“When you go back to those days and talk about great fighters, Jimmy Young was one of those great fighters.”
In 1976, Muhammad Ali fought a fighter from Philadelphia, but it wasn’t Joe Frazier.
Ali and Frazier had concluded their intense rivalry the year before. Check out the best new bookmakers for betting on boxing.
Jimmy Young was the other guy from Philadelphia.
Young was 27 and determined. Ali was 34 and bored with training.
Throughout his career, Jimmy Young paid his dues many times over. He earned every dime, picking up experience and extra money working as a sparring partner for Jerry Quarry, Ken Norton, and Frazier. Young was an afterthought in the early 1970s, fighting eleven times, winning seven, losing four, and getting stopped by heavy-handed Earnie Shavers.
Losing can be a powerful learning lesson.
Young learned and worked.
Don’t punch with a puncher. Clean up your defense.
When he returned to the ring, he was a different guy, so different he didn’t lose a fight for the next three years.
He traveled to the UK in 1974 to fight future European heavyweight champion Richard Dunn – winning by stoppage. He boxed circles around scary Jose Luis Garcia.
That same year he fought Shavers in a rematch. Young was boxing well until a vicious left hook felled him in round four. Most figured the fight was over.
Most were wrong. Young got up and started beating Shavers up. His rally continued till the end of the 10-rounder. The majority of writers at ringside figured he deserved the victory. The judges scored the fight a draw.
Undaunted, Young won his next four bouts in succession – the most impressive being a unanimous decision over contender Ron Lyle.
The outcome would earn Young a date with the reigning heavyweight champion of the world.
Jimmy Young had arrived, but who was he exactly? He was a little over six feet tall and weighed between 209 and 220 pounds-hardly the biggest guy in the room. Young didn’t punch very hard, more BB gun than magnum, though his right hand could surprise.
The key was he knew his strengths and weaknesses. Fast hands. His jab was solid, and his defense top-notch. More importantly, his boxing brain was calculating and educated.
Young fought Ali on April 30, 1976, in Landover, Md. The bout was a strange one. Ali was the aggressor for one of the few times in his long career. Young clipped him with jabs and occasional right hands. The fight was close and not very exciting. Young ducked between the ropes whenever Ali appeared to have an advantage, doing this on six different occasions. The move hurt Young in the eyes of the judges and boxing fans. When Young slipped between the ropes in round 12 – the referee called it a knockdown.
Ali pursued but missed more punches than he landed. Young busted Ali’s eardrum in the middle rounds. Ali did well in round nine by utilizing his jab, but Young clubbed him with shots down the stretch.
The Associated Press scored the fight 69-66 for Young.
The referee and two ringside judges saw the fight differently. Larry Barrett had Ali winning by two points. His counterpart and referee Tom Kelly judged Ali the victor by wide margins. The reported crowd of 12,000 plus wasn’t happy about the verdict. Young beat Lyle again six months after losing to Ali. He thought he’d get a rematch with Ali, but that fight never happened.
Young soldiered on, facing former heavyweight champion George Foreman in 1977 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The fight was billed as a title eliminator. Foreman was favored, though his vulnerabilities were apparent.
For six rounds, Foreman chased while the crafty Young picked his spots. Foreman almost knocked out Young in round seven-though the effort exhausted him. Young took it to him the rest of the way, cementing his victory by flooring Foreman in round 12. Young was hopeful a rematch with Ali would finally materialize.
Young fought Norton at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, NV. The fight didn’t excite but was competitive and hard to judge. Norton went to the body while Young countered. Norton won the fight by split decision.
Many felt Young had won.
Young was reportedly depressed for months after the fight, feeling wronged. His desire for boxing waned. He fell from contender to trial horse, losing decisions to Ossie Ocasio and Michael Dokes. Young flashed some of his old style against rising Gerry Cooney before a cut eye forced the fight to be halted. Young started another winning streak until the much younger Greg Page ended it.
In the early 1980s, Young lost five bouts in a row. His family and friends wanted him to stop fighting, but he wouldn’t. He hung around until 1990, finally walking away after being embarrassed by one Carl Porter, who was making his professional debut.
His life after boxing was riddled with drug, legal, and financial problems.
Pugilistic dementia beat him down.
Young was barely 50.
His life officially ended in 2005.
Because of his less than exciting boxing style, Jimmy Young has never received the respect he so rightfully earned. He fought in an era of titans, giving them all hell and beating several.
Respect earned and given.
If you enjoy hearing from the legends of pro sports, then be sure to tune into “The Grueling Truth” sports shows, “Where the legends speak”
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