By: Hans Themistode
It’s been close to ten years since former Heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield (44-10-2, 29 KOs) has entered a boxing ring. Like many former boxers who have a hard time staying away from the bright lights associated with it, Holyfield has regained his itch to compete at a high level once again.
Holyfield, age 56, is the only four time Heavyweight champion in history and was inducted into the boxing hall of fame back in 2017. It’s safe to say he has accomplished what many people never will.
Unlike his predecessors such as Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones Jr, James Tony and a host of others that kept fighting well into their late 40s and in the case of Hopkins, well into his 50s. Holyfield seemingly hung up the gloves for good following a knockout win Brian Nielsen in 2011.
Although concerns over his health could follow, the comeback trial that Holyfield is trekking on isn’t as strenuous as it may seem. The former Heavyweight champion and all-time great will step into the ring for charity reasons in Japan. This contest won’t be an official that will be placed on his record, nor will it be licensed.
Much like former champion Floyd Mayweather, Holyfield will simply look too dazzle the crowd and give them a show.
“The big thing is to give people in Japan the opportunity to see the only four-time heavyweight champion of the world.” Said Holyfield.
It’s true that Holyfield is the only four time Heavyweight champion but he is also one of the best to ever step into the ring as he has effectively carved out one of the best careers for a boxer regardless of the weight class.
There are currently no reports of Holyfield continuing his career past this one event. In terms of his physical abilities in the lead up to this contest, the former champion has always kept himself in great physical condition. His once vaunted power which resulted in stoppage wins over Michale Moorer, Mike Tyson and many others is still believed to be there, but don’t count on him putting it on display.
“I probably do,” when regarding his knockout power. “but it’s a charity match and we’ll see.”
As for when his contest will take place, it is slated to happen sometime in 2020.
Holyfields endeavors back into the ring shouldn’t alarm anyone concerned about his health. That is however, as long as this is not a reoccurring theme. For now, everyone should view this as nothing more than a fun night for the fans of Japan.
By: Donna Jo
To rise to the top of the boxing world, an athlete must be intelligent, physically fit, dedicated, aware, and, as many former champs have attested to, a little bit lucky. Because so much is demanded of boxers—because there’s always a younger, hungrier, and more skillful opponent on the horizon—some high-level competitors fly under the radar; that is, their accomplishments and capabilities are overlooked as a result of the sport’s breakneck speed.
Today’s starts soak up the entirety of the spotlight, while yesterday’s stars don’t usually receive much respect.
Let’s take a quick look at three of the most underrated boxers of all time—boxers who recorded magnificent achievements and made their mark, but who don’t necessarily receive their due from contemporary pundits.
Jake “The Bronx Bull” LaMotta was the subject of Martin Scorsese’s famed Raging Bull film, and in many ways, his out-of-ring pursuits overshadowed his boxing achievements. Consequently, LaMotta is remembered today as something of a media figure.
He was a media figure, to be sure, but there’s no denying that LaMotta was also a legendary practitioner of the sweet science. The New York native channeled his aggression and troublesome personal habits into training, and with the help of his brother and an unrelenting will, he became one of the most notable boxers of Forties and Fifties.
LaMotta wasn’t knocked down or stopped with strikes until the twilight of his career; he fought Sugar Ray Robinson six times, in what was one of the most fantastic rivalries in boxing; and he gave a number of skillful opponents a very, very hard time in the ring.
Take a quick trip to YouTube to see LaMotta’s refusal to quit in action.
There’s a lot more to George Foreman’s achievements than his multi-million-dollar grills.
Throughout his 28-year boxing career—which spanned from the time he was 20 until he was nearly 49—Foreman was finished just once, by none other than Muhammad Ali, who also happened to snap Foreman’s 40-0 professional record. 68 of Foreman’s 76 wins came via knockout, and overall, he lost just five matches—roughly six percent of the fights he accepted throughout three decades!
