Ezzard Charles - great technician, unbelievable record: Top 5 fighter?

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Ezzard Charles - great technician, unbelievable record: Top 5 fighter? Empty Ezzard Charles - great technician, unbelievable record: Top 5 fighter?

Post by captain carrantuohil on Wed Sep 26, 2012 10:17 am

There has been a lot of spirited debate on these boards about older fighters and their technique when compared to their modern counterparts.

One fighter of yesteryear about whom there can surely be no such objections is Ezzard Charles. I was looking through some of his fights last night and came upon this excellent fragment that shows Charles' sheer ringcraft with great clarity. Worth a look, if the mechanics of the game interest you: www.youtube.com/watch?v=4E2BEE8Ce70

This also led me to think about Charles' position in the history of the game. It is possible to argue that his list of victims, particularly before he became heavyweight champion, is perhaps greater than just about anyone who ever laced on a pair of gloves. 3-0 against Archie Moore; 2-0 against Charley Burley; 4-1 against Jimmy Bivins; 2-1 against Lloyd Marshall; 5-0 against Joey Maxim; other fine wins against men such as Christoforidis, Yarosz, Oakland Billy Smith, "Violent" Ray (against whom he was robbed in his first fight) and Baksi. Then, of course, the victories over Louis and Walcott that gave him the undisputed heavyweight crown.

If Charles had stopped boxing in 1951, we would probably have been forced to consider him as a proper challenger to Robinson's generally accepted position as the best pound for pound fighter who ever lived. Robinson's record might have been basically spotless for 15 years, but he never fought as many dangerous opponents as Ezz.

Of course, Charles didn't stop in 1951; he lost his title and became beatable, albeit still competitive, for the next three or four years, highlighted by his two great efforts against Marciano. His career then fell off a cliff, a la Roy Jones, and he lost 12 of his last 18 fights. As a result, I feel that even now, Charles does not quite rank as highly with as many people as perhaps he should.

I have always tended to see him around number 6 of all time, but I have started to think that even this is not high enough. We can't ignore his decline completely, but when his career is seen in the round, it seems to me that only Robinson, Greb and Armstrong have unanswerable claims to be rated ahead of him among all boxers who have ever lived. He would have been a great in any era, surely the test of the true immortal.

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Post by Rowley on Wed Sep 26, 2012 10:36 am

Some excellent arguments Captain and difficult to argue with, I posted a thread an age ago looking at Moore’s record against members of the black murderers row to illustrate how good some of those guys were and I believe on that very thread we discussed that undertaking a similar such exercise with Charles demonstrated quite how good Ezzard was and indeed it does.

However in the interests of context and my ongoing love affair with Burley it should be said he was a natural welter so tended to give a healthy size advantage away to Ezzard and his record against Bivins is a little misleading as many of his wins came after Jimmy’s time in the army when it is reckoned he was the victim of a fairly brutal attack by some MP’s and his form afterwards never quite hit the heights it had reached previously, however these things aside Charles still has enough in his record to mark him out as the cream of the crop in probably the strongest era the light heavies and middles have ever seen.

At the minute in no particular order my top five are Ali, Robinson, Armstrong, Greb and Langford, would have no particular issue with the idea of Charles gatecrashing that list but god only knows at whose expense.


Last edited by rowley on Wed Sep 26, 2012 11:34 am; edited 1 time in total

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Post by azania on Wed Sep 26, 2012 10:39 am

Unfortunately for Charles he will always be remembered for losing to Rocky. Had the fight occurred 18 months earlier he would have beaten up that chump.

Great guy and a middleweight who went on to win the HW title.

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Post by 88Chris05 on Wed Sep 26, 2012 11:14 am

I fully agree, captain - Charles is one of the true immortals of the sport. There aren't many fighters whose records can't be diminished or questioned to some extent, even if it's only by the ill-informed, and to a microscopic degree. But with Charles, there is no hint of being the right man in the right place at the right time, no argument to be made that his technique would see him fall flat in the modern game, no worrying trend of repeated struggles against one certain fighter or one certain style in his prime years.

I also agree that Robinson, Armstrong and Greb are the only names I could have ahead of him unequivocally.

For anyone to have any name other than Ezzard's at the top of their all-time Light-Heavyweight rankings would seem remiss, to me. I've said it many times before, but consider this; Moore is a nailed-on top three man at 175 lb, and Charles, as you allude to, was 3-0 against him, even stopping him in one of those fights for good measure. Take any other divisional number one (Robinson at Welter, Ali at Heavy, Jofre at Bantam etc for argument's sake) and none of them can make such a claim. For Charles to be so utterly dominant against a rival for all-time divisional supremacy is totally unique across boxing history. World title or not, he was easily the greatest Light-Heavyweight of all time, with his superiority there being almost Bradmanesque.

Phenomenal ring technician, tremedously consistent in his peak years and, those final years aside in which he was really just a caricature of a once great boxer, even able to compete admirably with bigger men while decidedly past his best, the importance of which can't be overstated.

