Ranking the 10 Most Action-Packed Fights of the Past Decade
This was a brutally difficult list to compose. Distilling all the great fights of the past decade down to the 10 "most action-packed" finalists guarantees numerous worthy omissions. Simply ordering the final 10 was a true challenge.
But in the end, for me, this is a list that had to be dominated by two brothers: Rafael and Juan Manuel Marquez. A full 40 percent of the fights here feature one of the two brothers.
For the sake of defining "action-packed" we're relying on pure punching volume. We're also considering such factors as atmosphere generated in the arena and momentum swings. And ultimately, of course, it comes down to how the fight impacted fans.
10. Andrzej Fonfara UD Nathan Cleverly: October 16, 2015
I didn't vote for this as last year's Fight of the Year. That distinction went to Francisco Vargas' come-from-behind stoppage of Takashi Miura to capture the WBC super featherweight title.
Vargas' stoppage of Miura just missed my cut for this list, but I have selected Andrzej Fonfara's win over Nathan Cleverly. In terms of pure action, this light heavyweight shootout gets the edge.
Fonfara and Cleverly combined to set Compubox punch-stat records, with Fonfara throwing 1,413 punches and Cleverly 1,111. The two fought back and forth all fight long, without letting up.
This battle was also a testament to how great the light heavyweight division is right now. While Fonfara is a top-five talent in the division and Cleverly a former titleholder, both men struggle for a share of the spotlight in the packed 175-pound class.
But they found their place there with this bout.
9. Orlando Salido KO 11 Terdsak Kokietgym: September 20, 2014
On June 4, Orlando Salido battled to a draw with Francisco Vargas, in what will surely be a Fight of the Year candidate. But the veteran Salido has made a career out of engaging in all-action wars. He fought two Fight of the Year candidates himself last year, against Roman Martinez.
His September 2014 stoppage of Thailand's Terdsak Kokietgym made Salido a two-division world champion. The bout featured an astonishing seven knockdowns.
Both men were dropped in the first. Salido went down in Rounds 2 and 5 while Kokietgym tasted the canvas in Rounds 4 and 7. When Salido dropped Kokietgym for a fourth time in Round 11, the count was waved.
8. Robert Guerrero UD Yoshiro Kamegai: June 21, 2014
Robert Guerrero's 2013 defeat of Andre Berto could easily have made this cut, and Yoshihiro Kamegai's draw with Jesus Soto Karass last April would not be out of place here, either. Guerrero and Kamegai are all-out action fighters.
This was Guerrero's return bout after more than a year inactive, following his loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. Kamegai came in a relative unknown in the United States.
Guerrero demonstrated that he still deserved his place in the boxing spotlight, and Kamegai forever endeared himself to North American fans. This was a pure slugfest.
The two combined to land 777 total punches, 689 of which were power shots. Guerrero connected with 34 power shots per round, 21 more than the weight class average. Kamegai doubled the average at 23 per round.
7. Juan Manuel Marquez TKO 9 Juan Diaz: February 28, 2009
In terms of academic distinction, this bout has to rank high in the history of world-title tilts. Juan Manuel Marquez is a university-educated accountant. Juan Diaz attended law school at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Both men were intelligent fighters in the ring, as well. Yet when the situation demanded it, both were more than capable of simply digging in and going to war.
This fight was all action, from the first round on. Diaz had the better of the early going and put Marquez in danger in Round 2.
Yet the wily Marquez made the necessary adjustments to batter Diaz late in the fight and stop him. As HBO's Max Kellerman observed when summing up the broadcast on this one, it was a case of a great old boxer defeating a good young one.
6. Juan Manuel Marquez KO 6 Manny Pacquiao: December 8, 2012
The rivalry between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez has been the sport's most significant in this century. Pacquiao has been one of the sport's great all-time stars, but Marquez has consistently been his toughest opponent.
The first fight between these two, in 2004, was a thrilling war. Marquez came back from three knockdowns in the first round to force a draw. Pacquiao's split decision over Marquez in 2008 was a finalist for this list.
Their third fight in 2011 was another hotly contested win for Pacquiao, this time by split decision.
The fourth fight between these two legends yielded the only decisive victory of the series, as Marquez landed a counter right for the ages at the very end of Round 6, to knock Pacquiao out cold.
