Dan Carlin's Hardcore History: Addendum - Boxing with Ghosts


It’s Hardcore History Addendum.


I have threatened for a long time

to introduce a bunch of sort of niche subjects

into the Hardcore History Addendum feed.

That’s why we established this alternative,

uh, feed to begin with, right?

So instead of having to have a show that could,

you know, hold one’s attention for four or five hours

or multi-parts in a series,

something we could just do as a throwaway…

you know, sort of a, it’ll be somebody’s favorite show

someday kind of show, but not necessarily

a broad appeal show when we release it.

And I think today’s might fit that bill.

I’ve been threatening to do a show on boxing

for a long time, and this is a show on boxing.

But I think the way we’re gonna frame it

might drag a bunch of you non-boxing fans

into the conversation also.

And I was trying to think of the logical starting point

to this, and I’m gonna say maybe the middle 1990s,

where I had one of those conversations

that every one of you out there that’s a sports fan

has probably had at one time or another.

It just happened to be with somebody

who I thought was particularly, uh, well-suited

to explain to me the intricacies of the situation.

In the middle 1990s, I was, um, I had a radio show

that bumped up against a sports show right afterwards.

And the sports show right afterwards was hosted

by a former NFL football player who played

in the 1970s and the 1980s.

And this, as I said, was the 1990s.

Uh, the football player’s name was Russ Francis,

and Russ was a tight end with the New England Patriots,

and then with the San Francisco 49ers.

And he won a Super Bowl with the 49ers.

And Russ and I would often just sort of chit-chat

between the shows a little bit.

And then one day we got into this subject,

and he became so heated, and so into the conversation

that he just said, because his show was about to start,

um, and normally we would have cut our conversation off

by that point, you just need to come on

and we just need to continue this discussion

from where we’re having it.

Because he was so worked up over it.

But I understand why, especially because it did,

it literally was questioning whether or not

he was good enough to play, you know, currently.

Now, currently at that time was like the middle 1990s,

so it’s a 20th century currently,

as opposed to the 21st century now.

But the subject is timeless, isn’t it?

Could the people from the past match up today

with the modern baseball players,

or basketball players, or football players,

or track and field athletes, right?

Just standard conversation.

And the general attitude out there,

if I could, um, you know, sum up the majority viewpoint,

is that they could not.

Or, conversely, that the very best of an earlier era

would be an average player today.

So, yes, maybe some people from the 1950s or 1960s

could play in the NFL today, right?

The great Jim Brown could play in the NFL today,

but he wouldn’t be the great Jim Brown,

he might be the more average Jim Brown.

So that’s how that line of thinking goes.

Now, Russ Francis’ viewpoint, as you might imagine,

was, you’re darn right the people from the 70s,

at least, could play in the middle 1990s.

And Russ got really animated about what makes

a good football player and all these things.

And it wasn’t always, as you might imagine,

the measurables, the weight, the height, the speed,

how high they jumped, all that stuff.

A lot of it was the intangibles, right?

The attitude, the toughness, all that kind of stuff.

But I mean, I remember specifically,

we mentioned Jack Lambert, who, even in the 1970s,

was an undersized linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I think he was like 215 or something.

And, um, you know, Russ was like,

are you telling me Jack Lambert can’t play?

And maybe you moved Jack Lambert to a different position, right?

Maybe today he’s a strong safety, I don’t know.

But in a sport like football, at a certain point,

the players from the past are just gonna be

too slow to compete, right?

Or you’re either big or you’re fast,

but you’re not big and fast, and today,

they are big and fast.

So, football’s a perfect example of a sport

where the players of yesteryear, on average,

were a lot smaller, a lot slower, maybe less athletic.

Certainly, not taking advantage of the latest nutrition

and training methods and all that kind of stuff.

And I think you could pretty much make a case

that that same sort of state of affairs

is the same situation you will find in 99 percent

of the sports and athletic competitions out there.

Except for one exception.

And that’s what I think makes it kind of an interesting

conversation today, and that exception

is amongst boxers.

Professional fighters who box.

And I say that because MMA and all those things

are very big today, but that’s not boxing.

Boxing, by the way, is an age-old sport.

Let’s understand that. I mean, you can go to your…

I was just at the, um…

art museum, the Met in New York, and they had a statue

of a Greek Olympian boxer from like the 400s BCEs.

And you see from a distance that he’s a boxer.

He’s still got… They didn’t wear boxing gloves,

they would just sort of wrap their knuckles and stuff,

but you see it from a distance, you know,

wow, that’s a boxer.

So it goes back a long way.

And boxing has certain elements in the sport

that make it inherently exciting,

and something that it’s hard to take your eyes off of.

So forget what’s involved in terms of the fighting part

for a minute, and just look at the rules of the game

and see how different boxing is.

So, for example, I can’t think,

and maybe I’m overlooking an obvious example,

so I apologize if I am, I can’t think of another sport

where there’s no minimum time limit.

Where you can sit down at a match or a game,

and it can be over in one second.

Right? You buy the ticket, you take the commute,

you buy the popcorn, you sit down,

you’re ready to enjoy the show,

and it’s over right when it starts.

I can’t think of another sport that does that,

but that’s boxing.

Famously, happens all the time.

First round knockout.

How quickly did Mike Tyson knock out Michael Spinks?

Was it like 90 seconds?

That happened to Floyd Patterson twice

against Sonny Liston, right? Boom, over.

And you might say, well, that’s a rip-off,

yet at the same time, it forces you to be interested.

Anything could happen at any time, right?

You can’t just take your eyes off it

like a tennis match for a while.

You might miss a point. No, you might miss the fight.

And that works very well with the other part

of the rules of boxing that make it inherently more watchable

than a lot of other sports, and that is that you can never

get so far behind that you can’t instantly win.

You could be down the equivalent of a hundred to nothing,

with, you know, 30 seconds left, and win.

That’s happened a lot of times, too.

I mean, most famously, and I had a friend

in the bathroom when it happened,

so it’s a perfect example to use,

was when George Foreman won his second

heavyweight championship of the world,

and he was in, like, mid-40s, 45 years old, I think,

so that was part of the storyline.

And he was fighting a much younger fighter, of course,

much better shape, more modern and trained,

the whole thing, and, uh, George lost every round.

I mean, it was a wipeout. My friend goes to the bathroom,

the fight’s almost over, and George Foreman,

with, well, as far as the audience was concerned,

with two punches, puts the heavyweight champion

of the world down on his back.

The heavyweight champion of the world does not get up,

and George Foreman is the champion.

After losing, a hundred to nothing

would have been the equivalent.

So that’s gonna make the kind of sport right there,

regardless of what it is you do in the sport,

inherently kind of interesting and dramatic.

