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The Greatest Heavyweight. My All Time Top Twenty

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Post by Rowley on Wed 5 Oct - 18:41

First topic message reminder :

Been a while since we did one of these so thought it might be worth revisiting our oft debated topic of the top heavyweights. Just for variety and to push myself a bit I have broken with tradition and not stopped once I reached ten. Today you get a full top twenty. As tends to be the trend I have not included Sullivan, despite him generally being considered the first champion under Queensbury rules as most of his significant fights were under London Ring Rules it seems unfair to include him as he would either feature far lower than his talents deserve or far higher than his record under Queensbury rules warrants.
 
Putting this together was a lot harder than I imagined. I tend to have a solid seven or eight fighters I feel confident deserve to feature in the top ten and then around another six or seven fighting it out to make up the top ten. Splitting them or deciding who warrants to make up the top ten is nigh on impossible. All of them tend to have some significant highs in their career, i.e Tunney beating Dempsey twice, but some serious lows i.e Lewis getting sparked by Rahman.  Also once you get past those deciding who should fill out the top twenty is similarly a bit tricky. Despite being the flagship division the talent pool is not always that deep at heavy. Seems odd to do a top twenty for 120 years of the division where guys who either have one or two defences to their name or none whatsoever warrant genuine consideration.  Also saying one guy’s one defence is better than another guy’s one defence does somewhat feel like an exercise in sorting out who is the tallest dwarf.

1 Ali
2 Louis
3 Johnson
4 Jeffries
5 Holmes
6 Dempsey
7 Foreman
8 Frazier
9 Lewis
10 Marciano
11 Holyfield
12 Tyson
13 Tunney
14 Liston
15 W Klitschko
16 Charles
17 Walcott
18 Wills
19 Langford
20 Corbett

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Post by 88Chris05 on Thu 6 Oct - 12:37

A valiant effort for sure, Jeff. Been a while since I pondered a top ten, never mind a top twenty so full credit for taking the leap! Let me see...

1) Ali 2) Louis 3) Holmes 4) Jeffries 5) Johnson 6) Foreman 7) Lewis 8) Tyson 9) Frazier 10) Marciano 11) Liston 12) Holyfield 13) Dempsey 14) Walcott 15) Wladimir Klitschko 16) Tunney 17) Wills 18) Langford 19) Charles 20) Bowe

I'm pretty happy with my first dozen or so, after that it becomes a bit muddled with with all sorts of tiny margins and different criteria meaning most of them are interchangeable.

Appreciate that Dempsey might be way too low for a lot of people's taste on my list, but as I've said before I just can't bring myself to put him in that elite bracket. Still feel that his enourmous financial and cultural impact on the sport has resulted in him getting an inflated rating - his record just doesn't match up, for me. As an example, why should he be ahead of someone like Frazier, as he invariably is in these lists? Frazier beat Ali with, to my mind, the greatest performance in Heavyweight title history in the greatest fight in Heavyweight title history to become the clear top dog. Dempsey beat Willard, on the other hand (appreciate Joe had already unified the NYSAC and WBA titles before fighting Ali, but rightly or wrongly until he'd beaten Ali some lingering doubts remained). Frazier lost his title to a genuine Heavyweight who'd make everyone's top ten in Foreman; Dempsey lost it to a smaller man (albeit not by a great deal, but you get my drift) who seldom makes a top ten on here in Tunney. Yes, in that case the title didn't change hands in as devastating a fashion as it did in Foreman-Frazier, but ultimately Tunney still made Dempsey look like an amateur for the most part across two fights.

Outside of that, in terms of ability, general level of opposition in title defences, longevity as a genuine force at world level etc, where is Dempsey's big edge over Joe?

Anyway, Dempsey is always a bugbear of mine so consider it well and truly off my chest now!

Foreman at six isn't easy. Very short prime, a bit one-dimensional (but what a dimension!) and all that jazz. But in absolutely destroying a genuinely great Heavyweight to become champion in 1973, and then becoming the oldest lineal title holder twenty one years later, he bookended his championship career with two momentous achievements which nobody else in history can really match on either end of the spectrum.

