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Wilbur’s 100 Greatest Heavyweights of All Time: 90-81

By Brian Wilbur

Welcome boxing fans and RSR readers to the second installment of my countdown of the 100 best heavyweight boxers of all time. I hope you are ready to take a trip into the history books because numbers 90-81 include a healthy serving of old school boxers and old timers. There is one 1980’s contender in the mix, but besides him, all of the heavyweights listed today fought in the 1950’s or before (and in a few cases, well before 1950). Please enjoy and feel free to send me any comments or feedback.

90. Paulino Uzcundun

This Spanish heavyweight was not the prettiest boxer and nobody could have confused him with Willie Pep. What Uzcundun lacked in finesse he made up for with ruggedness, determination, and got the most of out of his punches because he fought from a crouch. He fought in between the Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis eras in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. Among his achievements was that he fought for and won various regional titles which includes being the three time European Heavyweight Champion, winning that belt in 1926, 1928 and 1933. Uzcundun’s greatest achievement was his willingness to fight anyone and everyone. Paulino’s resume includes fights against just about every quality or relevant heavyweight of his day, and he almost always held his own. Uzcundun was only stopped once in 70 pro fights, and that was against a prime Joe Louis when Uzcundun was well past his best.

Most Famous Fight(s): UD15 loss to Primo Carnera for the world title in 1933.

Notable Wins: KO4 over Harry Wills in 1927, 20 round points win over Max Baer in 1931.

89. Roland LaStarza

Compared to his rival, Rocky Marciano, LaStarza looked like a skilled boxer to Marciano’s slugger, but in reality, LaStarza was forced to box against Rocky because trying to slug with him was a death wish. Roland had above average boxing skills for a heavyweight but he found success by being adaptable in the ring. He did not have many weaknesses, aside from the fact that he looked like he was more suited for acting in Hollywood than fighting in the ring. LaStarza did eventually end up acting a bit after his career was over, using his notoriety from his boxing career as a springboard. His biggest claim to fame was being the closest that anyone came to defeating Marciano when he lost a controversial decision when the two met as undefeated prospects in 1950. The rematch 1953, this time for the belt, went less favorably for LaStarza, which marked the end of his career as a serious contender.

Most Famous Fight(s): SD10 loss to Rocky Marciano in 1950, TKO11 loss to Rocky Marciano in 1953.

Notable Wins: SD10 over Rex Layne in 1953.

88. Bob Baker

Baker was a terrific amateur boxer from the well populated area of Pittsburgh and defeated a number of top ranked contenders in the 1950s, but curiously he never got a crack at the title. One of the reasons, perhaps, was his uninteresting fighting style. With Bakers experience and physical talents he obviously knew what to do in the ring and found success, however, most of his fights went the distance and it was very difficult to look good against Baker. Another factor in Baker never getting a chance at immortality were his inopportune losses. Baker somehow always seemed to lose a fight just as he was on the cusp of getting that title shot.

Most Famous Fight(s): UD10 over Nino Valdes in 1955, three points wins over Rex Layne in 1955.

Notable Wins: UD10 over a young George Chuvalo in 1957, UD12 John Holman in 1956, UD10 over Joe Baksi in 1954

87. Tony Galento

Galento was as blue collar as a heavyweight contender can get. He was short, balding, pudgy and looked like your average middle aged butcher or garbage man. Having a sculpted physique or classic boxing technique was not “Two Ton Tony’s” thing. Galento was not without merits despite his unorthodox look. He was difficult to hit because he was so low to the canvas. Tony was only 5’9” but crouched down extremely low as he fought so opponents must have thought that they were fighting a bowling ball. He was adept at fighting on the inside, sneaking in powerful hooks and crosses. Galento was not a wild brawler, but he could certainly punch with the best of his era and was not shy about exchanging blows. Because of his short arms and stature, Galento was susceptible to being out-boxed, but rarely out-punched.

Most Famous Fight(s): TKO4 loss to Joe Louis for the title in 1939.

Notable Wins: KO2 over Nathan Mann in 1938, TKO3 over Abe Feldman in 1939.

86. Joe Goddard

Goddard fought during the pioneer days of modern boxing and was the long standing Australian Heavyweight Champion. He probably would not have cut it in more recent eras of heavyweight boxing that rely more on boxing and scoring points instead of fighting to the finish. Draws or no contests were often declared the result of fights that went the distance and one person failed to dominate. Goddard possessed incredible stamina, physical strength, toughness, and hitting power…but not much else. His skill set was perfect for his era though because important fights were routinely scheduled for 20 rounds. Back then, the boxer with the best stamina and the most tolerance for pain would be the one left standing at the end of the bout. This free swinging old pug had a terrific punch too. 31 of his 33 wins were by knockout. Joe’s fierce personality and unwavering aggression in fights proved that he was born to be a fighter.

Most Famous Fight(s): KO4 over Joe Choynski twice in 1891, eight round draw against Peter Jackson in 1890.

Notable Wins: KO3 over Peter Maher in 1892, TKO9 over Tom Lees in 1891.

