Long days followed by long weeks of solitude due to the Pandemic that currently grips the attention of the world, as left the sport of boxing derelict with all immediate events postponed until further notice.
At times where I find myself at a loose end as I do at this very moment, I reach for my safety blanket, a kind of break in a case of an emergency treasure trove of fights I have watched countless times over the years, so thought to myself why not share these with like-minded people like yourselves?
So after much deliberation, these are some of my favourites of which I am sure yours will differ depending on your preferred fighter or the style of fight that interests you most:
MUHAMMAD ALI VS. JOE FRAZIER III – OCTOBER 1ST, 1975 – ARANETA COLISEUM, CUBAO, QUEZON CITY, PHILIPPINES
The fight of the century had a lot of connotations attached to it, not only because of its stature but because of its racial undertones that ignited hostilities that carried over into the three fights that these men shared, adding fuel to an already all-engulfing inferno of hatred between the two.
I deliberated between the first or third fight to be admitted into my list but opted for the latter, the one that was promoted by a young upstart named Don King who found the location of Manilla in the Philippines to be ideally coupled with the narrative ‘Thriller in Manilla’
Ali started the contest by taking advantage of the slow-starting Frazier, landing shot after shot as his pre-fight prediction looked to be spot on, proclaiming beforehand that he would “put a whuppin’” on Frazier. but as the rounds wore on, Frazier found traction in his approach and started to land his trademark left hook that landed and staggered Ali in the sixth as the tables turned with Frazier slowly but surely taking control of the bout.
At the beginning of the seventh round, Ali reportedly whispered in Frazier’s ear, “Joe, they told me you was all washed up.” Frazier growled back, “They lied.”
Frazier was now on the ascent, controlling the contest with his non-stop pressure but Ali had a few tricks left up his sleeve as he bided his time with perfection. In the tenth Frazier had slowed enough to allow Ali once again to use his speed and footwork to land hard shots which acted to disfigure the face of Frazier so much that it blinded him in one eye.
The heat continued to soar, the altitude playing it’s part as both men showed the effects of exhaustion, it seems one more than the other, in that fateful moment between the 14th and 15th rounds, Frazier’s trainer Eddie Futch called time on the bout, telling his man “It’s all over. No one will forget what you did here today” and signalled to the referee to end the bout.
Ali briefly raised his arms aloft as the victor before collapsing to the canvas, spent from the exertions, with rumours circulating that Ali himself was on the verge of waving the white flag.
He told media afterwards “Joe Frazier, I’ll tell the world right now, brings out the best in me. I’m gonna tell ya, that’s one helluva man, and God bless him.” He then announced, “Joe Frazier is the greatest fighter in the world, next to me.”
MICKY WARD VS. ARTURO GATTI – MAY 18 2002, – MOHEGAN SUN CASINO, UNCASVILLE, CONNECTICUT,
The stars aligned the night Lowell, Massachusetts’ Micky Ward came face to face with Jersey City’s Arturo Gatti, a fight that even now leaves us all on the edge of our seats praying that the action never ends and for twelve pulsating rounds the night of May 18th it didn’t, not even letting up for a moment as both men took turns to dish out punishing shot, one after another in the hope that one would be sufficient enough to end the beautiful brutality.
Gazing at one another through a sea of claret that ran down the faces of both, Ward known for his debilitating body shots dug one out of the ditch to drop the stubborn Gatti in the ninth, there was never any doubt of Gatti returning to his feet albeit uncomfortable but the touch of the canvas was enough to seal the majority decision on the judges’ scorecards in favour of Ward.
ERIK MORALES VS. MARCO ANTONIO BARRERA III – NOVEMBER 27, 2004 – MGM GRAND GARDEN ARENA, LAS VEGAS
The hatred between the two fighters helped create one of the greatest series of fights the history of the sport had ever witnessed.
It’s no exaggeration to state that all bouts could fill the space of any boxing aficionado list but pushed to pick just one albeit extremely difficult, I would slightly edge in favour of the third, controversial I know.
Picking up the fast pace of the previous two encounters, both men left a piece of their soul in birthing an amazing spectacle for the fight fan. Marco Antonio Barrera was this time the man to have his hand raised but in the rare circumstance, it was somewhat not as important as the fight itself, check for yourself from the video below.
DIEGO CORRALES VS. JOSE LUIS CASTILLO – MAY 7, 2005 – LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
The 2005 war of attrition between Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo proudly holds the distinction of being labelled one of the best whilst also one of the most dramatic of comebacks.
Ten rounds of back and forth action halted only in the contests final round, Castillo initially making the breakthrough, consecutively dropping Corrales who gained much needed seconds by the spitting out of his gumshield, even so you would have to admit that it was a case of ‘When’ and not ‘If’ the fight gets stopped.
