How many times have we seen a fight worthy of a rematch only to have it never happen?
There’s a lot of buzz over the potential of a Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury rematch. The first fight ended in a split decision draw. I had it scored 114-112 for Fury. Though some thought it was a controversial, there were many respected boxing outlets who had the fight scored differently. Both fighters were quick to claim that they want an immediate rematch that could be easily scuttled by Anthony Joshua if he would agree to fight either one of them.
Immediate rematches among “A” side fighters haven’t always been the norm in the modern era. It’s much more complicated to do it now because of deals with promotion companies and networks. They can provide a huge hurdles in completing the process.
Let’s take a look back at three fights that could’ve provided fans with a rematch better than their first meetings.
Marvin Hagler-Tommy Hearns
Result: Hagler TKO in the 3rd Round
Sugar Ray Leonard should get all the credit for this fight. By this point in his career, he was using retirement as a leverage tool to get the better end of deals on any potential fight. By running from Hagler and delaying a rematch with Hearns, the fans were treated to eight minutes and one second of pure fury.
After a city to city promotion tour, Hagler had heard enough of Hearns’ mouth. The idea of Hearns challenging Hagler toe to toe seemed crazy. Perhaps Hearns’ bravado was born from a devastating knockout of Roberto Duran, who knows? But it proved to be his downfall.
Despite getting off to a quick start, including possibly hurting Hagler with an uppercut, Hearns would quickly wilter. He might have misjudged how hurt Hagler really was. Hearns stayed on the attack which ended up favoring Hagler. The Marvelous One, would connect with several vicious left hooks. The first didn’t move Hearns but the ones after that continuously pushed Hearns backwards.
Whether it was because Tommy allegedly broke his right hand in the first round or just the punch lost its steam, Hagler started walking through Hearns’ shots. By the end of the first round Hagler had assumed complete control of the fight.
Five minutes and one second later, the fight was over. Hearns was stretched out on the canvas.
The crowd at Caesars Palace was left in a frenzy. The boxing public wanted another fight between these two warriors.
Why didn’t we get a rematch?
The answer is a simple one. Sugar Ray Leonard. His stalling tactics, including calling a press conference just to tell Hagler he would never fight him, had finally gotten the best of the Marvelous One.
Hagler finally got the call only after he had looked vulnerable in his fight with John “The Beast” Mugabi. Had Hagler put Mugabi away in the sixth round or fought an easier opponent, we probably would’ve never have gotten Hagler-Leonard.
After his controversial loss to Leonard, Hagler would retire. Unlike his adversary, Hagler’s retirement wasn’t a negotiation ploy. It was real. It’s been long said that two years after Leonard-Hagler, Sugar Ray tried to convince Hagler to come out of retirement. Hagler balked at the offer.
Only then would Hearns get his rematch with Leonard some eight years after their first meeting.
Oscar De La Hoya-Felix Trinidad
Result: Trinidad – Majority Decision
De La Hoya-Trinidad was the latest installment of a Mexican fighter (albeit Mexican-American) versus a Puerto Rican fighter. The pair of 26 year-olds would fight squarely in their prime. It was the type of fight that defines the sport of boxing. But, unlike some of the classics, this wouldn’t live up to its billing.
The “Golden Boy” got off to a great start completely outboxing Trinidad. The pride of Puerto Rico looked confused as he couldn’t get close enough to his opponent to unleash his devastating left hook. De La Hoya would jump out to what some thought was an insurmountable lead on the scorecards. The fight went from looking like a classic match up of undefeated champions to what would have been De La Hoya’s crowning moment of his career.
That’s when Oscar inexplicably changed his game plan. He went from being on his toes and snapping punches to … well… running around the ring. He basically mailed in the second half of the fight. He would later admit that he was tired. That might have played a part in it but it was also the fear of Trinidad’s left hook.
The combination of Oscar’s fatigue and Trinidad’s power could’ve provided the Puerto Rican with an opportunity to score a knockout. We’ll never know because De La Hoya turned in his boxing shoes for his track shoes.
The fight would turn out to be controversial in two ways. The first is some believe that De La Hoya was up enough on the scorecards and should’ve won despite how he performed in the last few rounds. The other is the fight never lived up to the expectations.
Why didn’t we get a rematch?
It was the combination of a few factors. One, the first fight was underwhelming. Two, it’s hard to get Bob Arum and Don King to agree on something once nevertheless twice. Three, both fighters had opportunities elsewhere.
Both De La Hoya and Trinidad moved on and the public didn’t seem to have a problem with it. Unlike Hagler-Hearns there was no talk of it being “Fight of the Year”. Fans didn’t leave the arena clamoring for more.
Perhaps if they fought again, De La Hoya would’ve taken more chances. That might’ve provided fans with a more entertaining fight. We will never know. After trying to negotiate a deal for a second fight both camps would move on and blaze their paths against other high-profile fighters.
Lennox Lewis vs. Vitali Klitschko
Result: Lewis – TKO 6th Round
It can honestly be said that fans probably didn’t know the treat they were about to receive. Lewis was originally supposed to fight Kirk Johnson but Johnson pulled out due to a torn chest muscle.
Johnson’s loss would be Klitschko’s gain. The Ukrainian heavyweight was originally scheduled to fight on the undercard against Cedric Boswell. After Johnson pulled out, it made sense for the two to fight since Klitschko was the mandatory WBC challenger.
What the fans were treated to was six rounds of non-stop, heavy punching pugilism.
Klitschko got the party started early coming out as the aggressor. He was the first to throw and the left hand found a home early but it was a right in the second round that wobbled the champ. Klitschko spent the first six minutes dominating Lewis in exciting fashion.
The third round is when things would change. Not because Lewis all of a sudden started dominating the fight but because a nasty cut would open up above Klitschko’s left eye. It was a overhand right by Lewis that would prove to be the decisive change in the fight. Lewis would spend the next three rounds targeting the cut.
In the fourth round, HBO analyst, George Foreman, would start calling for the ref to stop the fight due to the cut. The back and forth action continued until after the 6th round when ringside physician, Dr. Paul Wallace, would stop the fight due to the injury.
Predictably, the controversial ending was met with outrage. This wasn’t a situation where a boxer was being completely outclassed and then acted like he was upset over a stoppage. Klitschko was ahead on all scorecards (58-56) and was still fighting effectively when the fight was called.
Why didn’t we get a rematch?
Retirement. Lennox Lewis would retire after the Klitschko fight. What fans were robbed of was a rematch that could’ve been an all-time classic plus the possibility a Lewis-Roy Jones Jr. heavyweight clash.
So as we savor Saturday night’s heavyweight clash, let’s not expect a rematch until the names are on the dotted line. Boxing tends to throw the fans its own knockout punch.