Heavyweight Champions Respond

By George Thomas Clark on April 5, 2013
Heavyweight Champions Respond
"Believe me, when I fight bigger guys I’m like a mountain lion mauling a St. Bernard.”

My presumption to rank and write about the Top Ten Heavyweight Champions provoked comments I initially considered severe…

My presumption to rank and write about the Top Ten Heavyweight Champions provoked comments I initially considered severe: I was author of the worst list ever and an April Fool beset by fatally flawed logic. At least energy from the online debate helped me recover from psychic hooks and crosses and I felt better until preternatural forces pinned me to a chair, deactivated my vocal chords, and unleashed these voices:

Rocky MarcianoI don’t appreciate you—and lots of others—leaving me off lists or ranking much too low. I never lost. That’s unique in heavyweight history. When I was in my forties I boxed Ali for some computerized fight, and the computer said I would’ve won by knockout. More importantly, I guarantee I would have. He couldn’t keep me off him even then. I’d KO George Foreman, too. I don’t care how much bigger he is. I’d take his punches and get off the deck and wear him down. Same for even young Joe Louis. In his prime he never fought anyone like me. But I hated pounding old Joe through the ropes. Those two big Ukrainian brothers, Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, remind me of Primo Carnera. Okay, that’s not fair. I respect all champions but I’m still the only guy who always won and no one’s going to write me into a loss now.

Jack DempseyI’ve always felt I’m better than Marciano. I’m just as powerful and quicker and move better. Don’t bore me about how great Gene Tunney is. He decisioned me twice but knows I’d softened during a three-year layoff and would’ve earlier beaten him. And believe me, I’d bury dancers like Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes, and batter George Foreman and Sonny Liston. When I fight bigger guys I’m like a mountain lion mauling a St. Bernard. And quit reading those online articles that claim I said I was afraid of Sam Langford. I wasn’t afraid of Sam and other black boxers. I just didn’t want to fight them.

Gene TunneyI respect Jack and he respects me because we both understand I boxed and moved and quick-hands carved him up, and for the first time millions learned styles make fights. I also know Jack’s aware I could’ve gotten up several seconds into the Long Count. After that Jack was a tired and open target. I’m a prudent man, more scholar than pugilist. I’ll fight some light heavies and cruiserweights and then assess, without bravado, whether I can take the Klitschkos.

Evander HolyfieldWhere’s my name? I beat Mike Tyson twice in his prime, and I outboxed one of the largest and most talented heavyweights in history, Riddick Bowe. True, I did lose twice to him but that means Bowe should also be ranked. His fists at ends of long powerful arms would’ve finished Tyson before he got near enough to strike. I think he wouldn’t done the same to Joe Frazier, whose short frame and inviting head remind me of Tyson. Respectfully, I must tell Jack Dempsey and Rocky Marciano they’re not big enough to fight a guy like me and certainly too small to survive against Bowe.

Wladimir KlitschkoOnly one man today can compete with me and that’s my big brother Vitali. We’re both gentlemen giants with PhDs so don’t complain much about often being ignored in the United States. Really, we don’t care. We’ve pounded the best heavyweights for ten years, and in Europe we’re kings. And we’re confident historical recognition is imminent. Who but an oaf denies the mortal danger I carry in my right hand, which I fire like artillery and immediately reload and keep pounding? Who but a nincompoop fails to note Vitali’s the size of a power forward yet agile enough to keep his hands low, like a young Ali, prior to pulverizing opponents? We’re teachers as well as boxers and sluggers so tell all fans no heavyweight champion would go undefeated against nine colleagues in any Top Ten list.

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  1. Martin Badger 01:54pm, 10/06/2014

    Bowe spent practically his entire career running away from Lennox Lewis. How wise he was! Lewis would have murdered him.

  2. tuxtucis 11:57pm, 05/24/2013

    @Eric: I think the Tyson of ‘80 was better than the one of ‘90, but not day/night different…If he dominated more than in later years is simply cause in middle ‘80 there were no heavies strong as Holyfield or Lewis…Tyson never stopped to terrorize and destroy in few seconds lesser opponents (Lou Savarese in 2000, Clifford Etienne in 2003!): it’s time to ask if simply he would never had the tools to top taller and strong opponents like Holyfield and Lewis…

  3. Ben 10:14pm, 04/08/2013

    where is that damned gum shield Mike?!

  4. Eric Jorgensen 11:25am, 04/08/2013

    They gave Langford a courtesy spot on the Dempsey-Miske undercard, if I recall a’right, but he was clearly a has-been by then—indeed, he really hadn’t been a major player since he quit against Fred Fulton (whom Dempsey almost killed).  The notion that Demspey was afraid of Langford is, to me, unsupportable.

  5. Mike Silver 09:21pm, 04/07/2013

    I don’t know about you guys but I just cannot take my eyes off of that fabulous cauliflower left ear of Ted Kid Lewis! What a beaut!!!  And look at that shot of Dempsey in his absolute prime (before the damn nose operation)...The charisma is so evident…Looks every bit the heavyweight champion.

