Jimmy Young: Uncrowned Champion

By Ralph Cooper
Updated: March 11, 2005

Jimmy Young

HOUSTON, TX.—A champion who never became a champion passed the other day. His name was Jimmy Young!

He battled some of the greatest names in heavyweight boxing during his career from 1969 thru 1988. Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Ron Lyle, Earnie Shavers, Michael Dokes, Gerry Cooney, and a host of others.

Many thought Young defeated Ali when they met on April 30,1976 in the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. Ali won a unanimous decision in a 15 round fight. Some experts at ringside thought Young edged out Ali. But Ali came into the ring champion and left as champion.

Two of his greatest bouts were with Ron Lyle. Lyle also would end his career as an uncrowned champion. In their two fights, Young outpointed Lyle. They fought 22 rounds against each other.The soft-hitting Young was great at frustrating hard-hitters like Lyle.

In fact the first time I met Young was in San Francisco, California in November of 1976. Young was there for his first bout with Lyle.He was a nice guy.. He didn’t have the confidence then that he would gain shortly.He had just turned 28 years old and his future in the sport was ahead of him.

While in San Francisco, Young was exposed to a Don King boxing promotion. King had Lyle and Young all over the city promoting the bout. In one of his quiet moments, Young asked me to share my thoughts on his training after watching him spar. I admitted to him I was impressed with his hard work and determination to get better. He was in excellent shape.His only weakness appeared to be his confidence in himself. That would end with the win over Lyle. He picked Lyle apart and won with prcise punching and footwork. Lyle wasn’t able to penetrate his defense.

In the winter of 1977 George Foreman informed me he was about to meet Young. The first thing to come to mind was Young against Lyle and how his confidence had grown. I immediately thought this would be a difficult bout for George.Foreman was on the comeback trail after losing to Ali in Zaire in 1974.The only thing separating George from Ali in a rematch was Young.

“I’m going to break his neck,” George would predict of his bout with Young.

I thought to myself,” Yeah if you can catch him?”

This was a different George Foreman from the one who would kayo Michael Moorer years later to become the oldest heavyweight champion in the history of the sport. Foreman didn’t know there was no air conditioning in Roberto Clemente Coliseum until he showed up for their March 17, 1977 date in the ring. It was a 12-round elimination event.

From the start of their bout it looked as if Foreman would win but as the event continued it became apparent Young was in control.Young even floored Foreman while sticking to his game plan.He won on a unanimous decision.

Foreman would retire and comeback later to become champion in the ring and selling grills. He became a minister also.Young would continue to fight. He would have some big paydays fighting champions Tony Tucker, Ken Norton, and Ossie Oscacio.

After his retirement, Young became a sparring partner for several up and coming heavyweights. He tried to share his experiences with many.Some accepted other didn’t. He remained the same nice guy. When in Houston many times he would remind me of our conversations in San Francisco.

When he passed in his native Philadelphia, Pennslyvania,a piece of boxing history left us. He was a credit to the sport he loved.He had some trying times and some great ones also. Thanks to boxing and his skills in the sport he traveled the world. During another time he would have been champion.

The overall record of Jimmy Young was 34-19 with two draws. He stood 6-2 and was 56 when he died on February 20,2005. I will always remember him!