Why Did The Boxing World Ever Listen To Nat Fleischer?

Mark HauserCorrespondent IIFebruary 18, 2009

Nat Fleischer, for you non-boxing fans, was the founder of Ring Magazine and its editor-in-chief for 50 years, from 1922 until the time of his death in 1972.  

During that time time period, according to stellar boxing writer, Frank Lotierzo, "...Fleischer was the voice of boxing and was the major influence. Those who did have a voice and a pen usually never challenged Fleischer on any stand he took regarding a fighter or boxing" (from Lotierzo's excellent article, 'Jack Johnson & Muhammad Ali:  Alike But Definitely Different').

Fleischer was held in such high esteem that he was often referred to as a noted boxing historian and writer "who saw every heavyweight champion from Jim Jeffries to Joe Frazier." As if that meant that he knew more about boxing than the rest of us and that we should cherish his opinions. 

I for one do not cherish his opinions and feel some of his opinions were moronic (that is the nicest word I could think of) and totally lacking in objectivity. Not a good combination for someone who was the most influential writer, editor, and publisher in boxing for 50 years.

Nowadays, from what I have read on the Internet, boxing fans and writers take some of his ridiculous opinions with a grain of salt. Take for example, his last rankings of the all-time heavyweights, which were published in Ring Magazine in September 1971, about nine months before he died.

The title of this article in Ring Magazine was "Clay an All-time Top 10?  Definitely No!".  Keep in mind, at this time, Cassuis Clay had changed his name to Muhammad Ali seven years before this and practically the entire media no longer called Ali by his birth name, Clay. Ali was 31-1 and just lost his first fight to Frazier in the "Fight of the Century." 

The last five fights before Ali's exile from boxing were, in my opinion, the most impressive display of boxing ever. The tremendous power and incredible combinations and elusiveness that Ali displayed in the Cleveland Williams bout was breathtaking. (After Fleischer died, Ali went on to beat Foreman and Frazier twice and displaying an amazing ability to take a punch, ring smarts, and heart. 

However, Fleicher had seen enough of Ali to rate him at the very top before Fleischer died, in fact, Ali was never the same fighter after his three and a half year exile due to the loss of bounce in his legs.)   

However, this was not just about Ali; Fleisher only rated Joe Louis sixth (considered first or second all-time along with Ali by every other knowledgeable boxing fan, writer, or historian), and the first five heavyweights he listed all fought before 1930.  Were there really 40 straight years of mediocre heavyweight boxing? 

Two of the boxers in his top 10 were really middleweights (Bob Fitzsimmons and Sam Langford—both great fighters, but not great heavyweights) who would have likely been destroyed by Louis, Ali, Liston, and Frazier (the last two also did not make Fleischer's top 10).  Seven of the top 10 boxers listed in his top ten were whitethe—only three black boxers listed were Louis and Jack Johnson (who was No. 1 on the list) and Sam Langford (No. 7).      

I could go on, but I think you get the point. While any of these all-time lists are just a guess -- I found his list laughable and totally lacking in logic and objectiveness.  I find it shocking that his boxing opinions were held in high regard for 50 years. Thanks heavens the boxing world came to their senses after he died.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.