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10 that packed a punch bouts
Tonight, it's the Fight of the Century (we're being a little tongue-in-cheek, because yes, we know it's only 2007), but in the grand scheme of things, where does it rank? We consulted with boxing historian Bert Randolph Sugar to find out, and he said it's got potential but needs to be a really great fight to crack his top 10. He shared that list with Times boxing writer John C. Cotey, who takes a look at those fights:
By JOHN COTEY
Published May 5, 2007
Tonight, it's the Fight of the Century we're being a little tongue-in-cheek, because yes, we know it's only 2007, but in the grand scheme of things, where does it rank? We consulted with boxing historian Bert Randolph Sugar to find out, and he said it's got potential but needs to be a really great fight to crack his top 10. He shared that list with Times boxing writer John C. Cotey, who takes a look at those fights:
1. Ali-Frazier I
March 8, 1971
Why it was ballyhooed: Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier were the pre-eminent heavyweights of their time, but getting them together required patience. Ali was suspended for 3 1/2 years for refusing the Vietnam draft, and in that time Frazier became the undisputed champion. Ali relentlessly attacked Frazier with his sharp tongue every chance he could, leaving scars that still haunt Smokin' Joe.
What happened: Both were undefeated when they finally met at Madison Square Garden. Frazier was relentless, banging away at Ali inside and knocking him down in the 11th round. The judges all scored it for Frazier, but it was 15 brutal rounds that changed the two forever.
2. Jack Johnson- Jim Jeffries
July 4, 1910
Why it was ballyhooed: Simply, Johnson was a black champion in white America. Jeffries was the Great White Hope enlisted to get the title back. It was dubbed by some the War of the Races.
What happened: Johnson ended up embarrassing Jeffries, winning by knockout. Racial violence followed, prompting authorities to forbid public showing of the fight.
3. Sugar Ray Leonard-Tommy Hearns I
Sept. 16, 1981
Why it was ballyhooed: Much like tonight's De La Hoya-Mayweather fight, this one pitted the Olympic golden boy and face of boxing against the pride of Detroit. Dubbed "The Showdown, " it was one of the greatest fights of the 1980s, pitting the WBC welterweight champ (Leonard) against the WBA champ.
What happened: A back-and-forth battle had clearly settled in to Hearns' favor, but in the 13th Leonard mounted a comeback in one of boxing's most memorable rounds. Hearns survived, but only for a few minutes longer as the fight was stopped the next round. Hearns was ahead on all the judges' scorecards.
4. Jack Dempsey- Georges Carpentier
July 24, 1922
Why it was ballyhooed: Dempsey was an American hero and the heavyweight champi. Carpentier, a Frenchman, was arguably Europe's best-ever fighter. Their meeting produced boxing's first million-dollar gate and was the first world championship bout to be on radio.
What happened: Dempsey dominated the game Carpentier for four rounds, winning by KO.
5. Joe Louis- Max Schmeling II
June 22, 1938
Why it was ballyhooed: In the late 1930s, Nazi Germany was looking for a cover boy to promote its theme of Aryan supremacy, and found it in Schmeling after he knocked out the previously unbeaten Brown Bomber in their first meeting in 1936.
What happened: It took two years, but the rematch at Yankee Stadium in front of 75, 000 fans was a Louis rout. In 124 seconds, he knocked Schmeling down three times to win. It remains one of boxing's most historically significant bouts.
6. Jack Dempsey- Gene Tunney II
September 22, 1927
Why it was ballyhooed: Dempsey was one of sport's first national heroes, winning the heavyweight title in 1919 and ruling boxing's flagship division throughout the roaring '20s. But after a long layoff, he was dominated by Tunney in their first meeting in front of 120, 000 in Philadelphia, setting up a rematch.
What happened: In 1927, 104, 500 watched the rematch at Soldier Field in Chicago as Tunney dominated early but got caught in the seventh and went down. He got up at the count of, well, 14 unofficially. Officially, he was up at nine and went on to win, making Dempsey the victim of boxing's most famous long count in his final fight.
7. Muhammad Ali- George Foreman
Oct. 30, 1974
Why it was ballyhooed: The Rumble in the Jungle featured the giant, awe-inspiring and unbeatable Foreman in his prime. He had easily beaten Ken Norton and Joe Frazier, a pair of fighters who had previously beaten an aging Ali. And it was being fought in Zaire, with African-American pride at new heights.
What happened: With 60, 000 screaming fans crammed into Stade du 20 Mai in Kinshasa cheering him on, Ali used his famous "rope-a-dope" strategy to tire Foreman out before he knocked him out. Ali was back; Foreman disappeared until he could find a grill that let the fatty juices drip off.
8. Sugar Ray Leonard-Roberto Duran I
June 20, 1980
Why it was ballyhooed: Leonard was unbeaten and the face of boxing, with the television networks behind him as the heir apparent to Muhammad Ali. Duran was 71-1 and was moving up from the lightweight division he had dominated for years.
What happened: The '80s first megafight was a decision for Duran on all the cards, but it was close: Two judges picked him by a single point, the other had him by two points. It was Leonard's first loss after 27 wins and set up the infamous "No Mas" rematch.
9. Mike Tyson- Evander Holyfield II
June 28, 1997
Why it was ballyhooed: Tyson had lost to Buster Douglas, but most believed that was a fluke. Before Tyson could get his title back, Holyfield won it, and before the two could meet for the first time, the former champ had to serve a year on a rape conviction. When they finally met, Holyfield stopped Tyson in 11.
What happened: Tyson, thoroughly frustrated by Holyfield, bit the champ's ear. In defending this pick, Sugar says, "don't even tell me people aren't still talking about that."
10. Jack Dempsey- Luis Firpo
Sept. 24, 1923
Why it was ballyhooed: For the first time, a Latin-American fighter would challenge for the heavyweight title..
What happened: What didn't happen? Firpo knocked Dempsey down in the opening seconds, and the champ responded by knocking the challenger down seven times ... and the round wasn't over yet. Amazingly, Firpo put Dempsey back down, and nearly out. According to some, this was the real long count, as Dempsey needed, by some accounts, 14 seconds to rise. RDempsey wasn't going to take that chance again, decking Firpo three times in the second round to end the fight.