Father and son world boxing champions

Boxing is full of dynasties. The Mayweathers are perhaps the most high profile with Floyd Mayweather Sr an opponent of Sugar Ray Leonard, his five weight world champion son needing no introduction and Roger Mayweather, uncle and trainer of Jr being a two weight world champion himself.

Current light middleweight and middleweight kings Jermall and Jermell Charlo have taken the mantle since Mayweather Jr retired from all but exhibition boxing. Back in the UK, in Paul, Stephen, Liam and Callum, all four Smith brothers have fought for world titles, Liam and Callum having been successful. And in all honesty we could go on for days with countless lists of brothers and cousins who have fought at the highest level, the Furys and Selbys being just two names that spring to mind.

Father and sons duos, or successful ones are decidedly more rare. When the criteria increases to having both won world titles the pool gets even smaller. For Chris Eubank Jr that lofty aim will be the ultimate goal and in these footsteps, though distant he will try to add “Eubank” as a name on boxing’s highest pedestal. Years down the line, if he does, these are the names he will join.

Floyd Patterson and son

If Chris Eubank Jr is to become a world champion then it is unlikely his journey will look like anything resembling one of boxing’s most famous names. The “Gentleman of Boxing”, Floyd Patterson fought in an era where there was no debate about what was a world championship belt, there only was one.

From Waco, North Carolina Patterson was diminutive by modern heavyweight standards, and didn’t get a chance at the world heavyweight title until his 32nd fight. By this time he had lost only once and on that occasion in questionable circumstances. If you find yourself with ten minutes to spare watch the below video and tell me how Joey Maxim wins the fight 7 rounds to 1 on one scorecard, even the black and white provides enough colour to reveal a pretty obvious undercurrent.

Facing Archie Moore for the Heavyweight world title, Patterson would knock his opponent out in the fifth, before going on to defeat Tommy Jackson and the 1956 Olympic Heavyweight champion Pete Rademacher in his first two defences. A trilogy with Ingemar Johansson would follow, each ending in a knockout, with Patterson revenging an opening defeat twice in succession.

Sonny Liston would prove too big for him, the first round knockout a major foundation in the legend that Liston created precisely because of the opponent it was inflicted upon. In turn it would make Muhammad Ali’s victory over Liston all the more seismic. Ali himself would fight Patterson twice, once when Floyd was 30 and again at 37 and on both occasions overcome Patterson in knockout victories.

In heavyweight folklore Floyd Patterson deserves his place. Taking up the mantle that Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano had left, before passing it on to Liston and then Ali. Living up to such a legend would be hard for any child.

Tracy Harris Patterson

Tracy Harris walked into Floyd Patterson’s gym as a 11-year old boy, from a family of migrant labourers who picked apples in rural New York. A few years later he was adopted by Floyd and would go on to be trained by the heavyweight king throughout the majority of his career. At 5ft 5 1/2 inches, the younger Patterson managed to avoid contests in which he was the much smaller man, performing throughout his career between Super-bantamweight and Super featherweight.

No easy ticket granted by his illustrious name, Tracy Harris was a professional fighter in every sense. Fighting regularly throughout the country, his resume is a who’s who of provincial small scale shows. Poughkeepsie – New York , Scranton -Pennsylvania, Totowa, New Jersey, Fort Myers – Florida this is just a sample.

It was in Las Vegas he tasted his first defeat in his 21st professional bout, a points loss versus Jeff Franklin, a fighter who never quite fought at world level.

Ten wins later and Tracy Harris was back approaching the top but would lose a split decision to featherweight Steve Cruz. Cruz went on to fight for the IBF world title in his next fight. That setback proved costly and Tracy Harris would have to force the issue.

He quickly amassed 12 knockouts in a row and met Thierry Jacob. The young Patterson was growing old, seven years a pro and with a record of 44 wins and only two defeats but he had enough that night. A second round knockout meant Tracy Harris Patterson was the WBC World Super Bantamweight Champion. The Patterson’s became the first father and son duo to both win world titles.

Patterson would hold the title for two years before a defeat to Hector Acero Sanchez left him stepping up in weight and challenging Eddie Hopson for the IBF World Super-featherwight title. Against a 26-0 prospect in the second round he would knock Hopson down 3 times before on the fourth the ref would waive off the contest. A two-weight world champion and in typical concussive fashion.

His biggest payday would come two fights later against Arturo Gatti in Madison Square Gardens. On the undercard that day in 1995 was a certain Oscar De La Hoya, but in Tracy’s corner, no longer his father, a man with which his relationship was becoming increasingly strained.