Now, I’m going to sound like a NASCAR fan when I say this,

because the car racing fans always tell

the non-car racing fans, you know,

I know you think we’re watching for the crashes,

but we’re not. Um, it’s the same way with me and boxing.

I’m not watching for the violence.

I know that’s hard to believe. I don’t like the violence.

And fights where it gets too violent,

I look at as the kind of things you stop.

Right? When one person is outclassed, you stop it.

But I got interested in boxing like so many

of my generation did, when there was a transcendental figure

in the sport. Somebody that just pulled, famously,

pulled in non-boxing fans.

When I was a kid, Muhammad Ali was huge.

He was probably the biggest sporting figure,

arguably the biggest sporting figure who’s ever lived.

Top five, certainly. And so, during the time period

when I was growing up, I might have had no interest

in boxing at all, but I had an interest in him.

And, you know, you combine some of the things people like

about someone like Conor McGregor and all these,

you know, quippy, funny, can’t take your eyes off him,

very entertaining, you like him, he sets up, or you hate him,

and he sets up the drama for the fight.

One of his idols, or one of the people he modeled

his whole shtick after, was the professional wrestler,

Gorgeous George. So there was all of those elements

in play where he got you wanting to watch the fight.

And then over time, as you watch enough Muhammad Ali fights,

you start noticing the intricacies of the sport,

which is always sort of the key, right?

The pathway to becoming a fan of any sport,

understanding the little things, the chrome.

And for me, what A.J. Liebling referred to

as the sweet science, became endlessly fascinating, right?

The idea of brain over brawn, of people who were smaller,

or weaker, or less athletic, but because they were

better craftsmen, could beat the, um, you know,

the bullies in the ring.

I mean, it was, there became a lot of reasons

to find the sport attractive.

And over time, I’ve found myself looking at it

more and more like, um, the old line.

There was a fight fan, a famous fight fan,

who said that boxing was his guilty pleasure.

Well, there’s more and more guilt and a lot less pleasure.

Especially nowadays when, um, to quote Mike Silver,

who’s a famous, uh, knowledgeable boxing historian

and writer, uh, it’s like a human demolition derby

out there now, and that’s not what I watch it for.

So I don’t wanna see a bunch of guys

who don’t have any good defense, uh, getting hit

all over the place, right?

It’s not the sweet science anymore at that point.

In any case, that’s how I got into the sport.

And like everything I do, and I know many of you,

once I get into something like this, the history of it,

and learning about the early days,

and how we got from there to here,

all that stuff becomes endlessly fascinating to me.

And so I’ve long read a lot about the subject

and paid attention to old fight films

and tried to educate myself.

And in reading one of my favorite books

on the entire subject of boxing, I came across

that Russ Francis, could the athletes of the past

compete with the athletes of today argument,

in a book that I just thought made

the most counterintuitive case you’ve ever heard

on the subject.

If you’re into boxing, especially,

any kind of combat sports, or the subject in general

of, you know, human athletic performance over time,

um, you might really enjoy Mike Silver’s book,

The Arc of Boxing, The Rise and Decline

of the Sweet Science.

Now, Silver is a famous guy in the boxing world.

He’s been a promoter, an inspector

with the New York State Athletic Commission,

lots of articles on boxing,

everything from the New York Times, Ring Magazine,

Boxing Monthly, ESPN.

Um, the guy is a known boxing expert.

And what he does in this book, is try to make a case

that boxing is the one athletic competition

in the modern world, where the people of the past

are superior to the people who do it today.

And the argument isn’t just fascinating,

but the way he makes it is too.

He went, as anyone, you know, when you step out

and think about it, and say,

well, who’s qualified to make this case?

And the answer is, no one person is.

So, Silver went out and got multiple,

I mean, I think it’s like 20 to 30, uh, trainers,

former champions of the past, promoters,

experts on the subject,

and brought them into the conversation

in a kind of a blended oral history,

where they help make a lot of the points.

And it is absolutely fascinating.

The first part to understand is that in most of boxing,

it is absolutely a perfect setup to have comparison

of performance over the eras,

because most of boxing has weight classes, right?

So, if you are fighting in the 140-pound weight class today,

well, we can compare you to a boxer fighting

in the 140-pound weight class 50 years ago, right?

The whole bigger, stronger, faster dynamic

doesn’t apply as much when you’re taking into account

people of the same weight over eras, right?

In football today, your average offensive line

is probably like six-foot-six,

whereas 50 or 60 years ago, it was probably like six-foot-two.

There’s no rule on that,

so it just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

But a 140-pound weight class is a pretty hard limit, right?

So, the fact that boxing has weight classes like that

is a better apples-and-apples comparison

over the different eras,

if you’re wanting to get into training

and nutrition and all the intangibles.

But even, and I find this to be perhaps

the most shocking aspect of what Mike Silver is saying

in the art of boxing, even in the one category

where there, you know, it’s everything like 190

or 187 in the old days and above,

and it doesn’t matter how big you are,

he’s suggesting that the people of the past

would destroy the people of the present.

I mean, look at the size of the world today.

Look at the present. I mean, look at the size differences.

And I, you know, when you want to talk about something

as nuanced and as intricate,

and that involves as many different factors,

including the history of the sport as this,

you want to get experts on the same way

that Mike Silver wanted to get experts on

to help make his case.

I want to get experts on to help make my case.

So, we talked to Mike Silver for a little bit

about some of this stuff.

For example, giant heavyweights of today

fighting not-so-giant heavyweights of the past.

I was watching a fight the other night on YouTube,

and an older one, it’s funny saying older one,

about a Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder fight.

And it’s a six-foot, nine-inch tall guy

with an 85-inch reach against a six-foot, seven-inch guy

with an 83-inch reach.

How could somebody like a Joe Lewis,

from one of the great ages of boxing,

and one of the great heavyweight champions,

at like six-foot, one-and-a-half, 76-inch reach,

could a guy like that compete

with those two massive modern boxers?

Okay, well, Joe Lewis did fight two opponents

who were pretty much the same size.

Um, one was Primo Carnera,

who was about six-foot, six inches,

weighed 270 pounds.

And Lewis annihilated him in six rounds.

The fight’s on YouTube, you can check it out.

Another was Buddy Bear,

who I believe was six-foot, seven inches tall,

weighed about 250 pounds.

And, uh, Lewis stopped him first time in the sixth round,

and the second time in the first round.

Okay, the problem is that many people think that…

size is everything in boxing.

If somebody’s… Let me put it this way.

The old adage, a good big fighter

can always defeat a good little fighter,

provided they are equal in ability, okay?

