By Jim Amato: It is usually a given that all boxers should be respected just for their mere courage to step into a boxing ring. To do battle on presumably equal terms with another human being. Yet as all doctors and lawyers are respected for their knowledge. Some are more revered then others. The same holds true for boxers.Admiration For the talents of say Muhammad Ali or Sugar Ray Robinson comes easily. These men were blessed with the extraordinary ability to humble other men in the ring. So to is it easy to have a less then healthy respect for the lower echelon fighters. The one’s who serve as mere opponents to inflate another boxers record. “Tomato cans” is the term used in the business to describe these less then fortunate of fisticuffs.
Each one of us has the indisputable right to determine the critique of our own heroes. I admit to have chosen mine in the land between the seemingly industructable champions and the lowly tomato cans. A preference that leans toward the near champions and the fringe contenders. The hearty battlers who came so close but yet so far from attaining their goal of becoming a champion. They were left with memories of crushing defeats etched on their scar tissued faces and thoughts of what could have been.
In boxing you will see the names of those who were past champions in the record books. What about the boxers who fought the ones we hold in such high esteem ? Pugilists who appear in the record books as just an opponent to the elite. It is very concieveable that more then a few of these past pursuers of glory may have attained the moniker of “champion” if they would be competing today.
I would like to reflect back to the names of boxers who fell just short of their quest. Men whose soul and courage were bared for all to see on blood stained canvas. They rose from the ashes of defeat time and time again to resurect their careers only in the end to fall and remain in the ashes forever. Hopefully this may be a comeback of sorts for the boxers I’m about to mention. One more chance for them to come out swinging in our memories.
So here is to Jerry Quarry and George Chuvalo. To Yaqui Lopez,Bennie Briscoe and Armando Muniz too. To Earnie Shavers, Tex Cobb,Ron Lyle,Ernie Lopez and Clyde Gray. These ten boxers and several others like them endeared me to sport even more then the past champions. They are truly champions in my mind.