Boxing
 
       === Monumental Task: Choosing the Faces for Boxing's Rushmore ===
 
 By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Boxing Editor
 
 Cape Coral, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - When LeBron James triggered a week's
 worth of headlines and sports radio palaver with musings about which players
 belonged on his historical hoops "Mount Rushmore," I instinctively thought,
 "Hey, maybe I can get some mileage out of this, too."
 
 And while King James' picks of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and
 Oscar Robertson were difficult to quarrel with given the completeness of each
 player chosen, I'm reckoning that assembling a similar list when it comes to
 boxing might generate a few more cross words of disagreement.
 
 But first, let's set some ground rules.
 
 Because I'm a 44-year-old man who watched his first professional fight in
 1977, I'm going to limit myself to that time frame when it comes to deciding
 who belongs and who doesn't. Yes, I realize that cheats guys like Muhammad Ali
 and Ray Robinson, among others, but if I'm not old enough to have seen them
 fight at their peaks in real-time, then I don't think it's my jurisdiction to
 deem them worthy or unworthy.
 
 If there are readers who quibble with that approach or find it a ghastly
 offense to the Willie Peps or Tommy Loughrans of the world, I apologize. And I
 welcome them to concoct their own lists that reflect those viewpoints. But for
 these second-day-of-the-week purposes, that's what we're going with in terms
 of who's considered for the monument being erected here in sunny Southwest
 Florida.
 
 Also, because boxing is a many splendored thing whose drama is not solely
 limited to the fighters in the ring, I've decided that two of the four spots
 on my mountain will be devoted to those whose endeavors were not of the
 combative variety. One slot is earmarked for a corner man whose exploits raise
 him to immortal status among his colleagues, and another left to a promoter,
 for the same reasons.
 
 And so, having dispensed with those preliminaries, it's time for the main
 event.
 
 Spot No. 1, Promoter:
 DON KING
 While I concede that he's been off the big-time event radar for several years
 now, it's nonetheless true that if you're a fan who was reared in the sport
 during the 1980s as I was, then the man with the electric hairstyle was as
 much a fixture on fight night as guys named Larry, Marvin or Ray ever were.
 
 And it's because of that penchant for eloquent bombast, the perpetually waving
 stars and stripes in either hand and a profile as recognizable as any in
 sports history that the czar of DKP most certainly belongs on a long-lasting
 symbol celebrating the fight game's most memorable characters.
 
 Greatest promoter ever? Perhaps not. A guy with whom you'd leave a fiscal nest
 egg without hesitation? Doubtful. But when it comes to making an impact and
 getting boxing to front-page and lead-story status in print and on television
 - both "Only in America" and elsewhere - no one did it better.
 
 Spot No. 2, Corner Man:
 ANGELO DUNDEE
 Go ahead, I dare you. Hop on YouTube or pop a tape in the VCR and watch the
 first 12 rounds of the "Showdown" between Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns in
 September 1981. Grasp the context of the fight and get a feel for how things
 were progressing as matters entered the "championship rounds."
 
 Then just try to avoid goose bumps while listening to Dundee in Leonard's
 corner as he prepped his man for the 13th, insisting to a once-beaten "Sugar
 Ray" that he was "blowing it now, son" and reminding him that only nine
 minutes remained before what seemed like an imminent second loss.
 
 I'm as big a fan of the "Hitman" as there is on this earth and I celebrated
 loudly when he got his comeuppance eight years later; but each time I watch
 the '81 replay, dammit, I just wish Ray would have ignored Dundee and gone
 about his business.
 
 Spot No. 3, Fighter:
 ALEXIS ARGUELLO
 The Nicaraguan stylist was a champion in three divisions in an era before
 every mid-range belt-holder with a favorable promotional allegiance allowed it
 to become commonplace. And when he fought - and lost - in a bid for a fourth
 title, he provided a classic match that'll be talked about for generations.
 
 Oh, and he managed to do it all while being a decent human being, too.
 
 For those of us who got to see the lightweight version of Arguello in the late
 '70s and early '80s on what seemed like every Saturday afternoon on CBS; we
 were the lucky ones. His ability to take aggressive young foes into the deep
 waters before breaking them down was unforgettable to watch, and the class he
 showed both before and after fights is something today's stars could take a
 lesson from, too.
 
 He couldn't beat a prime Aaron Pryor at 140 and he might not have beaten a
 prime Roberto Duran had they met at 135, but if you're looking for the usually
 unachievable combination of elite-level fighter and competitive role model,
 you'd be hard-pressed to find someone better to immortalize at any weight.
 
 Spot No. 4, Fighter:
 ROY JONES JR.
 While one spot on my mountain tourist trap honors a great fighter whom I'd
 have no problem naming a child after, I wanted to save the second spot for the
 guy whose best days, in my opinion, were better than anyone else's best days
 within the post-1977 boundaries we clarified earlier on the page.
 
 That man, with zero hesitation in spite of recent results, remains the one
 labeled "Superman."
 
 While some spend more time haranguing over who he didn't beat in his peak
 years rather than those he didn't, when I close my eyes and think of Jones, I
 get a vision of the impossibly fast, heavy fisted phenomenon who cleared the
 decks from 160 to 175 pounds and beat a laundry list of elites - Hopkins,
 Toney, Hill and McCallum among them - along the way.
 
 Not to mention the one-fight rise to the land of the heavyweights, where he
 competitively undressed a strong, capable John Ruiz over 12 rounds in what's
 still the single-most impressive weight climb I've seen since I first switched
 on the television 37 years ago this May.
 
 The subsequent series of unimpressive wins and ugly defeats have taken the
 bloom off the RJJ rose for some, but to me, his version of staying around too
 long is no more criminal or legacy damaging than Joe Namath with the Rams,
 Babe Ruth with the Braves or Michael Jordan with the Wizards.
 
 No one leaves them out of all-time great discussions because of their late-
 stage uniform changes, so I'll not be diluting Jones' impact just because he's
 not at age 45 what he'd been at 25 or 35.
 
 This week's title-fight schedule:
 
 SATURDAY
 IBF lightweight title - Macao, China
 Miguel Vazquez	(champion) vs. Denis Shafikov (No. 3 contender)
 Vazquez (33-3, 13 KO): Sixth title defense; Unbeaten since 2008 (12-0)
 Shafikov (33-0-1, 18 KO): First title fight; Eighth fight scheduled for 12
 rounds (6-0-1)
 Fitzbitz says: "If you've not checked Vazquez's resume, do yourself a favor.
 Outside of tight decisions against guys named Canelo (two) and Bradley, he's
 never lost. Won't happen here." Vazquez by decision
 
 Last week's picks: None
 2014 picks record: 7-2 (77.7 percent)
 Overall picks record: 555-196 (73.9 percent)
 
 NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-
 fledged title-holder - no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world
 championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight
 class.
 
 Lyle  Fitzsimmons  is a veteran  sports columnist who's written professionally
 since  1988 and covered  boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and
 posted  online  for  clients  in  North  America  and  Europe.  Reach  him  at
 fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him on Twitter: @fitzbitz.
 
 
 
 02/20 03:13:53 ET

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