You would think becoming a world champion in a sport as big as Boxing would give you a certain level of status your skills deserve, especially if you reigned as a champion for some time or perhaps even retired undefeated. Yet there are times real champions are not appreciated for what they achieved in the sport, this can be for various reasons – perhaps the fighter was so avoided he never got the big name he was seeking that would catapult his name into the mainstream, maybe a certain segment didn’t appreciate his style of boxing or maybe they had the bad luck of timing and following a superstar whose shoes were too big to fill. In this article I am going to look at five world champions who I believe should be appreciated more for everything they done for boxing and for all the great skills they bought to the table.
5. Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez was a Mexican boxer who competed as a professional from 1985 to 2001. In that time he never lost a single fight, racking up 50 wins and a lone draw. That draw came in his 48th fight and he quickly got back to winning ways by beating the same opponent in his very next fight. What is more astonishing is that Lopez never lost a fight as an amateur either, making him the only boxer to go undefeated as both a professional and amateur, which is simply amazing. With accolades like this as well as sharing the record for the most consecutive title bouts without a loss(26) it is shocking more fans do not know about him. The answer though sadly is obvious. Lopez was a Strawweight for pretty much all of his career – and a light flyweight for the last couple of his fights and the lightest weight categories in the sport just do not get the attention the higher weights do. Whether that is a valid reason or not, Lopez’s skills and all round game are there for all to see, he was a level above the competition and deserves to be more recognised for a fantastic career in boxing.
4. Larry Holmes
Holmes also featured in my video of the top five greatest heavyweights of all time. Unfortunately for Holmes he followed the greatest sportsperson in history in the heavyweight division. Filling the shoes of Muhammad Ali was well nigh impossible and to make matters worse, when Ali came out of retirement it was Holmes who gave Ali a beating and that only served to turn fans against him even more so. If Holmes thought he would finally get the recognition after his retirement and boxing would realise what they were missing, well enter Iron Mike Tyson, the baddest man on the planet and the most exciting fighter in combat sports history…
Truth is though, Holmes was a better heavyweight than many of the more famous names you hear about in the division. Larry Holmes learnt a lot of his trade by being a sparring partner to greats such as Muhammad Ali so little wonder that Holmes developed quite possibly the greatest jab in history. Holmes was a terrific fighter, driven, hard working, clean living and ferocious. Holmes had a mean streak and a will to win, he could dig deep when he had to and come back for the win, case in point being when he took an absolute monster of a punch from Earnie Shavers, the hardest puncher of all time and still got up from the deck to win the fight. Holmes had the third longest reign as a heavyweight champion and won his first 48 fights as a professional. No doubt in my mind that Holmes is underappreciated and one of the best heavyweights of all time.
3. Andre Ward
If I remember correctly, Ward last lost a fight aged 12yrs old. He then went on a winning streak through the rest of his amateur career which included an Olympic gold medal in 2004 and retired as a world champion in the pro ranks with an unblemished record of 32-0. So why is he not appreciated for such a great career? Ward was a sweet scientist and some fans just didn’t like his style of boxing and others just couldn’t appreciate his ring IQ. Ward was highly effective and highly versatile, he could change his game if he had to, rough you up on the inside if needed so there were cries Ward wasn’t an entertaining boxer to watch. Ward was also softly spoken and never felt the need to brag or boast about his skills or his accomplishments and in an age where you had Floyd Mayweather Jr making noise with his lifestyle and comments, unfortunately Ward was overlooked for the true ring technician that he was. If you ask me Ward is the 3rd best boxer of the 21st century behind Mayweather and Pacquiao, that’s how talented I believe Ward was. Champion at Super Middleweight he then took on one of the most feared men in the light heavyweight division and beat him twice(Sergey Kovalev). Perhaps Ward will get more love in the near future and into his retirement and the boxing masses will finally appreciate what a great boxer he really was.
2. Mike McCallum
McCallum, also known as the Bodysnatcher – was one of the boxers featured in my book Forgotten Legends of the Ring, the title of the book says it all really…McCallum was a three weight world champion who competed from 1981-1997. The reason I believe McCallum was so under rated was because McCallum was competing in and around the divisions of the Fab Four(Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler). The Four Kings ruled boxing at the time but pretty much all of them were coming to the end of their careers or were outside their primes when McCallum was beginning to get noticed. McCallum needed that big name on his resume to gain recognition as a true giant of the sport but unfortunately the fab four could make a lot more money fighting each other than risk defeat against a young and peak Mike McCallum. There was also the small matter of McCallum being one of the Kronk Gym fighters which meant he was always going to play second fiddle to Thomas Hearns and it was Hearns who was getting the preferential treatment when it came to match making or any potential fights with the rest of the fab four. Nonetheless McCallum was an excellent fighter, very smart and very tough. McCallum holds good wins over the likes of Julian Jackson, who was the scariest puncher in the world and Don Curry. Throw in more wins against high level opposition such as Sumbu Kulambay, Michael Watson and Herol Graham and you can see why McCallum was so heavily avoided. The fact he was so heavily avoided meant that McCallum never got into the mainstream enough for his skills to be truly appreciated.
1. Ezzard Charles
Charles is someone I have written about previously and the more I read about this man, the more I see him box the more I believe he is one of the 10 greatest fighters of all time. Ezzard Charles was great in every division he competed in – Middleweight, Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight. Of course he had a stint as the heavyweight champion and is regarded by many as the greatest light heavyweight of all time – even though he never won that title because no one wanted to fight him. Charles fought as a heavyweight because of this avoidance in the light heavyweight division yet still won the title and mixed it with the best. Charles may have been underappreciated for reasons similar to a number of the fighters already in the list. Charles career at heavyweight was sandwiched between Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano. Louis was a cultural icon and at that time the clear greatest heavyweight of all time and Marciano would retire as the unbeaten world champion so Charles is often overlooked as the man in the middle. Charles, like Andre Ward was a quiet, deeply religious and humble man so never had any interest in creating fan fare and simply got on with the job at hand and of course like McCallum he was heavily avoided especially in the division he was best in – light heavyweight. Make no mistake though, Charles was one of the best boxing has ever seen, the Cincinnati Cobra beat hall of fame fighters in each of the divisions he competed in and was known for his sharp shooting and accurate punches as well as his slick movement and defence.
Boxing Coach Strength and Conditioning Coach Boxing Author of: The Boxing Cheat Sheet - Your Ultimate Guide to Ring Survival Strength and Conditioning for Boxing - Work out Hits to get you Fighting Fit! Forgotten Legends of the Ring - Ten Past Masters of the Squared Circle *Any videos or images used on this site to support my articles that are copyrighted are used for educational purposes and in accordance to the fair use act and are not my own - all credit is due to the respective owners. No copyright infringement intended.
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