Boxing eras (2) Current heavyweights are fat and out of shape -OR- Ali and the mystery of the six-pack

FROM TIME TO TIME we hear fans (and experts) complaining about the "dire state of the current heavyweight division as witnessed by the amount of overweights". Then these fans may mention how in the 1970ies (the supposedly "Golden era of heavyweight boxing") Muhammad Ali's opponents were slick and slim while the current heavyweights are fat and slow.

 

Heavyweight division = Overweight division? The truth!

First of all: The claims of 1970ies-nostalgists are nonsense.

Below you see the picture of ·Joe Frazier, Clay/Ali's famous opponent against whom he fought 3 times. Frazier is far from athletic.

Joe Frazier
Joe Frazier

But more importantly: Muhammad Ali (aka Cassius X aka Cassius Clay) himself was a slow, plodding overweight.

Ali the Sam Peter of the 70ies
Muhammad Ali
the BUTTER-fly

Please note: This article is part of my multi-part heavyweight boxing eras comparison:

 

Don't get me wrong: Clay/Ali was not always so extremely fat ("muHAMad Ali"). At the beginning of his career (when he still boxed as "Cassius Clay") he was slim and fast. 1960 he even won the Olympic Gold as a light-heavyweight. Here is a picture of him in his third year as a heavyweight:

Cassius the cruiser boy
Cassius "The Greatest" Clay
in his time as a cruiser

After he started to call himself "Muhammad Ali" he started to gain weight and metamorphosed from "butterfly to BUTTER fly" and soon he lost his speed and reaction. For his fight against ·Larry Holmes Ali started training at 253 lbs (= 10 pounds fatter than Chris Arreola's average weight).

 

Here's how the LIFE magazine (March 1971, supposedly Ali's prime) described Ali just before his fight against Joe Frazier:

"His belly billowing over his trunks, an overlump Ali weighed almost 230 pounds as he waited to spar in his 5th street gym 4 weeks ago."

"Ali's training camp is less disciplined than Frazier's. During the six weeks he lived in Miami Beach, there were days when he skipped a workout altogether. Some days he did not spar… He had trouble with his weight.

When training began, he was near 230 pounds and he vowed not even to look at scales until one week before the fight.

But three weeks ago he ambled by a scale in the gym, stepped on and whistled "226!" he cried. He vowed immediately to cut out the several Pepsis he drinks every day, but the vow did not last long. "

 

In other words: When 70ies-nostalgists make snide remarks ("Haha, Klitschko's opponents are fat, while Muhammad Ali's opponents are athletic") then it's not only false but it also completely misses the point, since Ali himself was overweight (except at the beginning of his career when he was a light-heavyweight and a cruiser) ("From light heavyweight to lard heavyweight").

Even worse:

 

Would fat Muhammad Ali and fat Frazier and fat Larry Holmes
box nowadays
they, too, would be a proof of the terrible state of boxing

 

The so-called athletic heavyweights of the Golden Age of heavyweight boxing (1970s)

But let me come now to the far greater logical fallacy of the comparison "Klitschko's era vs Ali's era":

The 70ies heavyweight division was a mix of the "heavyweight division" 200+ and the "CakaH-weight division" 175-200 which then was then also called "heavyweight division", see Definitions

In other words: Clay/Ali fought opponents that were CALLED "heavyweights" but who would now be called cruisers and would now box in the cruiserweight division (or even below).

As sub-heavyweights they OF COURSE had different bodies.

Take for example Clay/Ali's opponent ·Floyd Patterson: Patterson started at 160+ lbs (super middleweight) and was 188 lbs (cruiser) when he fought against Ali.

Floyd Patterson
Floyd Patterson

A boxer like Patterson has OF COURSE a different physique than a 200+ heavyweight boxer (whether nowadays or in Ali's era). It doesn't make sense to compare such a boxer (= who regularly boxed 3 weight classes BELOW 200-heavyweight) to ANY modern heavyweight.

Yet, this Patterson is one of the typical examples of how athletic Ali's opponents were AND of how great Ali was by beating such an athletic boxer.

Patterson is not the only example:

Of Clay/Ali's 61 fights only approx 50% were real[?] heavyweight fights. (If you exclude Clay/Ali's cruiser fights then his record is 28-4. If you additionally exclude former cruisers then Ali's record is 11-1).

Beginning of Ali's career (1961)
Ali fights against ·Jimmy Robinson (177 lbs)

Middle of Ali's career (prime Ali 1966):
Ali fights against cruiser ·Henry Cooper (188 lbs)

End of Ali's career (Heavyweight world title 1978):
Ali fights against cruiser ·Leon Spinks (197 lbs)

As you can see Clay/Ali's heavyweight record is padded with cruiserweight fights throughout his career thus OF COURSE Ali's average opponent looked slimmer than nowadays real heavyweight opponents.

 

To correctly compare the athleticism of Ali's era
to the athleticism of Klitschko's era
you would have to include all cruisers 175-200 lbs of Klitschko's era.
And modern cruisers are so athletic
that they beat the 1970s competition out of the water.

 

Comparing cavalry to infantry
-OR-
I think I know why fans think current boxers are out of shape

From my yearlong discussions with boxing fans I think I have found THE MAIN reason why they think that nowadays boxers are more out-of-shape than in previous eras:

It's a logical fallacy that follows this pattern:

  • "Look, how cut Tyson was. And Lennox Lewis."
  • "And now look how nowadays boxers are out of shape"

What happens here is that EXCEPTIONAL CHAMPS (Klitschko, Tyson, Lewis) are compared to overall boxers (= the opponents in general): "Oh, how athletic Tyson was and now look how out-of shape Wlad's opponents are".

Or even worse:

  • "Look how peak Tyson in his bestest world championship performance looked like"
  • "And now compare him to modern boxers in the British title eliminator"

 

A correct comparison would be

champ compared to champ (e.g Klitschko compared to Larry Holmes)

-and-

champs' opponents compared to champs' opponents (i.e. Klitschko's opponents 200+ lbs compared to Ali's opponents 200+ lbs)

 

And when you line up the champs and opponents like this then it's more obvious that past eras have no athleticism edge on the current era.

