It’s a common theme: every former great champion believes the current best in the world would not have been able to live with the high level of competition that was around in his day. Recently, heavyweight legend Larry Holmes stated how the best big men of today do not possess the kind of skills he and his ring rivals had. Mike Tyson has also stated in the past that none of today’s best would have lived with him when he was in his prime.
There are plenty of other former heavyweight rulers who feel the same way – that today’s best would “not have lived” in their era. Tim Witherspoon spoke with UK paper The Sun this week, and the former two-time heavyweight belt-holder is the latest to come out with the “they wouldn’t have lasted in my era” spiel. A great fighter is of course entitled to his opinion, and Philly’s Witherspoon does make some good points.
Witherspoon – who faced the best, including Holmes, Greg Page, Frank Bruno, Ray Mercer, Bonecrusher Smith, Tony Tubbs, and Pinklon Thomas – especially laid into former WBC heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder.
“But a lot of boxers today the thing is they wouldn’t even last if they were fighting in our era,” Witherspoon said. “Look at the guys Deontay Wilder has fought – all 30 or 40 of them wouldn’t have got okayed by the Commission to fight me if it was back then. He’s got a good right hand but the boxers he’s fought they wouldn’t even let me fight them nor Mike Tyson or [Evander] Holyfield. Same thing with Tyson Fury, there’s not enough really tough heavyweights out there today on our level. I was really happy when the Commission told me that I can’t fight four guys that they let Mike Tyson fight! When I found that out it kind of motivated me. I’m proud of that.”
I wonder who the four guys are that the Commission elbowed as far as facing ‘Spoon but were allowed to fight Tyson? But that’s another story. Witherspoon, who went on to say he wishes he earned the kind of money today’s heavyweights are earning (this another common theme from former champs when they talk about today’s best) certainly was a great fighter on his best night (see his close and controversial decision loss to Holmes from 1983). But Tim did look pretty ordinary in a number of his fights, this when he was not in proper shape.
The thought of the best version of Witherspoon fighting a Fury, a Wilder, a Joshua or a Usyk is intriguing, yet do we all agree Witherspoon would have come out on top? I suspect we don’t all agree. Witherspoon had it tough on the way up, as he spoke about in The Sun article, but did he have the dedication needed to stay on top once he got there? Each era in boxing has its stars, its best fighters, and it’s impossible to say what would have happened had fighters from different times met. But guys like Witherspoon, Holmes, Tyson, Riddick Bowe, and so many more sure do love to tell us all how they had it the toughest when they were doing the fighting.
Don’t be at all surprised when, some years from now, a retired Tyson Fury is doing the exact same thing.