But in the case of these big heavyweights,

and I’ll give Tyson Fury his due,

he moves very unusual for a guy his size.

He’s light on his feet, he moves around,

he’s not a stationary target.

But, you know, he was dropped twice,

two or three times by Wilder.

Um, it’s a question of,

can the smaller fighter,

who is more accomplished as a boxer,

knows how to get under the punches, get inside?

Um, a guy that size, you could say,

well, let’s say somebody 200 pounds, six-foot-one,

a really outstanding heavyweight is fighting

a larger opponent who doesn’t have his skill.

That smaller opponent will see that big guy

as just a bigger target.

He would actually have…

Lewis had more trouble with smaller quick fighters

than he did with huge monsters like, um,

uh, Carnera and Buddy Bear.

The same thing with Jack Dempsey,

whose nickname was the Giant Killer.

Uh, Jack Dempsey, when he won the title,

beat, he weighed about 185 pounds.

Tremendous puncher, very fast.

And he annihilated, uh, Jess Willard,

who was six-foot, six, over six-foot, six inches tall,

and 250 pounds.

That film is available on YouTube.

LAZARTE You quote Georgie Benton saying,

famously, too, that if you’re over 200 pounds,

you have all the power you need,

and it doesn’t matter how much bigger

the opponent gets at that point.

FUCHS That’s true. It’s a matter of physics.

Now, look, if you’re gonna match

a 125-pound featherweight against a 160-pound middleweight,

then you got a problem.

Because that 125-pound featherweight

just doesn’t have enough mass to, uh,

and musculature to generate, to hurt that 160-pound fighter.

Uh, you know, it just would be uneven.

But Benton is right. Once you get to 200 pounds,

you have enough mass and muscularity and strength

to hurt anybody.

Especially if you can put that 200 pounds

into a punch, as Joe Louis did.

And so, as a Marciano, who weighed about 190 pounds…

LAZARTE Had about a 68-inch reach.

FUCHS Right, the short-shortest reach

of any heavyweight champion in history.

So, it’s, you know, I, in my book,

in the arc of boxing, I, I went into boxing history

and listed about 50 fights, 50.

Where, down through the years,

where a fighter, a heavyweight, was outweighed

from anywhere from 25 to 100 pounds.

Okay, where the smaller opponent defeated

the heavier opponent.

And in, in, in each case, these, you know,

nowadays, if you would look at those matches on paper,

you would say, no way is that 195 to 210-pound heavyweight

going to take apart this 275-pound heavyweight.

Well, that’s not the way it happened.

Boxing is an art and a science.

There’s speed involved, there’s, uh, technique,

and, very important, heart, the ability to take a punch.


LAZARTE Experience.

FUCHS And, of course, experience,

naturally, experience.

All these come into play…

LAZARTE To give you an idea of how much

this taller, faster, stronger dynamic has been around,

this idea that if you just get bigger people,

they’ll naturally be the heavyweight champion

of the world. There was a fight that almost came off

that was going to happen between Muhammad Ali,

I think it was the early 70s, I’m guessing here,

between Muhammad Ali and professional basketball player

Wilt Chamberlain.

Now, Wilt was a great all-around athlete,

over seven foot tall, and the idea was

that an over seven foot tall, great athlete

will give a professional boxer, who’s more like six foot three,

a really hard time.

And the press conference gets set up,

and I guess the story is that Ali was being very good

on his best behavior, because he wanted the fight

to come off too, and when Wilt Chamberlain

entered the room, he stood up in front of the cameras,

pointed at him, and just yelled,

“‘Timber!’ And the book I read said

Chamberlain’s whole demeanor and color changed.

He turned around, walked out, the fight was off.”

So maybe even the bigger guy realizes

that size is just one factor when you’re talking

about something like boxing.

The experience question is much more fascinating

to me, though, and gets into some of these other issues

that take this out of the realm of a simple boxing,

or even a simple sports examination.

There’s something about human craftsmanship

involved here, and how deeply someone’s knowledge

and how much experience can count.

So let me give you an example of what I mean.

And Silver is all over this in his book.

If I had to name the number one thing

that he considers the most important difference

for why a boxer of the past can overcome

any of the things, any of the advantages

a modern boxer would have, experience is the number one thing.

Because it is so incredibly different.

I mean, it’s not a little bit more experience,

it’s multiples of the amount of experience.

So, for example, in the early days,

you had, just like you do today, you’d have amateur boxing,

and a lot of these people would fight a lot of amateur fights,

like three-rounders.

And then they would move into the pros,

and they would fight unbelievable numbers of fights.

Harry Greb had 299 fights.

299 professional fights.

He won more than 260 of them, by the way.

Guys win championships today with 18 fights.

19 fights, 20 fights.

Now, you can be the greatest athlete

that’s ever been produced,

but a guy with 299 fights is going to have some tools

in his toolbox to offset your God-given natural abilities.

It just… First of all, to say that that’s not true

is to ignore how much better the modern-day fighter

with 18 or 20 fights would be

if you gave them 200 or 300 fights, right?

They’re going to be that much better, too.

So, the experience counts for something,

and you got a lot more of it back then.

Then you add another element that silver is all over,

and it is the kind of experience you get.

This is another aspect of sports training

that’s fascinating, far beyond just the niche of boxing.

It’s this idea about how much better competition

makes you better, right? How steel sharpens steel,

as the saying goes.

I think silver uses the analogy of playing tennis

with some people that are not as good as you are.

And over time, that means you’re getting away with mistakes,

and your game gets sloppy, because it doesn’t matter

if you’re playing poorly, you’re still going to win,

as opposed to playing against people

that are better than you are.

And simply to not embarrass yourself

and to have a chance of competing,

you have to really tighten your game up, right?

It encourages a better performance, right?

Steel sharpens steel.

But boxing doesn’t even pretend to do that.

It’s the only sport I can think of where the idea

of having the best face the best

is not necessarily a hundred percent good thing.

There might be some downsides.

Do I really want my undefeated guy fighting

that really tough challenger who can beat him,

when I can have him fight a bunch of stiffs

who have no chance of beating him,

and make even more money, and not lose the championship?

I mean, there’s a… Let’s just say there’s cross-purposes

on the question of steel sharpening steel

in boxing in a way that there isn’t in most other sports.

Everyone understands that we’ve expanded

the number of weight classes since the old days.

It used to be like eight, now there’s a lot more than eight.

And we have more sanctioning bodies than ever, right?

You know, I can think of some off the top of my head,

WBC, WBA, IBC, IBF, I mean, just…

And all of them with their own champions,

and so we have a lot more challengers in the old days,

and a lot fewer championship slots.

Today, we have a lot more championship slots

for fewer challengers.

