torn rotator cuff could no longer handle the heat. He was once again stopped in a bout he was winning when he faced Lennox Lewis, in what wound up being Lewis’s farewell bout.
Bottom Line: Will be best remembered for his body failing him during his toughest tests: first against Byrd, next against Lewis, and finally against time, when he was forced to retire early due to multiple injuries he sustained.
6. ‘Big’ George Foreman: Foreman was once a menacing force known for brutally knocking out any opponent who dared get in his way, but this was back in the early 1970s! One it was first announced that “Big” George was making a return to the ring after having been retired for ten years, few people took him seriously. However, it wasn’t long before Foreman once again began knocking out any opponent who was placed in front of him, albeit, this time around, the opponents were of an inferior quality.
After Foreman lost a shot at the undisputed championship against Evander Holyfield, people figured his second career was coming to an end. Shame on them! It wasn’t long before “Big” George would get another title shot, this time, against the aforementioned, Michael “Double M” Moorer. In an unlikely event, Foreman would knock Moorer out after having lost nine straight rounds, enabling him to once again call himself “Heavyweight Champion of the World”. Better yet, this win gave Foreman the distinction of becoming the oldest man to ever win a portion of the heavyweight championship, and he did so at the ripe olf age of 45!
Bottom Line: Foreman’s name had already stood the time after his first career. That he became the oldest champion of all-time amplified his legacy; that he would go on to sell millions of grills under his name would only further amplify this.
To be continued…..