Sorry Bert but Lewis is a top ten heavyweight and Holyfield wasn`t greater than Lewis?
16.03.07 – By Kieran Redmond: Recently I found myself watching a TV interview with none other than Mr. Bert Sugar. I`ll be honest, I don`t much care for most of his rants. He`s a pure anachronism and I long for the moment that science develops a time machine that can send him to when most other people smoked cigars as well. On this occasion Bert was displaying his all time top ten heavyweights of all time. Firstly, as I had expected from Bert, there was no Lennox Lewis on the list, and secondly he had put Evander Holyfield at tenth place.
Article posted on 16.03.2007
Before we go any further maybe we should clarify what greatness should mean in boxing (how we should construct an all time top ten heavyweight list). Take, for example, fighter A at first place and fighter B at second place. Firstly, fighter A should be ranked above fighter B based on the fact that fighter A in his prime would most likely beat fighter B in an encounter in the ring. Secondly, fighter A should be ranked above fighter B because fighter A faced and beat a higher number of high level opposition.
Based on this criteria Lewis should easily be on the top ten boxing list. Most of the small size cruiserweights of yesteryear which counted then as heavyweights (especially the flat footed ones) would not have coped well at all with Lennox Lewis. Lewis would have displayed much more coordination, speed, technical ability, and athleticism than was the norm of giants such as Jess Willlard and Primo Carnera, but I don`t expect Bert to ever grasp this fact. Just how on earth a 185 pound Rocky Marciano could ever hope to slug it out with Lewis for 12 rounds is beyond me.
I will be fair though, the Dempseys and Marcianos of yesteryear would most probably completely dominate the cruiserweight division of today (including the James Toneys and Holyfields). They would also most certainly destroy some of the out of shape slow heavyweights of today (some of which heavily resemble the Carneras and the Willards). The Dempseys and Marcianos of today are still cruiser weights though, and if you think that a talented 185 pound cruiserweight can easily walk through a talented 235 pound plus heavyweight then you obviously don`t understand why we have weight divisions in boxing.
You might ask why I am only classifying heavyweights as those who weight more than 200 pounds, the answer is because I am not an anachronism, that is today`s weight limit.
However that being said, fighters such as Holmes, Foreman and Ali would simply walk through today`s heavyweight division. Ali would be an even faster and even more technically sound version of Byrd (who gave many big fighters far more than they could handle) and even Wladimir`s accurate would find it very hard to hit Ali clean given his head movement, remember that Klitschko rarely ever hits to the body if at all. Foreman would equally be decapitating fighters with his power. Holmes with his perfect jab would also be bludgeoning today`s heavyweights endlessly. However, it is uncertain how any of these three would have done against Lewis, maybe he would have beaten them, maybe they would have beaten him but he clearly deserves a place in the top ten boxing list up there with those guys.
Unfortunately with fighters who fought in different eras it is impossible to ever gain a consensus as to who was greater. However, with regards to Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield it should be much easier given that they both fought in roughly the same era, it should be anyway. Unfortunately it is difficult for many to see Lewis as the greater fighter of the two because he did not fight certain great fighters that Holyfield fought, namely 1 A prime Tyson, and 2 Riddick Bowe as a professional.
What I am about to say has been said countless times in boxing circles but maybe if I spelled it out for some people they might grasp it. Bowe, after beating Holyfield in a clear 12 round UD in 1992 gave up his belt as opposed to facing Lewis, a person who had shamefully called him out publicly on numerous occasions, a person who had taken away Bowe`s chance of a gold medal at the Seoul 1988 Olympics, and a person who was visible to the boxing world as the guy who had easily destroyed Razor Ruddock in 2 rounds. Mike Tyson in 1996 gave up his WBC belt rather than face Lewis, who did he then face? Holyfield.
Holyfield had to fight Bowe twice in order to get his world titles back (the third was a non title fight) and he fought Tyson twice to get his belt. Lewis got belts from both Tyson and Bowe without even lifting a finger, in the words of Sun Tsu “Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting”. Two world champions gave up their titles to Lewis without even fighting, in essence beat those two without even setting foot in the ring. Bowe and Tyson (in 1996) were both unwilling to fight Lewis yet they were not phased by the presence of Lennox. Boxers know which other boxers are good and which aren`t. After his destruction of Ruddock Foreman said that Lennox scared even him, he certainly wasn`t the only one voicing that sentiment.
