Good vs. Great
By Rob Scott (September 2, 2004) 
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Often when a subject like this arises, I like to keep things in there proper perspective. I have a favorite saying when subjects like this surface. That saying is “Too much and too little of something aren’t good.” Writers sometime aren’t objective and become fans. They give too much credit to a certain fighter; and they tend to take away a great deal from another fighter, all because of personal dislike. If a fighter deserves credit, by all means, give it to him. If you just have a fan-like fondness of someone, don’t say a person is ‘Great’ when, in actuality, you wish they were. The sport of boxing is often referred to as the sweet science. It’s not only how a boxer dissects his opponent in the ring; but outside the ring, fighters, fans and critics alike, dissect the sport and its participants.

What makes a fighter great? It is a question in which you will receive many different answers. It is no different than if you ask someone – Whom do you find beautiful? One may be drawn to a person’s eyes or smile, just as a fan is attracted to a fighter’s speed or power. Beauty is all in the eye of the beholder. When the final picks are made, more has to be thought of than just beautiful knockouts and fast hand speed. As with relationships, one can find that perfect physical specimen, but he or she may have no substance. A fighter could have an excellent knockout percentage, but if his quality of opposition was sub par, then not too much credit can be given to him.

There is a difference in ‘good’ and ‘great’. In boxing there seems to be a very thin line between those two words. There have been many good fighters, but less have been great. Even the ones that have been deemed ‘great’ can be dissected when comparisons of current and all-time greatness are brought up.

'Sugar' Ray Robinson is considered, on most lists, the greatest fighter to put on a pair of gloves. He had speed; power in both hands; and an excellent chin. With stiff competition and a final record of 175-19-6 (109) with 2 NC, the word ‘Great’ can’t be denied this champion.

Pernell Whitaker has been the topic of conversation when the question of greatness comes up. He was a fighter that outclassed many an opponent. Georgie Benton, a former Whitaker trainer, once said, “Pernell is harder to hit than the number.” That gives you an example of how elusive Whitaker was as a boxer. With a record of 40-4-1 (17), there was only one fight that he lost legitimately, and that was after his best days. If there was one knock on him, it was his lack of knockouts. That is where beauty of Whitaker was; his fights weren’t even close and he didn’t have to knockout opponents.

Fighters like Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones and Lennox Lewis are divisional top ten fighters of all time, but can be scrutinized as top ten all time fighters in boxing. Their marks have been left in boxing, but the question is, just ‘how much’ of a mark have they left?

To say they don’t deserve to be recognized as greats in their divisions are example of giving ‘too little’ credit. The credit being taken away would be nothing short of a crime. They have dominated their eras and that fact deserves to be acknowledged. Each also has dominated their divisions for significant lengths of time. They have beaten the best that have come their way. With that being said, let’s not travel into the realm of giving ‘too much’ credit to them. The problem with each is, there isn’t a who’s who of opposition on their resumes.

This is where the dissection takes place. Lewis didn’t fight competition that rivaled the 70s. Fighters that won’t be all time greats in any era have knocked him out. He faced Tyson and Holyfield, but by the time he did, they were well past their respective prime.

After being champion for 6 years, Hopkins had his coming out party at the expense of Felix 'Tito' Trinidad. He dominated that fight like no-one thought he would or could ever do. Yes he dominated that fight and his era, but one signature fight can’t propel him past his other middleweight championship counter parts. 'Sugar' Ray Robinson, Marvin Hagler and Carlos Monzon have made defenses over multiple Hall of Fame fighters, or ones destined to claim that fame. If he isn’t considered the best of all time in his class, how can we even think that he is an all time top ten fighter in all of boxing? The top ten on that list are comprised of fighters that not only faced and beat significant fighters, but they traveled into different weight classes to prove their mettle.

Roy Jones has been either #1 or #2 on any given pound-for-pound list for the past ten years. With one left hand shot, he is stripped of his crown as well as his senses. Most of all, he is stripped of his position on that current mythical pound-for-pound list. This is when the vultures come out of the woodwork to peck away at the carcass that is Roy Jones. You hear things like, “You see, I told you Roy Jones was overrated.” My favorite is how Antonio Tarver would beat Jones every time. Unfair? Maybe; but with all the talent that Jones possesses, it can be said that he created this backlash. Critics and fan alike have expressed their belief that Jones was a special fighter. The disheartening aspect was he chose to display his talents against obviously inferior opposition. If a third fight doesn’t take place, there will be further pecking away at Jones’ legacy. This is a time when Jones can actually silence a few critics by realizing that the best have lost. It is how a person handles that setback that shows a champion’s worth.

As with Jones, a thin line in observing their greatness can be measured in just one fight. Lewis won some believers with his win over Tyson, but a loss would have been disastrous. With Hopkins’ win over Trinidad, the blur over many observers' eyes became clearer; but on an all time top ten level, his legacy is still on shaky legs. A loss to De La Hoya can keep him off of that list forever.

With a new crop of fighters coming up and the ones that have been here, but their sun isn’t ready to set – where will they stand? Fighters like Miguel Cotto, Floyd Mayweather, Erik Morales and even Hopkins and Jones, have the ability to become all time greats – not just in their weight classes. Not everyone can have as many ingredients as Robinson, but being considered ‘Great’ as opposed to ‘Good’, can be obtained when a fighter seeks those key ingredients. Great fighters put on great performances, against great adversaries, often under great adversity. Seek and you shall find? Who seeks to be great?
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