Hi fans… its me again. In light of the lighting rod Debate that took place on bleacher report concerning the top ten boxers of all time I have decided to evolve the debate.
The ironic thing is I was planning on making this a two-part piece on who the top fighters were and finally what fights were the all time best. A lot goes into an all time contest. It has to have ebb and flow, an intriguing storyline, and of course crowd pleasing action. It also helps if it is a title tilt.
A common misconception is the length a fight needs to be to make such a list, The truth is the length is not a pertinent issue. A fight on this list only went three rounds but took the breath out of the sports world not just tbe boxing world.
Fights that have social impact outside of sports are always keepers because the drama of the fight is enhanced and the fighters themselves become causes a tradition that is sometimes incidental but always a joyful sight for promoters.
As some of you know I have spoken to some of the oldest most respected people in the game in relation to this topic. I also recently did an epic fight film session that gave me the chance to watch boxing across many generations and presidents.
From conversations I have had with my dad to films I have watched I have compiled the second half of my all time look at the best sport there is. Ladies and gents I present the top five fights of all time.
The debate last week was great and while it is unrealistic to inspire that type of reaction twice I am eager to hear what my fellow writers think about this topic. I learned that many of you have informed views and I encourage you to share it with all of us, Lets go…..
5.Evander Holyfield Vs Riddick “Big Daddy” Bowe
Undisputed heavyweight title (200 +)
November 13th 1992
This fight was something that touched the hearts of a lot of boxing fans. It satisfied people on a lot of levels and that was somewhat unexpected heading into the fight. Evander Holyfield at the time was a champion that the boxing public was not infatuated with.
Mike Tyson was still the champ in a lot of people’s eyes and the Pit bull from ATL was viewed as a blown up cruiserweight and not a traditional heavyweight. He found his litmus test in a tall highly talented Olympian from Brownsville New York.
Big daddy had taken the silver medal in 1988 in S/K and shot up the heavy weight ranks with unusual hand speed for a guy his size and an affable persona that made him a media darling. Riddick also was a tall imposing heavyweight in his prime a combination that the “unproven“ Holyfield had yet to encounter in his initial reign as heavyweight King pin.
There were two major question entering the fight. One would Riddick(who’s mental toughness has been questioned up to that point) be able to weather the type of fury that a young Holyfield could generate. Two would Evander be able to topple a “real” heavyweight. The resulting clash was one for the ages.
Evander started with courageous aggression determined to test Riddicks heart and resolve. Daddy responded with punishing accurate combinations that stalled the Holyfield express over the middle rounds. The 10th round(considered on of the great in history) defined ebb and flow in boxing.
Riddick landed a tremendous upper cut and then proceeded to batter Evander from pillar to post. It looked to be over but Evander reversed the tide in that very SAME round and almost knocked Bowe out. They fought after the bell. Bowe took a deserved decision and affirmation that he was a true tough heavyweight champion.
Evander was not disgraced in the fight. He proved that he could hang with anyone in the heavy weight division despite his perceived physical disadvantages. They needed each other and together they mutually elevated their careers even though there could only be one winner
4.”Marvalous” Marvin Hagler Vs Thomas “Hitman” Hearn’s
Undisputed middleweight title (160 pounds)
April 15th 1985
My father attended this fight and too this day he tells me that’ this fight is the greatest thing that he has ever seen as a boxing fan. Marvin haggler was the Larry Holmes of his division. He was an extensively tenured middleweight champion putting up 15-title defenses in all. But something was missing. He was not embraced by mainstream America the way Ray Charles was at the time; he was through out his career a man who had to fight and claw every inch of the way.
He had the tangible boxing accolades but he didn’t have public adulation. He was seeking his defining moment as he entered the latter part of a hall of fame career. It all fell into place when the word got out that Sugar was going to retire due to a detached retina suffered at the hands of the motor city cobra during their 1981 tilt.
Thomas Hearns in wake of his epic stoppage loss to Ray moved up to 154 pounds and began to pick up the pieces. It all crystallized when Thomas Hearns smoked Roberto Duran in scary fashion inside of three rounds. The same Roberto Duran who had given Marvin all he could handle in two tough prize fights.
With Ray fishing the two turned their attention towards each other and the public seeing how the two styles would clash jumped right on the band wagon. After some initial drama and a “pinkie” injury of which I don’t have the time to write about the fight was finally made and the trash talking began.
