Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mark's Top 40 at 40: (9-8)

Mark Lyons is back, and he's edging closer to the top of his list.

If you haven't been following along (and at this stage, that seems impossible), Mark's turning 40 this year, and in honor of that milestone is counting down his 40 favorite fighters.

Today he takes a look at numbers 9 and 8.

9. Wilfred Benitez

Career Record: 53-8-1 (31)

Three Favorite Fights: Carlos Palomino SD15, Antonio Cervantes SD15, Harold Weston II UD15

When he was at his best, Wilfred was as tough to catch as a fly with chopsticks. Oddly enough, it seemed the novice like young Daniel san had a better shot than the sage like Mr. Miyagi.

I had read plenty in my magazines about him, but my first live fight with El Radar was Palomino. I know it sounds nuts for a ten year old to be so into boxing that I was on pins and needles to see a guy I had only read about against a fighter I genuinely liked. But a lot of you know what I mean. Defensive boxing is a beautiful thing when done in close quarters, and the final two rounds of the Palomino fight get me almost as excited as a blood bath.

Benitez seems to have hit a place where everyone acknowledges his undeniable talent, but tends to undersell his quite considerable accomplishments. Perhaps that is because he was finished as an elite fighter at the age of only 24. But keep in mind that you've seen the last 17 year old World Champion in history. Add the fact that he beat the great Antonio Cervantes for the belt and that stands alone as historic.

One of my first reads was the recap of the dubious decision against Curry. He was dropped three times in ten rounds but controlled enough of the fight to make it close and under the round system, it wasn't that awful. He handled Bruce easily in the immediate rematch that he didn't have to take.

As I have alluded to earlier, you wont be seeing Sugar Ray Leonard on this list. Ray was a great talent and I'm not one to make excuses, but nobody seems to recall the pretty intentional looking head butt that split Wilfred's forehead open. He was left with blood running into his eyes from a nasty gash for the rest of a close fight. Would he have won? I don't know, but it damn sure was grounds for a rematch.

He beat Duran like a man, unlike somebody else (if I get started on that my fury will explode through your monitor!) and the Maurice Hope stoppage is as devastating a knock-out as you will ever see.

His star didn't burn long, but it shined bright and I wont soon forget it. Viva Puerto Rico!

8. Meldrick Taylor

Career Record: 38-8-1 (24)

Three Favorite Fights: Buddy McGirt TKO12, Glenwood Brown UD12, Aaron Davis UD12

For the record, I'm not Puerto Rican, nor was I born in Philadelphia. It just seems that way.

The '76 Olympics may have ignited my love for the sport, but the '84 Olympics produced more of my favorites. Taylor's speed and moxie made him undeniably attractive to a fan like myself. Even after stealing much of the show in the games, his debut was only given highlight time during the telecast. It was a familiar theme.

I may as well get this out of the way as briefly as I can. I've rarely ever been more sure of a fights outcome than I was that Meldrick was going to beat Chavez and I damn sure have never been more right.

Every fan, even if they didn't see that fight live, has taken part in an argument over the way it ended, so I'm not gonna spend a lot of time on it. There were 2 seconds left in a great fight, Taylor was his daddy and what happened was a steaming pile of horse dung.

I'm opinionated, but like to think of myself as reasonable. There was nothing just or even remotely acceptable about that stoppage. Mel was his daddy all night!

Chavez beat the shit out of him some people will say. Well Julio was no punk. You had to take some punishment to stand in front of him and whip his ass. That doesn't excuse Steele's call. That was the single most disappointing and heart breaking ref move in history.

Even in the rematch when he was spent, he lit Julio up for 3 or 4 rounds. Richard Steele/Don King stole a hunk of legacy and a piece of my heart and I will never forgive them for it. It should top my favorite fights list instead of my despicable robberies list. I'm surprised they didn't just award Taylor and Whitaker's gold medals to Chavez to complete those travesties.

Sorry, I guess that wasn't that brief, NO, NO, NO, HELL NO!


Okay, I think I'm all right now.

Taylor didn't have a long stay at the top and his resume isn't an all-time one. But for a brief period, he was as good as the world had to offer. His dominant stoppage win over Buddy McGirt is seemingly forgotten. Even past his best at welterweight, he gutted out wins over Aaron Davis and Glenwood Brown in all action thrillers.

Taylor never left the ring with anything in reserve, he was more than happy to get hit to deliver his return fire. The man absolutely schooled McGirt and Chavez over 23 rounds only to have everything snatched from his grasp in an unforgettable miscarriage of justice.

I'm sorry, I'm not all right.

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, 12-10.

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