From the Nosebleeds: Greatest Heavyweights



J to the izz-o, On to the izz-a

The Sega Genesis. One of my all-time favorite systems and the first one I ever played. When everyone else was playing Mario, I was kicking back with good ol’ Sonic. And when everyone was playing Donkey Kong, I had Vector Man. You had Contra? Well, I had Gunstar Heroes. Most of the time, I wasn’t exactly on the winning side. Yet, as years go by, one genre of games that I always see not getting much of an update or even a mention is boxing games. Sure, there’s Fight Night, and that’s a great series. I suppose as a boxing fan, I have to concede that the glory days of boxing are over and it’s time to admit that MMA has won. Long gone are the days of Punch Out… and… oh wait, that seems to be the only boxing game that anyone remembers.


But wait, Jon, you mean there was another boxing game other than Punch-Out!? A game that was just as good, but completely overlooked? Why yes, you’re right, there was a game just like that. Oh, I think I remember it now! Is it this?


I like this game, but it’s not the focus of today’s post

No. No no no no. Not Super Punch Out. It’s not a Nintendo game. It’s a game not many people have heard of, but I can attest that it’s one of the best sports games ever. And the name of this game is Greatest Heavyweights.


Yes, this game was rated Mature for the use of blood. Funny how you only had to be 13 back then to play a mature game

Greatest Heavyweights, unlike Punch Out, is shot from a side view. However, on the flipside, you can throw different punches much like in Punch Out. Hook, jab, uppercut, with both your left and right hands, able to hit the head or the body. Combinations are the key, but a general rule of thumb is that a bigger boxer usually targets the head, and a smaller boxer targets the body. Much to it’s name, you can select from eight different historical heavyweights, plus an additional thirty fictional fighters, and any boxers you make for career mode. Nonetheless, the historical boxers are by far the best boxers in the game and arguably the draw for anyone wanting to play this.

First off, all the historical boxers have “max attributes”. The game shows this, but it’s not as cut and dry as it sounds. If you pick Joe Louis, you aren’t going to be darting around the ring like you were Muhammad Ali. If you don’t know, Joe Louis had a reputation for being flat footed, so for him to have maximum speed would have been way unrealistic. I like the fact that it is realistic, though. But if you pick a fictional boxer, unless it’s your guy from career mode, chances are you’re not going to win an exhibition fight against a historical one. Even so, the idea of actually doing a “Super Fight” scenario is awesome. Ali vs Louis, Holmes vs Frazier, Marciano vs Patterson. All of those are possible with Greatest Heavyweights.


For many boxing fans, this is the match-up everyone would like to see

The career mode is another big time sink altogether. You start from the bottom (lol Drake reference), and work your way up. You can customize your boxer any way you like, from how he looks to his beginning attributes, to how tall he is. I like to think that the height of your boxer relays the difficulty of your that particular career. If you pick the tallest guy, it’s easy because with your gigantic reach you just counter-punch all day without too much difficulty. If you pick the average build, that’s the equivalent of “normal” difficulty. You’re a little faster than the giant, but at the cost of some reach. Being the smallest guy is like hard mode. You’re pretty fast, but you have a very low reach, and bigger guys will just nail you before you can get in close. Once you get good at the game though, you’ll find ways around your height handicap. After every match, win or lose, you can pick at least two items to strengthen yourself (three items if you won). You have power, for how much damage you do, speed, for how fast you move, and stamina, for how well you take hits. Once you get to Mike Dixon (rumor has it that he’s Mike Tyson, but due to Tyson’s agreement with Nintendo for Punch-Out, his name couldn’t be used. Either way, he fights exactly like Tyson would in the game with practically the same build), and win, you get into the challenger matches, where you fight each historical boxer until you beat them all, and with that, the game. These guys are tough, and the programmers did an excellent job programming how each boxer actually fought into their AI. Ali uses his speed and throws lots of jabs, trying to outlast you while he taunts you. Rocky Marciano shows no fear and constantly moves towards you, throwing powerful punches and aiming for a knockout. But by far the hardest guy in the game is Larry Holmes.


Fuck you and your cheating bullshit, Larry

Larry is the biggest heavyweight in the game, and he has the longest reach. He hits very hard, and rather than be a guy who tries to end the fight quickly, he likes to sit and defend and take his time just whittling away at your health. It’s not like Punch Out where Mike Tyson kicks your ass in forty seconds, you could be going at Holmes for like a half hour and lose. I was replaying this the other day and even though I didn’t lose to him, my hands hurt like a bitch because of the how many rounds it went to. Personally when I play with a historical boxer, I like to play with Jack Dempsey. Ali is too much finesse, Louis is extremely slow, Holmes is too easy. Good ol’ Jack is like the perfect person to use. Plus, there’s always some street cred that you’re technically picking the oldest boxer from the roster to duke it out.


