The towel was thrown in from the executives at HBO Boxing on last Saturday night, bringing to an end near half a decade of showcasing some of the greatest fights in history.
I’m sat here writing this, racking my brain thinking back to a time I wasn’t watching or eagerly anticipating the next HBO telecast, it goes without saying this decision comes with great sadness from myself especially to see it fall to its knees before its eventual stoppage.
Nearly 50 years It was the home to boxing, the numerous antidotes from Larry Merchant who served as a fight analyst for 34 years before his eventual retirement in 2012, shared fondly with his long-term broadcasting colleague Jim Lampley who’s passion for the sport was unquestionable, its that chemistry that I will miss nearly as much as the contests themselves.
“Once upon a time we were a promising kid. Then a challenger. Then a champion. A great champion. A longtime champion. And then a has-been who finally retired,” Merchant said regarding the end of the network. “So long, champ.”
Last weekend the flagship drew its final breath, leaving boxing for good with the rather unimpressible card that featured undisputed women’s welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus defend her titles against Aleksandra Magdziak-Lopes whilst junior bantamweight Juan Francisco Estrada faced Victor Mendez in the co-feature.
Great fighters in their own right but I would rather remember HBO for the special fights of the past, so with that in mind, I decided to do a list of ten fights, the ones that whenever HBO gets mentioned in conversation my mind automatically gravitates towards them. It goes without saying that there are way too many fights to fit in the space I have allocated, but what I will attempt is to present you with my fondest fights (not necessarily ones that I have witnessed live for those of you gauging my age lol) so without further ado and in no particular order, here are my picks:
MARVELLOUS MARVIN HAGLER VS. THOMAS HEARNS
The greatest eight minutes in boxing history. that’s what this fight is often described which says it all really, both Hagler and Hearns decided on the night of April 15th 1985 to give fight fans a feast for the eyes, lapping up the action as Hagler brought down the curtain by stopping the Motor City Cobra in dramatic fashion.
RIDDICK BOWE VS. EVANDER HOLYFIELD TRILOGY
These two men shared a trilogy of the ages, Bowe taking the first to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world before Holyfield gained revenge in the second encounter, Bowe did however, have the last laugh, stopping the ‘Real Deal’ to edge the trilogy 2-1.
MICKY WARD VS. ARTURO GATTI TRILOGY
From the moment that these two men shared a boxing ring, it became virtually impossible to talk about Micky Ward without the name Arturo Gatti thrown into a conversation, from that moment on they became synonymous with one another, these two warriors wrote their names in the sands of time with a trilogy that still to this day manages to take the breath away like one of Ward’s body shots. The series between the two is such a rollercoaster of emotions that often the result becomes a mere afterthought. Who would have imagined that these styles would gel so perfectly?
AARON PRYOR VS. ALEXIS ARGUELLO
The fight encapsulated the audience like very few as both men gave everything to create one of the greatest fights in boxing history. Alexis Arguello was biding to become the first fighter to win world titles in four weight classes but on this occasion was stopped short by the ‘Hawk’ who retained his junior welterweight title, in a fight that will forever be known for the infamous bottle that was given to the American late in the bout, accompanied by the words from Panama Lewis who instructed his corner to give Pryor the bottle “I mixed” to this day we don’t know what was actually in the bottle but whatever it was, acted to energize Pryor who stopped Arguello in the fourteenth round.
MARCO ANTONIO BARRERA VS. ERIK MORALES TRILOGY
No list can be complete without the names above who are entwined in the history books for the wars they waged in their trilogy. Neither man particularly liked the other on a personal level which further added to the drama. Morales edged the junior featherweight unification fight in their epic first encounter before Barrera levelled things up in the rematch before securing the rubber match in a junior lightweight clash that brought to an end a sensational series between the two Mexican warriors.
JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ VS. MELDRICK TAYLOR
Dramatic and controversial are two words widely used to describe this fight in which Meldrick Taylor was generally handing out a boxing lesson to the Mexican legend, Taylor was well on his way to unifying the titles at Junior Welterweight, Chavez needed a miracle in the final round, which as luck would have it, is exactly what unfolded as Chavez dropped Taylor with seconds remaining of the final stanza. Taylor got to his unsteady feet before the count of 10 with two seconds remaining on the clock but referee Richard Steele controversially decided to stop the fight.
FELIX TRINIDAD VS. FERNANDO VARGAS
In a junior middleweight shootout, both Felix Trinidad and Fernando Vargas produced a classic in a bid to unify titles. Trinidad scored two knockdowns in the first round with the sense that this would be a short-lived fight but Vargas’ stubbornness to stay in the contest nearly paid off as he dropped Trinidad in the fourth. The Puerto Rican finally secured the knockout in the final round, closing out a great spectacle.
JOHNNY TAPIA VS. DANNY ROMERO
In an Albuquerque grudge match, Johnny Tapia reaped the bragging rights to unify the title at junior Bantamweight as he turned back the challenge of the younger man, Danny Romero.
SUGAR RAY LEONARD VS. THOMAS HEARNS I
Two greats met on September 16th 1981, creating the catalyst for brilliance with Leonard stopping Hearns late on as the ‘Motor City Cobra’ showed more fatigue than the man standing across from him, this was the fight that echoed the infamous words of Angelo Dundee as he attempted to spur Leonard on, shouted from the corner “You’re blowing it now, son! You’re blowing it!”
BUSTER DOUGLAS VS. MIKE TYSON
To this day, the bout still stands as the biggest upset in boxing history. Douglas was the overlooked challenger, thought to be just another notch on the belt of the fearsome champion but on the night of Feb 11th 1990 in Tokyo, Japan, Douglas did the unthinkable as he knocked out Tyson in the tenth round to bring a deafening silence to the boxing community.
Note: I didn’t add Ali-Frazier III, Ali-Foreman or Foreman-Frazier I as it was brought to my attention that the network didn’t produce the telecast and therefore was not considered ‘HBO Fights’ and yes I did cheat a little by including trilogies.
This completes my favourite fights to which there are numerous more to choose from, Mosely Vs. De La Hoya, Pacquiao Vs. Marquez, Naseem Vs. Kelly, Golovkin Vs Canelo, Lewis Vs Klitschko, Bradley vs Provodnikov, Toney Vs. Jirov, Tarver Vs. Jones Jr – just too many to name, as I write this i am still second guessing, trying to convince myself to do a list of 15/20 but where do we stop?
Thank you for reading and please Tweet me @TOPCLASSBOXING to give me your personal favourites as we say a long heartfelt Goodbye to HBO Boxing with a Thank you for stoking the fire for the sport that will never distingush.