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There's a little bit of everything, including some old and some new, in this week's edition of the boxing mailbag.
I respond to reader comments and questions about Andre Ward's performance against Allan Green, whether Mike Tyson belongs in the Hall of Fame, and whether the U.S. boxing media are highlighting the wrong fighters.
Let's get right to it.
Nelson, read what I wrote carefully. The only comparison I made to Leonard was in talking about how both were perceived as pretty boys but that both men were also very tough and fierce competitors. I wholeheartedly agree that Leonard is the superior talent. He's one of the top 10 or 20 fighters of all-time. Ward, to this point, hasn't even been one of the top 10 fighters pound-for-pound active today. I think Ward is a tremendous talent, but I think you misread my comparison.
I think Ward is an elite talent, but I don't think he will change his personality nor should he. He'll never become the kind of attraction that Mayweather is, but if, as I expect, he wins the Super Six World Boxing Classic by going undefeated and reeling off five consecutive wins, he'll create a considerable reputation. His development as a pro was slowed by injuries and by moving him slowly at first.
San Antonio, Texas
Green has been in and out in his career, but he's a talented guy. However, I agree with you, that by the fourth round at the latest, he'd given up and was looking to survive. And don't compare Ward to Leonard; he'll lose that every time. But if you compare him to his peers, he looks better and better each day.
Kevin, how is Mike Tyson a Hall of Fame-class fighter? His reign of domination was brief with an unconvincing resume of second-class wins. Pinklon Thomas, Tony Tucker and Tony Tubbs? Those guys were flimsy titleholders, at best. James Smith was no Bonecrusher. Frank Bruno was a funny guy but, like Georges Carpentier, he delivered one noteworthy punch. Michael Spinks probably would not have escaped Rocky Marciano. I could go on. Big wins? Tyson walked through a 37-year-old Larry Holmes and, yes, he completely destroyed Tyrell Biggs. The truth is that in every career-defining fight that tested the mettle of a bullying "Iron Mike," the fearsome knockout artist showed limited skills and his fighting heart seemed to wither. His classless and repulsive behavior in the second Evander Holyfield bout should have disqualified this over-hyped fraud for who he was, a 1980s icon of little substance and questionable ring character with no more bite than a Duran Duran album. He never fought Renaldo Snipes, Michael Dokes, Gerrie Coetzee or Mike Weaver. None of them was great, but all could throw a heavyweight punch. The heavyweight incarnation of Michael Spinks could not. Mike Tyson failed in every true test of fortitude. His career mirrors Sonny Liston's and in some ways Sonny's rise and fall was more compelling.
I think Tyson easily qualifies for his accomplishments in the ring – he remains the youngest heavyweight champion in history – as well as for becoming by far the biggest draw in the history of the sport. I think you conveniently minimize some of his opponents: Guys like Thomas, Tucker and Tubbs are not Hall of Famers, but in their primes they were far better than the majority of heavyweights who are active today. He carried the sport to a large degree in his prime, however brief it was. He had one of the best punches in boxing history. Tyson won the title in November 1986 as a 20-year-old. Coetzee was retired from March 1996 until August 1993, when he made a comeback, so there was no real opportunity for them to fight. Mike Weaver was 35 when Tyson won the title and was at a point where he was fighting club fighters when Tyson became champion. Snipes, too, was taking a step down in competition when Tyson had matured. You also neglected to point out the wins over Razor Ruddock, who was very highly regarded at the time. Frankly, Brian, I'm shocked by your suggestion that Mike is not a slam dunk Hall of Famer. I don't think there should be so much as a question of whether he deserves it.
Al Gavin Jr.
Your father was a terrific boxing man and deserves very serious consideration for the Hall. Just before he died in 2004, New York Daily News boxing writer Tim Smith wrote of Gavin Sr., "They don't have a Nobel Prize for cut men, but Gavin should have gotten it for his work with Micky Ward in his first match against Arturo Gatti. Ward's face looked like he had walked through a room full of flying knives, but Gavin kept him together long enough for him to win a decision over Gatti." I'm not sure how to evaluate cut men, but everyone I talked to since I've covered boxing raves about his ability to stop the bleeding.
La Porte, Texas
An HBO spokesman told me HBO has no plans to use Roy other than in that one-night pinch-hitting role he performed.
I think you're way off base with criticisms of Pacquiao and Kessler (I never thought Hatton was that great). But I've raved about Ward, Alexander and Bradley for years. I have never been high on Ortiz, either, and didn't jump on the bandwagon even back when he was with Top Rank. Other writers are going to have to explain themselves, but the bottom line is, the guys who get written about in the U.S. media are the guys being pushed by the major promoters and put on HBO and, to a much lesser degree, Showtime. You're delusional if you think De La Hoya wasn't great. No, he was never as good as the hype, but Oscar was an outstanding fighter who will make the Hall of Fame simply on merit, not his charisma and drawing power.