Entrepreneur Paul Nicholson recently generated months' worth of cyber-buzz by using Internet balloting to select the all-time greatest English and Australian players in soccer, cricket and rugby. Now he's going international by doing the same with fighters.
"Boxing is a little different because so many of the greatest stars are global figures," the man behind www.greatestever.com told SweetScience.com this week.
"Muhammad Ali is an American, but he belongs to the world. The same is true for many of the names on the (nomination) lists. This is the kind of thing that generates huge amounts of debate. It starts slowly, but once the voting begins and word gets out, there's a snowballing process. The longer it goes on, the more heated things become."
OK, so it smacks a little of the same bottom-feeder mentality we see on American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. But at least Nicholson's put some intelligent effort into who made the final cut.
He recruited a panel of international boxing experts, including longtime broadcaster Al Bernstein and robo-biographer Thomas Hauser, to come up with 12 nominees at heavyweight and 10 names in each of the other seven original weight classes. Internet voting starts next week, culminating in a three-day extravaganza with the greatest of the great, Oct. 2-4 at the Las Vegas Hilton.
"The debate amongst the judges was passionate and sometimes furious concerning the nominations of the individual fighters," said Nicholson. "While the fighters nominated in 90% of the cases were unanimous, there was significant disagreement in some key areas that led to more discussion and extra balloting. The final picks were selected by majority decision."
Starting Monday, fans can vote at www.greatestever.com. The site also contains information about registration and pricing for the three-day event, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Retired Boxers Foundation -- a charitable organization that helps ex-fighters cope with life outside the ring.
Here's the final list of nominees:
Heavyweight: John L. Sullivan; Jack Johnson; Jack Dempsey; Joe Louis; Rocky Marciano; Muhammad Ali; Joe Frazier; George Foreman; Larry Holmes; Mike Tyson; Evander Holyfield; Lennox Lewis.
Light heavyweight: Bob Fitzsimmons; Georges Carpentier; Gene Tunney; Archie Moore; Ezzard Charles; Billy Conn; Bob Foster; Michael Spinks; Roy Jones Jr.; Joe Calzaghe.
Middleweight: Stanley Ketchel; Harry Greb; Tony Zale; Sugar Ray Robinson; Marcel Cerdan; Charley Burley; Carmen Basilio; Carlos Monzon; Marvin Hagler; Bernard Hopkins.
Welterweight: Mickey Walker; Jimmy McLarnin; Barney Ross; Sugar Ray Robinson; Emile Griffith; Jose Napoles; Sugar Ray Leonard; Aaron Pryor; Thomas Hearns; Oscar De La Hoya.
Lightweight: Joe Gans; Benny Leonard; Tony Canzoneri; Henry Armstrong; Ike Williams; Carlos Ortiz; Roberto Duran; Julio Cesar Chavez; Pernell Whitaker; Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Featherweight: Abe Atell; Kid Chocolate; Willie Pep; Sandy Saddler; Alex Arguello; Salvador Sanchez; Azumah Nelson; Jeff Fenech; Marco Antonio Barrera; Manny Pacquiao.
Bantamweight: Panama Al Brown; Kid Williams; Maneul Ortiz; Eder Joffre; Ruben Olivares; Carlos Zarate; Wifredo Gomez; Jeff Chandler; Hozumi Hasegawa; Orlando Canizales.
Flyweight: Jimmy Wilde; Benny Lynch; Pasqual Perez; Ricardo Lopez; Michael Carbajal; Chartchai Chionoi; Vic Darchinyan; Sot Chitalada; Khaosai Galaxy; Miguel Canto.
Personally, I find it farcical that Sonny Liston and Sam Langford were left off the list at heavyweight (I'd dump Tyson and Holyfield), and that the immortal Pancho Villa isn't a flyweight nominee. And what's with De La Hoya getting the nod at welterweight over the likes of Pancho Villa and Mysterious Billy Smith?
Oh well. Let the voting begin!
TWO HILLS THRILLS: TWO-TIME CANADIAN HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMP KEN LAKUSTA HEADS THE LIST OF CELEBRITIES TAKING PART IN TOMORROW'S CHARITY TOURNAMENT AND AUCTION AT THE TWO HILLS GOLF CLUB, 90 MINUTES NORTHEAST OF EDMONTON.
Lakusta is joining the likes of WHL star Chris Langkow, ex-NHLer Scott Langkow and former St. Louis Blues head coach Brian Sutter in the 18-hole event for Lakeland Caring & Sharing, a community group raising funds for the hospitals in Two Hills and Vegreville and for a cancer victim support group in Bonneyville.
"It's a chance to have some fun and do something to support health care in rural Alberta," says Lakusta, who has relatives in Vegreville. "A lot of times these small-town fundraisers kind of get lost in the shuffle, but they're a lot of fun. This is the fourth year that Two Hills is hosting this tournament, and it's always a great time."
For more information or tickets for the celebrity banquet and auction, call Harry at 780-657-2871.