Video: A Timeline of “Shadow” Heavyweight Champions

Just about anyone, boxing fan or not, can tell you who Muhammad Ali or Mike Tyson are, but can they tell you who Jersey Joe Walcott is? Sonny Liston? Larry Holmes? Sadly, as time passes, some names of notoriety fall to the sidelines due to the overall impact that the higher-tier legends have left.

Today’s expo features the heavyweight division, specifically, the heroes who were denied their capes. They were unfairly cast into the shadows of their contemporary “People’s Champion”, despite being as great in the ring, if not better. I personally feel that this trend began in the era of the “Manassa Mauler” Jack Dempsey (though some may argue in favor of the Jack Johnson era).

Dempsey was the man of the people, from rags to riches as the Great Depression loomed. The public refused to accept any other man over their hero, much to the dismay of Dempsey’s shadow Gene Tunney. “The Fighting Marine” was a thinking man, a scholar of sorts, a private man, an “elite” (by extension anyway); most importantly, Tunney was the man who had “Kid Blackie’s” number, toppling him in a clash of styles twice. He was the opposite of what the face of the hurt business was projected to be and serves as the beginning of our lineage, a lineage that continues to this day and features names like Ezzard Charles, Floyd Patterson, and Wladimir Klitschko.

Though Gene Tunney provided a solid blueprint for the “cursed” shadow, the role would not prove to be as peachy for his unfortunate “successors” to come. Some of our heroes did manage to escape their shadows and even cast shadows of their own, but others remained unsung heroes. There were also some that actually enjoyed not being in the constant spotlight of the public, casually avoiding the pressure and expectations that come with being a global icon. Sadly, there are names who did manage to, perhaps, “prove” they were worthy of being the “People’s Champion”, but were still denied such royalty. Then, there were names who were “used” by the boxing public; they cheered for them just because they hated the other man that much and then cast them aside when they found no more use for them. The only thing on par with the pain and pressure of the hurt business has always been the pain and pressure of the press and fans.

To be acknowledged by one’s peers and fans must be organic; then again, these warriors could probably care less about the opinions of those who’ve never laced a pair of gloves or stepped into the squared-circle to execute their branch of the sweet science…probably. Either way, don’t forget to show some love to all champions, past and present.

Who do you believe to be the most underrated and underappreciated heavyweight champion of all time?

Boxing fans, this is: “A Timeline of “Shadow” Heavyweight Champions”. Enjoy the video.

Written, narrated, and produced by TheCharlesJackson.