Boxing


All Time Light Heavyweight Survey

Geoffrey Ciani - Who are the ten best light heavyweights of all-time?

This is the second in a series of surveys I will be conducting in the coming months. In the first survey, we peered into the opinions of long-time boxing fans to make a definitive list of the top ten heavyweights of all time. Although this is a very subjective topic that is skewed by personal bias, differences of opinion, and the absence of a universally agreed upon criteria to judge past fighters, we can still establish some degree of consensus. While contemplating my own list of top heavyweight pugilists, I decided gathering the input of others might help display a more accurate portrayal of what a 'true' top 10 list should look like.

In this survey, which included many of the same individuals from the previous one, I polled 47 long-time boxing fans (myself included). My question was simple. I had each person in the survey provide me with a chronological list of who he or she (there was one ‘she’ in the survey—my esteemed colleague from On the Ropes, the lovely Miss Jenna J) considered to be the ten best light heavyweights in boxing history..

Ties were not allowed, just a straight-forward list from one to ten. I then used a weighted-points system to assign points to fighters based on where they appeared on each individual's list. First place votes received 25 points. Second place votes were worth 15 points, third place votes were worth 12, and fourth and fifth place votes were worth 10 and 8 points respectively. After that, the point differential was constant, with sixth place votes getting 5 points, seventh place votes getting 4, eighth getting 3, ninth place 2, and tenth place 1.

Survey Results

After all of the lists were tabulated with the aforementioned points system, a total of twenty-six different boxers had received mention. Below is a list of the results. (First place votes are indicated in parenthesis).

1. 971 Ezzard Charles (30)
2. 652 Archie Moore (4)
3. 557 Gene Tunney (8 )
4. 452 Sam Langford (4)
5. 328 Michael Spinks (1)
6. 288 Bob Foster
7. 181 Harry Greb
8. 148 Billy Conn
9. 140 Tommy Loughran
10. 81 Bob Fitzsimmons
11. 79 Roy Jones Jr
12. 50 Harold Johnson
13. 15 Jimmy Slattery
14. 10 Matthew Saad Muhammad
15. 7 Victor Galindez
16. 6 Jack Dillon
17. 5 [tie] Philadelphia Jack O'Brian
17. 5 [tie] John Henry Lewis
19. 4 [tie] Eddie Mustafa Muhammad
19. 4 [tie] Dwight Qawi
21. 3 [tie] Jimmy Bivins
21. 3 [tie] Tommy Gibbons
21. 3 [tie] Maxie Rosenbloom
24. 1 [tie] Donny Lalonde
24. 1 [tie] George Carpentier
24. 1 [tie] Henry Maske

Here is the distribution of votes.
TOTAL LISTS MADE - NAME - (1st-2nd-3rd-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)

47 Ezzard Charles (30 9 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 0)
47 Archie Moore (4 24 10 5 1 2 1 0 0 0)
47 Gene Tunney (8 6 6 11 5 5 3 2 1 0)
44 Sam Langford (4 3 14 2 10 2 4 3 2 0)
45 Michael Spinks (1 1 5 10 7 6 3 6 6 0)
43 Bob Foster (0 1 3 9 10 5 4 6 3 2)
38 Harry Greb (0 0 2 2 7 4 6 6 8 3)
40 Billy Conn (0 0 0 0 2 12 9 7 5 5)
35 Tommy Loughran (0 0 2 3 1 6 2 7 5 9)
13 Bob Fitzsimmons (0 1 1 1 2 0 5 2 1 0)
22 Roy Jones Jr (0 1 0 1 1 2 4 0 7 6)
21 Harold Johnson (0 0 0 0 0 2 3 4 4 8 )
1 Jimmy Slattery (0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0)
4 Matthew Saad Muhammad (0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 0)
3 Victor Galindez (0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 2)
4 Jack Dillon (0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2)
2 Philadelphia Jack O'Brian (0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1)
2 John Henry Lewis (0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1)
1 Eddie Mustafa Muhammad (0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0)
2 Dwight Qawi (0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1)
2 Jimmy Bivins (0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1)
1 Tommy Gibbons (0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0)
3 Maxie Rosenbloom (0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3)
1 Donny Lalonde (0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1)
1 George Carpentier 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1)
1 Henry Maske (0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1)

Was there a consensus?

