Jimmy Bivins  
Author:  Paul Hindley

The nature of undertaking a list like this is that you will spend an obscene amount of time deciding who deserves to make the cut and then as much if not more time on wrestling with whether you have put people in the right position, even having only done six of the ten thus far there are at least three people I have done biographies for I am pretty sure I would have somewhere different was I to start afresh. However nobody on the list has caused me quite the headaches the number four ranked fighter has. In the space the same day he can move anywhere from 10th on the rankings to second and I suspect now making him fourth is me reaching an on the fence compromise with myself. At number four on the list is Jimmy Bivins.
As anyone who has stumbled into a debate about Mike Tyson will know there is always a risk to ranking a fighter on a short but impressive peak but in the case of Bivins his peak was so impressive and the reasons for it ending so beyond his control that I am hoping folk can be convinced by the case to put Jimmy in the top five. Born in 1919 in Georgia Jimmy was introduced to boxing when he started hanging around the gyms in Cleveland and sparring when the opportunity arose. Jimmy had a decent amateur career where he picked up regional golden gloves titles.
However after only 39 amateur fights Jimmy turned pro and quickly began to rack up wins, his break through win during this period came when he beat the far more experienced and well ranked Charley Burley in an upset win that gained him national exposure and a ranking with the Ring Magazine.  A decent indication of Jimmy’s potential at this time was when he split a pair of fights with the second ranked light heavyweight in the world Anton Christoridis before going on to whip former middleweight champion Teddy Yarosz with something to spare. However Jimmy’s form was not to continue throughout 1941 as he finished the year by dropping decisions to both Tony Musto and Melio Bettina.
If 1941 had finished somewhat ignominiously 1942 was to see Bivins embark on the kind of run of form that few throughout the history of the sport can match and which in my humble opinion warrants his high place in this list. He started the year by defeating former middleweight king Billy Soose in a totally one sided bout. He was then matched against light heavyweight champion Gus Lesnevich. So spooked was Lesnevich by Jimmy that he refused to go ahead with the fight until Jimmy weighed in above 175 to avoid him making any claims on the title. This proved to be a prudent decision by Gus as Bivins’ beat him at a canter. According to reports the pre-fight agreement was if Bivins was to win he would be given a title shot proper, however after the fight Gus’ manager, the brilliantly named Lou Diamond was heard to say “Mr Bivins’ name is crossed clean out of our book”
Jimmy’s only loss for the next four years and 27 fights came next against the excellent Bob Pastor in a close fight Jimmy was to avenge further down the line. The list of fighters vanquished during this period is almost beyond belief, as well as his revenge win over Pastor Jimmy fought and beat Bettina, Curtis Sheppard, Christoforidis, Savold, Lloyd Marshall and Joey Maxim. If this wasn’t enough he also added Ezzard Charles to that list knocking Ezzard down seven times in the process!
It was during this period though that an event took place that was to have a huge effect on Jimmy’s career and subsequent form, like many a fighter Jimmy was called up to service by the US army and whilst Jimmy was always loath to discuss this incident according to his family members whilst in the service Jimmy took a frightful beating at the hands of some MP’s which left him unconscious for two days. Credence is given to this story by the fact Jimmy received an honourable discharge from the army which was more than unusual in the middle of a world war.
On his discharge from the war Jimmy carried on where he left off on his 27 fight unbeaten streak but around the middle of 1946 his form took a dramatic downturn and after dropping an undeserved decision to Jersey Joe Walcott Jimmy began to lose with alarming regularity, frequently to guys he had previously beaten with ease. The reasons for this strange turn in his fortunes are difficult to pinpoint however the two most likely explanations would seem to be that Jimmy was frequently forced to operate at heavyweight simply to get opportunities which could not be easy for a fighter who could still make light heavy with ease and it is that the beating he endured in the army was finally taking an effect. As tends to be the case the truth lies perhaps somewhere in the middle.
Throughout his career Jimmy beat a total of eight world champions including true greats in Archie Moore and Ezzard Charles, when one adds into that mix the likes of Marshall and Burley and it is clear that Jimmy was a truly special fighter and whilst his form may have tailed off alarmingly towards the end of his career at his imperious best it would not be too tough an argument to make that Jimmy was amongst the very best of his era.