Jimmy Ellis

It’s too bad that the cruiserweight division was not around in the 60’s and 70’s. Many fine boxers scaled under 190 pounds and gave creditable performances against bigger men. Doug Jones is an example as he came close to upsetting Cassius Clay in 1963. Doug had lost in 1962 to Harold Johnson for the light heavyweight title. In 1965, he lost to Ernie Terrell for WBA Heavyweight crown. Back then there was no middle ground. If you weighed over
175 pounds, you fought heavyweights, period.

Bob Foster, who was one of the greatest light heavyweights of all time, had trouble moving up to heavyweight. Jones, Terrell, and Zora Foley soundly beat him in heavyweight bouts. After winning the light heavyweight crown in 1968, he failed in attempts to beat Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. How would he have fared at 190 pounds?

I’m sure if you took all the top boxers who weighed between 175 pounds and 190 pounds since 1960; most experts would rate Holyfield number one. How would a 190-pound Holyfield have coped with Floyd Patterson’s hand speed?

How about Bob Foster’s reach and devastating punch? Could he have beaten Jimmy Elllis? Before you laugh, take a look at Jimmy’s record. He started as a middleweight in 1961 and through 1964 he lost five bouts to Holly Mims, Henry Hank, Rubin Carter, Don Fuller and George Benton. All top middleweight contenders. By the time he blasted out Johnny Persol in one round in 1967, he had grown into a heavyweight. He swept the WBA elimination tournament by beating Leotis Martin, Oscar Bonevena and Jerry Quarry. Jimmy twice had the iron jawed Bonevena on the canvas, something Joe Frazier could not do in 25 rounds of fighting. Against Frazier, Ellis weighed in over 200 pounds. He looked flabby and after a few rounds became sluggish. The following year Jimmy met his long time friend Muhammad Ali. Jimmy was in great shape at 189 pounds. His muscles were tight and he looked fit. Unfortunately, Ali was too big. He wore Jimmy down and stopped him in round twelve. I believe the Jimmy Ellis of the Ali fight could have given any 190 pounder since 1960 a run for their money, including Evander Holyfield. Ellis was a slick boxer with sharp reflexes. He had a good left hand and a sneaky right. He also had loads of courage. How many fighters could have gotten to their feet before the count of ten after catching Joe Frazier’s full swing left hook flush on the jaw?

Jimmy is one of the most overlooked heavyweight champions of the last four decades. This may be due in part because he boxed in the Ali-Frazier era.

I’ve often wondered what the outcome may have been had Bob Foster challenged Ellis for the WBA title. Now that might be a dream match to run through a computer.

Posted by Jim Amato on Dec 20, 2007 at 11:15 PM

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