I stumbled across an old fight between the great light heavyweight Bob Foster and Doug Jones on ESPN Classic last week. I always enjoyed watching Foster fight when I was growing up and have long believed he's one of the most underrated 175-pounders ever. That got me thinking about my favorite fighters. These 10 guys aren't my picks as the best fighters, though some would qualify. Rather, they're guys I liked to watch or liked to interview or both.
1. Diego Corrales: The late ex-lightweight champion was a blast to watch and was one of the best interviews ever.
2. Thomas Hearns: I was always intrigued with Hearns because he could box so well but was also such a devastating puncher.
3. Muhammad Ali: The guy who got me hooked on boxing.
4. Charley Burley: I grew up in Pittsburgh, as he did, and so I read a lot about his career.
5. Roberto Duran: Amazing the way he was able to compete at the highest level against all-time greats at so many weights.
6. Sugar Ray Leonard: I loved his skills from the first time I saw him box in the Olympics.
7. Larry Holmes: I'm not convinced Ali was better, plus a good guy and a terrific interview.
8. Riddick Bowe: Was a highly skilled fighter when he was motivated, plus I really got to know the great Eddie Futch because of Bowe.
9. Johnny Bumphus: I guess I just liked hearing Marv Albert say "Johnny 'Bump City' Bumphus" when he was fighting all those bouts on NBC.
10. Alexis Arguello: Classy fighter.
Anyway, those are just 10 of the guys I really enjoyed. With that, I'll delve into the reader mailbag.
Why doesn't anyone from the major boxing organizations and promotional companies or of the UFC invite fighters in each sport to compete against each other in two events using the rules of each sport respectively? I believe it is because they fear that the outcome would ruin the credibility of either sport. Is sports really all just about money? Is there any integrity left?
I'm not exactly sure what you're thinking. Boxing and mixed martial arts are different sports. Would Tom Brady lose credibility because he couldn't strike out Alex Rodriguez? Would LeBron James lose credibility because he couldn't fire a slap shot past Martin Brodeur?
WILLIAMS DESERVES RESPECT
I just wanted to comment on your recent unofficial ranking of the top welterweights found in your recent mailbag column. Shane Mosley was listed as the third best 147- pounder. I respectfully disagree, because I think Paul Williams should be ranked higher. I know he stood toe to toe with Cotto, but as I watched the fight for a second time, I thought looked old and tired. I had Cotto up by five or six rounds! Given that, I don't think he would fare much better against Mr. Williams. What do you think about Paul Williams? I have only seen him a couple of times but he looks pretty good. What would be in his "scouting report"?
Without question, Williams is the best of the coming generation of welterweights. Even though he holds a world title, he's still developing as a fighter. He can box and he has good power. I rank him below Mosley for the time being because Mosley is proven against world-class opposition and Williams is not. That will change with time.
Who do you think will win when Paul Williams fights Carlos Quintana and why? I'm going with Quintana in a good close fight, especially with the fight being in Puerto Rico. Will Kermit Cintron fight the winner?
Williams' range and his jab will be too much for Quintana. Williams will be able to dictate where the fight is fought and I think he wins at least eight rounds. I hope that we see Williams-Cintron before long, but I wouldn't hold my breath.
I have been watching boxing since the 1950s and Saturday's fight between Paulie Malignaggi and Herman Ngoudjo was probably one of the worst ones ever. I had to turn it off. When I heard the result (a Malignaggi win by decision), I could not believe it. If this was an Olympic fight, they both would have been disqualified. If Ngoudjo was not fighting, there would not have been a fight. He made the fight. Paulie is no fighter but a dancer. He's very boring. How Showtime could put such garbage on the air is beyond me. I finally turned it off with three rounds to go to watch football, but what I saw and how some of the ringside reporters were scoring it just got me fed up.
Winter Haven, Fla.
I watched on TV, Rick, and didn't see it at ringside. I had it 7-5 for Malignaggi or 6-6. Malignaggi definitely picked it up down the stretch. It wasn't a great fight by any means, but it wasn't as bad as you make it out. Showtime has had far worse bouts on its air (Antonio Tarver-Danny Santiago in December immediately comes to mind).
Who would you take in a bout between Ricky Hatton and Malignaggi? I think at this point I would have to give it to Hatton.
I'd go with Hatton. He's too big and strong for Malignaggi. Malignaggi would try to move a lot, but Hatton is good enough to cut off the ring on him. Cotto couldn't stop Malignaggi even though he put a severe beating on him, so I don't think Hatton would, but I do believe Hatton would win a solid decision.
I enjoyed the points you made in your mailbag last week about things you'd like to see in 2008. Your suggestions were all very practical and logical. That is why they will never be heeded. It's sad that the state of boxing has been run by crooks and inhumane jerks, pretty much from the start. I don't think there is any desire from the top people to change much of anything in the sport. Also, regarding your top 10 after Sugar Ray Robinson: What? No Jersey Joe Walcott?
One of the problems with boxing is that there is no barrier to entry and it doesn't take much for one to call himself a promoter or a manager. That's why there are so many problems in the sport. As for Walcott, in my opinion, he was a good fighter, but nowhere near the top 10. He was only 2-6 in heavyweight title fights. Anybody who was good enough to beat Ezzard Charles twice is a terrific fighter, but he didn't do enough in his most important fights to get into the all-time top 10.
Can we get HBO to fire Jim Lampley and Larry Merchant? Lampley never shuts up and Merchant acts like he's drunk. Leave it to Emanuel Steward.
Sweet Home, Ore.
I have to disagree with you on this one, Larry. I think Lampley is outstanding and one of the best play-by-play announcers ever. Boxing fans are lucky, I believe, because Lampley and Steve Albert are both tremendous announcers who make you feel part of the action. I believe both are top five all-time and both believe in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. In my opinion, Albert's older brother, Marv, is the greatest boxing announcer ever, though. Howard Cosell also wasn't too bad!
I'm a boxing fan and I love reading your column. I just want to ask about the interim titles I read about. I see there is a WBA interim champion or a WBC interim champion. What is that. Is an interim champion considered a world champion?
An interim title fight is held when the champion can not fight for a lengthy period, usually because of injury. For instance, Samuel Peter was supposed to fight Oleg Maskaev for the WBC heavyweight title. But Maskaev was injured and the WBC ordered Peter to fight Jameel McCline for the interim title. Peter won and is now the WBC interim champion. He will fight Maskaev on March 8 in Cancun, Mexico, to decide the title. But if Maskaev wasn't able to come back for a while, the title wouldn't be held up while he recovered and Peter could defend it as the interim champion.
- Can't get enough of Kevin Iole's mailbag? Then check out last week's edition.