Who is Ja's No 1?
As Nicholas 'The Axeman' Walters, the World Boxing Association super featherweight champion continues to climb to the top in boxing's firmament, there has inevitably been a comparison between his achievements and those of the boxer who is now regarded as the most successful Jamaican boxer ever, Michael 'The Body Snatcher' McCallum, a former many-time world champion.
McCallum excelled as both an amateur and a professional. As an amateur, he won gold medals all over the world. He was Jamaica's leading medal winner in the Caribbean, won gold medals in the Central American and Caribbean Games and the Commonwealth Games; won silver at the Pan American Games and was favoured to win the gold medal in the middleweight division at the Moscow Olympics in 1960, before coming down with appendicitis just days before the start of those games.
Walters also had a stellar amateur career, but his exploits were confined to the Caribbean. He was Jamaica's top amateur for many years, and was named the outstanding boxer in the Caribbean Amateur Boxing Association championships on two occasions.
No one is talking about their exploits as amateurs, however. What is being compared is how the record of Walters matches up with that of McCallum at this point of his career. It is a very interesting comparison.
Walters now has 25 fights, compiled over a period of six years, and has won them all, 21 inside the distance. He became a professional and had his first fight on August 2, 2008 in Panama. His first opponent was Estaban Ramos and they fought over four rounds. Walters came out victorious with a unanimous points decision.
He then went on to have five successful victories inside the distance by knockout and technical knockout (TKO). Another decision followed against Ovidio Mojica. What was interesting in that fight was that he was knocked down for the first time in his career in the fifth round, but came back to floor his opponent in the next round, and went on to win on points.
In his 13th fight, he fought for the WBA Fedelatin featherweight title against Carlos Manuel Reyes and won on points. He had four successful defences of that title, and then, after 21 fights, all of which he won, he fought Daulis Prescott from Colombia for the vacant WBA featherweight title, here in Jamaica. He won the title by way of a seventh-round TKO, had two successful title defences, then challenged Nonito Donaire for the WBA featherweight super title. He won that title with a devastating sixth-round TKO victory, flooring Donaire in round three and then finally in round six.
The Body Snatcher
McCallum was known as 'The Body Snatcher' because he threw punches to the body relentlessly. He was not a one dimensional fighter, however, as he had a very good jab, and his right and left hooks and uppercuts won him many fights.
He started his career as a professional on January 14, 1981, in Las Vegas, Nevada, against Rigoberto Lopez, and knocked him out in four rounds. He went on to have a phenomenal streak of victories inside the distance, stopping his first 14 opponents, either by knockout or TKO.
His impressive record, and especially the knockout power that he possessed, put him in line for a world title fight, and on October 19, 1984, he fought Sean Mannion for the vacant WBA light middleweight title at boxing's Mecca, Madison Square Garden in New York, United States. He, too, fought for and won his first world title after previously winning 21 fights. After 25 fights in four and a half years, his record, like that of Walters, was 25 wins, no losses, with 21 victories inside the distance. This is a remarkable coincidence.
McCallum went on to do great things. He won other world titles in the middleweight and then the light heavyweight division, beat some of the best fighters in the world, and scored some of the most dramatic knockouts, the most notable being that over Don Curry, in Las Vegas, Nevada, on July 18, 1987. This is catalogued as one of the great knockouts in boxing history. He had his last fight on February 22, 1997, a loss to James Toney, and was admitted to the International Hall of Fame in 2003. His record is 49 wins 36 by knockout, five losses and one draw.
He won Jamaica's Sportsman of the Year Award in 1978, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989 and 1990. He also received the National Honour Award, the Order of Distinction, Officer Class, for his sporting achievements.
Walters is still chasing his first Sportsman of the Year award, and is definitely the favourite this year, after his two dramatic title fight victories against Vic Darchinyan and Nonito Donaire. Michael McCallum is undoubtedly a hard act to follow, but there is no doubt that Walters will be making a bold bid to match his records.