I have Holmes higher than most (apart from Superfly, it seems), too. Said it before, but he gets my bronze medal for the following reasons: he probably isn't top three in terms of how good and complete he was technically. He wouldn't be top three in hypothetical head-to-heads either, I'd guess. Maybe not top three for sheer weight of achievements, nor for the level of opposition he beat consistently throughout his career. But, whereas most candidates outside of Ali and Louis are sh*t-hot in a couple of these areas but then bang average in others, Larry was consistently very good in all of them without necessarily being outstanding in any. Lump them all together and the combined weight of his record and accomplishments outdo everyone bar the golden two, for my money.

I'm sure he'd be fuming and would be reminding me in no uncertain terms that I've got him a couple of spaces too low, mind you.
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Post by TRUSSMAN66 on Thu 6 Oct - 12:45

I never understand how Holmes ends above Foreman...

Peak Frazier....peak-Norton......Lyle..............

Old-Norton v Holmes was contentious and Witherspoon beat Holmes on a majority of cards..

They were the two best fighters he fought....

Shavers had lost to a declining Ali....The rest was seven years of good/garbage heavies.....Weaver, Smith, Williams being notables..

Holmes.............Great Heavy but didn't have a great record..

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Post by Guest on Thu 6 Oct - 13:34

Herman Jaeger wrote:Maybe chuck in Joe Jeanette and Sam McVey who were ranked alongside Johnson, Langford and Wills as the top black heavyweights of their generation?

You got to reckon that was a good era for black heavyweights hence the suggestion for their inclusion. Maybe they just miss out I don't know but worthy of a mention

Although a top ten man pound for pound of all time how about Langford a bit higher in your list imagine the James Toney skill set with the punch of Mike Tyson and you got Langford?

And what about George Godfrey not sure if he belongs in the list maybe just misses out but you got to reckon he's too big for the likes of Tunney, Charles and Walcott?

Peter Jackson too worth a mention

Wondered how long it would take before someone finally got round to mentioning m'main man Peter, cheers Herman, the rest of them are know-nothing frigtards.

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Post by Herman Jaeger on Thu 6 Oct - 13:38

Did Johnson draw the colour as champion because he knew the black heavyweights of his generation were better than the white ones or because there was more money in fighting the white challengers more prestige?

I don't know much about the period my question has always been was he ever offered big money as champion to take on any of the negro challengers or would none of them got him a payday?

Incidentally Johnson called Jeanette 'the toughest man I ever fought'


Welcome Dave we try, we try

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Post by TopHat24/7 on Thu 6 Oct - 14:07

Herman Jaeger wrote:
TRUSSMAN66 wrote:
Herman Jaeger wrote:Maybe chuck in Joe Jeanette and Sam McVey who were ranked alongside Johnson, Langford and Wills as the top black heavyweights of their generation?

You got to reckon that was a good era for black heavyweights hence the suggestion for their inclusion. Maybe they just miss out I don't know but worthy of a mention

Although a top ten man pound for pound of all time how about Langford a bit higher in your list imagine the James Toney skill set with the punch of Mike Tyson and you got Langford?

And what about George Godfrey not sure if he belongs in the list maybe just misses out but you got to reckon he's too big for the likes of Tunney, Charles and Walcott?

Peter Jackson too worth a mention


Chuck the actor out of The Green Mile into the top 20....He looked pretty handy too....


Point?

He rarely has one. DFTT.....

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Post by TRUSSMAN66 on Thu 6 Oct - 14:13

Talking about pointless.

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Post by TRUSSMAN66 on Thu 6 Oct - 14:17

Would find it interesting to see a 20-40 list sometime....

take some working out..

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Post by AdamT on Thu 6 Oct - 14:19

TRUSSMAN66 wrote:Would find it interesting to see a 20-40 list sometime....

take some working out..

I would imagine some solid fighters would be on it. You have your guys from the 80's. People like Ray Mercer and Max Baer. Maybe old Fitz and the like.

Does anyone want to try??

I obviously haven't the boxing history knowledge.

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Post by TRUSSMAN66 on Thu 6 Oct - 14:21

Baer, Schmelling, Sharkey, Braddock........Be interesting to see who rates who higher....

I imagine the early 80s guys bar Witherspoon would struggle to make most top 40s.....

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Post by AdamT on Thu 6 Oct - 14:23

TRUSSMAN66 wrote:Baer, Schmelling, Sharkey, Braddock........Be interesting to see who rates who higher....

