THERE ARE few fighters who have faced such a high caliber of competition in such a short period of time. Jimmy Bivins, a light heavyweight and heavyweight contender whose career spanned from 1940 to 1955, fought and often beat the best of his era.
Bivins, from Cleveland, Ohio, was a smooth stylist whose ability to outskill opponents was the key to his success. He possessed a strong and quick left jab and was an excellent defensive fighter. Bivins turned pro in 1940 and, within his first 19 bouts, he outpointed middleweight contender Nate Bolden, future Hall-of-Famer Charley Burley and future light heavyweight king Anton Christoforidis.
But the classy ring artist ultimately made his mark from 1941 to 1943. During that span he beat the best fighters in the middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions. In 1941, Bivins defeated Bolden and future 160-pound king Teddy Yarosz. Then in 1942 he decisioned another future middleweight king Billy Soose, future light heavy champs Gus Lesnevich and Joey Maxim and heavyweight contenders Tami Mauriello, Bob Pastor and Lee Savold. In an unprecendented move, The Ring ranked Bivins as the number one heavyweight and light heavyweight contender at the close of 1942.
The streak continued in 1943 when Bivins posted wins over future heavyweight king Ezzard Charles, Christofiridis, Mauriello, light heavyweight contender Lloyd Marshall, heavyweight contender Lee Q. Murray and former light heavyweight champ Melio Bettina.
The boxing world froze the titles in each weight class during World War II. In March of 1944, Bivins entered the U.S. Army but was honorably discharged in November. It during this time that Bivins was known as the interim heavyweight champion. He continued taking on all-comers and, in 1945, Bivins knocked out Hall-of-Famer Archie Moore in six rounds. From June 22, 1942 to February 25, 1946, Bivins went unbeaten in 26 consecutive bouts.
It was in 1946 though, that Bivins' amazing record began to even out. Although he continued to fight the best fighters in the world, he started to come up on the losing end of the decisions. From 1946 until his retirement he lost on points to Maxim, Jersey Joe Walcott, Harold Johnson and Joe Louis.
Bivins had multi-fight series with many of the fighters he faced. He met Christofiridis three times (winning twice), Maxim twice (winning once), Bettina three times (winning once), Murrary five times (winning three), Charles five times (winning once) and Moore five times (winning once).
Somehow, throughout his illustrious career, a world title fight managed to elude Bivins. He retired in 1955 with a record of 86-25-1 and 31 knockouts. He met seven Hall of Famers, beating four, and 11 world champions, defeating eight.