The Best I’ve Ever Seen ……………

The Best I’ve Ever I Seen

Some of my work colleagues and I were having a discussion as to the best sport stars we’ve seen at (in) their respective sports. I told them that as I wasn’t all that versed to many of the top athletes or teams here in the US that we’ve all seen over the course of our lives. Being a Brit ,I’ve seen my share of stars across varying sports arenas. But across the North American landscape I’ve not seen many of the best, per say.

Having arrived here in the early nineties , the primary US athletes that I knew or were aware of, were tennis players and track stars , John McEnroe , Jimmy Connors , Arthur Ashe , Stan Smith , Pete Sampras , Andre Agassi , Carl Lewis , Lerory Burrell , Mike Powell , Ed Moses and Michael Johnson .

Now don’t get me wrong but as good as those players are . To my mind the best tennis player I’d ever seen was Bjorn Borg ! Over the course of his illustrious career he’d won “eleven” Grand Slam singles titles. But what was even more astounding was the rate at which he won those titles. Five successive Wimbledon singles titles and six French singles titles. All of those titles were won before retired at the age of 27. Borg did make a brief comeback but it was short lived. And people would suggest that Sampras was a far greater player than Borg ? In what universe ? Measure their feats over their comparative ages and you’ll see that Borg had achieved far more and that’s with the fact of him retiring from the game at a comparative early age. Experts my a_s !

Bjorn Borg wins his fifth successive Wimbledon title in defeating John McEnroe in 1980.

Now people might suggest that Sampras was Borg’s equal but anyone who knows the game of tennis will know that Sampras’ game was flawed when it came to playing on clay. Now we’ve seen the rise of Roger Federer and there’s no doubt in that he is the greatest male player of this or any other generation of male tennis players . Fourteen Grand Slam singles’ titles should be proof of that and the fact that he’s made it to the semi-finals of 19 straight Grand Slam singles tournaments. No male or female tennis player in the ‘Open or pre-Open era’ has ever accomplished that feat. And it’s unlikely to repeated or be surpassed by another player in the future. That is complete dominance of a sport , far greater than that of Tiger Woods’ dominance of the PGA Tour .

HBO’s presentation of the now infamous Hagler vs Hearns middleweight bout 1979. One of the most vicious bouts there will ever be in the annals of boxing.

I’ve gotten to the stage where I look at the sport of boxing and just think to myself what the hell went wrong with this damn sport ? The top fighters rarely fight each other anymore. And then we have an ass in boxing promoter Bob Arum telling us that the sport of MMA is ran and by a bunch of racial bigots. This coming from a promoter who once described one of the boxers in his stable …. “as one of the ‘best niggers’ I’ve ever had “. Now forgive me, but if Arum can be that condescending and still hold down his position as one of sport’s most powerful promoters. Then it would suggest to me that the sport is simply devoid of integrity . Both Arum and Don King have made a mockery of the sport.

Ali knocks out George Foreman in Kinshasa , Zaire to win the world heavyweight title.

Now I’m not going to deny that Muhammad Ali is the ‘greatest heavyweight boxer’ of all time and that’s with due respect to Joe Louis . His feats in the ring simply speak for themselves. The three time heavyweight champion of the world. And the fact that for almost four years he was denied the right to defend his title having never lost in the ring. He was stripped of his title for refusing to enlist in the US military and to fight in the ‘Vietnam War’ . As a conscientious objector , it was his right but politically the Lyndon Johnson administration wanted to make an example of the fighter. His epic ‘three epic fights’ with Joe Frazier and then his emotional laden bout with Larry Holmes cemented Ali’s legendary status. Less we forget also, there was ‘the great upset’ when he knocked out the then ‘invincible’ George Foreman in Kinshasa , Zaire. And although growing up I saw many of Ali’s fights. I still felt that when it was indeed time for him to walk away from the sport that he graced for so many years. He simply stayed in it for all of the wrong reasons. He was coerced into this decision by his then promoter Don King. And in King , you had someone who essentially is a parasite who clings to the boxers in his stable very much in the same way that a fly loves to be around fecal matter looking for anything it can derive of it that would be of benefit to them at the time.