The fight for me will forever be remembered by the immortal words of Dan Goosen who with a concerned look told Corrales ‘You’ve got to get inside on him now’ (obviously without the pleasantries) but it served as a wake up call to Corrales who incredibly found the money shot to turn the tide, a right hand staggering the Mexican before the unleashing of a barrage of shots that gave the referee little option but to halt the fight, Still to this day I find myself amazed at the manner of the comeback from Chico.
SUGAR RAY ROBINSON VS. CARMEN BASILIO II – MARCH 25, 1958 – CHICAGO STADIUM, CHICAGO.
The rematch was billed to represent the long wave goodbye to one of boxing’s greatest fighters, Carmen Basilio had already defeated the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson six month before the fight, the media was unshaken in their belief of a more convincing spectacle the second time around.
Those very thoughts turned out to be premature, soon evaporating with Sugar Ray Robinson marching mid-ring to fire off lethal combinations with a potent uppercut serving to shut the eye of the champion as early as the fourth round. The impairment would go a long way to deciding the outcome of the fight.
“I just couldn’t get my distance right after the eye closed,” Basilio would tell media afterwards. “If you can’t get distance, you find yourself off balance.”
Showing the heart of a champion, Basilio continued the only way he knew how, forward motion using his short hooks to the body of Robinson which acted to sap the energy from the legs of the former champion with thoughts that order had been restored in favour of the man from Canastota.
Robinson had a built in fight clock, he knew the bout was close and also that time was running out, so he went into his reserves to find enough energy to take the remaining two rounds to take a slim verdict on the judges’ scorecards, even though the referee himself scored in favour of Basilio.
MICHAEL CARBAJAL VS. HUMBERTO GONZÁLEZ I – MARCH 13TH, 1993 – THE HILTON CENTER AT THE LAS VEGAS HILTON
I’ve dropped this fight into my list because of my love for boxing’s lower weight classes but also because unlike some of the others on the list, it may be one the occasional viewer hasn’t yet witnessed.
The night these two men came face to face would create a couple of first’s for the Junior Flyweight division, (1) It would be the first time fighters would earn a guaranteed $1 Million (2) It would be the first time a contest in the weight class would appear as the main attraction of a promotion.
Hollywood A-Listers were dotted around ringside showing the significance for the fight as both men looked to earn their record paydays.
The fight contested for the IBF & WBC titles witnessed Gonzalez start the better of the two, landing with an assortment of shots, primarily the jab/cross which he used to counter punch Carbajal with pin-point accuracy..
He continued in the same vein, exhibiting slippery skill, waiting for Carbajal to make his move before making him pay with the subsequent counter.
In the second, Gonzalez dropped Carbajal for a short count courtesy of a well placed right hand, Carbajal was simply not at the races, rising to find more punishment dished out.
Going into the fourth round the contest looked to be a one-horse race, Gonzalez was landing the majority of the hard shots plus had also scored the knockdown as Carbajal sported a cut over the top of his eye.
In the fifth round, Gonzalez connected with a shuddering straight right hand that near had Carbajal falling out of the ring only for the ropes to save his decent. This round would prove pivotal to Carbajal where it was at this moment he decided to fight fire with fire.
It wasnt until the sixth that Carbajal would have his say in the contest, finding Gonzalez starting to fade from his earlier exertions he started to turn the tide, showing the effects on Gonzalez’s face which now also started to swell due to the punishment administered.
Carbajal sensing he needed to do more, in the seventh found the answer to the questions that Gonzalez had continued to ask, landing a sweet right uppercut that dazed Gonzalez so much that he had stopped motionless on the spot before following up with a left hand that dropped Gonzalez for the full count.
MARVELLOUS MARVIN HAGLER VS. THOMAS HEARNS – APRIL 15TH, 1985 – CAESARS PALACE, LAS VEGAS
How many times have fighters boasted an all-out war? It becomes the norm but very rarely comes to fruition, but on the night Marvellous Marvin Hagler donned his army fatigues as too did Thomas Hearn we instantly knew that the fight would amount to boxing’s answer to a World war.
Both monstrous punchers, Hagler and Hearn’s done away with the pleasantries, instead opting to go into the fire pit of trading blows, the question on many observers lips at the time was who would wilt first?
Three rounds of non-stop action commenced, the first round leaving Hagler with a nasty looking cut which threatened to put a premature halt to the contest.
Claret for the duration would trickle down his face only acting to further enrage Hagler who was already in ‘seek and destroy’ mode.
Hearns continued to land on the oncoming Hagler like a matador to a bull but although the fight was only in its infancy, he looked jaded by the pressure of Hagler.
In the third a right hand that caught Hearns over the ear made him stumble before a right hand put him over. Hearns wobbled to his feet but the referee waved his hands in an indication of the fights ending.
RIDDICK BOWE VS. EVANDER HOLYFIELD – NOVEMBER 13, 1992 – THOMAS & MACK CENTER IN PARADISE, NEVADA
Drawing scepticism from fight fans and journalists alike, Evander Holyfield having knocked out Buster Douglas for the title was adjudged to be making a mockery of his championship campaign by beating two old former champions in George Foreman and Larry Holmes whilst nearly coming undone by journeyman Bert Cooper, so with his name starting to tarnish he sought a big name to satisfy his naysayers.
