Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mark's Top 40 At 40: (40-36)

It's time for the second installment of the Mark Lyons countdown. As he's turning forty soon, we thought we'd ask him to make a list of his forty favorite fighters of his lifetime. No easy task, as he soon discovered.

Last week, he went over some of the names that were special to him for one reason or another, but just failed to make the cut. This week, he gets down to business...

Forty through thirty six...

40. Curtis Parker

Career Record: 29-9 (21)

Three Favorite Fights: Mike Colbert W12, Mustafa Hamsho I L10, Wilford Scypion L10

May as well start the list by saying I am a huge mark for Philly fighters. Parker was a typical tough Philly battler who waded in for war. His power didn't translate to the elite level, but he was a very difficult guy to stop. Hard in-fighter with a great left hook who rarely took a backwards step.

Two rugged fights with Hamsho showed his toughness. Curtis was a guy who just never got to the next level. He did take out Frank "The Animal" Fletcher in an all Philly brawl.

A guy doesn't have to be a champion to inspire you. Sometimes it's just their will and desire coupled with a ten year old's fascination with Philly warriors.

39. Juan " The Baby Bull" Diaz

Career Record: 34-1 (17)

Three Favorite Fights: Lavka Sim W12, Julio Diaz TKO9, Nate Campbell L12

I've never understood the disdain a lot of fights fans have for Diaz. Always pressing forward and ripping body shots looking to go to war. Just because he isn't a devastating puncher with a sculpted body doesn't make him a wimp.

In his only loss he displayed as much courage as you ever want to see. With a face the elephant man would wince at, Diaz continued to give his all and came up short.

A tough loss can be the best thing for a young pugilist and when he faces Juan Manual Marquez I am convinced he will be on top of one of boxing's best divisions.

38. "Terrible" Tim Witherspoon

Career Record: 55-13-1 (38)

Three Favorite Fights: Larry Holmes L12, Ray Mercer L10, Jorge Luis Gonzalez TKO5

Old farts like myself who watched TNF will probably agree there was nothing better than a Witherspoon night. I can't think of a fighter I would rather watch in a tune up. It was only a matter of time until a thudding right hand crashed onto someone's jaw with enough force to part the Red Sea. I'm still waiting for Anders Ecklund to get up.

In just his 15th fight he engaged all time great Larry Holmes (pictured battling it out with Witherspoon) in one of the finest title fights the division has seen. There was more heart and guts displayed in the ninth round than Wladimir Klitschko's entire career.

Spoon didn't always come in the best of shape. But he always brought his lethal right hand, a rock solid jaw and the willingness to get it on. Even an old Spoon was robbed, in my opinion, against ray Mercer, and an even older one almost beheaded Lou Savarese.

37. Jesse Burnett

Career Record: 23-18-2 (11)

Three Favorite Fights: Victor Galindez W12, John Conteh D10, Yacqui Lopez L15

Photos © Nick Duggan

This is a fighter you could make a movie about. Watching his career was like watching the titanic sink. Some fighters don't prepare for fights or let themselves down. Burnett was a classic victim of poor management and bullshit judging.

He fought in a Golden era of Light Heavyweights and faced all of them with the exception of Saad Muhammad. The majority of these fights were on about 2 weeks notice and many in the other fighters home town. He was the victim of so any bad decisions, he makes Glen Johnson look blessed.

The British crowd cheered him after a dubious draw against John Conteh and you would be hard pressed to find 3 rounds to give Leon Spinks in Burnett's 12 rd unanimous decision loss. I mean, these were the kind of decisions that make you want to pound your television with a sledgehammer.

When subbing on late notice, yet again, to face Victor Galindez in a Cruiserweight eliminator. Jesse put it all together and dropped Galindez twice on his way to a wide decision win. His reward was a title shot nearly three years later at the tender age of 37 against the vicious punching ST Gordon.

This is a guy that I wish more would familiarize themselves with. Tremendous skills and a story that just breaks your heart.

36. "Terrible" Terry Norris

Career Record: 47-9 (31)

Three Favorite fights: Ray Leonard W12, Maurice Blocker TKO2, Troy Waters KO3

Here was a guy who approached every opponent like he caught them in bed with his wife. Tremendous boxing ability, but he would prefer to pound you into submission instead of use them. Termed as "chinny", I prefer to think of him as brilliantly vulnerable.

Norris had only one mission when he entered the ring. To get back out of it as quickly as possible. Kill or be killed couldn't apply better to a fighter. I'll give away a secret, Sugar Ray Leonard wont be appearing on this list. Watching Terry pummel him (that's Leonard covering up on the ropes in the photo) brought me great unexpected joy and made me a fan for life.

By Mark Lyons e-mail

Last week's installment of Mark's list


Andy said...

Nice to see Jesse Burnett make the list.

Anonymous said...

Glad also to see Jesse B. get his props. What a fighter!!! Just think if he had been handled correctly rather than thrown to the Lions all the way through his career. With sometimes minimal preperation. He is an inspiration to me. When I think I have it bad I think of Jesse Burnett.