Compare champs to champs
and
Champs' opponents to champs' opponents

In fact chubby champs (like Larry Holmes or Joe Frazier) are pretty normal.

And if you think that champs' opponents were in greater shape in previous eras then you have been spoiled by the Klitschkos' athleticism and the easy availability (TV, torrents, YouTube) of B-level and C-level fights.

 

The BMI (body mass index) is useless to assess how fat a boxer is

Sometimes fans try to "prove" that a boxer is overweight by calculating his BMI (Body Mass Index). Obviously it's a rather unknown fact that the BMI is not a method to calculate the obesity level for an individual but for a POPULATION (e.g. for comparisons across sub-groups over time).

The BMI does not distinguish between fat or muscles or between a certain kind of physique and clear obesity ("bull vs blubber").

Per BMI both Klitschkos are highly overweight and Prime Mike Tyson (= pure muscular manhood) would be OBESE level #1.

Thus instead the BMI boxing fans should rather use COMMON SENSE:

If you can see a six-pack then the boxer is NOT FAT.

-and-

You will have great difficulties to find
pictures of Muhammad Ali with a six-pack.

 

And let me tell you another "secret" that should actually be a no-brainer, but obviously isn't:

Just because someone is chubby
doesn't mean he has less muscles.

 

Calling someone "fat" is the favorite sport of keyboard warriors

Oh, what fun have haters to call nowadays' boxers "fat", "obese", "out of shape", "overweight", "in bad shape", "unconditioned" etc.

Just look at the pictures below. These are opponents of the Klitschkos:

The comments are ORIGINAL QUOTES about exactly the bodies that you SEE in these pictures (= the comments were made at fight time = when these pictures were taken).

 

The name calling got utterly bizarre and the fat level is completely blown out of proportion.

It also shows you how the complaints about "the dire state of the division" can be circular logic:  The assumption that the heavyweight division is "dire" makes haters exaggerate the fat level, and then the exaggerated fat level is the proof for the dire state.

I can't even imagine what names Muhammad Ali and his opponents would have to hear nowadays.

Here is a quick reminder of how championship fights looked before the advent of modern heavies like Tyson or Klitschko. Featuring the all-American beauties Larry Holmes ("The EATON assassin") (the then-WBC champ) vs MuHAMad Ali just before their bout:

eaton vs hammy
All-American champs

 

The MOST IMPORTANT reason why you shouldn't complain about fat boxers

But let me come now to the most important reason what is wrong with the complaint about fatty heavyweight boxers:

It's utterly unproven
that fat boxers are worse
than
athletic boxers

at heavyweight

Of all the statements on this page the following is the most important:
There is no proof that fat (at heavyweight!) is a detriment.

If fat would be such an impediment then there wouldn't be successful chubby heavyweights.

Instead there are indications that fat is actually AN ADVANTAGE (at heavyweight) and thus chubby boxers are actually the MORE DANGEROUS opponents.

Just the fact alone that…

  • Wladimir Klitschko had the most problems with guys like Everett Martin (overweight), Corrie Sanders (chubby) and Sam Peter (somewhat chubby)
  • Vitali Klitschko lost to slightly chubby Lennox Lewis, couldn't KO Kevin Johnson, Shannon Briggs (slightly chubby), Chris Arreola (overweight), Dereck Chisora (chubby)
  • while they had easy rounds against very athletic opponents (e.g. Eliseo Castillo, Albert Sosnowski etc)
  • and overweight Ali and Larry Holmes and Nicolai Valuev were world champs for so long and compiled pretty impressive records

…should puzzle the athleticism fans.

 

That being chubby is not a proof of a dire state applies to other sports, too:

  • There are sports where "athleties" are clearly better than "fatties": Pole-vault, hurdling etc.
  • There are sports where "chubbies" are better than "athleties": Shot put, weight-lifting, sumo, Strongest man of the world contest etc.

Anybody who claims "Fat heavyweights are worse" does so without any proof whatsoever and thus it's a statement equivalent to

  • "I am so upset that my favorite Sumo Wrestler doesn't come in cut shape"
  • "This era of weightlifters is pitiful. They are all chubby!"
  • "Montserrat Caballe and The Weather Girls ("It's raining men") could sing much better were they only in shape!"

_EVEN IF_ you could prove that athletic boxers perform better, then it's still pure speculation whether certain boxers (for example ·Chris Arreola or ·Chauncy Welliver) would perform better "had they fought in cut shape".

 

After watching fights for many years, I think that it's actually the chubby boxers who are more dangerous and more difficult than athletic boxers (at heavyweight).

Therefore I came to the following conclusions:

A good heavyweight can compensate for
his lack of body height (= his lack of body mass) by being chubby,
and would he be not chubby
his chances against tall boxers would decrease.

-and-

At heavyweight a boxer can be
as athletic as he is tall.

-and-

At heavyweight smaller a chubby heavyweight can cause more problems
than a smaller athletic heavyweight.

 

Mind you, I am talking about HEAVYWEIGHT BOXING, not about boxing in general.

In lower weight divisions the maximum allowed weight is limited (and therefore indirectly the body height) thus similar-sized boxers compete against other similar-sized boxers and therefore the athletic boxer (= usually the faster and more trained one) has an advantage. At heavyweight, where bodies can differ extremely, a chubby boxer might actually be the better one.

 

A conditioned fat boxer may be more dangerous than a conditioned athletic boxer

Try to remember how often you saw a fat boxer gas in a world championship?

It basically never happens, it's usually the athletic boxer who gasses (the more muscles the higher the need for a constant oxygen flow) ("Survival of the fattest").
It was athletic Foreman who gassed (1970ies), not fat Foreman (1990ies). And it was athletic Wladimir Klitschko who gassed. And it was athletic David Haye and Bob Sapp who gassed.

Let me clarify again that it's not the fat that is bad but the un-conditioned'ness!