The quality of Foreman’s career is further amplified by the fact that he made a successful comeback, which came when he was nearing 50 years of age. At 47 (almost 48) years old, Foreman topped Crawford Grimsley for the WBU and IBA heavyweight titles—Grimsley, a 23-year-old star who hadn’t been defeated! In short, comebacks like this almost never happen in the “real world”–or in the movies!
It can safely be stated that George Foreman, even in his ripe old age, can safely dispatch younger opponents; the man doesn’t need a bodyguard, a home security system, or any other type of protection. He’s got it under control!
Evander Holyfield has had his share of ups and downs in and out of the ring, but taken as a whole, his boxing career is terribly underrated.
Most people remember when Mike Tyson infamously bit Holyfield’s ear, but few remember when Holyfield defeated Tyson via TKO in their first fight, which came at a time when Tyson was viciously dominating the competition. The same is true of Holyfield’s one-in-a-million bout against George Foreman. Similarly, Holyfield’s riveting series with John Ruiz isn’t often mentioned, nor is the fact that Holyfield managed to do what so many of history’s greatest boxers were unable to: retire on a win.
Hopefully this list provides some newer boxing fans with the information and foundation they need to learn about the sport’s most underrated competitors. Boxing’s history is rich, and in between today’s many exciting matches, viewers should flip on the computer and relive the many exhilarating contests that the twentieth century brought with it.
Thanks for reading, and here’s to the magic and appeal of the sweet science!
By: Ken Hissner
Former world Cruiserweight and Heavyweight champion Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield’s THE REAL DEAL BOXING made their promotional debut in Philadelphia Friday night before a sold out crowd at the SugarHouse Casino in Philly!
It was a smashing success with all four Philly based boxers turning in wins. In the Main Event for the WBF North American Regional lightweight title Philly’s Steven Ortiz, 8-0 (3), stopped solid opponent Joshua “Dynamite” Davis, 11-3 (5), of D.C. at 2:21 of the second round in a scheduled eight.
In that round Ortiz landed a counter left hook to the chin of Davis dropping him. After referee Gary Rosato administered the 8 count Davis got up smiling like it was an accident. Well, the right hand that dropped Davis again was “no accident”. Determined not to being stopped Davis landed a right to the head of Ortiz putting him back a couple of steps. Ortiz came right back with a right to the head of Davis dropping him for the third and final time as referee Rosato waved it off. WBF President James Gibbs and VP Greg Hackett, Sr. presented the belt to the winner Steve Ortiz.
Asked if he was nervous being his first main event Ortiz said “I’m usually somewhat nervous but was cool with this fight. I didn’t get warmed up until the second round and he was a good opponent.”
“Steve turned in a good performance considering he hadn’t fought for over a year. He signed with Real Deal recently. Considering he was under house arrest it wasn’t easy at times getting him into the gym but when the fight came up he spent six days in the gym and should be about 10-0,” said trainer Raul Rivas.
In the co-feature co-promoted by Chris Middendorf’s Victory Promotions the best prospect in Philly since 1984 Gold Medalist Meldrick Taylor welterweight Jaron “Boots” Ennis, 18-0 (16) scored another victory with a technical stoppage at 2:14 of the fourth round over durable Mexican Gustvo “Vitamina” Garibay, 13-10-2 (5), in a scheduled six.
“I was just having fun out there,” said Ennis. It was another brilliant showing by the 20 year-old brilliant prospect Ennis who has won eighteen fights in twenty-one months behind Middendorf’s Victory Promotions. “He needed the rounds,” said father-trainer “Bozy” Ennis. He should know being the best trainer in Philly.
Manager Dave McWater who has a stable of some thirty-five fighters should be quite pleased having two of them post victories on the show. First in the opening bout welterweight Janelson “Figuero” Bocachica, 9-0 (6), of Detroit, MI, scored a second round knockdown after receiving a small cut under the right eyebrow from an accidental head butt (cut-man Joey Eye kept the cut in tact).
Bocahica would go onto score a clean knockout stopping his game Mexican opponent Victor Eddy Gaytan, 2-4 (1), at 0:13 of the fifth round with a right hand to the chin. Referee Rosato didn’t even have to count. “The cut was from a head butt. I set him up for that right hand,” said Bocachica.
