Here is what I recently read on a boxing site:
"The golden age of boxing used to be 15-rounders, on top of that, boxers don't have the luxury of fighting with months interval. Imagine how much punishment, weak and tear they took in their body. They fight week in, week out and fighters used to have 100+, 15-rounds fights while in the modern day, a fighter has 50+ fights (almost half) and it’s already a big achievement… so today’s boxing really can’t be compared to as it was before."
It's one nonsense after the other, yet such lies are repeated so often, that boxing fans started to believe that our era is worse than previous eras.
Such statements are pure delusion uttered by good-old-time nostalgists, so it's necessary to analyze the 3 statements here:
- The Golden Age of boxing used to be 15-rounders
- Fighters used to have 100+, 15-rounds fights
- Fighters used to fight more often than nowadays
15-rounder heavyweight boxing eras
The aforementioned Golden Age of boxing means roughly the Ali's era[?], which consists of his fights (61 fights against 50 opponents) and his opponents fights (approximately 2600 fights).
Let's add to the mix George Foreman's era (3300+ fights), Sonny Liston's era (1900+ fights), Rocky Marciano's era (2000+ fights), Joe Louis' era (4100+ fights). Heck, let's add all eras of all heavyweight world champs. Let's see how many 13+ rounders there were.
When we add up
- ALL fights of ALL champs
- plus ALL fights of ALL the champs' opponents
(which adds up to approximately 70000 unique fights) it turns out that approximately 1600 fights (= 2%) were 13+ rounders.
Let me get this straight:
Overlong fights (13+ rounders) are EXTREMELY rare in the history of boxing.
And that's no wonder.
No boxer WANTS to have such long fights.
No boxer PLANS to have such long fights.
Such long fights are not a sign of strength but of FAILURE. A failure to win by KO.
Such fights are fights with weak punches or a lot of missed punches or a lot of clinching (e.g. Ali vs Frazier).
And indeed, when you analyze all heavyweight champs (approximately 80 to date), it turns out that approximately 50% of the champs (= 40) had no such long fights.
And of the remaining champs (= who had such long fights) most of them had only one, two or three of such fights (translation: since they were champ material they knew how to end fights faster), and of those champs who had four or more of such fights the following had the highest number of such overlong fights:
|Name||Number of 13+ rounders||Started to box at||Median fighting weight (self, career)||Median fighting weight (opponent, at bout)|
|·Ezzard Charles||8||157 lbs||176 lbs||182 lbs|
|·Marvin Hart||10||165 lbs||180.25 lbs||175 lbs|
|·Tommy Burns||13||156 lbs||160 lbs||181.5 lbs|
|·Muhammad Ali||14||188 lbs||212.75 lbs||205.5 lbs|
|·Jack Johnson||20||168 lbs||185 lbs||191.75 lbs|
Fistic Statistic [#3676.1]
Here you have the REAL reason for 15-rounders: The guys with the highest number of 13+ rounders were not heavyweights as we define them today. They were cruisers and sub-cruisers.
Their punches were weaker than nowadays boxers' and their opponents were weaker, too.
In fact, ALL of the guys you see above were FEATHERFISTS, with Muhammad Ali being one of the most featherfisted champs 200×2 of ALL TIME.
In other words: Good-old-time nostalgists convert a failure into a virtue and try to sell us dirt as gold.
Boxing fans who mention the oh-so-great 15-rounders have to realize the following:
Going 13+ rounds is the signature
of a CRUISERY or of a PUNCH WEAK era.
The more 15-rounders you want the less heavyweight you get.
I personally prefer to see 2 heavyweights who have been tested against HEAVY opposition (even if only tested in shorter fights). Not tested against punchweak opposition (even if tested in 20-rounders).
I prefer fight weight to fight length, hence if I had to choose…
- between a heavyweight fight like Tommy Burns (listed in the table above and in the picture below) vs Philadelphia Jack O'Brien 172 lbs vs 163 lbs that went 20 rounds (what they called "world heavyweight title" back in 1906) without any KO
- and Vitali Klitschko vs Danny Williams 250 lbs vs 270 lbs (WBC heavyweight title 2004) that ended in a KO
…then I will chose Vitali over Philadelphia Jack any time.
No one can convince me that watching a 20-rounder is more exciting just because it's a 20-rounder. Especially when both men are a head smaller than the _REFEREE_.
I prefer 2 heavies who have experience against other heavies. Not two featherfists who have experience against other featherfists or who are the "world champs of hugging".
I want HEAVYweight boxing
not LONGweight boxing
Now, don't get me wrong: I would have loved to see rounds 13, 14, 15+ of Klitschko vs Sam Peter or Klitschko vs Shannon Briggs, but to claim that a whole era is worse, because there are no 15-rounders is simply the opposite of the truth.
How many real heavyweight 15+ rounders have there actually been?
When you further analyze how many overlong heavyweight championships fights took place that were at least 200×2 lbs (as would have to be nowadays, since fights below 200 lbs are not allowed anymore) then it turns out that there have been 31 of such championship fights (in the whole history of heavyweight boxing), of which the aforementioned featherfists Ali and Jack Johnson alone are responsible for 15.
Overlong championship fights 215×2 lbs (which is even more realistic nowadays than 200×2 lbs) took place 12 times in the history of heavyweight boxing.
"Boxers cannot go 15 rounds anymore"
Do you have any proof?
Did Wladimir Klitschko seem exhausted after his 12 rounders?
