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Ranking the best Finnish fighters of all time

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  • Ranking the best Finnish fighters of all time

    Yes, Finland. Why Finland? Because it's a challenge, as well as the fact that they did have some underrated boxers that don't get their due today. Let me just explain one thing: the reason why some have Swedish-sounding names and other have typical Finnish ones is that Finland used to be a Swedish colony, to put it that way, and there is a substantial number of ethnic Swedes living there today, about 20% of the population. Now that we got that cleared up, let's go at it.

    1. Gunnar Barlund
    Both chronologically and in terms of quality, this guy comes first. Barlund was of Swedish heritage and a very good heavyweight who fought from 1934 to 1948. Born as Gunnar Richard Bernhard Bärlund (last name pronounced as "Baer-loond") on 9 January 1911 in Helsinki, Finnish capital, Barlund competed at the 1932 Olympics as a heavyweight but lost in the first round on points against Alberto Santiago Lovell, whom he would later beat in the pros. In 1934, he won the gold at the world amateur championships in Budapest, Hungary. Barlund stood almost 6'2 and was physically strong and tough, a scrapper, who also could hit. For that time, he was surely a physical specimen. His first pro fight was on 14 September '34 and he beat Jeff Wilson by KO1 in Gothenburg. He lost his second fight by DQ6 against German Arno Koebling, but then knocked Koebling out in 8 rounds in May next year. He won his next 14 fights. On 29 December '37, he faced Alberto Santiago Lovell at Hippodrome in New York and beat him by UD10, also knocking him down once. In his next fight, he stopped the gigantic 6'6 Buddy Baer (brother of Max) by TKO7 after giving him a beating and then putting him down with a body shot. Later that year, 1938, on 3 October, he fought against the tough and hard-hitting Lou Nova and despite flooring Nova in the third round with a short left hook to the head, he was badly cut up and got a beating, in the end getting stopped by TKO 7. Nova would go on to stop Max Baer later, twice. He also lost to Jack Roper next year due to a cut, by TKO8. On 4 April '41, he fought Billy Conn and was again stopped due to a cut, in 8 rounds. He next fought the hard-punching Tami Mauriello, 27 January next year, and after outboxing him for the first 5 rounds, he faded and took a beating and was stopped in round 8 by TKO. He also lost the same way, due to a cut over the left eye, in their rematch. His career never quite took off after that and he would also get stopped by Joe Baksi by TKO10 and again by Tami Mauriello, this time by a corner retirement in 2. He finally retired in 1948, with a record of 56 wins, 28 by ko, 30 losses and 1 draw. He was never knocked out for real, despite getting stopped 10 times. Barlund was a fine fighter, but his tendency to cut ruined his chances on the big stage. He was featured on the 1938 cover of The Ring. He died in Palm Beach, Florida, 1 August 1982, aged 71. In 1991, a statue of him was erected in Helsinki. He had been the first Finn to fight on world stage.

    2. Olli Maki
    A capable and tough fighter who was only stopped twice in 50 pro fights, first time by Davey Moore early on and second time in his last fight, Olli Maki (Maeki) won the Euro light welter title in 1964. He was born Olli Johan Oskari Mäki in Kokkola, a small town, 22 December 1936. As amateur, he won the 1959 European lightweight title, after winning the silver in 1957. After being dropped from the 1960 Olympic team (for being too "red" politically), he turned pro in October that year. In his fourth fight, he decisioned Floyd Robertson of Ghana, who later gave Sugar Ramos hell in a world title fight. After going 5-0, he fought Howard Winstone, then 27-0, at the Ice Rink in Nottingham on 20 November 1961, losing on points in 8 rounds to the crafty Welshman. After drawing against the solid Willy Quatuor, he was suddenly chosen as the opponent of reigning world feather champion Davey Moore and fought him at the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki, 17 August 1962. Maki was stopped in 2 rounds after being down three times. It was simply too much too soon for him. On 14 February '64, he won the European light welter title on points against Conny Rudhof of Germany, in Helsinki. Maki was the more clever fighter and despite a tough fight, he outboxed Rudhof for much of it. He defended it by stopping Aissa Hashas of Algeria by TKO8, 5 October '64 in Helsinki. It is not clear wether Maki was then stripped or relinquished the title, but he fought for it again, after Willy Quatour had relinquished it, in a rematch against Rudhof in 1967 but this time lost on points after 15 rounds, away in Germany. In 1968, he fought Pedro Carrasco for the Euro lightweight title, but again dropped a 15-round decision, in Valencia, Spain. He also fought Sandro Lopopolo and Miguel Velazquez, losing to both on points. He was knocked out in his final fight in 1973, in 5 rounds against Juan Flores, in Mallorca. He was now almost 37 and retired, with a record of 28 wins, only 5 by ko, 14 losses and 8 draws. His son Pekka is now a manager, promoter and trainer. Olli Maki died 6 April last year, aged 82. He was a very tough and game fighter who lacked power, but made it up with his boxing skills and tenacity.

