by Fox Doucette
Happy New Year, everyone, and welcome to another edition of the greatest time-machine-powered boxing show in the business.
We’ve got a bit of a conundrum this time. Previously on this program, Evander Holyfield lost a close decision to Rocky Marciano in a cruiserweight battle. Meanwhile, during the old What If Excellent Heavyweight Adventure series, Ezzard Charles beat the Rock twice (in contravention of actual boxing history, no less.)
So if Charles beat Marciano, who beat Holyfield, does the Cincinnati Cobra triumph over the Real Deal? Or do styles make fights and therefore anything can happen on any given Friday?
Meanwhile, the co-feature has no such underlying emotional baggage for the chronicler, as Sugar Ramos, a killer of men (two guys died in the ring after facing Ramos!), takes on Juan Manuel Marquez in a featherweight contest. Marquez is at his natural strongest weight. Ramos killed two dudes but also got knocked out four times. Something’s gotta give.
From the Historical Fight Night Arena Presented By You, If You Donate On Patreon, in San Dimas, California, these fights are scheduled for 12 rounds using the Unified Rules of the Association of Boxing Commissions. Scoring is on the 10-point must system, there is no three knockdown rule, no standing eight count, only the referee can stop the fight, and a fighter cannot be saved by the bell in any round including the twelfth and final round.
Now, for the thousands in attendance and the millions watching from around the world…
Let’s Make History.
Sugar Ramos (3/21/1963, 39-1-3, 30 KOs) vs. Juan Manuel Marquez (2/1/2003, 40-2, 32 KOs)
Even in 1963, there was a distinctive style of fighter that came out of Cuba. The island has always produced incredibly well-put-together technical fighters. It’s why Cubans were able to corner the market on great amateurs after the Castro regime banned professional boxing on the island in 1961.
But before there were the likes of Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon and Guillermo Rigondeaux, there was Sugar Ramos, a featherweight of such fearsome power that he didn’t just kill one guy—the fight with Davey Moore in which whiplash due to Moore’s neck hitting the bottom rope did as much to end his life as the punches Ramos dished out—but two.
Ramos literally beat Jose Blanco to death on November 8, 1958 with nothing more than his own raw punching power.
Can Ramos inflict that kind of damage on Juan Manuel Marquez, a guy who didn’t win a world title until his 42nd pro fight, the battle with Manuel Medina that preceded his journey through time to 2016?
Marquez, always a counter puncher at heart, was especially dedicated to that style in this contest. He wasn’t going to throw anything more than a rangefinder jab lest he wander into the range of Ramos’s literally deadly shots. The time machine moment came before Manny Pacquiao had taught Marquez never to trust a boxing judge. He stuck to his guns.
Then again, from where Ramos was standing, “stick to his guns” was a bit like seeing a guy with a .357 Magnum pointed at your face who has just told you “don’t take one step closer or I’ll shoot.” Ramos needed to get inside on his opponent to find the right range for his hook and his uppercut, and giving up three inches of height, even with the same reach, wasn’t going to help his cause any.
For three rounds, the game was afoot, Marquez landing a few jabs, Ramos getting inside and finding himself either eating a counter left hook or ending up in a clinch after landing a shot or two. Some wondered if this fight was ever going to get off the ground.
Ramos got angry, and taking a page from his countryman Benny Paret in the Emile Griffith fight, he began to taunt Marquez’s manhood. The word “maricon” came out a couple of times. Marquez, however, was neither as hotheaded nor, ultimately, as closeted, since Griffith long after the fact acknowledged his bisexuality, something Marquez has never been known to exhibit. A word that translates from the Spanish as “faggot” wasn’t going to have the same effect.
There were shades of Ali-Foreman in the way Marquez won the battle of the mind while avoiding getting any kind of damage from an opponent who wanted to impose the pace of the fight.
Still, from where the fans were sitting, this was all well and good, but the fight itself was a snoozer. Neither fighter was throwing more than about 45 to 50 punches a round, with Ramos usually winning the punches thrown battle while Marquez landed more off that counter.
