ESPN Classic Ringside: Top 10 Heavyweights
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Let The Countdown Begin!
Here, for the first time, host Brian Kenny, veteran boxing historian Bert Randolph Sugar and a panel of blue ribbon boxing experts debate the question, adding never-before-seen fight footage - including such epic encounters as the Joe Louis vs. Rocky Marciano "Superfight," the infamous Gene Tunney vs. Jack Dempsey "Long Count," and the legendary Ali vs. Frazier "Thrilla in Manila"" - Top 10 Heavyweights is a no-holds-barred winner by knockout!
KO highlights from Top 10 including:
Joe Frazier vs. George Foreman
George Foreman vs. Muhammad Ali
Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling
Rocky Marciano vs. Joe Walcott
Top customer reviews
#10 - Two things hindered Larry Holmes from being ranked higher. He toiled in the shadow of Muhammad Ali and so got lost in the shuffle. And, to piggyback Teddy Atlas's point, Holmes never did get that big name opponent to start a rivalry with (Ali was washed up by the time Holmes trounced him). But Holmes, quietly magnificent, was one of the most consistent, stay sharpest fighters around, and he owned one of the best jabs in boxing history. Larry Holmes is present on the panel to make a case for himself as higher than his tenth ranking. Holmes is done a big disservice here, as most of the film footage shown in his segment features him in the latter stages of his career.
#9 - He was one of the most brutal, most no-nonsense heavyweights to ever lace them up. Bobbing, weaving, ever in motion, looking to explode with that vaunted left hook to the body, "Smoking" Joe Frazier never stops coming. Joe Frazier swarmed more than a Mongol horde. His heart and relentlessness never flagged, not even when George Foreman decked him like a gazillion times, not even when he and Ali agonized thru a kind of hell in the Thrilla in Manila. When discussing Frazier's biggest triumphs in the ring, nothing trumps his beating Ali in Madison Square Garden in their first bout. Clips include highlights of Frazier's fights with Jimmie Ellis, Bob Foster, Jerry Quarry 2, and the Thrilla in Manila.
#8 - Before Big George Foreman started hawking those electric grills of his, he terrorized the heavyweight division, had one of the most intimidating stares ever. Lumbering giant that he was, George wielded fearsome power. He sure treated Joe Frazier like a scrub. It took Ali's mind games and the rope-a-dope to strip away that cloak of invincibility. George's comeback in his later years and his eventual regaining of the heavyweight title at the age of 45 is one of boxing's most improbable success stories. The grill isn't bad, either. Clips include Foreman's first fight with Joe Frazier in its entirety.
#7 - Talented Ezzard Charles, the Cincinnati Cobra, should probably be more well known than he is today. He was a great light heavyweight who moved up to heavyweight and also became great at that weight division. What truly cements him as an all-time-great is his two bouts with rugged Rocky Marciano, his trilogy with the crafty Jersey Joe Walcott, and that he beat a 36-year-old Joe Louis. Clips include highlights of Ezzard's fights with Joe Walcott 2 and Joe Louis.
#6 - So strong and durable, Rocky Marciano retired undefeated and yet Bert Sugar ranks him only #6. And, to be honest, you have to penalize Rocky for the overall suspect quality of his opposition. Marciano's noteworthy adversaries were Ezzard Charles, the Mongoose Archie Moore, Joe Louis, and Jersey Joe Walcott, and three of these were past their prime when they touched gloves with Rocky. Rocky was an unrefined brawler, exhibiting the awkward skills of an inebriated dock worker. He hit you anywhere he could. But he demonstrated the heart of a lion and a will to win that's as irresistible as gravity. Joe Louis was quoted as saying "He doesn't really fight by the book, but I got hit by a library tonight." Oh, but Rocky had his Susie Q, boxing's most indomitable right hand. Susie Q made up for the champ's lack of pugilistic skills. Rocky Marciano, showing a disregard for symmetry, retired with a record of 49-0. Clips include highlights of Marciano's donnybrooks with Joe Louis, Jersey Joe Walcott (the famous 13th round KO), Ezzard Charles, and Archie Moore.
#5 - Gene Tunney, the Fighting Marine, made his name beating Jack Dempsey. Thing is, Tunney had mad skills but little sizzle. In the wake of a volatile powerhouse like Dempsey, not too many people much cared that Tunney aspired to higher culture, carried around a book of Shakespeare with him. To quote humorist Will Rogers: "What we need is a heavyweight champion with less Shakespeare and more wallops." Here we see highlight footage of Tunney's two fights with Dempsey (including the controversial long count in the sequel).
#4 - Two turns of a century ago, in the early 1900s, Jack Johnson was the most hated black fighter around. Standing at 6'1" dude was a massive giant back in the day. Forty years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, Johnson angered the white establishment by not knowing his place. Johnson flaunted his dating white women. He was arrogant in the ring. He beat heaps of white boxers, became the heavyweight champ, an exalted state which was previously the sole purview of the whites. But you can't deny greatness. See rare footage of Johnson's fights with Stanley Ketchell, Jim Jeffries, and Jess Willard.
#3 - I'm not sure Jack Dempsey ever knew where the neutral corner was, preferring as he did to anxiously hover over a knocked-down opponent. "The Manassa Mauler" drew crowds which would be unthinkable in this day and age. Dempsey had insane power, was tremendously exciting, and convinced people to attend his bouts in massive droves. More often than not, he left his fans satisfied. Footage of Dempsey's fights with Jess Willard, Luis Firpo ("the Wild Bull of the Pampas"), and Tom Gibbons.
#2 - Muhammad Ali didn't have the biggest punch in the world, but he was, hands down, the best heavyweight stick-and-mover the world had ever seen. Floated like a butterfly and so on... Couple that with his ability to absorb punishment and his charisma and what he did outside the ring and how he performed inside it, well, if this guy isn't the best heavyweight ever, then he's a close second. You may have noticed that he talked a good game, too. We see familiar highlights of Ali's first fight with Sonny Liston and the Rumble in the Jungle.
#1 - It's a toss-up to me, who's pound for pound better, Ali or Joe Louis. Both were socially relevant, both starred in scintillating bouts. Louis was a deliberate boxer, not flashy like Ali. For Bert Sugar, it perhaps came down to the Brown Bomber' sinking of Max Schmeling and the myth of Aryan supremacy and that Sugar regards Louis as the best finisher of all time. Joe Louis was so adept at galvanizing the destructive forces in both his hands. If he had you in trouble, he'd put you to sleep. Highlight reel features Louis' scraps versus Max Baer, Billy Conn, Mauriello, and Marciano.
ESPN: TOP 10 HEAVYWEIGHTS comes in two discs, with four and a half hours of content. Bonus material consists of a panel of boxing experts coming up with ten heavyweight KO highlights, with appropriate discourse and film footage:
- Joe Frazier vs. George Foreman
- George Foreman vs. Muhammad Ali
- Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling
- Rocky Marciano vs. Joe Walcott
- Jack Dempsey vs. Luis Firpo
- Jack Johnson vs. Stanley Ketchel
- Muhammad Ali vs. Cleveland Williams
- Joe Frazier vs. Jimmie Ellis
- Joe Walcott vs. Ezzard Charles
- Joe Louis vs. Billy Conn