I imagine the early 80s guys bar Witherspoon would struggle to make most top 40s.....

On ability they could. But these lists are rarely based on that.

I wouldn't place Braddock too high. Very good shout with Schmelling. Was Jim Corbett in the top 20??

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Post by Herman Jaeger on Thu 6 Oct - 15:01

Jeanette fights Langford 15 times and Johnson 10 times and he can't get a place in a top twenty? Scandalous!

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Post by TRUSSMAN66 on Thu 6 Oct - 15:11

Did he ever beat them ??.......

Quite a few fights that went the distance in those days were automatically draws..

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Post by AdamT on Thu 6 Oct - 15:12

Does anyone think Ali shouldn't be top?? I think we are all in agreement with that.

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Post by Herman Jaeger on Thu 6 Oct - 15:16

Jeanette's proximity to both Langford and Johnson surely marks him out as a great fighter and not just over a few contests but the entirety of the rivalry

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Post by 88Chris05 on Thu 6 Oct - 15:23

AdamT wrote:Does anyone think Ali shouldn't be top?? I think we are all in agreement with that.

This is where we need Jimmy Stuart to come back. 'Tis but a pipe dream, though. Crying or Very sad
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Post by Guest on Thu 6 Oct - 15:31

1. Ali
2. Sullivan
3. Holmes
4. Tyson
5. Foreman
6. Frazier
7. Louis
8. Holyfield
9. Jeffries
10. Dempsey
11. Lewis
12. Tunney
13. Vitali  Klitschko
14. Marciano
15. Norton
16. Bowe
17. Walcott
18. Liston
19. Charles
20. Wladimir Klitschko

-------------------------------
Didn't say that we could not include Sullivan, so I'll throw caution to the wind there. Am afraid that I don't know enough about Langford-other than reading a boxing book review-so that may well be my oversight. I just don't rate Louis or Liston as high as most other posters.


Last edited by andygf on Sat 8 Oct - 13:51; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Wrote Corbett instead of Jeffries. D'oh.)

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Post by Atila on Thu 6 Oct - 18:09

TRUSSMAN66 wrote:I never understand how Holmes ends above Foreman...

Peak Frazier....peak-Norton......Lyle..............

Old-Norton v Holmes was contentious and Witherspoon beat Holmes on a majority of cards..

They were the two best fighters he fought....

Shavers had lost to a declining Ali....The rest was seven years of good/garbage heavies.....Weaver, Smith, Williams being notables..

Holmes.............Great Heavy but didn't have a great record..
I can see how Holmes gets rated over Foreman. Holmes has longevity as a champ, Foreman doesn't. Peak Norton was scared of Foreman and Lyle though an exciting fighter, wasn't a great or anything like that. Plus if Jimmy Young could outbox a young,  prime George, it's not too hard to imagine Holmes doing the same thing.

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Post by TRUSSMAN66 on Thu 6 Oct - 18:11

Sullivan only fought once under the Queensbury rules.... against Corbett...........

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Post by TRUSSMAN66 on Thu 6 Oct - 18:17

Atila wrote:
TRUSSMAN66 wrote:I never understand how Holmes ends above Foreman...

Peak Frazier....peak-Norton......Lyle..............

Old-Norton v Holmes was contentious and Witherspoon beat Holmes on a majority of cards..

They were the two best fighters he fought....

Shavers had lost to a declining Ali....The rest was seven years of good/garbage heavies.....Weaver, Smith, Williams being notables..

Holmes.............Great Heavy but didn't have a great record..
I can see how Holmes gets rated over Foreman. Holmes has longevity as a champ, Foreman doesn't. Peak Norton was scared of Foreman and Lyle though an exciting fighter, wasn't a great or anything like that. Plus if Jimmy Young could outbox a young,  prime George, it's not too hard to imagine Holmes doing the same thing.

Irrelevant if Norton was scared of Foreman........He is still a top heavyweight and it is a great win.....

Lyle is generally regarded as one of the best heavies never to win the title..

Both wins are way better than anything Holmes achieved....

"If Jimmy Young etc".......Can't see Snipes putting George on his arse or a novice Witherspoon beating Foreman either......If you want to go down that road..


