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.
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.
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 ………………….