A few weeks ago here at NYF's, we presented a feature titled: “The Throwback vs. The Modern Boxer: Do They Make Em Like They Used To?” It is excellence personified and a testament to the level of talent we've assembled on this site. I found no way to disagree with any of the commentary from my peers, and had I appeared in that piece, I probably would've made the youngin's of today “Go get me a switch!” (as my Mom used to say), before commencing to give them a little more business after getting their asses belted by our staff.
Today's fighter at the world class and/or elite level is deceptive to the eye; much in the same way that a great NBA player of today is as compared to an NBA legend from the 80's. Those guys will lose the body building contest to today's players hands down; but let's talk about how many fundamental skills under a team concept we can dump out of their respective gym bags; if we do that, then the Old School obliterates the self-absorbed statistician totally in love with his narcissistic agent today.
The only thing we'd need to fix on the Magic Johnson's, Isiah Thomas's or Larry Bird's of the world, are those tight ass shorts they wore (absolutely awful, even as a kid watching I knew that), but beyond that, they would shut down most of these guys today, strictly on the basics alone. Analogous to the NFL, look no further than your current Superbowl champion New England Patriots in that regard; who basically took an old school roster of 80's ilk New York Giants, and ran roughshod over a Los Angeles Rams team that was supposed to be a modern iteration of The Greatest Show on Turf– also beaten by old school Patriots in 2002.
There are exceptions to any rule, and in that regard, certain individual players of today would be transcendent talents in any era. They would not only cause problems, they would absolutely dominate. Can you imagine LeBron James emerging from a time machine and winding up in Bill Russell's era? King James would have turned him and the Celtics into peasants. And what about Kobe Bryant going one-on-one with Michael Jordan? The videotape doesn't lie: “The Black Mamba” was quicker, faster, smoother, more refined, infinitely more athletic and just as irascible as MJ on both ends of the court. Also, Kobe was a better pure shooter than Jordan virtually everywhere; and although he downloaded damn near every aspect of Michael into his being (besides the snake-like wagging tongue), he was still an upgrade over the original. But I'm not supposed to say that.
When it comes to fighters the same thing applies. Fighters today look better than fighters of yesteryear, but that's really as far as it goes. A few weeks ago now, Drake, Odell Beckham Jr., Meek Mill, Antonio Brown, Lil Wayne and Birdman showed up to see Gervonta “Tank” Davis face late replacement Hugo Ruiz at what used to be called the StubHub Center in LA. It took Muhammad Ali V Joe Frazier to get that type of star power into Madison Square Garden, otherwise, the “Old School” fighters weren't really going to spend much time occupied on cross star connections. Today, they're hanging out with each other after practice or studio sessions, showing the same type of commitment to their craft no different than Sylvester Stallone's HOF character did in Rocky III. You saw what happened to him when confronted with an old school bruiser in Clubber Lang, right?
He got his ass beat, by a guy who was really basic, as evidenced by what occurred when Rocky went back to being “Old School” (Daniel Oakes wassup man. Sorry for going Hiroshima and Nagasaki on you).
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On March 16, from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX — the home of the Dallas Cowboys, Texas native and IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. (24-0, 21KOs) will defend his title and rising star against four-division world champion and reigning WBC lightweight ruler Mikey Garcia (39-0, 30KOs), in a dream match-up of sorts.
During a wonderfully genuine interview with pure soul Cynthia Conte from RING TV, Spence was asked who he'd most like to face in a dream match-up. “I'd like to see what I could do with either Marvin Hagler or Sugar Ray Leonard,” responded ESJ, without much thought. After Cynthia went in on him by tongue-in-cheek suggesting he wouldn't last to an old school 14th round, Spence understood the moment with warmth– but still held firm.
“I know all the Old School boxing people are going to say, “Oh he said Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler! He would get knocked out!”, and this and that… But I could do it,” said a light hearted Spence.
Right away, it made me wonder what two options Garcia would've presented if posed with the same question, and I decided to hypothetically answer that for him without much hesitation. Considering where he's from in ring life and where he's going, an imaginative Mikey would say: “I'd like to see what I could do with Roberto Duran or Aaron Pryor.”