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Post by Rowley on Thu 6 Oct - 19:27

Herman Jaeger wrote:Jeanette fights Langford 15 times and Johnson 10 times and he can't get a place in a top twenty?   Scandalous!

From what I can remember Jeannette won one against Johnson but was a bit unlucky in a few others. Most of them were no decision bouts where if both fighters were standing at the end no decision was given. In at least a couple of those the consensus was Joe would have got the decision was one given. He was a terrific fighter. Joe's other problem in his fights with Johnson is the bulk of them were over short distances and Joe was better suited to long distance affairs. In fights to the finish, which were becoming increasingly infrequent he was nigh on unbeatable and generally was better the longer the duration. According to his biography he fought Johnson in official bouts seven times, with a record of 1-1-1 with four no decisions.

His record against Langford according to the biography was 2-5-2 with five no decisions which probably explains why Sam tends to feature and Joe just misses out. When it comes to Johnson not fighting these guys he did certainly get offers to fight them but the reality is the offers to fight lesser white fighters were equally or more lucrative. Whether it upsets the purists in us or not if you're offered the same money for fighting Jeannette or Langford as you are for Fireman Jim Flynn or Al Kaufman it is not hard to see why the latter was attractive. What you also have to remember is at the time very few folk were interested in seeing Johnson lose the title to another black man, his conqueror being white was seen as pretty much a national obsession.

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Post by Herman Jaeger on Thu 6 Oct - 19:43

It's not hard to see why fighting white challengers was the preferred choice for Johnson

More lucrative and probably more of a challenge to his ego seeing as it was something of a national obsession for the American white man to see him toppled throw in he probably felt he'd proved himself already against his own skin colour

To be honest Jeff and thanks for your informative post I hope you will permit me but I'm going to contend that Johnson gets something of a hard time for not taking on black challengers as champion

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Post by TRUSSMAN66 on Thu 6 Oct - 19:51

"Preferred choice...."

Didn't have any choice.....No one was going to promote two black fighters fighting for the greatest prize in sports..

Bad enough one black being involved...

A lot of politics back then Herman..........

Johnson may have been a groundbreaker but he pushed the ambitions of other black boxers back for a long time with his behaviour..

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Post by Herman Jaeger on Thu 6 Oct - 19:57

No one was going to promote two black fighters no one was interested to see two black fighters then you go on to blame Johnson?

wtf???

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Post by Rowley on Thu 6 Oct - 20:15

Herman Jaeger wrote:

To be honest Jeff and thanks for your informative post I hope you will permit me but I'm going to contend that Johnson gets something of a hard time for not taking on black challengers as champion

To be honest I'm increasingly inclined to agree. Easy to criticise from 100 + years away but when you think about the stuff Johnson had to contend with you can't blame him doing whatever suited him once he eventually got the title. What winds me up is when people try and make him out as a heroic figure in the history of black people. His perserveance in getting a title Poopie is admirable but his conduct as champion hurt those that had to follow him.


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Post by TRUSSMAN66 on Thu 6 Oct - 20:25

Herman Jaeger wrote:No one was going to promote two black fighters no one was interested to see two black fighters then you go on to blame Johnson?

wtf???

.......I blame his irresponsible behaviour in sensitive times for "putting back" the careers and ambitions of his black peers......

Louis was the next Black fighter to fight for the greatest prize in sports....22 years later !!

He is at least partially to blame for that.

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Post by Herman Jaeger on Thu 6 Oct - 20:28

I should imagine winding up the white man would have been something of an inner obsession for Johnson beating all his(the white man's) challengers would have given him some great inner satisfaction and you can fully understand why though no doubt it would have been nice to see him take on some negro challengers as champion Johnson against Jeanette for the title would have been epic but always was and always will be a business. Sadly...


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Post by Rowley on Thu 6 Oct - 20:29

He almost certainly cost Wills a shot at Dempsey. I wholeheartedly believe that.

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Post by Herman Jaeger on Thu 6 Oct - 20:32

He cost Wills or the system cost Wills?

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Post by Hammersmith harrier on Thu 6 Oct - 21:09

A bit of both really, Johnson in my opinion did absolutely nothing and had one big pair of Love sacks to act the way he did but in doing so he did alienate the white majority and it took Louis' more sedate manner to correct those views to some extent years later.

