At the signal, unleash hell. — Russell Crowe from the movie “Gladiator”
Over the years, I have witnessed literally thousands of fights and to name my top ten will do injustice to many others and I regret that. Still, I’ll give it a go and list them in order of preference. Rightly or wrongly and in order to decrease the universe, I had to see them live or when they were first televised (no tapes, YouTube’s, and/or videos).
Some of the things I looked for were ebb and flow, sudden change, come-from-behind, controlled violence, courage, imposition of will, superiority of technical skills, pure savagery, and personal satisfaction. Here they are:
1. Bobby Chacon vs. Rafael “Bazooka” Limon 1V: On December 11, 1982, Chacon recovered from knockdowns suffered in rounds 3 and 10 to deck Limón in the closing seconds of round 15, and secure a close but clear decision and the world title. It was the 1982 Ring Magazine, KO Magazine, and Ring En Espanol Magazine Fight of the Year. It contained most of what I was looking for and then some. Bobby came back from the brink to win the WBC super featherweight title in dramatic fashion. One had to see it to believe it. I recall getting up and screaming at the top of my voice at the T.V. monitor, “get him Bobby, Get him.”He was like an apparition in that ring.
2 Bobby Chacon vs. Cornelius Boza-Edwards on May 15, 1983: Same as number one above. This rematch had ebb and flow, savagery, courage, violence, technical skills…everything was included. It was the 1983 Ring Magazine Fight of the Year. Chacon rose from a knockdown in round one and recovered from a deep cut to drop the Ugandan former champion Boza Edwards in round twelve and avenge an earlier defeat. It was redemption, though at a high cost as these two fights undoubtedly impacted Bobby’ well being. Even though he would win 7 of his last 8 bouts, the irreversible damage had been done.
3. Arturo Gatti vs. Mickey Ward on May 18, 2002. Both engaged in almost non-stop action and withstood brutal punishment through 10 grueling rounds. Ward dropped Gatti in the legendary ninth round with a numbing left hook to the body that made Gatti grimace in pain and help seal a majority but fair decision. Many called it the Fight of the Century. Larry merchant said it best: “Prizefighters sign on for a life of pain and struggle, risk and reward, and those fighters who honor that contract are the ones who move us and thrill us the way Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward did tonight.” “We told you it might be a candidate for fight of the year. We didn’t know it might be a candidate for fight of the century, “said Jim Lampley. I actually remember being scared that Gatti would die in the ring watching his head snap back so often.
4. Thomas Hearns vs. Marvin Hagler: On April 15, 1985, these two engaged in unmitigated and non-stop warfare for three rounds before a bloodied Hagler ended matters with a long right in the third. It was the 1985 Ring Magazine Fight of the Year.” In an electrified pre-fight atmosphere, both men came out with fists blazing trading punches at a frightening rate and matching each other’s power toe-to-toe. It was a round that defined ferocity, as neither held back. After imposing his will late in the second, Hagler launched a vicious right in the third that rag dolled Tommy and though he somehow got up, he was totally done. It was said that these were “The most electrifying eight minutes ever.” Jeff Powell of Mail Online said it “was like two asteroids crashing in the Nevada desert.” That says it all.
5. Diego “Chico” Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo (May 2005): With his left eye almost totally closed and already down twice in the 10th, Chico miraculously climbed off the deck and battered Castillo into shocking submission along the ropes to score one of the most dramatic come-from-behind TKO’s in boxing history. As Castillo was moving in for the certain kill, a shaky Corrales landed a counter hook out of nowhere that rocked the attacking Mexican. Castillo was immediately pinned on the ropes, getting hammered by left-right, left-right combos, out on his feet, causing referee Tony Weeks to stop what could have been a free shot assault. Both sustained tremendous punishment in an all-time classic slugfest that was named Ring Magazine Fight of the Year. To nobody’ surprise, Round ten was named Round of the Year, The fight arguably “ruined” both fighters.
6. Alvaro “Yaqui” Lopez vs. Matthew Saad Mohammed: on July 13, 1980 in New Jersey. This one was the Ring Magazine Fight of the Year. Yaqui controlled the first half. Then, in the eighth, he trapped the slow-starting Muhammad in a corner and landed 20 consecutive shots to the Champion’s head and body. Somehow, Saad survived the onslaught and survived the round. The crowd was in total disbelief. Even referee Waldemar Schmidt seemed in awe at Saad’s ability to handle the onslaught. Finally, in the fourteenth stanza, Lopez grew arm weary and began to run out of gas changing the inevitable flow of the fight. Saad, sensing the end, jumped on Yaqui with a head-snapping, savage attack and that was that. Together, they had made ring history and those who witnessed it still talk discuss it with reverence. The fact was, Miracle Matthew was the East Coast’s version of Danny “Little Red” Lopez. Like the aforementioned Corrales-Castillo, this was the very essence of snatching victory from defeat.
