By Mark Dormer – Before I start, I would like to take this opportunity to remember two great figures that we have so sadly lost from the world of boxing this week, both Brendan Ingle MBE and Dean Francis. Both had given so much to the sport and will be greatly missed by us all.
When I was asked to look at my top 5 favourite fights, I had two choices, to delve back through the archives of all the obvious greats, the ones that we all watch time and time again on Youtube, such as Ali vs Frazier III, Hagler vs Hearns, Dempsey vs Firpo, or to look a little closer to present day. I decided that I would only look back at the fights that I can remember watching as they happened in the more recent times. In fact, my No.1 favourite fight is the oldest of them all and only dates back to the 7th May 2005. I don’t profess to be anything like a boxing historian, or even know every round of every fight like so many great fans do, but this list reflects the fights that I personally enjoyed the most.
ANTHONY JOSHUA VS. WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO
So here we are at my No.5 favourite fight, which also happens to be the most significant heavyweight fight to ever happen on British shores. Played out in front of 90,000 (yes, that’s more than 80,000 Carl Froch….) at Wembley Stadium and created a level of hype never seen or even imagined possible before. Unlike the majority of well-hyped fights, this one lived up to the highest levels of expectations with both fighters having the upper hand at different stages of the fight. Anthony Joshua brings a vulnerability that means you can’t take your eyes off the fight, and especially so when he is in with a stellar fighter like Klitschko. Joshua took the fight with a devastating display of punches in the 11th round, and who can forget that neck extending, straight from hell uppercut!
KELL BROOK VS. SHAWN PORTER
The fight in at No.4 takes us across the pond to the StubHub Center in Carson, California on the 16th August 2014. Kell Brook was eventually given his long-awaited opportunity to become the IBF Welterweight World Champion after several injuries during camp to both himself and Devon Alexander meant that their fight didn’t happen. Kell went into the fight the massive underdog and was never meant to upset the plans of Shawn Porter and his team. From the opening bell, Kell was the aggressor and picked his punches to find openings in Porters defence. It was far from the prettiest of fights, with Kell smothering Shawn’s work, but it was effective and it gave him the result he had waited so long for. It is rare that a fighter can go over to the USA and rip the belt from the champ but the majority decision meant that Kell did just that. You only have to watch the moment the result is announced to see just what it meant to Kell and his team!
LEE SELBY VS. JOSH WARRINGTON
Moving back to Britain brings us nicely onto the fight in at No.3, for me, possibly the most punch perfect and disciplined displays that I have seen. Josh Warrington was taking on Lee Selby at his beloved Elland Road in front of a packed out and a highly charged crowd. There had been a huge amount of animosity in the week leading up to the fight, with an isolated number of Josh’s fans arguably crossing the line between what would be considered acceptable ‘banter’, and an unfounded disrespect for a fighter who had been a great world champ for so long. Any worries of an uprising if their man came under heavy fire were not needed when Josh considerably outpunched, outworked, and outshone the champ to take a controversial split decision. Yet again the way the judges score a fight was brought into question with a range of cards 116-112, 115-113 and a way out 113-115 to Selby causing somewhat of a stir. The win looks to set Warrington on a collision course with Carl Frampton, even if not the next time Carl steps into the ring at Windsor Park.
TIMOTHY BRADLEY VS. RUSLAN PROVODINOV
Collecting even more air miles, the fight I have at No.2 takes us yet again back to America and Carson, California. This time it was Timothy Bradley taking on Ruslan Provodnikov in what most people thought was going to be a (fairly) easy nights work for the home town fighter….how wrong we all were! From the very first bell Bradley was under huge pressure from the Russian taking heavy fire causing him to hit the canvas in the first round despite this being counted as a slip. Provodnikov’s left hook and looping right hand could not miss with the second round surely just a huge blur for Bradley. The rest of the fight was again an absolute slugfest with not one round being used to take a breather by either fighter. Again Bradley took heavy punishment in the 12th where he took his first officially counted knockdown and had to survive a torrid final 50 seconds before hearing the final bell. Bradley took the fight on an incredibly close unanimous points win which to me was by far the FOTY.
DIEGO CORRALES VS. JOSE LUIS CASTILLO
Staying in America, but this time with the short hop over to Las Vegas, Nevada on the 7th May 2005 brings me nicely onto what was for me the fight that cemented my unconditional love for the sport, and one that I find myself watching time and time again. Diego ‘Chico’ Corrales vs Jose Luis Castillo entered the ring at the Mandalay Bay unaware that they were both about to go down in boxing history in what was a tough and courageous display of an unwillingness to quit. Even with the smallest of margins of a lead that Corrales took into the 10th round with him, he so nearly lost it all when he suffered two knockdowns and ever closing swollen eyes. What we saw then surely has to be one of the greatest comebacks ever displayed in the squared circle? Drawing on all his experience, Diego perhaps controversially spat his mouthpiece out to try to gain every possible chance to recover (losing a point in the process) before throwing an all-important left and then right signalling the demise of Jose as a flurry of punches caused the third man in the ring Tony Weeks to step in and call a halt to proceedings.
British boxing, as well as globally, is riding an unprecedented wave at the minute that promises to add even more contenders to our lists of top favourite fights. There are no right or wrong opinions, only opportunities for discussions and debates into which truly do deserve to be in the top 5. Again, I would like to end as I started and say how much the boxing world will miss the two great characters in Dean Francis and Brendan Ingle, your legacies will live on in the sport for many years to come, rest in peace.