Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Pick 'em

Phil Jackson decided to rejoin the L.A. Lakers yesterday agreeing to a 3-year contract to coach the team that he coached for five years. Jackson guided the Lakers to three straight NBA titles in his first three seasons.

Let's take a poll. Who would you most want to have on your team tomorrow...and why?
A) Phil Jackson - Coach
B) Shaquill O'Neal - Center
C) Kobe Bryant - Guard
D) All of them together
E) None of them

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Heavyweight Royalty

My friends and I have been tossing around the discussion of – Who are the greatest All-Time Heavyweight champions. Obviously, the era in which each of these champions fought were different but these are the guys that stand out above all.

Here we go…

10: Ezzard Charles
Ezzard Charles was a great fighter that went down in boxing history because of his four epic battles with Jersey Joe Walcott. Charles won both of their first two fights before Walcott won three and four. Charles also beat the great Joe Louis and gave Rocky Marciano his two toughest fights. Charles won the title Joe Louis vacated when he beat Walcott in their first fight. A true champion that fought all of the best fighters of his day, but like many hung on and fought way too long.

9: Mike Tyson
“Iron Mike” was a pure knockout machine. In his early years he beat everybody with incredible hand speed and power with both hands. Mike had real good defense in his prime and was actually the first fighter to unify the WBA, WBC & IBF belts. Losing three of his last four fights (two to nobody’s) has knocked him down on the scale but his 50-6 record is one of the greatest in history.

8: Joe Frazier
Arguably the toughest heavyweight boxer in history with possibly the best left hook of all time. “Smokin” Joe Frazier fought against and beat some great fighters including Muhammad Ali, Jerry Quarry twice, Jimmy Ellis, Joe Bugner Buster Mathis and Oscar Bonavena. He did get beaten badly by George Foreman twice but the three fights against Ali were classic battles. Frazier in his prime weighed in at 210 pounds or lighter and was a true fighter from the streets of Philadelphia.

7: Evander Holyfield
I would have put “The Real Deal Holyfield” in my top 5 about five years ago, but Evander has continued to fight with very little success. He was strong puncher, with a tough chin and incredible heart. When the time came for him to fight Mike Tyson he TKO’d him in dominating fashion. In their second fight Tyson took a bite at Holyfield’s ear ending the fight in a disqualification victory for Holyfield. Evander beat Buster Douglas to win the title, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Riddick Bowe, Alex Stewart, Michael Moorer and Tyson twice. I just wish he would’ve retired about five years ago.

6: George Foreman
They call him the greatest power puncher in history. Dropped great fighters like Joe Frazier (twice), Jose Roman and Ken Norton like they were school boys. The Rumble in the Jungle will forever be the night that Foreman was knockout by Ali – but it was Foreman’s dominance of the sport that led to such an improbable upset. Big George made a comeback from boxing after almost a ten year layoff and looked like he never missed a beat. He was the oldest man to win the heavyweight championship of the world and he did it via one punch KO of Michael Moorer. Not only a great fighter but one of the most colorful fighters of the last forty years.

5: Rocky Marciano
A real life Rocky who was undefeated in his 49 fights. Marciano had great knockout power and the ability and stamina to fight fifteen hard rounds. Some argue that his opposition was so-so but I take my hat off to anyone who wins 49 heavyweight fights without a defeat. Marciano beat all of the top fighters of his era, which is the highest accomplishment that any fighter can declare.

4: Lennox Lewis
May never get the respect he deserves from the world, but Lennox Lewis should go down as one of the greatest. He had a wonderful jab and displayed uncanny patience and smarts in the ring. Used his long arms and powerful body as good, if not better than every heavyweight before. TKO’d Mike Tyson, Vitali Klitschko, Michael Grant, Evander Holyfield and every fighter that was put in front of him. Avenged both of his career losses by knocking out Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman. True champ that has to be in the Top 5.

3: Larry Holmes
Even more underappreciated than Lennox Lewis is probably Larry Holmes. His great run as the champ included the second longest reign as the undisputed heavyweight champion, second longest undefeated winning streak and the second most defenses of his title. Holmes had an exceptional left jab and a thunderous right hand. After being Muhammad Ali’s sparring partner for several years he destroyed the entire division, including beating Ali in a comeback fight for the former champ. Other victims of his assault were Ken Norton, Earnie Shavers, Gerry Cooney, Leon Spinks, Mike Weaver, Bonecrusher Smith, and Carl Williams. He lost only three fights in his prime – two by decision to Michael Spinks and one bad TKO from the hands of Mike Tyson.