Because even when we use the word "fat" to describe a boxer, we don't talk about "some random fat guy from the pub". We talk about _trained & professional boxers_ who are not athletic YET CONDITIONED.

If you are well trained and you feel well at the weight you have then there is no argument (at heavyweight) against being fat.

However: If you are fat AND untrained then that's bad. Such a case may occur when an athletic boxer comes to fight FATTER than usual (= he trained less than he usually did).

But again, that's not a case of a "fat is bad" per se but of a

  • "too-little-trained boxer" ("too many women, too little time")
  • "unusually fat for his circumstances"
  • "too fat athletic boxer"

But you can not deduct from the fat'ness of a boxer itself whether he is trained (conditioned) or not. Just as you cannot conclude that sumo wrestlers never train.

If being fat works for the boxer
then it works for the boxer

 

Boxing heavyweight world champions comparison

Let's check previous champs and whether they have been chubby or lean:

NameStart of careerHeavyweight world championships wonHeavyweight world championships won (200×2)Average weight selfAverage weight opponentBody type
·Vitali Klitschko19961111241235athletic
·Wladimir Klitschko19961616235234athletic
·Lennox Lewis19891515237227athletic
·David Haye200233200207athletic
·Muhammad Ali19602219211204early career athletic
later career rather chubby or chubby.
With an average opponent weight of 204 lbs
Ali has barely something we consider a heavyweight record.
·Mike Tyson19851212219222athletic
·Roy Jones Jr198910167167Not a heavyweight
·Riddick Bowe198955234226rather athletic
·Michael Spinks197732177181CakaHweight (not a heavyweight)
·George Foreman196954232212As a world champion in the 1970ies (3 wins) he was athletic
as a world champion in the 1990ies (2 wins) he was chubby
·Frank Bruno198211224219athletic
·Rocky Marciano194770184192CakaHweight (not a heavyweight)
·Joe Louis1934268200196CakaHweight (not a heavyweight)
·James J Jeffries189581214185CakaHweight (not a heavyweight)
·Brian Nielsen199266253228chubby
·Michael Moorer198855206208chubby
·Joe Frazier196553206204chubby
·Ruslan Chagaev199733227241chubby
·Nikolay Valuev199366321235chubby
·Francesco Damiani198521226215athletic
·Evan Fields19841010204214athletic
·Tommy Morrison198822219220athletic
·Oleg Maskaev199322234235rather athletic
·Larry Holmes19732020220217chubby
·Shannon Briggs199211235231athletic
·Samuel Peter200122245239rather chubby
·Corrie Sanders198911224221rather chubby
·Sonny Liston195320211200athletic
·Ray Mercer198922227228rather chubby
·Sultan Ibragimov200222217235chubby
·Lamon Brewster199644224230athletic
·Ingemar Johansson195210198199CakaHweight (not a heavyweight)
·Herbie Hide198944206214athletic
·Henry Akinwande198933231228athletic
·Hasim Rahman199422238231athletic
·Floyd Patterson195280180187CakaHweight (not a heavyweight)
·Tim Witherspoon197933227227rather athletic
·John Tate197711239214athletic
·Bruce Seldon198822227232athletic
·Tony Tucker198011224223athletic
·Primo Carnera192832267208rather athletic
·Oliver McCall198522234229rather athletic
·John Ruiz199255216221rather athletic
·Jimmy Thunder198933225225athletic
·James Buster Douglas198111236220rather chubby
·Chris Byrd199355209223rather chubby
·Michael Dokes197611229217athletic
·Ken Norton196700211211has not won a single world champion fight
·Gerrie Coetzee197411215212rather chubby
·Danell Nicholson199211222229rather chubby
·Trevor Berbick197611223217rather athletic
·Tony Tubbs198011238222rather chubby
·Siarhei Liakhovich199811232239chubby
·Max Baer192911204198Athletic but hardly a heavyweight
·Mike Weaver197233210222athletic
·James Smith198111244227rather athletic
·Greg Page197911235224chubby
·Pinklon Thomas197833216215rather athletic
·Max Schmeling192420181181CakaHweight (not a heavyweight)
·Jimmy Ellis196120181185CakaHweight (not a heavyweight)
·Jersey Joe Walcott193020188189CakaHweight (not a heavyweight)
·Jack Johnson189773196190CakaHweight (not a heavyweight)
·Ezzard Charles194090178182CakaHweight (not a heavyweight)
·Ernie Terrell195731201202athletic but barely a heavyweight
·Lionel Butler198911240227chubby
·Jess Willard191122230198rather athletic but barely a heavyweight record
·Jack Dempsey191450187191CakaHweight (not a heavyweight)
·Gene Tunney191530174175CakaHweight (not a heavyweight)
·Bob Fitzsimmons188520159179CakaHweight (not a heavyweight)
·Tommy Burns1902110165175CakaHweight (not a heavyweight)
·Marvin Hart189910181179CakaHweight (not a heavyweight)
·Leon Spinks197710207209rather athletic, but is a bum
·James J Corbett188620182180CakaHweight (not a heavyweight)
·Jack Sharkey192410191193CakaHweight (not a heavyweight)
·Michael Bentt198911223221athletic
·John L. Sullivan187900203190chubby but barely a heavyweight record
·Jim Braddock192610174180CakaHweight (not a heavyweight)
·Tony LaRosa198800207203chubby

Fistic Statistic [#126.1]

 

As you can see it's far from clear that chubby boxers are bad or that athletic boxers are good. Would it not be for the 4 recent champs Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson and the Klitschkos chubby (and rather chubby) real heavyweight champs would have approximately as many real heavyweight wins as athletic (and rather athletic) heavyweight champs.

 

Who would be world champion if the Klitschkos weren't around?

All of the following guys are world champions or would be if the Klitschkos weren't around:

In other words: The TOP BOXERS of the planet (aside of the Klitschkos) are chubby. And even more: It's the chubby boxers that CAUSED THE BIGGEST problems to the Klitschkos or who couldn't get KO'ed.

