Category Archives: Boxing

Top Ten Heavyweight Boxers of all time (part two: 5-1)

Yesterday Ken Irons shared the first half of his top ten heavyweight boxers of all-time, now it’s time to step into the ring with the elite, as he reveals his top five!

Butterbean: Failed to make the cut
Butterbean: Failed to make the cut

5) JOE LOUIS
Record: 66-3 (52 KO’s)

Joe Louis is a boxing icon who held the title (before it became fragmented) from 1937 until 1949, the longest period ever for a champion to reign.

He was undefeated until sustaining a 12-round loss to Germany’s Max Schmeling in 1936. After winning the title he had a return fight with the German in 1938, a fight which triggered deep emotions owing to the anti-Nazi feelings prevalent at the time (Hitler had reportedly personally encouraged Schmeling to win the title for the honour of the third Reich, although there was never any question that the fighter himself was involved in politics in any way). The fight lasted 124 seconds with Schmeling knocked senseless having been floored 3 times.

A tribute to Joe Louis in Detroit
A tribute to Joe Louis in Detroit

Louis retired in 1949 but then had to come back due to financial problems as he owed a large sum in taxes. This caused anger amongst fans and the general public as a whole because Joe had served his country well, both in wartime (in the U.S. Army) and as a unifying personality, loved by both blacks and whites.

The Government displayed no such sentimentality and Joe was reduced to working as a wrestler to pay off his debt, having first lost comeback fights to both Ezzard Charles and Rocky Marciano. He did receive official approval in death however, when the then U.S. President, Ronald Reagan, requested that he be buried at Arlington Cemetery.

4) GEORGE FOREMAN
 Record: 76-5 (68 KO’s)

George Foreman

Foreman, at 6 feet 3 inches, was not a stylish fighter but he was a devastating puncher, winning the title in 1973 against the seemingly invincible Joe Frazier when he demolished him in 2 rounds.

The following year, at age 25, he lost the crown to 32 year-old Muhammad Ali in the famous ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ in Zaire. Foreman was expected to win the contest but was overcome by Ali’s ‘rope a dope’ tactics whereby the latter leaned on the ropes, raised both gloves in protective mode and encouraged Foreman to eventually punch himself out.

Foreman always maintained that he had not felt right during the fight leading to some speculation that his water may have somehow been ‘spiked’, but this idea never got beyond the unsubstantiated rumour stage.

Foreman retired soon after and practised religion as a preacher. He came back to regain the title against Michael Moorer, at age 45. This made him the oldest man to win the title. He finally hung up the gloves for good in 1997.

3) LENNOX LEWIS
Record: 41-2-1 (32 KO’s)

London born but having spent part of childhood in Canada, Lewis holds dual nationality. At 6 feet 5 inches and 245 pounds, he was a superb boxer with a knock-out punch in either hand. 

Dispensing of all of the elite pugilists of his era, Lewis achieved amateur success when representing Canada at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, defeating future great Riddick Bowe for the gold medal, subsequently turning professional and switching allegiance to Britain during the same year.

He held the undisputed world title and never suffered an unavenged defeat, retiring in 2004, having stopped Vitali Klitschko via TKO in his final bout.

2) LARRY HOLMES
Record: 69-6 (44 KO’s)

Larry Holmes

Holmes has suffered more in his rightful claim to immortality than perhaps any other fighter due to the unfortunate timing of his rise to fame.

The fact that Muhammad Ali’s career was still ingrained in the hearts and minds of fans the world over when HolmesAli’s ex sparring partner, came into prominence, detracted greatly from the new champion’s overall standing.

He was, however, at 6 feet 3 inches, a consummate boxer/ fighter who could, in truth, match Ali in most aspects of his craft. As a one punch knock-out specialist he was perhaps superior to his old ‘employer’ who was more of adamaging’ puncher and his left jab is generally considered to be the best ever in the division.

Holmes was champion from 1978 – 1985 and his 19 consecutive defences of the title ranks second only to Joe Louis.

1) MUHAMMED ALI
Record
: 56-5 (KO’s 37)

Muhammed Ali

Muhammad Ali was a man whose fame transcended the sport due to his strongly held and fearlessly expressed political and religious beliefs (including his refusal to fight in Vietnam) and his generally extrovert personality.

He was the first champion to overtly ‘wind up’ his opponents, often causing trouble at press conferences, pre fight interviews and the like. This however was all part of his deliberate practice of getting the better of an opponent mentally which he invariably did, and which usually paid off for him in terms of results.