In McWater’s most recent signee Philly’s National Golden Glove champion welterweight Poindexter “The Savage” Knight, 2-0 (2), made short work of Jordan “F4J” Morales, 2-4 (2), of Sunbury, PA, at 2:10 of the first round. Knight scored the first knockdown with a 3-punch combination with the left dropping Morales. He then came right back with a right hook scoring a second knockdown forcing referee Rosato to call a halt. “It was Savage Time,” said the happy Knight!
Super middleweight Brandon “Silver Back” Robinson, 9-1 (7), of Upper Darby, PA, scored a knockout at 1:50 of the first round over Juan Celin Zapata, 5-12-2 (3), of Honduras now living in the Bronx, NY. It was a perfect right at the beltline ending if for the exciting Robinson.
Rosato was the referee in this scheduled six.
Cruiserweight southpaw Kennedy “The Shadow” Katende, 3-0 (1), from Uganda living in the West Hampton’s, of New York scored a first round knockdown helping him win a solid six round decision over the taller Lyubomyr Pinchuk, 4-1 (3), from the Ukraine now out of Pittsburgh, PA. Judge Anthony Lundy had it 58-55 while judges Adam Friscia and Dave Braslow scored it 59-54 as did this writer. The fourth judge Gail Jasper never had a chance to score a bout since this was the only one to go the distance in the seven bout card.
Asked why Katende only fought orthodox in the third round after dominating the other five rounds he shrugged it off saying “I am from Uganda who I represented in the 2008 Olympics in China and moved to Sweden who I represented in the 2012 Olympics in Rio”. On the back of his trunks was “God Walks With Me” and that didn’t hurt him any. He suffered a small cut in the third round from an accidental head butt. Eric Dali was the referee.
In a scheduled six round middleweight bout 20 year-old Edgar “The Chosen One” Berlanga, 7-0 (7), kept his record perfect stopping Jaime Barboza, 19-14 (9), of San Jose, Costa Rica at 2:42 of the first round. He scored a first knockdown with a right to the chin and a second knockdown with a combination to the chin forcing referee Dali to wave it off.
In attendance was former World Heavyweight champion Larry “The Easton Assassin” Holmes, recent title challenger Tevin “The American Idol” Farmer who lost a disputed decision and should be getting a rematch, former world contender Kevin Howard, Lionel Byarm who was Holyfield’s first opponent and the popular former IBF Super welterweight champion Buster Drayton, all from Philly except Holmes.
By: Ken Hissner
Former 2-division world champion & Olympic Gold Medalist Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield is bringing his REAL DEAL Showcase Series 1 to the SugarHouse Casino Events Center on Friday January 26th! First bout 7pm.
The weigh-in is scheduled for 5pm on Thursday January 25th. This is also at the SugarHouse Casino 1001 N. Delaware Avenue, Philadelphia. There are 10 bouts scheduled. Matchmakers Eric Bentley and Kevin O’Sullivan.
Philadelphia’s young lightweight prospect Steven Ortiz, 7-0 (2) will be making his main event debut against D.C.’s Joshua Davis, 11-2 (5), scheduled for 8 rounds.
Philadelphia’s most outstanding prospect Welterweight Jaron “Boots” Ennis, 17-0 (15), meets Mexico’s Gustavo “Vitaminas” Garlbay, 13-9-2 (5), Distrito Federal, MEX, over 6 rounds. Female Middleweight Kali “KO Mequinonoag” Reis, 13-6-1 (4), in a rematch with southpaw Sydney “Ginger the Ninja”, 4-5-1 (0), of Gretna, LA, over 6 rounds.
Super Middleweight Edgar Berlanga, 6-0 (6), of New York City, takes on Osbaldo Camacho Gonzales, 6-1 (4), of Tulsa, OK, over 6 rounds. Cruiserweight Lyubomyr Pinchuk, 4-0 (3), of Pittsburgh, PA, takes on Kennedy Katndem, 2-0 (1), of Uganda and NYC, over 6 rounds.