In terms of their records, Lennox still comes out on top. As well as taking two titles off of two world champions without facing them he virtually beat every fighter he ever faced in the ring. Yes, he did lose to McCall and Rahman who were not class A fighters. However, let`s look at this more carefully. Firstly Lewis did not take either of these fights as seriously as he should have McCall came into the fight with a record that had five losses on it and most of those losses were to bad opposition, and Rahman had lost to Tua and Maskaev before entering the ring (Lewis faced Rahman 10 pounds heavier than the weight he had faced when fighting Holyfield). Lewis got beaten fair and square and then he came back with his A game and dominated, although to be fair the McCall rematch was a disgrace and a man in that condition should not have been allowed by a doctor to enter the ring.
The Rahman rematch was amusing since Rahman obviously wanted no rematch against Lewis, a person he had brutally koed, a person who he would make a lot of money from in the rematch, a person who defeating a second time would even further solidify his legacy, a person who he was contractually obliged to rematch. Rahman resisted so much he had to be dragged through court before entering the ring. Why do you suppose he did not want a rematch with Lewis? Was it possibly because he knew that he got lucky in the first fight and that he was going to get schooled in the rematch? Again, boxers know just how good other boxers are.
The point is though that Lewis avenged his losses and when he brought his A game he never lost a fight, the same couldn`t be said about Holyfield. In his prime Holyfield lost to Lennox, Bowe and Moorer, he never avenged the Moorer loss and in fights with Bowe and Lennox he got beaten three times with one win and one controversial draw.
Lewis still has a better record even in his later years, his last fight was a win against Vitali Klitschko, a fight Lennox won but which certainly warranted a rematch, maybe Vitali could have won the rematch maybe not who knows but Lennox was fighting after his prime and you can`t blame him for retiring rather than facing the man who would become the dominant champion of the division for a few more years, a man with the highest stoppage ratio of any heavyweight ever. Holyfield would continue to a series of fights with Ruiz, winning one, losing another and then drawing in the third. Most boxing fans would recognize that Vitali was a better champion than Ruiz, I don`t think I even need to explain why. Even past their primes Lennox held his own better than Holyfield did.
Let us not forget the fact that Lewis and Holyfield actually fought each other twice. The first fight was a clear win for Lennox and to be declared a draw was an absolute travesty, Holyfield won 3 rounds at most in a fight in which Lennox landed almost twice as many punches. The crowd that had been chanting USA in round 12 gave a loud resounding booing when the draw was announced. The rematch was much closer and could have gone either way but was awarded to Lennox and was certainly not a robbery like the first. In their fights with one another Lennox again comes out on top.
Probably the most ridiculous argument ever made in favor of Evander over Lennox is that Evander was a four time world heavyweight champion but Lennox was only a three time world heavyweight champion. What people fail to grasp is that Holyfield lost the title more times than Lewis and he failed to recapture titles, Lewis never failed in recapturing a title he had lost. Both Holyfield and Lennox were undisputed champions, but Holyfield was an undisputed champion before Lennox emerged, Lennox became undisputed champion by taking that place away from Holyfield. In the past 20 years only 2 boxers have managed to unify three titles after having held a title before a unification fight, Lennox and Tyson are the only two. Lennox has the third highest number of successful title defences (15) behind Larry Holmes and Joe Louis. Lennox retired as undisputed champion, something only Marciano previously managed. Lennox was the most dominant fighter of the era, he has many accomplishments that very very few heavyweights have ever had.
Not surprisingly, the reasons that Lennox gets very little praise for his accomplishments are the reasons that Holyfield does. Firstly, Lennox was not American whereas Holyfield was, let`s be honest if he was American he would easily be in the top ten by now. Secondly, Lennox did not like to brawl and mix it up, Holyfield was more likely to mix it up and go toe to toe (this may be why Holyfield lost more fights though). It is strange how many people praise Floyd Mayweather for not fighting Carlos Baldomir head on yet seem perfectly at ease ridiculing Lennox for doing exactly the same thing even though both employed winning strategies. What sort of sensible boxer would slug it out with David Tua? (barring chin of granite Ibeyabuchi).
Thirdly, Lennox was a big guy who was cautious and Holyfield was a little guy who would risk it all, people like rooting for the little guy, have you ever seen a kung fu movie where a big guy is the hero fighting a much smaller guy?. Fourth, Lennox accepted that his body was getting older and decided to get out of boxing on top and some fans feel cheated by this somehow, Holyfield on the other hand is going into dangerous territory and is being praised for doing this by many fans who should really be trying to stop him.
Holyfield though was a great champion and fought great fighters and certainly deserves a place in the top ten heavyweights list of past to now (you can`t say of all time because all time includes future as well as past, unless Bert sugar is claiming to be a psychic as well). The only thing I am trying to argue is that Lennox Lewis should also be on this list and occupy a spot just slightly higher than that of Holyfield.
Comments of all shapes and sizes are very welcome from all, even Bert!
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