“He was a good puncher and once again he was a southpaw. He was more powerful than Naseem Hamed,” Tom “Boom Boom” Johnson speaking with Ring Magazine on Colombia’s Ever Beleno.
Dream Match-Ups. Mythical Match-Ups. They’re not your thing, right? But why? It’s always fascinating to suggest, to debate, to argue over what might or might not have gone down (as in who’d have gone down) if legendary fighter A had ran right into Fighter B. Let’s face it, the writings of most boxing publications have, over the years, from time to time, been literally littered with stuff of the Dream Fight hypothesis.
Be it Ali Vs.Tyson, Tyson Vs. Liston, Sugar Ray Vs. Sugar Ray (you know the TWO), Duran Vs. Mayweather, or any other mythical match-up a gifted scribe cares to conjure from his or her fertile mind of ‘what if’ possibilities, the subject continues to enthrall, to entertain.
That said, Ring Mag, as part of its “Best I Faced” feature, either consciously or unconsciously (take yer guess) has inspired a “Who Wins: Naseem Hamed Vs. Ever Beleno” debate-a-thon. It’s in no way meant to belittle the star of the “Best I Faced” feature that graces the latest issue/web page of “The Bible,” Tom Johnson, a truly fine fighter. Not at all. But Johnson – who KO’d Beleno and was KO’d by Hamed – says the Colombian was the hardest, or the best, puncher he ever faced.
Let the debate begin: was Beleno, who scored a quite impressive 35 KO’s during his 41 fight, 14-year pro career, a better banger, slugger, hitter, puncher than “The Prince,” who scored 31 KO’s during his 37 fight, 10-year pro career?
Beleno, a rugged sort of the toughest order (and a lefty as Tom is at pains to mention in the Ring article), went pro in February of 1989, and went on to compile a 23-0 record (all but two wins coming by KO) before losing on points in a failed WBA featherweight title challenge of the accomplished Young Kyun Park, in December of 1992.
After that setback, Beleno reeled off nine further wins, all but one by KO – before he faced Johnson in March of 1996, being stopped in a bid for the IBF 126 pound crown held by “Boom Boom.” On the way to his fights with Park and Johnson, Beleno had not faced, much less beaten, a formidable fighter; an easily recognizably named fighter. Instead, Beleno had defeated guys with either losing records: 1-24, 0-1-1, 0-2-0 for three pre-Park examples, and 0-4 and 7-19 to produce two examples of Beleno’s pre-Johnson level of opposition.
Yes, Beleno did meet better quality of opposition than this during his career (his June ’91 win over future WBO champ Ruben Palacio for example), but the fact is, he never, ever fought fighters as good as either Hamed himself or the guys Hamed wiped out. Now, Beleno may well have hit and hurt Johnson harder than any other fighter managed, as he says in the Ring feature) – but no way did the tough, raw, gutsy and powerful Colombian southpaw crack as hard, or as proficiently, as the lefty from The Steel City did. No way.
Here, there really is no comparison. No Dream. Had Hamed got it on with Beleno during his featherweight prime, in, say, 1995, ’96, or ’97, there would have only been one winner. And this particular featherweight Dream Fight dust-up would have been over with quick.