When dealing with sports, there are current greats and all-time greats. You have to do something special in professional prizefighting in order to be considered for the latter group, though a fighter’s classification is based on a number of factors. How many other greats did he fight -- and beat? How many titles did he win? To what heights did his popularity reach? Did he impact the sport?
We sometimes come across boxers who can truly be considered great, but fans and especially media tend to go overboard with the praise. Sometimes a fighter’s legacy and in-ring achievements are blown out of proportion; and when all is said and done, when the resume is seen through an objective lens, it becomes clear that may all the fuss surrounding someone was a little over the top.
Sherdog.com has compiled a list of the 10 most overrated fighters in boxing history. They appear on this list for various reasons, but there remains one common denominator: The admiration and deification surrounding them is ridiculous:
10. Zab Judah
Judah was promoted as “Sweet Pea with a punch” early in his career, drawing comparisons to the great Pernell Whitaker. Judah had it all when he burst onto the junior welterweight scene in the late 1990s and labeled an all-time great in the making. Unfortunately, Judah’s career never panned out the way he and so many of his followers expected. Even after he was exposed as more style than substance, Judah still commanded a ton of respect -- too much respect -- from the so-called experts within boxing. It was not until the losses began to pile up that his devotees finally realized Judah might not have been as great as his hype. He perennially lost the biggest bouts of his career because he either did not train as hard as he should have or never came into a fight with a Plan B. He relied on his crushing punching power and nothing else. It did not help that he also had a suspect chin. Like B.J. Penn in MMA, Judah’s skills were unquestioned, but his lack of desire and weak work ethic curtailed his efforts. Judah should have had an astonishing run, but he continually shot himself in the foot. By the time his attitude finally improved, his skills were already diminished. Judah is one of boxing’s all-time should-have-beens.
9. Max Baer
When Baer was at his best, many of our fathers had not yet been born. He was vilified in the brilliant movie “Cinderella Man,” and though he achieved quite a bit inside the ring, Baer was nowhere near as good as some would have us believe. Maybe it was because he killed two men in the ring -- tragedies that subconsciously forced him to change his style -- but in reality, Baer was simply a solid, unspectacular fighter. When you speak to older gents who consider themselves boxing historians, they are more likely than not to describe Baer as a seemingly indestructible terminator; and you would think he lost only once -- to James Braddock. The truth is that Baer lost often and usually to guys he should have beaten. Yes, Baer was an important figure in the history of boxing, but the man we have come to know has been stretched by romantics.
8. Sergio Martinez
Can you remember a time when Martinez was considered a solid pro who would give some elite-level fighters trouble? Martinez was always a good fighter who either beat up mid-level guys or lost to the best. It was not until he flattened Paul Williams with a single left hook in their rematch that he suddenly became a pound-for-pound entrant. Williams was thought to be the biggest threat to Floyd Mayweather Jr., until the Argentinean leveled him. Martinez’s punching power went from solid to inhuman overnight, and the so-called experts were clamoring for him to knock out Mayweather, Bernard Hopkins and Andre Ward. His tricky style would give everybody fits, they said, and he was a sure-fire hall of famer. These projections, of course, all occurred while the world collectively watched him struggle against unheralded blokes like Serhiy Dzinziruk, Darren Barker, Matthew Macklin and Martin Murray. Yes, he scored a good win over Kelly Pavlik and took care of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., but the second he locked horns with an elite fighter in Miguel Cotto, he got obliterated. Suddenly, according to experts, Martinez was past his prime. Funny how that works.
7. Shane Mosley
“Sugar” was awesome in his prime. At lightweight, he was a monster who tore apart everybody, but when he moved up to welterweight and toppled Oscar de la Hoya, he was immediately hailed as a hall-of-fame lock. Ring Magazine dubbed him a perfect fighter, one without flaw, but many saw some holes in his game and correctly predicted that Vernon Forrest would defeat him. When the Pomona, Calif., native dropped his rematch with the “The Viper,” he was never the same and never quite lived up to the unfathomable expectations that had been set for him. Post-Forrest Mosley scored some good wins, but the losses are what stand out the most. He twice lost to feather-fisted Winky Wright, struggled mightily against journeymen David Estrada and Jose Luis Cruz and could not put away Luis Collazo. Yes, he scored wins over Fernando Vargas -- who was totally shot at the time -- and beat up Antonio Margarito after he was exposed as a cheater with loaded gloves, but he also got his rear end handed to him by Mayweather, Miguel Cotto and Saul Alvarez. Mosley’s only real claim to fame remains a sensational win over De la Hoya at his best.
6. Hector Camacho
Remember when Camacho was the flashiest guy in the sport? He had all sorts of dazzling fight outfits, showboated around the ring, talked trash and then tore up his opposition. That was before “Macho” Camacho scored what became the most significant victory of his career in a fight that changed the way he fought forever. Camacho faced fellow Puerto Rican Edwin Rosario in Madison Square Garden, and, by all accounts, it was a memorable night of action. In the HBO-televised fight, “Macho” was badly hurt by vicious “Chapo” left hooks in the fifth and 11th rounds. Camacho survived to win a split decision, but he was never the same fighter moving forward. He toppled a fading Cornelius Boza-Edwards, Ray Mancini and the overrated-but-entertaining Vinny Pazienza, and he split bouts with Greg Haugen. From there, he littered his resume with wins over dozens of unknown fighters like Tommy Hanks, Eddie VanKirk, Erik Podolak, Rusty Derouen and others. When Camacho finally stepped up and fought elite-level men in their prime -- Julio Cesar Chavez, Felix Trinidad and Oscar de la Hoya -- he was embarrassed. In the end, Camacho’s legacy was built almost solely on his pre-Rosario exploits. He always was a sensational boxer, but he was not opposed to brawling when the need arose. However, after he met Rosario, Camacho became a safety-first boxer who routinely stunk up the joint when he fought. He remained one of the sport’s most popular fighters into the early 2000s but for no other reason than his previous life as a terrific, flashy fighter some two decades before.
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