By Ken Hissner: When this writer sees or reads about fighters in the history of boxing, several come to mind, and I will try to mention ten of them with the hope readers will add their choices.
During instructions in the ring prior to the fight, heavyweight champion Sonny Liston could stare you into defeat before the bell sounded!
Liston compiled a record of 50-4 with 39 stoppages. I can remember when he fought Bert Whitehurst from Baltimore. In looking up his record, I didn’t realize they fought twice, and both went the distance.
The story I once read was after the first round of one of their matches, Whitehurst didn’t want to go out for the next round, and the trainer asked why? When he took out the mouthpiece, several of Whitehurst’s teeth fell out. Yet in seeing he not only fought Liston once in April of 1958 when Liston was 10-1 but again in October of the same year.
Most likely, it was in their second fight when Whitehurst was knocked through the ropes and out of the ring in the last round and was attempting to get back in the ring at the count of seven when the final bell sounded.
Another opponent of Liston’s made the mistake of beating him named Marty Marshall in September of 1954 by split decision. Seven months later, in a rematch, Liston knocked Marshall down four times, for a 9-count at the end of round 5 and 3 times in round 6, ending the fight.
I’m not trying to make this a Sonny Liston article, but one other time, in a match he had with Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams, 47-3, in either their April of 1959 or March of 1960 fights, Williams broke Liston’s eardrum while in defeat both times.
Also, in Liston’s defeat ending the career of Philly’s Leotis “Otis Lee” Martin, who suffered a detached retina, suffering an 8-count in round four before knocking out Liston in the ninth.
Another heavyweight who, for the first five rounds it went that far before he tired due to having asthma was Earnie “Black Destroyer” Shavers, with a 74-14-1 with 68 stoppages, of which 63 were before the sixth round and 23 in the first round.
In one of Shaver’s bouts, he was knocked down by Philly’s Roy Williams in December of 1976, and Williams walked back to his corner with his hands raised and was told, “don’t look now, but he’s up, and he looks mad!” Shavers finished Williams in that round at 2:46 with a knockout over Williams.
Shavers scored two knockdowns over Ken Norton in March of 1979, ending it in the first round. In September of the same year, he dropped WBC Champion Larry Holmes in the seventh round.
Here are what some of the opponents of Shavers had to say:
Muhammad Ali: “Earnie hit me so hard, it shook my kinfolk in Africa!” Larry Holmes: “Earnie hit me harder than any other fighter, including Mike Tyson…..Being hit by Tyson was like was like getting hit by a Ferrari. Being hit by Earnie Shavers was like being hit by a Mack truck.” Ron Lyle: “Hey man, that’s the hardest I’ve ever been hit in my life. And George Foreman could punch, but none of them could hit like Earnie Shavers did. When he hit you, the lights went out. I can laugh about it now, but at the time, it wasn’t funny!” Randall “Tex” Cobb: “Nobody hits like Shavers. If anybody hit harder than Shavers, I’d shoot him….Earnie could punch you in the neck with his right hand and break your ankle.”
Another heavyweight who, same as Liston, was a world champion “Big” George Foreman, had a similar record to Shavers at 76-5 with 68 stoppages. He was only one of two people, the other “Smokin” Joe Frazier that stopped courageous George Chuvalo, who was 73-18-2, stopped only twice. Foreman broke a bone under one of Chuvalo’s eyes in their August of 1970 bout ending it in the third round.
Another heavyweight champion Jack “Manassa Mauler” Dempsey, 53-6-8 with 43 stoppages, was feared by most opponents with his brutal attack style like what he did to 6:06 ½ Jess “Pottawatome Giant” Willard weighing 245 to Dempsey who was 6’1” 187 breaking several of Willard’s bone in a brutal beating having hit the canvas seven times in the first round and cut badly ending it in the third round.
As fearful opponents were of Dempsey, he once said, “I only feared one man, and that was Sam Langford!”
Adding to our list of ten is Sam Langford, who was known as “The Boston Bonecrusher,” whose record was 178-30-38 with 126 stoppages possibly on second to Light Heavyweight champion Archie “Old Mongoose” Moore’s record 132 stoppages, who we will also add to the list of ten. Langford was only 5’7 ½” and approximately 180 lbs.
Moore, 186-23-10, almost won the heavyweight title knocking down the heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano, 48-0, in the second round for a “2” count before getting stopped after hitting the canvas four times himself in September of 1955 in what would be Marciano’s last bout.
One of the most brutal battles was when Moore fought Canadian Yvonne “The Fighting Fisherman” Durelle in December of 1958. Moore was down three times in the first round and again in the fifth round and comes back to drop Durelle four times in the eleventh, stopping him.
Rocky Marciano at 49-0 with 43 stoppages could be added to that list trailing champion “Jersey” Joe Walcott after twelve rounds only to stop him in the next round for the title.
Also, with a severely cut nose stopping former champion Ezzard “The Cincinnati Cobra” Charles in the eighth round in September of 1954 in their rematch with the possibility of the fight being stopped in favor of Charles by technical stoppage. It was Ring Magazine’s “Fight of the Year!”
Light Heavyweight champion Jack “The Giant Killer” Dillon, 95-8-15 with 65 stoppages from Indiana at 5:07 ½, was known for chopping down larger opponents like heavyweights, sometimes 35 lbs. heavier like Frank Moran 204 ½ to his 169, Tom Cowler 170 to 205.
Another who fought though only having one eye was Middleweight champion Harry “The Pittsburgh Windmill” Greb, 108-8-3 with 49 stoppages. He was the only man to defeat then light heavyweight, later retiring with the heavyweight title Gene Tunney, then 47-0-2, in May of 1922 for the American Light Heavyweight title. In rematches, Tunney won twice, and they drew once.
Finishing the ten fighters would be three-division world champ when there was only one champ in each weight class Henry “Homicide Hank” Armstrong, 149-21-10 with 99 stoppages. He got into your chest with non-stop punches.
Another was the pound for pound greatest boxer of all time in most, including this writer’s opinions two-division world champion “Sugar” Ray Robinson at 174-19-6 with 109 stoppages.
Rounding out the twelve would be two-division world champion Edwin “El Inca Dinamita” Valero, 27-0 with 27 stoppages.
So there you have it, Liston, Shavers, Foreman, Dempsey, Langford, Moore, Marciano, Dillon, Greb, Armstrong, Robinson, and Valero!
Let’s hear some of your choices, possibly like Middleweight champion Stanley “The Michigan Assassin” Ketchell, 49-5-3 with 43 stoppages.
In October of 1909, weighing 170 ¼, he dropped heavyweight champion Jack “The Galveston Giant” Johnson, 45-8-10 at the time in the twelfth round. Johnson got up and knocked Ketchell out with a punch so hard one of Ketchel’s teeth were implanted in his glove it’s been said!