Who Is Oregon’s Greatest Boxer?

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When it comes time to denote the greatest boxers in Oregon history, let’s be honest here – compared to most other states, the list of eligible contenders this chapter would be a relatively short story.

Kentucky has Muhammad Ali and New Jersey Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Colorado can boast of Jack Dempsey, while both North Carolina (Leonard) and Georgia (Robinson) get to brag about their Sugar Rays.

The list of challengers for the title of boxing’s best in Oregon isn’t nearly as luminous. Oddly enough, it’s such a short history that if you were to search for boxers from Oregon on Wikipedia, the roster includes Tonya Harding.

Yes, that Tonya Harding. And it’s got nothing to do with her attempted TKO by proxy of her figure skating rival Nancy Kerrigan. Portland’s Harding made her debut in the ring against Bill Clinton accuser Paula Jones as part of a celebrity boxing reality TV show. 

She followed that up with six pro bouts. Fighting in both the featherweight and lightweight weight classes and under the handle Tonya “Bad Girl” Harding, she went 3-3. Her last two defeats were both TKO losses.

We’ll go right out on a limb here and rule Harding out of contention. 

You can’t say the same about fellow Portlander Victor Morales Jr. Considering the potential of what Morales Jr. might accomplish in the ring, it already makes him a compelling player in this drama.

Taken under the wing of Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, super featherweight Morales, 22, is 13-0 with five knockouts. He was 118-12 as an amateur.

“He has all the potential to be a star,” Golden Boy matchmaker Roberto Diaz told Pdxmonthly.com.

Let’s break down all of the contenders in this tournament and declare a winner.

Thad Spencer

Spencer didn’t fight Ali but he did fight in the tournament to determine who would succeed Ali as World Boxing Association heavyweight champion in 1967 after Ali was stripped of the title for denying his call to military service.

Spencer scored a unanimous decision over Ernie Terrell in the quarter-finals. However, he suffered a 12th-round TKO loss to Jerry Quarry in the semi-finals. 

That was the beginning of the end for Spencer. He went 0-7-1 in his next eight fights before giving up boxing in 1971 with a career record of 32-13-1.

Spencer also shares a history with former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson. Tyson knocked out Peter McNeeley. Spencer knocked out Peter’s dad Tom McNeeley.

Oscar Gardner

Gardner was 57-19-28 as a turn of the century pro fighter whose geographic locales covered a variety of areas. He was born in Minneapolis, fought as the Omaha Kid and later settled in Portland. Gardner recorded 38 knockouts as a pro, a rarity for a featherweight boxer.

Infamously, Gardner once killed a man in the ring. George Stout died from his injuries following a 12-round loss to Gardner on April 7, 1898 in Columbus, Ohio. Gardner was arrested and charged with manslaughter but later acquitted.

Considered U.S. champion and the No. 1 contender in the world, Gardner fought for the world featherweight title on three occasions. Canadian champ George Dixon scored a 25-round decision over Gardner on Nov. 29, 1898. Gardner drew with Martin Flaherty on Feb. 22, 1899  On April 30, 1901, before a crowd of 8,000 at Mechanics Pavilion in San Francisco, Gardner suffered a fourth-round knockout at the hands of champ Terry McGovern. 

Gardner did defeat world featherweight champ Solly Smith but it was before Smith held the title. 

Ray Lampkin

A member of the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame, Lampkin was North American Boxing Federation lightweight champion. He was 34-16-1 as a pro, with 16 victories coming by knockout.

Portland’s Lampkin fought Roberto Duran for the WBA world lightweight title on March 1, 1975 in Panama City, Panama. He lost via a 14th-round knockout. 

Steve Forbes

Steve Forbes was a world champion boxer. Photo by: The Mayweather Channel (YouTube.com screenshot).

Portland’s Forbes won his first 14 pro bouts before he was stopped by Alejandro Gonzlaez when they fought for the IBA lightweight title. On Dec. 3, 2000, Forbes scored an eighth-round TKO of John Brown to claim the vacant IBF super featherweight title. 

Forbes successfully defended his title four times before losing to Carlos Hernandez in 2003. He lost a 2004 bid to regain the title to Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai. And in 2008, Forbes lost a unanimous decision to Andre Berto in a bid for the WBC welterweight title.

Denny Moyer

In 1940, Moyer’s uncle Tom Moyer fought and lost to Robinson in the finals at the U.S. Olympic trials. Two decades later, Denny Moyer would get the better of boxing’s first legendary Sugar Ray in the ring.

Moyer, who fought as a pro from 1957-75, won his second fight with Robinson in 1962. He also fought Emile Griffith and Benny “Kid” Paret, beating Paret and splitting two bouts with Griffith. He was national amateur champ in 1957 and fought Don Jordan for the world welterweight title on July 7, 1959, losing on points.

Moyer beat Joey Giambra for the vacant World light-middleweight title on Oct. 20, 1962. He defeated seven world champions during his career. Fox Sports named Portland’s Moyer (98-38-4, 25 KOs) Oregon’s greatest fighter in 2017 and three years later, it’s difficult to dispute that notion.

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