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The History of Boxing; The Sluggers vs. The Boxers
John L Sullivan
Boxing History on Amazon
Brawlers and Boxers
With free boxing online to watch endlessly these days it is difficult for modern fight fans to relate to the importance and excitement of boxing in the 19th and early 20th century. Long before the Ultimate Fighting Championship, when boxing magazines were not free and were collected or traded as prized possessions, the privilege of seeing a fight in person meant traveling and taking time away from every day life to see a huge event that was talked out, gambled on, and debated for months before and after the the fight itself. The importance of the man who bore the title of Heavyweight Champion of the World, was phenomenal. He was basically considered an American hero of the "Superman" proportions. Decades before The Adventures of Superman made the comic books and television, young boys would dream and fantasize about the Heavyweight champion of the world and his superhuman strength.
There is nothing that true boxing fans enjoy more than arguing over who would have beaten whom if they could be matched at the prime of their careers. That means taking the champion of 1889 and matching him against the champ of 1919 and so on. This writer is one of those who is forever learning and picking up hobbies, and did become genuinely interested in boxing and its history many years ago.
It was not long before I was sitting around a group of elderly gentlemen defending my position that Jack Dempsey could have beaten Mike Tyson if both were 22 years old and face to face in 1919. It was fun! Analyzing Frazier's left hook against Dempsey's, and Ali's floating and dancing against Jack Johnson's line of defense. There is no way of knowing exactly what the outcome would be, but one thing I learned from watching great historical boxing matches and modern ones, is that the heavy hitters always find themselves dethroned by the guys who have technique. Never is the big guy with the super human punch dethroned by an even bigger guy with a bigger punch. History has proven that the opposite strength is what ultimately beats the big lug.
Boxing fans don't very often want to admit this because there is so much glamor associated with a fighter who has a powerful punch. The boxer who walks into the ring and throws a single blow that knocks his opponent out cold reminds us of superman and the fantasies of comic books and cartoons. The young and old men are like children when a boxer with punching power stands like an unbeatable king. They are also very deeply disappointed when their hero gets stupefied in 8 rounds by a twinkle toed light weight.
I wonder how many times I have heard people say, "he is impossible to beat, no one can hit as hard as he does." I have won a few bets and angered some fans to an uncomfortable level when I would say, "a big strong puncher will not beat him, a good boxer will."
I used these lessons of history to come this conclusion.
James J Corbett
Joe Louis on Amazon
Sullivan vs. Corbett
John L Sullivan was the king of bare knuckle fights. He was a tough guy with a powerful punch. From 1880-1892 he was recognized as the Heavyweight Champion of the World. His photos were proudly displayed in bars across the country, alongside glamor photos of Lillian Russell. He was the idol of practically every boy, man and grandfather of his time. Sullivan had a sold punch, and had won 38 out of his 42 fights. Two of them were draws, one was stopped by authorities and declared no contest. His record was impressive and his image was becoming legendary.
Most of the fights Sullivan participated in were unlimited bouts, or "fights to the finish" as they called them. This simply meant that although they fought three minute rounds, there was no set number of rounds, and the win had to be by knockout; not by points. The only way the fight could end is when a knockout was achieved. The rules of modern times would not have been tolerated in the 1800s, boxers of today would be called, "sissys". The fight fans wanted to know who the real tough guy was, not who, given a set of rules, could out maneuver the other. It was a matter of who was still standing,and who had collapsed to the canvas. It was not unusual for fights to go well past 30 rounds, and fans came prepared for a real show of toughness. Although Sullivan's fights were scheduled to "fight to the finish," he seldom fought past 8 rounds due to his immensely powerful right cross. All of Sullivan's opponents had been sluggers who tried to out punch the heavy hitting champion.
James J. Corbett is credited as the first scientific fighter ever. He was a boxer who used his ability to move quickly, counter punch, and jab to his advantage.
Sullivan, 5' 10" and 212 lbs, had been fighting as a bare knuckle fighter since 1882 when he took on Corbett, ( 6' 1" and 30 lbs lighter) who as considered to be such a different kind of fighter. A pansy by the standards of the day, Corbett's clean and athletic style was no wall liked against Sullivan's straight forward pouncing, however, Corbett beat the long reining Sullivan in the 21st round by wearing his opponent down before landing a solid left to the jaw that put his heavier opponent down for good. Many true Sullivan fans cried when their idol was beaten. It was like discovering that Santa Claus did not exist, but it was most definitely one of the greatest fights in boxing history.