Although a unanimous consensus was never reached, it is clear from the results that Ezzard Charles is widely viewed as the best light heavyweight of all time. He was one of three pugilists to appear on all 47 lists and he was number one according to almost 64% of those surveyed. Not surprisingly, the other two boxers who appeared on every list—Archie Moore and Gene Tunney—finished second and third, respectively. Tunney’s eight first place votes were second to Charles, and Moore’s four first place votes tied him for third in that category with Sam Langford. Moore notched a top five spot according to over 93% of those polled and almost 77% viewed Tunney in the same company. All 47 people from the survey agreed that Charles was in the top five.

Langford finished fourth, well ahead of Michael Spinks who was the only other fighter to receive a first place vote. Over 70% of those surveyed had Langford slated as a top five fighter whereas just over 50% awarded Spinks with the same distinction. Bob Foster finished in sixth place, fifty points behind Spinks and Harry Greb came in seventh, over 100 points behind Foster. Less than half of those surveyed included Foster in the top five and less than a quarter had Greb there. Greb, however, I suspect will do much better next time around when we delve into the middleweight division.

Finishing off our top ten is Billy Conn, Tommy Loughran and Bob Fitzsimmons. Conn and Loughran were separated by only eight points, with Conn being included on over 85% of the lists and Loughran making it in just under 75%. Fitzsimmons finished in tenth, edging out Roy Jones Junior by a mere two points.

Did Roy Jones Junior deserve a top ten spot?

According to our survey, the answer is no. He was close, though. Roy finished in eleventh place with 79 points, just two short of Fitzsimmons’ 81. Incidentally, Roy appeared on almost 47% of the lists whereas Fitzsimmons was included on less than 28%. Fitzsimmons, however, landed a top five spot on more than 10% of the lists while Roy was only given the same honor on less than 1%—and since we use a weighted scoring system, this accounts for Fitzsimmons getting the edge despite the fact he was included on fewer lists than Roy.

The fact that Roy Jones never faced and defeated Dariusz Michalczewski Is something I believe hurts his overall standing. Had Jones actually dared to be great, I have no doubt that a fight with Michalczewski would have came to fruition. Not that I am blaming Roy alone for the fight not happening, for plenty of the blame belongs with Michalczewski himself. Regardless of who was at fault, that this fight was never made will always cost Jones in terms of legacy, and I think the results of this survey provide evidence for this. Likewise, this also hurts Michalczewski’s legacy, because despite making 23 successful defenses of his title, he never even received mention in this survey. I am convinced that had these two done battle, as they damn well should have (could you imagine if Joe Frazier never fought Muhammad Ali?), I suspect the winner would have been viewed in much higher regard.

The fact remains, Roy Jones Junior had one of the most dubious title reigns in boxing history. When Jones made the jump to 175 pounds in November 1996 to challenge WBC champion Mike McCallum, Michalczewski had already been a champion in that division for over two years. Michalczewsi decisively beat Virgil Hill June 1997, successfully unifying the WBA, WBO, and IBF belts, clearly marking him as the division’s top dog. Two months later, when Jones avenged his disqualification loss against Montell Griffin, he emerged as the number one challenger. A showdown between the two best fighters in the light heavyweight division seemed inevitable, but for whatever reason the fight never occurred.

After beating Hill, Michalczewski was inexplicably stripped of his WBA title because he was WBO champion. Not long after that, he would drop the IBF belt for requiring him to fight William Guthrie a mere 30 days after he had won the title from Hill, which was an extremely unreasonable demand from the sanctioning organization. The fact remains, Michalczewski never lost these belts inside the ring and he was the rightful light heavyweight champion during Jones’ entire reign. Politics stripped Michalczewski of his belts, and the fact that he and Jones never fought will forever taint the legacy of both fighters.

How did my list compare?

I am happy to report that for the second consecutive time, nine of the ten boxers from my list were included on the collective top ten. If you look at my personal list below, you will see there is one difference from the official results—I had Harold Johnson on my list instead of Bob Fitzsimmons.

