The 1970s, the Golden Era of modern heavyweights. The era of Ali and Frazier. Of Foreman, Norton and later Holmes. Of bangers like Ron Lyle, Jerry Quarry and Earnie Shavers. A smooth boxing, counter punching master like Jimmy Young was overshadowed by Ali, Frazier and Foreman. Then later by the Norton and Larry Holmes. He was so close and yet so far. He had two shots at the championship and came out on the short end of two controversial decisions. Then just like that he went from contender to trial horse to also ran.
In his prime as I would like to remember him, Jimmy Young was one heck of a fighter. Jimmy twice outscored the feared Ron Lyle. He was stopped by Earnie Shavers (no shame there), but he also drew with Shavers. Everyone knows that his claim to fame was gutting out a painfully terrible seventh round and then coming back to outlast and out punch an exhausted George Foreman in a major upset. Big George would not fight again for ten years!
Before Jimmy beat Foreman he had met an aging Muhammad Ali for the world’s title. It was obvious the training was not a top priority for Muhammad. He must have taken Jimmy very lightly. The fight turned out to be a real stinker that went to the scorecards after fifteen rounds. Ali got the verdict and retained his crown. Many felt Jimmy did enough to win. I disagree with that. It was a close but utterly boring tussle. Young had his moments but his ducking through the ropes to avoid punishment did not endear him to the fans or the judges.
When Jimmy rebounded from the Ali setback and defeated Foreman, it led to a match with #1 contender Ken Norton. Ali had lost his title to Olympian Leon Spinks. The WBC wanted Leon to defend against the deserving Norton. Leon opted for a lucrative return against Ali. The WBC then stripped Leon and matched Norton with Young. Although I thought Jimmy lost to Ali or should I say he didn’t do enough to take the title. I thought he earned the nod against Norton in a hard fought, competitive battle. Kenny won the decision and the recognition of the W.B.C as titleholder. Jimmy then lost two decisions to Ossie Ocasio that began his fade into boxing oblivion.
Jimmy was not an exciting fighter but he was well schooled. He was a real master of his craft. He had a stinging jab. He was a slick defensive boxer who was very good at making his opponent miss and then counter punching. He had a very good right hand counter that had some pop to it. He was also a decent body puncher who was not afraid to mix it up on the inside. He was not overly great at one thing but was very adept at doing a lot of things.
He reminded me a lot of the great light heavyweight champion Harold Johnson. An outstanding fighter who is often overlooked because of his conservative style. I guess the best way to describe Harold and Jimmy is that they were consummate professionals.