Ali and Louis are chumps. Real men pick the Manassa Mauler

In terms of the true boxing experience, I feel that Greatest Heavyweights captures the sport better than Punch Out. You don’t get to customize Little Mac, and the fight is always the same. You dodge moves, and then punch the guy. Rinse, repeat, until you win. GH lets you make your own boxer, the AI is more accurate, it just feels like a more complete boxing experience. Punch Out is more arcade-y, and I guess that makes sense considering it was an arcade game, but it not an accurate portrayal of the sport itself. It’s like playing NFL Blitz… and then going and playing ESPN 2k. NFL Blitz might be more fun, but it’s not accurate. In the end though, both games are good. I just feel like Punch Out gets a lot of praise while almost no one mentions Greatest Heavyweights. Next time you’re in a retro game store or something similar, and you run across it, you should give it a shot. Trust me, if you’re even the slightest bit intrigued, you’ll have a blast. At the very least, you can always make an alien boxer and take over the world.

Final Rating: 8/10


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3 replies »

  1. Hi again,

    I actually meant Larry Holmes, I don’t know why I wrote Joe Louis 😛 Strangley enough I never had much trouble with Larry. I remember when I was a kid, Muhammad Ali was one of the toughest because of his speed.

    Regarding these special boxers, they tend to change as one advances and fights in career mode, but I noticed a pattern. When one of these (or more) appear, they climb the ranks quite quickly losing very few fights or none at all, but eventually every invented boxer loses his momentum and starts losing until he ends up at the bottom. I guess this is to simulate their aging, as this doesn’t happen until they already had a significant amount of fights. After my last comment I saw Andy Blue at the top for a while and then he went all the way down with very low stats and rank 30. I find this feature of the game quite good and I also like to check how other boxers are doing and identify the good ones to watch their progress.

    Cheers and happy new year!

  2. Okay, first of all, the hardest boxer in the game is definetly not Joe Louis. While it might have been that way to you, it depends mostly on one’s fighting style and in finding the particular pattern that works for that boxer. Second, the historical boxers are once again not always the strongest ones. Sometimes you can find one ‘special’ invented boxer that climbs really fast in the rankings in career mode. Once this special boxer reaches the 2nd-6th rank or so, and has his stats are nearly or completely maxed out, you will find him to be extremely challenging, sometimes even more than any real boxer. It happened to me with Andy Blue, a medium boxer that was very fast and gave one hell of a fight before I could finally beat him. I even matched him on demo mode against every single one of the greatest and defeated them with relative ease between the 2nd to 5th round. He lost one match, though, but surprisingly not against any real boxer, but against another special invented one, Fireman Jones, a big boxer who didn’t even have his stats maxed out. The match was long and very even, but Fireman Jones ended up winning by decision as niether of them could knock the other out.

    I agree the game is good, but there is something that sometimes bothers me and even frustrates me. It seems the ai has certain advantages over the player, such as being able to perform combos faster than one possibly could. For instance, you may notice that Mike Dixon tends to go one or two hits to the body and then a quick hook to the head. Well, that’s plain cheating as there is no way you can ever do such a fast hook to the head. I tried this over and over again in exhibition using Mike Dixon and never could I do the same. Yet, when used by the ai, his head hooks have less frames, he just switches from aiming to the body to the hitting frame of the upper hook, skipping the standing and first head hook frame altogether. Also, sometimes when a boxer has his energy low and is close to be knocked to the ground, he’ll defend flawlessly for a couple of seconds so as to recover some energy. Luckily, the ai doesn’t abuse this last one too much, but it can be annoying as you can see those unreal reflexes, product of the ai reading the player’s control input perfectly to defend from every punch. Finally, it seems to me that the ai is slightly faster than the player even when using the same boxer. This might be related to being the right player on screen, as I noticed something similar when playing on that side.

    • Hi Ale,

      I think you may have misread my post. I said that Larry Holmes is the hardest boxer in the game, not Joe Louis. Given the AI’s propensity to give itself advantages (as you stated), his size/reach is deadly along with the fact that his play style (counter punching) is a tough combination to overcome, particularly when the AI decides to give itself a speed boost and flawless defending. He’s as big/bigger than you, hits faster, and blocks everything. He gave me more fits than anyone else, I think when I was little the game finally had mercy on me and let me win after a few tries. Obviously an individual’s toughest opponent depends on the factors you listed, and I can only speak from my experience.

      As for the special boxer who becomes supercharged during the career mode, I agree that they are usually the strongest boxer. However, that boxer varies from save file to save file, as I remember Oscar Ogg being particularly annoying when I was younger to finding him be a joke in my most recent playthrough. As such I didn’t mention that, particularly because you can challenge boxers a few places above your ranking and can thus skip them. Games from that era tend to have weird glitches or programming, and this definitely ranks among the more interesting ones I’ve seen. My friends and I usually didn’t play as that boxer, but I can see your point.

      The game certainly isn’t flawless, but as far as 16 bit boxing games go, it’s one of the better ones. Thanks for reading!

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