My own favorite boxer in the ring was and still is Marvin Hagler . And though many well feel that Sugar Ray Robinson is the greatest middleweight of all time. Which he could well have been but I’m not so sure that a ‘Sugar’ Ray Robinson at his best could beat Marvin Hagler ! And though many talk about Ray Leonard being a supremely gifted fighter but I feel that Leonard simply fought to please himself and to make money. And that has been essentially it as far as his legacy was concerned. We’ve since the dominance of Bernard Hopkins within the division and his 20 successful defenses of the middleweight title. But the pedigree of the fighters of this era when measured against the era of Hagler , Leonard and Tommy Hearns pales into comparison. Middleweight fighters of this era are nowhere as skilled or versed as boxers, much less punchers or knockout artists.

Hagler for his part fought all comers and defended his title successfully eleven times before eventually losing it to ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard , in what some still consider to be a controversial split decision to this day. Hagler walked away from the sport angered by the decision. Leonard went on to further glory but to this day he knows that the decision went a long way in leaving the sport befuddled as to the decision making of the judges and the fracturing of the sport. Leonard for his part continued to fight adding to his legacy until he retired from the ring inauspiciously. He made one or two comebacks against lackluster opponents. But problems away from the ring soon blighted his personal life. Substance abuse , allegations of spousal battery and then a rather acrimonious divorce from his then wife.


Ed Moses wins Olympic gold in the 1976 Olympics in the men’s 400 meters hurdles .

When people talk about records and how special they are, the talk about Joe DeMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak in baseball. The UCLA Bruins’ 87 game win streak and Hank Aaron’s home run record. And as phenomenal as those records are. Very rarely do I ever hear the name of track and field star Ed Moses’ name being mentioned and his feat as the world’s greatest high hurdler . Over the course of 122 races at in the 400 meter hurdles event, Moses went unbeaten . And to add to his feat Ed Moses won two Olympic gold medals and multiple world championships on the track over the distance. But that span of 122 successive victories were over the span of a decade . Consider this also, of the fifty fast times ever at the distance , 28 of those times are held by Ed Moses. That is dominance my friends , complete and utter dominance. But unfortunately the sport of track and field is no longer the bastion of US male dominance. It has now become a niche sport that now only gets heightened interest once the quadrennial Summer Olympics comes around . Then and only then, is there a heightened interest in track and field and many of its major star athletes.

Bolt   wins   200m   in   world   record  time  of   19.30  at  the  Beijing  Olympics  .  photo  appears   courtesy  of   bbc.co.uk/sports/  ................

Usain Bolt wins with the men’s 200 meters’ Final at the Beijing Olympics the world record time of 19.30. It would be one of three gold medals won by the Jamaican athlete all in world record times . photo appears courtesy of bbc.co.uk/sports ……………..

The world was more than in awe when Usain Bolt burst unto the world at the Beijing Olympics . His world record shattering feats at the 100 200 meters and 4x100m relay , has left the Jamaican track star at the top of heap in the track and field world. And Bolt looks to successfully defend his titles at the 2012 London Olympics . But before that he’ll also look to defend his IAAF World Championship titles in those events. Bolt to my mind may well have the career that can span a decade if he’s totally dedicated to his sport. At present there isn’t a track star in the world that is his equal ! And the notion that Tyson Gay is even in the same area code as him as a track athlete, is like making the comparison between a Lamborghini Murcielago and a Dodge Pinto . It’s simply not justified at all ! We’ve seen how ordinary Gay was made to look in Beijing and prior to their meeting at the Olympics, Bolt literally took the mental resolve of his American opponent and completely shattered it. When an athlete already has you beat psychologically then inevitably you will be defeated physically.