Ali’s dancing style, lightening fast reflexes and astonishing hand speed, wherein, in his own words,he “floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee”,were just too much for most of his bewildered and disheartened opponents to cope with

He is the only three time lineal world heavyweight champion, winning the title in 1964, 1974 and 1978. It should also be remembered that his ‘prime years’, 1967 – 1971, were taken from him when his license was taken away following the Vietnam draft incident.

So there it is, the top ten heavyweight boxers of all-time and not a Rocky Balboa or Butterbean in sight! Let us know your thoughts on Ken’s choices in the comment section below.

Written by Ken Irons

I have always had a love of the written word and have frequently, over the years, exasperated editors, publishers et al with my copious submissions of work. My highly advanced years I find a plus, as it means not having to research so much – I can remember it if it’s in the last century or so!

Top 10 heavyweight boxers of all time (part one: 10-6)

His “Best of British Boxers” article received a double thumbs up from legendary pugilist Riddick Bowe last month, now Ken Irons returns to share his top ten heavyweight boxers of all time. Part one focuses on numbers 10 through 6.

The legendary Riddick Bowe enjoyed Ken's previous article
The legendary Riddick Bowe enjoyed Ken’s previous article

In assessing the comparative merits of fighters whose respective careers span a long period of time, I have resorted to the commonly held premise that all sportsmen/women can only improve as time progresses due to the better fitness levels, diet, training regimes etc. now available.

 It is for this reason that I have deliberately omitted some of the champions of yesteryear – men like Dempsey, Johnson and Tunney – from my selection.

However, whilst it is true that Rocky Marciano, had I included him, would not have been the oldest fighter to appear, I feel that his small stature (today he’d have been a cruiserweight) goes against him.

Another negative is the fact that, although he holds the only perfect record in the division, the fifties was not an exceptional era for heavyweights and he never really fought any outstanding fighters (with the exceptionof Joe Louis, at that time well past his bestand Archie Moore – also past his best and, in reality, only a blown up light-heavyweight).

As is inevitable when constructing such lists, there are also other great champions with exemplary records who narrowly miss the cut – Wladimir Klitschko and Riddick Bowe amongst them.

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10) KEN NORTON
Record: 42 wins, 7 losses, 1 draw (33 KO’s )

Ken Norton Muhammed Ali

Norton, only the second man to beat Ali, was famous for his idiosyncratic cross armed defence which he used to good effect against the great fighters around in his era. Although he was subsequently outpointed by Ali in a return fight, the judges’ verdict in this contest was deemed at the time to be one of the most ill considered and unfair on record.

Norton’s unsuccessful fight with Larry Holmes for the title is rated one of the very best ever seen in the division.

Unfortunately however, it left Norton with the dubious distinction of being the only heavy weight champion who never won a title fight (the WBC having awarded him the crown prior to the Holmes fight as a result of a contract dispute they had with Leon Spinks). Any dreams Norton may have had of regaining the crown were then crushed by Holmes retaining it for the next 7 years!

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9) EVANDER HOLYFIELD
Record: 44-10-2 (29 KO’s)

Holyfield, nicknamed ‘The Real Deal’, was aundisputed world champion at both cruiser and heavyweight.

He is the only 4 time world champion, winning the WBA, WBC and IBF titles in 1990, the WBA and IBF titles in 1993 and the WBA title in 1996 and 2000Among those he defeated were Mike Tyson, Larry Holmes and George Foreman although, it has to be said, both Holmes and Foreman were in their early forties at the time he fought them.

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8) VITALI KLITSCHKO
Record: 45-2 (41 KO’s)

Vitali Klitschko

Klitschkoqualified PhD, nicknamed Dr Ironfistand currently Mayor of Kiev, was the first European for many years to make an impact on the heavyweight boxing scene

At 6 feet 7 inches and a superbly fit 240 pounds or so, he brought a new focus to the division which was traditionally ruled by American fighters. Whilst interest in the sport had begun to wane in the states, via the gradual decline of activity in the amateur ranks. By the turn of the century in Europe a new enthusiasm was taking hold. Klitschko took the WBC title in 1999 beating Herbie Hide in 2 rounds.

Klitschko’s height, reach, punching power and boxing skills established him as an all time great. His only 2 losses were to Chris Byrd and Lennox Lewis. He has always maintained a steadfast refusal to fight his younger brother, Wladimir, another outstanding champion.

7) JOE FRAZIER
Record: 32-4-1 (27 KO’s)

Ali and Frazier

“Smokin'” Joe Frazier was an aggressive, bustling type of fighter with a thunderbolt left hook, who won the title in 1970 and, in retaining it in the massively hyped ‘fight of the century’ in 1971, was the first man to beat Muhammad Ali. 