It's a very tricky situation, had he towed the line and acted the way the white masses wanted then Willis and many others would likely have got the title shots they deserved but why should he pander to those in the wrong.

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Post by Herman Jaeger on Thu 6 Oct - 21:47

Indeed why should he have pandered to the white man especially as he would have been called an uncle tom if he did just think if it was you who had to be Jack Johnson and live his life you want to be popular with your own people yeah don't want to walk the street feeling people are sneering at you

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Post by catchweight on Thu 6 Oct - 22:29

Harsh to blame Johnson for living the lifestyle he did. Countless others with wealth and fame have done the same. Why not a heroic figure for black people? Im sure many black people consider him an inspiration. He broke the mould, he triumphed over incredible adversity and he took his race to the top. The word wasnt ready yet for him. Thats not his fault.

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Post by TRUSSMAN66 on Thu 6 Oct - 22:50

The 13th amendment had only been passed a scant 40 odd years before he became Champion.....Anyone over 50 years of age from the South probably remembered a time when they had a black slave who was 1/3 of a white man back then.....Or 3/5s.....

One thing flaunting the title...But prancing about with white Women and beating them up (Etta Duryea) was always going to incite and be provocative..

Thee are alot of things we can do but we don't because they are insensitive....

Johnson was no black hero......

Other people paid for Johnson's excesses..Even if he didn't...


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Post by hazharrison on Thu 6 Oct - 22:52

1. Ali
2. Louis
3. Marciano
4. Frazier
5. Foreman
6. Holmes
7. Johnson
8. Liston
9. Tyson
10. Holyfield
11. Dempsey
12. Lewis
13. Jeffries
14. Tunney
15. Patterson
16. Charles
17. Walcott
18. Bowe
19. Klitschko
20. Langford

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Post by hazharrison on Thu 6 Oct - 22:54

TRUSSMAN66 wrote:
Herman Jaeger wrote:No one was going to promote two black fighters no one was interested to see two black fighters then you go on to blame Johnson?

wtf???

.......I blame his irresponsible behaviour in sensitive times for "putting back" the careers and ambitions of his black peers......

Louis was the next Black fighter to fight for the greatest prize in sports....22 years later !!

He is at least partially to blame for that.

Johnson is to blame for America's racism? Good one.

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Post by TRUSSMAN66 on Thu 6 Oct - 22:56

hazharrison wrote:
TRUSSMAN66 wrote:
Herman Jaeger wrote:No one was going to promote two black fighters no one was interested to see two black fighters then you go on to blame Johnson?

wtf???

.......I blame his irresponsible behaviour in sensitive times for "putting back" the careers and ambitions of his black peers......

Louis was the next Black fighter to fight for the greatest prize in sports....22 years later !!

He is at least partially to blame for that.

Johnson is to blame for America's racism? Good one.

Yep.. Rolling Eyes

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Post by hazharrison on Thu 6 Oct - 23:16

TRUSSMAN66 wrote:
hazharrison wrote:
TRUSSMAN66 wrote:
Herman Jaeger wrote:No one was going to promote two black fighters no one was interested to see two black fighters then you go on to blame Johnson?

wtf???

.......I blame his irresponsible behaviour in sensitive times for "putting back" the careers and ambitions of his black peers......

Louis was the next Black fighter to fight for the greatest prize in sports....22 years later !!

He is at least partially to blame for that.

Johnson is to blame for America's racism? Good one.

Go away and let the grown-ups debate..

Johnson didn't put anyone's career back - White America did that, so wounded were they at Johnson's supremacy in the ring. Ali idolised Johnson for his courage and his boldness. His refusal to stay in line and remain subservient.

As Ali said, back then there was no protection, no Black Muslims, no Black Panthers etc. Johnson stood alone and refused to acquiesce to his society's demands. As his biographer wrote, Johnson: “embodied American individualism in its purest form; nothing—no law or custom, no person white or black, male or female—could keep him for long from whatever he wanted.”

Of course he was demonised, and much of that was his own fault but as a fighter, he was perhaps the most heroic of them all.

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Post by TRUSSMAN66 on Thu 6 Oct - 23:33

What has Ali got to do with anything...