Wonderful fighter, number four pound for pound in my eyes.
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Post by TheMackemMawler on Wed Sep 26, 2012 11:48 am

Loved the video Captain, but sometimes I felt the narrative was a little seperated from the reality of the action, but that said, there is no denying the mans skill. Amazing.

With regards to his rating. I'm not sure.

I can't rank fighters from different era's and from different weight categories to create an ATG list. It's just an extremely complicated p4p list. I'm useless at doing this for the current crop of fighters so i have no chance of doing it for an ATG list.

Those that've replied already will have seen more footage, and read more about Charles, than me anyway, so I'll go with mean of the general consensus.
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Post by captain carrantuohil on Wed Sep 26, 2012 1:02 pm

Thanks for the responses.

One of the things that I love about boxing is that you never stop learning in so many ways, even, and especially, after you're much too far gone to be an active participant in it.

I first became aware of Charles when I was about 8. I read his obituaries in various papers just after he had died, still comparatively young, after waging a courageous battle against an awful wasting disease for many years. It was obvious to my young eyes that he was held in high regard, but it has only been over the past couple of decades that I have really discovered the truth about his ability and achievements.

An absolute monarch of the ring, in my view.

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Post by Rowley on Wed Sep 26, 2012 1:44 pm

I still think to a degree Charles is overlooked, is difficult to look closely at his record and have him as anything other than a top ten of all time but even now there is not one decent biography of him available which is shameful really.

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Post by manos de piedra on Wed Sep 26, 2012 4:02 pm

I rate Charles as almost a shoe in for a top 5 spot and possibly a dark horse to even rival Robinson himself. I think hes quite underrated for several reasons, despite being rated highly.

Sometimes I get the impression he is remembered more for being just a serviceable and erratic heavyweight than a dominant 160-175lb man. I think Charles is one of the few fighters that should be a dead cert to be in any top ten, but often I see him in 10-25 bracket and frequently rated behind his rival Archie Moore in both light heavyweight and all time lists. Which brings me to my next reason:

His lack of title reign to show for his accomplishments between 160-175. Hes not in the record books as being a champion of the weight classes he thoroughly shone in and I feel this is held against him. This was due to him never receiving a title shot until he moved to heavyweight.

The last reason is a combination of the above really. Most of Charles great work went unnoticed in the public eye in the lower divisions and when he finally did acheive actual championship glory it was at a weight above his best work and a time when his performances had become less consistent. While his great consistency went largely unnoticed to the public at large in the smaller halls against the Murderers Row members, his more erratic championship level form at heavyweight was more in the spotlight.

If you look at his record though, Charles turned professional in 1940, and in his first three years as a pro had already racked up a couple of wins over the great and much more experienced (albeit lighter) Charley Burley, a couple of wins over Joey Maxim (future light heavyweight champion and heavyweight challenger), Anton Christofiridas (ex light heavyweight champion), Teddy Yarosz (ex middleweight champion) and Jose Basora (managed a draw with Ray Robinson) who were all top rated in either the welter, middle or light heavy divisions when Charles fought them. In those first three years he suffered two defeats (Kid Tunero and Ken Overlin) who were experienced contenders of the day. An impressive first three years as a pro overall which saw him highly rated in both the light heavy and middle divisions.

1943 started poorly for Charles who lost back to back fights the great Murderers Row fighters Jimmy Bivins and Lloyd Marshall. But from this point on, Charles dominance began. He would lose just one more fight (considered a robbery at that) over the next 7 years. This run included wins over Archie Moore x 3, Jimmy Bivins x 4, Lloyd Marshall x 2, Joey Maxim x 3, Gus Lewsnevitch, Elmer Ray, Jersey Joe Walcott x 2 and culminating in capturing the heavyweight title from Joe Louis. A remarkeable run over two divisions. Very few fighters in history could match that sequence of winning and consistency aganst that sort of competition. Its right up there with Robinsons welterweight reign for me.






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Post by superflyweight on Wed Sep 26, 2012 7:14 pm

Hard to add too much to what everyone's said above.

I used to have him around six or seven in my pound for pound list but after spending some time last year researching the history of the light heavweight division in more detail, I moved him up to number 4 behind the aforementioned Robinson, Greb and Armstrong. He's a clear number 1 in the light heavyweight division and great fighters like Moore, Tunney, Spinks and Foster are resigned to competing for the places beneath him.


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Post by Rodney on Thu Sep 27, 2012 8:37 am

The thing about old Ezzard and Captain has mentioned it in his opening article Is that he was good at everything. He could outbox master boxers like Moore and Burley and outslug heavyweights like Walcott.
Lately I've thought Charles could even have a claim to be the greatest ever if we look as his resume alone. Archie Moore and Charley Burley are considered two of the best of all time as well, and Charles had a total of five decisive wins against both of them, plus a host of wins against other great fighters like Lloyd Marshall and Jimmy Bivins.

In terms of resume and quality of opposition beaten he is in a group that could be counted on the fingers of one hand.

Personally, I rate Langford, Greb and Sugar Ray Robinson just ahead but really it's very close when you take all thing considered.

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