It means that the talent pool is diluted.

And in the old days, by the time somebody got a chance

to face the champion, to try to win the title,

they had had usually dozens more fights on average

than the people today, and they had fought people

who were, on average, themselves more battle-tested,

more experienced, and better fighters.

The steel had sharpened the steel,

and by the time you had people facing off at the top levels,

these were people who not only had tons of experience,

who not only had fought people that forced them

to up their game,

these are people that fought so often

that their skills were sharp.

And this is another one of those really unquantifiable things.

How do you try to figure out the difference

between a fighter that fights every three weeks,

and a fighter that fights twice a year?

You know it’s going to have an impact,

but you can’t really quantify how much.

If a tennis player, to go back to the tennis analogy,

only had two tennis matches a year,

even if you practiced a lot, I’m going to assume

you’re not going to be as sharp as if you had

three tennis matches a month, right?

In the old days, these guys fought a lot.

Nowadays, they don’t fight much at all.

How much does something like that impact

what would happen if we could bring a fighter from the past,

out of the time machine today,

and put him in a ring with the fighters of the present?

Mike Silver had some thoughts about this question of sharpness

and what’s known as ring rust,

and what a difference it might have made.

And you brought up sharpness, too.

A lack of sharpness, because some of these fighters

back in the day, who were more like lunch pail,

go-to-work, hard hat type, blue collar guys,

are fighting every three weeks or something.

And these days, one of the great fighters

is probably going to have one or two fights a year.

How much does the ring rust kill you

in those kinds of situations?

I mean, if you bring your fighter back out of the…

If you bring Harry Greb out of the time machine today,

put him in against a welterweight or a middleweight today,

what are we going to notice?

I mean, is he a much better defensive fighter

than the modern guy?

How’s that going to look to us?

Harry Greb is not the perfect example to do that.

Harry Greb, like Muhammad Ali, like Henry Armstrong…

He was singular?

…had a style of his own.

It couldn’t be duplicated.

He was an outlier.

He just… He had a style that nobody could solve.

Nobody could even imitate him successfully.

So, I would say go back to the more traditional fighters.

Tony Canzaneri.

Tony Canzaneri, Barney Ross, Mickey Walker.

Tommy Loughran.

Or even, you know, those type of fighters.

Ike Williams.

Benny Leonard, who looked like an insurance salesman.

Yes. Exactly. Exactly.

Just didn’t look like a fighter at all.

But these… When you say about, you know,

fighting twice a year as opposed to, you know,

twice a month, which a lot of those guys did.

Well, one of the most important aspects

of being successful in boxing is timing.

Your ability to time a punch.

Okay? And there is such a thing as ring rust.

We’ve seen it with…

when Muhammad Ali came back after three and a half year layoff.

He was rusty. He was getting hit with punches

that he never would have gotten hit with.

You know, you have to start fighting more often

to get your timing down,

your sense of judgment and distance.

This… With repetitive fights,

if you fight space not too far apart, this is automatic.

If you’re only fighting two or three times a year,

fight space four or five months apart,

it becomes more difficult to get the timing down.

So, of course, the fighters who fought more often

would have a… That would be a distinct advantage.

Just in their sense of timing and ability to judge distance,

just because they were more active.

As I say, like anybody, whether it’s a surgeon,

a doctor, a salesman, anybody who is doing it more often

will be more proficient at it.

In addition to the part where he’s quoting

these many different expert voices,

which is extremely effective,

one of the other things that Silver will do sometimes

in the book, The Arc of Boxing,

is really utilize photographs in a way

that make his point for him.

And one of the ones that’s the most jarring

is he has two photographs on opposite sides of the page

and on the left side is a picture of Sylvester Stallone

from one of the Rocky movies.

Not Rocky 1, one of the later ones.

And he looks like a giant, you know, bodybuilder.

Six-pack abs, big, you know, arms, the whole thing.

And he’s flexing in the shot with a…

I think he has a championship belt around his waist.

This is the conception, right, of a boxer.

But on the right-hand side of the page

is an actual photo from the 1930s, I think,

of Jack Dempsey, the ferocious Jack Dempsey,

the guy Mike Tyson liked so much.

And with the exception of the peek-a-boo style,

which was a custom auto thing,

he often said he influenced his approach to, you know,

how he went after opponents,

to what Jack Dempsey did with both hands, right?

Punching with bad intentions.

But when you look at Dempsey’s body,

especially juxtaposed next to the Rocky image,

which is our popular conception,

Jack Dempsey doesn’t look like he’s got a boxer’s build

at all. And yet, Jack Dempsey has the right build

for boxing in the same way that there’s a build you want,

or that you acquire naturally if you just swim

and you’re a swimmer.

In boxing, if you just do the boxing,

and the exercises that boxers have always done,

and all those kinds of things, you look like Jack Dempsey.

It was the introduction of a whole bunch of things

that boxers never did, like weight training,

that would turn, you know, somebody into

the Stallone, Hollywood caricature.

But here’s what’s weird. Silver says in his book

that people saw the Rocky movies, you know,

young boxers, and decided when they went into boxing

that they wanted to look like that.

What’s more, you have this growth starting

in about the early 1980s with these, um,

real sort of fatty, let’s call them fatty,

nutrition and strength experts. And don’t get me wrong,

there’s real experts who go to school

for many, many years to do this job,

but what Silver points out is that unlike every other sport,

because of the interplay and all the different things

that go into boxing, it’s really hard to just simply say,

wow, well, you need this muscle strength,

and so we’ll develop a machine that just works that much.

It doesn’t really work that way.

What’s more, you’re trying to do something in boxing

that doesn’t lend itself to most of the sort of strengthening

kinds of exercises that work out so well

in so many other sports. For example,

have you ever played a game of hot hands?

That’s what we call it in the U.S.,

although I know that the other countries

have different names. But it’s the game

where you put your hands, palms up,

and then somebody puts their hands, palms down,

on your hands. And then you, the person

with the hands facing upward, try to slap the hands

of the person whose hands are touching yours

before they can pull their hands away.

If they pull their hands away and you fake them out,

you get to slap their hands. If they get slapped,

they have to keep playing. If they can pull

their hands away before you can slap them,

you have to exchange positions with them.

But that game is based on quick reflexes,

movement, and speed. You know, speed of using

your hands, right? That’s a good analogy

for what boxing does well. And anything that would

slow down how quickly you could get your hands

out of the way in a game of hot hands

would also hurt you in a boxing match.