Mike Tyson was the man needed to fill the void but although close to crossing the finishing line of the negotiation stage, Tyson was convicted of rape and incarcerated in early 1992.
Bowe in the meantime had manoeuvred himself into pole position for a shot at the undisputed heavyweight title, a fight which unbeknown to us all would go down in history as one of the top divisions greatest.
Riddick Bowe would be crowned following the twelve enthralling rounds, unanimously winning on the judges’ scorecards but that only tells a small proportion of the story.
Bowe was younger, stronger and bigger than Holyfield which become evident early in the contest as both men traded, but the contest is best known for its incredible tenth round.
Bowe came out of the blocks fast, landing with brutal combinations that would have fallen a lesser man but Holyfield proved his extreme levels of durability, weathering the storm to fire back and actually dominate the second half of the round.
Now you would be entitled to believe at this point that Holyfield had gained control but the minutes rest in-between rounds instead helped to re-energise Bowe who now came out seeking blood, enraged by the spirited efforts of Holyfield he wanted to diminish the comeback landing with a two fistic assault on an exhausted Holyfield who would eventually topple following a right hand in the eleventh.
Jim Lampley claimed it would “seem like a miracle” for Holyfield to finish the round but to his feet he got, not only this fact but would also push for a knockout in the twelfth that unfortunately for the champion would never materialise.
JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ VS. MELDRICK TAYLOR – MARCH 17, 1990 – LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
Julio Cesar Chavez came into the bout with a 68–0 record, 55 of those wins coming by way of knockout whilst standing across from him was the Gold Medallist from the 1984 games who also boasted an undefeated record of 24-0-1 in the slickster Meldrick Taylor.
Two undefeated fighters, two opposites regarding style, Chavez was known to be a relentless in-fighter who would wear down opposition with hooks to the body, Taylor on the other hand was blessed with blurring hand speed and cat-like reflexes.
It was those attributes that built up a solid lead on the judges’ scorecards in favour of Taylor. He used his quickness of hand and foot to box around Chavez who for the most part was unable to set his feet for much of the bout up until the twelfth, by that point fatigue was evident in Taylor.
A master tactician Chavez had bet the house on it happening, perhaps not as late as it did but now he had his man right where he wanted him, going to work in search of something substantial that could secure victory.
Taylor’s face was showing the effects of the engaging war, blood gulped down from the cuts in his mouth, bones broken from his eye socket, he even wandered to the wrong corner in the eleventh after being dazed by the bigger punching Chavez. Still, the result was very much in his own hands, all he had to do is stay upright, something he did for the majority of the round, but with seconds remaining he wilted under the pressure.
He rose on unsteady legs, using the ropes to pull himself to his feet but with an 8-count given, Richard Steele asked the question of Taylor ‘Are you Okay to Continue?’ which was left unanswered giving Steele no option but to signal the end of the contest with two seconds remaining.
ISRAEL VASQUEZ VS. RAFAEL MARQUEZ II – AUGUST 4, 2007 – HIDALGO, TEXAS
If you throw out a debating subject surrounding a Mexican war the preemptive answer from the consensus will usually throw up Marco Antonio Barrera Vs. Erik Morales’ thrilling encounters as the likely candidate and they would be entitled to do so but there are so many other great fights that encapsulate the excitement produced by these pair, especially from a country that prides itself for toughness above all and sheer machismo, this one, in particular, can be thrown in to the debate, featuring the contest of Israel Vasquez Vs. Rafael Marquez.
I’ve selected this contest in the last birth of my list mainly because Israel Vasquez always held a place in the heart of this writer, rarely was he in a mundane fight, always bringing pressure meaning the excitement levels were through the roof, it was wearing on the body of Vasquez who often left with battle wounds which sadly today threaten to take his sight.
The first fight gave us a taste of what was to be expected from the rematch, In the first bout, Vasquez would retire on his stool in the seventh due to a broken nose that he sustained in the contest.
So the marker had been set high but the rematch would vault over all our expectations with the rematch winning the Ring Magazines’ fight of the year for 2007.
On this occasion, Vasquez would have his hand raised by winning the fight via sixth-round stoppage. The fight would ignite from the opening bell but would go on to find a new level of excitement in the third which would go on to be named round of the year in the prestigious Ring Magazine awards.
Both men exchanged heavy artillery for the bouts entirety leaving both sporting cuts. In the sixth Israel finally made the breakthrough dropping Marquez with a solid hook, Marquez got to his feet but after a barrage of shots the referee waved off the contest must to the disdain of Marquez, tying the bout one a piece.
Let me know your favourite fights by tweeting me @TOPCLASSBOXING with the hashtag #LockdownClassics or comment below.
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