Their ripped opponents (·Eliseo Castillo, ·Albert Sosnowski, ·Herbie Hide, …) caused hardly any threat.

And it's the slightly less athletic Klitschko brother (Vitali Klitschko) who was never knocked down in his heavyweight career.

Maybe you have to accept that
chubby heavyweight boxers IN GENERAL
are better heavyweight boxers
than athletic heavyweight boxers
EXCEPT if they have the luxury of being tall

 

"Watch out, Klitschko! Here I come… Once I finish my cheeseburger!"

Do not reduce a boxer's quality to his athleticism. Boxers can be athletic+bad or fat+good:

"He is fat!"
But is he fast or not?

"He is not athletic!"
But does he have a hard chin or not?

"He eats too much"
But does he have stamina or not?

"He trains at Burger King!"
But is he D-A-N-G-E-R-O-U-S ?

"His body! His body! I hate his body!"
But how is his P-E-R-F-O-R-M-A-N-C-E ?

It's far more important to be dangerous, fast and hard-chinned than to meet some Hollywood expectations.

Thus the correct response to the title of this chapter is: "OK, finish your burger and touch gloves!"

 

The heavyweight division is not a cruiser division for taller boys

The heavyweight division is a division in its own right: It's a unique division and it's neither good nor bad that there are fat boxers or athletic boxers (compare also to the Sumo fights Kirishima vs Konishiki). It's neither good nor bad that there are stiff boxers marching forward (Sam Peter, ·George Foreman) or slick movers (·David Haye, ·Eddie Chambers).

  • The Heavyweight division is not the "Women's drool division"
  • The Heavyweight division is not the "Athleticism division"
  • The Heavyweight division is not the "All-muscles-must-be-visible division"
  • The Heavyweight division is not the "Great shape division"
  • The Heavyweight division is not the "Rocky division"
  • The Heavyweight division is not the "Muscle-to-fat-ratio division"
  • The Heavyweight division is not the "Greek God division"
  • The Heavyweight division is not the "Body fat percentage division"
  • The Heavyweight division is not the "Dieters division"
  • The Heavyweight division is not the "Chiseled Muscle division"
  • The Heavyweight division is not the "Bodybuilder division"

It's none of those things. It's the heavyweight division because their division members are H-E-A-V-Y as they are supposed to be.

In lower divisions there are upper weight limits. That means that nearly all boxers are athletic and approximately same-sized (= the deviations from the typical body types are minimal). But at heavyweight you have not only different body builds (fat vs athletic) but also different body heights.

One of the reasons why heavyweight boxing is so exciting is because
all kinds of boxing styles
(with all the advantages and disadvantages)
meet all kinds of body types
(with all the advantages and disadvantages)

At Heavyweight you have special laws that don't apply to lower divisions:

  • In lower weight divisions bodies are more or less standardized (similar weight, similar athleticism, similar height, …)
  • In lower divisions speed kills. In the heavyweight division speed may kill.
  • In lower division punch accuracy kills but at heavyweight it may kill. The same applies to other features like "punching power", "punch resistance", "punch count".
  • In lower divisions you need to have the full package of speed, power, resistance, footwork, reaction, timing etc. At heavyweight you can become a world champion just by doing 1 or 2 things well.
  • In lower divisions you basically only find athletic boxers of approximately the same height. In the heavyweight division you can find athletic natural cruisers (·Evander Holyfield types), overweight natural cruisers (Muhammad Ali types), athletic natural heavies (Wladimir Klitschko), bull-type natural heavyweights (Sam Peter) and sometimes overweight natural sub-cruisers (·James Toney)

It's almost as if heavyweight boxing would be a different sport than sub-heavyweight boxing.

 

You can't work at the Secret Service if you don't look like James Bond

Let's take a real example of one of Klitschko's opponents.

It's a boxer

  • who in his last fight scored all-time #3 (punch output) in CompuBoxing's 25-year history
  • while boxing with TWO injured hands (left hand broken in the 2nd round, right hand tendon torn in 9th round)
  • knocked down his non-bummy[?] opponent 3 times and then won by wide decision (UD 117-108, 118-107, 118-107)

and

  • who never gassed in his career
  • who was never knocked down in his career (even against the opponent with the highest heavyweight KO'ratio of all time)
  • who himself has one of the highest heavyweight KO'ratios of all time (fair KO'ratio nearly 90%+)

Seems good? Fits the definition of "impressive performance" and of "being in shape"?

Well, obviously not if the physique doesn't match the Hollywood's expectations to look like Rocky or Batman. Let's read what some boxing fans have to say:

"not only is he fat, but has to be the uglyest man I ever seen.."

"He need to gain chiseled muscle not tummy full of fat. "

"Fart slob, lazy, any questions?"

"His trainer did mention he came in heavier, but then went on to try and pass it off and and "In Shape" heavier. Which is a joke."

"He is junk for that Sport. WTF is going on with all these Lazy fat guys."

"He's AWFUL and always has been; as a boxing fan, his fights are an insult to the sport"

"Doesn't even deserve a TV slot "


"training camp isn't the training cantina or carneceria."

"He is a fat punk B class fighter who will never be that good because he cant train properly. Pathetic"

"anybody that doesn't properly prepare for each and every fight, is worthless in the ring, and taking advantage of the fans' support"


"a low life fat cockaroach"

(all original quotes)

 

Obviously boxing fans confuse the boxing ring with the catwalk.

The hate towards chubby boxers is especially ridiculous since an athletic heavyweight division is a Hollywood invention ("Rocky", "Hulk", "Batman"). It's pure fantasy. There never existed a heavyweight division 200+ lbs consisting of only lean boxers.

I don't mind if you don't ROOT for a chubby boxer, but this BLIND HATE DESPITE OF GOOD PERFORMANCE is too much and translates to "In the world of beautiful sportsmen YOU have no place" and "Tennis is a white sport for white people".

 

The truth about athletic eras

Since we now have the hardest hitting heavyweights of all time you may draw the conclusion that being fat is part of a natural evolution to be protected against extremely hard punches.