Did Valuev look exhausted after his fight against Evan Fields?
Not only is the notion bizarre that 15-round eras are better but it's also pure fantasy that modern heavyweight champs couldn't go 15 rounds.
"Fighters used to have 100+, 15-rounds fights"
That is also a blatant nonsense. Another nostalgia delusion.
In no era at no time fighters _used_ to have 100+ fights on their record.
Let alone 100+ 15-rounders.
Let alone 100+ 15-rounders at heavyweight.
Fighters with 100+ fights were _always_ an exception.
I checked several thousand fighters (= all champs and their opponents) and none of them had 100+ fights that went 13+ rounds.
The boxer with the most 13+ rounders would be a boxer like ·Gipsy Daniels (60+ 13+ rounders), who wasn't a heavyweight in the first place. All the other boxers have typically 0 or 1 of such overlong fights.
"Champs fought more often back in the day"
OK, let's check past time champs.
Are modern champs (Wladimir, Vitali etc) really more lazy than previous champs?
|Name||Middle of career||Days between fights (from career start to end)||Days between fights (from first world championship fight to end of career)|
|·James Buster Douglas||1990|
|·James J Corbett||1895|
|·James J Jeffries||1903|
|·Jersey Joe Walcott||1942|
|·John L. Sullivan||1885|
|·Roy Jones Jr||1999|
Fistic Statistic [#3676.2]
These figures include NC (no contest) fights, as we want to find out the activity level.
John L. Sullivan's first title fight was his last fight, hence the "0 days".
Now look at that. It turns actually out that the frequency of Wladimir Klitschko's fights is among the highest (= shortest = best). Additionally it turns out that the previous generation of boxers (a supposedly better era) is among the worst.
Mind you, this table above still includes cruiser and sub-cruiser fights. It's obvious that you can withstand more sub-cruiser fights than real heavyweight fights 200×2, thus it's obvious that you can fight more often sub-cruiser fights than heavyweight fights.
In other words: The figures in the table above adulate previous eras.
Hence let's check the fighting frequency in real heavyweight fights:
|Name||Middle of career||Days between real heavyweight fights 200×2 (from first 200×2 fight until end of career)|
|·James Buster Douglas||1990|
Fistic Statistic [#3676.3]
I excluded heavyweight champs with less than 15 real heavyweight fights 200×2 lbs.
Hmm, Wladimir Klitschko has a real heavyweight 200×2 fight every 80+ days.
Wladimir Klitschko's fighting frequency is one of his hallmark attributes.
And this generation of real heavyweight champs could be said to be the most active of all generations.
Now let's get to the heavyweight beef: Let's see how often truly heavy champs knockout truly heavy non-bums[?].
I excluded champs with 4 or less of such KO'wins, hence you will not find names like Muhammad Ali or Joe Frazier or Larry Holmes here:
|Name||Middle of career||Days between KO'wins (within 12) against non-bums in 215×2 fights (from first 215×2 non-bum KO'win until end of career)|
Fistic Statistic [#3676.4]
The same picture, but let me explain the results in clear words:
If you had 2 boxing fans and one was a Mike Tyson fan and the other was a Wladimir Klitschko fan, then the Wladimir Klitschko fan would see KO wins against non-bums 215×2 TWICE AS FREQUENT as the Mike Tyson fan, and 5x as frequent as a Riddick Bowe fan. Muhammad Ali had only 3 of such KO wins in his whole career, Larry Holmes only 1 (against *cough* ·Curtis Shepard).
If you want to see many KOs of good+heavy boys then this era (and the last) will please you.
Where the myth comes from that the previous champs fought more often
I think I found the reason why people think past champs fought more often:
Past champs' OPPONENTS fought more often.
When you analyze the following champs…
- Joe Louis (1930s, 1940s, 1950s)
- Muhammad Ali (1960s, 1970s, 1980s)
- Wladimir Klitschko (1990s, 2000s, 2010s)
… and the fight frequency of their opponents (altogether 9200+ fights starting from 1923) then indeed it turns out that Joe Louis' opponents fought more often (every 53 days), while Ali's opponents fought already half as often (every 98 days) and Klitschko's opponents fight even less (every 112 days).
However, the reason is again the same:
|Era||Number of fights||Average opponents' opponents' weight|
|Joe Louis||4300+||188 lbs|
|Muhammad Ali||2800+||196 lbs|
|Wladimir Klitschko||2100+||222 lbs|
Fistic Statistic [#3676.5]
In clear words: Joe Louis' opponents had 4300+ fights in which they boxed against opponents who were 188 lbs on the average.
Wladimir Klitschko's opponents fight opponents who are 34 lbs heavier on the average.
Take for example Joe Louis' opponent ·Billy Conn:
Billy Conn was 174 lbs when he fought Joe Louis ("World heavyweight title 1941"). Billy Conn was 130+ lbs at one point in his career fighting other 130-pounders.
It's obvious that Klitschko would never fight opponents with such a background. And it's obvious that such opponents can have more fights than modern heavyweights.
THAT's again the reason of the higher fight frequency. And THAT's again the reason why you should not compare Joe Louis' frequencies to the current heavyweight scene but to the current cruiser and sub-cruiser scene.
Instead of complaining that nowadays heavies fight less often, you should complain that nowadays cruisers and sub-cruisers fight less than in Joe Louis' times.
Since not previous champs fought more often than nowadays champs, but previous champs' opponents, the conclusion is:
Previous champs fought against weaker opposition
since previous opposition was more drained.