Super Middleweight Brandon Robinson, 8-1 (6), of Upper Darby, PA, takes on Juan Celin Zapata, 5-11-2 (3), of Honduras and The Bronx, NY, over 6 rounds.
Welterweight Janelson Bocachica, 8-0 (5), of Detroit and Super Featerweight Joshafat Ortiz, 2-0 (1), of PR-Reading, PA, will be in separate 6 round bouts.
Philadelphia’s Marcel Rivers, 3-0 (2), takes on Rafael De Jesus, 0-1 (0), of PR-Allentown, PA, over 4 rounds.
Philadelphia’s Poindexter Knight, 1-0 (0), takes on Jordan Morales, 2-3 (2), of PA.
By Ken Hissner
This writer has been writing for approximately 10 years. I sometimes say “the only thing more crooked than boxing is politics”. For example we see commissions that are not the most honest favoring certain people over others. By messing with managerial contracts favoring the managers and one sided hearings are a pair of examples what happens. One for instance in PA was holding a hearing for a boxer who was not allowed to have anyone but an attorney which he had. The manager came in with a non-attorney and was allowed an unlicensed backer to be allowed to listen in on an intercom. Obviously the boxer lost. The Boxing Director ruled in this case.
Pertaining to a referee I always remember Mills Lane when he did the rematch between Holyfield and Tyson. Lane knew Tyson had fouled Holyfield biting his ear and when over to the then Nevada commission head who more or less said “how would you stop a fight of this magnitude for this MINOR infraction?”
I believe that same commission head went to a much more violent sport like MMA after that. Mills returns and tells the fighters to continue and Tyson proceeds knowing he didn’t get penalized for what he did takes it one step or should I say 10 times further and bites off a piece of Holyfield’s ear knowing he is losing and will not be able to overcome Holyfield for victory. Mills had actually gone to the Tyson corner after the first infraction and they seemed to threaten him if he stopped the fight. Mills wasn’t a referee much longer after that fight.
Another example being Nevada who seem to have the most prestigious fights yet when referee Robert Byrd allowed Andre Ward to initiate 46 clinches against Sergey Kovalev and was never deducted “one point” just several warnings. That was in their first fight. All three judges had Ward ahead by a point so if just one point was deducted by Byrd for holding it would have been a draw and Kovalev would have retained his title. I had Kovalev ahead by 5 points based on 8-4 in rounds plus the knockdown. Go to www.youtube.com and see what I mean.
Byrd is without question the slowest referee to react of the Nevada referees. Was he being racist in his actions favoring the black fighter over the white fighter? Why Kovalev’s management or promoter allowed a black referee since Kovalev had the 3 titles and Ward none is beyond me. I suggested once to a manager who had the black fighter against a Spanish fighter to get a neutral person such as a white referee. The fight was great and close and the referee made no difference and their fighter won a decision.
It’s been my experience when I was a matchmaker for a short period of time a ring physician came over prior to the fight and told the referee who by the way now serves as a commissioner to stop the fight if the one fighter in particular “looks” like he is hurt. I told the ring physician “you can’t tell a referee that in advance”. The fight was stopped in the first round without that fighter being cut or knocked down. The promoter had to have a hearing based on too many stoppages on this promoter’s card. The top promoter who had just as many stoppages as this one was also suspended for 30 days.
The commissioner Jimmy Binns, Sr. held that meeting. I was told by the promoter Bob Connelly not to attend. I attended and sat at the table directly across from Binns. When I spoke up and informed Binns that the referee at the table Rudy Battles (now PA Boxing Commissioner) was told by Dr. Davidson to stop the fight if the boxer even looks hurt Binns said “what do you know about boxing?” I replied “maybe you would know something about boxing if you were to come to the weigh-in.” I had my matchmaker’s license revoked for that remark.
When Binns was replaced by Harold McCall he came to me during a boxing event and said “come into my office for I want to reinstate your matchmaker’s license”. I never did go in and never did matchmaking again. It is the hardest position of fights for the match-up may look good on paper but you never know how the fight is going to be.
