Noteworthy Heavyweight Boxing History Crumbles
Editorial By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent
Disclaimer: *These are the opinions of Robert Brizel and not Real Combat Media or any of its members…
Sometimes it is the bout, the final bout, a sequence of bouts, or just plain a promising fighter whose career suddenly, abruptly or gradually crumbles. Much like a cookie crumbles, heavyweight crumbles are more legendary for their notoriety.
Heavyweight Crumble Number One: Jorge Luis Gonzalez. A former Cuban two-time national amateur champion, Gonzales reached American shores and went 23-0 as a pro. He had Riddick Bowe on the canvas before crumbling in the sixth round. His career never recovered, recovering eight wins and eight losses in his final 16 bouts. First round knockout losses to Michael Grant and Derek Bryant sealed his fate. The cookie completely crumbled.
Heavyweight Crumble Number Two: Tyrell Biggs. A 1984 Super Heavyweight Olympic Gold Medalist in Los Angeles, Biggs started his career 15-0. Biggs fell to the canvas twice against Mike Tyson in the seventh round and crumbled. Biggs went 15-10 in his last 25 pro bouts. A second round loss to contender Larry Donald sealed his fate.
Heavyweight Crumble Number Three: Evander Holyfield, Once known as “The Real Deal”, Holyfield became a “Raw Deal” when he was knocked out in the first round of an exhibition against MMA fighter Vitor Belfort. A late substitute for Oscar De La Hoya, Holyfield, an old man, crumbled quickly, and it was not pretty to watch his demise.
Heavyweight Crumble Number Four: Joe Louis. “The Brown Bomber”, washed up and without a functioning left hand lead, attempted to fight Rocky Marciano southpaw and used a right jab for seven and a half rounds effectively. Louis then got tired, and because he never knew how to hold, got dropped twice by Marciano, and got knocked out.
Heavyweight Crumble Number Five: Neon Leon Spinks. The 1976 Olympic Gold Medalist in Montreal at 178 pounds, Leon opened his career with seven wins and a draw before defeating Muhammad Ali. Leon lost a televised rematch to Ali, and went 19-17-2 over his remaining 37 pro bouts. First round knockout losses to Gerrie Coetzee, Jose Ribalta, Tony Morrison, and John Carlo (in his pro debut) should have convinced Leon to try another profession. Leon briefly tried going down to cruiserweight before returning back to heavyweight. Leon’s personality was considered likeable, but his boxing skills were limited.
Heavyweight Crumble Number Six: Floyd Patterson. The 1952 Middleweight Olympic Gold Medalist at Helsinki, Finland, Patterson is unfortunately still remembered for his two first round losses to Charles “Sonny” Liston, rather than his world heavyweight title bouts.
Heavyweight Crumble Number Seven: Tommy “The Duke” Morrison. Whether or not Morrison actually had HIV/AIDS or not, and died of it or not, remains a contention in ongoing lawsuit dispute by his widow. Troubles with the law and substance abuse problems plagued Morrison for years, though he did win a few comeback bouts years past his prime.
Heavyweight Crumble Number Seven: Irish Jerry Quarry. “The Great White Hope” of his era, everybody liked Jerry, who never got over his two losses to Muhammad Ali. Nine years after his last bout, Quarry attempted a comeback, and far from former self, lost a six round decision to 3-4-1 Ron Cranmer. Health problems preceded his premature passing.
Heavyweight Crumble Number Eight: Primo Carnera. “The Ambling Alp” of Italy lost his last three bouts to unknown Luigi Messina, failing in all three pathetic comeback attempts.
Heavyweight Crumble Number Nine: Riddick Bowe. In 2013, “Big Daddy” Bowe lost by second round knockout in his 2013 Thailand kickboxing debut to Russian Levgen Golovin.
Heavyweight Crumble Number Ten: Trevor Berbick. Trevor, a former world champion who lived in Halifax, Canada for many years, decisioned Muhammad Ali over 10 rounds and ended Ali’s career in “The Drama in the Bahamas” in 1982. Berbick retired in 2000 as Canadian champion, due to a brain clot but was training young fighters. Berbick was murdered by nephew Harold Berbick in 2006 in a Jamaican in a family land dispute.
Honorable Mention: Oscar “Ringo” Bonavena. Oscar made it into the fifteenth round against Muhammad Ali, but his life ended at The Mustang Whorehouse Ranch in Reno, Nevada in May 1976, murdered by a security guard in a lover’s triangle. Bonavena’s manager, Sally Conforte, was the wife of the owner of the ranch, Joe Conforte. Bonavena, like the late middleweight champion Carlos Monzon, is buried in his native Argentina.
Honorable Mention: Sonny Liston. Murdered in Las Vegas, his wife denied drugs were involved. Sonny’s true age was never a certainty. Bouts attested to a “Sailor” Liston in the 1930s could have been Sonny, who spent much of his life in prison. Clifford Etienne, a once promising contender known as “The Black Rhino”, who won 29 pro bouts but who lost to Mike Tyson in the first round, is serving a 105 years sentence in Louisiana for a cocaine-filled crime spree which included robbing a check cashing business, carjacking, and attempted murder for attempting to shoot a police officer. A talented prison artist, Etienne also serves as the prison barber at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center. “When I’m painting, I’m not even in prison. I’m in a world of my own,” notes Etienne. Originally sentenced to 160 years in prison, Etienne’s sentence was reduced to 105 years on a technicality.
Honorable Mention: Andrew Golota. Andrew’s two disqualification losses to Riddick Bowe, including the 1996 Madison Square Garden televised brawl, make Golota a legendary crumble, especially for his first round titular loss to Lennox Lewis afterwards.
Golota, who drew with Chris Byrd and lost a decision to John Ruiz in world title bouts, also lost to Lamon Brewster in the first round, was a strange fighter but memorable.