    3. Robert Helenius
    The Nordic Nightmare was born in Stockholm, but raised in Mariehamn, Finland. The 6'7 Helenius won the bronze medal at the European U-17 amateur championships in Paris in 2000 and in 2005 beat David Price on points. He won a silver at the 2006 European championships. Helenius made his pro debut 17 May 2008, fighting mostly in Germany where he was based until recently. Despite being rather stiff with his great size, Helenius was a capable offensive fighter in his best days, who could hit very hard. In 2010, he won the European title by stopping the 12-0 Gregory Tony by TKO6. He defended it against almost equally-huge Attila Levin by TKO2, before vacating the Euro title to concentrate on defending the WBO Inter-Continental title he won against Levin. He knocked out Samuel Peter in 9 to start 2011 and then stopped Siarhei Liakhovich by TKO9, but at the end of the year, on 3 December, he struggled against a much smaller and more nimble Dereck Chisora, winning by a questionable SD in a disappointing performance. He also ended Lamon Brewster's career before all these successes, when he stopped him in 8 rounds in January 2010. In 2013, he beat Michael Sprott by UD10, having had a layoff for a year before that. After again winning the European title against Franz Rill on points, he lost for the first time on 2 April 2016, when he was knocked out in 6 by Johann Duhaupas of France, another huge fighter with a punch, at home in Helsinki. After being down in round 4, in round 6 he was nailed by a straighr right to the chin and despite beating the count, he fell backwards and was stopped. He lost for the second time against Dillian Whyte, by UD12, 28 October 2017 in Cardiff. Next year, he returned to contention by surprisingly knocking out Erkan Teper in 8 in Germany. However, in his next fight 13 July last year, he was again knocked out, this time in 8 rounds by Gerald Washington. He has since won one easy fight and now has a fight coming up against Adam Kownacki on 7 March, but it's clear his best days are behind him, having turned 36 in January also. His record is currently 29 wins, 18 by ko, and 3 losses, 2 by ko.

    4. Tarmo Uusivirta
    Tarmo "Tare" Uusivirta was the only notable Finnish pro boxer for a long time. He fought in the 80's mostly and was a talented fighter with an excellent amateur pedigree, but didn't quite achieve as much as he could have as a pro. He had good skills and a solid punch and was also tough, only getting stopped twice, once due to an injury. Uusivirta was born and lived in Jyvaskyla, southwest Finland, 5 February 1957. He won the silver at the 1978 world amateur championships in Belgrade and a gold at the 1979 European championships in Cologne. He also won the 1982 world championships in Munich and participated in the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, but lost to Jerzy Rybicki on a cut in the second round. He became a pro in June 1982. He was stopped for the first time by Belgian puncher Jose Seys, by TKO5, in 1984. In 1987 he beat James Cook on points after scoring a knockdown. In December 1988 he fought against Alex Blanchard for the IBF European smw title and was down once, but it ended a draw. He also drew against Blanchard previously in 1986. He stopped Irving Hines (who had knocked out Lindell Holmes) by TKO4 and Kenny Schaefer by TKO7, before fighting for the European title against James Cook. It was in October 1991 and Uusivirta was injured and had to retire early into round 7. He won one more fight by decisioning Shannon Landberg in 1992 before retiring with a record of 24 wins, 16 by ko, 4 losses and 3 draws. The third draw came in a fight against Enrico Scacchia, where Uusivirta nearly knocked him out in the last round. Tarmo Uusivirta suffered from heavy depression after retirement, due to not being as successful as he had expected, and he committed suicide 13 December 1999, aged 42. His other profession was fireman. He was and remains one of the most popular and mourned boxers in Finland.