The simple fact remained that this was going to be a question of who cracked first. Marquez, feeling a bit more confident for having weathered half a fight’s worth of would-be punishment, got just a wee bit more aggressive, pumping the jab out in hopes of baiting Ramos into coming forward.
Which, incidentally, is how this one ended. Ramos thought he had the jab figured out, and he came in, weaving out of the way of the jab coming at him, but as soon as he committed the body to the side to load up on a hook, he found out the hard way what happens when you give Marquez the opening he’s spent seven rounds of a fight just waiting for and setting up.
You know how Manny Pacquiao went down in the fourth fight with Dinamita? That’s how Sugar Ramos met his end, flat on his face, after Marquez walked him into one honey of an overhand right that got there before Sugar’s hook did. Marquez might as well have hit him with a sledgehammer.
RESULT: MARQUEZ KO7 RAMOS
Ezzard Charles (9/27/1950, 67-5-1, 37 KOs) vs. Evander Holyfield (12/5/1987, 17-0, 13 KOs)
Ezzard Charles won the world heavyweight title from Jersey Joe Walcott on June 22, 1949, and he reigned as the champion for two years and eight defenses before Walcott was able to dispossess him of that belt in their third fight in 1951.
The funny thing is that Charles never weighed in above 191.5 pounds during his glory days at heavyweight. He came in at 181 for that first Walcott fight, and when he beat Joe Louis, removing all dispute as to who the true king of the heavyweight division was in 1950 (the fight from which we’ve put Charles in the time machine), he weighed 184.5.
So, just like we put Marciano in at cruiser when he fought Holyfield, we’re leveling the playing field between the ’50s and the ’80s by holding this contest at 184 pounds (Charles) and 187 (Holyfield), another cruiserweight contest, and once again we’ve got Holyfield in off his fourth-round stoppage of Dwight Muhammad Qawi in their rematch, the last fight Evander would contest at cruiserweight before making a run at heavyweight glory.
Marciano squeaked out a win. Can Charles do something more decisive?
As the fight began, the commentators asked a question that so often comes up in these time machine moments. “Could anyone in history have beaten Ezzard Charles on that night against Louis?” There are certain fighters in certain fights where if you were putting together a tournament, you could ask that question. Tyson against Spinks. Louis against Schmeling the second time. Frazier against Ali the first time. They’re the kinds of fights that are as close as they come to the second Balboa-Lang fight in Rocky III.
Holyfield came out trying to keep Charles at range, enjoying a three-inch height advantage (6’3″ to 6’0″), a five-inch reach advantage (78 to 73), and having just shown against an even smaller guy what happens when a big guy gives up his height.
Charles came out with a mind toward staying balanced, working the jab in on the body, bobbing and weaving and countering when Holyfield attacked, pushing forward when he had the advantage.
It wasn’t a one-sided round, not by any means, but Charles got the better of the exchanges.
Holyfield landed a hellacious left hook about 75 seconds into the round, putting Charles on the back foot and opening up an opportunity for Evander to do some good work. He pushed Charles back to the ropes and opened up with some power shots; some of them even landed.
Charles fought back, but Holyfield was in command, imposing his physicality in a way that showed the physique of a man who would have no problem putting on a good 20 or 30 pounds a few years later and using that bulk to stand strong against some of the big heavyweights that came down the pike in the 1990s.
Questions began to circulate, murmurs on press row; was Holyfield just too strong?
On the other hand, it doesn’t matter how strong you are if you get a knuckle sandwich delivered right to the kisser, and when Holyfield got a little overconfident, he ate a two-punch combination, a hook-cross that arrested the forward progress of the Real Deal’s attack.
With the punches that established the need for Holyfield to respect his power having found their mark, Charles began to execute a fight plan that was all about wearing down his opponent. A shorter man has an easier time getting to the longer body of a taller man, and the next two rounds were a simple matter of the Teddy Atlas maxim of “putting water in the basement.”
