Wednesday, May 22, 2013

From Beyond the Grave - The Hyperbole

Georges Carpentier, left, and Muhammad Ali (AP Wire)

"COME ON ye moving picture guys, 
And listen to my tale; 
Ye hurlers of the custard pies
Who gather in the kale.
Another moving stare we hear, 
Must in the picture horn--
And his name is Georges Carpentier
Greatest fighter ever born."

       - Francois Descamps, Omaha World Herald, 1920


"Sam Langford, himself one of the greatest fighters that ever pulled on a glove, was the first we interviewed as to his greatest fighter. Sam picks Jack Johnson. He came with a natural. He didn't hesitate at all. We met him at Jack Dempsey's camp in Toledo the day before the big bout, and Sam was very strong for Johnson. He said that no man could lick Willard because Willard licked the greatest man that ever lived. 'Didn't you say that Jeffries would lick Johnson?' we asked for a kid. 'Yes. Yes, I did say that, but I was sore at Johnson then,' said Sam. 'You know he gave me a licking a long time ago in Boston, and when he got to be champion he never would talk about me again. I was sore at him, but all the time, way down in my heart, I knew he was a great man. The day I saw him beat Jeffries made me surer. Jeffries was in good shape that day. He never could have taken the licking he did if he wasn't in great form. You know he was just as fast as ever, but he was like a baby when he boxed Johnson. I tell you that Johnson was so big, so strong, so clever. He had everything. He was never hurt, never had a black eye or a cut, and never broke a hand, and he beat the best in the world. I call that considerable going ... Great man, that Johnson. I think Gans was another great man, but Johnson, to me, was the best that ever boxed in a ring.'"

       - Tad Dorgan, Evening Tribune, 1919

"...the greatest fighter who ever lived, according to my idea, was a negro. And his name was George Dixon. There are no standards by which these questions can be worked out, and settled with mathematical exactness. Nor is there anything on the face of the earth on which both laymen and experts disagree more than the questions of merit in pugilists. This because fighting appeals to the emotions. It arouses enthusiasm, and creates heroes and ideals. I have no doubt that there is still in existence a very small smattering of very old-timers who will snort at the idea of Tom Bayers and Ned O'Baldwin and Donnelly and Cooper being passed over in a discussion of this kind for a slim-limbed yellow skin like little Dixon. But he is my choice. And I feel that Bob Fitzsimmons runs him a close second."

       - W.W. Naughton, Daily Oklahoman, 1913 

"His best efforts according to the champ [Rocky Marciano], were the Joe Louis fight in 1951 and the 1952 match with Jersey Joe Walcott in which he won the title. Marciano seems to feel that boxing is on the upswing. 'There seems to be a lot more fighters coming along,' he said. 'In the past couple of years boxing has seen a good many new and promising fighters.' The Brockton Blockbuster thinks that Joe Louis was the best fighter of all time in his division. After Louis, he picks Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney. He won't mention it but there are some folks who think that a man named Marciano should be ranked up among the top heavyweights of all time." 

       - John Cathey, Greensboro Record, 1958

"[Ray Robinson] became recognized as probably the best fighter pound for pound who ever laced on the gloves (he won the welterweight championship, then outgrew the class and won the middleweight title five times.) But just a few days past the Boxing Writers of America eliminated the adverb 'probably' he was the best fighter of all time, by voting Sugar Ray as not only the best middleweight and best welterweight, but the best boxer of all time regardless of weight class ... After receiving a telegram proclaiming him the greatest of all time, Sugar Ray's first reaction was to say: 'You're joking...I'm overwhelmed...It would make anybody thankful and proud to be thought of like that, but if you ask me who I think was the greatest ever, two fellows come to my mind: Henry Armstrong and Joe Louis. What a little fighting guy Henry was!...And Joe had the fastest hands I ever saw.'"

       - Chicago Metro News, 1978

"Mr. Eugene Corri in an article printed in a London weekly some time ago, had this to say regarding the greatest fighter he ever saw: There never was--and I doubt there ever will be--a more finished boxer than Peter Jackson. Not even Mace, Mitchell or Corbett, at their cleverest, equaled him. His work was always clean, quick and dazzling. His eyes blazed in his ebony forehead like balls of fire when he warmed to his task. Agile as a panther, he could hit where he aimed with marvelous precision, and get away before his opponent had time to retaliate. In all circumstances, however the tide ebbed or flowed, for him or against him, Peter Jackson kept his head and temper, by which means he was always able to let himself be seen and felt at his best.'"

       - Tulsa World, 1919

"Sugar Ray Robinson is the greatest fighter ever, and Gene Fullmer is the 100th best, writes Bert Randolph Sugar, who has touched off controversies with such simple queries as 'How are you?' or tough questions such as 'Whose round is it?' 'Scholars of the religion know as boxing even have their own sanctum sanctorum to rival the monastery, that of the public house or pub,' writes Sugar, a boxing historian and former publisher of 'The Ring' magazine. 'There they congregate to argue the relative merits of their convictions and come prepared to deny those of their brethren.'"

       - Ed Schuyler, Jr., Plain Dealer, 1984


In the wake of Floyd Mayweather, Jr.'s dominating victory over Robert Guerrero, everyone from the peanut gallery to the pulpit is attempting to nail down a specific number which assigns a level of greatness to the current pound-for-pound emperor. We've played this game before. They've played this game before. Someone else will play this game again. 


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