In my very first edition of 411’s special Ten Count column, I have tackled a topic that boxing fans all over will debate until the day they die. This week’s Ten Count brings you the top 10 boxing rematches that never took place.
It is very hard to break down a top 10 list because there have been many fights over the course of history that screamed for a rematch that never took place. The reasons for some of these non-rematches have been so senseless that it’s the fans that become the real losers.
Can you imagine if Arguello-Pryor never had their rematch? Fans would still be screaming to take a loss of Arguello’s record because Pryor and his sleaze ball trainer Panama Lewis cheated their way to victory with the aid of the mystery bottle. Pryor knew better and gave Arguello the much deserved rematch after an epic first fight. Pryor proved he didn’t need any extra help and dominated Arguello by knocking him down three times, including the decisive 10th-round knockout that saw Arguello stay on the ground for the 10 count.
While Pryor and Arguello got it right, here is a top 10 list of the fight and fighters that didn’t get it right by not signing for a rematch. The date of the original fight is in parenthesis.
10. Lennox Lewis vs. Vitali Klitschko (June 21, 2003)
The first fight on our list was the last good heavyweight fight that I can remember. It was one of the more exciting fights on our list and it was not even supposed to happen in the first place. Lewis was scheduled to fight Kirk Johnson for the IBO championship belt of , but dropped it when Johnson suffered an injury in training.
Instead, Lewis fought Klitschko, the WBC's No. 1 contender and former WBO titlist. Lewis had planned to fight him in December, but since Klitschko had been on the undercard of the Johnson fight anyway, they agreed to square off. Lewis entered the ring a little overweight as he came in career high 256 1/2 pounds.
Lewis expected a walk through but instead found himself in one of toughest fights of his career. Lennox was dominated in the early rounds and was wobbled bad in round two by two solid Klitschko punches. It looked many times in the second round that Klitschko might pull of the upset as Lennox was hurt real badly. Klitschko also hurt him in the third and backed Lewis up all night with his left jab. One of them cut Lewis on the bridge of the nose. Klitschko seemingly landed at will.
In the third round, however, Lewis opened a cut that poured blood and looked like it would ultimately end Klitschko's dream of winning the title.
Lewis gave a better showing in the fifth and sixth rounds. Before the start of round seven, with Klitschko ahead on all three ringside scorecards, the doctor advised that the fight should be stopped due to a severe cut above Klitschko's left eye. Lennox would get himself the TKO victory. Klitschko had now earned the respect of fight fans all over.
Because Klitschko had fought so well against Lewis, boxing fans soon began calling for a rematch. The WBC agreed, and kept him as its No. 1 contender. Lewis decided to pursue other interests and appeared not interested in looking bad once again. Lewis said he would not return to the ring and would end up retiring. At his retirement, Lewis' record was 41 wins, 2 losses and 1 draw, with 32 wins by knockout. Klitschko meanwhile is the current WBC champion and is looking for a fall fight with contender, Chris Arreola.
9. Michael Spinks vs. Dwight Muhammad Qawi (March 18, 1983)
They called this fight the “The Brawl for It All,” and it was one of the more important fights in history at the time it was made because it was to unify the light heavyweight championship.
It was a long-awaited match for the sport. Qawi had defeated Matthew Saad Muhammad for the WBC world title. He had defeated some of the top names in boxing to get to this fight. On the other side, Spinks had become a superstar in the boxing world. He began appearing on the covers of boxing magazines and boxing fans started clamoring for this unification fight.
The fight would not come without some dramatic happenings before it ever took place.
Two months before the fight was suppose to take place, Spinks' longtime girlfriend, who was the mother of his only daughter, had died in a car accident. On the other side, about seven days before the fight, Qawi revealed that his doctors had recommended him not to fight, Qawi had been diagnosed with pneumonia. This put the fight on jeopardy, but he decided to go on with the fight.
Spinks had a very tough moment to overcome before it even started: His daughter asked him, while he was in his dressing room, if her mother would come to watch the fight. Spinks almost broke into tears, but soon had to recover and get into the ring. Talk about some drama but it was now time to fight.
Spinks started the fight taking an outside tactical style while Qawi did his usual charge forward style. The first six rounds, on my eyes (watching fight on Youtube), including the judges, dominated by Spinks. But in Round Eight, Qawi was finally gaining some momentum as he was credited with a controversial knockdown of Spinks.
As Spinks stepped on one of Qawi's feet, Qawi landed a right to Spinks' chin. Had Spinks not landed on Qawi’s foot, it can be said that Qawi would not have been credited with a knockdown. Qawi would slow down a little after that, probably because of his sickness, and did not show much until rounds 14 and 15.
