Raven’s All-Time Light Heavyweight’s & Cruiserweight’s By East Side Boxing’s Lee Hayes (Part II)


10.20.04 – 1. Archie Moore – You can make an argument that some of histories best light heavies would have beaten Moore, because he was susceptible to losses against fighters that could really move, like Ezzard Charles, and my guess Roy Jones (had they fought in the same era’s). Even Billy Conn might have given Moore troubles. Still, he’s the best ever because he would have KO’d just about everybody else, and nobody is perfect against every style. Moore was phenomenal to watch, and he goes against the stereo typical mold of a puncher, because punchers aren’t suppose to have longevity.

Most of his career endurance was due to his dedication and supreme conditioning, but some of it has to be attributed to the fact that Archie Moore just seemed born to fight, and more so, born to separate other men from their collective consciousness, like no other man in history. This is backed by the fact that Archie knocked out more men than any other fighter in the history of the sport, and there have been some great punchers. Moore won the title very late in his career (age thirty-nine by Archie’s count, but no more an expert on the enigma that was Moore, was his mother, who claimed him to actually be three full years older than he claimed. That would make him a remarkable 42 years old.) Add to this that Moore went on to reign as the king of the light heavies for more than nine years, and it’s obvious why Moore has earned his place as my number one selection. There simply isn’t anyone who was as dominant for as long.

2. Bob Foster – I’ve heard some make the argument that Foster reigned over a particularly barren division during his tenure as the best at light heavy, but I’ve always argued to the contraire. I challenge anyone to pick a more prestigious reign for any top light heavyweight in consideration. Sure, there may be a couple, but only a couple. Certianly Roy Jones Jr. has faced no better opposition than Foster, and he’s been competing at the top for longer. Conn certainly did not. You could make an argument for Ezzard Charles, and perhaps Archie Moore, but both of those fighters lost to good contemporaries, and Foster didn’t. Also, Foster’s attempt to fight the best heavyweights of his time is a noteworthy point, despite his lack of success. When evaluating fighters historically, I like to give credence to those that show up sometimes, just because of the courage it takes to do so. Heavyweights were the only problem Foster faced in the ring. In fact, he only lost one time at his natural weight, that being to Mauro Mina and that was a decision loss. Foster’s chin was very reliable at light heavyweight. People tend to forget that. He had the divisions greatest single punch in his short, compact left hook, and it would have been a threat to KO any other man on this top ten list.

3. Ezzard Charles – I rank Ezzard as probably the best all-around fighter on this list, because he had better hand speed than Moore or Foster, and he was more technically sound than perhaps everyone else besides, perhaps, Gene Tunney. He was a crisp combination puncher, and possessed excellent power at light heavyweight. If he only stayed at the division and dominated longer, he probably would have placed number one in this category. Victories over Joey Maxim (multiple times), Archie Moore (twice by decision and finally, remarkably by KO in the 8th round of their third fight), make Charles a virtual lock in for the top of anybodies top light heavy all-time list, but it’s truly difficult to encompass all that he was as a fighter. He really was a complete package.

4. Michael Spinks – Spinks, outside of Roy Jones, probably had the most unorthodox, awkward style of any one I considered for this list, but Spinks still combined the fundamentals, even in his own bizarre way (i.e. – the jab, and by staying off of the ropes). He had lightning fast hands, particularly his right cross over the top of his opponents guard, and his power was primarily in the same punch, A.K.A. “The Spinks Jinx”. Spinks had more than that though, he was always in terrific condition, and he followed his game plans to a tee (as he demonstrated in his unseating of then current heavyweight king, Larry Holmes). Some might say that Spinks deserved to be ranked higher, but I would have liked to have seen him go back down to light heavy after his loss to Mike Tyson, and show that Tyson was the only one that could put him down like that. I think he could have been successful, and that’s why he*s only fourth on the list.

5. Philadelphia Jack O’Brien – I’m, not only a boxing scribe, but an avid historian, and I would not be doing this ranking system any justice if I did not give Philadelphia Jack a high placement historically in the division. He was considered a professor of sorts, in regards to the technical skills applied to boxing, and he went on to become a very successful gym owner and trainer after his career ended.

6. Roy Jones Jr. – Recent events are probably going bode well for Roy’s historical placement. Not at least for several years, when the let down and disappointment subside. For some that may never come. For me, I’m going to be realistic and evaluate Jones accurately. None of the other fighters on this list had half the talent he possessed in his prime, and that’s a fact. None of these other fighters possessed his hand speed, and none of them dominated their era’s in as decisive a fashion as Roy. He went for almost a decade without even losing a round. That was through multiple weight divisions and high caliber opponents, at every level. No, he didn’t face a ton of hall of fame fighters all the way through his career, but he fought at least four. He would have given just about every other fighter on this list a run for their money in his prime, and that’s why he’s here.