Before the thrilling finish, this was an action-packed epic. The two exchanged knockdowns and Pacquiao had busted Marquez's nose. Pacquiao looked brilliant during much of this fight, and Marquez appeared to be in desperate trouble when he caught Pacquiao coming forward with too much aggression.
5. Timothy Bradley UD Ruslan Provodnikov: March 16, 2013
This was Timothy Bradley's first fight after his controversial split-decision win over Manny Pacquiao in June 2012. Due to the backlash against his victory, he entered this fight as if he had something to prove.
I interviewed Bradley the week before this fight, and he told me that he had been working in camp to sit down on his punches better and deliver more power. In the first two rounds against Ruslan Provodnikov, Bradley was clearly looking to load up and land a big punch.
It proved to be a disastrous strategy, as Provodnikov rocked him badly in both of those rounds. Bradley appeared out on his feet as he fired back desperately, attempting to hang on.
Bradley was able to control much of this fight, battling at a distance and giving the Siberian Rocky bad cuts to his eyes. But Provodnikov routinely managed to land big punches and force Bradley into electrifying exchanges.
Provodnikov's trainer, Freddie Roach, threatened to stop the bout before Round 11, and Provodnikov responded by fighting like a savage in the final two frames. In Round 12, he knocked Bradley down and nearly managed to score a stoppage.
4. Francisco Rodriguez UD Katsunari Takayama: August 9, 2014
This fight probably should have been the Fight of the Year for 2014, but it was largely overlooked, at least in the United States. Considering that this was a strawweight bout, it's probably not too surprising. Fighters in the 105-pound division rarely attract much attention.
This fight deserves to have been noticed, though. The veteran Katsunari Takayama was the IBF champion at 105 pounds and had not lost since 2012. At just 21, Francisco Rodriguez was the reigning WBO champ.
This was a true international showdown of tremendous significance and the two little warriors lived up to their big stage, fighting at a torrid pace for the entire bout. Rodriguez finished strong to capture the victory in front of his hometown fans.
3. Akira Yaegashi TKO 10 Pornsawan Porpramook: October 24, 2011
In 2011, the Ring chose Victor Ortiz's unanimous decision over Andre Berto as Fight of the Year. The Boxing Writer's Association of America selected the draw between Delvin Rodriguez and Pawel Wolak.
Those were both great fights, but only ESPN's Dan Rafael got the selection correct, choosing Akira Yaegashi's Round 10 TKO of Pornsawan Porpramook, the bout which made Yaegashi a world champion at 105 pounds.
This was a fight that started with plenty of action but built into a full-fledged brawl. Rounds 7 and 8 were as violent as boxing gets. Both men traded up until the end in Round 10, when Yaegashi finally connected with the monster shot that forced a stoppage.
2. Israel Vazquez TKO 6 Rafael Marquez: August 4, 2007
In March 2007, Rafael Marquez moved up to super bantamweight and defeated Israel Vazquez by TKO to become a two-division world champion. The bout was a classic and could easily appear on this list.
Their rematch came five months later and proved to be even more thrilling. In Round 3, the two warriors battered each other with crushing punches, opening cuts over each other's eyes. Vazquez's face wore a mask of blood for the remainder of the fight.
In Round 6, Vazquez sent Marquez to the canvas and swarmed him with a barrage when he got back to his feet, forcing a stoppage and regaining the title.
1. Israel Vazquez SD Rafael Marquez: March 1, 2008
With Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez tied at one win each, they faced off for a third time in March 2008, almost a year after the first bout. Once again, the action was nonstop, but for the first time, the bout went the distance.
In Round 4, Marquez dropped Vazquez, but the champion got back to his feet and landed some outstanding punches to rock Marquez. Once again, Vazquez fought much of the bout with blood pouring from cuts around both of his eyes.
This fight truly came down to the final seconds, as Vazquez rallied strong late in Round 12 and was awarded a controversial knockdown at the end of the fight, when referee Pat Russell ruled that Marquez was being held up by the ropes.
Both fighters received scorecards of 114-111 in their favor. But Marquez was docked a point for low blows in Round 10, which proved to be the margin of victory on the decisive card, 113-112.