He staggered Spinks with two rights towards the end of round fourteen, but could not finish up his foe as the bell rang . Qawi came swinging from every angle at the start of the last round, as he knew he would a knockdown. However, Spinks bobbed and weaved through the last round and got himself the well deserved victory as the judges scored the fight, 144-140, 144-141, and 144-141.
The closeness of the decision made fans begging for a rematch. The rematch came very close to happening as it was set for September 27th, 1984. However it was cancelled after Qawi was injured during training, three weeks before the fight. And in typical boxing fashion, they never settled on a rematch.
8. Nigel Benn vs. Gerald McClelland (Feb. 25, 1995)
Possibly one of the more gruesome fights in boxing history. This is a fight that is the subject of a documentary film directed by Bobby Razak called "Fallen Soldier". It was perhaps on of the biggest and most memorable fights to take place in England. What took place that night was a boxer’s greatest victory and another boxer’s sad end to a career.
Nigel Benn and Gerald McClelland came into the fight as two of the top middleweights in the world. There was not a harder puncher in the division than Nigel Benn. McClellan was the WBC middleweight champion and successfully defended it three times before moving up to super middleweight to challenge Benn. The fight would start with a bang as McClellan dropped Benn, who went out of the ring in round one.
McClellan, after dropping Benn again in round eight, slumped to one knee in round ten. He stood down to the eight count, resumed boxing, but almost immediately dropped to his knee for a second time, obviously as a result of some extreme discomfort. He stayed on one knee for the ten count. He returned to his corner, where he lost consciousness within a short time. Something was just not right
What happened after that would chance the lives of many. McClellan had emergency surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain. He spent eleven days in a coma and after which, he was found to have suffered extensive brain damage. He lost his eyesight, the ability to walk unassisted and became 80 percent deaf. Meanwhile, Nigel was never ever the same after this fight. He would eventually lose his title and failed twice to regain it in rematches against Steve Collins. A rematch would just physically impossible and that is a damn shame.
7. Larry Holmes vs. Ken Norton (June 9, 1978)
In one of the best heavyweight fights in the last thirty years, Norton and Holmes took themselves to the limit in an epic 15 round slug fest.
Norton came as the WBC champion and Holmes was the number one contender. It was a dead even fight until the 15th and final round. What would happen is one of the more exciting rounds and ends to a fight in history. At the end of the fifteenth and final round, Holmes was awarded the title via an extremely close split decision. two judges awarded the round, and the fight, to Holmes, the third gave it to Norton.
What might have swayed the judges was the last 15 seconds of the round as Norton seemed to have the round won but tired out real bad in the last few seconds and Holmes landed some great shots that rocked Norton and most likely, the reason Holmes winning the round.
In what should have been a immediate rematch, it was not to be. Holmes went to defend his heavyweight title in one of great runs as champion ever. He would successfully defended it 20 times and is considered one of the most dominant reigns any champion ever had.
Meanwhile, Ken Norton did not get his much deserved rematch and would fight five more times after the fight with Holmes. He was never the same and would lose two of those fights and the final being a first round knockout loss to Gerry Cooney that would end his career. It would have been nice to seen a rematch between the two because of how great a fight it was and how dominant Holmes would end up becoming. Norton seemed like the only fighter at the time to give Holmes a run for his money.
6. Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas “Hitman “ Hearns (April 15, 1985)
When you think of this fight, you think of this fight, you think of the most violent and most exciting three round fight in boxing history. Hagler and Hearns met in what was billed as The Fight; later it would become known as The War.
Hearns, who was expected to box and take advantage of his superior reach, stood toe to toe with Hagler right at the sound of the first bell in Round 1. Both men fought at a brutal pace and fought as if it was a street fight. he crowd giving a standing ovation as the bell sounded to end the 1st round, in which Hearns broke his devastating right hand. Hagler who was pressing for such an exchange seemed fine to fight on the inside.
Both fighters landed powerful punches the next two rounds but Hagler appeared to have the advantage with his more solid chin. In Round Three, Hagler would manage to overpower Hearns and score a devastating knockout of the tired Hearns and would earn himself one of his biggest wins of his career. It elevated both guys to superstar status and rematch seemed inevitable.
However, it was not to be as Hagler would not last long enough in the game as he would fight only two more time and would retire following the Sugar Ray Leonard fight. It would have been interesting to see if these two fought again, how different it would be. Would Thomas Hearns taken a different approach? We will never know.
