30 Boxing Notables Recall Their All-Time Favorite Fight(s)

This completes the participative trilogy involving a favorite boxer, a favorite boxing book, and now a favorite fight (though a favorite round still looms as a possibility).

I’ll weigh in first. Using the criteria of ebb and flow, controlled violence, courage, imposition of will, superiority of technical skills, and pure savagery, my selection is Yvon “The Fighting Fisherman” Durelle vs. Archie “The Old Mongoose” Moore on December 10, 1958 in Montreal. On the canvas three times in round one and once more in the fifth, Moore used every trick in the book to regroup and slowly come back to batter Durelle who finally went down in the seventh and then again in the tenth round when he was saved by the bell. Archie then settled matters in the eleventh when he finished the spent Canadian with two withering knockdowns– the second triggered by a savage right as the crowd watched in disbelief. In all, there were eight knockdowns in the fight. This nationally televised classic gave new meaning to the word courage and the saying “back from the brink.”

Here are the other selections. The respondents are listed in alphabetical order.

 JIM AMATO (historian, writer, and collector): Duran-Leonard I

Like Smokin’ Joe Frazier, Duran willed himself to win that night in Montreal. Everyone says that Ray decided to slug with Roberto. To me this is only partially true. The in-shape and highly motivated Duran forced Ray to slug with him. Roberto showed effective aggression throughout the battle. To Sugar Ray’s credit he dug in and fought back gallantly. At times Leonard was giving better then he got. I had Duran winning by a couple of points but Leonard fought his heart out.

MATT ANDRZEJEWSKI (boxing writer): Kevin Kelley vs. Ricardo Rivera

This 1995 fight was supposed to be a simple tune-up and stay-busy fight for Kelley coming off his bout with Alejandro Gonzalez, but it turned into one of the best fights of the 1990’s. It was an all-out war with each taking turns having their moments. Both fighters were hurt on multiple occasions. Finally, Kelley hurt and finished Rivera for good in the 9th.

DAVID AVILA (TSS West Coast Bureau Chief): Corrales-Castillo I.

Nothing like that fight to prove it’s never over till it’s over. Very few fans saw it in person—maybe five thousand.

My favorite fight in which I was not there in person was Ali-Foreman. I bet one person at my job Ali would win. Then 20 more chased me to bet. I took them all. I was confident in my judgement. I won a lot of money that night.

JOE BRUNO (former New York Tribune sportswriter; author of more than 45 crime-related books, including true crime, novels and screenplays): Hearns-Hagler

Although it only lasted eight minutes, it’s hard to beat Hearns-Hagler for pure excitement, which took place in almost every second of the fight. Hagler was hurt in round one and cut on his forehead. In fact, in the third round, the referee, Richard Steele, stopped the fight so that the ring doctor could look at Hagler’s cut. Seconds later, Hagler, who was constantly switching from righty to southpaw, landed two overhand rights that dropped Hearns face first onto the canvas. Hearns rolled on to his back and he somehow made it to his feet at the count of nine, but his legs looked like over-cooked spaghetti and his eyes were vacant. Steele rightfully and thankfully stopped the bout. It takes my breath away just to think about it.

TRACY CALLIS (premier boxing historian, author): Moore-Durelle, Ali-Frazier III, Hagler-Hearns

These are my choices of fights I have seen. I never tire of reading accounts of the second fight between Jim Jeffries and Tom Sharkey in 1899 and the third fight between Tommy Ryan and Tommy West in 1902. I’ve read accounts of these two fights hundreds of times.

STEVE CANTON (a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, Steve has been involved in every aspect of boxing for more than 52 years): Sellers vs. Thompson

The one that I enjoyed the most was Ezra Sellers vs. Carl Thompson in Manchester, England in 2001. I trained Ezra for that fight, changed his style (somewhat), developed the game plan, and witnessed from the corner one of the greatest fights in European boxing history. Ezra followed the game plan to perfection until he dropped Thompson at the end of round one, then forgot everything we worked on and went for the finish. Instead, he walked into a great right-hand counter from Thompson and went down hard. In the corner, I got him relaxed and in the second he went back to the plan to perfection. However, the end of the second was a complete replica of the end of the first, only this time Ezra was hurt even worse. Again, I was able to settle him down and the third went according to plan. In the fourth, Ezra finally finished Thompson with a short “upper-hook” with his back on the ropes. It was the only time Thompson was ever totally knocked out. It was a great fight.