As some of you may know body-builders are prone to injuries. They have simply too little fat to buffer impacts. Even small falls can lead to severe bleedings and organ ruptures.

In other words: When you have an era with only little fatties in top rankings then it may be a sign that boxers had only a weak punch. Obviously the ability to take punches (punch resistance) gets more and more important the heavier the fighters are while the athletic agility (speed) gets less and less important. The correct conclusion thus would be: "A heavyweight era is featherfisted when there are many athleties" or "A heavyweight era is as powerful as there are fatties".

Maybe the perfect 200+ body type is someone who has a little fat buffer around his waist (= is a roundie but not a slobbie) somebody like ·Siarhei Liakhovich (and I am talking about his body type, not his boxing style since he always boxes as if he had the flu): Just watch Lyakovich (roundie) vs ·Evans Quinn (athletie). It's again the athletie that fails. Don't get me wrong: Athleticism is important in lower weight divisions (where speed kills while the punch itself is bearable). But when it comes to the heavyweight division then different rules apply.

 

Why you should never mention Ken Norton

ken nortonKen Norton is THE prime example that is brought up by athleticism-fans. ·Ken Norton ("The black Hercules") always appeared in shape and never boxed below 200 lbs, thus he comes extremely close to the dream of the "perfectly cut natural heavy".

Yet, what happened when he fought against the hardest hitters of his career (Foreman, Cooney, Shavers)? He was brutally knocked out (KO2, KO1, KO1). All his experience and skills were worthless. Some protective fat might have helped instead. Sometimes fat prevents being schooled more than experience.

Thus never mention the athleticism of Ken Norton without mentioning his performance against heavy punchers. Bull-type Samuel Peter survived Wladimir Klitschko, and fatty Chris Arreola survived Vitali Klitschko. Had Ken Norton been fatter he might have survived Foreman.

 

Summary

  1. I am so sorry for you that modern heavies don't look like your favorite fantasy fighter. But nobody forces you to watch heavyweight boxing. If you so much prefer athleticism then watch cruiserweight or welterweight.
  2. That "muscles are better than fat at heavyweight" is an utterly unproven statement based on movies like "Rocky" or "Hulk" or on long-gone eras which consisted of cruisers and former cruisers (= fighters with a cruiser-physique). Read also Boxing eras (1) The best heavyweight era of all time -OR- Is Roy Jones Jr. a better cruiser than Rocky Marciano?
  3. Fat is protective and is an indicator for the punch-power of an era. Thus a lot of chubbies may be a hallmark of an era whereas a lot of athletic heavies may be a sign of a butterfly era (= featherfisted pumped up cruisers like Evander Holyfield, Michael Moorer, Muhammad Ali,…). If you have an era where the champs are featherfists (Frazier 44% KO'Ratio in real[?] heavyweight fights, Ali 34% KO'Ratio in real heavyweight fights) then opponents (like Ken Norton) have the luxury of being athletic. Thus all pictures of athletic opponents of Clay/Ali are actually a proof of how punch-weak (not necessarily bad) the era was.
  4. Fat is the stuff that can make heavyweight so exciting because (with a few exceptions) only at heavyweight you can see clashes of different body types and different boxing styles.

And last not least:

If you want to see proportional bodies
then watch the number girls.

 

thumpin bass
ARREOLA IS THE WORST MEXICAN FIGHTER OUT THERE
21.08.10 @ 07:30:58

amanda
@ Deluxe: "He has lost twice and both of those times were when it counted the most." First of all it's no shame to lose against Vitali Klitschko or MD against Adamek. Second of all: You have no proof whatsoever that Arreola would perform better would he be slimmer. Stop complaining about fat, especially since fat is the stuff that makes heavyweight so exciting because only at heavyweight you can see clashes of different body types (with all their advantages and disadvantages).
20.08.10 @ 18:41:44

Coach Sal – email
No defensive skills either. He's a catcher.
20.08.10 @ 11:45:10

Coach Sal – email
Arreola couldn't shine Galento's shoes! Get real. Arreola would not exist in any other era than this era. An Era that sucks. He would not exist 10 or 15 yrs ago. He'd be a club fighter at best.
20.08.10 @ 11:43:21

Mesaman – email
I believe CA has worked his ass off. Despite his size, he moves, he punches and he doesn't slow down much in the later rounds. His physique makes him a visual underdog and I'm not sure that he'd be significantly better if he droped the 30 lbs that we're all clamoring for.
20.08.10 @ 08:36:12

Decker
@amanda – you make a couple good points. 1) Some fans have been a bit too hard on CA. He deserves some criticism, but some act like they've dropped more than a small bet on CA (vs Vitali K & Adamek). The guy will never have a "cut" build… however it seems obvious he likes to eat and guzzle beers too much. 2) Too many fans are stuck in the Ali (or early Tyson) era. Look he was the best in his era… but Ali at times *struggled* vs what today wouldn't even be full CWs. As you said most of Ali's opponents would be CWs or small HWs today – so they looked more "in shape". But there have always been fat ass HWs since it's the unlimited class. In another CA topic I noted Tony Galento from back in the day. "2 ton" Tony had a mean left hook – even dropped the much more skilled J Louis. Of course Galento would run out of gas by mid rounds vs a top fighter. CA's best attributes are that he has a pleasing style and will face almost anybody… which is more than can be said for the likes of Haye and to a lessor degree Povetkin (the latter doesn't run his mouth then run & hide like DH).
20.08.10 @ 00:33:48

Deluxe
@ Amanda- I think you are missing the point. I don't know if you heard a song lately by DJ Khaled that says "All I do is win" well that is what Arreola needs to do. He has lost twice and both of those times were when it counted the most. I really think nobody would care about his fat ass but just the fact that he's always saying this time I'm going to be in shape but doesn't show up in shape is an insult to the sport of boxing and his fans. Lastly I was at the Staples for the Vitali fight and when they showed footage of Arreola on the big screen they showed him eating a carne asada burrito that's when I knew this pendejo is going to get his ass kicked
19.08.10 @ 22:09:03

