Roger Mayweather: "Amongst the very best black fighters in the world Rocky Marciano never fought one that wasn't old"
by Geoffrey Ciani - This week's 108th edition of On the Ropes Boxing Radio featured an exclusive interview with highly regarded boxing trainer Roger Mayweather, who is best known for training his nephew, Floyd Mayweather, Junior. During this episode there was a short segment which focused on heavyweight history, including the likes of Muhammad Ali, Sonny Liston, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, George Foreman, and more! Here is a complete transcript from that portion of the show:
GEOFFREY CIANI: Previously on our show you have criticized Muhammad Ali for not throwing body punches. I wanted to talk to you about heavyweight history a little bit and I wanted to start right off the bat, Muhammad Ali or Joe Louis? Who was the best heavyweight of all-time in your opinion?
ROGER MAYWEATHER: Well when you look at boxing, Ali is the greatest heavyweight ever. I'll tell you why. When you start talking about boxing mechanically and skill-wise, the guy who does everything is Joe Louis. He does it all. He's a skilled fighter. He's tough fighter. He'll set you up. I mean he does it all and he can punch with both hands. What Ali had, and remember Joe Louis was a small heavyweight. Joe Louis was a cruiserweight to me. When you start talking about heavyweights, he was a cruiserweight. But Ali was a big guy at that time and he had tremendous hand speed. That and he had good legs. Ali had good legs, had tremendous hand speed, and had a good chin. But you got to understand as Ali fought, once his legs started to go that's why he's got what he's got right now, because he laid on the ropes. If you're letting the guy hit you, and you're letting the guy hit you, and you're letting the guy hit you, what does that tell you? That's how he got deteriorated, because he was doing the rope-a-dope. I mean boxing ain't for nobody to sit there and get hit upside the head all of the time. It took something away from him once he lost his legs. One thing Ali did have and I can say this, he had a tremendous chin. He fought the best punchers in the sport of boxing: Ernest Shavers, Ken Norton, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, and he prevailed. So regardless of the fact that when he lost his legs he reduced himself to doing the rope-a-dope and what the rope-a-dope has done for him is gotten him where's he's at. When I say 'got him where he's at' I'm talking in terms of being the way he is. That's the product of getting hit. That's where it comes from. I know. That's what Freddie Roach has got, too, the same thing, Parkinson's. That comes from being hit. Ali had a tremendous chin, but I guess you have to pay a price in the sport of boxing. Everybody pays the price, especially the fighter. It's all a part of the game.
CIANI: I wanted to get your opinion on another heavyweight, Roger, and I wanted to get your opinion on the guy that Ali originally won the title from Sonny Liston. How good do you think Liston could have been if someone like Ali just wasn't around in that same era at that same time?
MAYWEATHER: Well Liston was tremendous. Liston was more like a Mike Tyson or a George Foreman for his era and time. He didn't have problems with them. They feared him mostly because of how big he was and at the time he was a big heavyweight and at that time he was a big puncher. He was more like Mike Tyson was in his era and time in boxing. He beat them more with fear than he did with his hands. They feared him more than anything and ultimately that's how Liston will be remembered until he met Muhammad Ali. Until he met Muhammad Ali he beat everyone with the fear. He put the fear in them first. That's basically what Liston did. That's what Mike Tyson did. Certain fighters have an aura about them when people look at them. When they look at them they won't even look the fighter in the eyes. But he met a guy and he didn't believe he could beat him. He didn't believe he could beat him and he proved to the world he was the best that there is, Muhammad Ali. He went through that era, too. Liston was just like the aura of Mike Tyson and the aura of George Foreman. Most of those guys were beat before they even got in the ring and that's what Liston instilled in them. It's fear. That;s what it was.
CIANI: When you look at a guy like Rocky Marciano, do you think that he's overrated because he competed in an era that was a little weaker or do you think that he's underrated?
MAYWEATHER: What I would tell you about Marciano is this: amongst the very best black fighters in the world Marciano never fought one that wasn't old. Those guys were old. They were past their time. That's the way boxing guys. They're past their time. That doesn't mean they don't want money. Back in that era Ezzard Charlez was old. Ezzard Charles split his nose in half. Joe Louis was old. Joe Louis already had a career. I mean the dudes that he beat were already past their time, period. I have never known that he beat one young black fighter that wasn't past his time. Archie Moore was past his time. Remember Archie Moore fought him and fought Ali damn near ten years later. So what does that tell you? Of course he was still the only undefeated heavyweight so I can't take that away from him. You can't take that away from him. I'm just telling you that he fought the best fighters past their time. Jersey Joe Walcott was past his time. With Joe Walcott, Joe Louis beat him. I mean that's boxing if somebody beats somebody. Fighters fight longer than they did back then. They fight a little longer and have a little longer career. They got all kinds of different conditioning programs and they got sports medicine and all of that stuff. But still, the body can go until the body can't go. It doesn't matter.
CIANI: Let's take a quick look at Larry Holmes here. He came in between Muhammad Ali who was arguably the greatest heavyweight of all-time and Mike Tyson who was arguably the most exciting heavyweight of all-time. Would Larry have been perceived as a better fighter if he didn't fall in between those two guys?
