A Few Excellent Examples of Frazier’s Style – and great boxers of recent years

1.  Frazier vs. Quarry II

Make no mistake about it, Jerry Quarry was an excellent fighter with a great chin.  He fought Ali, Frazier, and Floyd Patterson (the first man to recapture the heavyweight title after losing it), all of them  twice, and Ken Norton on about two weeks notice.  He is generally regarded as the creme de la creme of the non-Ali/Frazier/Foreman.  Quarry’s downfall was his tendancy to cut horribly and easily.  He is severely cut in almost all his big fights, and this generally led to early stoppages.  Quite a shame really.  We’ll never know what he was fully capable of. 

2.  Joe Frazier vs Bob Foster

Bob Foster is one of the greatest Light Heavyweight champions of all time, and in any other era his attempts to with the heavyweight title would almost surely have ended in victory.  The problem is, he had to fight Frazier and Ali to do so.  The knockout against Frazier is notable in that the knockout comes directly from the power and effectiveness of Frazier’s favorite combination:  Left hook to the body and left hook to the head.  On a side note, Foster also fought Mike Quarry, Jerry Quarry’s brother. 

3.  Frazier vs Ellis

Hehe.  This is how you destroy a man…I think I already mentioned this one.

4.  Frazier vs. Ali I

The classic of all classics.  This is what happens when two men at the highest level fight until someone literally cracks.  Rightfully considered on of the greatest fights of all time, and I did say “fights”, not “heavyweight fights.  What I love about this fight, beyond just the particulars of how great a contest it is by history’s two most interesting fighters, is that it highlights just how bad the division is now.  When you watch these two, note the speed, punch output, the skills, the chins, you realize what a heavyweight fight has the potential to look like.   

5. Ali-Frazier III

This is the deepest one.  Two men who hated each other, past their prime, fighting for personal reasons…and a million bucks.  This ruined Ali and Frazier alike, and both of them came close to death.  I’ll spare explanation for a future post.  Watch it.

It is a common misconception that heavyweights are slow, plodding, thudding punchers who have little or no regard for defense because they are unable to move quickly or effectively due to their size.  This is true – for the crappy ones.    It’s sad that the general public of today regards as normal what is, in historical context, simply a lack of skills, conditioning, and general athleticism.  What generally has separated the best fighters of recent years from the rest of the pack is that they are performing on a level that meets the MINIMUM standard of excellence which would allow you to compete in some capacity in the Golden Era.  What most people today think of when they see a heavyweight fight is generally one of three things:

1.  Squishy, unconditioned athletes who are boxing because they can’t play football. 

2.  Marginally skilled guys who have little speed and even less dedication to boxing as a craft.

3.  The Klitschkos, who, I’m sorry, wouldn’t have done very well in the Golden Age in their present condition.  Perhaps the honing steel of better competition would have driven them to new heights, but taking apart a list of boxers who are old, fat, or mediocre hardly qualifies you as great. 

Now don’t get me wrong, there have been some great fighters in recent years.  Here they are: 

Mike Tyson:  Again, what a great heavyweight fighter “should” look like – fast, skilled, and deadly.  How do I think he would have competed in the golden era?  Well, it’s hard to say.  If Cus D’Amato would have lived another twenty years Tyson may very well have kept his head together.  One unavoidable reality about Tyson is that he lost  a step after about 5 or 6 rounds, and Frazier, Foreman, Ali, Norton, and several other guys would have almost certainly plumbed those depths.  I think all of them can beat a prime Tyson by weathering the initial storm.

Larry Holmes:   The most underrated fighter in history.  Larry Holmes is the quintessential example of a Golden Era fighter fighting the next generation.  Total, unmitigated dominance through handspeed, skills, power, and the thing most lacking today:  the will to compete.  Where did this all come from?  He was Ali’s sparring partner for years.  His fight with Norton is a classic from top to bottom, and a display of courage and desire which is basically never seen today by overpaid, underskilled fighters who want a paycheck.  Holmes was beaten by Tyson, but he was 38 and long past his prime.  And he almost made it past the first few rounds, through a gutty display of…skills and willpower.  Mark my words, a prime Holmes beats a prime Tyson any day of the week. 