Motivator
I liked Arreola ok, UNTIL he showed a pattern of laziness … anybody that doesn't properly prepare for each and every fight, is worthless in the ring, and taking advantage of the fans' support … he is an insult to Boxing …
19.08.10 @ 21:58:39

Canuck
Amanda-I am betting you are fat yourself and obviously in denial.
19.08.10 @ 20:03:27

Paulie
This guy is just another American Heavyweight disappoint in a long line of disappointments. He's lazy and doesn't want to train and likes to eat to much. At least Riddick Bowe waited until he was already champion when he started these habits.
19.08.10 @ 19:30:51

amanda
Before you complain about "fat": You have absolutely _no_ proof whatsoever that athletic bodies perform better at heavyweight than fat bodies. "I wish sumo ringers would come in shape" is equally stupid. The result counts, and Arreola delivered: He won, he won dominantly and he he scored #3 all time heavyweight (punch output) in CompuBox's 25-yr history. This _IS_ in shape. Spare us the moaning about some perfect fantasy bodies. And spare us comparisons to Ali's heavyweight era which consisted merely of cruisers and former cruisers.
19.08.10 @ 19:04:09

Papo – email
I wouldn't doubt about his injure hands. A boxer, too lazy to train for a fight, should expect to get injure in any fight.
19.08.10 @ 16:43:48

Klitschko Sisters – email
Come on Chris, training camp isn't the training cantina or carneceria. If you put all that bs down and get serious for the next 2-3 years or more, you will be world champion and have quite a few bucks. What's more important to you, picking up the belt or picking up another dozen Tomales?
19.08.10 @ 12:37:41

MNboxingFAN – Sean
I'm with Canuk, where did all the posts go? Eastside erased them when they weren't offensive and didn't use foul language. (Well maybe they offended Arreola!)
19.08.10 @ 10:52:46

coho
no I think that CA has more potential than Galento. Though Galenta decked louis. Good for a "dream" drinking contest. CA vs Tony. Ca has more mass but Galento must have almost died during prohibiton.
19.08.10 @ 09:51:51

bikermike
CA is today's Two Ton Toney Galento….without the big punch
19.08.10 @ 06:57:56

bikermike
The Mexican eclipse has shown up at or about fifty pounds overweight…..and with little to no improvement in skills..his entire career. The guy has just about as much guts as he has a gut
19.08.10 @ 06:53:27

bikermike
Arreola has gone as far as he will go..actually he has gone much farther than he would have….had there been so much as a pulse in the HW division.
19.08.10 @ 06:51:39

bikermike
Canuck…I too wonder…..there were some well thought…and even my post disapeared
19.08.10 @ 06:50:06

piazza
Now with his right hand being unusable for 10 – 12 weeks, just watch him add to the 256 he already has. Cant see him ever reversing that trend now. Hes got money now, so he's a little overeager to spend it on the treats thats taste good but add to the flab. Oh well such is life…
19.08.10 @ 04:16:13

SuperNovaHype Job
Canuck- Nobody knows…We were having some interesting debates under Viveks article and someone pulled the rug from underneath us. I can't remember half the stuff I said. This sucks!
19.08.10 @ 03:46:16

ken
fat lazy slob,and the ugliest man ever…and the backwards hat dont help..lol
19.08.10 @ 03:24:49

Canuck
Where did the 50+ posts go?
19.08.10 @ 02:21:55

LC – email
Author is 100% correct. i use to have a high regard for CA but after seeing him not dedicating himself to the sports, always making statement I've changed and I'm dedicated to the sports and comes in FLABBY like a FAT STEAK BURRITO all the time, he has loss more credibility and fans more than he ever thought. Fans aren't stupid. There are far better athlete boxer out there that separate real champion from the ordinary fighter. Chris at this point is ORDINARY at best. F dat "Chris the Nightmare" cuz you ain't Moth f cker!
19.08.10 @ 01:51:20

richard hill – email
You all ought to be proud ofHaye he is a chissled chicken that could not beat Arreola,And thats a fact.
19.08.10 @ 01:11:13
Boxing eras (2) Current heavyweights are fat and out of shape -OR- Ali and the mystery of the six-pack, 3.8 out of 5 based on 25 ratings
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Comments (19)

  • Anonymous says:
    flag

    [ip2username: Pei Gusa]
    #394 (2011-06-08th)

    Dear Sir

    I think some of your points are very valid, and there IS a tendency to exaggerate the H2H ability of old boxers with respect to new boxers.

    I have never boxed but played other sports to a reasonable level and my son is training as an elite gymnast. Here is my two penneth

    In other sports which can be measured directly is there a clear improvement in performance. Usain Bolt wins the Olympic 100m in 9.69s in 2008, while in 1972 Valeri Borzov took 10.07s. That is a function of improved diet, training methods, sports science, equipment tartan tracks and maybe improvements in PEDs etc. Are those same advantages available to boxers compared to their predecessors..yes some are. So if you plot performance against date in most measurable sports you will see a steady improvement. An exception is womens track and field where no-one now is anywhere near the performances of Eastern Europeans in the 1970s and 80s and later the Chinese which were based on state sponsored programs to give women athletes testoterone and Americans too needed to cheat to match these levels (e.g. Marion Jones, FloJo etc)

    From a gymnastics persepctive you just have to look at the routines and skills to see astounding strides made in the last 40y but you'll still get nostalgic people saying they are not as graceful now.

    In many sports, the best trained and conditioned athlete is the best at the sport. I don't necessarily go along with your views on fat for heavyweight boxers though, and dispute some of your classifications of heavyweights too. I'll give Herschel Walker as an example in a collison sport. The Pro Footballer (and now MMA fighter in his mid40s) who was 6ft 1in and 220lbs in the late 1980s and not a lot different today with a body fat of about 2% (far less than marathon runners even). Yet Walker was rarely injured because of the padding of his lean muscle..and the collisions in ProFootball are probably harder than in boxing. But the way he trained (bodyweight exercises, pushups, chins etc) rather than weights was different to bodybuilders. My view would be that lean weight is what is important and here the Klitschkos are very big and lean.

