MMA Fighters & Boxing Counterparts: Part 3

Minotauro and Cro Cop

By Jason Probst Oct 10, 2008
In this three-part series,’s Jason Probst takes a closer look at some mixed martial arts athletes and those in the Sweet Science with whom they share notable traits. Part three features interim UFC heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, EliteXC welterweight titleholder Jake Shields and former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Brock Lesnar, among others.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira = Kid Gavilan

One of the top 10 welterweights of all-time, Kid Gavilan combined stamina, a high work rate and cast-iron chin to outwork his opponents. At his peak, he was virtually impossible to discourage, especially in a fast-paced bout. He beat a slew of top fighters in his career, including Ike Williams, Carmen Basilio, Billy Graham and Beau Jack, as well as several top welterweight and middleweight contenders. With his signature “Bolo” punch, he also had a trademark move that appealed to fans.

Gavilan’s problem was that he came along at the same time as Ray Robinson, which was kind of like following The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. Though Gavilan was competitive in two bouts with the Robinson, he lost both by decision, including one for Robinson’s welterweight belt.

After Robinson moved to middleweight, Gavilan captured the welterweight crown and enjoyed an impressive reign, registering seven defenses before abdicating the title and making a failed attempt at the middleweight belt against Bobo Olson. He probably fought in as many televised bouts in the 1950s as anyone.

Nogueira’s Ray Robinson is Fedor Emelianenko. In three bouts -- one of which was aborted as a no-contest after scant action -- he’s been beaten handily twice by the Russian. No matter what Nogueira does as the UFC champion, there will always be a shadow hanging over his title until the UFC signs Emelianenko and allows the two men to get it on again. As unlikely as that appears, it’s even more unlikely Emelianenko would find less success in a cage. Some guys just have your number.

Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic = Wladimir Klitschko

Physical gifts make a big difference in fight sports, but the mentality of a fighter often makes the difference in how readily they are applied. In the case of both of these men, there’s no question they’re head and shoulders above their peers when it comes to delivering a fight-changing blow.

Blessed with a 6-foot-6 frame and quick hands, Klitschko is probably the most offensively gifted heavyweight since an in-his-prime Mike Tyson. He does things that long-armed heavies simply have not done -- double left hooks that stun foes and blinding counterpunches that score head-spinning knockdowns and knockouts. Yet his career arc consistently hits flat spots when you think he’s finally putting it all together, and he either loses or performs in uninspiring fashion. For a boxing fan, it’s enough to drive you crazy, considering the tools he has.

Filipovic, once a feared Pride Fighting Championships heavyweight, seems to suffer from the same lack of fire. Since moving to the UFC in 2007, he’s lost two of three bouts, as well as a no-contest against Alistair Overeem in Japan, during which he seemed uninterested in the stakes at hand.

It’s a stark departure from the path of destruction he blazed in destroying Hidehiko Yoshida, Josh Barnett and Wanderlei Silva on the same night before coming stateside. Both Cro Cop and Klitschko have the physical tools to be dominant on a given night -- but sometimes they look like they’d rather be punching a clock somewhere instead of the guy in front them.
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