01 | Rinsing Off the
02 | Poem of the Month
By Tom Smario
03 | Pollack's Picks
By Adam Pollack
Top Women Worth Watching
By Adam Pollack
05 | Tournament
of Champions: Boxing's Lineal Mathematics
By Cliff Rold
06 | Roberto Duran, Unplugged
By Juan C. Ayllon
07 | Appreciating Chuck
08 | Thistle in the Rose
By James Glen
09 | Anton "The Sheik" Greek
By Jerry Fitch
10 | Interview with Don Fraser
By Juan C. Ayllon
11 | Boxing's Good Book [PDF]
By Don Cogswell
12 | "John L. Sullivan: The Career
of the First Gloved Heavyweight Champion" [PDF]
By Adam Pollack
13 | Three Book Reviews
14 | What's in a Name?
By Ted Sares
15 | Audio
From the Archives [mp3]
The CBZ presents another classic boxing-themed radio
show. This month we bring you an episode of Duffy's Tavern ("Where the elite meet to eat"), from
April 13, 1951, starring Maxie Rosenbloom.
Champions: Boxing's Lineal Mathematics
by CLIFF ROLD
Over the course of this series, I will examine the battles between the sport's elite, the who-fought-who and how many times. By limiting the scope to only those men who have held true
lineal world championships in the now 17 weight divisions that dot the landscape, I
don't expect to find an answer. I do think light can be shed in a way that has not been
PART I: HEAVYWEIGHTS
I stay awake at nights pondering it sometimes and can't figure it out. For
years, it was easy: Muhammad Ali. But the more tape I saw, the more I grew to appreciate
Joe Louis. I'll probably never unlock the mystery. One thing that can be unlocked is a
look at how the great heavyweights, or in this case, the heavyweight champions, did
against one another. Every champion in the division fought at least one other who had held
or would hold the moniker "baddest man on the planet"; most fought more. Seeing how that
plays out won't tell us exactly who was the ultimate champion of them all, but it can be
an entertaining tool.
In compiling this list, I limited the scoring only to those champions who held the clear
lineal title. That means you won't find the names Terrel, Ellis, Tubbs, Bruno, Seldon or
Damiani on this list (and you sure as hell won't find Vitali Klitschko, either). It also
means that a couple of notable heavyweights from the split title era, Larry Holmes and
Mike Tyson, get no points for a number of wins over alphabet titlists (enough points to
keep both out of the Top 10). The list also looks only at champions since the birth of the
Marquis of Queensberry (gloves and rounds) era and slightly favors fighters from Jack
Johnson forward, because there were simply more champions and former champions possible to
face over the years. It is also to impossible to adjust for bad decisions, so a guy like
Joe Walcott doesn't get the shake he should on this list for the first Joe Louis fight.
The scoring works simply:
Click here for the chart that features
the accomplishments and scores of every lineal champion in chronological order.
- One point for each fellow lineal champion faced at any time in one's career (not limited to title fights)
- One point for a win
- Minus one point for a loss
- Half a point for a draw
- Two points for a knockout win
- Minus two points for a knockout loss
The top 10 names that emerge from this list, not surprisingly, are often among any list of the all-time greats
(minus one). They are:
10. MAX BAER
Sure to be the most controversial entrant on list, but this is why they fight in the ring and not on calculators.
Baer edges out Larry Holmes by one. Faced four other titlists -- Carnera, Schmeling, Braddock, Louis -- once each
9. JACK DEMPSEY
He was perhaps the sport of boxing's biggest star ever. Dempsey faced three other lineal champions
(Willard, Sharkey, and Tunney)
a total of four times, and had KO wins over both Willard and Sharkey (7 points).
8. GEORGE FOREMAN
King of the ring and grilling machines. Foreman faced five titlist across two title reigns and
Ali, Holyfield, Moorer, and Briggs) a total of six times. Won both of his heavyweight championships
7. LENNOX LEWIS
Only British heavyweight champion in the 20th century, and he did it twice. Part of two select clubs:
multiple-time champ and retired after defeating every foe ever faced at least once.
Should have been able to face Moorer and Bowe, but politics prevented it. Faced four titlists
(Briggs, Holyfield, Rahman, Tyson) a total of six times and would be tied for seventh if not
for dubious draw in first Holyfield fight (9.5 points).
6. JACK JOHNSON
First black champion of the division and first winner of a "Fight of the Century" versus Jeffries.
Tried to get Dempsey and got within a contract signing. Faced five fellow heavyweight champs
(Fitzsimmons, Hart, Burns, Jeffries, Willard) once each with shocking loss to little regarded
Hart before winning title from Burns (10 points).
5. JAMES J. JEFFRIES
Too often forgotten in modern discussions of the greats. Retired undefeated before ill-fated return
against Johnson resulting in only career loss. Faced three fellow titlists five times (Corbett,
Fitzsimmons, Johnson) with all four wins by KO (12 points).
4. ROCKY MARCIANO
Big points result for only man to retire undefeated as champ and stay retired. At 5-foot-10 and
185 lbs., I'd still pick him against Nicolay Valuev and Wladimir Klitschko. Faced three
former titlists five times (Louis, Charles, Walcott) and KO'd each at least once (16 points).
3. EVANDER HOLYFIELD
Tied with Louis for most fellow lineal heavyweight champions faced over the course of a career at
eight (Douglas, Foreman, Holmes, Bowe, Moorer, Tyson, Lewis, Rahman) a total of 13 times or a
remarkable 21% of his total fights. Lennox Lewis only one of the eight Holyfield did not beat
while winning title twice. Caused a stir last time a list like this saw him ranked No. 3,
when The Ring ranked him there all-time after first Tyson win. Would be tied with Marciano
if not for Lewis draw -- so bad it got mentioned twice (16.5 points).
2. JOE LOUIS
Of course Louis and Ali would come down to one point. Faced eight fellow titlists (Carnera, Schmeling,
Baer, Sharkey, Braddock, Walcott, Charles, Marciano) comprising every other man who held or would
hold the championship from 1930 to 1956. Holds three greatest of all heavyweight records with longest
reign (12 years), most title defenses in a year (seven) and most title defenses ever in any division
(25). If first Walcott fight had been scored correctly, he would have an additional loss but would
likely have then been the first man ever to regain the title, as he knocked out Walcott in the
return (20 points).
1. MUHAMMAD ALI
Perhaps the most recognizable athlete in the history of the world. First and only man to win
lineal, undisputed heavyweight title three times. Would never have had the chance to win his third
title if not for horrendous decision in the third Ken Norton fight (Norton doesn't face, much
less lose to, Leon Spinks). Faced every man who held or would hold Heavyweight title from 1960 to
1985, for a total of six fellow titlists (Patterson, Liston, Frazier, Foreman, Spinks, Holmes)
11 total times. Reigned during the most athletically talented era in history of heavyweight
division (21 points).
So what does all this number crunching prove? Not a damn thing, of course. But outside of Baer,
it's interesting that almost every name on this list regularly shows up on lists of the best ever
to lace them up in the sports glamour division. It won't help me sleep the next time I ponder
Louis versus Ali, but I guess some arguments are best left to be pondered forever.
(To be continued in the next issue of Wail!)
Cliff Rold is a staff writer at www.ringtalk.com.