By Cliff Rold
WKYC in Cleveland has reported the death today of Hall of Fame Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight Jimmy Bivins from complications with pneumonia. Bivins was rated the #16 Light Heavyweight of All-Time by Boxing Digest in 1997, the #6 Light Heavyweight of All-Time by Ring Magazine in 2002, and the #8 Light Heavyweight of All-Time by BoxingScene in 2009. Born James Louis Bivins in Dry Branch, Georgia, on December 6, 1919, Bivins was 92 years old.
Known as the “Cleveland Spider Man,” Bivins boxed professionally from 1940 to 1955, beginning his career as a Middleweight and battling into the Heavyweight division. Bivins won his first eighteen professional contests before suffering his first defeat at the hands of then-future NBA (the precursor to today’s WBA) World Light Heavyweight Champion Anton Christoforidis. It was their first of second of three battles, Bivins winning the first and third by decision.
Bivins would go unbeaten from June 1942 to February 1946, posting a mark of 26-0-1 over the span before suffering a split decision defeat at the hands of future Heavyweight king “Jersey” Joe Walcott. In that incredible 27-fight span, Bivins bested the likes of Hall of Famer Lloyd Marshall by knockout, and future/former World Champions Joey Maxim, Melio Bettina, and Ezzard Charles by decision, and Archie Moore by knockout.
Along with the wins in the streak, Bivins also posted wins in his career over Hall of Famer Charley Burley (at Middleweight) and future/former World Champions Billy Soose, Gus Lesnevich, Teddy Yarosz.
Bivins rose to be rated Ring Magazine’s number one contender at Light Heavyweight in 1942 and earned the same distinction at Heavyweight in 1943. Despite his strong resume of wins and noteworthy ratings, World War II prevented a crack at Joe Louis, the two only able to meet years past their peak in 1951. Louis won a ten-round decision.
The closest Bivins would come to a major title was in his win over Marshall in 1943, promoted for the war “Duration” crown at Light Heavyweight.
Bivins would continue to compete at a high level for years after his peak run but couldn’t keep the stride he’d had. Charles and Moore avenged their losses in multiple, Maxim won a split in their only return, and he’d also suffer a points loss to Light Heavyweight great Harold Johnson.
By the time of the Johnson loss in 1949, Bivins was already in decline but continued on. He won his final fight in 1955, a six-round decision over Mike DeJohn and waited years for the full recognition his exceptional career deserved.
Bivins received those honors in 1999 when he was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]