7. “Kid Akeem” Anifowoshe vs. Robert “Pikin” Quiroga: on June 15, 1991, they battled for 12 ferocious rounds for the IBF Super Flyweight Title in an ebb and flow savagery that not only was named the “Ring Magazine” Fight of the Year for 1991 but was one of the best fights ever in the super flyweight division. The final round was one in which both men continued to war at an incredible sweat splattering pace. The relentless Akeem started as the aggressor and forced the action, but the gritty Quiroga took the play away from the Kid as he drilled him with punishing combos. Both men were exchanging at full tilt boogie when the final bell sounded. The crowd (and me with it) went crazy over what they had just witnessed. The 12 brutal rounds landed both fighters in the hospital. Both came as close to the edge as two fighters can get. In fact, it may well have contributed to the “Kid’s” death three years late. Anifowoshe collapsed after the scorecards were announced, and was rushed to the hospital where it was discovered that he suffered from cerebral hemorrhaging. The affair was scary to watch, and the crowd’s vile reaction at the end when the Kid was carried out in stretcher mirrored the darkest side of the sport.
8. Monroe Brooks vs. Bruce Curry: on April 7, 1978. This old school-type battle featured two talented guys who hated each other with a passion (the dispute was over a woman). The bout began with both swinging for the fences. It was sustained violence until both threw simultaneous hooks in the ninth round with Curry’s landing first. This was another Gatti-Ward before Gatti-Ward. This was violence with a purpose. The exchange of punishing bombs was incredible. “Sometimes you watch a bout on TV and don’t really know what to expect. You hope you might be pleasantly surprised, but you don’t know enough about the fighters to work up the anticipation. If Rios fights Alvarado, you get ready because you know what’s coming. If Bradley fights Provodnikov, you prepare for the worst because of Timothy’s heretofore reluctance to engage, but then you get the opposite. This was one of those times and what I would witness would become indelible; indeed, who knew it would become a classic? –Anonymous Poster. Unfortunately, there is a limited amount of footage on Brooks who fought 60 times, but fortunately this one was televised and announcer Gil Clancy called it one of the best fights he had seen in ten years. I could not agree more.
9. Micky Ward vs. Reggie Green: this cult classic was fought on October 1, 1999 in southern New Hampshire and flew under the radar, but I was at ringside and can vouch for the ebb and flow action and dramatic ending in the 10th when Ward finally caught up with the courageous Green. These were two lions in the ring. It was a breakthrough fight for Ward that arguably segued him to glory. They banged each other upstairs and downstairs with Green mostly getting the better of it, but then Ward began working Reggie’s body late in the fight and finally with 20 seconds left caught him with one of his patented liver shots followed by a crunching right upstairs and that was that. . Said Ron Borges, Ward may not have been the greatest body puncher in prizefighting history, but no one ever survived to fight another day more often because of body blows. Teddy Atlas added, that was not entertainment. That was not business. That was fighting. This is a barbaric thing at the core of it. It ain’t always pretty but it’s real. As the mobsters say, that was a real guy up there. It was like the first time your parents took you to the zoo and they said, ‘That there is a lion.’ And you look and he roars and you think, ‘Yeah, that’s a lion!’ Tonight, if you never been there before, that was a fighter.
10. Elvir “The Kosovo Kid” Muriqi vs. “Slamming” Sam Ahmad: These two defined Pier Six on July 23, 2002 in New Rochelle, NY. This was an ESPN televised fight and there was absolutely no prior indication this bout would turn out the way it did. .It was back-and-forth brawling. It was another Gonzalez vs. Letterlough, Norkus-Nardico, Foreman-Lyle, and Cooper-Moorer. It was the kind that made you leap up and scream at the television set in disbelief. A total of 6 knockdowns (most that rolled back the eyes of the fighter on the canvass) and 2 not called but should have been—for 8 genuine knockdowns in all. The Teddy Atlas-trained Muriqi finally prevailed but not before he returned from hell on more than one occasion. Had Micky Ward not met Arturo Gatti in May 2002, this fight would have been a slam dunk for Fight of the Year, though it did fly pretty well under the radar. The slugfest ruined Sammy but the “Kid” would move on.
I wish I could say I witnessed Yvon “The Fighting Fisherman” Durelle vs. Archie Moore: on December 10, 1958 in Montreal, but I didn’t.
2002: Julio Cesar Gonzalez vs. Julian Letterlough
1992: Michael Moorer vs. Bert Cooper
1985: Lee Roy Murphy vs. Chisanda Mutti
1983: Roberto Duran vs. Davey Moore
1982: Aaron Pryor vs. Alexis Arguello
1982: Salvador Sanchez vs. Azumah Nelson
1981: Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns
1978: Larry Holmes vs. Ken Norton
1976: George Foreman vs. Ron Lyle
1976: Earnie Shavers vs. Roy Williams