Bolt wins   gold in the  100 meters   going   away   from  his   fellow  competitors   in   Beijing  in  a  world  record  time of   9.69 .    photo   appears  courtesy  of  Reuters/   David   Duscherre  ...............
Bolt wins gold in the 100 meters going away from his fellow competitors in Beijing in a world record time of 9.69 . photo appears courtesy of Reuters/ David Duscherre ...............

This will be the first part in a series of pieces that I’ll be doing on an athletes that I’ve come to admire during foray into the love of sports . Be sure to look out for part two . I trust that you’ll enjoy the series ? And by all means chime on with a comment of your own concerning the athletes I’ve mentioned here and those who you’ve seen that have left you in awe as to prowess in their chosen sporting endeavor.

Alan Parkins aka tophatal ………………….

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Aaliyah feat’g Timbaland ……….”We Need A Resolution”
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What Ever Happened To ……. ‘Marvelous’ Marvin Hagler ?

Growing up as a kid I loved the sport of boxing and it was something that was instilled into me by my late father. He loved the sport and use to tell me stories and he showed me the pictures of his favorite boxers from a bygone era. He’d talk of Willie Pep, Joe Louis, Sandy Saddler, Archie Moore, Floyd Patterson and of course Muhammaad Ali, who my father would still refer to as, Cassius Clay. Not that he minded the fact ,that Clay changed his name for religious beliefs. As far as he was concerned the name you’re born with, remains your name ’til the day that you die.

A prostrate Sonny Liston  lies on  his back  having  been  just  knocked to the  canvas  by  Muhammad Ali in their heavyweight title  fight.   These two  famed  fighters would  meet twice professionally  over their fabled  careers.  Each time  Ali  , the  younger  fighter  would  end  being  a  decisive winner.   picture appears  courtesy  afp/reuters  .............
A prostrate Sonny Liston lies on his back having been just knocked to the canvas by Muhammad Ali in their heavyweight title fight. These two famed fighters would meet twice professionally over their fabled careers. Each time Ali , the younger fighter would end being a decisive winner. picture appears courtesy afp/reuters .............

As a teenager during the seventies there were several stars of the ring. Some of whom I liked and others I disliked, for one reason or another. The heavyweight division was replete with stars and it may well have been the richest era of boxing in terms of that particular division. Especially when measured against the banality of today’s era of heavyweights. Not one of which I’d favor over any of the heavyweights of the seventies or for that matter the eighties and the early part of the nineties. The likes of the Klitschko brothers couldn’t box their way out of a wet paper bag , much less take on the likes of an Earnie Shavers, George Foreman, Ali , Joe Frazier or Larry Holmes. But yet the likes of Bob Arum would have us believe that there’s untapped rich vein of untapped talent within today’s heavyweight division. He’s kidding himself and the fervent fans of the sport.

Hagler seen here fighting one of his ardent foes during his career, multiple world champion, Tommy Hearns . The two would participate what many have called the greatest ‘three rounds’ of boxing ever to have taken place professionally in a boxing ring.

Of all the boxers throughout the years that I’ve come to admire , in this place love. Perhaps none other than, Marvin Hagler epitomized what I loved about the sport and the way he carried himself in and out of the ring. He was always the consummate gentleman outside of it, had respect for his peers and opponents alike. But above all he had respect for the sport that he graced so effortlessly. And even when he made it official by anointing himself ‘ Marvelous’ and then made it official by inking it as his name professionally. Well, it just didn’t matter to me, at all, gimmick ,or not ! He became an assassin in the ring and someone whom his respected outside of it.Hagler, in some ways reminded me of myself, quiet on the outside at first , unafraid to speak his mind when asked. But when it came to his art and craft he was extremely professional. So much so, that one couldn’t question his pursuit to make it out of from the humble beginnings of his childhood of Newark, New Jersey. For myself, it was getting out of the inner area of the ‘East End’ of London. Where during the seventies it wasn’t so much about what side of the racial divide you were on. But whether or not you wanted better things in life for yourself ,as to an immediate future. Luckily the path I followed proved to be prudent.