2: Joe Louis
Joe Louis had the longest reign of any heavyweight champion and the most title defenses. His eleven year run as the heavyweight champion of the world included an incredible 25 defenses of his title. His great opponents were Jersey Joe Walcott, Max Baer, James J. Braddock, Tony Galento and Max Schmeling. Louis used lightening fast hand speed and perfect combinations along with an unmatched punching power for his time. If you ever have the chance to watch one of his fights on ESPN Classic – do it. He was magical in the ring, and truly a superior fighter.

1: Muhammad Ali
I got the chance to touch his shoulder and get an autograph from the “Greatest” and I’ll never forget that day. Muhammad Ali was the greatest heavyweight of all time bar none. Not only did he have an automatic jab, his combinations were thrilling and unstoppable. Ali also had maybe the best chin in heavyweight boxing history. He fought and was the champ during what is arguably the best era of heavyweight boxing beating guys like, Floyd Patterson (twice), Sonny Liston (twice), Archie Moore, Henry Cooper (twice), Joe Frazier (twice), Oscar Bonavena, Ken Norton (twice), Jerry Quarry (twice), Earnie Shavers, Jimmy Ellis, and the historic upset of George Foreman. Muhammad was speed, grace and precision while also having an underrated knockout punch. Ali's longevity is one of glory although he continued to succeed despite his eroding skills. His overall record of 56-5 is deceiving because he lost three of his last four fights…he was the greatest boxer to ever walk this Earth.

Monday, June 13, 2005


I hope this weekend’s disgraceful loss to Kevin McBride will take Mike Tyson’s name out of the running of all-time greatest heavyweight champions. He should make the top ten (barely) because of his ferocious knockouts in the mid and late 80s but in the last two decades he’s been nothing more than a decent fighter.

Tyson has lost three of his last four fights, two of them to nobody’s, and is a very unimpressive 5-5 with two No Contests in his last twelve fights. Tyson himself called McBride a “tomato can” and said he would “gut him like a fish” at the pre-fight press conference. Iron Mike did neither. He quit after six rounds when he realized that he couldn’t punch, head-butt, arm lock or bite his way past the big, slow Irishman.

I’ll admit I wanted the old Iron Mike to come back. When he lost last July to Danny Williams I thought it was a fluke. When he said he would put McBride on his back I believed he would. My thought was...2nd round KO. I like many have believed this character for far too long.

I like the storyline of the Iron Mike Tyson tale…kid from the ghetto gets into lots of trouble, bad family life, and destructive attitude towards everybody. But he’s rescued by an old man who also happens to be a boxing trainer. Cus D’Amato showed him the ropes, so to speak, gave him love and a stable home and groomed him into one of the finest knockout powers in boxing history. But Tyson was never the same after Cus died and shortly thereafter he had falling outs with trainers Teddy Atlas and Kevin Rooney. The story that was so great reverted back to madness again as Tyson dealt with a divorce and multiple run-ins with the law.

Once Buster Douglas, a fighter who never beat a top heavyweight before or after he knocked Tyson out, knocked him out in Tokyo, Japan way back in 1990 the stigma of him being unbeatable was gone. The feeling that he would and could just bully the entire sport started to go up in smoke that night.

But Mike came back strong in his fights after the Douglas loss and was primed to win back his heavyweight title from the then champion Evander Holyfield. In a blink of an eye his career was put on hold when he was charged with raping a beauty pageant contestant. Mike swore up and down and sideways that he had consensual sex with the girl but was convicted and sent to jail. He could’ve left sooner than he did had he admitted to the rape, but he continuously denied it stayed in prison longer.

When he came back after the layoff he was obviously rusty and had a few easy fights to gradually bring him back. But with his comeback hanging in the balance he was TKO’d in the 11th round (on my birthday) by Holyfield. None of us will forget the rematch when Tyson bit off a chunk of Evander’s ear and swallowed another big loss.

Remember he ducked Lennox Lewis back in the mid-90s and then was pummeled by Lennox in 2002. He didn’t want to fight George Foreman although big George was in his early forties. His career is very similar to his big fights - he came out hard and fast and tired even faster.

When he fought Holyfield the second time he gave up then too. Biting his way out of another beating that was bound to happen. He quit against Danny Williams, a guy who is known for having panic attacks before fights, and he quit Saturday night against Kevin McBride when he realized he wasn’t going to win by intimidating and his early hard punches were taken.

I hope that Iron Mike does what he says and retires. I rooted for him as a kid and as an adult – many times making family and friends wonder why? Why – because he was a show and has been the underdog since he was a kid flying pigeons in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. Even when he was the champ people were waiting and watching for him to slip up…and even when he did, I wanted him to get back up and fight on. Now that Tyson refuses to fight on – it’s time for him to hang up the gloves and move on with his life.