For the past 43 years Nat Fleischer, the editor of Ring Magazine, has published prizefighting's most authoritative ratings. Here is his assessment of the future for the emerging group of young heavyweights, and here, too, is the first word of a move up in rank for California's Jerry Quarry.
The heavyweight situation today is similar to the troubled times of the Jack Johnson era. I remember the Johnson-Willard fight was kicked around the same way the Clay-Terrell match has been. Johnson was the villain then, as Clay is today. Nobody wanted the Johnson fight and finally it landed in Havana. That was considered the low ebb for boxing; although some regard this era as bad. But boxing seems to sink low at times, and then it rejuvenates itself. Currently, that is just what is taking place in the heavyweight division—a revival.
You have to go back 10 years, if not more, to find as many talented young heavyweights as we have right now. I am sure that is because the opportunity for advancement is excellent—better than it has been since Floyd Patterson first won the title.
No matter what happens to the Clay-Terrell fight, Cassius is likely to be out of action for some time. This means we should hold a worldwide elimination tourney to settle upon an interim champion. (Terrell, unless he beats Clay, is not the world champion. He holds only the WBA crown, a limited title.) And a number of the young boys who fought last week figure to be in the tournament.
The young heavyweights already command more interest than the thin lot of old stale faces that have been around in the ratings for years and never were exciting to begin with. (The mail I get on Jerry Quarry is unbelievable.) In Tony Doyle, Jerry Quarry, Buster Mathis, Jim Woody, and Joe Frazier we have fighters with exciting talents. I don't think I have ever seen so many fast heavyweights.
But these fighters should be force-fed, instead of spoon-fed with a constant diet of soft touches, as some are today. The only way they will improve is by constantly taking on tougher opponents. This has been Quarry's brief history. Consistently he has been in against strong, capable opponents—and he looks it. I believe he is the best young fighter since Clay turned pro in 1960. His excellent showing against Tony Alongi is a good example of how Quarry is being brought along. Alongi was not a meaningless opponent. To the contrary, he had experience, talent and an excellent record. Quarry proved that he was unawed and that he should be bracketed with the better fighters. I feel he has now moved up to be a ranking fighter and he will be rated either ninth or 10th next month. It seems certain that it is only a matter of time before Quarry becomes a contender for the heavyweight title.
I say this of Quarry but not of Woody, even though his record is as good. Woody, too, has improved. He is punching sharper and putting combinations together, but he is not coming on fast enough. He lacks confidence and certainty in his style. He is being held back by a lack of work. At this point Jim Woody is in a class just beneath the ranking fighters. He can get ahead only if he gets tougher fights.
When I rate the fighters (we keep files, which we update constantly, on 4,000 of them), I place a great deal of emphasis on who the opponent was, where the fight was held and how the man won. I am not impressed by wins alone. I am concerned with the fighter's improvement, and that is the way the managers should think. This is an era of great talent and great opportunity, but both will be stifled unless the fighters and the fights are competitive.