And interestingly enough, on another page,

Silver has a photo of a ballet dancer,

a male ballet dancer, who also used to happen

to be a boxer. And the ballet dancer talks about

how the very same sorts of strength and musculature

that a ballet dancer has is exactly the kind

that makes a killer boxer. And it looks much more

like Jack Dempsey than Rocky Balboa looks like,

you know, any of the boxers from the golden age

of boxing. The other thing that you don’t have,

and it’s another one of these aspects

of the lost martial arts. If you’re a fan of, say,

Western sword fighting from the Middle Ages,

which I am, you’ll know that that’s a lost art.

That somewhere along the line, we stopped teaching people

the, you know, thousands of year old techniques

of fighting with a Western-style sword.

And experts have been trying, and reenactors

have been trying, through the use of the few

technical manuals that existed from back then,

to try to piece together what it must have been like, right?

Something that the Kendo swordsmen in the Far East

have managed to keep alive in terms of their timeline

of historical, you know, knowledge, the craft,

that’s been lost in Western longsword fighting.

In the same way that the old trainers who used to train

all the great champions in what is universally acknowledged

as the golden age of boxing, their skills have died out.

There’s nobody to teach the young boxers today

the conditioning and the art itself.

The finer points is the way Mike Silver puts it, right?

The little teeny things that, you know,

when you add up all the little teeny things,

make all the difference in a big fight,

those people aren’t around anymore.

They have literally gone the way of the dodo.

And because of that, even if you wanted to try

to recreate this being from 50, 75 years ago,

you know, that if you could take the DNA

and bring them back to life, you couldn’t recreate this person

because we wouldn’t have anybody to impart the skills to them

that they learned in their formative years.

Then there’s the other thing that modern technology

brings to the table, steroids.

You know, artificial chemical enhancements

that someone today might employ.

And there was some interesting material

that was in Silver’s book about this, too,

where he talked about some boxers who may or may not,

people don’t generally advertise this stuff,

have tried to take the shortcut of something like steroids

to help them in the ring, only to find out

that it looks like, that’s the best way to phrase this,

there are no studies, but it looks like what happens

to boxers who use steroids is they run out of gas.

And some of these boxers that were rumored to be on the stuff

ran out of gas, famously, in some of these fights.

So, that’s an interesting aspect, too.

So, you say, well, these days, they’d be using

human girth hormone, still might not let you beat

Tony Zale back in the day.

Or Sugar Ray Robinson. I don’t know what you’re gonna do

to beat Sugar Ray Robinson.

And that whole question of the hot hand skill,

like, what do you need to play hot hands?

Um, if you’re just born, like, good at that,

you’re just born good at it. Muhammad Ali had one

of the fastest jabs you ever saw.

You can’t fix that with weights, right?

Push-ups and chin-ups aren’t gonna make that faster.

And Sugar Ray Robinson had the same thing.

That sort of punch speed, or punch power.

Silver has a line in his book where he goes over

all these great old punchers, people that were

absolute murderers. Um, and then says none of them

ever touched a weight. He writes, quote,

Old school trainers understood that pumping up the size

of arm, back, leg, and shoulder muscles

with an aggressive weight training program

did not correlate to an increase in power.

Punching power, he writes, is a function of balance,

leverage, coordination, speed, and timing.

A boxer has to be able to snap his punches.

The most effective punchers in the history of the sport,

Joe Lewis, Jack Dempsey, Rocky Marciano,

Sonny Liston, Jimmy Wilde, Bob Fitzsimmons,

Stanley Ketchel, Sugar Ray Robinson,

Sandy Sadler, Archie Moore, Henry Armstrong,

Bob Foster, Alexis Arguello, Roberto Duran,

never included weight training in their daily workout routines.

None of these super punchers had the type of unnatural

bulging muscularity one often sees among today’s boxers.

End quote.

Boxing, the key is to develop speed.

And most fighters, when they go into it,

they have enough strength through their regular training.

They don’t need weightlifting.

The old-time trainers disdained weightlifting.

It was damaging to the fighter.

It slowed them up.

And just to give you an example,

if I can quote from my book here

about athletes today being bigger, stronger, faster,

why doesn’t that apply to boxing?

Aren’t all athletes better today?

Boxing is on a different level.

On a superficial level, the newer is always better

attitude towards athletic excellence.

I’m quoting here from my book, appears to be valid,

except for one important caveat.

A boxer’s performance, unlike that of a swimmer,

track and field athlete, or weightlifter,

cannot be defined in terms of finite measurement.

Boxing’s interaction of athleticism, experience,

technique, and psychology is a far more complex activity

than just running, jumping, lifting, or throwing.

And to blithely state that today’s top professional boxers

are better than their predecessors

simply because measurable athletic performance has

improved in other sports whose winners are determined

by a stopwatch, ruler, or scale is analogous to suggesting

a singer is great only because he

is capable of reaching a higher note than anyone else.

Of course, no reasonable person would

agree with that statement because it totally

ignores the complex nuances of the singer’s craft,

such as timbre, inflection, vocal range, and phrasing.

Yet many people, without even realizing it,

apply the same logic to boxing, oblivious

as they are to the complex nuances of the boxer’s craft.

See, when you have people, a lack of quality teachers,

people who don’t really know what to do,

they begin to grasp at certain ideas

that they don’t really understand.

So crazy as it sounds, the Rocky films

influenced these younger trainers who said, hey,

football players are using weight training.

You know, why shouldn’t boxers?

They need to get stronger.

They didn’t understand that with weight training,

the boxers begin to throw their punches in a wider arc.

They can’t get them off fast enough.

But the old-time trainers who lived this sport day in

and day out, their whole lives, they understood

that wasn’t to be done.

Nobody trained better than Rocky Marciano, okay?

Or Joe Lewis.

As Joe Frazier, I quote Joe Frazier in my book,

he said, if it was good enough for them,

it’s good enough for me.

And he trained in the old-school way.

So modern methods don’t necessarily mean better.

And that’s certainly the case in boxing,

which has devolved, not evolved.

What that Joe Frazier quote by Silver points out, though,

is that when it comes to something like

physical conditioning, that’s all recoverable

or preservable stuff, right?

That’s information that someone can write down,

and you could open the gym tomorrow like Frazier did

and say, we’re only going to build you up

the old-fashioned way and have enough information to do it.

That’s not lost information.

It might be considered outdated by some, but it’s known.

What is truly lost, though, is the stuff that would have made

the boxers of the past so much better.

It’s the technique, right? It’s the little things.

And this is in Silver’s book,

and he has several different quotes.

I mean, for example, he quotes one of his experts

in the book is Mike Capriano, Jr.,

who was the son of one of these great trainers,

the guy who trained Jake LaMotta, the Raging Bull,

in addition to a lot of other people.

And then Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps,

becoming an amateur fighter, trainer, manager.

