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Mailbag: Readers still talking Top 10

I knew two things for certain when I started the readers' poll to name the 10 best heavyweights ever about a month or so ago: More recent fighters would be given extra consideration and there would be a flurry of complaints about the results.

Right I was on both counts, as it turns out.

I generally think the voters did a decent job identifying the 10 best, though I vehemently disagree with the placement.

My biggest issue is with the inclusion of George Foreman at No. 2. Foreman clearly belongs on the list but didn't have enough wins over quality opponents to be ranked that highly. He belong somewhere in the second half of the top 10.

The top three heavyweights in my opinion are Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis and Larry Holmes, not necessarily in that order. When Ali was at his physical best, was there anyone who was close to him? I think not.

But Louis and Holmes were phenomenal over a long period of time and each in his prime would have posed all sorts of problems for Ali.

It was a readers' poll and the readers had their say. Now, more of you have a say about the work of the others.

My answers are in italics below the questions.

A VOTE FOR HOLMES

Larry Holmes would have defeated them all. Holmes made good fighters look bad. Muhammad Ali, in my opinion, may have benefited from a couple of fixed fights, or, at the very least, favorable scoring. I believe George Foreman when he said he was drugged in his bout against Ali in Kinshasa, Zaire. That whole African thing was a set-up, from the postponement to the fight to the Rope-a-Dope. Did Ali know Foreman was drugged?

Jim Miller
Ganado, Ariz.

I've always been a huge Larry Holmes fan and believe he was vastly underrated. Few fighters in history would have been able to cope with his combination of size, speed, quickness and smarts. He had an unreal jab and an ability to get up and rally when he was in trouble. I've never seen any credible evidence of a fixed fight involving Ali or of Foreman's allegations that he was drugged.


"IRRESPONSIBLE LIST"

This is an irresponsible list. Why is George Foreman even on it? He only held the belt for two years, where everyone else had the belt for at least three. George Foreman's reign in 1994-1995 was a fluke. The order of the list is bad and needs to be revised. This list is a disgrace.

Adrian Riley

I'll take your comments, Adrian, as an acknowledgement that you haven't read James Surowiecki's book, "The Wisdom of Crowds."


MOVE ALI DOWN

I take issue with Ali and Foreman at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. Ali had so many fights where he was less-than-impressive: Joe Frazier I, Ken Norton I and III, Jimmy Young, Earnie Shavers, Leon Spinks I, Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick. It just takes something away to me. He may have lost to Norton all three times. He got more gift decisions than any heavyweight champion ever. This is not to say he wasn't great, but he deserves to be ranked No. 3 or No. 4 rather than No. 1. And Foreman at No. 2? That's the first I'd ever heard him ranked so high. His record and power are great, but he had horrible defense. He was really an incomplete fighter. I'd have him around fifth or sixth.

Joel Brunner
Ipswich, Mass.

As I said, I think Foreman is ranked high, though he belongs on the list. Thus, I'm not going to argue your points about Big George. However, I think you're being unfair to Ali when you list the fights he struggled in. Six of the eight fights you mention came after he turned 35. Age has a more significant impact upon a fighter who relies on his reflexes, like Ali, rather than on one who relies on power and brute strength. The first Frazier fight was a classic and, rather than Ali performing poorly, I think it was a matter of Frazier being superb. Ali was excellent, too, and he would have beaten any other heavyweight in the world that night other than the man he was fighting.


LEWIS BOOSTER Lennox Lewis is only No. 7? I guess it shouldn't surprise me, because he never has been popular with the fans. But if ever all of the heavyweights fought in their primes, I would bet Lewis would beat them all most of the time. His size and power would make the difference as well as superior technique and corner. I just love the pugilist specialist.

Mel Donaldson
New York

A big, active heavyweight like Holmes would have given Lewis loads of trouble. And it's hard to imagine Lewis being able to ward off Foreman's treacherous punches. But that's to take nothing away from Lennox. He was awesome and defeated every man he ever faced.

RESPECT FOR SMOKIN' JOE

Lennox Lewis before Joe Frazier? Joe lost to two great fighters. Lennox was knocked stupid by two at best club fighters. I'll give you Lennox before Mike Tyson, but before Joe Frazier? No way, my man.

Al Black

I have, and have had, much respect for Smokin' Joe for as long as I remember. I would have loved to have seen a prime Frazier vs. a prime Lewis.