    5. Amin Asikainen
    So far, the best Finnish middleweight, who managed to win the Euro title once. Known as "Idi" (a really bad nickname, lol), he was born to a Moroccan father (hence his first name) and a Finnish mother 21 January 1976 in Kirkkonummi, but grew up in Siuntio. He chose to use his mother's last name as a boxer. At the age of nine, he started training karate and taekwondo and then shifted to boxing later. As amateur, he fought a total of 175 fights, winning 135. He was the Finnish champion in 1996, 1998 and 1999. In 1997 he competed as a welterweight at the world amateur championships in Budapest and came to the third round, losing to Marian Simion on points. He also competed at the 1999 and 2001 world championships, unsuccessfully. He became a pro at the end of 2001. He won the Finnish middle title by UD10 against Kai Kauramaki, 15 February 2003. After going 16-0 with 13 ko's, on 5 May 2006 he faced Christophe Tendil of France for the Euro title and he won impressively by knocking Tendil out in round 5 with a huge overhand right. Less than a month later, he scored his first great victory when he defended against Sebastian Sylvester of Germany, at the Tui Arena in Hannover. He was behind on two scorecards by a point when he knocked Sylvester down with a short left hook in round 8 and Sylvester made the count but was waved off by the referee. He defended the title twice more, beating Alexander Sipos and Lorenzo Di Giacomo, both by UD12, before losing the title in a rematch with Sylvester. It was 23 June 2007 in Zwickau, Germany, when Asikainen first sent Sylvester down in the first round, but was down himself in round seven and after being ahead on one of the scorecards and slightly behind on other two, was down twice in the eleventh before being stopped by TKO. On 1 February 2008, he stopped Luis Ramon Campas, aka Yori Boy, by TKO7, in what was Campas' first stoppage loss since the De La Hoya fight in 2003. On 28 November, he faced Khoren Gevor in an attempt to reclaim the European title. After a spirited fight where he was down in the first round but came back to win the next few, he was down again in round 7 and then stopped on a towel. He would suffer an even more devastating loss when he fought Matthew Macklin on 25 September 2009 in Manchester and was dropped twice and stopped in the first round. He came back as a super middleweight next year, but after winning 2 fights there, he was stopped by Piotr Wilczewski by TKO11 in a fight for the vacant European and WBO Inter-Continental titles, 4 March 2011. Asikainen retired but came back for one more fight in April 2016, beating Ivan Jukic by UD6. His record is 29 wins, 19 by ko, and 4 losses, all by ko.

    6. Edis Tatli
    Born in Prizren, Kosovo, 13 August 1987, Tatli moved to Finland at the age of 4 and grew up in Helsinki. Like Asikainen, he trained karate as a youth, but started boxing at 14. He was the Finnish amateur champion in 2004. He turned pro in 2007. Tatli is mainly a boxer, a clever technician, but has demonstrated he has some power, scoring a few first-round stoppages. On 8 December 2012, he won the European lightweight title by TKO1 against Paolo Gassani of Italy. He then beat Felix Lora by UD12 to win the WBA Intercontinental title, 9 March 2013. After defending it against Mzonke Fana by UD12 and Antonio De Vitis by TKO8, he became the First Finn since Olli Maki to fight for a world title, the WBA one, against Richar Abril, 20 September 2014 in Helsinki, Hartwall Arena. Unfortunately, he lost by a majority decision to the even more clever Cuban. He then scored his perhaps best victory yet by beating Yvan Mendy by UD12 to recapture the Euro title. He made three defenses of it before losing it by SD to Francisco Patera, 6 May 2017. He beat Patera by UD to recapture it once again, 7 months later. After defending it once more by UD against Frank Urquiaga, on 20 April 2019 he fought Teofimo Lopez for the NABF title. For the first time in his career, Tatli was knocked out by the outstanding Lopez with a body punch in round 5, at Madison Square Garden. His last fight was 10 August and he won by UD8 against Berman Sanchez. His current record is 32 wins, 10 by ko and 3 losses, 1 by ko. His alias is "Prince".