He was the head coach for the Camp Lejeune

Marine Corps boxing team.

And he says about the little techniques,

so let’s not talk in generalities.

What do we mean when we say little techniques?

And Capriano, Jr. says, quote,

There are no super skilled boxers like Tippi Larkin,

Billy Graham, or Maxie Shapiro.

I don’t see them around.

There were many different types of fighters,

and you’d see many different styles,

and that’s probably what made them better fighters.

I don’t see anyone with that type of skill today

in any weight division.

Some of today’s fighters look good,

and they seem to have the natural instincts,

and maybe somebody is teaching them,

but I don’t see the moves.

They need more seasoning.

He continues, quote,

You don’t see a fighter bend and weave in anymore.

I mean, we might see somebody bob back and forth

and move in, but that’s not your classic

bend and weave move.

Even Tyson never did that.

He’d bob back and forth, but he just distracted you,

and then he’d throw one of those overhand punches.

Tyson bullied his way in.

He bobbed, but he didn’t weave.

He tried to overpower you,

and then when he couldn’t overpower you,

he got stymied.

Tyson really had no moves.

We don’t see fighters today sliding in, he says.

We don’t see the feints, the hook-off a feint,

step to the right and uppercut,

moving, grabbing the elbow and spinning the fighter.

We don’t see any of that today because it’s gone,

and nobody knows how to teach it.

You don’t see any of these fighters making the same moves

as the old-time fighters, absolutely not.

The fans today never saw these fighters.

End quote.

He then says that craftiness is missing.

You know, there’s ring craftiness.

He says, quote,

“‘Craftiness’ is missing.

Moore,” meaning Archie Moore,

“‘Moore was crafty. Dempsey was crafty.

Roberto Duran had great instincts and was crafty.

Not feinting, no body punches, and no craftiness.

These are the hallmarks of today’s top fighters.”

End quote.

Now, this all kind of sounds like sour grapes when you hear it,

but these guys all know it sounds like sour grapes,

and so they continually say,

it’s not just some old man saying they were better in my day.

Ask anybody.

Well, one of the people, and again,

this is one of the things I really like about the book,

these experts, in air quotes,

come from a wide variety of backgrounds,

but they usually box themselves at one time or another.

But one of these guys in the book, Ted Linsky,

is a PhD neuroscientist who also used to box.

And he has an interesting way of addressing the questions

that I often come up with in my own mind,

which is, I’m kind of a humanitarian kind of nice guy,

so why would I like a sport with so much,

you know, human demolition?

And his point is,

that’s not what the sport’s supposed to be.

And the fact that it is human demolition now

is a perfect example that shows you right to your face.

It’s not what it used to be.

And Linsky, the neuroscientist, says, quote,

If today’s fans were shown some full-length films

of Sugar Ray Robinson,

they would think that it’s something different and unusual,

but they wouldn’t understand what he was doing.

It’s a different language.

There’s always been fighting, he says,

but boxing was something different.

I very rarely watch fights anymore these days.

I can’t watch an entire fight.

It’s kind of depressing to watch.

But if this was what boxing was when I was a kid,

I would be embarrassed for having spent so much time watching it,

because it’s nothing but brutality.

There’s no beauty in this.

It’s fighting, nothing else.

There used to be skill and grace

in conjunction with the brutality.

Even sluggers were smart.

Take a look at Reuben Hurricane Carter.

He didn’t take a punch to land a punch.

You know, he says,

we’ve had discussions about people

being actually knowledgeable about boxing.

If you watch fights nowadays as a fan,

if you can sit through an entire fight,

then you don’t know boxing.

I don’t care if you know statistics.

I don’t care if you could give me the history back to the Romans.

You don’t understand boxing itself.

If you can sit and watch this thing,

what boxing has become, and what fighting is,

then you don’t like boxing.

You like fighting.

You like brawling.

And it’s not the same thing.

If you compare what boxing once was,

and what it has become,

this is checkers in comparison to chess."

End quote.

But in the same way that

the training of these boxers

is a lost art, right?

The institutional memory is gone.

You can actually say the same thing

about the people who watch the sport,

as was implied in the quote we just read.

Today’s boxing fan not only wouldn’t know

what they were looking at,

they might not like it when they saw it.

And I asked Mike Silver about that too.

I’m wondering if they would like what they saw,

if they saw a good match, because you had mentioned,

you used a phrase that I like and I’m gonna steal,

a human demolition derby,

when you were talking about some of these brawls

where it might be a bloodlust enjoyment kind of thing,

but you mentioned yourself,

and I believe you quote somebody else saying,

that they don’t want to watch that.

That you might think that race car fans

are watching for the crack-ups,

but boxing fans who in the old days were watching for,

can a guy hit and not be hit back?

Is he defensively skilled? Can he move well?

These days, if you saw a fight like that,

modern fight fans who grew up in the post-Tyson era

might think that that’s a boring fight,

that what you want are two guys with no defense.

Would a modern fight fan enjoy a well-fought fight

from the 1940s?

No, no, very few would.

In fact, if they watched Willie Pepp in the fight,

they might not know what he’s doing.

To them, being used to Slugfest

and the Arturo Gatti type fighter,

not to diminish him, he had great heart,

but the skill level was basically that of a tough guy

that just tried to out-punch his opponent.

I’m not sure they would recognize

what Willie Pepp was doing in the ring.

It’s the younger fans, and again,

a lot of it has to do with the fact

that mixed martial arts is gaining in popularity,

that the fight fans today want to see knockouts.

And home runs in baseball,

and I mean, you can take it across the board.

You got it, and power serves, and, you know,

tennis, and they just want to see the power.

They want to see the knockouts.

And that’s, you know, that’s what’s exciting to them.

They’re not interested in seeing a guy flitting,

you know, moving in and out, jabbing, not getting hit.

And that’s a shame because boxing is an art,

and it’s a brutal sport.

I mean, I’m not diminishing the danger of it at all.

In fact, I’m writing a current book

that deals with the danger of boxing

and how to mitigate those dangers

under the current circumstances.

And there’s certain things that can be done.

I don’t know if the sport will allow it or do it,

but, um, no, your premise is correct.

I think that’s not what they want to see.

And that’s sad because it just means more damage.

In addition, and this applies to all sports,

but more so in boxing,

the intangibles are such a huge part of things, right?

Maybe not more than the measurables.

It depends on the sport, right?

You can say that the five-foot, nine-inch kid

who wants to be an NBA center

has everything you want but the height,

but that might not be enough.

But you might say the reverse

about the seven-foot, five-inch tall person too, right?

That he’s got all the measurables,

but none of the intangibles.

