With unbeaten Jermain Taylor – a rising star with credentials – taking on Bernard Hopkins – the long-reigning middleweight champion who is considered by most to still be at his prime – on July 16 at the MGM GRAND in Las Vegas, it’s interesting to take a look at some of the other bouts from the modern era (1960 – present) that mirror this type of matchup.
Let’s start with the Heavyweights:
* In 1964, the young, brash, and undefeated Cassius Clay, a Gold Medal winner in the 1960 Rome Olympics at 178 lbs., takes on the fearsome Charles “Sonny” Liston, who was coming off two straight first round knockout wins over Floyd Patterson.
Result: A monster upset, as Clay makes Liston retire on his stool after six rounds.
* In 1971, it was “Smokin” Joe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali, the former Cassius Clay. Though Ali may not be all the way back from his forced three-year exile, both men are unbeaten – a first in a heavyweight world title fight. Each claim to be the real heavyweight champion and both combatants have captured Olympic Gold (Frazier in 1964 at HW).
Result: In an epic bout of international proportions, Frazier decks Ali in the final round, thus allowing him to capture a close, but unanimous 15 round decision.
* In 1973, fearsome punching George Foreman, a 1968 Olympic Gold Medal winner at heavyweight, and unbeaten as a pro, challenges Joe Frazier for the crown. Result: Big George bounces Joe off the canvas like a rubber ball six times, taking just two rounds to capture the championship.
* In 1977, Leon Spinks, one of five U.S. Olympic Gold Medal winners (he won at 178 lbs.) in Montreal in 1976, took on the now legendary Muhammad Ali. Even at age 36, it was felt that A! li would still have too much experience for Spinks, who though undefeated, only had seven (6-0-1) pro bouts.
Result: The aggressive, go-for-broke style of Spinks carried him to a split decision win over 15 rounds.
* In 1992, Riddick Bowe, an unbeaten star on the rise (31-0) and winner of a Silver Medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics at super-heavyweight (over 201 lbs.), faced undefeated (28-0) heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield.
Result: Bowe took a hard-fought 12 round decision, in an unforgettable war.
* In 1986, Evander Holyfield, a 1984 Olympic Bronze Medal winner at 178 lbs., is unbeaten at 11-0 in his less than two year pro career. He nonetheless steps in with Dwight Muhammad Qawi, the defending WBA 190 lb. title holder. The former light-heavyweight champ is 27-2, and making the second defense of the title.
Result: In a heated battle, Holyfield pulls out a 15 round split decision.
* In 1981, 1976 Olympic Gold Medal winner (at 165 lbs.) Michael Spinks goes into the ring unbeaten at 16-0 against WBA king Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, a 44-fight veteran. The 29 year-old champ was making the third defense of the title. Result: Spinks floors Muhammad and pulls away en route to a 15 round unanimous decision victory.
* In 1967, Giovanni “Nino” Benvenuti challenges champion Emile Griffith. Not only is Benvenuti a 1960 Olympic Gold Medal winner in the welterweight division, but he is also voted the outstanding boxer of the entire Games. He is 71-1 as a pro and has already won a world title at 154 lbs. Griffith had previously been the welterweight world champion.
Result: Benvenuti captures the title via a 15 round decision in The Ring magazine Fight of The Year.
* In 1986, John “The Beast” Mugabi tries to take the title from Marvin Hagler. Mugabi is a 1980 Silver Medal winner at welterweight. A fearsome puncher, he has never lost as a professional. Hagler has held the title for nearly six years, and is coming off his epic stoppage (April 1985) of Thomas Hearns.
Result: Hagler wears down Mugabi for an 11th round stoppage.
Other notable bouts of this type:
1979: Ray Leonard, Olympic Gold Medal winner (130 lbs.), captures the welterweight title with a 15th round stoppage of Wilfred Benitez, who was also a former junior-welterweight champ. Both men were unbeaten entering the bout.
1980: Thomas Hearns, the unbeaten “Hitman” from Detroit, faces WBA welterweight champion Pipino Cuevas of Mexico. Cuevas had made 11 successful defenses of the title, but on this night he was destroyed in two rounds.
1980: On the same day that Hearns took out Cuevas, Aaron Pryor, who had lost to Howard Davis in the lightweight division trials to make the 1976 U.S. Olympic team, goes into the ring at 24-0 against two-time WBA junior-welterweight champ, Antonio Cervantes, who was making the seventh defense of the title in his second go-around as champion. Pryor swarms all over Cervantes and stops him in four rounds.
1982: American Bernard Taylor, one of this nation’s most decorated amateurs, would have gone to the 1980 Olympics in Moscow had the U.S. not boycotted the Games. At 18-0 he went after WBA featherweight champion Eusebio Pedroza, who was unbeaten in 14 defenses of the title. Pedroza kept the title via a 15 round draw.
1984: Richie Sandoval was another boxer deprived of the chance of competing in the 1980 Olympics. The bantamweight is 22-0 when he steps in the ring with Jeff Chandler, the long time WBA 118 lb. champ, who was making his tenth defense. Sandoval stops Chandler in the 15th round to claim the title.
1988: Meldrick Taylor, an Olympic Gold Medal winner in 1984 at age 17, is undefeated in 20 bouts as he goes after IBF junior welterweight champion James “Buddy” McGirt, who was making the second defense of the title, and had been beaten only once in 40 bouts. Taylor stops Mc Girt in the 12th and final round.
NeXt in Line – Hopkins vs Taylor, will be televised by HBO Pay-Per-View live from MGM GRAND in Las Vegas, NV, beginning at 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT.
Tickets for NeXt in Line, priced at $75, $150, $250, $450, and $650, not including applicable service charges and taxes, are on sale now at the MGM Grand Garden Arena box office. Tickets also will be sold at all Las Vegas Ticketmaster locations (Tower Records/WOW!, Smith’s Food and Drug Centers, Robinsons-May stores and Ritmo Latino) and ticket sales are limited to eight (8) per person. To charge by phone with a major credit card, call MGM GRAND Reservations at 800-929-1111/702-891-7777 or Ticketmaster at 702-474-4000. Tickets also are available for purchase at www.mgmgrand.com or www.ticketmaster.com.
The Hopkins vs. Taylor pay-per-view telecast, beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT July 16, will be distributed by HBO Pay-Per-View and will be available to more than 50 million pay-per-view homes. HBO Pay-Per-View is the leading supplier of event programming to the pay-per-view industry. For more event information log onto www.HBOPPV.com