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Old 11-26-2012, 06:34 AM   #211
Unforgiven
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Default Re: Is it feasible to rank Wills over Dempsey in an ATG list?

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Originally Posted by McGrain View Post
Is anyone, ever? There's always someone else out there and most especially when the latest is being touted. Nobody was talking about Wills in the run up to Dempsey-Carpantier for example. It doesn't mean he was a more worthy challenger.
And, in the absence of 'official' regularly-published and respected lists that clearly designate the "number 1", the perception of the people around is just about everything.
(and even in the age of 1 - 10 ratings they often 'follow' what is being touted anyway.)

We can look from 2012 and reckon Wills was almost certainly the most worthy man out there in 1921, but if the numbers of people out there who actually knew or thought that at the time is open to doubt, then we're just super-imposing a concept back in time.
Which is fair enough. But it's also fair to recognize the context.
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Old 11-26-2012, 06:44 AM   #212
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Default Re: Is it feasible to rank Wills over Dempsey in an ATG list?

I agree with you. There will be a rabble of articles announcing worthy challengers, most frequently the man about to step up (Firpo was worked especially hard, but Carpantier was maybe the best PR gig of all time? The newspapers made him a betting favourite ). What's extraordinary about Wills is i've seen newspaper articels in '19 singling him out as the only fighter to trouble Dempsey and articles in '26 suggesting the same (wrongly, it is worth recognising). That's extroardinary, and all the more for a black contender who - let's face it - tread water in 1923 like he might actually drown if he stopped.

It's his holding on to that top spot in-spite of the racial climate and in-spite of often less than stellar work in the ring (and he did take on Langford, Firpo and Norfolk during Dempsey's reign, all of whom would have rested easy as Dempsey challengers) he was regarded as the #1 contender (or whatever) by many right after the Willard fight and right before the Tunney fight.

But if your point is that he wasn't universally recognised as the number 1 contender for all 85 months of the Dempsey reign i'd have to agree with that. That would have been an absolutely ludicrous achievement though.

Wills is ranked as generally being recognised as the #2 HW of the era by contemporaries and is recognised now as having the #1 resume for '16-'26 by many retrospectively. I personally think the second point more debatable than the first these days.

I mean if you were going to add one fighter to Dempsey's resume between '19 and '25, it wouldn't be anyone else.
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Old 11-26-2012, 07:01 AM   #213
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Default Re: Is it feasible to rank Wills over Dempsey in an ATG list?

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Originally Posted by McGrain View Post
But if your point is that he wasn't universally recognised as the number 1 contender for all 85 months of the Dempsey reign i'd have to agree with that. That would have been an absolutely ludicrous achievement though.
True.
I suppose my point would be that calling Wills "number 1 contender for Dempsey's whole reign" needs to be seen in context.
It's not as if Dempsey, Kearns, Rickard, Wills, Paddy Mullins, and every boxing fan and fighter and manager in the world was waking up to articles or published lists that had "Harry Wills, number 1 contender" stamped all over them for 7 years. It's not clear that the community was thinking clearly like that.
It's clear that such a situation did arise later on though, The Ring being consistent through 1924 to '26, and the NY commission being far less consistent.

I say this not to exonerate Dempsey & co. but to contrast with later eras, where fans, managers, fighters and promoters DID cling to "ratings" lists and where the business was supposed to be dictated more so by them.
Where Dempsey and all boxing fans could be looking at 80 months of "1.Harry Wills" and knowing full well what it meant.


Quote:
Wills is ranked as generally being recognised as the #2 HW of the era by contemporaries and is recognised now as having the #1 resume for '16-'26 by many retrospectively. I personally think the second point more debatable than the first these days.

I mean if you were going to add one fighter to Dempsey's resume between '19 and '25, it wouldn't be anyone else.
Absolutely.
Possibly the biggest fight that didn't happen.
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Old 11-26-2012, 07:18 AM   #214
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Default Re: Is it feasible to rank Wills over Dempsey in an ATG list?

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True.
I suppose my point would be that calling Wills "number 1 contender for Dempsey's whole reign" needs to be seen in context.
I agree wholeheartedly. There were unquestionably times where it wouldn't have been the case in the eyes of some, or even many. It's a lazy thing to say but I say it myself. Reason being it, for the most part would be true.

And I have to say that the disasters with Tate was the real test. A lazy eye will also tell you that after those fights, Wills may have been relegated - what's interesting is that it seems not to have been true, for the most part. Again, we don't have access to every fountain of opinion and there likley would have been many to the contrary, but most of the articles i've seen post-Tate still have Wills as the most likley challeneger, for want of a better phrase. His status was rightly or wrongly as established as Demspey's was as champion. That's an extraordinary thing to be able to say and in a way it is the single most comforting thing as regards understanding his pace in that world.

Speaking personally, I'd describe Wills as the most denied challenger in the sport's history regardless of the specific and fluctuating detail. There are some other contenders for that questionable honour but i'm comfortable with that pick overall.

I will admit that it does influence my view of Dempsey's place in history, but i'd stress it doesn't influence my view of his exceptional gifts as a fighter. You could make a case for his being the best ever in his weight range, whatever that is worth.
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Old 11-26-2012, 12:25 PM   #215
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Default Re: Is it feasible to rank Wills over Dempsey in an ATG list?

Yeah for example firpo was a very worthy contender. As was gibbons. Dempsey himself became a more worthy contender than wills by destroying Fulton.

The main point isn't his consistency as a top he, it's his status within that timeframe and his achievements and resume in comparison to jack Dempsey.
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Old 11-26-2012, 12:37 PM   #216
edward morbius
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Default Re: Is it feasible to rank Wills over Dempsey in an ATG list?

The Ring Magazine did put out ratings (done, I believe, by Rickard) starting in 1924. The ratings were just one to ten.

1924

1--Dempsey
2--Wills
3--Gibbons

1925

1--Dempsey
2--Wills
3--Tunney

This certainly backs up that Wills would have been considered the top challenger from 1919 to 1926 most of the time. Carpentier was hyped. He was a super-middleweight. A case could be made for Firpo supplanting Wills for a few months in 1923 after a streak of impressive wins. But Firpo immediately got his shot at the title.

Time Magazine 4-23-1923

"It is generally accepted opinion that Harry Wills is the only man in the game who can stand at Dempsey's level. There is vague talk of a fight between the two at the Polo Grounds on Labor Day."

In all the articles I have read, starting with Dempsey drawing the color line in 1919, to the day of the Tunney fight, Wills is always the first listed challenger. Always. Whoever else comes and goes--Fulton, Carpentier, Willard, Firpo, Renault, Gibbons, Godfrey, Weinert, Tunney--Wills is listed first.
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