Do Good Fighter’s Usually Make Good Champions?

By Ken Hissner - 02/19/2024 - Comments

In mentioning two good fighters who were not so good as champions, first, there is Jack “Galveston Giant” Johnson, who was Ring Magazine’s all-time best heavyweight by editor Nat Fleisher. He was born in Galveston, Texas, fighting out of Raleigh, North Carolina.

6’0 ½” Johnson, 46-5-8, beat 5’07” Tommy Burns, 43-3-8, for the title in December 1908 in Australia, where Burns was from. Bout was halted by police after 14 rounds of a scheduled 20 rounds.

Johnson made three non-title bouts in 1909, first drawing with Light Heavyweight champion “Philadelphia” Jack O’ Brien, 144-11-23, then defeating Troy Ross, 12-8-4, and Al Kauffman, 19-1.

Then he made his first title defense, knocking out Middleweight champion Stanley “The Michigan Assassin” Ketchel, 48-4-3, in 12 rounds, having been knocked down by Ketchel in the first round in October 1909.

In Johnson’s second defense, he stopped former champion James “The Boilermaker” J. Jeffries, 19-0-2, in 15 rounds in July 1910, who hadn’t fought in three years.

Not fighting for two years, Johnson returned to the ring in July 2012, defending against “Fireman” Jim Flynn, 59-15-20, winning by DQ in 9 rounds.

In December 1913, Johnson, who had drawn the “colored line” like white boxers, refused to fight black boxers and finally went to Paris, France, and drew in 20 rounds with the No. 7 ranked colored contender “Battling” Jim Johnson, 28-10-5.

In June of 1914, in a title defense, Johnson defeated Frank “The Pittsburgh Dentist” Moran, 27-9-5, after 20 rounds. In his sixth and final defense in April of 1915, he was knocked out in 26 rounds by 6’6 ½” Jess “Pottawatomie Giant” Willard, 22-5-2, in Havana, Cuba. He ended up 54-11-8 with 34 stoppages.

In comparing Johnson to 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist Anthony “AJ” Joshua, of Watford, UK, who in April of 2016 won the IBF heavyweight title, knocking out “Prince” Charles Martin, 23-0-1, in London, UK, we find another good fighter and a not so good champion.

Joshua made six defenses, stopping Dominic “Trouble” Breazeale, 17-0, stopping Eric “Drummer Boy” Molina, 25-3, coming off the canvas in the sixth round, stopping former champion and 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist WBA and IBO champion Wladimir “Dr. Steelhammer” Klitschko, 64-4, in 11 rounds.

In Joshua’s fourth defense, he stopped Carlos Takam, 35-3-1, in 10 rounds. In one of the dullest heavyweight title fights I ever saw, Joshua defeated WBO champion Joseph Parker 24-0. In his fifth defense, he stopped 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Alexander “Russian Vityaz” Povetkin, 34-1.

In Joshua’s sixth defense, he was stopped by Andy “Destroyer” Ruiz, 32-1, in seven rounds in June of 2019. He won the rematch by decision. Then knocked out Kubrat “The Cobra” Pulev, 28-1, in nine rounds.

Joshua then suffered back-to-back losses to IBF, WBA, WBO, and WBC Cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, 18-0. He is now 27-3 with 24 stoppages.

There you have both Johnson and Joshua, who are good examples of good fighters but not so good a champion.

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