Thomas Hearn’s was no longer the quiet quaint kid from Detroit. He now was the loud antagonizing figure and it only poured gasoline one the fire that was Hagler’s determination. Some say that Thomas Hearn’s was seen in the casino gambling and drinking the night before the fight.
He was oozing with confidence and was convinced that Hagler’s straight ahead style was taylor made for him. Marvin on the other hand saw this as his biggest chance to get the acclaim he so badly wanted. That coupled with Tommey’s antics had Hagler in a violent state of mind in the lead up the fight. He was always seen wearing shirts with war on them and what not.
He truly wanted to hurt TH based on comments I have read and that was necessary to get what we got. Usually in boxing a fight takes some time to get going and flowing.
This fight was not a boxing match it was a fight. They met in the center of the ring and began dropping every single punch they could throw. It was like watching a tough man contest.
There was no boxing whats so ever. Thomas with his long arms and straight as an arrow form on his right hand kept Marvin at bay cutting him badly on the head. Marvin in turn hurt The Hitman with sublime stomach head combinations in the final min.
They slugged it out in the final min with sweat flying into the TV cameras and Barry t of HBO screaming into the Mike” THIS IS STILL THE FIRST ROUND”. Al Michaels who we all know and love said that was the greatest three min in boxing history.
The fight did not slow down but it did get complicated. Moving into the second round when connecting with a right hand Thomas Hearn’s broke his right hand in the first round. He then proceeded to not quit but fight harder.
The crescendo blasted off in the third round with a determined Marvin catching up to and stopping Thomas with a slick right hand right next to the ear. Thomas was shot….he had nothing. He was either over trained or under trained. Either way he was not right. The fight was an action movie battle.
Like rocky and sh##t, I loved watching it and it is with out question worth of this very honorable list. Thomas fought valiantly but again suffered a career defining defeat. Marvin finally got what he had coveted for years and years. Respect and love. And endorsements.
He became a fixture in the American commercial scene in wake of the fight. Marvin became so popular after the fight that Sugar Ray would eventually come back to fight him due to his need for the spotlight that MARVIN now had.
3.Alexis Argulleo Vs Aryon Pryor
Undisputed Jr welterweight championship (140 pounds)
What you had here was polar opposites. Prince Charming and Grendel. AA was everything you love about the sport of boxing. Bert Sugar called him the most gracious man he has ever covered in and out of the ring.
He became an American hero in wake of the Sandinista government taking occupation of his home country. Due to this event and the fact that the SG attempted to freeze his assets AA grabbed his family and fled to America where he settled in Miami. In wake of his defection the American public gravitated towards him.
His touching gesture to Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini after their fight in front of a national audience didn’t hurt either. He was Oscar del hoya before there was Oscar Del hoya. He won 3 world titles and with his good looks and charm wanted to cement his boxing legacy with one more title/career defining victory.
The Hawk on the other hand was not from the sunnier side of the tracks. He was born in a Cincinnati ghetto one of many children. He did not have a father figure growing up and that coupled with his innate aggression gravitated him towards boxing He didn’t make the 1976 Olympics despite an established Amateur pedigree.
He missed out on the paydays and network contracts that Ray Charles and the Spinks brothers were handed in wake of their respective Olympic successes. Ray Charles moved up to Welterweight in my mind to get away from the aforementioned. Aryon ran off a string of impressive victory’s displaying all time talent and endless Versatility.
He cleaned out his division and since he was in able to secure a fight with Ray need a big name to put him on the road to national stardom. He found that golden ticket Willy Wonka style in AA; the fight was slated to be in the orange bowl in Miami. AA had become a local hero to the Cuban population in Miami because of the connection between the SG and Castro.
What you got the night of the fight was a tremendous celebration of boxing as we all wish it to be. It was abundantly clear who the hometown favorite was because of several factors One even though Pryor was the champ he entered first, was introduced first and was introduced by just his name where as AA was introduced with the term “Mr: in front of his name.
The images I have seen of Pryor before the fight are somewhat troubling to look at. He has a look in his eyes that no one on earth is going to beat him tonight. “A man intense” Barry T on the call mentioned before the bell rang. He was already an insecure guy to begin with and the dis respect that was shown to him on a night when it WAS he who was the champion Fueled the fire to a raging inferno by the time the bell sounded. Right from the on set AP Pressured AA all over the ring landing filthy combinations in conjunction with improvised movement.
They both set an iron man pace in the very first round. It was clear that AP did not respect AA vaunted punching power. That belief was quickly tempered by the crisp clean straight shots thrown by AA.
