Was “Smokin” Joe Frazier Philly’s Greatest Fighter?
By Ken Hissner (Jan 4, 2010) DoghouseBoxing  
I was looking over a list of three of the top Philly boxing Historians on www.phillyboxinghistory.com that John DiSanto founded in 2004. This is a site well worth looking into. His assistant Editor Chuck Hasson wrote the longest history ever on Philadelphia boxing in Boxing Digest magazine in 1998, and compiled 50,000 newspaper clips on Philadelphia boxing. The other is Hall of Fame Promoter J. Russell Peltz, who is also an outstanding writer. Though Peltz didn’t rank the boxers he was right in line with the rest of us. I combined all four and was surprised with the results. I want to give thanks to writer, public relations person and all around good guy Robert Coster and boxing promoter Jacques Deschamps for the idea. Both operate out of the Dominican Republic and do work in Haiti, Mexico and Panama.

#10 Philadelphia Jack O’Brien, 93-7-13 (50) plus 43-5-10 Newspaper Decisions for a total of 188 bouts. O’Brien won the light heavyweight championship from Bob Fitzsimmons in 1905. Fitz would later become middleweight and heavyweight champion. Prior to this O’Brien defeated welterweight champion Joe Walcott and future heavyweight champion Marvin Hart in 1902. He defeated future heavyweight champion Tommy Burns in 1904. In 1906 he drew with then champion Burns and lost in the rematch. He fought a draw with future heavyweight champion Jack Johnson in 1909. He was elected to the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1987.

#9 Midget Wolgast, 142-37-16 (17) plus 19-0 Newspaper Decisions for a total 215 bouts. Wolgast won the NYSAC world flyweight title in 1930 from Black Bill, 117-19-9. He would later battle to a draw with the NBA flyweight champion Frankie Genaro, 71-17-6. Former bantamweight champion, George Pace in Ring Magazine in 1970 said “Midget Wolgast was a lightning streak. I have never seen any fighter with trickier or speedier execution in the ring, and that includes Willie Pep.” He was elected into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2001.

#8 Lew Tendler, 60-11-2 (39). Tendler drew with future Jr Lt Wt champion Johnny Dundee in 1917. He defeated future world lightweight champion Rocky Kansas, 27-4-3 and KO Chaney, 64-7-1 in 1919. After defeating Dundee again in 1922 he was matched with legendary Benny Leonard, 71-4, for the world lightweight title that year. In the 8th round Tendler had Leonard out on his feet but got “talked out of it” in a clinch. The fight was close enough in losing for Tendler that a rematch was demanded the following year with the same result. In 1924 Tendler would lose a decision to the NBA Welterweight champion Mickey “Toy Bulldog” Walker, another pound for pound all time great. Tendler was considered to be one of the greatest southpaws of his era. In 1961 he was elected to the Hall of Fame and in 1999 to the International Hall of Fame.

#7 “Joltin” Jeff Chandler, 33-2-2 (18), in 1980 won the WBA Bantamweight title stopping Julian Solis, 21-0, in Miami, Florida. After turning pro with a draw he would go unbeaten in his next 32 fights, including a draw. He would make 9 successful title defenses. There was one draw in those defenses, against Japan’s Eijiro Murata, 18-0-2. Chandler would later defeat Murata in 2 title defenses. In 1983 in a non-title bout he would lose a split decision to Oscar Muniz, 36-3-3. Before the year was out Chandler would stop Muniz in a title defense. One of his defenses was defeating Gaby Canizales, 24-1, a future world champion and Hall of Famer. In making his 10th defense Chandler was dropped in the 11th round for the first time in his career. He lost his title that night to Richie Sandoval, 22-0, in 1984. Chandler never fought again. Chandler would enter the International Hall of Fame in 2000.

#6 Sonny Liston, 50-4 (39), in 1962 would stop Floyd Patterson for the world heavyweight championship, in Chicago. His only loss prior to winning the title was to Marty Marshall, 18-5-2, by split decision. In a rematch’s Liston would stop and decision Marshall. He would stop contenders Mike DeJohn, Zora Folley and Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams (twice). He also defeated contender Eddie Machen. In 1964 Liston would be upset by then Cassius Clay. In the rematch with the now Muhammad Ali, Liston was stopped by the “Phantom Punch”. He would go onto win his next 14 fights, 13 by knockout before losing to Leotis Martin. Martin would never fight again following this fight due to a detached retina. Liston had one of the most powerful jabs in the history of the division.