When the subject of Spence V Garcia was first discussed, my initial reaction to it was similar to most upon hearing about Oscar De La Hoya V Manny Pacquiao; something to the effect of– “What are they doing? Oscar's gonna kill him. In 2008, Oscar was considered a big Old School fighter facing a young, New School phenom in Manny. To demonstrate how blurred the line in the sand is when it comes to what actually constitutes an “Old School” fighter as opposed to one from a modern school of thought, both Pacquiao and De La Hoya are now considered fighters from the School of Hard Knocks. But that Pacquiao, coming from a 135lb pit stop like Garcia, humiliated and retired an old, dehydrated “Golden Boy” in eight one-sided rounds at 147.
GARCIA SURVIVES DURAN FOR A UD
I was one of the rare few who emphatically believed (as I passionately revealed to a disbelieving Kevin Iole from Yahoo Sports! at the time) that Manny would win rather easily. The only other significant bout (and perhaps the most significant of all-time) involving an all-time great making the leap from 135 to 147 over the last 40 years, is when Roberto Duran, the greatest lightweight ever, challenged the aforementioned Sugar Ray Leonard in June 1980, widely considered to rival Sugar Ray Robinson as the greatest welterweight of all-time. A man of otherworldly passion with a serial killer's desire in the ring, Duran rode an extreme disdain of Leonard to a 15 round decision victory.
The problem for Duran in such a fight with Mikey Garcia, is he would not have hated this upcoming edition of an underrated Mikey– a New School fighter I could definitely see on a black and white TV set. Decidedly more skilled and talented than an Esteban De Jesus that handed “Hands of Stone” his first loss– or an Edwin Viruet that nearly handed him another in those ultra competitive 70's, there's enough data in the reels to indicate that Garcia (trained in new age fashion for March 16) could in fact get a points win over a Duran on Prozac in spirit. I'm gauging this strictly off of a clinic Mikey gave a thugged out Orlando Salido in January 2013 (before kind of throwing in the towel after the eigth). But it's strictly a one fight tournament only, as any rematch would be a dangerously different story. And for the record, Mikey Garcia would've knock out Aaron Pryor, whose defense was akin to a bicycle inner tube with enough holes to produce boiling water.
ERROL SPENCE JR. STOPS SUGAR RAY LEONARD
I know, I must be high to sacrilegiously state the above. And you're right, I am, it's called “Kush” and it's some really good shit. So good in fact, Bob Arum would really become “smoke and mirrors” (as Spence famously referred to him) in a natural cloud on his own private jet. But catch me first thing in the morning after a cup of the best coffee beans from Juan Valdez and I'll tell you the same thing: prime for prime, Spence would've beaten Leonard.
And that's the key, because what prime are we talking about?
To be fair, it would have to be against a 25 year-old all world version of the 1976 Olympic gold medalist seeking welterweight unification glory against Thomas “Hitman” Hearns in September 1981. In perhaps the greatest superfight of all-time, Sugar Ray survived and prevailed via 14th round TKO. He was never the same after that fight, probably owed to a 1978 that saw him fight a preposterous eleven times, which included a confrontation with the elder Floyd Mayweather.
But what really makes me believe Spence stops that Leonard late, is because of the fight that occurred just before his classic with Hearns, a June 1981 firefight with mighty Ugandan super welterweight brick Ayub Kalule. Like Spence, Kalule was a tough and gritty southpaw, of identical height and reach. In one of the toughest fights of his career, Leonard was fortunate to escape with a spectacular 9th round stoppage; but had that been Spence in front of him – who is far more talented than that Kalule was – the result would've been the other way around. In layman's terms, he's every bit the younger Hagler that Leonard wanted nothing to do with and for good reason.
For those of you scratching your head know this… I don't believe a relatively green Spence beat up a seasoned Floyd Mayweather in real camp wars back in early 2013, I know he did. And now he's approaching his best? Spence would make a young Leonard look like his 33 year-old self; the one my teenage eyes witnessed being mauled by Terry Norris, LIVE at Madison Square Garden in February 1990. But that fight went the distance, this one would not.
Don't believe me? You'll come around when Spence V Garcia presents a glimpse of what Hagler V De La Hoya would've looked like, after the fight God's drastically reduced Oscar's height and reach. I think it's virtually impossible for Mikey to win this fight; if he does, it's only because he'll carry the belief of Goliath throughout and the slingshot of David to end it. But for now, score two for the “New School”, as not all cows are sacred for eternity.
Up Next… Errol Spence V Mikey Garcia [Vol.II]: ‘I See Something' II