    7. Jyri Kjäll
    One of few Olympic medallists from Finland, Jyri Kjäll ("Yeeree Kyaell") won a bronze medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, as a light welterweight. Along the way, he defeated Michele Piccirillo, 12-5 on points. He lost to Hector Vincent of Cuba on points. Kjäll was a tall welterweight at 5'9. Born 13 January 1969 in Pori, his hometown is Helsinki. He became a pro in December 1994 and won 6 straight fights by stoppage, all within 3 rounds. He was then stopped by Colombian puncher Juan Carlos Candelo by TKO1, 18 June 1995, in New Orleans. Most of Kjäll's pro fights were in USA. He would never lose again, but his pro career turned out too short. He won the IBF Intercontinental title by KO9 against Christian Blandt of Denmark, 18-0 at the time. That was in April 2001 and next year he won the vacant NBA title by KO7 against Jean Paul Bonatou. After defending it against Monney Seka and winning by a technical decision in 10, 23 April 2002 at Hartwall Arena, he retired after only 7 years as a pro, leaving behind a record of 23 wins, 17 by ko and 1 loss.

    8. Jussi Koivula
    Another tall welterweight, same height as Kjall (177 cm or 5'9 1/2), Koivula has fought for the European title thrice unsuccessfully against Leonard Bundu, a world class fighter, Mohamed Mimoune, a very clever technician, and Jordy Weiss, a promising and clever boxer. Born in Hameenlinna 24 December 1983, he lives in Tampere, Finland's second largest city, on the southwest coast. He became a pro in 2008 and won his first 13 bouts, 3 by ko. Never a true puncher, Koivula was more a tough and durable fighter who had a high work rate. In February 2015, he fought against Marcello Matano of Italy in Ferrara, for the vacant IBF Intercontinental super welter title and he lost by wide scores after getting a point deducted. On 22 April 2016, he fought against Leonard Bundu, who was from Sierra Leone but based in Italy, for the vacant European welter title, at the Nelson Mandela Forum in Florence. He was down twice in round 8 and stopped in round 9 by TKO. Bundu was 32-1-1 and would suffer only one more loss. On 31 March 2017, he again fought for the same title which Bundu had vacated, against Mohamed Mimoune of France, in Paris and lost by the somewhat close scores of 111-115 twice and 111-116. He then fought Samuel Vargas for the NABF ww title on 11 November that year, but lost by a very uneven split decision in Canada. He then had his third go at winning the European title against Jordy Weiss, then 22-0 and today still undefeated at 26-0. The fight was again in France, 26 April 2019, and Jussi again lost by UD, 112-116 twice and 111-117. In his so far last fight, he was stopped for the second time in his career by Conor Benn by TKO2 after being down twice in the second round. It was 21 June at Bethnal Green and might've been the last relevant fight in Koivula's career. He is still listed as active and his record is 24 wins, 9 by ko, 7 losses and 1 draw.