WILLIAM DETLOFF (former amateur boxer, author, editor of Ringside Seat magazine): Foreman-Lyle

George Foreman’s KO in round 5 over Ron Lyle was the conclusion to the most exciting heavyweight brawl I’ve ever seen.

JILL DIAMOND (boxing writer and boxing official who last weekend received a Humanitarian Award from the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame): Golovkin-Jacobs and Saccaroto-Rakoczy

I will stay with contemporary times. For Male boxing, I really enjoyed the GGG-Danny Jacobs fight. It made me wonder what would’ve transpired if it had been 15 rounds. That being said, I’m not for 15 rounds, just speculating.

As for Women, the 2007 fight between Ann-Marie Saccaroto and Jessica Rakoczy was a nail biter. Ann rallied in the later rounds and trailed by a point or two when she knocked out Rakoczy two seconds before the final bell. Rakoczy tried to get up, but referee Jack Reiss wisely called the fight.

STEVE FARHOOD (award-winning TV boxing commentator and 2017 International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee): Pryor-Arguello I.

Of all the fights I’ve attended, this remains number one. Amazing setting, back and forth, tremendous stakes, and two legendary fighters. What more can you ask?

BERNARD FERNANDEZ (TSS mainstay and one of eight lifetime members of the Boxing Writers Association of America): Tyson-Douglas and Chavez-Taylor I

I had the incredible good fortune to have been at ringside covering these two fights which occurred just five weeks apart. The first — not necessarily the best, most competitive fight, but the best EVENT, and the greatest upset in boxing history — was on Feb. 11, 1990, in Tokyo, when Buster Douglas shocked the world by knocking out the seemingly invincible Mike Tyson. The immediate aftermath of that fight — the “long count” controversy which might have resulted in Douglas’ deserved victory being overturned, were it not for intense media and public rejection of that notion — made an already huge story continue to generate follow-up pieces for several days afterward.

Then, on March 17, Julio Cesar Chavez, too far behind on two of the three official scorecards to win a decision, stopped Meldrick Taylor with two seconds remaining in the 12th and final round of their junior welterweight unification bout at the Las Vegas Hilton. Great, great fight, controversial ending (I still maintain that Taylor should have gotten those two seconds), and a consensus Fight of the Year that even eclipsed, as much as anything possibly could, Tyson-Douglas.

JEFFREY FREEMAN (KO Digest founder; TSS New England correspondent): Tyson-Douglas

I’ve watched it over and over again through the years. Arguably the greatest upset in sports history, this was also one hell of a good heavyweight title fight featuring hard punches and solid knockdowns. I was just 20 years old, enraptured in the boxing culture of my hometown Brockton, Mass; but I was also scheduled to work that evening at a local restaurant called Ebenezer’s Place. I’d never missed a Tyson fight on HBO and wasn’t about to start. I couldn’t afford a VCR and there was no such thing as DVR. So I quit. I walked off the line. I went home to watch Tyson-Douglas live on my small black and white TV. Expecting nothing, I got everything. The undisputed world heavyweight championship changed hands in Tokyo from those of a cruel and unusual champion to those of an unknown conquering hero. Buster did it for his Mom. Buster got up off the canvas to win by highlight reel knockout. Buster busted the invincible Iron Mike. There was cheering in my neighborhood when Tyson was finally counted out. I got my job back the next morning but the journey to learn more about Buster, the new heavyweight champion, was just beginning.

Dr. MARGARET GOODMAN (president of VADA, former Nevada boxing official, neurologist, author):

No real favorite fight, but one of my favorite fighters–Marco Antonio Barrera– was great when he beat Prince Naseem Hamed.

LEE GROVES (author, journalist): Chacon-Limon IV

The fourth fight between Bobby Chacon and Bazooka Limon not only featured tremendous back-and-forth action and multiple knockdowns, but there was rivalry between the two. The series was 1-1-1 and each detested the other. An explosively pro-Chacon crowd and the back-story of Chacon making his third attempt to gain a world title after throwing his first away in his early 20s due to careless living. At least a half-dozen times Chacon was trapped in a corner and taking dozens of punches only to fight his way out — a microcosm of his life outside the ring. Still down on the cards entering the 15th round, Chacon scored a knockdown in the final moments to pull ahead and complete his odyssey. It is the single greatest fight I’ve seen in my 43 years of watching boxing and I don’t think that another will ever boast the combination of action and human drama that persuaded me to make this fight number one on my list.

