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Samizdata quote of the day

Is it any wonder we that we find ourselves today without a means to measure greatness? To those in the know, the experts who understand the fight game, Ali earned his place among the true greats of boxing but fell a little short of the very top. He was perhaps the greatest heavyweight (though I find it hard to believe anybody could beat Mike Tyson at his youthful rampaging best) but heavyweight champions are a peculiar breed of fighter. Watching those great ‘Rumbles’ and ‘Thrillers’ now, they are characterised by tired lumbering men stumped on the hard breathing end of slow jabs. In terms of technique, you’d need to look to a lighter man (or at Ali at his peak before television made him a superstar). You would look to Sugar Ray Robinson who, more than any boxer, could claim to have been the best.

David Waywell, writing at CapX.

14 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • James Strong

    Ali, Foreman, Lewis would all have been better than 50/50 against a peak Tyson. I’#d rate them at 75/25 or even more.
    Holyfield beat Tyson twice, partly by refusing to be intimidated or bullied. And Holyfield was smaller and not necessarily faster than the ones I name.
    Tyson threw fast punches from many different angles but against an opponent who fought back, when it got really tough, he did not have a champion’s heart.
    If you want to see a champion’s heart, though, look up Holmes v. Shavers after Shavers landed a huge blow and put Holmes down for 9.

  • Paul Marks

    There were boxers who had a better record in the ring – but no one who talked like the man who has just died.

    Even when one knew he was making stuff up (for example he never was thrown out of a segregated restaurant in Louisville – he made it up, or someone else fed him the idea and he ran with it) it was impossible not to be impressed by the machine gun like stream of words.

    And there was always the implied WINK.

    The clear sign that for all the talk about white people being his enemies – he did not really hate white people at all.

    It was all an act – entertainment.

    As for his skills as a boxer.

    Of course there have been better boxers.

    But I would not like to have gone in the ring with him.

  • Paul Marks

    My father (not exactly a P.C. man) loved “Ali”.

    And I am old enough to remember the boxer in his prime.

    He really did dance about “like a butterfly” – although perhaps a bit too much (one gets tired doing that).

  • Mr Ed

    When he said ‘I am the greatest‘, no one had either the heart or the balls to tell him about Eric Brown, who was too modest and gentlemanly to make any such claim.

  • Mr Ed

    But I would not like to have gone in the ring with him.

    But you would have come (flying) out soon enough, a quick finish. 🙂

  • James Strong

    Paul Marks writes ‘of course there have been better boxers’.
    OK, name two.
    Then, if I have time, I will look at their records, explain their shortcomings, and show you why Ali truly was The Greatest.

    In anticipation: don’t mention Marciano – he had 6 defences, against former champions who were over the top or against lighter men or fringe contenders.

    Don’t mention Joe Louis – he was clearly beaten by Schmeling when he was in his prime, and would have conceded a lot of weight to ALI.

    Don’t mention Ray Robinson – he was a many-time champion because he lost fights when he was at his peak, and then regained the title.

    Don’t mention Tunney – much too small to compete with Ali.

    Don’t mention Aaron Pryor – burned out and possibly a drug cheat.

    Don’t mention Ray Leornard – outfought by Duran, an older,smaller man who could fight.

    Don’t mention Henry Armstrong – too small.

    Don’t mention Lewis, great though he was he was knocked out by Rahman and McCall, two medoicre champions.

    So, maybe Joe Calzaghe 46 – 0. But only a supper middleweight or light heavyweight.

    And remember that the ‘sweet science’ is only a part of it. Sooner or later it’s a fight.

  • J.M. Heinrichs

    Ali was okay in the ring, but what about his achievements on the football field?


  • TK

    James Strong,

    Let me list two names that immediately sprang to mind when I finished reading your post: Carlos Monzon and Floyd Mayweather Jr. I’m sure if I gave another ten seconds of thought I could come up with a few more names. I’d rather focus on some of the questionable analysis you present along with the list of boxers you proclaim not as great as Ali.