  6. sifuken 05:47pm, 04/07/2013

    And there is no discussion about Ali? Take all your best - in their prime - and where does he stand…or fall?

  7. nicolas 03:00pm, 04/07/2013

    I have to be the lone dissenter with the two Erics, Clarence and Mike Casey on Harry Wills. Ring magazine in an article suggested that while Wills would not have won against the early 1920’s Dempsey, they did feel that he would have beaten him if Tunney had not gotten the title shot instead, though by that time Wills was in his mid 30’s. True that Dempsey beat a lot of big men, but were they as good as Wills? Also, why did Ricard not want to stage it? I think he was fearful of a Wills victory, and possible race riots that had marred the Johnson win over Jeffries, as well as the many race riots of 1919. The KKK was a the height of its political power in the 20’s Mr. Clark of course somewhat mocks Dempsey with the last sentence of the Dempsey response, though he did claim according to Roberts book that he had never been hurt so badly in a match as the one he had with John Lester Johnson in 1916.

  8. nicolas 02:38pm, 04/07/2013

    Have to disagree with Clarence on the idea that Langford would have had a chance against Dempsey. At the time Dempsey was champ, Langford was really on the way down. He was in his mid 30’s, and was loosing at the time to Harry Wills. Certainly an earlier version of Langford would have been a real threat to Dempsey. Certainly though Dempsey’s management did not want him to fight Langford on the way up, as Dempsey refused to fight as an opponent a nearly 40 yr old Joe Jeanette, who some tried to trick him into fighting. My source here is a book by Randy Roberts on Dempsey, and is mentioned on page 48 of that book.

  9. Mike Casey 08:10am, 04/07/2013

    It is indeed The Kid, Lee.

  10. Lee 03:29am, 04/07/2013

    Is that Kid Lewis with Jack? Nice pic…

  11. Clarence George 05:20pm, 04/06/2013

    By the way, permit me to disagree with those who contend that Dempsey wasn’t afraid of Langford.  In the way Norton was afraid of Foreman?  Certainly not.  But Dempsey knew that Langford had a real shot at taking his title.  I’m convinced he wouldn’t have, but I’m equally convinced that he had a better chance than most.

  12. Eric 08:39am, 04/06/2013

    I would rank Marciano, Dempsey, Tunney, Holyfield, and either Klitschko brother ahead of Jack Johnson IMO. I would certainly rank the aforementioned fighters ahead of Ken Norton. Norton would do well to make a top 25 all-time heavyweight list IMO. I would rank Marciano, Dempsey, and either Klitschko brother ahead of Larry Holmes, Lennox Lewis,  and Joe Frazier. I’m reluctant to rank these fighters above a “PRIME” Mike Tyson, however. There is a huge difference between the 1986-1988 Mike Tyson, that fewer and fewer remember and the cartoon-like figure who was beaten by Holyfield, Lewis, and even one Kevin McBride. “PRIME” Tyson would beat not only Holyfield and Lewis, but IMO he would beat Dempsey, Marciano, and Frazier too, at their “own” game. Tyson was a faster, bigger, stronger, more skilled version of his other “swarming” predecessors. If we are to rank fighters only while they’re in their prime then Tyson’s prime would be in those few short years between 1986-1988, and during that time he would have been a match for any heavyweight.

  13. Don from Prov 07:57am, 04/06/2013

    Atta go, George Clark—

    I didn’t agree with you list at all: So what?
    I don’t agree with the longer ongoing list on this site either.
    They are lists—educated guesses about BOXERS: The world is not at stake and no one is ever going to make “the list” anyway.  Coming back with a sense of humor is an admirable thing to do.  So, again—Atta go.

  14. NYIrish 06:34am, 04/06/2013

    Before someone chides me, I know this is about heavies. But I saw an opening !

  15. NYIrish 06:31am, 04/06/2013

    “Billy Graham, uncrowned welterweight king” is how Johnny Addie used to introduce him among the other fistic luminaries before main events in Madison Square Garden in the 60s and 70s. Check his record. Never off his feet or stopped. He’s certainly up there with top guys who never got a title.

  16. Mike Casey 12:07am, 04/06/2013

    Bravo Clarence and the two Erics. I’ve never had a problem with the Dempsey-Wills thing. Yes, Harry deserved his shot. But he would have been made for Jack. I respect Wills greatly, but for me Joe Jeannette deserves more praise than he ever gets.

  17. peter 06:14pm, 04/05/2013

    “I don’t appreciate being left off this list,” snarls Sonny Liston….“A fun read, ” I say.

  18. Clarence George 05:35pm, 04/05/2013

    I, too, have no doubt that Dempsey would have beaten both Wills and Langford.  But he wouldn’t have underestimated either man, especially not “The Boston Tar Baby,” who was a devastating boxer-puncher…and the toughest heavyweight of them all.

  19. Eric Jorgensen 03:47pm, 04/05/2013


    In common with “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” boxing lore contains much that is apocryphal or at least wildly-inaccurate.  The ‘Dempsey was afraid of Langford’ quote comes from the Bob Consodine “autobiography,” which Dempsey famously failed to read until after it was published. 