He lost the title to another attacking fighter in 1973 when he took on the heavier George Foreman who, after flooring Frazier several times in a brutal encounter, knocked him out in round two.

He subsequently lost twice to Ali (the second of these fights being the gruelling “Thrilla in in Manila, which left both men in hospital) and again to Foreman, leaving Big George and Ali as his only conquerors.

6) MIKE TYSON
Record: 50-6* (44 ko)

Tyson, the youngest man to win the WBC, WBA and IBF titles at 20, is perhaps the most destructive puncher the division has known.

This made him capable, especially in the early days of his career, of suddenly demolishing an opponent in a split second, no matter the current state of the contest. He won the WBC title in 1986 and the WBA and IBF in 1987. He defended the title 9 times before losing to underdog James ‘Buster’ Douglas in 1990.

His downward slide was not helped when he changed management. He also achieved notoriety for the ear biting escapade in his rematch with Evander Holyfield and activities outside the ring, which included a rape charge, imprisonment and money problems(despite his massive ring earnings and lucrative endorsements).

*Tyson also fought two bouts that ended as ‘no contests’.

Tune in tomorrow for the second part of Ken’s article, where he’ll reveal his top five heavyweight boxers of all time. In the meantime let us know your thoughts on the list so far in the comment section below, and please ask people to ‘like’ our Facebook page.

Written by Ken Irons

I have always had a love of the written word and have frequently, over the years, exasperated editors, publishers et al with my copious submissions of work. My highly advanced years I find a plus, as it means not having to research so much – I can remember it if it’s in the last century or so!

King of Promoters – The amazing story of Don King

Regular contributor Ken Irons regales Kureen readers with the amazing story of charismatic, wild-haired boxing promoter Don King.

Don King

Don King was born in 1931 in Cleveland, Ohio. From a young age he realised that, due to his colour and lack of social status, he would have to fight hard to achieve his ambitions. The first of these ambitions was to become a lawyer and to this end he went to Kent State University.

Ever the pragmatist however, he was persuaded by his elder sibling to drop out and to join him in illegal bookmaking and the numbers racket, then a way of life in the city.

King’s aptitude for numbers and his phenomenal memory proved highly beneficial in this new, if shady, enterprise and he soon ran his own operation. Something, however, that Don had assimilated, both from his upbringing and this work on Cleveland’s mean streets, had instilled in him a ruthless mindset that would almost bring about his downfall.

Don King 3

He had learned that: you have to grab what you want before the other guy gets it; no one is going to give you something for nothing; and, if someone does you down and you show them mercy, then they’ll do it again and again. Thus it happened that on two occasions, in 1954 and 1966, King ended the lives of two human beings.

When the cases came to trial in 1966 it was established that the first man had been shot in the back by King as he attempted to rob one of the latter’s gambling houses. This case was pronounced justifiable homicide.

In the second case, in 1966, King was convicted of 2nd degree murder for stomping to death an employee who owed him $600. The employee, an unfit and weedy man, stood no chance when confronted by the 6 foot plus, heavily built King, who stomped and mercilessly kicked him to death. A police officer, who had witnessed part of the slaughter, was wholly mortified by it and later described the horror of seeing the victims head flapping from side to side, propelled by the bigger man’s boots.

The conviction was subsequently reduced by the judge to non-negligent murder and King served just under 4 years. He was later pardoned for the crime in 1983 by Ohio Governor Jim Rhodes and there were letters of support from Jesse Jackson and other influential parties.

In the meantime Don used his incarceration to good effect and read extensively (notably on Philosophy), thus helping to mould the intelligent yet verbose speaker the public would soon marvel at. He was particularly prone to classic quotations, an idiosyncrasy that would remain with him.

Alas, these were interspersed with regular malapropisms that, despite a fierce intelligence, he seemed blissfully unaware of. However, his mode of communication, an important part of which seemed to involve never answering a direct question when he could instead divert the questioner’s attention by rambling on to his heart’s content, served him very well in the practice of negotiation that his career ultimately demanded.

On his release from prison King moved into boxing. After working with an experienced local promoter, Don Elbaum, he made a crucial move when he persuaded Muhammed Ali to box in a charity exhibition, staged to help a local hospital for black people.

There followed, in 1974, King’s golden hour. All he had learned to date: the determination, the bargaining skills, the ruthless business ethic, were used to negotiate with Ali, Foreman, their managements, the boxing authorities and heads of foreign government alike, to produce one of the biggest and most famous fights ever – the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ – Ali v Foreman in Zaire.  Vitally, a special arrangement was brokered with the Zaire Government to secure the (then record) $10 million purse.