Pennsylvania had a good secretary on the commission in Frank Walker. He worked behind the desk not running the shows. Now during Binns time he and Walker’s assistant were sent to work out of Harrisburg some 100 miles away instead of Philadelphia where the commission office was. Both Walker and his assistant suffered health problems and were replaced by Binns. Binns put Greg Sirb in charge as Boxing Secretary and he changed his title to Boxing Director. He runs all the events unless two are on the same night while the three commissioner’s sit there never correcting anything he does. When I let it be known in my report the entire press were told by a promoter you’ll never to sit at ringside again the promoter should have the right to where the press sits and not the Boxing Director.
This writer has found infractions on commission members and brought it to the attention of the state without any action being taken or even considered. It’s not what you know but who you know in this business too many times. I will continue to write what I see and not what the promoter or commissioner wants to see.
This writer has been banned from press row by two promoters because they “don‘t like what I write”. Guess what? That hasn’t stopped me from writing up their shows as I see them!” When Philadelphia had back to back shows with 14 bouts and 13 ended it knockouts in a bunch of mismatches this writer questioned it causing one of the promoters say “you should write what you see” while the other pulled my press credentials.
Recently in VA a rarity happened when Lamont White, 0-7, scored a knockout win over Roger Belch 8-0 at Norfolk on May 13th. Why the commission approved of the fight in the first place is strange but the way it turned out was even stranger.
Just thought I would “air out” some of the things writers can be faced with when they are “honest to a fault!”
Ronda Rousey Returns After “Biggest Upset in Combat Sports History”? Not By a Long Way
By: Matt O’Brien
Friday night sees the long-awaited comeback of“Rowdy” Ronda Rousey following her shocking defeat to Holly Holm last November, in a result infamously described by UFC commentator Joe Rogan as, “the biggest upset in combat sports history”. Prior to her defeat,Rousey had demolished a string of 12 opponentswith only one of them making it out of the first round – a devastating record by any standard, and there’s no doubt that Holm’s knockout was a truly enormous upset, with the challenger overcoming odds of up to 12-1 against her.
That being said, it takes two people to make a fight, and the bookies’ published odds are not the only ingredient that goes into a big upset – the wider context of the underdog’s role is also vital. Ronda’s record was indeed formidable, but keen observers had noted that it could be a far more difficult task than anything she had faced before, with Holm being a former world-boxing champion and arguably the first bona fide world-class striker “Rowdy” had faced off against.
So while Rogan’s assertion that it was the “biggest upset of all time” might be right as far as UFC or even MMA history goes, once we include the sweet science the scale of Ronda’s defeat falls a few rungs down the list of “greatest ever upsets”. Here are five of my favourite shocks in boxing history that eclipse Holly Holm’s upset victory over Ronda Rousey:
1. James Douglas KO10 Mike Tyson, Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship, February 1990
This is the grand-daddy of upsets: not just the biggest upset in the history of boxing; not even the biggest upset in the history of combat sports. This one is arguably the biggest upset in the history of sports, period.
The reason for the scale of Douglas’ shock was twofold: firstly, “Iron” Mike was a destructive force the like of which had rarely, if ever, been witnessed before. Carrying an undefeated 37-fight record, all but four of Tyson’s victims had been knocked out, 17 of them in the first round. Tyson made a habit of making accomplished world-class boxers look like bunny rabbits caught in the headlights of a freight train. Secondly, Tyson’s awesome aura was set against Douglas’ far less-than-fearful persona. A competent yet unspectacular heavyweight, Douglas’ physique was rippled rather than ripped andhis style plodding rather than punishing.
Weeks before the contest though, Douglas’ mother had died, providing him with the kind of motivation and discipline he’d previously lacked. Meanwhile Tyson had fallen into the age-old trap of believing his own hype; his preparations consisted largely of hosting Japanese women in his hotel room and he was knocked down in sparring by Greg Page.