85. Luther McCarty

Further up in the countdown I talked about two heavyweights who never realized their potential due to either laziness (Greg Page) or insanity (Ike Ibeabuchi). In Mcarty’s case, he did not reach his potential because of an early death. McCarty rose to prominence during Jack Johnson’s title reign in the early 1910’s. At that time, white America was in a frenzy trying to find a “White Hope” who would dethrone Johnson. Many tried but none were successful, much to the chagrin of the numerous bigots of that era. McCarty, was considered the best of the “white hopes” by far but never had the chance to challenge Johnson. He was a very large heavyweight for his day at 6’4” and over 200 pounds and he knew how to fight tall. McCarty had an excellent, accurate jab and used that to set up crushing left hooks and pounding straight rights. His style was text book, he had amazing agility for his size, and his execution was impressive for being so young. Tragically, McCarty collapsed during a match against Arthur Pelkey and died shortly after at the age of 21. The cause of the injury was most likely due to a horse riding accident that McCarty suffered and not from a punch to the head.

Most Famous Fight(s): TKO18 over Al Palzer for the “White” Heavyweight Championship in 1913.

Notable Wins: KO16 over “Fireman” Jim Flynn in 1912, KO6 over Carl Morris in 1912, 10 round “newspaper decision” over Frank Moran in 1913.

84. Buddy Baer

Buddy, the younger brother of former Heavyweight Champion Max Baer, was one of the three giant boxer of his era (along with Primo Carnera and Abe Simon). He was extremely tall, standing at 6’6 ½” with an enormous 84” reach. You would think that keeping opponents at distance with the jab would be a good strategy for someone his size, however Buddy had slow hands making for a lazy jab. Instead of fighting on the outside, Buddy would battle in close quarters, using his height and weight advantage to lean on his opponents to tire them out. Then he would slug with his big pounding fists. Against KO artists like Joe Louis, this strategy proved costly because he was there to be hit. However against most, his big frame and large wallop that went along with his size (power punching must be genetic!), Baer proved himself as one of the best contenders of his era, though the era was dominated by Louis so winning the title was out of the question.

Most Famous Fight(s): DQ7 loss to Joe Louis in 1941 for the title, KO1 loss to Joe Louis in 1942 for the title.

Notable Wins: TKO7 over Tony Galento in 1941, TKO7 over Nathan Mann in 1940, TKO3 over Abe Simon in 1937.

83. Johnny Risko

The perennial underdog, Risko never got the respect that he deserved during his fighting days. Known as the “Cleveland Rubber Man”, he was considered too short, too tubby, and too ordinary to be taken seriously. His 45 career losses, and the fact that he never quit his day job as a baker, perhaps had something to do with his stigma as well. Johnny let all of his opponents underestimate him and he became the ultimate spoiler. Starting in 1927, after a huge upset win over Paulino Uzcudun, Risko proved to be just as dangerous as any of the highly touted heavyweight contenders, and he was tabbed as the underdog in almost every one of his big wins. His days as the menacing dark horse lasted until he finally started to slow down in the mid 1930’s.

Most Famous Fight(s): TKO9 loss to Max Schmeling which was 1929’s fight of the year.

Notable Wins: 12 round points win over Ernie Schaaf in 1929, 10 round points win over George Godfrey in 1928, 8 round points win over Tony Galento in 1931, 10 round points win over Max Baer in 1931, 12 round points win over King Levinsky in 1932, 10 round points win over Tommy Loughran in 1933.

82. Trevor Berbick

The heavyweight division in the 1980’s had excellent depth as far as the number of viable contenders. However they all kind of blended together and were constantly beating each other, and therefore tearing down each others legacy to the point that many consider the 1980’s a weak era of heavyweights. One from this pack of contenders was Trevor Berbick, a Jamaican born boxer with solid all-around skills and a decent punch. He stood out from the pack because of his fights against three legends, who represented greatness from three different periods in history; Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes, and Mike Tyson. He gave Holmes a tough title defense in a losing effort in 1981 and was a mainstay in the top 10 heavyweight rankings for the rest of the decade.

Most Famous Fight(s): TKO2 loss to Mike Tyson in 1986.

Notable Wins: UD10 over Muhammad Ali in 1981, UD10 over Greg Page in 1982, UD12 over Pinklon Thomas in 1986 to win the WBC belt.

81. George Godfrey

George Godfrey, born Feab Williams, named himself after an old bare knuckles heavyweight who fought about 35 years prior. Godfrey was significantly bigger than his namesake; a giant for his day at 6’3” and around 250 pounds. He was incredibly strong, muscular, and packed a dangerous wallop, in the mold of future Heavyweight Champions George Foreman and Sonny Liston. He made a name for himself in 1921 by scoring a draw with the legendary Sam Langford in just his 2nd pro fight. Though Godfrey was a bit slow and could be out-boxed, his large size and enormous strength posed problems for just about every boxer he faced. Godfrey is probably best known for being the longtime “Colored Heavyweight Champion” in the era in between Jack Johnson and Joe Louis where African American heavyweights were denied the opportunity to challenge for the sport’s biggest prize.

Most Famous Fight(s): 10 round points win over Paulino Uzcudun in 1928.

Notable Wins: KO5 over Fred Fulton in 1925, 10 round points win over Jack Renault in 1925, 10 round points win over Tiger Jack Fox in 1933.

Thanks for readings. The countdown will continue soon so keep checking back to RSR.

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