    9. Juho Haapoja
    A cruiserweight who has had some success, winning the European Union title twie, he is Finland's only notable cruiserweight so far. He was born in Yliharma, a small town in western Finland, which since has been joined with two other towns, 22 October 1980. He had his pro debut on 8 April 2006 and lost his first fight on points to Remigijus Ziausys. He first fought as a heavyweight, despite standing just over 5'11. He won the Baltic hw title by SD8 versus Danil Peretyatko in April 2008. He then fought for the interim WBC Asian title against Denis Bakhtov only a month later and was knocked out in 10 after being down three times. He then won the Finnish title by TKO9 against Sami Elovaara at the end of 2008. He defended it against the unbeaten 6'5 Jarno Rosberg, but, after the fight was initially proclaimed a split decision in favor of Rosberg, it was turned into a no-decision after Rosberg failed his doping test. Haapoja started fighting as a cruiser in 2010. In September 2011, he won the vacant European Union title by beating Faisal Ibnel Arrami by UD12. He defended it twice successfully against lesser known fighters, both times by UD. He then faced Mateusz Masternak for the regular European title in December 2012, but lost by a shutout decision in Germany to then 28-0 Masternak. He tried to win the WBC silver title first against Silvio Branco in 2013, but lost by a technical decision in Italy. It was a clash of heads that led to the stoppage. In March 2014, he fought against Rakhim Chakhiev for the same title, but was stopped by TKO9 against the stronger man. In 2017, at the end of his career, he again won the European Union title by beating Leonardo Damian Bruzzese by UD in Helsinki. 7 months later however, 21 October, he lost the title by SD to Alexandru Jur and chose to retire, just a day before his 37th birthday. He fought for 11 years as a pro and left behind a record of 28 wins, 16 by ko, 8 losses and 2 draws.

    10. Tony Halme
    A professional wrestler and actor, among other things, Halme also fought professionally as a heavyweight boxer, between 1995 and 2002. He was already 32 when he entered those ranks, so his career could never be too long or too successful. Always known as a big guy who stood just under 6'4 and weighed usually between 290 and 320 pounds, Halme possessed punching power but was not much of a technician and only 4 of his 19 fights went the distance. Halme's greatest accomplishment was beating Iran Barkley by SD to win the WBF title, at home in Helsinki in April 1999. However, he had a weak chin and was knocked out several times, 5 times in all. He was first disqualified in his first attempt to win the Finnish title against Jukka Jarvinen, in the third round. He then knocked Jarvinen out in 1 round to win that title in September 1997. He then lost the title in an upset against Mika Kihlstrom, by TKO5. After beating the naturally smaller Barkley for the WBF title, he lost to Agustin Corpus by KO3 but then avenged the loss to Kihlstrom by KO4, thereby also recapturing the Finnish title, in April 2000. In October that year, he faced the 9-8 Yacine Kingbo, in a fight which was supposed to be an eliminator for a fight against Henry Akinwande. Halme bragged that after he wins this, he would beat Akinwande and then beat Lennox Lewis for the undisputed title. However, Halme broke his right hand in round 2, after dominating the first round, and was then knocked out by a right hook. In October 2001, he faced the former fringe-contender Garing Lane in Denmark and suffered a badly broken nose, which led to a corner retirement after round 4. Halme won one more fight by UD6 against Chris Sirengo in 2002, before retiring. He was 39 and his record is 13 wins with 10 ko's and 6 losses, 5 by ko. Halme was found dead in his apartment in Helsinki on 10 January 2010, after committing suicide with a gun. He was 47. His boxing alias was "Tony White the Viking" and he was known as a colorful person. He was said to knock down Michael Dokes in sparring, so his punching power was unquestionable.


  • #2
    --- Boz, Helenius had a bum right hand for Chisora, hence his poor left handed performance.

    had an operation and ain't been the same since. He was doing well vs Washington, but not with his right that was slower than molasses in a Yukon winter and eventually got whacked out.

    Oh well!

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by LondonRingRules View Post
      --- Boz, Helenius had a bum right hand for Chisora, hence his poor left handed performance.

      had an operation and ain't been the same since. He was doing well vs Washington, but not with his right that was slower than molasses in a Yukon winter and eventually got whacked out.

      Oh well!
      Thank you for that info, I didn't know that. Added 4 more fighters.

      Comment


      • #4
        --- When you gonna do The Best Finish Fighters?

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by LondonRingRules View Post
          --- When you gonna do The Best Finish Fighters?
          I don't know...why don't you do them?

          Comment


          • #6
            All done! I had forgotten about Tony Halme...

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