    There IS a tendency in boxing nowadays to avoid dangerous opponents to keep a prospect unbeaten. With the proliferation of alphabet titles, it is possible to be a world champion when not even the best fighter in your own country. Thats why old boxing fans yearn for the days on 8 divisions and 8 champs. But great fighters would be frozen out in these days too. So Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake la Motta fought 5 times in non title fights in the 1940s because Ray couldn't gey a welterweight shot and jake couldn't get a middleweight shot when both might have deserved it?

    Boxing seems a more stamina based sport, with less requirement for explosive strength than gymnastics, sprinting where events take seconds. The move to shorter fights would favour stronger athletes with lower stamina levels though I don't know if the reduction from 15 to 12 rounds is that significant. I'm not sure the kind of explosive power required by gymnasts, sprinters, weightlifters, pro-footballers etc is optimal for boxers. I beleive Ken Norton was a good high school athlete who took up boxing relatively late, and may be one of the best "athletes" among heavyweight champs. Even though heavyweights of course are very strong they will have far lower power to weight ratios than the elite athletes in these sports. So I don't know if the best athlete (in the sense of lifting strength, sprint speed, flexibility etc) makes the best boxer, in the same way as the best athlete will outstrip his peers in other sports.

  • UKrich says:
    flag

    [ip2username: Pei Gusa]
    #395 UKrich (2011-06-08th)

    Dear Sir

    I think some of your points are very valid, and there IS a tendency to exaggerate the H2H ability of old boxers with respect to new boxers.

    I have never boxed but played other sports to a reasonable level and my son is an elite gymnast. Here is my two penneth

    In other sports which can be measured directly is there a clear improvement in performance. Usain Bolt wins the Olympic 100m in 9.69s in 2008, while in 1972 Valeri Borzov took 10.07s. That is a function of improved diet, training methods, sports science, equipment tartan tracks and maybe improvements in PEDs etc. Are those same advantages available to boxers compared to their predecessors..yes some are. So if you plot performance against date in most measurable sports you will see a steady improvement. An exception is womens track and field where no-one now is anywhere near the performances of Eastern Europeans in the 1970s and 80s and later the Chinese which were based on state sponsored programs to give women athletes testoterone and Americans too needed to cheat to match these levels (e.g. Marion Jones, FloJo etc)

    From a gymnastics persepctive you just have to look at the routines and skills to see astounding strides made in the last 40y but you'll still get nostalgic people saying they are not as graceful now.

    In many sports, the best trained and conditioned athlete is the best at the sport. I don't necessarily go along with your views on fat for heavyweight boxers though, and dispute some of your classifications of heavyweights too. I'll give Herschel Walker as an example in a collison sport. The Pro Footballer (and now MMA fighter in his mid40s) who was 6ft 1in and 220lbs in the late 1980s and not a lot different today with a body fat of about 2% (far less than marathon runners even). Yet Walker was rarely injured because of the padding of his lean muscle..and the collisions in ProFootball are probably harder than in boxing. But the way he trained (bodyweight exercises, pushups, chins etc) rather than weights was different to bodybuilders. My view would be that lean weight is what is important and here the Klitschkos are very big and lean.

    There IS a tendency in boxing nowadays to avoid dangerous opponents to keep a prospect unbeaten. With the proliferation of alphabet titles, it is possible to be a world champion when not even the best fighter in your own country. Thats why old boxing fans yearn for the days on 8 divisions and 8 champs. But great fighters would be frozen out in these days too. So Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake la Motta fought 5 times in non title fights in the 1940s because Ray couldn't gey a welterweight shot and jake couldn't get a middleweight shot when both might have deserved it?

    Boxing seems a more stamina based sport, with less requirement for explosive strength than gymnastics, sprinting where events take seconds. The move to shorter fights would favour stronger athletes with lower stamina levels though I don't know if the reduction from 15 to 12 rounds is that significant. I'm not sure the kind of explosive power required by gymnasts, sprinters, weightlifters, pro-footballers etc is optimal for boxers. I beleive Ken Norton was a good high school athlete who took up boxing relatively late, and may be one of the best "athletes" among heavyweight champs. Even though heavyweights of course are very strong they will have far lower power to weight ratios than the elite athletes in these sports. So I don't know if the best athlete (in the sense of lifting strength, sprint speed, flexibility etc) makes the best boxer, in the same way as the best athlete will outstrip his peers in other sports.

  • wesley says:
    flag

    [ip2username: Loje Tibu]
    #3442 wesley (2011-12-20th)

    The only thing i can gather from your statistics that bares any meaning is that on the whole, the champions throughout history have almost univesally outweighed thier opponents on average, which tells me there is a trend, which considering it is a physical sport, based of power and damage this makes sense.
    The klitchkos also follow this trend the same. whats your point?
    The klitchkos have massive physical characteristical advantages over there opponents, who are of low skill level, no body gives them a betting chance.

    There is nothing exceptional that you can say except that they do at least beat the opponents put in front of them. as to be expected.

    Which makes the case then for the fighters that were out weighed on average.

    • Admin says:
      flag

      [ip2username: Suva Mywo]
      #3463 Admin (2011-12-25th)
      The klitchkos have massive physical characteristical advantages over there opponents, who are of low skill level, no body gives them a betting chance.

      I utterly disagree about the skill level of klitschkos' opponents. I _do_ watch their non-Klitschko fights and they are superbly skilled boxers.

      It's just the the Klitschkos are so extremely skilled that they make them _look_ like amateurs.

      • Stu says:
        flag

        [ip2username: Wamy Dove]
        #3820 Stu (2012-03-09th)

        do you mean skilled (cruisers) like haye and mormek?
        or skilled heavies…like….chisora?

        • Tommo says:
          flag

          [ip2username: Puga Lyxo]
          #5646 Tommo (2013-03-25th)

          Moreover Klitschko's outweight there opponents on average in only 50% of their fights correct?