In boxing, the intangibles are, well,

more important than in any other sport you can think of

because one of the intangibles

is somebody is hurting you… physically.

And what that means is the kind of people

who can be good athletes in boxing

have to have something that most other sports don’t require.

You have to be able to take physical punishment, damage,

and somebody attacking you…

and still perform at a high athletic level.

There’s both mental and physical toughness involved.

And part of the reason why this earlier era

may actually have an advantage…

is the unquantifiable question,

something we talk in the history shows about a lot,

because it’s clearly there,

but you can’t measure it or quantify it,

and that’s the question of toughness.

I was intrigued by one of the points made in the book,

that the reason defense was so much better back in the day

is not just because it’s something you want to have

and nobody wants to get hit,

but because these people fought so often

and needed the money so badly, right?

You could just make enough for rent with a fight, maybe,

in some of these eras, that you had to be able to fight

in three weeks or a month to pay your next rent,

so you couldn’t be too beat up in this fight.

Same thing with the trainers.

They had to make sure their boxer could box

because they needed to eat.

So there were all these economic incentives

to perform a certain way athletically.

It’s interesting.

The mental toughness part, though,

is unlike, you know, anything else I’ve run into

in any other sport.

And think about, I remember when I was watching a film on,

it was NFL Films film, about the sort of football players

that they had in the 1950s.

And they made a big deal to point out

that so many of these people had actually been

in the Second World War and seen combat.

And that after combat, the sport of football

had a sort of a different feel to it

than when they were college players

and young, wide-eyed kids.

Well, you could make the same case about all these fighters.

I mean, the greatest eras in boxing

are after both World Wars.

If these people weren’t combat veterans themselves,

they came from a society that produced those kinds of people,

and then a depression.

So there’s two quotes from this book that stood out to me.

The first one was by one of Muhammad Ali’s

Olympic teammates in the 1960 Rome Olympics

that fought for the United States,

Wilbur Skeeter McClure.

And I like his because he lays out the entire premise

of this conversation we’re having.

The idea that in every other sport you can think of,

the athletes have gotten better, except this one.

And he’s quoted by Mike Silver in the book as saying, quote,

“‘Boxing, in my opinion, is the only sport

in which the participants haven’t gotten better

since the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.

Football players today are better than the ones

who were playing in the 50s.

It’s the same with basketball and baseball.

The fighters of today couldn’t even hold a candle

to the fighters of the 1960s and 1970s.

They just couldn’t do it.

They were too tough and too strong

and too savvy and too skilled.

Part of the reason is owing to the fact

that they fought more frequently.

You have champions today who fight once or twice a year.

Anybody who applies his craft to any trade or profession

and performs it only twice a year can’t be good.

You just cannot develop that way.”

End quote.

The other quote, and I read this one to Mr. Silver

and got his reaction in the next sound clip,

was from boxing trainer Teddy Atlas,

who, by the way, once upon a time,

started with a very young Mike Tyson, right?

And Teddy Atlas is trying to address this preoccupation

that we all have, and we’re trained to have, right?

We live in the era of measurables.

How high did that guy jump? What’s his height?

What’s his weight? What’s his 40 time?

And Teddy Atlas is basically saying,

forget about that.

You have people here who are mental monsters

that you’re going up against in the sport,

where that’s a key…

There’s your key measurable, right?

Are you a mental monster?

And how much of a mental monster are you?

And Atlas says, quote,

“‘So my question to the guys of today’s era

that say that size is too much

is where are these big heavyweights

ever gonna find a way to deal with that experience?

Where are they ever gonna find a way to deal with that size?

Where are they ever gonna find a way to deal

with that mental toughness?

Because today’s fighters are depleted of these qualities.”

Now italicized, depleted of it.

The old timers had all of those qualities

in that earlier era.

They had the experience,

and they knew how to deal with these things.

So my question would be, who’s in danger here?

End quote.

He means the very big super heavyweights of today,

or the relatively small heavyweights

of the earlier era,

or the relatively small heavyweights of the earlier era.

Now, we’d mentioned, though,

that heavyweight’s a little bit different,

because that’s the only weight class

where there’s no maximum.

In the other weight class, a 140-pound fighter in 1940

would still be fighting a 140-pound fighter today.

So that might even make things like mental toughness

and all that an even, you know, larger determinant

of how things turned out.

But Atlas continues about this size question

in the super heavyweight division. Quote,

Before you talk to me about the 240-pounder

versus the 190 or 205-pounder,

my first question would be,

before we could even sanction this match,

to explain it to me,

because I don’t think it would be fair

to the bigger fighter.

Explain to me how this 240-pound brat,

this spoiled brat,

is going to deal with this monster,

he means from the past,

who has 160 fights,

who’s fought every good fighter in the world

since he’s been fighting,

who knows every trick in the book,

and who’s as mentally tough as a piece of steel.

Explain that to me.

End quote.

Mike Silver had a few thoughts about that.

It’s so true. So true.

Teddy hit it right on the nail on the head with that.

Um, the fighters were not only…

Again, this is an aspect that’s different

than other sports. You could be

a legendary, great basketball player, okay?

Um, and yet,

not have what we would call in boxing,

a heart, you know?

It’s a sport that requires great skill.

But, you know, what a boxer’s trying to do athletically,

he’s also getting hit in the face while he’s doing it.

Or he’s getting a terrific punch

to the solar plexus or to the liver.

Um, he has to accept that type of pain

and keep going.

And it takes… That’s why I’ve always admired boxers.

It takes a certain type of individual

to have that within them

and to be successful in this sport.

It is the toughest sport in the world, bar none.

And the fighters,

if you can go into the technique, the greater technique,

the more experience.

But, as you mentioned the phrase,

greatest generation,

they also had the mental toughness.

And that is a huge part of boxing.

And to go through the type of monsters

they had to go through to become…

Not champion, just to become a contender.

The depth of competition was so severe

that when you made it,

you know you had an accomplished fighter there.

You didn’t have a guy coming out of the amateurs

fighting 12 fights and winning a title.

No, you had to go through 40, 50, 60, 70 fights minimum.

Experience all type of styles.

And he had to display the heart.

Or in bare knuckle days, they used to call it bottom.

So I love that phrase, the head bottom.

So, these are aspects that must be taken into account

when you’re judging a great fighter.

And I think, to give a modern day example,

Mike Tyson had all the physical assets

of any great fighter that ever lived.

I mean, he was just, you know, just a…

a solid physical specimen

that was just really impressive.

Tremendous puncher, could take a great punch.

But in the words of Customato, Teddy Atlas’ mentor,

he really lacked the character.

When the going got tough, he bit an ear, okay?

Looking for a way out.