22 years before a Black Heavy fought for the title again..

Had Johnson been more sensitive he could have broken down barriers instead he put them up higher...

He had every right to act the way he did...But it was less than helpful for his peers...

Louis played the game....He broke down barriers....

Anyway let us agree to disagree.......

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Post by hazharrison on Thu 6 Oct - 23:45

TRUSSMAN66 wrote:What has Ali got to do with anything...

22 years before a Black Heavy fought for the title again..

Had Johnson been more sensitive he could have broken down barriers instead he put them up higher...

He had every right to act the way he did...But it was less than helpful for his peers...

Louis played the game....He broke down barriers....

Anyway let us agree to disagree.......

You claimed Johnson was no black hero. Ali, Eubank and countless black fighters idolised him (as did millions of black people).

The colour bar was already in place for something like 26 years before Johnson - what makes you think it would have been lifted any earlier had Johnson been more subservient?

Claiming Johnson should have been more "sensitive" is tantamount to advocating the racism he rebelled against. You're unwittingly justifying the notion he should have towed the line, stayed in his lane.

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Post by TRUSSMAN66 on Thu 6 Oct - 23:54

AdamT wrote:I know many casual fans overrate Tyson, butI think he is ridiculously underrated by many too.

He could beat everyone on the list. No doubt he could lose to a few, but Tyson was amazing.

He made some decent/good heavies look like bums. I guess Foreman and Frazier did the same.

Ali is the rightful number one. Don't really care were many are placed, long as he is at the summit.

Moving on....

I lived through the Tyson years....Had an aura of menace....and was a truly great Heavy..

Think primary viewers hold him in higher esteem than secondary ones...

Probably like Louis...Maybe if I lived through that era I'd rate him higher as a fighter..

Though he is my number 2.


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Post by hazharrison on Fri 7 Oct - 0:09

TRUSSMAN66 wrote:
AdamT wrote:I know many casual fans overrate Tyson, butI think he is ridiculously underrated by many too.

He could beat everyone on the list. No doubt he could lose to a few, but Tyson was amazing.

He made some decent/good heavies look like bums. I guess Foreman and Frazier did the same.

Ali is the rightful number one. Don't really care were many are placed, long as he is at the summit.

Moving on....

I lived through the Tyson years....Had an aura of menace....and was a truly great Heavy..

Think primary viewers hold him in higher esteem than secondary ones...

Probably like Louis...Maybe if I lived through that era I'd rate him higher as a fighter..

Though he is my number 2.


Yet you've mocked the likes of Nat Fleischer and Bert Sugar for doing the exact same thing...

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Post by Rowley on Fri 7 Oct - 7:29

I think Johnson hurt the path for those that followed him. The perception of black people then was they were savages unworthy of carrying the greatest prize in sport. Johnson serves to reinforce many of those stereotypes. Have no issue with him wanting to thumb his nose at his oppressors, but some of his actions were intentionally and unnecessarily antagonistic. Look at his fight with Jeffries, at that stage he could and did beat Jeffries quite easily, but he chose not only to do that, he chose to mock him, belittle him to humiliate an American hero. It is pretty much universally accepted the bitter aftertaste and reaction to that left Rickard with no desire to promote another mixed race heavyweight fight, thus scuppering Dempsey Wills.

My own view is the perception before Johnson is that white America did not want a black heavyweight champion, after him, rather than making white America realise a black heavyweight is not the end of days stuff they believed, the perception was very much we don't want another Jack Johnson on our hands. As I have said previously given the crap he had to deal with I admire his willingness to thumb his nose at those who oppressed him and live as he pleased, but I don't think it is too much of a stretch to say the path he chose was singularly unhelpful for those who followed. Also think Johnson knew that only too well.

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Post by catchweight on Fri 7 Oct - 8:33

He didnt thumb his nose at white america. He just lived an extravagent lifestyle which white america wouldnt accept for a black man. As for taunting, the amount of racial abuse he suffered his whole life and for the jefferies fight in particular. Didnt jefferies say he was back to prove white superiority? No wonder johnson wanted to make a point. Society was to blame for a lack of opportunity for blacks in all walks of life. Johnson almost single handedly overcame that. Absolutely a hero.