    Have any of you gentlemen seen the clips of Wills-Firpo that have recently surfaced?  Watching them, I am reminded of a newspaper account I read opining that, had Firpo trained for Wills even remotely like he trained for Dempsey, he would have won that fight.  In any case, though I don’t dispute the contemporary consensus that Wills had the better of the encounter, the two fighters are clearly very evenly matched in size, strength, and ability.  I don’t see how anyone could view those clips and not come away convinced that Dempsey would have absolutely KILLED Wills.  I would mortgage my house to bet that fight.  Well, I’d put up a couple pay-checks anyway.

  20. Eric 02:03pm, 04/05/2013

    I equate the Dempsey-Langford thing with something along the lines of the Foreman-Quarry rumor. Dempsey, like Foreman was a generous man when it came to praising other fighters and/or opponents. Does anyone really think Dempsey was afraid to fight Langford or Harry Wills for that matter? Does anyone really think that Foreman was afraid to fight or avoided Jerry Quarry? Middleweight great Stanley Ketchel has been compared to Dempsey in fighting style and ferocity but Ketchel at 5’9” and 160lbs was much smaller than the 6’1” 190lb Dempsey. It was said Ketchel gave Langford quite a fight in a six round tussle. Don’t believe there was a decision rendered in the Ketchel-Langford bout. At that time a lot of fights would reach no decision, but some sources state that Ketchel was viewed by some as the winner. Dempsey is just as ferocious as Ketchel, and he is also much bigger, stronger, and more powerful. Prime Dempsey knocks out prime Langford in 7-8 rounds.

  21. George Thomas Clark 01:03pm, 04/05/2013

    Irish, if I’d had a top 13 both Klitschkos would’ve been in it, and my words below - which Wladimir delivered - indicate my appreciate of their talent.

    “And we’re confident historical recognition is imminent. Who but an oaf denies the mortal danger I carry in my right hand, which I fire like artillery and immediately reload and keep pounding? Who but a nincompoop fails to note Vitali’s the size of a power forward yet agile enough to keep his hands low, like a young Ali, prior to pulverizing opponents?”

  22. nicolas 12:06pm, 04/05/2013

    I agree with NYIRISH regarding his comments about greats who may have never won the title. I look in the 30’s and would point out George Godfrey and Larry Gains. Godfrey had to throw a lot of fights. Against Carnera he did it I think by fouling him.. Gains beat Carnera in London, and he also beat a fighter named Max Schmelling by a second round knockout. When Schmelling was champion, Gains I think was British Commonwealth champ, and had a winning streak going, but never got a title shot. Godfrey had more wins over Gains than losses, (I think one by foul) Had there not been the color barrier at the time, I think that it would have been Godfrey who would have been the world champ in the 1930’s. I know Sharkey did defeat him, as I also think Johnny Risko did the same, but were they legit?

  23. nicolas 11:50am, 04/05/2013

    Irish Frankie is correct about Louis not fighting a lot of black fighters. Even when he was going up the rankings he did not. As I understand it, before the first Louis-Walcott fight, there was concerns that the fight would not be a box office success, and this was possibly due to the perception that the public would not be interested in two black heavyweights. In 25 title defenses Louis only defended it 3 times against black fighters, don’t forget John Henry Lewis. Marciano, being a white fighter was able to defend four times in six defenses against black fighters. Patterson, and even Joe Frazier did not defend the majority of the time against black fighters. I would point out to Irish Frankie that during his IRS comeback, Louis did fight black fighters, Bivens being one, and I believe a Cuban named Agramonte. I think the problem with the Klitschko brothers is the era they are in, Also often heavyweight action today looks like a senior citizens tour. I do have them in my top twenty though.

  24. pugknows 09:55am, 04/05/2013

    Good comeback GT

  25. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:23am, 04/05/2013

    George Thomas Clark-Now back to your list….I’ve got it….by Jove I’ve got it…Marciano is too small for your ATG list….okay…fair enough…makes sense…and it follows that the K Bros must be too big! Wow! I believe it’s just that damn simple! Oh wait….one more thing….maybe….just maybe…the Klitschkos are just too damn “Ukrainian” for your list!

  26. NYIrish 07:03am, 04/05/2013

    Posting a list of All Time Greats is like snapping a red cape at penned up bulls. You’ll get reactions. Good copy but an endless unprovable argument. I think there are some who never won titles that are all time greats.

  27. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 06:38am, 04/05/2013

    George Thomas Clark-I knew you had a sense of humor when you put Ken Norton on your ATG list….I just knew it! BTW….while we’re on the subject of Dempsey and black fighters….other than Walcott and Charles who both gave him Holy Hell…how many black opponents did Joe Louis have in his very long and storied career?

  28. Mike Casey 06:27am, 04/05/2013

    I knew Jack wouldn’t be pleased.

  29. the thresher 04:35am, 04/05/2013

    Great humor here. Loved it, especally the first paragraph.

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