I’m in a light heavyweight state of mind.
And in the afterglow of a weekend in which a pair of 175-pound bombers met in New York in what some labeled the division’s most important fight in 39 years, it’s not hard to understand why.
Say what you will about whether the scrap between Artur Beterbiev and Joe Smith Jr. had the gravity of Spinks-Qawi in 1983 – or even the series involving guys named Jones, Tarver, Dawson and Hopkins another 20-plus years later – it was still nice to see the light heavies getting a star turn at the Garden.
I’ll hold back, though, on instantly elevating the Canada-based Russian to pound-for-pound lists at the expense of the guy who holds the other legit claim on the 175-pound kingdom, Dmitry Bivol.
In fact, I’ll go ahead and suggest here that pitching a complete game against the likes of Canelo Alvarez deserves every bit as much praise as hammering a guy that Bivol shut out three years ago.
One guy outclassed Smith. The other pounded him into mulch. Neither was close.
And as a lot of really smart people have told me over the years, styles make fights.
So automatically transferring the brutality that Beterbiev showed on Saturday night to a match with a guy light years beyond the “Common Man” in terms of skill would be a common mistake.
Be that as it may, I wanted to use this Tuesday space for other light heavyweight purposes.
Now that I’ve reached the far side of 50 years ago, it’s become habit for me to look at ground covered during my lifetime and assess the things that have happened. So as I reflected on Saturday’s fight and other notable ones at 175 during the time I’ve been a fan, it turned into a list.
And because information about an imminent vacation to Mount Rushmore was alongside me during the process, it became a Mount Rushmore list. In the 50-year stretch from 1970 to 2020 – and only including fights between those dates – which fighters warrant carving into granite?
The criteria were simple: Only fighters who were champions as of January 1, 1970, or became champions before January 1, 2020 were considered. Titles held and title bouts within those dates were considered – with particular emphasis given to victories, quality of opposition and length of title reign(s).
With that said, here’s the Tuesday team’s opinion (in alphabetical order):
Titles: WBA (1970, 1972-74), WBC (1970-74)
Title-Fight Record: 11-0-1 (8)
The Argument: It’s simple. As a light heavyweight, Foster didn’t lose. He was already the division’s top man when the 1970s began and defended 12 times in the decade before retiring in 1974. And if you’re a fan of one-punch KOs, his left-hook erasure of Mike Quarry in 1972 is one to watch on YouTube.
Roy Jones Jr.
Titles: IBF (1999-2002), WBA (1998-2004), WBC (1997-2004)
Title-Fight Record: 13-4 (8)
The Argument: Fans of a certain age will suggest a prime Jones was among the best fighters they’ve seen, almost entirely due to athleticism. Once that failed him, he was far closer to ordinary. His first title at 175 came in 1997 and he strung together 12 defenses before losing to Antonio Tarver in 2004.
Titles: IBF (1997), WBA (1997), WBO (1994-2003)
Title-Fight Record: 24-2 (19)
The Argument: The “Tiger” was a WBO champion long before that claim meant much, initially grabbing a belt in 1994 and holding it for nine years. A defeat of Virgil Hill in 1997 boosted the profile a bit and he continued winning, getting to 48-0 before a split decision went to Julio Cesar Gonzalez in 2003.
Titles: IBF (1984-85), WBA (1981-85), WBC (1983-85)
Title-Fight Record: 11-0 (8)
The Argument: Another lanky guy who could punch. Spinks used that power in some fights but relied on boxing skills in others – particularly in winning the WBA belt from Eddie Mustafa Muhammad in 1981 and unifying with Dwight Muhammad Qawi in 1983. Best known for what he did as a heavyweight.
Given the guidelines, is there anyone who doesn’t belong?
Anyone we missed?
Put up your best arguments via email, Twitter or down below in the comments.
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
WBO junior flyweight title – Kissimmee, Florida
Jonathan Gonzalez (champion/No. 5 IWBR) vs. Mark Anthony Barriga (No. 8 WBO/No. 41 IWBR)
Gonzalez (25-3-1, 14 KO): First title defense; Unbeaten in six career fights in Florida (6-0, 3 KO)
Barriga (11-1, 2 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Lost only fight in the United States (SD 12, 2018)
Fitzbitz says: Gonzalez just grabbed a title in his last fight, so no one has him bound for Canastota anytime soon. But his foe is untested on the top level, which breaks a tie. Gonzalez by decision (85/15)
IBF/WBA junior featherweight/super bantamweight titles – San Antonio, Texas
Murodjon Akhmadaliev (champion/No. 4 IWBR) vs. Ronny Rios (No. 1 WBA/No. 8 IWBR)
Akhmadaliev (10-0, 7 KO): Third title defenses; Fight in sixth U.S. state (NY, CA, NJ, FL, NH)
Rios (33-3, 16 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Four straight wins since 6-3 stretch (2014-18)
Fitzbitz says: Rios has been at this awhile. In fact, he debuted as a pro when Akhmadaliev was just 13 years old. And while that’s to respected, it’s not typically a winning statistic. Akhmadaliev in 8 (95/5)
WBC super flyweight title – San Antonio, Texas
Jesse Rodriguez (champion/No. 15 IWBR) vs. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (No. 2 WBC/No. 6 IWBR)
Rodriguez (15-0, 10 KO): First title defense; One fight has gone beyond eight rounds (1-0, 0 KO)
Sor Rungvisai (50-5-1, 43 KO): Ninth title fight (6-2); Two reigns as WBC champ at 115 (three defenses)
Fitzbitz says: Boxing’s youngest champ against a guy who’ll be 36 at year’s end but still seems relevant and elite. It’d be no shock to see the old guy win easy, but I’ll take youth. Rodriguez by decision (55/45)
WBC flyweight title – San Antonio, Texas
Julio Cesar Martinez (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. McWilliams Arroyo (interim/No. 5 IWBR)
Martinez (18-2, 14 KO): Fifth title defense; Returning to 112 after losing 115-pound bout in March
Arroyo (21-4, 16 KO): Fourth title fight (0-2, 1 NC); Behind on scorecards when 2021 bout was stopped
Fitzbitz says: The sentimental guy in me roots for Arroyo in his fourth title try and is wary of Martinez at 112 after he missed weight at 115. My brain screams no, but why not? Arroyo by decision (51/49)
Last week's picks: 1-0 (WIN: Beterbiev)
2022 picks record: 17-7 (70.8 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,226-399 (75.4 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.