Hagler seen here fighting multiple world titlist Roberto Duran.  The Panamanian fighter , Duran , would  challenge  Hagler , the  title holder  for the undisputed middleweight  crown at  Caesars Palace, Las Nevada in November, 1983.  Hagler  would  end up winning  the bout with a  unanimous 12 round decision over the challenger.   picture appears  courtesy  of espn.com/ap/ Phil Roache ....
Hagler seen here fighting multiple world titlist Roberto Duran. The Panamanian fighter , Duran , would challenge Hagler , the title holder for the undisputed middleweight crown at Caesars Palace, Las Nevada in November, 1983. Hagler would end up winning the bout with a unanimous 12 round decision over the challenger. picture appears courtesy of espn.com/ap/ Phil Roache ....

Hagler’s career started off from humble beginnings but over time its fruition was there for all to see. A keen student ,he proved that using his hands in the ring as a pugilist was a far better option than that of a life of crime. And from a promising amateur career he advanced up the professional ranks with the usual process of hard work , the usual machination of having to labor through the ranks to get noticed. With his growing reputation as not only fighter but also a pure technical boxer and being able ‘to hit with power’ from either fist’. Most promoters and their fighters would rather not have anything to do with the budding young fighter on the rise. Especially, given the fact that Hagler was marching through the middleweight division, the way that Alexander The Great marched through Asia.

Carlos Monzon seen here fighting the great Italian fighter, Nino Benvenuti. The Italian fighter was challenging Monzon for his WBA and WBC world titles at the Stade Louis II, Monte Carlo , Monaco , on 5th May, 1971. The fight would be stopped in the third round with Monzon being declared the winner , with a TKO.

As with any professional career, you make good of the opportunities that are afforded you. Be it through luck, or sheer grit and determination. And for Marvin Hagler , it was no different as a professional boxer. While he toiled in somewhat relative obscurity. While his career progressed , he watched as lesser fighters were given the opportunity to challenge for the middleweight title. And at the time, the respective title holders within the division were the legendary, Carlos Monzon and Hugo Corro. It wasn’t so much that there was disdain for Hagler, inasmuch, that the promoters out there knowing the dangers he posed. Well, they’d rather see their fighters go up against the likes of Monzon and Corro and be handsomely paid for their efforts -even if they did end up losing in the end.

Hagler seen here challenging Vito Antuofermo for the WBA and WBC World middleweight champion. (rounds 1 & 2) Venue for the bout was a ‘Mecca’ of the ‘fight game’, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas , Nevada,. The fight itself took place on 30th November,1979. The venerable, Howard Cosell provides commentary.

Rounds 12,13 and 14 of Hagler vs. Antuofermo .

Rounds 1 and 15 of Hagler vs. Antuofermo

While these two undeniably great champions in Corro and Monzon would go on to have distinguished careers. Hagler was never given the chance to face either fighter and challenge for the middleweight title. However, his rise to prominence would not go unnoticed, as he was given the chance to challenge Vito Antuofermo (*)for the then, WBA and WBC world middleweight titles. And this may well have come about because many felt that while Hagler still posed a threat, having lost two preceding bouts to lesser opponents in Bobbie Watts and Willie Monroe. Antuofermo’s people may well felt the bout would be nothing more than a workout, of sorts. What they did however, was to underestimate the grit and determination of the challenger, Marvin Hagler. The fight itself , was one terrific ferocity and brutality, in every sense of the word. And for the entire twelve rounds of this epic title fight , it was hard to predict the outcome. The fight would end up being a hard fought draw. The two would later meet with Antuofermo being the challenger, however , he could not prevail in his attempt to dethrone Hagler, as the then champion.

Hagler challenges Minter the undisputed middleweight championship of the world. The venue was Wembley Arena , London, England on 27th September, 1980.

