Who Says White Guys Can't Fight?

Joe OneillCorrespondent IIDecember 25, 2009

SHEFFIELD, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 13: Joe Calzaghe attends the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year Awards at Sheffield Arena on December 13, 2009 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by Nick Pickles/Getty Images)
Nick Pickles/Getty Images

"The Great White Hope" is the moniker used by the mainstream media in hopes of finding the next great "white" fighter.

The last great American Caucasian pugilist was, arguably, Rocky Marciano, who retired in 1956.

While the first part of the 20th century was dominated by Italian and Irish fighters such as Marciano, Tony Zale, Jake LaMotta, Gene Tunney, Jack Dempsey, Rocky Graziano, and Willy Pep, the latter part of the century failed to produce even one great fighter of the lighter shade of pale.

Some might call this a racist statement.

I call it an observation.

Yet, if the current pantheon of fighters proves anything, it's that, indeed, white guys can fight.

Just not American white guys.

The stable of European, Russian, and even Canadian fighters is both deep and impressive. Carl Froch out of Great Britain is a scrapper and a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Mikkel Kessler of Denmark is a very, very good fighter. Lucient Bute fighting out of Montreal is on schedule to begin some megafights.

The cream of the crop was the now retired Joe Calzaghe out of Wales. You might recall he dismantled Roy Jones Jr., outfought a still impressive Bernard Hopkins, dismantled Kessler, and exposed Jeff Lacy.

In my opinion, Calzaghe ranks as one of the greatest fighters of the last 20 years.

We can't forget to mention the Klitschko brothers (Wladimir and Vitali) who are dominating the heavyweight division.

So, what's with the lack of American white guys? The best I can come up with is Kelly Pavlik, who still seems to be licking some psychological wounds after Bernard Hopkins dominated him 13 months ago.

Micky Ward was one of the most courageous fighters I've ever seen. But, his trademark seemed to be the amount of punishment he was capable of absorbing. He was, let's be honest, a mid-level professional.

After those two, the table is remarkably bare and has been for decades.

The last "great white hope" was the immensely mediocre George Cooney. You might remember him from the early 1980s—a hulk of a heavyweight who was turned into mincemeat by Larry Holmes.

I used to be under the impression it was that American kids had "gone soft." Boxing has always been dominated by the latest wave of immigrants. It would make sense that the Irish and Italians dominated the fight scene in the first part of the century.

Most of them, or their parents, were immigrants scratching to make a life in America. African-Americans, with their struggles, have always dominated the fight scene. I think their presence would have been more widely felt if not for the Uncle Tom mentality up until the '60s.

But that theory falls short because of the popularity of MMA. If you haven't noticed, it's dominated by a bunch of white guys who are plenty tough and very athletic.

None of this bothers me. I could care less about the color of a fighter's skin. It's more of an observation than anything else. There was a recent article in Sports Illustrated questioning why more white guys aren't NFL running backs. The common theory is that the position is just too athletic for a white guy.

It is, in many ways, reverse racism. Kind of like when major league scouts thought Japanese guys couldn't hit a major league baseball until Ichiro changed that line of thinking.

And that was just nine years ago.