The time-travelling historical match-up debate must be one of the most annoying aspects of being a retired prizefighter. Once you have conquered your division and hung up the gloves, you should be able to sit back and enjoy your accomplishments, not have to be subject to mythical debates that mean absolutely nothing.
Lennox Lewis seems to be questioned about Mike Tyson on a regular basis. On Twitter this week, the former undisputed champ was debating with a fan over who would win “in their primes”. Lewis tried gallantly to try to make these people understand that Tyson’s prime was before Lewis even turned pro, making the debate pointless. But these sport fans believe in time travel, and like to try to picture the Lewis of 2000 squaring up to the Tyson of 1988.
What’s the point? They’re both great fighters in their own right, and in their own time. Debate over.
Boxing has a rich history. It’s what makes the sport as great as it is. You can put up with the boring modern heavyweight scene when you have the Ali-Frazier-Foreman-Norton-Holmes era of the 70’s and 80’s, Mike Tyson’s short and sweet yet brutal reign from 1986-90 or Lennox Lewis’ dominance of the division for the best part of the late 90’s and early 21st century preceding it.
Floyd Mayweather’s style of marketing, promotion and fighting has made him one of the richest sportsmen on earth, but it turns off a lot of people who prefer the Arturo Gatti blood, guts and respect approach – win or lose – rather than the bling, trash talk and keep-the-zero-at-all-costs approach of fighting and matchmaking of Mayweather.
But that doesn’t stop magazines, bloggers and fight fans creating mythical match-ups for Floyd against the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Henry Armstrong and Roberto Duran. For a guy who didn’t fight Manny Pacquaio, the idea of him squaring up to a prime Thomas Hearns at welterweight or Duran at lightweight is about as likely as Audley Harrison becoming undisputed heavyweight champion in 2014.
It may sound harsh, but the historical debate is excruciatingly dull. More so even than the “pound for pound” debate. Lately, Amir Khan has been talking about beating Devon Alexander as a way to get Mayweather in the ring. If he beats Mayweather, he becomes “pound for pound”. Bless him. If he avenged his defeats to Garcia and Peterson – or fought intelligently enough in the first fights to not lose the first bouts – he would already be on the “pound for pound” list.
Oscar De La Hoya was constantly compared to past greats during his reign, just as Mayweather and Pacquaio are today, and plenty of up and coming fighters will be in the future. Some people love these mythical match-ups.
I’m with Lennox all the way on this one:
Heavyweights are often subject to the historical match-up debate, and these are the most ridiculous. For example, Jack Dempsey, one of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time and a true legend of the Roaring Twenties, weighed around 192lbs for his title bouts, making him a small cruiserweight by today’s standards. Dempsey would have struggled to defeat Chris Byrd, let alone Wladimir Klitschko or any other 250lbs+ heavyweight. Does that make these bigger heavyweights better fighters? Of course not. This is why the debate is a pointless exercise.
The only good thing about these debates is that it gets people talking about boxing, and that is always a positive. Just leave the Tyson-Lewis debate alone. They fought when they fought, and what happened, happened. They’ll both be remembered for what they did in their own eras, the same as every other great fighter.
- The Biggest Flaw of 10 All-Time Great Boxers (bleacherreport.com)
- The Best Boxing Matchups That Never Happened (bleacherreport.com)
- Amir Khan, Floyd Mayweather Boxing News 2013: Mayweather Sr. Wants Son To Punish Khan – ‘Briton No Match Against Devon Alexander’ (latinospost.com)