Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Mark's Top 40 at 40: (20-16)

Mark Lyons is back with another installment of his Top 40.

If you've been following along, you know Mark's turning (well turned... the big day has happened already) 40 this year, and he's counting down his top 40 favorite fighters that he's followed since he started watching the sport as a kid.

If you aren't up to speed, make sure to check out Mark's previous countdown entries: Intro, 40-36, 35-31, 30-26, 25-21.

This week, we're down to numbers 20 through 16.

20. Jeff Chandler

Career Record: 33-2-2 (18)

Three Favorite Fights: Julian Solis TKO14, Johnny Carter TKO6, Eijiiro Murata TKO13

"Jolting Jeff" is a forgotten man when you talk about Bantamweights, not that people talk about them often. The division was plenty visible when I was growing up with fighters like Zarate, Davila, Pintor, etc.. featured prominently on network TV. None of them drew my affection like Chandler.

He was the consummate boxer/puncher with the typical Philly heart to back it up when things got rough. Jeff won the title from Julian Solis and defended against Jorge Lujan, two very slick customers to start your reign against.

Then he traveled to Japan to take on the rugged Eijiiro Murata. This was one that I had to wait for the Boxing magazines to come out in order to get the result and it was a draw that wasn't particularly hometown, but viewing it later I scored it for Chandler. He went back to Japan after defeating Solis in a rematch and left no doubt with a dominating performance that ended via TKO in the thirteenth. Jeff even went back a third time and gave Murata a frightful beating that included five knockdowns.

He was as versatile as they come and that is backed up by his 4-0 record in rematches with all of the wins coming inside the distance. The timing of his arrival prevented some big time fights from happening and the brevity of his stay holds him back when comparing his career to some of the greats in the division. But I have no doubt that any Bantamweight from any era would have their hands full with Jeff Chandler.

19. Jose Luis Castillo

Career Record: 57-9-1 (49)

Three Favorite Fights: Diego Corrales TKO by 10, Diego Corrales KO4, Juan Lazcano UD12

It pains me not to list one of history's greatest fights as my favorite. The drama that unfolded that night made the Godfather look like a slapstick comedy. Alas, "mouthpiecegate" and Tony Weeks' handling of it have left a bitter taste in my mouth that will never subside. You all know the story and the greatness of that epic, so I'm going to leave it at that.

It baffles me how many people have this perception of JLC as some sort of unskilled brawler. How does an unskilled brawler run neck and neck in 2 fights with slicksters like Johnston and Mayweather and outpoint Joel Casamayor? None of those fights were slugfests. Sure, he could brawl, but was also able to apply his trade with the very best in a tactical battle. He had many subtle skills and an innate ability to cut off the ring and force the fight inside without being reckless. Of course, if you wanted to sling your balls on the table that made him even happier.

The left hook to the body was from the same mold as Mexican legends Chavez and Olivares. Short, concise and debilitating. Jose was a fantastic mid-range fighter with his beautiful short shots and no motion wasted. But at heart, and for me that's what it really boils down to, JLC was one of the toughest SOB's to ever climb between the ropes. I'll take his ability to soak up punishment and push forward and match it up with anybody.

I think in the end he will go down as a very underrated fighter. He should slide into the HOF easily in my opinion, and that may not be the case. A lot of that has to do with the scale situations of which he is fully to blame, but is also an indictment of the entire weigh in system.

None of that matters to me though. I know how good he was and one question you can ask to detractors and fans alike. Who was definitively tougher than Jose Luis Castillo? Nobody.

18. Roy Jones Jr.

Career Record: 53-5 (39)

Three favorite Fights: Montell Griffin KO1, Antonio Tarver MD12, Virgil Hill KO4

I am not one of those guys that diminishes how great a fighter was by how he finishes. Nor do I scream for retirement. Roy has become quite delusional and I hope his days of locking horns with the best in the world are over, but you can't let that wash away your memories of how awesome the man was.

This is as good a place as any for this comment:

The biggest horseshit cliche in Boxing circles is that an older fighter is tarnishing his legacy.

I can't tell you how many times I have read that about Jones, Holyfield, even Oscar and countless others. Nothing could be further from truth. Nobody talks about Ali/Berbick as a knock against Ali's greatness, and years from now, nobody is going to use Jones/Tarver III as a knock against Roy either.

Roy was one of the most incredible blends of speed/power and raw athleticism that has ever graced the prize ring. Yeah, there were fights that could have been made, but he also beat a shit load of quality. He beat both James Toney and Bernard Hopkins clearer than any other fighter was ever able to. I think that gets glossed over in a rush to tear the man down. That is some sick stuff if you really think on it.

Tremendous power, defense, speed from another planet. Jones may not have been in a lot of exciting fights, but I can't be the only one that would call friends or invite them over and say you gotta watch this fight.