Not long after the bout Antuofermo would go on to lose his undisputed middleweight titles to British boxer, Alan Minter. A fight with which, the challenger, Minter, won on a split decision over fifteen rounds at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. The stage was set for Hagler to challenge Minter, but instead the newly crowned champion saw fit offer a rematch to the formerly deposed champion , in , Antuoefermo. A fight in which Minter soundly defeated his challenger with an eighth technical knockout in his native, Britain. Acrimony would follow in the lead up to the bout between Minter and Hagler. As Minter publicly made the statement that verbatim …….I’m not gonna lose my title to a black man, no way , how ‘ ! Racially motivated or not , it would lead to a great deal acrimony between the two camps, prior to and at the proposed venue for the title fight, Wembley Arena, London .

Hagler lands  a  shot to Minter's   jaw in the  second  round  of their  middleweight  title   fight  .
Hagler lands a shot to Minter's jaw in the second round of their middleweight title fight . As the fight continued, Hagler would dictate the pace of the bout. By the third round he'd cut ,bloodied and battered the title holder to the brink of submission. picture appears courtesy of guardian.uk.co.

The fight between Hagler , the challenger and Minter , the newly minted champion lived up to all of the hype and intensity that one would come to expect of such a high profiled bout. And with the champion fighting in front of his hometown crowd and fans. The vast majority of the support was behind the champion and hometown hero. That would not however perturb Hagler from putting on a thoroughly convincing and polished display , as he savagely beat Minter to an almost bloody pulp in a little less than over three barbaric rounds of boxing. The events that took place after the bout was stopped and the verdict announced, led to the worse scenes of rioting ever, at a boxing event in the U.K. The referee declared Hagler the winner , with Minter being able to go on due to his injuries. The fans in attendance showed their anger by rioting, uprooting the seats and any other object they could find, by throwing them into the ring in the direction of Hagler, his trainers and members of his entourage.

At the aftermath of the announcement of the verdict, sheer bedlam took place. As the fans turned and showed their disdain by directing their anger in the direction Hagler and his entourage.

Hagler defends his title against Tony Sibson. The defense would be Hagler’s 6th defense of the undisputed middleweight crown that he’d won against Sibson’s fellow countryman, Alan Minter. The venue for the bout was at the DCU Center, Worcester, Massachusetts ,on 11th February ,1983 .

With the win , Hagler could now really begin to cement his legacy and he would do so, making twelve successful defenses of the middleweight crown. He defended the title against Tommy Hearns, John Mugabi , Kevin Finnegan, Mustafa Hamsho, Juan Domingo Roldan and Tony Sibson. But it would be his defense against the then ‘Golden Boy’ of boxing, ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard and the controversial decision that would see Hagler depart from boxing with some acrimony. Many felt that Leonard simply did not do enough to win the fight outright. But to this day, Leonard simply maintains the fact that he won the fight with his superior boxing skills. Well, if that includes backpedaling for the entire three minutes of the twelfth and final round, barely landing a punch and not showing anything in terms of aggression. Then one could surmise that’s to an extent a superior form of boxing ? But Leonard was always known to have been the consummate showman , rather than being a prodigious boxer.

Hagler  looks to defend  himself against  'Sugar' Ray  Leonard  in  their  world  middleweight  title  fight  held  at  Caesars Palace ,  Las  Vegas  , Nevada,.   Leonard  would  dethrone  Hagler  in a  controversial  split  decision  after   twelve  rounds  of championship   boxing.   picture  appears  courtesy  of  getty  images/  Dennis  Mitrone'  ...........
Hagler looks to defend himself against 'Sugar' Ray Leonard in their world middleweight title fight held at Caesars Palace , Las Vegas , Nevada,. Leonard would dethrone Hagler in a controversial split decision after twelve rounds of championship boxing. picture appears courtesy of getty images/ Dennis Mitrone' ...........