HENRY HASCUP (historian, collector, and long-time president of the NJ Boxing Hall of Fame): Moore-Durelle I

This was the first fight I ever saw. My parents just got a TV back in December of 1958 and my father told me that this guy by the name of Archie Moore was so great. I was only ten years old at the time. After the first round I looked at him and started to laugh and said ‘he don’t look that great to me.’ He told me ‘the fight isn’t over yet.’ Well, we all know what happened and that hooked me on boxing forever.

MIGUEL ITURRATE (former MMA matchmaker, writer and Senior Archivist at The Boxing Channel):

I’m going to go with the trilogy between Troy Dorsey and Jorge Paez. I got to see all three fights. Dorsey was a guy who most would probably classify as a journeyman, but he had a kickboxing background and worked a crazy rate of punches as Paez tried to stay with him.

Dr. STUART KIRSCHENBAUM (former amateur boxer; co-founder of the National Association of Boxing Commissioners): Foreman-Lyle

During my years as Boxing Commissioner of Michigan I was often asked if I would have stopped the Rocky Balboa fights because of the brutality. I loved those fights but wearing my commissioner’s hat the answer was always in the affirmative. Later on I would eat my words when George Foreman fought Ron Lyle in perhaps the most ferocious, hard hitting heavyweight fight in history. This would have to be my single most favorite fight, so much so that for years I would give VCR copies of this fight as a special gift to friends who had not seen it. In my opinion the final round, round 5, was better than Hearns vs. Hagler round 3 which I witnessed ringside sitting next to the Hitman’s mother.

JIM LAMPLEY (HBO fight broadcaster and member of the IBHOF): Leonard-Hearns I

I didn’t have to think more than a minute. Greatest role reversal fight of all time and a fight which showcased the greatness of both.

ARNE LANG (historian, author, editor-in-chief of The Sweet Science): Chavez-Taylor I.

The first fight between Julio Cesar Chavez and Meldrick Taylor, held in a ballroom at the Las Vegas Hilton, was incredible. The fight had something of the drama of a horse race where the eventual winner comes from far back to win by a nose at the wire. Two seconds separated Taylor from winning the decision, but he absorbed a terrible beating and was never the same.

HAROLD LEDERMAN: (famous boxing judge, member of HBO team, and 2016 IBHOF inductee): Gomez vs. Pintor

Wilfredo Gomez, from Puerto Rico, was the WBC super bantamweight champion. Lupe Pintor, from Mexico, was the WBC bantamweight champion. It was an absolute war until Gomez knocked him out in the 14th.

RON LIPTON (world class referee): Tiger vs. DePaula

This one is easy for me. I had boxed hard swap session rounds with Dick Tiger and Frankie DePaula and both were my friends. When they made the fight (Oct. 25, 1968 at Madison Square Garden) I was in the police academy. I went with another police officer and sat ringside. In the second round DePaula, all of a sudden instead of looping his punches, just dropped two short shots, a left and right, so stiff and hard the leather made the sound of an explosion. I will never forget that sound.

Tiger was lifted off of his feet and landed so hard on his ass it shook the ring slats.  The entire crowd where I was sitting, every single person, jumped out of their seats with complete shock. When Tiger got up he had aged like the picture of Dorian Grey.

DePaula was on him like a maniac and dropped him again and hard. Tiger got up with sheer will and to this day I do not know how he made it. He came out in the third round and beat the heck of Frankie, digging in body shots up to the wrist, and dumped him with the same left hook that dropped Rubin Carter. Frankie made it to his feet and tried to take charge again and was knocked down with the same body shots and left hook. This time when he got up, all the fury was drained from him. They fought it out in the trenches until the final bell and Tiger clearly won.

FRANK LOTIERZO (former boxer, writer, and lead analyst for The Boxing Channel): Ali-Frazier I

If there ever was a fight between two more skilled and fit heavyweights at or near their prime, I certainly am not aware of it. It’s the only sporting event of my lifetime in which I couldn’t picture either side losing. At the time it bothered me that Frazier won, but that passed because losing the real “Fight of The Century” was the best thing that ever happened to Ali in the ring. It set the stage for him to carve out his legacy.

PAUL MAGNO (writer, former boxing web site manager, and boxing official in Mexico): Corrales-Castillo I.

Hold my feet to the fire and I’d give you Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo I as the very best of everything I like about the sport — two outstanding fighters engaged in beautiful brutality, pushing one another to the edge and finishing up with nothing but pure courage and pride when their bodies could take them no further.