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Post by Rowley on Fri 7 Oct - 8:45

I have acknowledged his reasons for acting the wa he did are understandable, but it is still possible to believe that whilst also believing his actions made think harder for those that had to follow him. The two are not mutually exclusive positions.

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Post by hazharrison on Fri 7 Oct - 8:50

Rowley wrote:I think Johnson hurt the path for those that followed him. The perception of black people then was they were savages unworthy of carrying the greatest prize in sport. Johnson serves to reinforce many of those stereotypes. Have no issue with him wanting to thumb his nose at his oppressors, but some of his actions were intentionally and unnecessarily antagonistic. Look at his fight with Jeffries, at that stage he could and did beat Jeffries quite easily, but he chose not only to do that, he chose to mock him, belittle him to humiliate an American hero. It is pretty much universally accepted the bitter aftertaste and reaction to that left Rickard with no desire to promote another mixed race heavyweight fight, thus scuppering Dempsey Wills.

My own view is the perception before Johnson is that white America did not want a black heavyweight champion, after him, rather than making white America realise a black heavyweight is not the end of days stuff they believed, the perception was very much we don't want another Jack Johnson on our hands. As I have said previously given the crap he had to deal with I admire his willingness to thumb his nose at those who oppressed him and live as he pleased, but I don't think it is too much of a stretch to say the path he chose was singularly unhelpful for those who followed. Also think Johnson knew that only too well.

There's no doubt that after Johnson's reign, things were made more difficult for black fighters and that he plainly didn't help to ameliorate their plight in cow towing to the establishment. Yet that image of Johnson tormenting Jeffries ("package being delivered Mr. Jeff") can't be underestimated in the context of the furtherment of black America's collective self-worth. Long before Ali shouted it (and was subsequently deified for doing so) Johnson showed Black America they weren't an inferior race.

He did that under constant threat of being shot, of being lynched. Was he an antagonistic figure? I don't believe he set out to provoke - he merely refused to conform or be constrained by his skin colour.

Blaming Johnson for America's reaction and the horror of its intrinsic racism doesn't feel right to me (and in some way serves to validate the position he found himself in - his demonisation and depiction as a "savage" etc.).


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Post by hazharrison on Fri 7 Oct - 8:52

catchweight wrote:He didnt thumb his nose at white america. He just lived an extravagent lifestyle which white america wouldnt accept for a black man. As for taunting, the amount of racial abuse he suffered his whole life and for the jefferies fight in particular. Didnt jefferies say he was back to prove white superiority? No wonder johnson wanted to make a point. Society was to blame for a lack of opportunity for blacks in all walks of life. Johnson almost single handedly overcame that. Absolutely a hero.

He is to me. The ultimate rebel!

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Post by Herman Jaeger on Fri 7 Oct - 9:30

Back to the top twenty if Jeanette had beaten Jack for the title would, after all his previous achievements the close rivalries with Langford and Johnson the epic with McVey in Paris the longest bout of the twentieth century, would he today be a nailed on top ten man? These words certainly suggest frustration: 'Jack forgot about his old friends when he became champion and drew the colour line against his own people'

Maybe frustration at not getting the payday but also maybe he felt he could beat him and get worldwide fame, immortality. We'll never know. Would Jeanette be remembered as a legendary figure and not the forgotten man though had he got that bout?

Would Wills be a nailed on top ten man were he to have been given a shot at Dempsey and pummelled him? Would Dempsey's star have fallen?

We'll never know but in view of these things perhaps we shouldn't be too rigid in our placements in the top twenty? I for one could easily imagine say Jeanette pummelling Wlad, beating Charles or Walcott(at heavy), could entertain the idea that Wills would have been too big for Dempsey


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Post by AdamT on Fri 7 Oct - 9:35

Who is the best heavyweight, to never be a champion? Keep it post war.


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Post by Herman Jaeger on Fri 7 Oct - 9:37

It's a good question. Why not pre war AND post war?

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Post by Hammersmith harrier on Fri 7 Oct - 9:38

Joe Jeannette is far too small to have a chance against Wlad.

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Post by AdamT on Fri 7 Oct - 9:39

Herman Jaeger wrote:It's a good question. Why not pre war AND post war?

Pre war, too many to pick from. Won't get a clear cut answer. Was it Jackson? Was it Langford??

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