With the controversial decision that was adjudicated by the judges and the overt favoritism shown towards the challenger , Ray Leonard. There was little left for Hagler to do , but to walk away in disgust, after being so blatantly cheated out of his title. To this day the decision is still viewed as being one the biggest and one the more heinous decisions in the sport of boxing. But then again , the sport was always corrupt to begin with and it remains so, to this very day ! Hagler, immediately retired after that fight on 6th April, 1987, vowing never to step into the ring ever again. Numerous ‘big money’ attempts were made to lure him to return the ring and they were to no avail. Hagler uprooted himself and moved to Italy , where he carved out something of a niche for himself , as an actor, appearing in several European action low budget ‘action movies’. He was content to wile away his days in his new found vocation.

Hagler and Leonard in their WBA middleweight title bout. What at the time was viewed as one of the great middleweight title fights of alltime ended in controversy and pandemonium. The controversy of the decision to this day still irks a great many people in and outside the sport of boxing.

For myself as an ardent fan of the sport. I’ve got to say that I was completely astonished at the decision. And even though I admire the accomplishments of Sugar Ray Leonard’s career over the years. On that night , in no way was he deserving of the decision afforded to him. Quite simply, he did nowhere enough to be deserving of the decision. And that’s not through any bias on my part. I view it as such, when you go into a title bout you win by aggression , not by retreating and continually backpedaling, just showing flashes of brilliance, merely to impress the judges. Style over substance , essentially was Leonard’s modus-operandi. Much like some of his many successors, who followed thereafter, Namely, Oscar De La Hoya !

Marvin Hagler  seen  here  acknowledges  the  applause of  the  fans  in  attendance  of  the  middleweight  title  fight  between Bernard  Hopkins  and   Ronald 'Winky'  Wright .     Hagler   boxing  Hall of  Fame  inductee  (1993)  was  a  special  guest  in  attendance   at the behest of  champion   Bernard  Hopkins.   picture  appears   courtesy of   getty images-sport/  Ethan  Miller  ...........
Marvin Hagler seen here acknowledges the applause of the fans in attendance of the middleweight title fight between Bernard Hopkins and Ronald 'Winky' Wright . Hagler boxing Hall of Fame inductee (1993) was a special guest in attendance at the behest of champion Bernard Hopkins. picture appears courtesy of getty images-sport/ Ethan Miller ...........

Hagler was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canosta , New York, knowing that his is legacy is cemented with his body of work. And the fact that to this day, he’s still respected by his peers and fans alike, shows the esteem with which he’s held. Today, there are so few boxers of the modern era to which such acclaim is shown. Hagler was amongst the very best of his generation and one of the top five middleweights of alltime, without a doubt !

Marvin Hagler’s bio.

Name: Marvin Nathaniel Hagler DOB :05/23/54 Newark, N.J.
Record: 62-3-2 (52KOs’)
First pro bout:05/18/73 Terry Ryan W KO 2nd rd 4 round bout
Last pro bout:04/06/87 ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard L SD 12 WBC middleweight title

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Alan Minter WBA Middleweight Champion
September 27, 1980 – March 10, 1987
Stripped Vacant
Title next held by
Sumbu Kalambay
WBC Middleweight Champion
The Ring Magazine Middleweight Champion
September 27, 1980 – April 6, 1987 Succeeded by
Sugar Ray Leonard
Inaugural Champion IBF Middleweight Champion
May 27, 1983 – April 6, 1987
Stripped Vacant
Title next held by
Frank Tate
Vacant
Title last held by
Carlos Monzon World Middleweight Champion
May 27, 1983 – April 6, 1987
Titles fractured Vacant
Title next held by
Bernard Hopkins
Awards
Preceded by
Larry Holmes Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year
1983 Succeeded by
Thomas Hearns
Preceded by
Thomas Hearns Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year
Shared award with Donald Curry
1985 Succeeded by
Mike Tyson

International Boxing Hall of Fame Inductee 1993

NB * Antuofermo preceded both Corro and Monzon as the middleweight champion