He tagged AP to the point where Pryor realized that getting knocked out was a distinct possibility if he continued upon his charted course of action He then begin to move and throw from all angles but leaning more towards boxing.
One unfortunate aspect of this as stipulated by a fellow writer last time was the Black bottle that AP drank from twice during the course of the tilt. Panama Lewis (who also was tied into a plaster incident in the 80’s that arguably lead to another mans death) asked his assistants in the corner to hand him “not the water the one I mixed”.
At one point in the fight Ray Charles on the call asked the question” where is AP getting these spread out energy burst from?” He took a sip in the second and final round of the fight. After his second sip he caught AA with two handed combinations that sent AA sprawling into the ropes were AP rushed him and took the fight that was about to be taken from him.
In light of Panama Lewis spilling the beans, allegations arose here, there and everywhere. The “Mix” lead to a re match which AP won in even more brutal fashion. This much is clear though,,,,,their fight was an all time struggle, A true fight to the death at times. If you have not seen this fight check it out…breath taking
Ray Charles Lenard vs. Thomas Hearn’s
Unified Welterweight title (147 pounds)
September 16th 1981
The height of both these hall of famers careers crystallized in 1981 amid years of anticipation and hype. Sugar Ray in all his glory had emerged from his “No Mas” rematch with Duran as maybe the best pound for pound fighter out there.
He was garnering tremendous momentum. Ray was getting endorsement deals out the wazoo, making friends in high places, and most importantly of all having a big role in his financial dealings and affairs where as most boxers actually hire a promoter and a manager to do it for them.
He was Americas champ and the one thing he needed to be considered a great fighter was simple beat Thomas Hearn’s The motor city cobra won a legit piece of the welterweight title when he knocked out highly respected champ PC.
This shockingly dominant victory put ray and the public on notice. Rays camp deferred the fight for a good amount of time in order to build interest and by the time the fight came off in 1981 it was a Mainstream event.
People from DET poured into Las Vegas to see their hero try and elevate himself to marvelous heights. Thomas was the betting favorite due to that glock of a right hand that could emerge any second.
It was on this night that they both would become boxing deities. The fight began with Ray being a little surprised with TH reach and fluidity. Ray would change the course of the fight when he landed a big right hand in the middle rounds and had TH in BIG trouble. The fight then did a complete 360. Ray became the stalker and TH became the boxer.
Ray had his moments but oh man did TH box those middle/late rounds. It was pretty to see on tape. Angelou Dundee kept his cool and kept it real in the face of being down on the cards and Rays eye getting fatter by the second,” Your blowin it son….your blowin it” Ray jumped off the stool and beat TH into submission the ref calling the fight when it was clear he was in danger of getting hurt.
If TH stays on his feet he wins the unified welterweight championship of the world. He knew that, Ray knew that, everyone knew that. Yet, Ray found a way to pull out his defining moment against most odds makers and maybe his own belief. He became a boxing icon on that night and TH,the great warrior, was elevated to new heights in defeat. That’s what makes a great fight
Ali Vs Frazier 1
Undisputed Heavy weight title
March 8th 1971
Ladies and gents I present the most fantastic, dramatic, socially impactful, action packed, worldwide event fight ever in the history of boxing. A lot of people may point out other fights but this fight is the most complete combination of worldwide event AND earth shattering fight. This fight took place during a time of social change in America.
It also took place during Americas offensive in Vietnam. Ali as we all know had come out against the war “No Viet Kong ever called me N$$$er” He refused to be inducted into the draft and was stripped of his titles at the height of his powers. Ali ‘s emerging political stance provoked white America.
He had joined the highly combative Black Muslims and then proceeded to not fight for his country. This cut across many lines. Veterans of the establishment vilified Ali while college students, hippies, and African Americans identified with Ali and took up his cause. Joe Frazier was far from a politician or an orator. He was the son of a sharecropper from SC.
He came from humble beginnings and remained humble even after taking the heavy weight title. The Anti Ali establishment gravivatated towards him because of his soft spoken nature and perceived all American stance. When it came time for the two to meet in Madison SA garden the two men had become causes. Ali, the defiant civil activist who also happened to be the greatest heavyweight that ever lived.