Jack Dempsey on Amazon
The Manassa Mauler
Jack Dempsey, 6'1", had a larger than life persona after he beat 6' 7" Jess Willard to take the title of Heavyweight Boxing Champion of The World. It was a David and Goliath match, Jack Dempsey was giving away 75 pounds to the Pottawatomie Giant, who is still the tallest heavyweight champion ever. Jack had several exciting title defenses and his reputation grew to astronomical proportions. All were expecting a replay of his previous knockouts when Dempsey was scheduled to fight Gene Tunney.
Tunney shocked the fight world when he danced circles around the brawny brawler. Dempsey plodded after the superior boxer Tunney, who wore his opponent down, beating Jack Dempsey in 15 rounds by outpointing him. I believe the only way to have beaten Dempsey at the height of his boxing career would be to do as Tunney had done. To outbox the brawler who depends so much on landing that one solid hit. Times were still innocent in 1926, and the defeat of Jack Dempsey was devastating to young men all over the country. I recall seeing elderly men on television stating that their lives changed after that event. Reality had become a little more real, and they were forced to grow up and face facts. There are no real superhuman champions.
Tunney and Dempsey would later have a re match that would go down in history as "The Battle of The Long Count." The fight was virtually a repeat of the first, with Tunny leading Dempsey to swing and miss and then plod after his tormentor. The tables seemed to abruptly change when in the 7th round Jack Dempsey unloaded with a flurry of punches that staggered Tunny onto the ropes. Soon Tunny hit the canvas and Jack stood over Tunny after landing his tremendous barrage of solid hits instead of going to a neutral corner. After Tunney went down in a heap the referee did not begin counting until after he turned to Dempsey and ordered him to go to a neutral corner. Dempsey lost valuable time and Tunney's count lasted over 10 seconds, before he got up and continued the fight. This is an arguing point with boxers and always will be. But, when Tunney recovered from that knock down and the fight resumed as a replay of their first bout. Jack Dempsey did not regain the Heavyweight title as Gene Tunney out boxed him once again.
Dempsey vs. Tunney Battle of the Long Count
Ali vs. Foreman
Ali vs. Foreman
George Foreman had a menacing persona in 1974 when he faced Muhammad Ali. Even though Ali had beaten heavy hitters in the past such as Sony Liston, the general public believed that Ali, the bouncy dancer who lacked tremendous punching power, would be knocked out in the early rounds by the big powerful slugger, George Foreman.
Ali danced as expected in the early rounds, and after feeling out his opponent and seeing that he was getting tired, Ali decided that he would relax for a while and let his opponent further deplete his strength. He used his superior defense, and over all boxing skill to let his powerful foe tire, and spun around in the 8th round to upset the crowd by knocking out George Foreman. Once again the crafty man had beaten the strong, hard hitting champion. Ali's strategy would go down in boxing history as "the rope a dope" defense, due to the fact that he was leaning back on the ropes, and using them for a resting zone and as an aid in avoiding Foreman's blows.
He roped the dope into losing the battle.
Buster Douglas KOs Mike Tyson
Buster Douglas Vs. Mike Tyson
In 1990 Mike Tyson's reputation was one of a super human strength and invincibility. He managed to exude power, strength and lightning speed. Even though he was not as big as the other fighters he faced, he was regarded as the most fearsome fighter ever. Tyson had a string of one round knock outs, and it was rather unusual for a Tyson fight to make it to round 2 or 3. One thing can be observed when watching Tyson's pre Buster Douglas bouts is that the opponents look psyched out. Many looked as though they were scared out of their wits before the bell even rang.
When Buster Douglas faced Tyson all were expecting another one round fight, but, Buster Douglas was moving like Ali, or Larry Holmes that night. He had an excellent stance and threw out his jab frequently, holding his shorter opponent at bay. By the mid rounds Mike was pouting and whimpering in his corner. He knew he was up against something he had never faced before, a man who could box. In the 10th round Buster Douglas knocked Tyson out. Another heavy hitter bites the dust. No one was crying this time.
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