With a final slate of 48 -2 with 38 KOs, "The Tiger" accomplished much in his career, but will it be enough to get him into the Hall this year? Let’s review his body of work.
Dariusz Michalczewski first took to the ring at age 12. He came up through Poland’s Government-run sports program and had a very successful career before turning professional in 1991. His record was 133-15-2 with 83 KOs. Among his many amateur honors, he won the:
1986 European Junior Championships: Middleweight (3rd Place) 1989 European Championships: Light Heavyweight (2nd Place) 1990 German Championships: Light Heavyweight (1st Place) 1991 European Championships: Light Heavyweight (1st Place)
In the professional ranks, he soon demonstrated that he possessed the tools and skills to go all the way. His power was matched by a strong chin. Always in top shape, he had great stamina and maintained superb fight-plan discipline and focus throughout his bouts. While he could have been a tad faster, he was a complete fighter with an overall skill level at the top tier.
In 1992, he beat tough Sean Mannion, 39-12-1, in Hamburg by third round TKO. This was an extremely impressive feat for someone in only his fifth fight and a harbinger of things to come. The tough Mannion had gone 15 with Mike McCallum and had beaten some top level people like Rocky Fratto, In Chul Baek and Fred "The Pumper" Hutchings.
The following year he beat Ali Saidi for the German International Light Heavyweight Title, the first of many belts he would garner. Just three months later, he stopped Noel Magee, 23-4-2 coming in, in the eighth round. This was for the Vacant IBF Inter-Continental Light Heavyweight Title. Later that same year, he won his third belt, the IBF Inter-Continental Light Heavyweight Title, with a 10th round KO of Mwehu Beya, 27-4-4 at the time. 1993 had been a good year for The Tiger.
These victories positioned him for a 1994 fight with rugged Leeonzer Barber, 19-1 (and out of Detroit). This fight would be for the WBO Light Heavyweight Title. Dariusz seized the opportunity and won the crown with a convincing UD. Finally, he was a world champion and he had earned it the hard way.
Three months later, he won the WBO Cruiserweight Title by defeating Nestor Hipolito Giovannini (36-7-3 at the time) by a decisive 10th round knockout. He quickly gave up that title so he could continue to campaign as a light heavyweight.
The Tiger had now won five belts and was undefeated at 24 -0 with 19 KOs. If he had retired at that point, it would have been a noteworthy career, but it was just the beginning of what would be a streak of truly remarkable accomplishments.
After the Giovannini fight, Michalczewski went on to make 23 successful defenses of his WBO title and along the way picked up three more belts! In June 1997, he gained worldwide recognition as a top light heavyweight when he defeated the very capable Virgil Hill in 12 tough rounds. In so doing, he added Hill’s WBA and IBF titles to his cache, but the WBA, in typically despicable behavior, stripped him for displaying its belt along with that of the WBO, an organization it didn’t recognize.
Around this same time, Roy Jones Jr. was collecting his own supply of world title belts, and fans began to make noise for the two to meet one another in the ring, but it never happened. Both preferred fighting in their own respective countries and, based on Roy’s bile-inducing experience during the 1988 Olympics in Korea, few could blame him for avoiding a potential repeat. Still, it remains a shame that a fight in a neutral location could not be made. Both talked the talk but not convincingly. Despite halfhearted calls from both sides of the ocean to make the superfight, neither man was willing to concede, even to reasonable terms.
During the aforementioned streak of 23 title defenses, The Tiger beat tough Graciano "Rocky" Rocchigiani twice, once by TKO. He also stopped Jamaican bomber Richard Hall on two occasions as well as Montel Griffith (a two-time victor over James Toney). His last career win was a hard-earned KO over Derrick Harmon, 23-3, but it may have taken something out of him.
He was then scheduled to fight Julio Cesar Gonzalez, then 34-1, who I witnessed win an incredible closet classic over the late Julian "Mr. KO" Letterlough with both fighters down more than once. Curiously, the tough Mexican’s only loss up to this point had been to Roy Jones in a UD in 2001. That fight had been for the WBC Light Heavyweight Title, WBA Light Heavyweight Title, IBF Light Heavyweight Title, IBO Light Heavyweight Title, WBF Light Heavyweight Title, IBA Light Heavyweight Title and the NBA Light Heavyweight Title. Talk about insanity in Boxing!
The Gonzalez fight was held on Oct. 18, 2003 in Germany (where all but two of The Tiger’s bouts had been held.) Though Michalczewski was a prohibitive favorite, Julio snatched a split decision victory. The American judge ruled it 116-112 and the Canadian 115-113 for Gonzalez. Predictably, the German judge gave it to Michalczewski 115-113. But to the Tiger’s credit, there was no argument from his camp. It was Dariusz’s first defeat in 49 outings. Absorbing The Tiger’s best shots, the Mexican fighter landed his own uppercuts against the 35-year-old Pole. "I listened to my corner and I fought like a Mexican," Gonzalez said. Clearly, it had been enough to pull off this shocker.
A few months after having been stopped decisively by France’s Fabrice Tiozzo, 46-2, for the WBA light-heavyweight title on in 2005 in Hamburg, Michalczewski announced his retirement. Ironically, he had beaten Tiozzo in the amateurs but this time around, the Frenchman had his way.
Despite the two losses, he still holds the record for the most consecutive successful title defenses at light heavyweight. While he drew criticism for rarely fighting outside Germany, and also for never facing Jones, he was a huge draw in Germany which begs the question: why fight elsewhere if you can make a fortune in the friendly confines of an adopted country in which you have become a legend? After all, the Klitschko brothers have done pretty well following the same model. As for the Jones’ criticism, it takes two to tango.
Going undefeated for the first 12 years of his professional career a, a record 23 consecutive title defenses, winner of seven different title belts, 48 straight victories out of the gate, a final record of 48-2, a 76% knockout percentage, and consistently impressive wins over solid competition are strong credentials. The only weakness may be that the level of opposition could have been stronger.
Still, he also was the only fighter in the world at 175 pounds who people gave much of a chance to beat a prime Roy Jones Jr. That would seem to be enough for serious consideration into a Hall of Fame that’s starts with the word "International."
I like his chances, but more importantly, what do you think?
As a sidebar, he has a foundation called "Equal Chances" which stands up for underprivileged youngsters who resort to violence and tries to get them involved in sports. Dariusz Michalczewski is one of boxing’s good guys