Holyfield lost a little steam from that body work, and the middle rounds of the fight became a case where Evander’s hand speed, which was on paper the superior between the two combatants, was more on level terms with Charles. Evander couldn’t beat Ezzard to the punch, and that fact led to some better quality exchanges in the middle of the ring.
In the first fight with Qawi, Holyfield was able to use his height and his superior technique compared to a man who had learned his craft in prison relatively late in the game in the course of his life.
In this fight with Charles, Holyfield enjoyed no such advantage, and it became a case of picking his poison between boxing and trying to outwork a legend and punching and trying to overwhelm a guy who was about as resilient as they came and who had three times beaten the great Archie Moore at light heavy before fighting the likes of Walcott and Louis at the higher weight.
The judges were at a loss to score the rounds between five and eight. You could give all four to Evander. You could give all four to Ezzard Charles. You could give any combination in between, and there wouldn’t be a commentator in the world who could gainsay the logic behind your selections. This was one hell of a close fight in those middle rounds.
Onward the fight went, but Holyfield was slowing down just enough, as Charles continued to target the body, using his status as the shorter man and using referee Arthur Mercante Sr.’s old-school approach to breaking fighters to his full advantage. There would be no clutching and grabbing here, just quality infighting the old fashioned way, and when a left hook crashed onto the liver of Holyfield, making the man from Atlanta wince, Charles had seized the momentum in the contest. He finished the ninth strong. He fought the tenth even stronger. So much was riding on the scores of those middle rounds, but the general consensus was a six rounds to four advantage as the bell rang to end the tenth with Charles establishing control as the championship rounds beckoned.
Until Charles walked into a vicious one-two, that is. Holyfield timed Charles coming in and popped him with a left hook and a big overhand right, the latter of which landed with sufficient force to put Ezzard Charles on the canvas.
Way back in 1943, Lloyd Marshall had put Charles on the canvas eight times. In each case, Charles rose fairly quickly, and it was only the accumulation of knockdowns that convinced the referee to stop that contest in the eighth.
Which is to say that it was going to take more than one knockdown for Evander Holyfield to get this fight halted. Charles rose at two, took the rest of the eight count, shook off the cobwebs, and went back to work. Holyfield’s attempts to press an advantage were quickly turned back by the crisp jab coming back at him, a clear sign that Charles may have been stunned, he may even have been hurt by the punches, but his powers of recuperation would ensure that he lived to fight into the final round.
And in that same fashion, knowing that the knockdown would weigh in the minds of the judges, Charles went on the attack, his footwork suggestive of the overwhelming power of a man who was well enough conditioned in 1950 being given the benefits of a 2016 training regimen during the eight-week camp leading up to this fight.
Charles engaged an extra gear, trying to put Holyfield down, and though he was unable to accomplish that aim, he did decisively carry the round, earning a 10-9 card in the scorebook of anyone sober enough to know what they were watching.
With twelve rounds of boxing completed, we go to the judges’ scorecards. Judge Harold Lederman sees the bout 114-113, Holyfield. Judge Steve Weisfeld sees the bout 117-110, Charles.
The crowd booed the 117-110 score, a bit of grumbling in a “how’d the guy only lose two rounds?” sort of way.
And judge Dave Moretti sees it 115-112, for your winner, by split decision…
EZZARD! THE CINCINNATI COBRA…CHARLES!
RESULT: CHARLES W-SD12 HOLYFIELD.
It’s the return of Irish Micky Ward, as we put him into an Old Vs. New scrap with none other than Ruslan Provodnikov. You want an all-action fight with some Fight of the Year potential? Tune in for that one.
Your co-feature is a fun fight as well: Kennedy McKinney makes his Historical Fight Night debut in a junior featherweight contest, taking on Daniel Zaragoza.
As always, tune into the Boxing Tribune every Friday at 6 PM Eastern, 3 PM Pacific, and please do help support the continued development of this show via our donation link at Patreon, where you can help taking the “starving” out of “starving artist”.
Thank you so much for reading, and see you next week!