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View Poll Results: All things considered, whose performance impressed you more?
Conn's failed attempt in 1941 4 30.77%
Spinks' successful attempt in 1985 8 61.54%
Too hard to split, all things considered 1 7.69%
Voters: 13. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 03-22-2010, 03:13 PM   #1
IntentionalButt
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Default Spinks in victory or Conn in defeat?

Obviously Spinks is the one who technically achieved what Conn technically could not. "Almost only counts in horseshoes", et cetera...

Stripping away the significance of the feat itself (which has had its share of ink and breath devoted to it), and looking at the actual performances - all things considered, all the context: the who, the what, the how, and the when - which light heavyweight's bid for the world heavyweight title impressed you more?

First, there is the matter of which heavyweight champion each had the fortune (or misfortune) of challenging - and, perhaps more importantly, what version of said respective heavyweight champion.

Larry Holmes and Joe Louis - two of the top three head-to-head heavyweights of all time, and I won't entertain any disagreement there (with, of course, Clay/Ali right there in the shuffle - on the order, I'm not picky...but it's those three for me and nobody's changing my mind).

Of course, I am referring to the initial bids of Mike and Billy - where Spinks won the IBF title and where Conn dragged thirteen rounds out of Louis. The rematches - and indeed, the rest of each man's career - have no bearing on this discussion. We are zeroing in on the maiden voyages of each light heavyweight champion's HW title quest.

So you have Larry Holmes in 1985 and Joe Louis in 1941.

Both still "had it" - but which was the more formidable at the time? Which mountain would you rather climb as a smaller man? Setting the styles argument aside for a moment - staring down the barrel of the gun (or rather, diagonally across the ring) - which man, preserved in a time capsule from their form at the time, is more apt to make you shit your pants?

I'll not quite tolerate claims that Holmes was a shot fighter with nothing left. Cobb and Cooney had only had a few years to lick their still-fresh wounds. The fundamentals were still there for Holmes...at the very least, he still had the jab, the years of instinct and ring intelligence taken in through decades of osmosis, and he was conditioned enough even over the hump of the hill and gazing down at his the big 4-0 to remain the unrelenting aggressor into the championship rounds.

Indeed, in the 11th, the younger Spinks was the one sucking air, his shoulders sagging, his neck on labor strike and picketing for lunch in its role of fully supporting his head. That isn't to say he wasn't winning the round with his evasive tactics and turning the now-plodding Holmes at the end of his own jab. He was exhausted because Holmes was, again, unrelenting. The man did not want to lose his title, and every moment of success for Spinks increased his desperation as it forced Larry to confront the blasphemous reality that this string-bean kid might take what was his.

Holmes lacked the grease in the gear, however - the jab was neither as crisp nor as omnipresent as in his halcyon days. Nor were the other punches in his underrated and versatile arsenal able to slake their thirst for the flesh of Larry's prey. How much of his inability to land on Spinks is attributable to either a sharp decline in his own reflexes and speed, or to Spinks' own style (a "ship at sea, full sail but low wind" style, where he isn't necessarily using a lot of movement but sort of rolling with the invisible waves with just enough regularity and irregularity of rhythm to avoid being lined up when Holmes took aim) - or a little from column A and a little from column B. That's a subjective interpretation ultimately, but nobody would ever confuse this Holmes for being as accurate or as sharp as his younger self. He still had heavy hands but Spinks wasn't really ever made to feel their density.

A good performance by Spinks, all things considered - a B+/A- display of pretty boxing against a great champion who'd passed his sell-by date.

Now, fighting Joe Louis in 1941 was a wretched chore. Had Joe ever driven through The Crossroads, the devil surely would have tried to worm his way into a bargain to keep Louis in his 1941 form as a tormentor of the hapless denizens in the 9th circle.

While Holmes was undefeated in '85, Louis was once beaten by 41. That had been five years earlier, and in the time that had passed he'd avenged the loss with a stunning KO, one of several beatings he laid on household names in that time.

Like Holmes, Louis showed his challenger no respect, gave no quarter, and tried to simply overwhelm the smaller man with aggression. Joe, however, was still fast and strong and accurate enough to appear vintage.

Billy Conn didn't have the spoiling ship-at-sea style, but it wouldn't have served him against the quick and agile Louis. Conn boxed brilliantly for the first dozen rounds - jabbing and riverdancing on a cloud of air, putting Louis' considerable footwork to the test with lateral circling. When necessary, he would stand right there in the pocket and go toe to toe with the most dangerous man in the world.

It can certainly be argued that Conn didn't fight as smart as Spinks - clearly he had success remaining on the outside and succumbed to the excesses of his own bravado when he increasingly traded with the Bomber (some sour-grape sommeliers will no doubt point out that Joe likely would've gotten to him sooner or later before the end of fifteen, but that's sheer conjecture and what we do know is Conn has a demonstrably greater measure of success before the influx of infighting).