    While I agree most of the boxers you listed were not as great as Ali, I’d say a fair amount of your analysis is comical. For example, you state that Henry Armstrong was “too small.” BFD. At one point, he was world champion in three different weight classes SIMULTANEOUSLY (feather, light, and welter) back when there were only eight divisions (no jr. this or super that). Ray Robinson was absolutely a better boxer than Ali. Just look up his record. He fought WAAAAY more often than Ali, retiring at age 30 with a record of 131-3-1, having been welterweight and middleweight champ. Then he came back about three years later and won a few more championships at age 36, clearly after his peak, against outstanding opponents (e.g. Gene Fullmer and Carmen Basilio).

    Ali lost to Leon Spinks. Ali got savagely beaten by Larry Holmes. He lost to Trevor Berbick. These losses came at the end of Ali’s career, but if you hold late career losses against these other men, then you have to do the same with Ali. Some of his victories were highly dubious decisions (e.g. Larry Norton in Yankee Stadium and Jimmy Young). I also note that Ali never gave George Foreman a chance for a rematch after the Rumble in the Jungle. Ali ducked him, plain and simple. Or do you think Earnie Shavers, Chuck Wepner, Ron Lyle, Joe Bugner, Jean-Pierre Coopman, Alfredo Evangelista, and Richard Dunn were more deserving of title shots than Foreman?

    Ali was a magnificent boxer, of that there is no doubt. He was lightning fast, very fit, extremely smart (about boxing), and he could take a punch. His left jab so good it almost wasn’t to be believed. Nonetheless, he wasn’t the greatest boxer by any stretch.

  • Eric

    Tyson would have had no chance against an Ali or a Foreman or a Spinks. The powers that be in the boxing world had carefully kept Tyson away from good fighters and put him in the ring with people like Trevor Berbick in order to manufacture a hero that would bring new people to ringside. Or, if you’re cynical, to cash in at 42-1 when he got knocked out by Buster Douglas in a fight that should have been the boxing equivalent of an easy lay-up.

  • Cassius Clay was a courageous abolitionist (he lived in Kentucky in the run-up to the civil war: courage, and skill with a knife – and also, I daresay, his fists – were essential attributes of an outspoken abolitionist in those circumstances). He was the man who advised a key set of doubtful-about-Seward Republicans to coalesce around Lincoln in 1860, thus causing the party’s candidate to be Lincoln and so (it may well be) deciding the outcome of the civil war (the egotistical and vacuous Seward would surely have lost it).

    Mohamed Ali is the name of a ruler of the mamelukes, and of a number of others in Arab history, all of them marked by their enthusiasm for slavery (though, IIRC, Ali the mameluke ruler did once express a hint of distaste for how brutally the traders manufactured eununchs).

    I’m not that interested in whether the man who chose to change his name from Cassius Clay to Mohamed Ali was “the greatest” or merely a much better boxer than I might ever have been. I would hope to have the courage to still know what I thought of such a man even if cringing before him, awaiting being beaten into a pulp for saying it.

  • barryT

    One name….. Archie Moore

  • Mr Ed

    I would hope to have the courage to still know what I thought of such a man even if cringing before him, awaiting being beaten into a pulp for saying it.

    God made men,
    Some big, some small,
    And Smith and Wesson,
    Made them equal all.

  • James Strong

    Floyd Mayweather?
    He wasn’t/isn’t a fighter.
    He’s an exhibitionist who has built his record on hand-picked ‘challengers’.

    Henry Armstrong – a good point there- he was a triple champion at a time when there were only 8 champions.

    But at the end of the day, after all the pretty skills, it’s a fight. Colin McMillan (Sweet C) knew that.
    Would Henry Armstrong, or Floyd Mayweather etc. have beaten Muhammad Ali in a fight.

    Weight classes are nonsense until we have basketball championshipd for players under 5′ 10, under 6’2. under 6’6 etc.

    The heavyweight champion is ALWAYS better than any other champion because he would beat them in a fight.

  • TK

    James Strong,

    I find your arguments utterly unconvincing. Mayweather isn’t a fighter? He’s not only undefeated at age 39, but no one can touch him (quite literally). His defense and boxing skills are unparalleled in boxing history.

    Ali? Look at all the names I listed earlier he fought instead of offering Foreman a rematch. Talk about fighting cupcakes. I’ll give him credit. I wouldn’t have wanted to tempt fate a second time against George.

    Why not look at Ali in his prime against his toughest opponent. That would be Joe Frazier. Frazier won when both men were in their prime. So, I guess that means Smokin’ Joe was the greatest, right?