7. Evander Holyfield – Holyfield is the lone cruiserweight to make my list, and there is a reason for that…simply, the light heavyweight division has been around for so much longer, and has been more financially lucrative in general since the cruiserweights emerged, that it’s only natural it would have the more competitive fighters to select from. Still, Holyfield was easily the choice for top cruiserweight of all-time, and in his prime in that division, he would have beaten at least half the other men on this list, and every other cruiserweight that ever lived. He was unstoppable, and unlike at heavyweight, at cruiserweight, Holyfield’s punch was near the top of the division, he could trade with guys and not worry about being out weighted like he was against Riddick Bowe.

8. Bob Fitzsimmons – ‘Fitzie’ really didn’t fight at light heavyweight long enough to garner more than an 8th place ranking, but he did possess the strongest body of the group, and he was nearly as good a puncher as Moore and Foster. He also had incredible, often referred to as “super human” recuperative powers, and was said to be the best body puncher of his era, in any weight class. “Ruby Robert” was a black smith by trade, and in doing such physical labor, he developed that large back muscles that usually only accompanied a full blown heavyweight. Outside of Jim J. Jefferies, Fitzsimmon’s was probably the best puncher, pound for pound of his time period. His power kept him in any fight. The fact that he was able to topple men at middleweight, and including a prime Jim J. Corbett, tells why he*s here and why he deserves mention in this group.

9. Gene Tunney – It’s funny, but if Gene had only stayed on as a light heavyweight, and not been tempted by the money for fighting Dempsey, he probably could have had a very prosperous career as a dominant light heavyweight. Perhaps he would have even given Ezzard Charles a run, if Charles had chosen the same path. He didn’t and either did Charles, but I can’t help but feel that Tunney probably would have out boxed the majority of the other fighters on this list. Still, he didn’t prove enough over his career at this weight to warrant a higher ranking. Pity.

10. Matthew Saad Muhammad – Matthew’s sort of my my wild card select. He was by no means perfect, and everyone else on this list is more talented by nature. Still, he offered so many thrilling bouts at this weight, and he was dominant enough during his prime to garner ranking, in my opinion. You don’t have to agree, but if you feel the choice is truly unjust, I simply ask that you review even 4 or 5 of his 10 title defenses (8 of which came by KO). The ironic thing about Saad’s career as that he was known primarily as a boxer early in his career. That is until he learned that his over hand cross (thrown more like a baseball pitch than a punch) was enough to win him most fights without all the dancing. In a way, we benefitted from his chose. He was everything that Arturo Gatti is to us now, and this is my way of honoring his career.

(Honorable Mention : Billy Conn, Harold Johnson & Maxie Rosenbloom)

All-Time ‘Best Puncher’ : Archie Moore – Some fighters are just born punchers, some perfect the science behind a knock out blow, Archie Moore had the natural talents, and the discipline to fine tune them like a perfectionist. Part of his punching prowess was because of his physical conditioning. He trained religiously. He kept his body weight at or around his prime fighting weight, even when not training. He believed that the basic to physical fitness was 800-1000 pushups and sit-ups daily. This fanatical work out system caused Moore’s forearms and triceps to become extrordinarily thick, and strong, allowing him to knock fighters out with either hand. “The Ol’ Mongoose” (as Moore was affectionately known as though out the boxing world) never came out swinging for the fences, like George Forman or Earnie Shavers. He was very economical with his punches, and preferred to ‘chop his man down’, slowly working him to the head or body. It is very noteworthy that with 145 KO’s to his record, that Moore has KO’d more men than any other fighter in any weight class. When you add to this, that Moore maintained his entire life, that he participated in several other early bouts that were not recorded…the numbers are astonishing. (Honourable Mention: Bob Foster)

All-Time ‘Best Hand Speed’: Roy Jones Jr. – Simply put, there has never been a light-heavyweight or cruiserweight with the same blistering hand speed as Jones. There have been quick fisted fighters, but Jones ranks in the all-time pound for pound category for hand speed, and that’s why he’s here. The fact that Jones had basically used a leaping left hook in place of a jab for the majority of his career, is not only a testament of his unorthodox style, but to his phenominal hand speed, which allowed him to get away with such bold maneuvers. (Honourable Mention: Michael Spinks)

All-Time ‘Best Boxer’ : Ezzard Charles – I think I already mentioned that Charles was probably the most complete fighter to compete in this weight range. That sums it up. (Honourable Mention: Gene Tunney)

All-Time ‘Best Jab’ : Gene Tunney – His jab was as good as any the sport has seen and it played an integral part of Tunney’s weapon selection. It was what got him past Harry Greb in their final fight, and it’s what set him apart from other brutes. Tunney has been mistakenly labelled as a “cutie” in the ring, but that is just simply not true. Sure, he danced all around Jack Dempsey, but Tunney went through several brutal slug fests as a light heavyweight, and outside of his early fights with Greb, he proved to be just as much a man as anyone else when standing toe to toe. He was probably historically under rated, due to his voluntary retirement while on top of the heavyweights. (Honourable Mention: Tie: Billy Conn/Bob Foster neither of these men’s jabs were even remotely similar, but next to Tunney, these guys used their jabs as their predominant weapon more than any other.)