All things considered, however, even before the fateful 13th...Conn took more risks than Spinks, and was able to contain the offense of a sitting HW champ (and ATG) and even match him for strength for brief spells.

Spinks, for his part, never thought "OK, I'm confounding and one could even say controlling the champ, so let me go in for the kill" - and he deserves credit for not being stupid enough to think he could do what the great and terrible Tyson would become the first to do three years later. He played it safe-but-effective, and against (IMO) a less dangerous man than '41 Louis.

For my money, even in defeat, the bravery and top-notch skill displaying in Conn's performance trump the cunning doing of what needed to be done by Spinks to achieve his milestone.

That's not to say Conn would have beaten '85 Holmes, or that Spinks would definitely have lose to '41 Louis. All things considered, however - rating the performance of each man as an individual, within their individual style, and taking into account who they faced and when they faced them - Conn's is the more memorable and the more impressive. Even in defeat.

I do recognize my own bias here, and am certainly open to counterarguments. That's what the thread, and the poll, are for.
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Old 03-22-2010, 03:24 PM   #2
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Default Re: Spinks in victory or Conn in defeat?

Winning is the thing, that should be said, but given your framing of the question I voted for the Conn display. This thread could do 6 pages if the right folks show an interest.
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Old 03-22-2010, 03:27 PM   #3
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Default Re: Spinks in victory or Conn in defeat?

Jimmy Ellis had better heavyweight performances than Spinks.

To hell with old lethargic Holmes.
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Old 03-22-2010, 03:36 PM   #4
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Default Re: Spinks in victory or Conn in defeat?

The decision is easy for me.. Michael Spinks was just as big of an underdog against Holmes as Conn was against Louis, yet he ended up doing something that Billy couldn't.....He went home being the first in his category to have the heavyweight title around his waste.....
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Old 03-22-2010, 03:42 PM   #5
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Default Re: Spinks in victory or Conn in defeat?

Louis did make the mistake of listening to sportswriters who convinced him to come in light for speed, overruling Blackburn's warning that he would sacrifice strength. Joe, a precision instrument, came in under 200 pounds for the first time since Godoy II a year earlier, and for the final time in his career. Blackburn was right. He was weakened at 199-1/2.

If he'd been a couple pounds heavier, would he have been stunned by that hook Conn staggered him with, leading Billy to fatally attempt a knockout win? With added strength, would Louis have slowed him down with body shots earlier for the kill, or would Conn have proceeded with sufficient caution to finish the distance, and spring the upset? (Blackburn claimed that Billy had no choice but to go toe to toe with Joe at the end, because the body attack of Louis had taken away Conn's legs.)

While Conn and Spinks produced historical performances, it must also be allowed that neither Louis or Holmes were at their best, like Barkley was against Duran.
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Old 03-22-2010, 03:44 PM   #6
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Default Re: Spinks in victory or Conn in defeat?

Spinks going from 170 pounds in June of '85 from his last fight there against Jim McDonald to a solid 200 pounds by Sept. 1985 and to go 15 rds and out-box the sluggish but still formidable Larry Holmes, must be repsected and noted as a greater achievement than what Billy Conn did back in '41 with Joe Louis....... IMO!

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Old 03-22-2010, 03:46 PM   #7
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Default Re: Spinks in victory or Conn in defeat?

I have sympathy for Blackburn's claim concerning Billy's legs, and I also think the psychological impact can't be underestimated. It's speculation in this case, but even a fighter as tough and concentrated as Conn might begin to despise the back-foot after a dozen rounds of ceeding ground to a lethal stalker.
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Old 03-23-2010, 06:40 AM   #8
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Default Re: Spinks in victory or Conn in defeat?

And dont forget,constant stalking dangerous pressure can take a toll on a fighter. Look at hoya v trinidad.
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Old 03-23-2010, 07:32 AM   #9
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Default Re: Spinks in victory or Conn in defeat?

I think Spinks would have failed against Joe Louis and quicker than Conn who had fast hand and feet. M.S. may have lasted a few rds but He could not run nor hide vs the Great Brown bomber...I see a quick victory for Louis over Spinks 1-4 rds
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Old 03-23-2010, 03:43 PM   #10
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Default Re: Spinks in victory or Conn in defeat?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bummy Davis View Post
I think Spinks would have failed against Joe Louis and quicker than Conn who had fast hand and feet. M.S. may have lasted a few rds but He could not run nor hide vs the Great Brown bomber...I see a quick victory for Louis over Spinks 1-4 rds
I also don't want to say with confidence that Conn could take an old but still unbeaten Holmes - the Irish thickness could still become a problem, and those right hands were still nasty, if telegraphed (and in direct terms, we're talking about a nearly fifty pound gap) - but I certainly think with his form in the first several rounds against Joe he'd have a very good shot.
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