“At the end of the day Choc has more talent than anyone in our history.” That was a tweet I received in response to my article from last week.
I asked the commenter: “Better than Lionel Rose, Les Darcy, Jeff Fennech?”
“Maybe not the better record in opponents but his talent and ability is better than all of them,” he replied.
This got me thinking, where do Anthony Mundine and Daniel Geale rank among our best ever boxers? And what is more important in the ring – talent and ability or titles and records?
Of course comparing fighters from different eras is notoriously difficult, especially when you haven’t seen them fight. It’s the same in every other sport.
In boxing might be even more difficult because the sport was stronger and more popular in the past. In the good old days boxers fought for one legitimate world title at a specific weight, not the five or six ‘world’ titles that are on offer today.
The Australian National Boxing Hall of Fame, which was founded in 2001, has many inductees and different categories.
At the very top is the legend status, conferred on Les Darcy and Lionel Rose. Then there are those Pioneers pre-1899, the Old Timers pre-1940, the Veterans like Dave Sands pre-1965, and the Moderns such as Fenech, Barry Michael, Lester Ellis, Jeff Harding and Kostya Tszyu.
Back in 2008 The Age newspaper ran its list of Australia’s top 10 all-time boxers. Its list was based on ability, courage, achievements and how their rivals rated them. It went like this:
1. Jeff Fenech
2. Kostya Tszyu
3. Les Darcy
4. Lionel Rose
5. Johnny Famechon
6. Jimmy Carruthers
7. Dave Sands
8. Vic Patrick
9. Vic Darchinyan
10. Albert Griffiths
Another ranking was done by boxing journalist Grantlee Kieza for The Courier-Mail in 2011. His went like this:
1. Jeff Fenech
2. Kostya Tszyu
3. Lionel Rose
4. Jimmy Carruthers
5. Les Darcy
6. Johnny Famechon
7. Albert Griffiths
8. Vic Darchinyan
9. Jack Carroll
10. Jeff Harding
For me, the common denominators are Rose, Fenech and Darcy as our greatest ever. The trio were all world champions and legends.
Rose was a pioneer who won his bantamweight world title in Japan and defended it in that country and in the USA.
Fenech was a three-weight world champion, while Darcy was an icon of his era, a courageous fighter who held both middleweight and heavyweight titles at the same time and passed away at a young age.
Tszyu and Darchinyan are great fighters, but as they were not born nor developed their skills here, they miss the cut.
Mundine has a lot of talent, no question. If he had started boxing at a young age, instead of at 25 after years of rugby league, he might be one of best ever.
But it can be argued that Mundine has not done as much as he could have with the impressive talent and speed he has. That he has not beaten great enough fighters or claimed enough silverware. Not fought and won enough overseas in front of hostile crowds.
Of course, while he may be 37 now, his career is not over. It may be unfair to judge him until he finally bows out of the ring.
The same can be said of Daniel Geale. At 31 he is a three-time world champion and was briefly the unified IBF and WBA middleweight champion, an important milestone. He still should have plenty of years left in the ring and could go on to greater heights. Time will tell if he does.
So over to you, Roarers. What makes a great boxer? Who is in your ranking as Australia’s greatest boxers, and where do Mundine and Geale rank?