All-Time ‘Best Hook’Bob Foster – It wasn’t suppose to be this way. Foster was almost a genetic freak the way he cranked out those short ranged left hooks at his terrorized opponents. Tall fighters like Foster, 6’3, with lanky bodies are suppose to feed long range jabs and right crosses as their bread an butter. Fighting exclusively on the outside for territorial advantage. Foster would have nothing of it. His left hook was a screecher, and if you weren’t a top heavyweight, it would make you crumble. Just ask Dick Tiger. (Honourable Mention: Roy Jones Jr.)

All-Time ‘Best Uppercut’Archie Moore – Moore’s uppercut was grand, and it was only a small part of the fast range of punches he perfected over his career. Still, if you look at old action pictures of Moore finishing off his opponent, he was hammering them to the ground with a final, brutal uppercut, just as often as any other punch. It was part of his finishing routine, and it was very effective. He probably had the hardest uppercut of anyone in his weight class, ever. (Honourable Mention: Bob Fitzimons)

All-Time ‘Best Chin’Gene Tunney – This was probably the hardest selection to make on this entire list, because there have been so many light heavyweights in history to possess excellent chins. The division holds it’s on proportionately to any other in history. Simply looking at this list justifies that statement. Still, I had to pick someone and since Tunney was flawless at light heavyweight, and could only really be roughhoused to a loss by one of the dirtiest, toughest fighters of all time, in Harry Greb, I’ve given Tunney the nod here. This one is probably debatable, and I’m open to any suggestions to the contrary. (Honourable Mention: Matthew Saad Muhammad (in his prime)

All-Time ‘Best Defence’Roy Jones Jr. – I’ll be the first to admit, this choice feels somewhat uncomfortable, still, I’m going with Jones, because no other fighter (including defensive wizards like Billy Conn, Gene Tunney and Ezzard Charles went as long as Roy Jones Jr. without so much as really being shaken or touched for that matter. Roy’s foot speed allowed him to go so long without competition, that we*ve all become shocked now that the spectacular show has come to an end. (Honourable Mention: Billy Conn)

All-Time ‘Best Combination Puncher’ : Archie Moore – He never came racing out of the shoot, eager to pour out his entire load on an impending for, Moore was much to wise and calculating for that. He took his time, breaking his opponent down, never taking a chance with stamina problems (not that he need worry, since he was always in condition). Still, all it did was allow Moore to come on even stronger near the end of fights, and it’s why he was able to punch in combination right up until the final bell in his fights. (Honourable Mention: Ezzard Charles)

All-Time ‘Best Stamina’Archie Moore – As I briefly alluded to in my previous selection, Moore had stamina in spades. His conditioning was the key. His refusal to waste energy made him a complete package in the way of stamina. Moore would have been fine suited to fight the 40 rounders of the days long before his time, or even the “fights to the finish”, his stamina was that remarkable. (Honourable Mention: Ezzard Charles)

New Addition: Best Body Puncher: (Writers Note: Thank you to the email write in’s that I received after my heavyweight review of just over a week ago. Some of the suggestions were excellent and I will be implementing a few of them over the next months as I examine other divisions. One that was noted was “Best Body Puncher” all time. It was an over site that I missed it last time around, and for the record, at heavyweight, Joe Frazier is the obvious choice. Runner up would have been prime Mike Tyson.)

Now on to the light heavyweight/cruiserweight…all-time body puncher. My selection would be Billy Conn. That’s going to be a surprise to some of you, but that’s fine. Conn was an excellent combination puncher, and it’s well known that he carried not much more than feathers in his fists. When it came down to gruelling, long distant drag outs, his ravishing body combinations made the difference. It was volume of body shots, not pure punching power. Need proof? Examine the over examined first fight he had with Joe Louis. The body shots were prime in that bout. Louis may have made short work of Conn if Conn hadn*t worked the body through out. You decide. (Honourable Mention: Bob Fitzsimmons)

As I have indicated earlier on my heavyweight ranking thread, the author would like to apologize to everyone on East Side for the delay in getting this follow up to my heavyweight rankings out. I have appreciated the vast support that my kick off to the divisions has received, and it*s probably been one of my most successful endeavors on East Side to date. I had a few personal problems at home that prevented me from submitting this piece on time, for Sunday morning last, but they should be in order now, and I intend to have your middleweight-super-middleweight ranking out to you on time this week. I do not like tardiness , and I expect no less from myself than I do from others, so again, I apologize. I hope that you can all see that despite my lateness, I have put in a considerable amount of thought and work in to this piece, and I know that it is appreciated by most boxing purists. I thank them for their continued support for my writing exploits.

Again, please feel free to add any of your own personal choices for my selections and also any recommendations for changes that might be better for future weight classes, would be most appreciated. You can post them on this thread, or write the author directly at leezraven@yahoo.com

Thanks mates; Cheers. Lee Hayes “East Side Boxing’s Raven”