It is, in some way, quite disturbing how much us boxing fans enjoy the sight of two fighters going to hell and back, brutally beating the living daylights out of one another. A lonely and unforgiving sport where respect is earnt in the most savage way, boxing has offered an infinite list of great nights entertainment, but here I take a look at just a few that stand out to me.
Davey Moore vs Roberto Duran
Back in 1983, an ageing 32-year-old Roberto Duran set out to ‘erase the shame of No Mas’, as he stepped up to challenge 2/5 favourite Davey Moore. It had been 11 years since Duran won his first world title and he did not hold back one bit, coming out in round one and two with ferocious aggression. Duran attacked Moore’s body relentlessly in round one and two, but it was a telling head-shot in round one that was the most impactful in the fight, closing Moore’s eye with a thumb in the eye. Round three and four saw more finesse boxing from Duran, who aimed to clean up his work, which led to Moore becoming the aggressor for a few rounds. Duran was picking his shots well and seemed to always return fire with more accuracy and damaging shots than his opponent. Duran knocked Moore down at the end of the 7th, with the majority of ringside spectators wishing for the referee to stop the bout due to the state that Moore’s face was in. “Finish him off now” Duran’s trainer said before the 8th, and it took Duran just over two minutes to deliver the stoppage. Duran battered Moore to the point that his trainer threw his blood-covered towel in, but referee Ernesto Magaña either did not see it, or simply ignored it. This led to Top Rank representative, Jay Edson, eventually climbing into the ring and calling the fight to be stopped himself. Duran won via TKO8, becoming the 7th fighter in boxing history to win world titles in three weight divisions.
Luis Resto vs Billy Collins Jr
Ironically, this brutal assault occurred on the same card as Moore vs Duran. With the likes of Muhammad Ali and Floyd Patterson in attendance, the scene was set for a huge card of exciting fights, but the crowd got more drama than they bargained for that night. Billy Collins Jr (14-0) met Luis Resto (20-8-2), in what would turn out to be one of the most controversial fights in boxing history. Originally, Luis Resto won a unanimous decision against the ‘game’ and courageous Collins, who had been badly beaten and had severe damage done to his facial features, with two closed eyes and horrific cuts and bruises. As it turned out, Collins’ father and trainer discovered that Resto’s gloves and wraps were tampered with, as trainer Panama Lewis had cut holes in the padding of the gloves and soaked the wraps in plaster to harden them. Lewis had also taken the padding out of Resto’s gloves on two other occasions, at least. In October 1986, Lewis and Resto were both found guilty of a number of charges, including assault. The bout amounted to an illegal assault, with Lewis being sentenced to six years and Resto three years. Collins suffered a torn iris and his vision was permanently damaged. His career was ended abruptly and unfairly, and he would eventually die in 1984 (years before Lewis and Resto would be released from prison) following a car crash. A truly tragic story, which had been the subject of the HBO documentary ‘Assault in the Ring’.
Marvin Hagler vs Thomas Hearns
If a friend ever asks you ‘what is the best boxing fight to watch?’, more often than not, this astonishing fight is the go-to choice. Originally billed as ‘The Fight’, Hagler-Hearns was eventually referred to as simply ‘The War’. Hearns had stepped up from Junior Middleweight to fight the undisputed middleweight king in Marvellous Marvin Hagler, but looked very comfortable at the weight due to his huge height. There were constant exchanges from the opening round, with both fighters trading shots and connecting with damaging blows. One man had to fall, and it was Hearns, as Hagler won the fight via third round knockout. For fans who enjoy the pure brutality of the sport, this three-round war is the stuff of dreams, as two of the top middleweights of that generation fought tooth and nail.
Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier
The famous Thrilla in Manila bout between bitter rivals Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier will live on forever as one of the most iconic fights in boxing history. The two had already gone to war twice, with this being the third fight of their sensational trilogy. Ali and Frazier had gone 14 gruelling rounds before Frazier’s trainer (Eddie Futch) called it a day, with Smokin’ Joe barely able to see and close to exhaustion. Frazier contested the decision, telling his trainer ‘I want him, boss’, but Futch was rightfully decisive in putting the safety of his fighter first. Unbeknown to the Frazier corner, during that exact time, Ali was instructing his cornermen to illegally cut his gloves as he was also in so much discomfort. Ali later told the press that ‘Frazier quit just before I did’, reiterating the brutality of the fight. Muhammad Ali would go on to say that it was the closest thing to death that he had ever experienced.
Barry McGuigan vs Steve Cruz
This was never meant to be a great fight, as McGuigan was expected to walk it with ease. It somehow ended up as the 1986 Ring Magazine Fight of the Year, as Cruz, a huge 5/1 underdog, was eventually victorious in spectacular fashion. Cruz was originally a replacement for Fernando Sosa, who pulled out due to injury, and would earn just $70,000 compared to McGuigan’s $500,000. In the scorching heat outside at Caesars Palace, the Irishman seemed to be on his way to a points victory, when everything seemed to go w rong for him. Barry was knocked down in the 10th, had a point deducted for a knockdown in the 12th, but still held a two-point lead on two judges’ scorecards after 14 rounds. McGuigan was knocked down twice in the 15th and final round, which cost him dearly, everntually losing to Cruz by a one-point margin. Some years later, during a TV programme for Channel 5, McGuigan claimed that his manager Barney Eastwood was at fault for the loss as he forced the champion to fight with an injured ear and ankle. This claim would cost him, as Eastwood sued and was awarded over £700,000.
Joe Calzaghe vs Chris Eubank
It was back in October 1997 when the ageing and ever-entertaining warrior Chris Eubank met the young and hungry Joe Calzaghe at the Sheffield Arena. It was a fight between two contrasting styles and personalities for the vacant WBO Super-Middleweight World Title, a title that the victorious Calzaghe held and successfully defended for over 10 years. Eubank vowed to take the young Welshman to the trenches and did exactly that. When JC dropped Eubank in the first round, he felt that it would be an easy night, which was far from the truth. Eubank battled on, and Calzaghe was admittedly ‘knackered after three or four rounds’. The two went to war for 12 hard-fought and tightly contested rounds, with the Welshman eventually winning via UD. A great fight that demonstrated the classic old bull vs young buck fights in boxing, this most definitely exceeded expectations and raised Calzaghe’s stocks massively.
By Cai Bradley – @AstarBoxing
Image source: Flickr