Two legendary champions meet at Madison Square Garden with the whole world watching. No this wasn’t Ali-Frazier, far from it, this battle of two of the top ten heavyweight champions of all time was a boring fight. Holyfield went around fight week talking about how he was going to knock out Lewis early. When the bell rang it was more of a tedious fight dominated by Lewis, The only notable occurrence on fight night was the decision which was atrocious! In a fight where Holyfield struggled to win a round, the judges somehow scored the fight a draw. So, the fight was a huge disappointment all the way around, a boring fight, a worse decision.
Let’s face it this fight was big because of the aura that surrounded Mike Tyson. The pre-fight press conference was more entertaining than the fight; Tyson fans were somehow fooled into thinking Tyson had a legitimate chance to win the fight. Of course, those Tyson fans that thought he would win that night, today say that Tyson was shot from 1990 on. Lewis would have been a tough matchup for Tyson even in his prime because he moved well, was very smart in the ring and most importantly he was unafraid! The first round was the only entertaining round of the fight, with Tyson landing some big shots on Lewis, but they had little to no effect. The rest of the fight was basically Lewis pitching and Tyson catching until the fight was stopped in the eight-round with Tyson bloodied, battered and unable to continue.
This fight was a largely anticipated fight at the time it took place, a lot of people thought of Liston as invincible until Ali dismantled him the year before. The fight became even bigger once Ali had announced that he had converted to the Muslim religion. The problem was the promoters had a hard time getting the fight approved by the bigger boxing commissions and had to put the fight in Lewiston, Maine. To call this a fight would be a huge stretch, Ali knocked out Liston with a single “punch” that most people didn’t see and to this day can’t find even on old films of the fight. A lot of people have claimed the fight was fixed and with Liston’s mob connections, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility.
Marciano had dramatically knocked Walcott out in the thirteen round while being behind on the scorecards in the first encounter. Walcott fought maybe the greatest fight of his life before being knocked out in the thirteen round, Walcott was 37 years old at the time of these fights, the second fight was over before it started. Walcott was KO’ed in the first round, he looked like he could have beaten the count, but I believe discretion was the better part of valor on this day. I think the first fight took a lot out of Walcott and when he was floored in the first round he knew what awaited him when he got up. I think this fight rates this high because of how great the first fight was and people thought the second fight would be more of the same, they were sadly mistaken.
This fight in the pre-fight build-up was called “The Sound and the Fury”, unfortunately, today it is simply known as “The Bite Fight”. The first fight was predicted by most to be an easy Tyson victory, Holyfield was considered washed-up. Unfortunately for Tyson, Holyfield was far from being over the hill. Holyfield dominated the fight knocking Tyson down in the sixth round before finally stopping Tyson in the eleventh. Similar to Ali-Liston, a lot of people thought of Tyson as invincible and thought he would be better prepared this time around and destroy Holyfield. The second fight was about two great champions battling, but in the end, it will be remembered for a desperate champion knowing he was in against a man who he couldn’t beat, getting disqualified and taking the easy way out.
This fight was hyped as the next Leonard-Hearns; it turned out to fall well short of that hype. You had two undefeated fighters in their prime who also both had huge fan followings. The fight itself was devoid of any great action, with Oscar dominating the first eight rounds and then showing signs of wearing down starting in the ninth round. Trinidad won the last four rounds on aggression alone, as Oscar seemingly thinking he had the fight in the bag just trying to stay out of trouble. When the decision was read surprisingly the judges had awarded the fight to Trinidad. This fight was a huge disappointment to fans and there was never a rematch, these guys were not Leonard and Hearns.
This rematch took place almost a decade after their original two fights and produced nowhere near the drama of the first two fights. It was thought that with Duran having a chance to avenge the “No Mas” fight he would come out with the same passion he did that night in Montreal when he had upset Leonard. Far from it, Duran fought timidly and Leonard was cautious, the last half of the fight was fought with boos raining down on both legends. Duran won maybe a round or two at best, Leonard put forth very little effort to win this fight. It was obvious with this fight that both fighters had seen their better days.
Holmes was a great champion in his prime, but he was still living in Ali’s shadow, Ali on the other hand was 38 and well past his prime. The magic that Ali had created when he was younger had people convinced he could pull off one more miracle. Unbeknownst to most, three months before the fight the Nevada State Boxing Commission had ordered Ali to undergo testing at the Mayo clinic to prove he was healthy enough to fight. The Mayo clinic report had these troubling results, 1) Ali had trouble touching his finger to his nose. 2) He had trouble coordinating his speech. 3) He couldn’t hop well on one foot. But, of course, they still approved Ali to fight. In training it was reported that Ali was sluggish, Tim Witherspoon was a sparring partner in this camp and told me in an interview that he was told “Not to hit Ali in the head during sparring” and that “Ali was definitely sick”. Fight night would have been no surprise if people would have known these things. Instead fight night people watched in anticipation of another upset like Ali pulled off against Liston and Foreman. What they got was a young hungry champion easily beating a sick old man, the fight was mercifully halted in the ten round, unfortunately, it never should have taken place.
What could be better than two undefeated heavyweights, both with a claim to the title fighting “Once and For All”? Michael Spinks was the Lineal champion by way of a huge upset win in 1985 over an ageing Larry Holmes. Tyson was a young knockout artist who had captured the imagination of the entire nation. Looking back now it seems crazy to think this would be a competitive fight, but a lot of so-called “boxing experts” thought Spinks could frustrate and beat Tyson. The problem was Spinks was a blown up Light heavyweight, who had beat an old champion, in the rematch against the old champion he was beaten fairly easily in most people’s opinions The judges gave him the decision, which led to a 4th round stoppage of the “Legendary” Steffan Tangstad and then finally a defense against Gerry Cooney, who Spinks stopped in the 5th round. The fight lasted 91 seconds as Tyson overwhelmed Spinks to become the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World.
I know what you are going to say here, boxing is about hitting and not getting hit, and Mayweather is great at this. My problem is Leonard and Robinson were just as good at this if not better and not every one of their fights was sleep-inducing. Pacquiao bears responsibility here also, he never fought with any of the vigor he was known for in previous fights, maybe Mayweather is just that great. In my opinion, what makes fighters great is the ability to close the show. Ray Leonard gained more respect by going toe to toe with Duran and almost winning than Mayweather has gained in his whole career. The fight last night was disappointing to me because I expected these guys to lay it on the line like the fighters I saw when I was young guys like Holmes, Ali, Leonard, Duran, Hearns, Hagler, Frazier to name a few. In the last few rounds Pacquiao fought like he thought he had the fight won, he obviously didn’t. In what was supposed to be the fight of the century all we got was one guy chasing another for 12 rounds, and not one memorable moment the entire fight.
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