But, at the risk of veering off the road a bit, I also enjoy the virtuoso performances from the masters and would probably suggest them as must-watch material for new fans just as much as the classic wars. On my list of most memorable (and most satisfying) masterpieces is Marco Antonio Barrera over Prince Naseem Hamed, Bernard Hopkins over Felix Trinidad and Floyd Mayweather over Diego Corrales.

GORDON MARINO (philosophy professor, Wall Street Journal boxing writer, trainer): Ali-Frazier I

Not even a doubt.

ROBERT MLADINICH (former NYPD police detective, author, boxing writer): Palomino vs. Green

I have many favorite fights but this 1977 fight stands out the most. Dave “Boy” Green was undefeated, but Carlos Palomino was favored to retain his WBC welterweight title. The champ was out-boxing Green, who refused to give up and kept propelling himself forward, throwing superb combinations even as one eye was closing. Palomino finally stopped the relentless challenger in the 11th round, but Green’s courage and grit, as well as Palomino’s steadfast determination, took my breath away. Another favorite is the 1958 bout between Gene Fullmer and Joe Miceli for the sheer savagery displayed by Fullmer. It was not often that Miceli was beaten so easily.

JOE PASQUALE (esteemed boxing judge): Taylor vs. Davis

My favorite fight that I worked was the battle of the gold in Atlantic City, Meldrick Taylor vs. Howard Davis. So many close rounds, but under the old 5-point round system. The three judges — myself, Al Devito, and Gene Grant — came up with a three way split. Grant had it even, Devito had Taylor, and I had Davis. The skill level of this fight was just great. So many more since 1984. I have been very fortunate to have such a great seat.

JOHN “ICEMAN” SCULLY (elite trainer; former world light heavyweight title challenger): Leonard-Hearns I and Pryor-Arguello I.

Both fights featured just about everything a great fight would need. Tremendous skills mixed with ferocity, heart, willpower and toughness. The back and forth in each fight was spectacular and both winners had to go through hell to achieve victory and each guy who didn’t win (I hate to call them losers) showed more in defeat than most people show in landslide victories.

BRUCE TRAMPLER (Top Rank matchmaker; 2010 inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame).

Foreman-Lyle for the excitement, Foreman-Moorer for the drama, several fights of Bill “Dynamite” Douglas, whom I managed.

GARY “DIGITAL” WILLIAMS (boxing writer, blogger and “Master of the Beltway”): Bryan vs.Barber

It was on a club show that took place at Martin’s Crosswinds in Greenbelt, Maryland just outside of Washington, DC on November 30th, 1995.  An undefeated middleweight prospect named Lloyd “Jabba” Bryan of Capitol Heights, MD by way of Jamaica took on Bernice “The Heat” Barber, a former kickboxing champ from Virginia Beach, VA. The bout was a 12-rounder for the vacant USBA Intercontinental Middleweight title.

From the second round on, the excitement kept building. During the final round, it seemed like everybody was drained: the boxers, the fans and the announcers. Bryan had enough, however, to pull out the 12th round and win the title. It was the first time I had ever called a full 12-round bout and I felt like I had boxed 12 rounds. I had never had that feeling before and haven’t had it since. But it was a feeling of total accomplishment. Those two boxers gave it their best and those who saw it are still talking about it.

PETER WOOD (boxing writer, author, and former boxer): Gatti vs. Rodriguez

In 1996, twenty one years ago, I was ringside in Madison Square Garden and witnessed a miracle – Arturo Gatti’s sensational come-from-behind victory over Wilson Rodriguez to retain his World IBF Super Featherweight Title. The sellout crowd witnessed six rounds of fierce fistic mayhem.

At the end of the third round, Gatti was so disoriented that he staggered toward the wrong corner. Between rounds, I could see the ringside physician conducting a vision test, holding up his fingers in front of Gatti’s face .Gatti was losing big, but he never panicked. He kept up his intensity, digging deeper than deep. In the final seconds of the sixth round, Gatti went for broke and hit pay dirt with a thudding left hook that landed flush on Rodriguez’s jaw. Rodriguez went down like a rag doll. This was boxing at its best.

Observations: The responses reflected a great variety with no one fight dominating although Moore-Durelle I, Pryor-Arguello I, Corrales-Castillo I, and Foreman-Lyle attracted multiple votes. One surprise (at least to me) was that Hearns-Hagler did not get more attention.

That said, what’s your favorite fight?

 Ted Sares, a member of Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame, is one of the world’s oldest active power lifters and holds several records in the Grand Master class. He has won the EPF Nationals championship four years in a row.

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