...if we compare either the fight itself or each of the two men [PBF and De La Hoya] involved with the glory days of pugilist masters like Ray Robinson and the almost unbelievable fights he had, we are going way too far with the hype… Look at the facts, Robinson had over two
hundred fights as a pro - over twice as many as both Oscar and Floyd combined. And Ray was never once legitimately KO’d. Fighters were just tougher back in Robbie’s day. It’s that simple
I believe, in my prime, I could have fought with anybody alive.
Let’s use Rocky as the subject example, though any number of other great old school fighters could be used.
Gosh I loved Rocky Marciano for any number of reasons not the least of which is that he was from my era and my generation. He was pure old school and so am I—but not to the point of naivety. Now some fighters just plain entered the ring with bad intentions; their very appearance evoking fear. The Rock was one of them. He took away his opponent’s heart and soul little by little, piece by piece. Like Joe Frazier (and like what someone else recently called him), the Rock was a "truth telling machine." That he was an Italian didn’t hurt much either. I also thought his skills were greatly underestimated. He was savvy fighter who did what he had to do against everyone they put in from of him. After all, 49-0 is a perfect record.
Sure, looking through the prism of nostalgia makes everything seem better and I like to play out old school memories just like other old timers. However, and this is the rub, I also try to be thoughtful and objective when making comparisons between the past and the present–and that’s where the issue of old school prejudice comes in (some call it "era" or "generational" prejudice). That’s why comparisons between The Rock and modern fighters are a tricky endeavor.
Should Marciano be compared to more recent heavyweights in the mold of Ali, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Lennox Lewis, or Wladimir Klitschko? Maybe even a prime Riddick Bowe? In my opinion, the answer is manifestly no. He simply was not big enough, though he likely would have beaten his fair share of big fighters. Instead of comparing him against fighters who stood 6"--9" taller and outweighed him by 40-70 pounds, how about comparing him to cruiserweights on a relative basis? After all, Rocky fought at a disciplined 183-188 for the most part which places him in the middle of the cruiserweight limit. In fact, many of today’s cruiserweights would outweigh the Brockton Blockbuster since the original top limit was raised from 190 lbs to 200 lbs in 2003.
Thus, looking back, how would he have done against guys like Marvin Camel, Lee Roy Murphy, Carlos Deleon, Dwight Braxton, Michael Moorer, Ralf Rocchigiani, Bobby Czyz, Orlin Norris, Fabrice Tiozzo, Johnny Nelson, Ricky Parkey, Vassily Jirov, Virgil Hill, and James Toney? Perhaps the best matches would have been against Evander Holyfield (when he was a cruiserweight champion) and a prime Dariuz Michalczewski.
More recently, how would he compare to the following who fight (or fought) at Cruiserweight (175-200 lb (90.72 kg)?
Tomasz Adamek, David Haye, Firat Arsian, Vadim Tokarev, Jean Marc Mormeck, Marco Huck, Denis Ledbedev, Steve Cunningham, Zsolt Erdei, Alexander Frenkel, Krzysztof Wlodarczyk, Johnathon Banks, Ola Alafoabi, BJ Flores, Valery Brudov, Wayne Braithwaite, Guillermo Jones, Giacobbe Fragomeni...
Yes, he did starch Archie Moore when both weighed 188. And he did beat his share of guys over 200 pounds, including Don Cockell, Lee Savold, Joe Louis, Bill Wilson, James Patrick Connolly, and Humphrey Jackson. The fact is, however, Rocky was a small heavyweight, and when I compare him to the top cruiserweights, I am comparing apples to apples except for the difference in era. The task is to engage facts before nostalgia. The lesson is to take into account all essential variables when making comparisons between old and modern. Variable such as number of fights, era (for example, the 70‘s were a great time for heavyweights and the 80‘s for mid-weights), stamina, training techniques and methodology, records, style, chin, KO percentages, skill-sets, entire body of work, quality of opposition, management, punch output, etc. When this is done, myth is stripped away from facts. When this is done, you are not engaging in old school or generational prejudice bias.
Of course, I must confess that when I do this; Rocky Marciano quickly becomes the greatest cruiserweight in history.