That night would prove the crowning of Arturo Gatti, who was simply too slick and powerful against his older, shorter opponent, but his victory would only come after Patterson had genuinely looked capable of finishing the contest. In a final three rounds of boxing even 25 years on it’s a captivating contest and savage in the damage inflicted by both parties.

It was enough to merit a rematch 15 months later, with the follow-up a more conclusive repeat of the first. Tracy Harris Patterson finished his career with a record of 63 wins, 8 losses and 2 draws, and would honour his adopted father with a gym set up in his name. The first father and son duo to achieve the feat, Floyd and Tracy Harris Patterson both gave each other plenty of things to be proud of.

Leon and Cory Spinks

There is a certain fittingness to the next father and son to be crowned world champions, for Floyd Patterson and Leon Spinks had a similar famous opponent.

1976 Olympic Light-Heavyweight Champion, Leon Spinks came to the professional ranks as a dangerous 23 year old with a fearsome reputation. Aided by five knockouts in his first five fights, three of these within a round, Spinks was fast-tracked to essentially an eliminator versus 27-0 Alfio Righetti. It was a fight he won 46-44 on all three scorecards.

Lying in wait Muhammad Ali, 36-years-old but off the back of 11 consecutive title defences. It was a sequence that had started after his Rumble in the Jungle victory of George Foreman and included victories over Joe Frazier, Ken Norton and Earnie Shavers.

In a strange fight, the smaller man in Spinks was allowed to unleash a flurry of shots to the body of Ali, with Ali offering just his gloves over his face in protection. No attempt to throw back just an old pro gaining the measure of his opponent’s power. Onwards it continued, Ali taunting his opponent with an outstretched hand but receiving a dipping head and a jab to his chin in return.

In fits and burst Ali showed his trademark dancing feet and concussive power but this seemed one dance too many. Spinks continued to land scoring shots. On video it’s an image of an icon keen to show he’s in control but backed up by a body finally telling the toll of over 500 rounds of professional boxing. After 15 rounds of boxing, Spinks earnt the nod in a split decision, becoming a world champion in just his seventh professional bout and picking up both the WBC and WBA Heavyweight belts.

For Leon Spinks that night in 1978 would prove his greatest moment. He lost the rematch seven months later. He would fight Larry Holmes for the Heavyweight title in 1981 but would fall short once more. Falling short was perhaps an unfortunate consequence of the era he found himself, being a natural cruiserweight, fighting at a time where that division was only just being established.

Spinks would later fight for the world Cruiserweight championship but not until 1986 when he was knocked out by Dwight Muhammad Qawi. By this stage he was a 33-year-old fighter, who had campaigned for the majority of his career as a heavyweight with all the punches and power that division entails. His record at retirement ranked 26 wins, 17 losses and 3 draws, but is clouded by a late career that became a punching bag for up and coming prospects.

Cory Spinks

Just seven months old when his father had his famous night, Cory Spinks would make his professional debut less than two years after his father had retired, bypassing the amateur ranks as a 19-year-old pro. More slight in size, within a year he had progressed to 12-0 as a super-lightweight before losing a split decision for the IBA (International Boxing Association) World Super Lightweight title.

It’s perhaps fortunate he lost that night because I don’t have to make a call on whether the IBA is really a world title. It would take him another 4 years for his next opportunity, losing a relatively comfortable decision to Michele Piccirillo for the vacant IBF World Welterweight title.

He would get his revenge a year later, picking up a full version of the IBF World Welterweight belt courtesy of a wide points win over the same Italian opponent. From there he would go on to unify the division defeating Richard Mayorga to pick up the WBA Super and WBC belts. Six months later and Spinks was at his zenith, beating Zab Judah and Miguel Angel Gonzalez in succession, cementing his place as the undisputed welterweight champion.

A defeat in the rematch to Judah would relinquish the belts but he would use this to step up in weight winning the IBF World Super-welterweight Title. Stepping up once more he would lose a split decision to Jermain Taylor. Once more defeat would signify change as Spinks would step down again to regain his IBF Super-welterweight title.

Spinks would finish his career with a record of 39 wins, and 8 defeats, becoming a two-weight world champion and only falling short against the highest calibre of opponents. Though Leon’s victory over Ali may remain one of the greatest shocks in boxing history, it is his son who may hold the family title for the most successful career.

Julio Cesar Chavez Sr and Jr

Perhaps the greatest boxer on this list is the same man who heaped the pressure on his son by having him share his own name. Julio Cesar Chavez was born in Sonora, Mexico and made his professional debut as 17 year old in Culiacan in 1980. In the first two years of his career he would fight and win 21 times, knocking 17 of them out.

