I'm sure this topic has been covered plenty of times before, but I'll throw it into the mix, anyhow.
Who are some of the fighters you guys feel might have developed into great (or at least very good) champs in their divisions if a really great performer hadn't roadblocked them?
A couple come quickly to my mind: Alfonzo Zamora was a partial bantamweight champ, undefeated, all wins by KO when he met fellow banty champ Carlos Zarate in an over-thte-weight match while both were peaking. Alfonzo had his moments and stung Carlos pretty badly once, but he was ground down and stopped by the much taller and longer-armed Zarate in four rounds. As for his greatness, Zamora went something like 4-4 for the remainder of his career and even seemed to lose his vaunted power (I remember reading Flash Gordon's great disappointment after watching Zamora struggle to a split decision over a neophyte in NYC), so perhaps he wouldn't have reigned for much longer even if Zarate hadn't been the Godzilla of the division during his salad days. Still, there are perhaps good excuses for Zamora's quick collapse, not the least of them being that he didn't need the money that fighting brought him (his father was a wealthy businessman who owned a number of buildings in Mexico City, I believe). Once his stunning run of knockout wins ended, the pride in maintaining his career went with it.
Prior to facing Zarate, however, Alfonzo had scored some eye-opening wins. The capable Soo-Hwan Hong fell twice to his grenades (the second time in a long, innervating war), for instance, but the crowning point of Zamora's run was a second round one-punch destruction of Eusebio Pedroza. We all know what Pedroza accomplished not much later as a featherweight champion, right? He had something like twenty successful title defenses and made it into the HOF, but one right hand from Zamora knocked him into another time zone. Little Alfonzo might really have been special if there had been no Zarate or if he had taken out Carlos when he hurt him.
A second guy is talked about here a good bit: Rodrigo Valdez. Gil Clancy has called Valdez one of the top men he was ever associated with, and who else had the power to conclusively KO hard Bennie Briscoe? Rodrigo could slam with either hand, had quick feet and a sound chin, and he fought as if he really, really WANTED to be the toughest middleweight on the planet. But there was a mountain in his way, too, one by the name of Monzon. If there had been no Monzon, I can easily envision Valdez unifying the title and keeping it under his thumb for several years. Slippery Hugo Corro might have been a problem, as he was in real time, but if Rodrigo hadn't been turned back twice by an all-time great like CM, I believe he would have retained the desire and meanness to deal with Corro. Then, there would arrive on the scene a fellow known to a few of you folks here; his name was Hagler. If Valdez hadn't been too much in decline by '78 or '79, who knows what sort of war we might have been treated to?
If there had been no Louis or Ali, would other greats have been allowed to flower in the unobstructed sunlight? Who would have replaced Duran? Michael Spinks? Sugar Ray Robinson?
This is fun. PeteLeo.