#5 Benny “Little Fish” Bass, 156-28-6 (71), plus 36-12-2 Newspaper Decisions, for a total of 242 fights. In 1927 he defeated Red Chapman, 53-12-1, for the NBA Featherweight title in Philadelphia. In 1929 he defeated Todd Morgan, 67-14-24, for the world Junior Lightweight title in Madison Square Garden. He would lose it in 1930 and regain it in 1931 defeating Lew Massey, 33-8-2, in Philadelphia. In 1937 he defeated Freddy “Red” Cochrane, a future world welterweight champion. He was inducted into the International Hall of Fame in 2002.

#4 Joey Giardello, 101-26-7 (33), won the WBC/WBA middleweight title in 1963 over Dick Tiger, 47-14-3, in Atlantic City. He would lose it to Tiger in 1965 in their fourth match-up, each winning twice. He defeated Billy Graham, 98-9-8, Joey Giambra, 26-1-1, and Chico Vejar, 73-10-2. He drew with Gene Fullmer, 51-4, in 1960 for the NBA Middleweight title in Montana. Fullmer was lucky to get a draw . In 1962 he defeated Henry Hank, 51-13-3, in Ring Magazine’s Fight of the Year. In 1963 he defeated the legendary “Sugar” Ray Robinson, 154-12-3, to earn the Tiger title fight. He was inducted into the International Hall of Fame in 1993 and later into the World Boxing Hall of Fame.

#3 Harold Johsnon, 76-11 (32), won the NBA world light heavyweight title in 1961 stopping Jesse Bowdry in Miami Beach. Johnson defeated Hall of Famer Archie Moore in 1951 for his lone victory in 5 meetings. In their fifth match and only title bout Johnson was ahead on the scorecards when he was stopped in the 14th round. In 1953 he defeated former heavyweight champion Ezzard Charles, 81-9-1, in Philadelphia. After winning the NBA title he made 4 successful title defenses and defeated the top heavyweight contender Eddie Machen, 37-3-1. In 2 of his defenses he defeated Doug Jones, 19-1 and European champion Gustav “Bubi” Scholz, 85-1-6, in Germany. In 1963 he lost his title on a disputed decision to Willie Pastrano, 57-11-8, in what boxing film historian Jim Jacobs called the worst decision he ever saw. Johnson was inducted into the International Hall of Fame in 2002.

#2 Tommy “Phantom of Philly” Loughran, 94-24-10 (17), plus 23-5-4 Newspaper Decisions for a total of 174 bouts. He won the NYSAC light heavyweight title in 1927 over Mike McTigue, 70-12-4. That same year he won the world light heavyweight title over Jimmy Slattery, 88-5. He had a win over Georges Carpentier, 83-13-6, in 1926 before over 30,000 people in Philadelphia. In 1929 he defended his title defeating Mickey Walker, 53-10, and future world heavyweight champion, Jimmy Braddock, 30-3-3. After the Braddock fight Loughran campaigned as a heavyweight. In 1922 at the age of 19 he lost to Harry Greb in their first meeting. He had only lost once in his previous 43 fights. He would win 1 out of 3 in 1923 to Greb, 64-3-2, and a draw with him 1924. In his next fight he drew with future world champion Gene Tunney, 43-1-1. In 1927 he reversed a decision loss to Young Stribling, 136-6-14. In 1931 he defeated future world champion Max Bear, 25-4, and in 1933 former champion Jack Sharkey, 35-10-1. In 1934 giving up 84 pounds he lost to NBA heavyweight champion Primo Carnera. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.

#1 “Smokin” Joe Frazier, 32-4-1 (27), won the heavyweight championship in 1970 stopping Jimmy Ellis, 27-5, who had won the tournament after Ali’s title was vacated. He had 4 successful title defenses including light heavyweight champion Bob Foster, 41-4, and a returning Ali, 31-0, in 1971 at Madison Square Garden, in their first of 3 fights (Ali winning next two). In 1968 he won the NYSAC title stopping Buster Mathis, 23-0. He had 4 successful defenses including wins over Oscar Bonavena and Jerry Quarry before meeting Ellis. He lost his title to George Foreman in 1973 in Kingston, Jamaica, after winning his first 29 bouts. Frazier was the 1964 Olympic Gold medalist at the Tokyo Games. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.

Frazier had 45 points to runner-up Loughran’s 42 points. Johnson had 38 points and Giardello 36 points. DiSanto had Giardello as his top pick while Hasson and this writer had Frazier. Peltz didn’t rank the fighters but is a big supporter of Johnson. Loughran had two second and one third place votes.

Others receiving votes: Bob Montgomery 14; George Benton, Tyrone Everett and “Bad” Bennie Briscoe 13; Matthew Saad Muhammad 12 and “Gypsy” Joe Harris 11. It was decided by a 3-1 vote since Bernard Hopkins is still active not to add him to this list.

Ken at: kenhissner@yahoo.com

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