In 1984 after 43 consecutive wins he would fight for his first world title, stopping a 19-year-old Mario Martinez in the eighth round to capture the WBC World Super-featherweight Title. He would make nine successful defences at the weight, before moving up to claim the WBA World Lightweight Title.

Chavez would defend and unify the division picking up the WBC belt in the process before stepping up once more. Defeating Roger Mayweather for the second time in world title fights he would claim the WBC World Super-lightweight title.

Once more Chavez Sr would unify a new division, picking up the IBF title with a 12th round knockout against the polished American Meldrick Taylor, all whilst the judges had him down on the scorecards, and with only 5 seconds of the bout remaining.

From there Chavez’s reputation would grow and in 1993 he fought Greg Haugen in the Estadio Azteca in front of over 132,000 fans. That same year he would step up once more, fighting to a majority draw for the same title versus Pernell Whitaker.

It was to be the closest Chavez got to being a four weight world champion and he went back to defend his WBC World Super Lightweight title later in that year.

By 1994, 14 years into one of boxing’s most glittering careers, Chavez Sr would defend that same title against Frankie Randall. With a record of 89 wins, 74 by way of knockout, zero defeats and that solitary draw, Cesar Chavez was already one of the greatest that ever lived. Tough and wily, with incredible technical skill and devastating power, it was his chin which was perhaps his finest attribute. For the first time in his career that chin failed him, being knocked down in the 11th round. Of course he got up, but points deducted in the seventh and 11th round for low blows was enough to make Frankie Randall the first boxer to ever defeat the Mexican.

Chavez would regain that crown, defeating Randall in a controversial decision where the American had a point docked for an unintentional headbutt. It was immediately prior to the ringside doctor stopping the fight after Chavez said he couldn’t continue. The deduction was enough to swing the contest and hand Chavez the win via a split decision.

Again Chavez would go on to defend the regained title on another four occasions. On his fifth came Oscar De La Hoya, 10 years his junior, with a three inch height advantage and almost seven inch longer reach. In a changing of the guard Chavez would relinquish his title. Cut savagely above the left eye in the first, the bleeding would eventually stop the fight in the fourth but not before his nose was broken in that same round.

Chavez would come again fighting for world titles at both middleweight in a rematch versus De la Hoya and back down at super lightweight as a 20 year professional against Kostya Tszyu. By the point of his retirement the mantle had been well and truly passed, but with a record of 107 wins, 6 defeats and 2 draws, in his era Cesar Chavez has a claim to be boxing’s best ever.

Then came Junior

With his father’s reputation built on incredible toughness, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr was almost set up to fail. After 42 professional fights, Cesar Chavez Jr was certainly giving it a go. Undefeated his reward was a showdown for the WBC World Middleweight Title. In June 2011 Cesar Chavez Jr achieved something his father never could, winning the Middleweight title via a majority decision win versus a likewise unbeaten Sebastian Zbik. Devastating knockouts would follow, first Peter Manfredo then stopping Andy Lee in a middleweight tear up.

In all his fights it’s difficult to say he isn’t a chip off the old block and against Sergio Martinez no more is this encapsulated. Ultimately outclassed, Chavez Jr, was cut in almost the exact same way as his father had been 16 years before. Both eyes became golf balls but still in the 12th his Argentinian opponent was on the canvas twice. Punched to exhaustion by Chavez Jr and as the seconds ticked down Martinez was clinging on for dear life. Martinez survived and took the title with him.

It is that fight that makes the makes what followed all the more surprising. Stepping up two divisions Chavez Jr would be brutally knocked to the canvas by Polish Andrzej Fonfara in the 9th before not coming out for the 10th, a knee injury cited as the reason. To many he was quitting, though the concussive shot that sent him down seemed to somewhat stifle that accusation. Four years later, a shutout loss to Canelo Alvarez endured along the way, Chavez Jr reached his nadir.

Back down at super-middleweight, his hair peroxide blond with a blue streak, Chavez Jr again quit on his stool. This time against Daniel Jacobs, his nose and hand broken after five rounds of boxing. To a baying crowd the message was clear, Chavez Jr no longer had the heart and with a visibly disappointed Chavez Sr shaking his head for all to see you could not help feel he saw it as a slight on his legacy.

Such is the reputation of his father, Chavez Jr can be seen as a disappointment, though how you can say that of a world champion who defended his belt three times is more testament to just how high the stakes were.

Wilfredo Vasquez/Wilfredo Vasquez Jr

Next on the list are a bantamweight duo from Puerto Rico. Wilfredo Vasquez is the only fighter on the list to lose his professional debut, against fellow debutant William Ramos. His recovery would be impressive and by his first world title challenge he would have a record of 21 wins – one loss – one draw.