King maintained his position as a major promoter throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, promoting the likes of Larry Holmes, Roberto Duran, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Julio Cesar Chavez, Bernard Hopkins and many others.

Always interested in music he also promoted The Jacksons ’84 ‘victory tour’. His other abiding interest – the cause of his fellow blacks – was served by his acquisition of an African American community weekly paper in Cleveland.

It would have been nice to think that King’s career was free of further problems involving the law. After all, his omnipresent towering figure, complete with spiky hair, standing in the ring flanked by the world’s best fighters as he beamed happily into the camera, was now a familiar sight the world over.

Nor did he confine himself to posturing only at his own promotions – on one famous occasion rival promoter Bob Arum was forced to clamber up the steps and bravely restrain King from entering the ring at Arum’s own promotion.

Outside of the ring, he had successfully integrated into society: he held an Honorary Doctorate of Humane letters degree from Central State University and had publicly backed presidential candidates.

It therefore shocked many people when King’s business methods came under serious scrutiny. He was sued by practically every one of the big name fighters he promoted for defrauding them: by Ali for $1.1million, Holmes for $10 million, Tim Witherspoon for $25 million, Tyson for $100million ad nauseam. Terry Norris alleged that King had conspired with his manager to underpay him. King settled out of court for $7.5 million, and conceded to Norris’s wish that the settlement be made public.

Don King 5

King’s normal practice was to settle out of court and thus Tyson was eventually paid $14 million, Witherspoon $1 million, Holmes $150,000 and so on. A particularly chilling example of King’s ruthlessness came with the Ali settlement; In 1982 Ali – who, it should be remembered, had kick-started King’s career by agreeing to box at the latter’s charity exhibition – had sued King for short changing him in the brutal Larry Holmes fight, during which Ali took a severe beating.

King’s response was to approach one of Ali’s old friends, a man called Jeremiah Shabazz, give him a suitcase containing $50,000 in cash, a letter ending Ali’s lawsuit against King, and instructions to deliver them to Ali. The letter even gave King the rights to promote any future Ali fights.

Ali was in hospital at the time showing the early symptoms of the cruel illness that has now taken hold of him. He was, according to his old friend, ‘mumbling’ a lot, however, he signed the letter. Shabazz later regretted helping King and it was reported that Ali’s lawyer was reduced to tears on hearing that his client had ended the lawsuit without telling him.

In a 1992 senate investigation into organised crime, King invoked the 5th amendment when questioned about his connections to ‘Godfather’ John Gotti. He subsequently deemed any such allegations as “racist”. The man who no less a writer than Norman Mailer had hailed as a “genius”, was characterised by Mike Tyson as “a wretched, slimy, reptilian motherfucker, who would kill his own mother for a dollar”.

King launched a $2.5 billion defamation suit against ESPN after a documentary claimed that he had “killed not once, but twice”, had threatened to break Larry Holmes’s legs, and cheated Meldrick Taylor out of $1 million then threatened to have him killed. The case was dismissed.

Don King’s wife died in 2010 at age 87. He has a daughter, 2 sons and 5 grandchildren. Although he has inevitably lost some of his strength and menace at 83, his ambition persists and he has made it clear that he will never retire.

Rather, he still plans and dreams of his next possible promotion and, of course, the resultant payday.

Written by Ken Irons

I have always had a love of the written word and have frequently, over the years, exasperated editors, publishers et al with my copious submissions of work. My highly advanced years I find a plus, as it means not having to research so much – I can remember it if it’s in the last century or so!

Fight of the Century

In Ken Irons’ latest article he looks at the upcoming ‘super fight’ between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, and discusses five other blockbuster bouts that never took place.

The upcoming Floyd Mayweather Jnr Vs Manny Pacquiao blockbuster, scheduled for May 2nd in Las Vegas, is already being dubbed ‘fight of the century’ and is attracting enormous interest worldwide.

For a non-heavyweight fight to be paying by far the biggest purse money in history speaks for itself. The lion’s share of this purse will go to Mayweather on a 60 – 40 percentage with his share, reportedly, a staggering 140 million dollars.

The fight was first mooted some six years ago, with both fighters then generally acknowledged as the best ‘pound for pound’ champions in the sport.
Mayweather Pacquiao
Mayweather is a 5-weight division world champ who has won 10 world titles, and Pacquiao an 8-weight division world champ who has also secured 10 world titles.

Boxing fans, impatient to see the two men meet in the ring, have had to endure frustration for all of that time however, due to disputes between the two camps over such issues as drug testing, promotional rights and the like.

It was therefore with some surprise that those same fans were greeted with the news last month that terms for the match had finally been agreed.

