Taking His Spot With Other Greats

By Tom Donelson, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: June 16, 2009

IOWA CITY (BASN) — This past Sunday, I had the chance to witness the induction of Lennox Lewis and others of the Boxing Hall of Fame’s class of 2009. Inducted alongside Lewis were fellow pugilists Orlando Canizales and Brian Mitchell, fighters whose worth is now remembered.

Among those inducted posthumously included Middleweight Gorilla Jones, Mysterious Billy Smith and oldtimer Billy Soose, whose legacy joined those great fighters before forever enshrined in boxing’s history.

I appeared at the invitation of Billy Soose’s brother, Gene Sebastian and his son Scott. Gene was helpful in working with Both Rusty Rubin and I when we wrote our book on his brother’s exploit in the ring.

Between 1939 and 1941, Soose was as good as any Middleweight in the world and in 1940, was dubbed the uncrowned king of the Middleweights by Ring Magazine after he defeated two of the recognized Middleweight champions, Ken Overlin and Hall of Famer Tony Zale in non-title fights.

He finally received a share of the title when he out pointed Overlin for his title at Madison Square Garden. Like many of his generation, Soose’s career was cut short in its prime by the call of duty as he joined the Navy at the beginning of America’s entry in World War II.

After the war, Soose retired and never returned to the ring. During his time, he was one of boxing smarter fighters as he adapted to an early injury. Early in his career, he permanently injured his right hand, his power hand and essentially changed from a boxer-puncher to a one handed boxer.

After many of fights, Gene Sebastian told me that Soose would soak his hand in ice to reduce the swelling. Soose changed his style and learn to master the sweet science while battling some of boxing’s great of that era.

For most fighters induced in the hall including Canizales and Mitchell were fighter only remembered by the most dedicated of hardcore fans. He defended the IBF bantamweight championship 16 consecutive times.

After his last defense, he moved up to the super Bantamweight championship but the closet he came to adding another weight division title was a split decision loss to WBA champion Wilfredo Vazquez.

Brian Mitchell was a South African WBA junior lightweight title holder. Due to South Africa Apartheid policy, Mitchell defended his title overseas and never in his native South Africa>. He attempted to unify the title as he drew with IBF titlist Tony “The Tiger” Lopez.

He was stripped of his WBA title for agreeing to a rematch with Lopez and only in boxing; could just a decision be made as a fighter loses his title in an attempt to reunify it but he did out point Lopez to claim the IBF version and the actual recognized title.

Mitchell retired for two years before coming out for two bouts in his native South Africa. He retired with only one lost in his career.

The main event was Lennox Lewis, the last true recognized unified Heavyweight champion. Lewis was one of three fighters who beat every fighter he faced (avenging his two losses along the way) and in a deep era of heavyweights featuring great fighters just as Riddick Bowe, Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis left the ring as the greatest heavyweight of his era after he defeated Vitali Klitschko in his last bout.

In that fight, he stopped Klitschko on cuts as being behind in the fight. Lewis now works for HBO and continues to work in boxing, giving back to the sport.

In addition to the fighters, the Hall of Fame recognized HBO’s Larry Merchant, a long time boxing writer, British writer Hugh Mcllvanney and promoters Akihiko Honda and Bob Goodman, who joined his father as a member of the Hall.

The Hall of Fame stands as a testament to the sport history as the stars of the past are still glorified and whose deeds are recorded for immorality; never to be forgotten.

The Hall is the reminder of the sport that have spanned centuries and whose impact goes beyond the sport itself. Inside the Hall is the actual ring of the old Madison Square Garden, where many of great boxers graced their presents. Among those who fought on that ring included Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Louis.

COTTO DEFEATS CLOTTEY

While the greats were being honored in Canasota during the weekend, two of the best welterweights faced off in the new Madison Square Garden. Miguel Cotto faced off against Joshua Clottey, as these evenly matched fighters attempted to lay claim as the best of the 147 pounds.

In a division that features Shane Mosley as well as soon to be unretired Floyd Mayweather, the winner would put himself in line for a shot at a future big money fight.

This fight showed boxing at it best as two evenly matched fighters fought not just for glory but for prizes and opportunities that could be measured in the millions as in millions of dollars.

The first round showed the even handed as Cotto jab was a little quicker and his punches more numerous but he was facing a good defensive fighter with powerful accurate punches.

Cotto scored first blood as he nailed Clottey with the perfect jab and sent the African fighter down. Cotto won the second round but a accidental head butt changed the tenor of the fight as Cotto found himself with a deep gash over is left eye.

As for Clottey, he sprained his knee at the end of the fifth round and it took two brutal rounds before he finally shook the injury off. In the sixth round, Clottey retreated to the rope as he tried to hold off the aggressive Cotto, who laced him with combinations but after the seventh round, Clottey regained his legs underneath him and started to counter with vicious right hands targeting Cotto’s left eye.

Clottey turned the tied of the fight as he pressured Cotto, who started to retreat. In a close fight that would result in a split decision, Cotto’s eyes bothered him and forced him to box as oppose to attack.

Clottey’s continuous pressure forced Cotto off his game and he may have lost the fight but for two punches. The first round knockdown gave him a 10-8 round and at the end of a close tenth round, he nailed Clottey with a left hook that momentarily stunned him.

This was enough to turned the tide and with a gutsy final round when Cotto’s boxing skills out shined Clottey’s pressure who failed in that final stanza to counter Cotto. He outpunched and outhustled Clottey in the last round and that round along with those two punches secured a close decision.

This fight showed that both fighters were equally matched and rematch may be in order while both fighters await what Mosley, the present true champ, decide to do and what Mayweather various dates with Juan Marquez and Manny Pacquiao finishes.

In the meantime, they showed that they are the second and third best fighters in the division and certainly worthy of consideration of being classified as the best. They used this fight as mean to set up their own legacy.