On that occassion Vasquez fell short. Colombian Miguel Lora earnt an unanimous decision victory on a night where both men fell to the canvas. With it Lora claimed the WBC World Bantamweight Title. Three years later Vasquez would get a second chance, travelling to Seoul to take the WBA World Title from home fighter Chan Young Park but it was as a Super Bantamweight that the Puerto Rican would start to dominate.

In Mexico City he would knockout Freddy Cruz for the WBA title before making nine successful defences all over the world. Not afraid of travelling to the challengers backyard, like Tracy Harris Patterson he would stop Thierry Jacob, this time in France and would defeat Japanese contenders in Japan amongst defences in the USA and back to Spain.

When he eventually did have his homecoming, he likely wished he had stayed away. After 12 rounds of boxing in Bamayon, Puerto Rico Venezuelan Antonio Cermeno took the title.

Once more Wilfredo Vasquez would use defeat to step up and within three fights had his opportunity at the WBA Featherweight title. Now aged 35 and heavily down on the cards, his eleventh round knockout of Eloy Rojas would win Ring Magazine Knockout of the Year for 1996.

If it was a fluke it was a persistent one, defending the title four times in succession. One last hurrah beckoned and aged 37 Vazquez vacated the WBA belt and boarded a plane to a tenth different country. There could be few bigger challenges waiting than a 24 year WBO Champion Naseem Hamed, in the absolute prime of his life. On what had become his home turf, having outgrown Sheffield’s Pond Forge, Hamed put on a masterclass in Manchester, respectful to the last of the Puerto Rican’s power on the counter.

As the ref called off the contest in the seventh round it would prove Vazquez’s last world title fight but as a three weight world champion his career was up there with the very best. Not yet in the Hall of International Boxing Fame, at the time of writing once more the calls come for that to be amended but with a record of 56 wins, 9 losses and two draws surely it has become a matter of when and not if.

Miguel Vazquez Jr

Vazquez Jr’s career contrasts markedly to that of his father, though there are undoubted similarities. Like his father, Wilfredo Vazquez Jr added excitement to a division where knockouts are often bypassed by displays of technical boxing.

17 wins into his pro-career, he had stopped 14 opponents and it was enough to earn a shot at the vacant WBO World Super bantamweight title. This time the Vazquez family reputation meant his Filipino opponent would be coming to Puerto Rico.

Four rounds later and Vazquez Jr was a world champion, beating the guard of Marvin Sonsoma, before finishing him with a left hook to the stomach. The effects left Sonsoma unable to beat the count. From there Vazquez Jr kicked on, winning the title outright by knocking Zsolt Bedak out and doing the same to Ivan Hernandez.

All indications pointed to Vazquez Jr emulating his father. 16 knockouts in his first 20 fights and already a world chamption. Thanks to the path his father had plowed, excitement reached fever pitch and Jr was avoiding the same endless travels. Next up the MGM Grand and the chief support act to Manny Pacquiao vs Shane Mosley.

Stepping up in weight Jorge Arce had been a world champion at Light flyweight, flyweight and Super flyweight but was 31 and had been defeated on six occasions. Vazquez Jr dropped the Mexican at the end of round 4, his opponent’s face bloody and nose broken. He would survive the count and for the next 7 rounds they would land on each other at will. How two men could take such punishment really beggars belief. Coming out for the twelth the fight was in the balance, whoever won it likely to take the title.

Early in the 12th it was all over, the man to finish the contest not either fighter in the ring, but a father in the corner. Vazquez Sr would throw in the towel with his son having taken a barrage on the ropes but clinging on and with two minutes on the clock. A moment of compassion that perhaps could have come only from a father himself.

Whilst Vazquez Jr would come again, losing a split decision to Nonito Donaire in an attempt to win back his belt, that night in Vegas would prove his peak. A flurry of losses would cloud his record but in his prime Vasquez Jr can be remembered as a slick fighter and a worthy world champion.

Notable mentions

With Vazquez Jr comes our final father and son duo who have both been crowned champions of the world and in omitting the Eubank’s I may take some flack. With Chris Eubank Jr‘s title coming in the form of the IBO I have chosen to ignore it, defining my criteria as one of the four main belts, WBA, WBC, WBO and IBF.We may be updating this list in the months to come.

There are likely others I have forgotten, and for that I apologise. This article is done on my own research through hours of trawling through a combination of Boxrec and the governing bodies websites.

Featured image “Muhammad Ali v. Floyd Patterson boxing ticket” is marked with CC0 1.0th 

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