  • Dage Johnson says:
    flag

    [ip2username: Xiu Navy]
    #3859 Dage Johnson (2012-04-05th)

    True Ali was chubby iit help him absorb the body shots better that's partially why foreman couldn't ko him

  • LasViega says:
    flag

    [ip2username: Dewi Ruva]
    #3981 LasViega (2012-05-15th)

    I'll have to disagree with some of the claims made here, as to how would one judge a boxer's chubbiness VS athleticism. I will take two examples for starters;

    * I wouldn't call Ali's body type chubby during his Foreman & Frazier fights. Fair enough, he was far from ripped, but would not classify as chubby/somewhat chubby until the late 70's/early 80's in my book.

    * Same goes to Larry Holmes. From what I've seen of Holmes, I'd say he was never-ripped-but-slim during his earlier years (including the '80 Ali fight), then went on to be rather chubby (i.e. the '88 Tyson fight), then furthermore to chubby.

    • Honza says:
      flag

      [ip2username: Dibu Waby]
      #5245 Honza (2012-10-31st)

      Exactly. Muhammad at his prime was not chubby or fat. Same goes for Larry Holmes. Of course George and Ken were muscular boxers.

      • Tommo says:
        flag

        [ip2username: Duba Wyso]
        #6336 Tommo (2013-07-15th)

        Yeah that was one of the most exaggerated claims made and taken out of context. Muhammad and Larry were fat right at the end of their careers but not when they were anywhere near prime.

  • pery says:
    flag

    [ip2username: Tajy Xore]
    #5022 pery (2012-10-15th)

    Strongest man of the world is not really a good example.
    Mariusz Pudzianowski (5-Times World's Strongest Man) dominated the discipline over 6 years and he looks awesome…

    • Tommo says:
      flag

      [ip2username: Puga Lyxo]
      #5647 Tommo (2013-03-25th)

      I can't believe that Floyd Patterson was ever Heavyweight champion. Even at light heavyweight today he would get flogged out in his debut. The 60s must have been one of the weakest eras ever!

  • Tommo says:
    flag

    [ip2username: Puga Lyxo]
    #5877 Tommo (2013-04-02nd)

    I cannot agree with you on the point that muscular boxers gas faster than fat ones. The lean muscle built up in boxing through interval sprints etc is highly vascularised and INCREASES your endurance for one, you cannot argue otherwise there. I am guessing you are referring to a boxer with large fast twitch muscles which are tuned for power output and not endurance. Basically if a boxer with such a build is conditioned through his training he will not gas just like the fat boxer who is conditioned as you said. You said "we are not talking about the average fat bloke down the pub", well I am not talking about the average stocky/bodybuilding type bloke down the street either. At any weight it is better to be muscles than fat as far as stamina goes. Even fast twitch muscles contribute to movement whereas fat must only be carried.

    I also disagree that lean muscular boxers, "bodybuilding" type bodies you specifically mentioned, are more susceptible to blunt trauma injury than fat ones. Fat will absorb impact too sure, but the equivalent in muscle mass will also protect a boxers body much better. One of the reasons combat athletes perform abdominal work is to protect them. They don't eat cheeseburgers to achieve this. However I think a small amount of fat is beneficial for assistance, particularly around cheeks to help chin.

    Yes you can be fat and conditioned, the critics who claim HW division today is rubbish because there are some unchiselled bodies are uninformed. But I would not say being a fat ass confers a fighter with any clear benefit. All else equal it's better to be lean.

    • Tommo1 says:
      flag

      [ip2username: Xigu Zazy]
      #7011 Tommo1 (2014-02-19th)

      I should augment this statement now with my now updated knowledge that you are in fact correct on the first point. Given the same amount of conditioning and the same weight and height of a boxer, the boxer who is all muscles will gas faster than the boxer with smaller muscles and the rest of the weight made up for in fat. I have to concede that to you. Most people, proponents of modern boxing AND the nostalgic ones too would baulk at this fact, they don't want to agree that fat can be beneficial in any way at HW but given the correct control as above, it is scientifically valid and statistically proven. You're the first I've known to promote that and after my own research I've found it undisputable. Well done!! :)

  • Martin says:
    flag

    [ip2username: Xedi Uda]
    #6532 Martin (2013-10-09th)

    Great article, but why do you have so many bad pictures (especially of the old school boxers)?

  • John says:
    flag

    [ip2username: Myjo Zegi]
    #6844 John (2013-12-22nd)

    I agree with your website as the klitschko do need to be credited as many old timers give them no credit BUT you personally believe that You have better boxing knowledge than the like Burt sugar, I'd rather listen to a true boxing historian rather than someone who has been watching boxing from Lennox Lewis+ :wink:

    • Tommo says:
      flag

      [ip2username: Xydo Kedi]
      #7632 Tommo (2014-10-25th)

      Bert Sugar is a propagandist.

      A boxing historian is by definition somebody who will always promote the past, particularly since Sugar is an old man (it's his times he is promoting), is American (it's his country he is promoting), gains wide support for such comments at home (social status) and makes thousands of dollars for promoting them (financial status).

      Bert Sugar demonstratably doesn't know sh*t about boxing and doesn't evem really believe what he is writing!

      Meanwhile Author is a highly adept boxing analyst who has substantiated everything with factual evidence.

      Your opinion here is so ridiculous I can't believe you actually wrote it.

      It was not worth one drop of piss, not even a single drop, in the desert!

  • matthew says:
    flag

    [ip2username: Muwa Tyno]
    #7132 matthew (2014-05-02nd)

    You actually researched and wrote this entire thing?

    • Tommo says:
      flag

      [ip2username: Bole Ligu]
      #7712 Tommo (2014-11-27th)

      This article was in fact of the most ground breaking of the site.

      The fact that fat "in itself" is not an impediment to "HW boxing" and can sometimes be an advantage is a thoroghly proven fact, but one that is disdained badly by what I like to call the "OTNB" (Old Time Nut Bags) ;)


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