"Is it going to be a brawl?"

"Not at all, the opponent wont win a second, but you have to see how incredibly awesome Jones is."

In 33 years of being an absolute boxing addict, there isn't another fighter I pimped fights for, when I knew they had no chance of being competitive. I loved Pernell Whitaker, but for the casual fan, Jones was different. His power and flash made those fights enjoyable to anyone and those that followed my advice and tuned in came away amazed rather than being disappointed.

Don't worry Roy, I haven't forgot.

17. Alexis Arguello

Career Record: 82-8 (65)

Three Favorite Fights: Aaron Pryor TKOby14, Ray Mancini TKO14, Ruben Olivares KO13

Arguello reminds me of a miniature Joe Louis, minus the hand speed. He was one of the most precision annihilators I have had the privilege to watch live or on tape. His jab ripped flesh and his hooks, crosses and uppercuts ate what remained. A technical battering ram with an eraser in each glove is an apt description for the lanky Nicaraguan.

He is one of many coming on the list that if I delve into his opposition and break down the fights it will turn into a novel. My first viewing was when he performed fistic plastic surgery on Alfredo Escalera to take the Jr Lightweight title in Escalera's hometown. That was a bloody brawl and it wouldn't be the last that I saw The Explosive Thin Man in.

Arguello had slow feet and that was a deficiency that could be exploited, but it was easier said than done. It was like a rat running around in a cage with a python. He could create a lethal strike at any minute and with sickening accuracy.

A perfect example was his fight with Bobby Chacon. Chacon was very disciplined and boxed beautifully for six rounds building a lead, only for a single left uppercut to turn the fight and ruin all of Bobby's good work. That was what fighting Arguello was like though. Once he built momentum and started operating on you, the results were usually bloody and conclusive.

I remember my aunt got HBO long before we had cable and I had my dad take me to her house for the Pryor/Arguello fight. Any fan that was to say that was the greatest fight in history would get no argument from me. So many ebbs and flows and at the core it was just a gigantic and brutal test of manhood that neither man lost in my book.

An Arguello fight always left you wanting more, unless you were one of the countless guys whose faces got carved up by the razor blades he called fists. Viva Nicaragua!

16. Aaron Pryor

Career Record: 39-1 (35)

Three Favorite Fights: Alexis Arguello TKO14, Antonio Cervantes KO4, Dujuan Johnson TKO7

These two go in side by side and Aaron edges in front only because I was cheering for him. If they had never met, I wouldn't be able to say who I had more manlove for.

That fight was glorious, yet it also had me twisted in knots. Two guys I had never rooted against locking up in a barbaric shootout that was so compelling and violent that you dare not use the bathroom in fear of missing a second. At the end there was a mixture of elation for The Hawk and sorrow for Arguello. But I'll never forget that fight and the electricity those two gladiators generated for 14 unforgettable rounds.

I'm not going to touch on the black bottle and the rematch was pure sadness, so let's move on.

Many of you that know me will be surprised to see Pryor on here. But you wont find many take no prisoners, nonstop action and trying to knock your head off until the final second bad asses that i don't like.

I knew of Aaron from the New Faces segment in Ring Magazine but the first time I saw him was against Leonidis Asprilla on NBC Sportsworld. He dominated from the start and closed the show in the final round with a merciless barrage.

Aaron had a lot of flaws, but heart and balls were not two of them. Dujuan Johnson knocked him down hard early in the first round of their clash. Pryor had several knockdowns that can be attributed to his balance issues, but this wasn't one of them. A little later in the round, Pryor was wobbled by a big left hook, only to respond immediately with a two handed barrage that forced Johnson to back into the ropes, giving Pryor time to clear his head. In the 3rd round, Pryor was almost sent through the ropes, and hurt badly by a big right hand, only to come back the following round and resume brawling. Caution wasn't part of his game. Attack, attack, attack. Even when hurt.

After the rematch with Arguello his deterioration was pretty abrupt, and I feel his standing in history is over stated by what could have been. In dealing with what was, it's fair to say The Hawk was a raging animal that was among the most exciting fighters I have ever seen. You knew he was going to bring it and whatever his flaws were, nobody was ever able to exploit them enough to beat him until he was ravaged by drugs.

If there is a heaven, mark me down for a river of Jack Daniels and give me a front row seat for a neverending loop of Pryor/Arguello 1.

Check out the previous installment of Mark's Top 40 at 40: 25-21

e-mail Mark Lyons


dread said...

Agree about Roy. He was just untouchable and more than a few hardcore fans got totally pumped for his fights. He'd get in the ring with that tuxedo look and cock of the walk swagger, smirk and it was completely exciting, regardless of whether the other guy stood a chance. And he didn't.

Andy said...

I was a huge Pryor fan as a kid. I think he might make my top 5 if I was doing this kind of list.