MAYWEATHER: What happened with Larry Holmes is like you said. Larry Holmes and Muhammad Ali were sparring partners so he became one of the next great heavyweights after Ali's career was pretty much over. But I still think he's still one of the greatest heavyweights, Larry Holmes is. Tyson, like I said, is like Liston. Tyson beat more guys on fear than he did anything. He put that fear in them. He had that same demeanor Sonny Liston did. A lot of times that's how you beat guys but there is always a time somewhere where there's a guy and it doesn't matter. To Holyfield it didn't matter. To Buster Douglas it didn't matter. Just like Ali with Liston, it didn't matter. He put the fear in them, but he wasn't worried about that. They still got to fight so what difference does it make? A lot of guys you can beat with your demeanor. The way you act, the way you think, oh this guy is crazy! Boom! Boom! Like that. I mean that's what Mike Tyson beat most guys with before they ever got in that ring. Sonny Liston beat most guys before they ever got in that ring. Certain guys have that thing that they can't shake it.
JENNA J: Roger, you mentioned Mike Tyson before. He recently was nominated for induction into the Hall of Fame. You mentioned his intimidation throughout factor, but what do you think about his accomplishments and becoming the youngest heavyweight champion of all-time?
MAYWEATHER: I mean Tyson was a tremendous puncher, and like I said he instilled fear. He was young. He was energetic. At that time he was surrounded I guess by the right people who brought him up, because remember Mike Tyson was a student of boxing. Tyson was a student of boxing so Tyson watched every tape of then every fighter there was because his manager had it. He had the tapes coming. So Tyson was programmed to fight. He was programmed to fight because his man had all the tapes, boom-boom-boom-boom, and all he had to do was put the demeanor with it and with the skills that they gave him, Tyson would be a great fighter pretty much in any era of boxing because he's a big puncher and he was fast. The earlier Tyson kept the head moving, boom, and he was a tremendous puncher. So I mean he could have fought in any era of boxing, period. I understand how they groomed him because they had tapes and every fighter that there was and they groomed him to be the youngest heavyweight champion of the world. I remember one time when they said Tyson was going to knockout Larry Holmes. They said that way back when he was young. They said Tyson was going to knockout Larry Holmes. I thought about that. Larry Holmes never lost a fight and they said that. They said that and they said he was going to be the youngest heavyweight champion of the world. Boom. I got a lot of Tyson tapes. You know what I'm doing right now? I'm watching tapes right now on boxing! That's what I'm doing. I love the history about boxing because I get tapes on different fighters I like. I get like tapes of them.
JENNA: Roger when you look at Mike Tyson, do you think he could have been perceived a lot higher in the all-time history of the heavyweight division if he hadn't had problems outside the ring that took away a lot of his prime years?
MAYWEATHER: Well but you got to understand, Tyson had no different thing that Ali had. It was a different way of doing it, but still. They took time away from him, too. How great would he have been? He would have been much greater than he is now, but like I said, Tyson is like Sonny Liston. He instilled fears and these guys so basically they were damn near half beat already, because he already put the fear in them and they already knew what they could do. If he didn't have time off when he went to jail, of course he would have been that much more dominant, but hey! That's boxing! That's your legacy. I can't say I didn't have that, boom, I didn't have that, boom, I would have been greater than this, but that's a part of boxing. That's your legacy. Your legacy is what you do. He ain't the first guy to have been laid off for years. Ray Robinson was laid off for three years. Muhammad Ali was laid off. So they were laid off, because remember Ali didn't want to go in the army.
JENNA: Let me ask you this, if Mike had fought somebody like Evander Holyfield in 1991copared to 1996, do you think the result would have been any different from what you've seen of those two versions of Mike Tyson?
MAYWEATHER: You know one thing I said about Holyfield when he fought Mike Tyson, he already fought a guy like Mike Tyson. He fought that short guy. What's the guy's name? He fought Michael Spinks. Kawi, yeah. I said then the guy was like a short Mike Tyson. He had good skills. He was a good puncher, too. Of course Tyson was probably a much better puncher than him, but still, he was a pretty good puncher and when Holyfield fought him he didn't have that many fights. He didn't have that many fights when he fought that guy and he beat him. So if they would have fought it may not have turned out exactly that way the way it was, but to me I still think Holyfield would have won. I still think Holyfield would have won. Mike Tyson was a good puncher, but Holyfield was never scared of Mike Tyson because they used to work together. That's why he was never scared of him. Remember, Tyson never made the Olympics team. If Holyfield would have got hurt at the time, or whoever heavyweight got hurt, Tyson would have been on the team. But they used to spar together. They used to work together all the time. So Holyfield never really had to fear Tyson anyway, because they used to work together. With that journey, Tyson was going to be an alternate, but that's how it goes. You know a guy from my hometown, Joe Frazier. Joe Frazier got beat by Buster Mathis from my hometown. Okay, but Buster Mathis broke his hand and that's how Joe Frazier went to the Olympics, because Buster Mathis beat him, but as a pro Joe Frazier beat him as a pro.
JENNA: Now I mentioned Holyfield before, he's actually fighting this upcoming weekend at age 48 against Sherman 'The Tank' Williams. What do you think of him continuing to fight at this point in his career?
MAYWEATHER: Well to me, I don't think there is much Holyfield can do. I mean he's an athlete, but athletes like any other great athletes, we all get old. We all get old and our skills deteriorate. So when your time's up, time's up. Nobody can go past your time when time is up. The last great heavyweight I've seen do anything over 40 years old is George Foreman. That's it. That's the last great heavyweight to do anything, and he took ten years off boxing. He came back with new motivation that he wants to fight again. Holyfield's been fighting on and on, but I heard Holyfield beat the seven foot guy. They called it a draw I guess, but I heard Holyfield beat him. Time's up. I mean I can't say when time's up, but hey! Time's up. You're not doing anything new, that's for sure.
For those interested in listening to the Roger Mayweather interview in its entirety, it begins approximately one hour and forty-four minutes into the program.
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Article posted on 25.01.2011
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