Even so, a listless Tyson was able to floor the challenger and almost pulled off a knockout victory in the eighth round. Douglas beat the count and continued to pummel the champion with a solid jab and powerful right hand. In the tenth, “Buster” unloaded a vicious combination punctuated by a huge right uppercut that sent Tyson sprawling. As he scrambled to put the gumshield back into his mouth, referee Octavio Meyran waved the finish and signaled the greatest upset in history, as the 42-1 outsider stunned the world.
*To his credit, Joe Rogan later admitted that this was actually a bigger upset than Rousey-Holm.
2. Evander Holyfield TKO11 Mike Tyson, WBA Heavyweight Championship, November 1996
It is a testament to Tyson’s fearsome aura and the magnetic grip he held on the public consciousness that six years after the Douglas defeat and following three years of incarceration, he was yet again considered invincible – despite Douglas’ evidence to the contrary. Tyson had demolished four challengers in just eight rounds since his release from prison, though he had yet to face anyone offeringmuch resistance. Frank Bruno looked scared stiff as he walked to the ring and Bruce Seldon put forward probably the meekest capitulation in the history of heavyweight championship boxing, surrendering in just 109 seconds. Evander Holyfield was a different proposition altogether, though few credited him with this distinction at the time.
Once again, the monumental scale of Holyfield’s upset was not just a measure of how highly Tyson was regarded – it also came from a foolish under-estimation of what “The Real Deal” had left to offer. A glut in recent performances in the ring, including a KO defeat to arch nemesis Riddick Bowe and a health scare regarding a heart condition had effectively erased memories of Holyfield’s fighting skills and warrior spirit.Many pundits argued that Holyfield was not just going to lose, but that he was in danger of being seriously injured.
The former champ opened as a 25-1 underdog, but his ironclad self-belief, granite chin and counter-punching strategy troubled “Iron” Mike from the outset. When Holyfield took Tyson’s vaunted power punches, retained his composure and kept firing back, it soon became evident that “the Baddest Man on the Planet” had no back-up plan. They say a picture tells a thousand words, but when Tyson was lifted off his feet by a left uppercut in the sixth round, far less than that were needed to describe the look on his face. Holyfield proceeded to administer a beat down until a dejected Tyson was finally rescued by referee Mitch Halpern in the eleventh round.
3. Hasim Rahman KO5 Lennox Lewis, WBC/IBF/Lineal World Heavyweight Championship, April 2001
Lennox Lewis had been knocked out before, but going into his fight with Hasim Rahman he was in the process of establishing himself as one of the most dominant heavyweight champions in history. He’d already made 12 defences over two reigns as WBC championand was making the fourth defence of the lineal and unified title he won against Evander Holyfield. He had also cut a swathe through potential heirs to the throne, blasting Michael Grant in two rounds and thoroughly outboxing dangerous New Zealander David Tua.
Unfortunately, Lewis had also spent time during preparation for his title defense schmoozing on the Hollywood film set of Ocean’s Eleven, while unheralded challenger Hasim “The Rock” Rahman grafted in the intense heat and high-altitude of a South African boxing gym.But while Rahman was a motivated and respectable contender, he’d done little in his career to indicate he posed a serious threat. Indeed, two years prior he had been brutally knocked out by Oleg Maskaev.
In the ring though, the difference in each man’s preparation showed, as a complacent Lewis blew heavily and struggled to assert himself. In the early rounds, there were warning signs that Rahman’s overhand right posed danger, but even so the end came suddenly and unexpectedly in the fifth round, as Lewis backed against the ropes and the 20-1 outsider unleashed a haymaker that landed flush on the jaw. The champion crumpled into a heap and minutes later was still in disbelief about what had occurred. To his credit, Lewis returned the favour when properly focused for the immediate rematch, knocking out Rahman in the fourth round to reclaim his title.
4. Muhammad Ali KO8 George Foreman, World Heavyweight Championship, October 1974
The 4-1 odds on Ali for this fight really don’t do justice to the monumental scale of the task he overcame on this momentous night. Foreman – much like Tyson years later – was considered to be an unstoppable force that had brutally manhandled some of the most dangerous heavyweights in the world. Joe Frazier, the undefeated heavyweight champion, conqueror of Muhammad Ali and one of the finest fighters the division had ever seen, was bounced around the ring like a rag doll and brutally stopped in two rounds.Ken Norton, a fighter who’d also taken Ali to the wire on two occasions (going 1-1 with The Greatest) was similarly dispatched by Foreman in less than 6 minutes.
