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Beterbiev’s Garden Party Fuels “Best at 175” Fire

I’m in a light heavyweight state of mind.

And in the afterglow of a weekend in which a pair of 175-pound bombers met in New York in what some labeled the division’s most important fight in 39 years, it’s not hard to understand why.

Say what you will about whether the scrap between Artur Beterbiev and Joe Smith Jr. had the gravity of Spinks-Qawi in 1983 – or even the series involving guys named Jones, Tarver, Dawson and Hopkins another 20-plus years later – it was still nice to see the light heavies getting a star turn at the Garden.

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I’ll hold back, though, on instantly elevating the Canada-based Russian to pound-for-pound lists at the expense of the guy who holds the other legit claim on the 175-pound kingdom, Dmitry Bivol.

In fact, I’ll go ahead and suggest here that pitching a complete game against the likes of Canelo Alvarez deserves every bit as much praise as hammering a guy that Bivol shut out three years ago.

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One guy outclassed Smith. The other pounded him into mulch. Neither was close.

And as a lot of really smart people have told me over the years, styles make fights.

So automatically transferring the brutality that Beterbiev showed on Saturday night to a match with a guy light years beyond the “Common Man” in terms of skill would be a common mistake.

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Be that as it may, I wanted to use this Tuesday space for other light heavyweight purposes.

Now that I’ve reached the far side of 50 years ago, it’s become habit for me to look at ground covered during my lifetime and assess the things that have happened. So as I reflected on Saturday’s fight and other notable ones at 175 during the time I’ve been a fan, it turned into a list.

And because information about an imminent vacation to Mount Rushmore was alongside me during the process, it became a Mount Rushmore list. In the 50-year stretch from 1970 to 2020 – and only including fights between those dates – which fighters warrant carving into granite?

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The criteria were simple: Only fighters who were champions as of January 1, 1970, or became champions before January 1, 2020 were considered. Titles held and title bouts within those dates were considered – with particular emphasis given to victories, quality of opposition and length of title reign(s).

 

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Written by Tosin Olasunkanmi

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