By Anthony “Zute” George – It has not been that long since Jermell Charlo and Brain Castano’s Jr. Middleweight showdown for all the marbles. Or is it Super Welterweight? Let us keep it simple and call it the 154-pound division. Nevertheless, the buzz around that disputed draw has appeared to have dissipated. Most of the boxing world has either forgot the name of the judge who turned in the horrendous scorecard or at least has found a way to give him a pass (which is why I never bothered to mention his name in print). Even worse, it sounds like mandatories are going to be a monumental obstacle for the immediate rematch. This probably means we will never see the rematch.
With that being said, the half-full part of me is still appreciative that the fight turned out to be as entertaining and competitive as I thought it would be (I still think the draw was justified), and it shined an appealing light on the 154-pound division. A division without a long history and not immediately considered one of boxing’s glamour divisions. However, despite the relatively short history, we have had a plethora of great fights at 154. Here are my top ten all-time favorite 154-pound fights.
My criterion for this list is, one, it had to be a title fight, and I had to have seen the fight. Not necessarily live, although most on my list I have watched live. Therefore, while I have seen plenty of fights at this weight, there are quite a few I did not see, especially from the 60s and 70s. So, if there is a fight or two that I left out, feel free to bring it to my attention. Also, keep in mind that this is my personal ten favorite fights. Indeed, if I say they are my favorites, you can assume that I feel they are the best; however, this is my personal list, and I am not saying that they are the best for everyone. I would never presume that I could be that intelligent.
Without further ado, here is my list:
10) Thomas Hearns W15 Wilfred Benitez ( December 3, 1982).
A fantastic scientific battle over 15 rounds. I am not sure why this fight does not get more recognition. Maybe it is because it was not as stellar as the fights both men had with Ray Leonard, or perhaps it was overshadowed due to the fact one of the best action fights of the decade between Wilfredo Gomez and Lupe Pintor occurred on the televised undercard. No, Hearns vs. Benitez was not a great action fight, but it was a remarkable boxing match. One of the best the weight class has ever seen.
9) Jarrett Hurd W12 Erislandy Lara (April 7th, 2018).
This was a fun action fight that was on the shortlist for the fight of the year. It also squelched the thought that Lara was ‘agony’ to watch (to borrow a term from the great matchmaker Zac Pomilio). While Hurd has not solidified the superstar status many people thought he was on track for, he is still fun to watch and an easy guy to root for. While on the other side of the mountain, Lara is still dangerous and brutal to look good against. The tricky southpaw fell slightly short in this modern-day classic.
8) Jermell Charlo KO 11 Tony Harrison (December 21st, 2019).
The ultimate redemption fight in the modern-day era. Harrison defeated Charlo with a questionable decision to hand the Twin his first loss. In this rematch, Jermell left no doubt and left the judges out of it as he smashed Harrison over eleven high octane rounds. While Charlo made sure that the judges did not have a voice in this fight, that did not mean that an official almost spoiled a perfect night. Jack Reiss’s unnecessary sobriety test nearly and poor refereeing overshadowed Charlo’s fantastic performance. Even you are a fan of Reiss, you would be untruthful if you did not admit he did not have a good night.
7) Wilfred Benitez KO 12 Maurice Hope (May 24th, 1981).
Ring Magazine did not start awarding the Knockout of the Year until 1989. How can that be? Had that award been around in 1981, this fight would no doubt have been the winner. It was possibly the knockout of the decade. Not one for the weary, but one for the ages.
6) Nino Benvenuti W15 Sandro Mazzinghi (December 17th, 1965).
A rare rematch in the sense that Nino won the first fight with an unbelievable one-punch knockout, while the rematch was a gruelling 15-round affair. Sandro was probably the first significant 154-pound champion and even won the title again after Nino lost to Ki Soo Kim (the man Mazzinghi won the title back from) and focused on the middleweight division. Fascinating fight with many intriguing storylines.
5) Mike McCallum TKO 2 Julian Jackson (August 23rd, 1986).
This is one of the best short fights of all time. Before being stopped, Jackson rang The Body Snatcher’s bell so severely, he still speaks about it to this day. When I interviewed Mike, he said Jackson hurt him so bad that he knew he had to get him out of there. I also met McCallum at the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2018. He was sitting in his seat, waiting for the boxing matches to begin. He was kind enough to give me his autograph and then pointed to Julian Jackson, who was a few seats away in the same row. He once again praised his punching power.
4) Fernando Vargas W12 Ike Quartey (April 15th, 2000).
Ferocious Fernando was never in a bad fight and was in his fair share of all-time great battles. Most of the time, he was on the losing end of a valiant effort. Not the case here. Against an excellent opponent, Vargas was just faster, sharper, and made sure the fight took place on his terms. Anyone who saw this fight live will never forget it.
3) Felix Trinidad W12 David Reid (March 3rd, 2000).
One for the ages. When boxing fans think of Tito, both welterweight and middleweight probably come to mind first. The fact of the matter is that he had his best performances at 154. Both men were dropped in this contest. Such a high-octane battle, you had no time to catch your breath, as the crowd was just as raucous as the action during the one-minute break. Unfortunately, the fact that Reid was never able to catch fire again was probably why this fight is not held in as high regard as it should be. That is plainly erroneous.
2) Felix Trinidad TKO 12 Fernando Vargas ( December 2, 2000).
It is not often that a fighter has two all-time great grueling fights in one year. Both Tito & Ferocious can make that claim in 2000. This fight takes a back seat to very few in the history of boxing. There is nothing it did not have. Vargas bounced back after being bounced around the ring in the first round, dropping Tito in round four. The back and forth did not stop there. With all due respect to Barrera vs. Morales I, this fight should have been the Ring Magazine Fight of the Year.
1) Roberto Duran TKO 8 Davey Moore (June 16th, 1983)
A classic in every sense of the word. One of the most grueling fights I have ever seen. Duran was a maniac, but Moore would not back down. Some of the best exchanges you will ever see and one of the most blood and guts stoppages you could ask for. There is nothing this fight did not have. Duran came back full circle from No Mas, and, sadly, Moore was never able to get back to form. Many people feel this loss was part of Moore’s overall demise and premature death. The harsh reality that only combat sports can produce. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat was never more apparent than it was on The Hands of Stone’s 32nd birthday. What more can you ask for?
The hellacious Madison Square Garden crowd was the cherry on top and the reason why I give it a slight edge over Trinidad vs. Vargas. Just like that fight, Duran and Moore’s epic battle should have been Fight of the Year. Ring Magazine instead went with Bobby Chacon W12 Boza Edwards. Indeed, that was a good fight, all action. Still, Duran vs. Moore had just as much action and was much more epic in stature, as well as improbable.
There you have it. What fights do you agree with? Disagree? Which ones would you move? Replace? And replace with what?
I look forward to your feedback.