So, having the great physical skills,

which might get you by,

which will get you by in another sport,

it will keep you from attaining greatness as a boxer.

I mean true greatness, not what they call in greatness today.

There are very few, very few great boxers

over the past 25, 30 years. A few.

However, in the days when the competition

was much more severe, you can…

Those fighters were genuinely great.

And we’re talking about, we know who they are.

I’m not sure that we do, though.

And this gets back to my earlier question

about if we saw true boxing greatness,

would a modern audience even recognize it?

I mean, go to some of the boxing discussion boards

out there, and the fighting message boards,

and you’ll read a lot of people who will think

that Mike Tyson would beat anybody ever.

Now, I say this as a person that really enjoyed

Mike Tyson fights, and he was quite a breath of fresh air

when he first showed up. We’d had a lot of years

of fights without spectacular knockouts,

at least at the highest levels of the heavyweight division.

And so, he was a very sort of a different vibe.

And like Ali, there was a lot to the guy

that made him compelling, either for good or bad reasons.

You wanted to root for him or against him.

And his fights, once again, sort of reawakened

a wider interest in boxing than just amongst

the so-called boxing fans. But here’s the thing.

Eddie Futch, who was one of the last

of the great golden age trainers.

I have a bunch of books about boxing trainers.

And Eddie Futch is like one of the last of the people,

you know, in some of the chapters of these books,

right? Sort of the last of an era.

And Futch is one of these guys who boxed himself

as a lighter weight guy in the era of Joe Louis.

And he sparred with Joe Louis, and they were friends.

So he remembers that era. But then he stayed

as this great trainer, you know, for many,

many years afterwards. He was training

heavyweight champions, you know, long after

Mike Tyson was on the scene. He trained

Riddick Bowe, for example. And Mark Cramm,

who was one of the great boxing writers,

when he was writing for Esquire magazine,

cornered Futch and asked him, basically,

was Mike Tyson one of the best five heavyweights

of all time? So we’re not talking about,

you know, any weight class. We’re just saying,

you know, top five heavyweights.

And this, again, from a man who boxed them,

coached them, all the way into the modern era,

knew Tyson’s style very well. And he said, quote…

No. Joe Louis had too much in either hand for Mike.

Short, deadly combinations that shake you to your shoes.

With Muhammad Ali, Mike wouldn’t hit him

with a hand grenade. Jersey Joe Walcott

would have been too smart for him.

Sonny Liston was too big and powerful,

and had a jarring jab. Rocky Marciano would be hit,

that’s for sure. But Mike would see violence

in spades. End of quote.

Well, let me add that I don’t think

he’d be able to handle George Foreman either.

So… I’m not sure we’re in a position

in this day and age, because for the same reason

that these boxers can’t fight like the boxers of the past,

because of the lost knowledge, we can’t judge a fight

like fight fans of the past, for the exact same reason.

This is obviously a discussion like sports top ten lists are,

that is designed to provoke conversation,

maybe even a friendly argument over appetizers,

but that’s sort of what makes this wonderful.

As I said at the very beginning of this show,

this is the kind of subject sports fans

have enjoyed talking about forever.

You could get Russ Francis to preempt the topic

on his show, if you could get him, you know,

engrossed in a conversation like this.

The one thing I will suggest, though,

is it’s not a great conversation to have

until you’ve read Silver’s book.

And I asked him what the reaction was

amongst the fight fan audience,

and he says it was a generational reaction.

Older fans agreed with him, younger fans were almost

insulted that the modern fighters that they liked

are being denigrated.

But he said they also tended to be people

who didn’t read the book, that they came to that conclusion

by simply, you know, thinking bigger, stronger, faster.

Of course, they’re better today.

So I would suggest reading the book,

but then I’d love to hear your thoughts

on Twitter at Hardcore History.

And we can talk about this a little bit,

because to me, this is one of the most fascinating

sports-related topics out there,

and I think boxing is the only one

where you could really make the counterintuitive argument

that in this one case, maybe it’s the exception

that proves the rule, right?

Did I use that phrase properly? I think I did.

If you like the arc of boxing, though,

you might be interested in some of Mike Silver’s other books.

And you can go to his website, by the way,

at MikeSilverBoxing.com if you want to see any of this.

But he wrote The Night the Referee Hit Back,

Memorable Moments from the World of Boxing.

He also wrote Stars in the Ring,

Jewish Champions in the Golden Age in Boxing.

And there’s another ethnic group amongst the many,

many ethnic groups you forget has a permanent standing,

you know, claim to a chunk of boxing history.

You think of all, it’s such an international sport,

isn’t it? I mean, you go from guys like Manny Pacquiao,

who is a hero in his home country in the Philippines,

a guy like Roberto Duran, who’s a hero in, you know, Panama,

to the Eastern Bloc boxers who weren’t really a part

of the pro years during the Cold War,

to boxers in Germany. I mean, which country?

Italian boxers are world-famous Irish boxers.

I mean, has there ever been a sport like that?

Let me add one more caveat that might suggest

that the best boxers who ever lived were from a long time ago.

And that’s the color barrier that existed for a while.

And Silver brings this up, too,

that affected African-American fighters.

Because, and this is an interesting socio-cultural aspect

of American sporting history also,

but boxing was one of the first areas

where African-Americans were able to dominate.

I mean, you know, you had the very early era,

the Great White Hope era, where a guy like Jack Johnson

can become heavyweight champion of the world

around the time of the First World War.

And then Joe Louis can become, I believe,

the first big African-American hero

to the whole country. These are huge things.

But some of the greatest boxers who ever lived,

maybe the greatest boxers who ever lived,

according to many people, never got a chance at the title.

Both for racial reasons, because there was a time

when some of these white boxers wouldn’t fight black boxers,

but not just that, but because they were so good.

And in boxing, you can ditch people who are good.

Look at a guy like Charlie Burley or Holman Williams.

These are guys who, um…

some of the great boxers ducked.

Black boxers, too. Sugar Ray Robinson,

when somebody suggested he fight,

I think it was Charlie Burley and not Holman Williams,

he said, I thought you were my friend.

Right? Don’t tell me to box that guy.

So, what ended up happening is, these boxers

that nobody would fight would often have to fight

each other over and over again.

You know, you wanna fight, well, Charlie Burley’s

still available, because no one will fight him.

So, Williams and Burley would fight a bunch of times.

And you wanna talk about steel, sharpening steel?

It’s very possible you bring one of those champions,

uncrowned champions, never allowed to fight

for the title champions, no one wanted a piece of them

champions back from 40, 50, 60, 70 years ago.

And no one would want a piece of them today, either.

If you think the show you just heard is worth a dollar,

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Go to dancarlin.com for information on how to donate

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