Weight Jumpers: Stars Who Dared To Be Great

Tom Dunstan

In boxing, fans love nothing more than a modern day David and Goliath story, when we get to see a smaller fighter throw caution to the wind and step up multiple divisions in order to mark their place in history.

Some have come out a valiant second best, but, some have managed to defy the odds and slay the beast

Kell Brook vs Gennady Golovkin

The latest name to make this list of brave fighters who dared to be great is Britain’s very own Kell Brook. In 2016 the then current IBF welterweight champion decided to do something that no sane middleweight was willing to do, step inside the ring with Triple G.

In doing so, Brook was looking to become only the second fighter to simultaneously hold the welterweight and middleweight world titles, nearly three decades on from his hero Sugar Ray Leonard.

Sadly for ‘The Special One’, despite a brave and courageous attempt to dethrone the middleweight king, Brook was unable to cement his name in the history books as he was stopped in the fifth round with a broken orbital bone.

Sugar Ray Leonard vs Marvin Hagler

In late 1970s, just as Muhammad Ali’s career began to unwind, Leonard’s career was just beginning to shine. In 1979 Sugar Ray captured the WBC welterweight title but was only able to defend his crown twice, losing to Roberto Duran, the man regarded as the best Lightweight on the planet.

After spending the following years in and out of retirement, Leonard announced he would be coming back to fight middleweight king, Marvin Hagler, a man who had not lost in over a decade. But, despite many fearing for Leonard’s health, the American was able to use his speed and reflexes to somewhat neutralise the bigger Hagler. His work rate scored him a majority decision win and a place in the boxing history books.

Roy Jones Jr vs John Ruiz

Voted as the ‘Fighter of the Decade’ for the 1990s, Jones entered the new millennium the way he left the last, by destroying anyone who crossed his path. After becoming bored of just beating up light heavyweights, Jones announced that he would be seeking bigger prey, that prey came in the form of the tough, but very limited John Ruiz who in a lacklustre time for heavyweight boxing held the WBA belt.

Although on fight night Jones weighed in nearly two-and-a-half-stone lighter than Ruiz, he was still the bookies favourite to leave with the victory. The bookies certainly weren’t wrong, over 12 rounds, Ruiz simply had no answer to the more skilful Jones, who simply boxed his way to the WBA title on a very wide unanimous decision. In doing so, Jones became the first man since 1897 to become a middleweight and heavyweight champion.

Sugar Ray Robinson vs Joey Maxim

Robinson will most likely always be remembered as the greatest boxer to lace up a pair of gloves, it is stories like this that back up the point. During his illustrious career, Robinson had already blown through the welterweight and middleweight division only losing two of his 135 professional bouts prior to challenging heavyweight Joey Maxim.

Just to break down Robinson’s challenge, he began his career as a lightweight, that was SEVEN whole divisions below his opponent, but Robinson defined daring to be great.

Infront of a sellout audience hanging from the rafters in Yankee Stadium, Robinson came so close to doing the unthinkable. On a day that was reported to be over 100 degrees, Robinson, who was a mile ahead on the scorecards was unable to get up from his stool after the 12th round, the great Sugar Ray wasn’t beaten by Maxim, he was beaten by the conditions.

Amir Kahn vs Canelo Alvarez

It’s almost an identical situation to Brook vs Golovkin, instead, it sees both men’s arch-rivals facing off with each other. Much like his countryman, Kahn was hoping to become only the third fighter to have held a light welterweight world title and also claim a middleweight crown.

Before the first bell had even rung, many people thought that Kahn had signed up for a suicide mission, even with a catchweight of 155Ibs, Kahn still weighed in eight pounds heavier than he had ever fought at. The same can’t be said for Canelo who reportedly rehydrated and came to the ring at almost 180Ibs.

The fight pretty much went like every expert predicted, Kahn used his speed advantage to simply try and keep his heavy-handed opponent at bay. Until we entered round six, Kahn was destroyed by devastating right hand and the former Olympian was asleep before he even hit the canvas.

Emile Griffith vs Dick Tiger

During the early 1960s, Emile Griffith had built his name for playing hot potato with the welterweight title, winning and losing it several times over a two year period, sadly though, Griffith is most commonly remembered for killing his Cuban rival, Benny Paret, in a televised fight in 1962.

Four years on, Griffith opted to vacate his welterweight title and announced he would be facing off with newly crowned middleweight champion Dick Tiger.

Although Griffith was outweighed by 10Ibs come the first bell, he looked comfortable throughout and after handing Tiger his first knockdown of his career in the ninth, Griffith was awarded a hugely controversial decision which was met with boos from the fans inside Madison Square Garden.

Michael Spinks vs Larry Holmes

Probably the ultimate case of David vs Goliath, it was rare to see someone cross the heavyweight divide and step up from the lower divisions.

Spinks burst onto the scene after winning Olympic gold in 1976 and he quickly began to steamroll through the paid ranks. After winning the light heavyweight crown in 1981, Spinks successfully defended his title 10 times over the next four years, until he decided it was time to cross the heavyweight line and face off with Larry Holmes, the undefeated and undisputed king of the heavyweights.

Even after putting on 25Ibs in two months, Spinks still weighed in 22Ibs less than Holmes who was nearly four-stone heavier than anyone Spinks had ever faced. But, somehow David slew Goliath and along with handing Holmes his first defeat, Spinks became the first reigning light-heavyweight champion to also hold a heavyweight title.

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