5. Mike Tyson vs. James “Buster” Douglas (Feb. 11, 1990)
It would be known as the biggest upset in not only boxing history but the history of all sports. Tyson was the undefeated and undisputed heavyweight champion and was a 40-1 favorite over Douglas. It should have been one of the easiest fights in Tyson’s career.
But Douglas was at an emotional high after losing his mother just a few weeks prior to the fight, and fought the fight of his life.
Tyson failed to find a way past Douglas's quick jab that had a huge reach advantage.
Tyson did send Douglas to the floor in a controversial knockdown in the eighth round, catching him with an uppercut. Tyson’s corner said the count was slow and that Douglas had taken longer than ten seconds to get to his feet. Douglas would come back from the knockdown and in 35 seconds into the 10th round, Douglas unleashed a brutal combination of hooks that sent Tyson to the canvas for the first time in his career. Tyson would not make it and Douglas became the new heavyweight champion of the world.
But as we know by now, Tyson would never get the redemption he needed over Douglas. Both men’s lives and career took two different turns. Douglas reign was champion was short lived. Douglas made his only defense of the heavyweight title later that fall, against Evander Holyfield. Douglas was knocked out in the third round and afterwards would retire from boxing. He would make a brief comeback in the late 90’s but it was short lived and unsuccessful.
With Tyson, I think we all know what happens next to him. It’s too bad that Mike never got to redeem himself from his worst night ever as a boxer. There is no doubt that Mike would have gone back to the old Mike and floor Douglas in the first round. It should have happened the first time and would have happened the second time. It would have been a great sight to see. It just never came!
4. George Foreman vs. Muhammad Ali (Oct. 30, 1974)
As yes, the Rumble in the Jungle. Perhaps the most famous fight to ever take place in boxing history. Foreman came as the dominant champion who disposed of Ali foes, Ken Norton and Joe Frazier in easy fashion with knockouts of each man. Ali had struggled and went the distance with each guy.
Almost no one gave Ali a chance of winning. But he was not the greatest of all time for nothing. He would employ one of the great in fight strategies of all time. Ali's tactic of leaning on the ropes, covering up, and absorbing ineffective body shots was known as the “ Rope-A-Dope”. Clearly Ali knew that Foreman just never went the distance in any of his fights. Foreman had won 37 of his 40 bouts by knockout, mostly within three rounds. Eight of his previous bouts didn't go past the second round. Ali saw something to that. In the eighth round, Ali dropped Foreman with a combination at center ring and Foreman failed to make the count. Against the odds, Ali had regained the title.
With Foreman being the champion of the time, he should have been given a rematch because of how dominating he had been. However, Foreman and Ali became friends after the fight. Their rematch would never take place Ali seemed destined to settle the score with Joe Frazier for the third and final time. Meanwhile Foreman, took a year and half off and fought a few times before retiring after losing his second fight to Jimmy Young. Foreman would become born again and would not return to the ring for another ten years and gave one of the more inspiring comebacks ever.
However, the Rumble in the Jungle was one of the great boxing events of our time and the way it turned out, it would have been nice to see these two go at it one more time.
3. Oscar De La Hoya vs. Felix Trinidad (Sept. 8, 1999)
In one of the biggest events in Pay Per View history, Oscar De La Hoya defended his WBC title against rival and IBF champion Felix Trinidad. It set the record for a non heavyweight fight in terms of sales. The way this fight was hyped, you thought it was going to be one of the greatest fights we will ever see. Instead, we got one of the most controversial fights on our list.
There was not a whole much of excitement and brawling in this fight. De La Hoya seemed to have total control of the fight for the first nine rounds of the fight. He had controlled the outside and was seemingly putting on a boxing clinic to the rest of the world.
Thinking that they had an advantage on points, De la Hoya's corner urged him to be conservative, a strategy benefiting Trinidad who became more active in the offensive, connecting several solid combinations. Both guys continued this pattern in the 12th round, with De la Hoya trying to slow down the offense while displaying signs of exhaustion, as Trinidad continued to hunt him down and take control.
After the bell sounded, De La Hoya celebrates as he look sure he had won the biggest fight of his young career. But that is when the controversy comes in. The scorecards had Trinidad slightly ahead, even though Trinidad threw only 20 punches more than De La Hoya in round 12, one of the judges gave it to De La Hoya. It just did not add up. Tito Trinidad was given the majority decision win and De La Hoya has his first loss of his career. With that, we had ourselves one of the great boxing robberies of our time.