Although both fighters are, sadly, now somewhat past their primes (Mayweather is 38 and Pacquiao 36) this fact does not appear to have diminished appetites for the scrap.

Incidentally, Pacquiao has reportedly bent over backwards to comply with his rivals’ terms, including accepting the smaller purse, something which has been construed by his supporters as proof that it is he who wants the fight most. However, one could perfectly understand any possible caution exhibited by Mayweather, as his outstanding 47 wins, no losses record is now approaching that of Rocky Marciano (49 wins in 49 fights).

The great Rocky Marciano: 49-0 pro record remains the boxing benchmark.
The great Rocky Marciano: 49-0 pro record remains the boxing benchmark.

So, whilst it seems likely that Mayweather, should he win, would want to continue fighting, Pacquiao, bearing in mind his outside interests (mainly in politics), is thought likely to call it a day after the match, especially should he be defeated.

Both men are reported to be training extremely hard, with ‘Money Man’, Mayweather, always a stickler for fitness, re-introducing a wood chopping  routine which goes right back in boxing to the time of  Jack Dempsey and even Jack Johnson, and strengthens back, shoulder and core muscles.

Filipino Pacquiao, the ‘Pac Man’, is a non-stop puncher, capable of unsettling any opponent, whereas Mayweather is a fleet of foot boxer whose style has been cited by Top Rank chief, Bob Arum, as reminiscent of the classic American fighter from Sugar Ray Robinson, through Sugar Ray Leonard and Muhammed Ali.

Who will prevail, with 4 titles at stake, on May 2nd?    Will it be WBA (super), WBC & Ring Welterweight champ Mayweather, or WBO Welterweight champ Pacquiao? I’m going for Mayweather on points!

Whilst on the subject of the dream fight, it is tempting to consider what other match-ups would thrill the fans: what fighters – were it possible to manipulate the various eras in which they practised their trade – would make for contests to equal, and even surpass Mayweather vs Pacquiao?

If it is not too much to keep fight fans from drooling uncontrollably, how would the following encounters, for example, appeal if they appeared on the support card? And remember that all contestants would be in their prime when they stepped into the ring.

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1) GEORGE FOREMAN v MIKE TYSONMike Tyson pigeon

It is difficult to imagine two more destructive punchers and more difficult still to imagine the outcome. I would simply have to place my bet on the match NOT going the distance!

Alternatively, Iron Mike could face another opponent. So we could be treated to…

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2) RIDDICK BOWE v MIKE TYSONRiddick Bowe

This could perhaps be referred to as the heavyweight showdown between ‘The two Bruisers from Brooklyn’. Again, picking a winner would not be easy although Tyson would possibly start as the favourite.

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3) VITALI KLITSCHKO v WLADIMIR KLITSCHKOKlitschko Bros.

At the risk of upsetting the two fighters’ mother – who made them promise years back that they would never face each other in the ring – this would be a most interesting match up.

The two Russian giants have similar styles and physiques, but though Vitali was initially the more polished, Wladimir is now building up a superb fight record. This is another tough one to call.

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4) JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ v ROBERTO DURAN

Coming down in the weights, these two are multi-weight champions (3 divisions for Chavez, and 4 for Duran).

‘Manos de Piedra‘(Duran’s nickname, translating as Hands of Stone) was the ultimate hard man. This ‘tough guy’ image was however somewhat dented when on one occasion in 1980 he defended his WBC welterweight title.

The challenger was Sugar Ray Leonard, who he had battered over 12 rounds earlier that same year for that same title. Duran refused to come out for the 8th round, reportedly uttering the famous words “No mas”(no more).

Mexican Chavez was a hard hitter (86 knockouts in 115 fights), capable of delivering disabling body shots and he had a strong chin. I don’t think that the fans would have any complaints here about lack of action.

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5) SUGAR RAY ROBINSON v SUGAR RAY LEONARD

This final one would be my personal dream fight. Robinson’s name is invariably, and justifiably, invoked whenever the question of ‘greatest of all time’ arises.

The second, and junior, Sugar Ray is generally held to be at the very summit of ‘pound for pounders’ in the modern era, as against Robinson’s latter day superiority. As for picking a winner, I simply wouldn’t have a clue!

Let us know your thoughts on the Mayweather/Pacquiao contest in the comment section below, and please like and share the Kureen Facebook page, our target is to reach 300 likes by the start of June this year!

Written by Ken Irons

I have always had a love of the written word and have frequently, over the years, exasperated editors, publishers et al with my copious submissions of work. My highly advanced years I find a plus, as it means not having to research so much – I can remember it if it’s in the last century or so!