In contrast, Ali was 10 years removed from his initial title-winning effort against Sonny Liston, had barely squeezed by Norton in their second fight, and looked sluggish in a dull rematch victory over Frazier.
A 32-year-old Ali offered his usual, charismatic, confident predictions before the bout, but few took him seriously, and even his own camp appeared to fear the worst. Norman Mailer described the atmosphere in Ali’s dressing room as, “like a corner in a hospital where relatives wait for word of the operation.” The dark mood failed to stop the irrepressible Ali, who boxed one of the most brilliant, bold fights ever witnessed to recapture the Heavyweight Championship and cement in his place in history with a truly unbelievable upset of epic proportions.
5. Ray Leonard W12 Marvin Hagler, WBC Middleweight Championship, April 1987
In 1982 “Sugar” Ray had retired following surgery to repair a detached retina, returning to the ring in 1984 in what should have been a routine victory over Kevin Howard, but announced his retirement again following the fight after suffering his first ever career-knockdown. Now, having only boxed once in five years, Leonard was moving up two weight classes from his favoured welterweight division to take on one of the greatest middleweight champions of all-time. It looked liked Mission Impossible on Viagra.
“Marvelous” Marvin Hagler hadn’t lost a boxing match since dropping a majority decision to Bobby Watts over a decade earlier, had won 13 consecutive middleweight title matches, and was ranked as the No.1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world by KOMagazine. It’s therefore a testament to Leonard’s star power that he opened only as a 4-1 underdog, and had even shortened these odds to 3-1 by the time of the fight. Among the “experts”, few gave the challenger a chance though, with 18 in a poll of 21 writers picking Hagler to prevail.
The eventual split decision in Sugar Ray’s favour is still bitterly disputed to this day. While there is a strong argument that Hagler did enough to win, there is no denying the success of Leonard’s psychological games, and the fact that he pulled one of the greatest examples of mind over matter in the history of boxing.
The fights above comprise my personal favourite selection of huge boxing upsets greater than Holm’s defeat of Ronda Rousey, though there’s arguably a host of others than should make the cut. Here’s a brief selection of the best of the rest…
Randy Turpin W15 Ray Robinson, World Middleweight Championship, July 1951
Englishman Turpin probably caught the original “Sugar” Ray at the perfect time, as he came to the end of a busy European tour. Still, defeating arguably the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all time was a stunning achievement.
Cassius Clay TKO7 Sonny Liston, World Heavyweight Championship, February 1964
On paper the 8-1 odds were even steeper than when the older version of Clay [Ali] defeated George Foreman, as the Greatest “Shook up the World” for the first time in his amazing career.
Frankie Randall W12 Julio Cesar Chavez, WBC Super Lightweight Championship, January 1994
Chavez was lucky to escape with a draw against Pernell Whitaker four months earlier, but was still officially undefeated after 90 fights, 27 of them for world titles, and he entered the fight as a massive 18-1 favourite.
Max Schmeling KO12 Joe Louis, June 1936
The young, undefeated “Brown Bomber” was widely perceived as unbeatable, but the German had studied his style and exploited his weaknesses to great effect. A more experienced Louis destroyed Schmeling in a single round in their famous rematch two years later.
Lloyd Honeyghan TKO6 Donald Curry, Undisputed Welterweight Championship, September 1986
Curry was considered one of the elite fighters in the sport and was being groomed for super-stardom, but he was struggling desperately to make the weight limit. Meanwhile Honeyghan paid short shrift to the champion’s undefeated record and bet $5,000 on himself at odds of 5-1, shocking the bookies and the boxing world in the process.
