Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mark's Top 40 at 40: (12-10)

Mark Lyons is back with the latest installment of his top 40 list. For those not up to speed with Mark's list, he's turning 40 this year and is counting down his 40 favorite fighters in honor of that milestone.

Today, Mark's counting down numbers 12,11 and 10.

12. Earnie Shavers

Career Record: 74-14-1 (68)

Three Favorite Fights: Ken Norton KO1, Muhammad Ali LUD15, Larry Holmes LTKO11

Kill or be killed, show me a boring Shavers fight, I double dog dare you! The Roy Williams fight is the epitome of that. Completely out of gas and taking a pounding, Earnie was nearly dead in the corner, took a standing eight and roared back to stop Williams when he was so spent he could barely hold up his arms. That was Earnie in a nutshell, vulnerable and violently destructive all at once.

He came along at the wrong time to wear the heavyweight crown. If only he was around today to drop a right hand missile on Wlad's chin. Want to know how that would turn out? Shavers KO1

The right hands he landed on Ali in the second round and on Holmes in the seventh round of the rematch are two of the hardest punches I have ever seen in my life. It's a testament to the toughness and brilliance of those fighters, that Shavers doesn't hold KO victories over two of the greatest fighters who ever lived.

My first live fight was an aging Earnie against George Chaplin. As much as I love George, I was pulling for the Black Destroyer. Another first for me, was the quarter I won from my father on Shavers/Norton, my first bet.

I'll also never forget Earnie's absolute wars with Mercado and Cobb when he was a shell of himself.

You could count on two things in any Earnie Shavers fight - pain and excitement. Today's heavyweight division lacks the second and the only pain is enduring the man love on your television screen. Everyone wants another Ali, Tyson or Foreman to save the division. Give me another Shavers to knock these clowns out in brutal fashion and bring his shield into the ring, win or lose.

11. Michael Spinks

Career Record: 31-1 (21)

Three Favorite Fights: Larry Holmes II SD15, Yacqui Lopez TKO7, Marvin Johnson KO4

The 76 Olympics was my introduction into the addictive world of Boxing. And this was arguably the best fighter that games produced. Very few fighters in history accomplished as much in so few fights. The Spinks Jinx was always cocked behind his brilliant jab and it didn't take many of them to turn out your lights.

Michael had every conceivable punch you could want. The left uppercut that starched Marvin johnson is something you wont see anytime soon. He came along at a time when the light heavyweight division was loaded with established bad asses and Michael handled them all. Qawi and Mustapha Muhammad were beaten easily as Spinks put his versatility on full display by completely out boxing both of them. Only Eddie Davis was able to run Michael as a light heavyweight and he honestly was deprived of one of histories biggest upsets by poor judging.

When Michael moved up to heavyweight, he totally switched gears and started bouncing in and out from absurd angles. There was always a bit of awkwardness to his game, but he was pretty straight up at 175.

While the initial and much deserved victory over Holmes was his crowning ring achievement, I prefer the rematch. Yes, the decision was controversial, but it was an excellent and overlooked fight. Holmes came out blazing and easily won the first 6 rounds, I gave him the next two closer and then Spinks grit his teeth, slapped his nuts on the ring floor and went to war with Larry Holmes. In my eyes, Michael won the last seven rounds and the fourteenth was sheer brilliance. This game is about more than winning and losing, and while Larry shaded that fight on my card, Spinks showed the guts and heart of an all time great.

From there it was all pretty much icing on one hell of a boxing cake. I must mention the 85 out of 93 power shots he landed in less than 3 minutes while he completely dismantled Gerry Cooney. Compubox sucks and they talk about records, but smashing a man at near 100% connect rate over nearly 100 punches is nasty shit.

At the end, his knees gave out and he got smoked by Tyson. It's a shame most people remember that Michael Spinks, because he would be hell on any light heavyweight in history. Moore, Foster, Charles, etc... the Spinks jinx is right there with all of them and he was a better fighter than Mike Tyson could ever dream of being.

10. Howard Davis, Jr.

Career Record: 36-6-1 (14)

Three favorite Fights: Vilomar Fernandez UD12, Meldrick Taylor D10 & Edwin Rosario LSD12

Howard was far from the most exciting fighter on my list, nor was he the most accomplished, but he was the guy a 7yr old boy was emulating when he made his dad throw on gloves and box with him during the 76 Olympics. I had the pleasure of meeting Howard a few years ago and he was as nice a guy as you could ever meet. He seemed genuinely touched and proud to talk to someone that loved him that much.

He was the fastest fighter I have ever seen. People talk about blown potential and I think it was more of a fighter with the perfect amateur style who was rushed a bit in the pro's to obtain what seemed like inevitable stardom.

Jim Watt was a tough guy. Not spectacular, but nobody was going to have an easy night with him. It's a lot to ask of a guy in his 14th fight to invade Scotland and take the belt from a grizzled veteran like Watt. Howard had the tools, but he just wasn't ready yet, and I think that result could have been different a few years later.

Four years later, almost to the day, he was ready when he went to San Juan to face budding superstar Edwin Rosario. That was Howard's time and his finest moments in a professional ring. He was brilliant throughout, save for an early knockdown and a heart breaking last second knockdown that cost him his long awaited championship glory. To this day, that is one of my most depressing boxing memories. Everything was right there in his hands. I honestly think he deserved the decision anyway, but that knockdown made it closer than it needed to be. Rosario never hurt him and was befuddled for most of the night.

Davis didn't have a punch or a particularly sturdy chin. But he had tremendous skills and talent. Enough to draw with Meldrick Taylor late in his career.

In a pure boxing match, he could go with the best of them. He is this high from my childhood and from how important amateur boxing used to be. He never achieved professional glory, but he was the greatest fighter on one of the greatest Olympic teams in history. That has to be worth something.

If you haven't done so already, make sure to check out Mark's previous entries: Intro, 40-36, 35-31, 30-26, 25-21, 20-16, 15-13.

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Andy said...

I checked out the Shavers/Williams fight on youtube. Those last two rounds were insane... really insane. I don't think I've ever seen anything like it.