Larry Merchant is credited with calling boxing "the theater of the unexpected." An example of it -- one that remains vivid in my mind -- was the April 14, 1990 bout between Gabriel Ruelas and Jeff Franklin. The main preliminary bout to a show topped by Michael Nunn vs. Marlon Starling, it played out at the Mirage in Las Vegas on April 14, 1990.
Ruelas was only 19 years old, but he was highly touted, undefeated (21-0), and big favorite over the hard-trying but limited Jeff Franklin, a Mirage Hotel bellman.
The first four rounds were monotonously one-sided in favor of Ruelas. In Round 5, he decked Franklin with a punch that Franklin would recall as the hardest he had ever received. Franklin beat the count, but it was plain he wasn't going to last the distance.
Ruelas was somewhat tentative in Round 6, but Franklin even more so. At the conclusion of the round, referee Richard Steele told Franklin that if he didn't make a better go of it that the fight would be stopped.
In the next round, as the fighters were coming out of a clinch, Ruelas collapsed in agony, clutching his right elbow. He had dislocated it, likely with the punch that put Jeff Franklin on the canvas. Two operations would be required to fix it.
The Ruelas team cried foul, alleging that Franklin had purposely wrenched the arm out of its socket. They protested that the proper verdict was "no decision," which would have kept Ruelas' record unblemished. The boxing commission decided that the original verdict would stand: Franklin the winner by TKO.
I didn't bet this fight, but I would have been in more agony than Ruelas if I had laid the big price. In that respect the bout was educational.
In my mind, there can never be a boxing event as bizarre as the Bowe-Holyfield "Fan Man" fight. But that's a different category of unexpectedness. How about some other examples of a fighter snatching victory from defeat, perhaps with an assist from Lady Luck?
The strangest fight result I ever call and most unexpected ending was the bout between Mickey Ward and Alfonso Sanchez. It was a PPV undercard bout on a De La Hoya headlined card I believe.
This was a few years before Ward started appearing on HBO and before the Gatti fights. At this time, he was known as a good club level fighter who generally made for good fights.
Sanchez was a big time prospect. Ward was brought in by Top Rank to showcase Sanchez and hopefully make Sanchez look really good.
For six rounds, Ward did absolutely nothing. When I say nothing, I mean nothing at all. He was not letting any punches off at all and just covering up and absorbing shots from Sanchez. As a matter of fact, his punch total for round five for example was 7. Not punches landed but punches thrown.
In the 6th round, the referee (Mitch Halpern) was urging Ward at times to fight back and show him something. Halpern was getting very close to the action and seemed ready to stop the fight at any moment. By now, the HBO announcers were ripping Ward for his non effort and begging for the fight to end. The announcers were suggesting strongly the referee stop the fight for lack of effort.
The fight was entirely lopsided entering the 7th and more of the same was occurring. Larry Merchant called for the fight to be stopped and Roy Jones suggested fans get a partial refund on the PPV. About half way through the round, Ward threw his and landed his signature left hook to the body. It was a bit shocking that he threw and landed a punch. Then he got aggressive and landed another left hook to the body that put Sanchez down and out.
It was definitely shocking and unexpected the moment Ward landed the KO shot if you watched the first six rounds like I did live. And something I will never forget. It interesting now to look back every now and then at that fight and the comments about Ward during the fight by the HBO commenting team. The theater of the unexpected in that fight to say the least.
The wildest had to be back in the baby/toddler days. "Big" John Tate was beating the muscles off Hercules-looking Mike Weaver. He had whupped Hercules's arse for 14 rounds and 3/4. And then outta nowhere dat meddling bytch "theatre of the unexpected" shows up wiggling her arse: "KaBOOM! KaZUK! THUD!"
Big John is sleep & snoring. OMG! I thought that he was DEAD! Now that was scary. Holla!
Two splendid examples. Weaver-Tate was a little before my time. According to boxrec, Weaver was trailing by 5, 3, and 3 points after 14 rounds. Then boom. Just as Yogi had said, it isn't over until it's over.
I was at Ward-Sanchez. It was on the undercard of De la Hoya-Whitaker. This being Vegas where ringsiders arrive fashionably late, the arena was just starting to fill up.
What I recall is that it was a very short hook to the body and when Sanchez crumbled he had this terrible look of panic on his face. The punch paralyzed him.
My friends, that was a rare sighting of the "solar plexus punch" made famous by Bob Fitzsimmons in 1897. Like poor Jim Corbett, Alfonso Sanchez had a vulnerable spot and Micky Ward just happened to hit the right button. Like you Oubobcat, I was stupefied by this sudden turn of events.