Then we had the soft-spoken Joe Frazier who wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer but a good man nonetheless. This particular dynamic would prove disastrous for Ali. Ali taunted Joe up and down the block calling everything from “dumb and ugly”to an “uncle Tom” to a “pure n@@@ger”. Since Ali had such power in the black community Joe and his family went through a lot in the lead up to the fight. This really hurt Joe really hurt him. Still hurts him. He would say years later” the antics built up an anger” that festered the night of the fight. Every now and then we refer to certain fights as events. Events are generally fights that Mainstream America picks up on and gravitates too. Joe Louis Vs Max S. 2, Ali vs. Foreman, and as bob arum told me when I interviewed him Hagler vs. SRL. These fights were the talk of the nation when they finally dropped and of course there is more but there is none that really approached the level of this “event”. Ali was by public distinction a symbol for anti Vietnam sentiment where’s Frazier was adopted by the establishment simply because he was the anti Ali. I have seen images of him in congress and so on so it got pretty dramatic in the lead up. This fight was broadcast all over the world the first such fight to have such a gigantic pay per view live telecast. This was the first true Pay per view event. Burt Lancaster BURT LANCASTER was on the call with Archie Moore. Frank S. was ringside taking pictures for Life magazine. Every pimp, Gangster (including an American one (= ) actor, actress, singer, noble blood, athlete, and sportswriter that mattered was there. No one missed this fight. When they fighters came down for their introductions they walked onto the world’s stage the only fight that had come close to generating this type of sizzle was Louis/Sch 2. The fight began with Joe taking some tremendous shots as their style’s clashed with pugilistic fury. Ali almost knocked out in the first round and skated to a 3-0 lead through three rounds. Joe then began to start smoking attacking the rib cage adopting Balboa’s Philosophy of taking 2 to get 1. He would not be denied on this night. Ali then began to take over in the middle to late rounds pulling closer on the scorecards.
The fight began to take a massive physical toll on both fighters. Ali had a broken jaw and bruised ribs. Joe’s Face was a swollen car wreck the likes of which we have not seen. He was having trouble with his internal organs and would become a resident at a hospital for an extended amount of time as result.
At one point there was even a rumor that he had died. In the 15th round the all time tilt hit a fever pitch with Frazier throwing the left hook of his life. Ali was in the process of moving out of range, and then suddenly, Joe (who had very long arms for a shorter man) lunged forward and caught ALI with a picture perfect left hook right on the chin. Down goes ALI. The crowd rises. So does ALI.
They fight to the bell with Joe Frazier embracing his defining moment.. Joe took every sizzling accurate shot that Ali threw. He took all the taunts, questions about his intelligence, attacks on his status as a true black man, and his lack of vernacular.
He took all of that heat and the fact that he had an all time fighter in his way and he did not he wilt, he did not give in, he smiled every time he was humiliated and in the end…..he persevered. Now the irony button got pressed after the fight because Joe in light of his biggest victory seemed to get smaller and Ali as history shows became bigger. A global icon.
Bert Sugar said it best” that night winner was the loser and the loser was the winner”.. The party that didn’t lose on that oh so great night was us the fans. They gave us something that will last forever. Thank you
Yeah Yeah!, I am catching heat from my friend for making this to long. He and anyone else will have to get over it. If one is going to remember greatness then that greatness must be treated with respect.
I gave my best effort to capture several aspects of each fight for your Sunday consumption.. I want to applaud all of you the fans of bleacher report…we know our fu###ing our boxing, here are some random thoughts in wake of last nights better then expected presentation
- Yes Cotto was impressive and yes Pavlik broke down Rubio but two things that are glaring to me that can not be ignored, One Cotto was facing highly pedestrian competition, two Yes Kelly got the Knockout but it was not the dynamic knock out win that Cotto delivered and that Pavlik’s team was aiming for
- Slow down with all of the talk about King Authur Abraham as Kelly’s next opponent. After a somewhat Lacking performance one can’t be sure if Kelly is ready for a step up like that
- Top Rank did a decent job with the cards they were given and this development will affect how HBO and top rank do buiness..Thats if they got a decent amount of buys numbers pending
- Josh Clottey is having troubling coping with the fact that no one wants to fight him, I think he somehow thought that Zab Judah was a career defining fight and that should entitle him to big names and big fights….poor guy
- I was the first boxing reporter I know of to report the Kelly Pav’Rubio fight. I know that because Jack told me on the phone that they had just made the fight earlier that day. That was about 4 months ago and to see the fight come off that I first reported was awesome, take care fans
Ps for you viewing pleasure here is a link to my interview with Bob Arum on this same subject