More Boxing History
Three Warriors get the Call to Boxing Hall of Fame
By: Matthew N. Becher
Yesterday afternoon it was announced that 3 fighters would be inducted into next year’s class of the Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York. It was a very fitting class, since the three boxers were all known for being true warriors to the sport. Evander Holyfield, Marco Antonio Barrera and Johnny Tapia would be fitting to lead any class alone, but together, they make up one of the most “Tough as Nails” groups that you could put together.
Marco Antonio Barrera (67-7 44KO): The “Baby Faced Assassin” is and forever will be one of the greatest fighters to come out of the country of Mexico. Barrera was a three division world champion winning his first title against Daniel Jimenez in 1995. He would rule the super bantamweight division for most of the next decade, which included his most famous fight, against Erik Morales in 2000 to unify the division. Barrera loss the first of three to Morales, which became one of the greatest trilogies in boxing history and would solidify him as one of boxing’s toughest. He was also the man to snatch away the “0” from Prince Naseem Hamed, a fight that stunned the world, but not the fans that follow the sport closely. The flashy Hamed fought once more after he took the beating from Barrera then retired. Barrera went on to beat fellow Hall of Famer Johnny Tapia in 2002 and was knocked out for the only time of his career against the great Manny Pacquiao. Barrera has come a long way from the 15 year old who turned pro in 1989 to one of the greatest Mexican fighters ever.
Johnny Tapia (59-5-2 30KO): Nothing written can do justice to the life that “Mi Vida Loca”, Johnny Tapia’s story tells. Born into extreme Poverty in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1967. The most poignant of ways to describe Johnny’s life can be taken from a passage in his Autobiography, Mi Vida Loca: The Crazy Life of Johnny Tapia, Tapia wrote: “My name is Johnny Lee Tapia. I was born on Friday the 13th. A Friday in February of 1967. To this day I don’t know if that makes me lucky or unlucky. When I was eight I saw my mother murdered. I never knew my father. He was murdered before I was born. I was raised as a pit bull.
Raised to fight to the death. Four times I was declared dead. Four times they wanted to pull life support. And many more times I came close to dying. But I have lived and had it all. I have been wealthy and lost it all. I have been famous and infamous. Five times I was world champion. You tell me. Am I lucky or unlucky?”
Tapia came from a struggle that no person should ever have to, and he used his fists as a way of expressing his anger and hate. He was never the most beautiful of fighter, but he was tougher than anyone you would ever want to face.
He was a fan favourite and multiple world champion. Unfortunately Tapia faced many out of the ring problems with drugs and criminal charges. Unfortunate to all, this Induction will be done posthumously as Johnny Tapia died in May of 2012 of Heart Failure, he was 45.
Evander Holyfield (44-10-2 29KO): Many thought this day would never come, since Holyfield just wouldn’t stop fighting. Eventually he hung up the gloves in 2011 after Knocking out Brian Nielsen in Denmark. “The Real Deal” is one of the biggest names of his era. Holyfield was a member of the famed 1984 US Boxing team, where he won the Bronze medal (though he was unjustly disqualified in a controversial call). Holyfield then turned pro that same year and became the WBA World Cruiserweight champ in only his 12th fight, against Dwight Muhammad Qawi.
Holyfield would go on to become the Unified WBC/WBA/IBF Cruiserweight champ by 1988 before announcing he would move up to the Heavyweight division. Many thought that Holyfield, as good as he was, stood no shot against the bigger men, but he ran through the gauntlet of fighters and in two years became the Lineal, Undisputed Heavyweight champion in 1990 by knocking out James “Buster” Douglas. He would defend his titles against George Foreman, Bert Cooper, & Larry Holmes until engaging in one of his three thrilling fights against his rival Riddick Bowe. Bowe would win the first and third fights, but Holyfield took the second, leaving the only blemish on Bowes near perfect record. Holyfield was not finished there, as he then would go on to win the Heavyweight title against Mike Tyson in 1996 and defeat Tyson again in 1997, in a fight in which Tyson would bite part of Holyfield’s ear clean off.
Holyfield was a Heavyweight champion on four different occasions, Fighter of the year 3 times, ranked as the greatest Cruiserweight of all time and one of the top ten heavyweights ever. The man is a living legend and a true warrior of the sport.