Lennox Lewis: Lewis is one of only two heavyweights to defeat every man he ever faced in the ring.  Well, at least once.  The big Brit was actually Canadian, but he too was an Olympic gold medalist who brought speed, power and great skills to the ring.  What’s great about Lewis is that you clearly see a man who is head and shoulders above the rest of a dwindling era, but he still had a number of contenders worth fighting.  In the most famous fight of Vitali Klitschko’s career, he lost to a 38 year old Lennox Lewis who was terribly out of shape because he was originally going to fight a bum (Some say Vitali paid the guy off to step aside so he could get Lewis while he was out of shape), and Lewis turned his face into hamburger.  Vitali had a good first few rounds, but Lewis found a way to get through it and got the stoppage.  For the record, no matter what anyone says, Vitali was cracking at the end of that fight too…

Riddick Bowe:   Yeah, I know.  He sucked for a decent amount of his later career.  However, in his prime he showed all the heart, skills, and handspeed that you could ever want from a champion.  His three fights with Holyfield are the stuff of legend, but they ruined him as a fighter.  You know what the worst part about having a good chin is?  You are inclined to take too many good shots because you can…

Frank Bruno:  Only a brief champion, but he fought everybody and made a good show of it.  Plus, he’s ripped as hell.  He and Lennox Lewis fought the first all-Brit heavyweight title fight in something like a billion years.

Evander Holyfield:  The Real Deal.  This man could fight.  His only problem is that he was a bit small for the modern heavyweight division, but he always went after everyone, always gave it his best effort, and hell, he kicked Mike Tyson’s ass twice.  Granted the second one was because Tyson bit off his ear, but it was going to be the same fight as the first anyway.  That fight, incidentally, takes away from Tyson’s laurels in my book because you see exactly what happens when he got hurt or frustrated in the ring – Tyson quit.  That’s a recipe for disaster in the Golden Age.  And speaking of great fights, the Holyfield/Bowe Trilogy demonstrates that modern, epic heavyweight fights are still there to be watched.

Ike Ibeabuchi:  Never heard of him, huh?  This guys’ the sleeper in the bunch, and he was a goddamned monster.  Undefeated in his short career, he was well known for completely obliterating his opposition.  He probably would have been champion some day, and even defeated David Tua and Chris Byrd rather handily, the latter with an explosive bolo punch.  The only problem was that he was completely crazy.  No literally.  I won’t get into particulars, but let’s just say he was severely bipolar and deemed unfit to stand trial for beating the hell out of several women including his wife.  He’s in a mental institution somewhere, probably doped to the gills on tranquilizers and drooling his way through endless episodes of Antique Roadshow.

The Klitschko Brothers:  Hey, I give it up to them.  They are by far the best of the era, and unless things change, they will probably be fighting well into their fifties.  Or at least until they get bored.  Nobody can beat them, nobody will beat them, and until a new crop of heavyweights comes along, that’s the end of the story.  They worst part is, not only are they dominant, they are incredibly boring.  More than anything, that’s what’s killing the heavyweight division.  They refuse to engage in an exciting style that flattens their opponents.  Rather, they seem content to squeak through lopsided decision after lopsided decision, methodically controlling and picking at their opponents, with no more flash than a ladyfinger, and when they actually do get a knockout it’s never in exciting fashion.  Rather, it’s a run-of-the-mill punch that just happens to connect flush on an opponent who’s been done for the last seven rounds and they’ve been too lazy to take the f-ck out.  *Yawn* 

Listen, Thomas Hearns put it best.  He said that, regardless of how he feels, regardless of what happens to him in the ring, he has an obligation to entertain the crowd.  I’m not saying dance and blow kisses.  I mean, fight as hard as he can.  If he can take a guy out in one round, then by god it’s going to be an exciting one round.  This question, incidentally, came on the heels of being asked about losing the war with Marvin Hagler and if he thought it would have been different had {Hearns} not broken his right hand in round one.  Hearns simply responded that it didn’t matter if his hand was broken, he had an obligation to go out there and fight as well as he possibly could, and if that meant getting knocked out then the crowd got its money’s worth. 

Someone please staple this to new heavyweight fighters’ foreheads, please.

Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colorado. He hates stupidity and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of an issue. Reach Ben Tomkins at BenTomkins@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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