When you watch this fight, you can really tell that De La Hoya was the superior fighter. Even if he had ran away the final three rounds, he should have won enough early on to basically nullify those final three rounds. The judge’s scorecards came under question and Fans and boxing analysts called for a rematch. This is one of the fights that screamed rematch. But because Trinidad was promoted by Don King and Oscar by Bob Arum, it had no chance of ever happening. I am sure money and other politics came into play as we will never know what might have happened. De La Hoya should have had the right to a rematch and I am sure he would have fought completely different. It is one of his great regrets of his career and it kills he could never redeem himself.
2. Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Pernell Whitaker (Sept. 10, 1993)
If you thought the previous fight on our list was robbery, this one might have been the biggest rob job of them all. The great Chavez came into this fight undefeated with an astonishing record of 87-0.
Chavez moved up one weight division to challenge Pernell “ Sweet Pea” Whitaker for his WBC welterweight title.
Throughout the fight Chávez was outboxed by the slick Whitaker, who used lateral movement, and a quick jab to keep his opponent at bay. It was quite shocking to see the great Chavez being schooled like a child as Sweet Pea used his awesome boxing skills to totally frustrated Chavez. The fight got to a point where Chavez was so down on the cards that it was no point to continue scoring. Chavez might have been lucky if he had landed two or three punches the whole fight.
The result of the fight was a controversial majority draw with just one judge ruling in favor of Whitaker, allowing Chávez to remain undefeated. Even though the fight was ruled a draw, it’s pretty obvious that an extra effort was taken too keep Chavez undefeated. It’s sad too say but Pernell Whitaker was also a victim of circumstances. He was fighting for the Don King belt (WBC) Texas with a Mexican fighter.
Various members of the American media, including Sports Illustrated were critical of the decision, and Sports Illustrated put Pernell Whitaker on the cover of its next magazine with a one word title, "Robbed!" Of course, there was no rematch and Pernell has had to live with being involved in one of the biggest robberies in boxing history. Of course, King was not going to allow for Chavez to go through that fight again and wanted Chavez to have no part of Sweet pea. Whitaker deserved the win and in the least, deserved the rematch. Of course it is boxing and promoters don’t like to give robbed fighters rematches. A crying shame!
1. Marvin Hagler vs. Sugar Ray Leonard (April 7, 1987)
Perhaps the most talked about and most debated fight in the history of the sport. It is a fight that boxing fans still argue to this day. Was Hagler robbed? Did Leonard really win only 30 seconds of every round he won?
It was a fight that was many years in the making. Leonard shocked the sports world once again when he announced he would return to the ring for this fight. This announcement generated a lot of controversy because of Leonard's inactivity and eye injuries. Yet it also excited many sports fans, who had wanted to see this match for years.
The fight was billed as “Superfight” and had Hagler agree to a 12 round limit because he was so confident he was going to take care of Ray. That decision was ultimately haunt Hagler.
Hagler was a heavy favorite and why not? Leonard had only fought once in five years, and had never fought as a middleweight. But, Hagler was only fighting his third fight in two & a half years and issues if being rusty were sure to come up. Leonard used the same tactics as he did in his other big fights, lateral movement, jabs and clinching when he was in trouble. Hagler had trouble keeping up with the fleet-footed Leonard.
But In general, Hagler landed the harder blows and Leonard landed more punches and the flashier ones. Neither fighter was knocked down. It seemed part of Leonard’s strategy was to hold as much as possible. He was warned repeatedly for holding by the referee, but no points were deducted.
At the end, it was Sugar Ray Leonard who won the controversial split decision. The decision still remains a subject of debate as some of whom felt Hagler landed the harder shots and controlled the pace of the fight from the fourth round on. But it was Leonard’s plan to steal rounds with a few flashy and carefully timed flurries. What he didn’t have for power was made up for in hand speed.
Even if Ray was not hurting Marvin, he was being more active and that was what the judges like to see. Final punch stats show that Ray landed 306 punches while Marvin landed 291. It was that close a fight. A rematch was something that should have came considering how close it really was.
But Hagler thought his decision loss to Leonard was unjust and would leave boxing, saying he was tired of the backroom politics of the sport. He was as bitter as anyone could be and had many writers and fans argue his point. But Marvin seemed to have enough of it and walked away a rich man as he took home 37 million from the fight. He should fought Leonard but he really felt he didn’t need to.
Hagler is possibly our greatest middleweight ever and it’s a shame he ended his career because of what look like it might have been a popularity contest. Its shame but that is boxing.
Thanks for reading this Ten Count, and I hope you enjoyed it!