TYSON TOO LOW

I was never a Mike Tyson fan, but to see people like Rocky Marciano and Joe Frazier ranked above him proves to me that most people in this poll do not understand the sport. Nobody smaller than Mike would have beaten him and Marciano never weighed more than 190. Marciano was a slow, almost ponderous fighter who went after the body. Tyson was very fast and a brutally hard puncher. He would have destroyed Marciano. Frazier would have fared even worse. He also worked the body and led with his chin. Need I say more?

Jim Travis
Victoria, B.C.


With all due respect, I think I have to question who it is that doesn't understand the sport after reading Jim's comments about Marciano and Frazier. It's fairly obvious Jim doesn't know much about Marciano's career and fighting style. No chance that Tyson would have destroyed either Marciano or Frazier. None. Beaten them? Perhaps, though I doubt it. But no way would he have destroyed either. And you seem to forget that Evander Holyfield, who beat Tyson pretty convincingly when most of the rest of the world thought Tyson was invincible, began his pro career as a light heavyweight and didn't weigh as much as 220 pounds in any fight until his 42nd bout, on Aug. 12, 2000, when he met John Ruiz in Las Vegas.
MORE ON THE REAL DEAL

I can not understand why Evander Holyfield is not on the list. He is the best warrior I have ever seen.

Orlando
Puerto Rico

I received so many complaints about Holyfield not being included on the list, though he would have been 11th had I done a top 20. I grabbed Bert Sugar's 2006 book, "Boxing's Greatest Fighters," in which he picks his choice for his 100 best fighters ever, regardless of weight class. The top 10 heavyweights in Sugar's books were Joe Louis (No. 4 overall), Muhammad Ali (No. 7), Jack Dempsey (No. 9), Jack Johnson (No. 10), Gene Tunney (No. 13), Rocky Marciano (No. 14), Sam Langford (No. 16), Ezzard Charles (No. 24), George Foreman (No. 31) and Joe Frazier (No. 37). For what it's worth, Sugar had Holyfield the 11th-best heavyweight ever, at No. 42 overall, and ranked Tyson No. 100 overall and the 18th-best heavyweight.


BEST RECENT HEAVIES

Could you do a top 10 heavyweights of the last 30 years column? Maybe Evander would make that list.

Chris Boisvert
Beverly, Mass.

No poll on that, Chris, but I'll give you my picks for the five best heavyweights from 1978 until now. For fighters like Ali who were active in 1978, I'll consider them as they were at that stage of their career and not in their primes. Having said that, here goes: 1. Holmes; 2. Holyfield; 3. Lewis; 4. Tyson; 5. Riddick Bowe.


TYSON-LOUIS RULE

Mike Tyson and Joe Louis are, in my opinion, the top two boxers of all-time. Joe Louis was on top for more than a decade. Not only was Tyson the youngest heavyweight champion, but look at the talent he not only beat but knocked out.

Peter Mazur
San Diego, Calif.

You can make an argument for Louis as the top heavyweight ever. I just don't see that with Tyson. Tyson's most impressive win was over Michael Spinks. Other than that, I don't see this Hall of Fame type of talent he beat. He defeated a long-in-the-tooth Holmes, but when he faced the elite opposition in their primes, like Holyfield and Lewis, he was stopped.


FLOP LEWIS, FRAZIER

I loved your top 10 heavyweight list. My only issue is with putting Lewis ahead of Frazier. Frazier fought in that epic era and, although not his fault, Lewis fought a lot of nobodies. That's just one soldier's opinion.

Victor Vasquez
Fort Riley, Kan.
Frazier was awesome in the late 1960s and early 1970s.


QUESTIONING THE ROCK

I think the best fighters are the ones who defend their titles against the best in their division and for an extended period of time. How can Marciano get into the top 10 after holding a title for less than three years? He defended his title against three unknowns (Ezzard Charles, RolandLaStarza and Don Cockell), some of whom he had previously beaten as well as an aged Joe Louis and an aged Archie Moore. His best fight was against Jersey Joe Walcott, whom he won the title from.

Eddy Voltaire
Montreal

Ezzard Charles is one of the greatest fighters ever, so a win over Charles is a significant victory. I wouldn't have had a beef against the readers had they chosen Charles somewhere near the bottom of this top 10. Marciano didn't fight in a great era for heavyweights, but that doesn't mean he wasn't great.