My personal top ten list:

1. Archie Moore
2. Gene Tunney
3. Ezzard Charles
4. Bob Foster
5. Michael Spinks
6. Billy Conn
7. Harold Johnson
8. Sam Langford
9. Harry Greb
10. Tommy Loughran

The most notable difference in my list, however, is the absence of Ezzard Charles in the number one slot. I opted for Archie Moore, instead, and can understand why some observers might take me to task on that decision. After all, not only did Charles defeat Moore three times (once by knockout), but he also defeated some other all time greats at light heavyweight, including Moore-conqueror Charles Burley. On that basis alone, a strong argument can be made in favor of Charles over Moore. However, there are other factors worth considering aside from the head-to-head encounters. Ezzard Charles was never given a shot at the world light heavyweight title, so he was never actually champion (even though he did go on to win the heavyweight crown). Conversely, Moore reigned as the light heavyweight champion for almost a full decade, having defended the title nine times over that period. He frequently competed as both a heavyweight and light heavyweight during that time.

As was already mentioned, rating fighters from different eras is a very subjective topic that is often skewed by personal bias, differences of opinion, and the absence of a universally agreed upon criteria to judge past fighters. I still maintain the Archie is deserving of the top spot amongst historical light heavyweights, but I am also willing to concede that personal bias may have swayed my opinion. Moore has always been one of my favorite past fighters to watch and his first fight with Yvon Durelle is one of my favorite classic fights of all time. This survey has definitely given me something to consider when contemplating the deep history of this weight class in the future.

More raw data:

Here is a quick snap-shot at how the votes broke down amongst the top eleven:

1. Ezzard Charles
Total Lists: 47 (100%)
First Place: 30 (63.83%)
Top Three: 43 (91.49%)
Top Five: 47 (100%)
Average Points: 20.7

2. Archie Moore
Total Lists: 47 (100%)
First Place: 4 (8.51%)
Top Three: 38 (80.85%)
Top Five: 44 (93.62%)
Average Points: 13.9

3. Gene Tunney
Total Lists: 47 (100%)
First Place: 8 (17.02%)
Top Three: 20 (42.55%)
Top Five: 36 (76.6%)
Average Points: 11.9

4. Sam Langford
Total Lists: 44 (93.62%)
First Place: 4 (8.51%)
Top Three: 21 (44.68%)
Top Five: 33 (70.21%)
Average Points: 9.6

5. Michael Spinks
Total Lists: 45 (95.74%)
First Place: 1 (2.13%)
Top Three: 7 ((14.89%)
Top Five: 24 (51.06%)
Average Points: 7.0

6. Bob Foster
Total Lists: 43 (91.49%)
First Place: 0 (0%)
Top Three: 4 (8.51%)
Top Five: 23 (48.94%)
Average Points: 6.1

7. Harry Greb
Total Lists: 38 (80.85%)
First Place: 0 (0%)
Top Three: 2 (4.26%)
Top Five: 11 (23.4%)
Average Points: 3.9

8. Billy Conn
Total Lists: 40 (85.11%)
First Place: 0 (0%)
Top Three: 0 (0%)
Top Five: 2 (4.26%)
Average Points: 3.2

9. Tommy Loughran
Total Lists: 35 (74.47%)
First Place: 0 (0%)
Top Three: 2 (4.26%)
Top Five: 6 (12.77%)
Average Points: 3.0

10. Bob Fitzsimmons
Total Lists: 13 (27.66%)
First Place: 0 (0%)
Top Three: 2 (4.26%)
Top Five: 5 (10.64%)
Average Points: 1.7

Next up, the middleweight division!

Going forward, I will continue conducting surveys for all of the original eight weight classes along with a separate list for the best pound-for-pound fighters of all-time. Next up will be the middleweight division.

Past Surveys:

In case you missed it, click HERE to review the results from the heavyweight survey.

***

To contact Ciani:
ciaaaani@yahoo.com
or
ontheropesboxingradio@yahoo.com

To read more by Ciani please visit The Mushroom Mag:
http//www.eatthemushroom.com/mag

To hear more from Ciani, be sure to tune in every Monday at 6pm ET to listen to On the Ropes—the #1 boxing radio program on Blogtalk Radio:
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/On-The-Ropes

Article posted on 28.08.2009



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