By Daniel S. Fletcher
Georges, we hardly knew ye.
By some margin the most successful UFC fighter since 1993, and the most-successful and dominant champion in all of Mixed Martial Arts outside of those born in Stary Oskol, Russia, Georges “Rush” St-Pierre will bow out with the unique distinction of having beaten every man he ever faced in the ring, much like fellow Canadian by birth, England’s adopted son Lennox Lewis.
As Georges St-Pierre vacates the throne; let’s look at some of the parallels between Canada’s two favourite fighting sons & the pride of their nation’s sporting realm:
Both of Canada’s favourite sporting sons (ice hockey and Kodiak Bear hunting do not qualify as sports) will leave on the back of two notable world championship title reigns, and while mortal – having both been finished twice – having had the fortitude and skill to come back and “prove” that the first results had been flukes, which many great fighters failed to do. Tyson couldn’t avenge Holyfied; Prince Naseem never did claim the Barrerra rematch stipulated in his contract.
But GSP came back to devastate Matts’ Hughes & “The Terra” Serra, and Lennox Lion Lewis returned grimly to absolutely decimate Rahman, and avenge the McCall loss in what has to be one of the strangest and most painful to watch fights in the history of combat sports.
Canada’s All-Conquering Champions:
For the British Lion – who entered to Iron, Lion, Zion – Lennox’s brief moments of mortality came at the hands of former Mike Tyson sparring partner Oliver McCall, and five years later, Hasim Rahman; both losses robbed him of the WBC World Heavyweight boxing championship title.
Criticisms included “glass jaw”, due to the flash knockout nature of both defeats. However, this is “casual fan fallacy” or alternately, “the wisdom of unintelligent people who nevertheless have an opinion.” Lewis had a jaw that some ever referred to as “iron” – the ultimate pugilist’s compliment regarding durability – and it stood the test of some of the baddest bastards in the game from the late 1980′s to 2003; including the fearsome David Tua, a Mike Tyson who was younger than Lennox at the time, and a Vitali Klitschko who was practically unbeaten and who thenceforth would continue to reign supreme in Lennox’s absence. None could crack the Brit’s chin.
Clearing out the division, Lewis beat everyone; from the existing current & former world champions (Tucker, Weaver, McCall, Mercer, Holyfield, Botha, Rahman, Tyson) to future world title-holders (Morrison, Akinwande, Bruno, Briggs, Klitschko) and all the dangerous contenders and young guns alike (Tua, Ruddock, Briggs). He is only the third truly undisputed world heavyweight champion since Ali, following Larry Holmes and Mike Tyson in the 1980s, and remains the only champ outside of Rocky Marciano who ever cleared out his whole division for a decade and beat every man he ever fought.
By the way; all American boxing commentators and armchair experts – excluding George Foreman – are garbage. Absolutely abhorrently, perplexingly dire.
This Canuck all-but mirrored Lennox’s reign.
Even the criticisms that both men face and the progressive stages of their careers is perfectly synonymous; parallel post-knockout transformations from firepower to cerebral attack.
After being unceremoniously choked out by Hughes, GSP arguably toned down the spinning back kicks, the axe kicks into-superman-punch-into-leg-kicks – etc, ad nauseum – combinations. And after Matt The Terra surprisingly sparked him, in putting the Frenchie-Canuck on queer street and forcing him to verbally tap to strikes from the mount, Georges INarguably toned down his approach to competition; “cautious” is one adjective most widely applied by those non-detractors who watch sport to release tension and negativity.
Lennox never suffered the same levels of critique; but it was noted that after the mid-90s, it was less common to see him all guns blazing; heightening his cerebral attacks from the outside, from behind his formidable telegraph pole of a piston jab.
But much like Lewis; when needed, GSP could certainly scrap, and as for winning, he too at times seemed a “bet the house” incumbent champion.
Now, a personal closer.
I always liked the cut of Georges St-Pierre’s jib. Beyond his athleticism and in being one of the (yes, he was) most exciting fighters on the UFC cards circa the freeview full card showings in England courtesy of the Bravo channel, circa 2002-2006, I also appreciated the respectful image he projected; clean cut, suited and booted and with the aura of a role model.
Georges St-Pierre in a suit is the guy that I’d have been were I not a long-haired northern monkey & writer who’d been weaned on a diet of whiskey, Hunter S. Thompson and a childhood idolisation of Liam Gallagher.
Lennox Lewis bowed out at 38, if I recall; he’d cleaned out the division, and went out on a high over unbeaten (practically – barring a shoulder injury) WBO world champ Vitali Klitschko. His absence was justified thenceforth by the simple fact he’d literally cleaned out the division at world title level circa 1993-2003.
GSP similarly cleaned out just about all of the top challengers circa 2005-2013 – some even twice. He bows out – like Lewis did, after Vitali’s capable claiming of four rounds to his two when a cut from an uppercut forced the TKO Lennox win – looking somewhat mortal and beatable. But still; his résumé is about as good as it gets for a world champ, and despite the inevitable vitriol and scorn that may be undeservingly heaped on him from sections of the wider base of casual fans worldwide, he is nevertheless an icon of the sport and has some terrific tussles behind him; I for one hopes he doesn’t tarnish that by returning in an ill-advised fool’s swansong for pride.