Last week I shared my three greatest fighters of all time. This week I thought I’d share my three favorite fights of all time.
3.) Mike Tyson vs. James “Buster” Douglas (1990): While many might not see this as a “great” fight I can barely think of a fight that deserves to be recognized more. Mike Tyson was viewed as an unstoppable force in the heavyweight division. Some revisionists state that he had never “truly been tested” however looking at his fights with Frank Bruno and Razor Ruddock he had been tested he had just come back to pass the tests. Iron Mike was starting to show signs of distraction and outside-the-ring drama that would mar his later career; however his victory over Douglas, a perennial underachiever, was never in doubt (42 to 1 if the legend is to be believed). Douglas took the fight and during the lead up to the clash his mother tragically died, and rather than cancel the fight Douglas used it as inspiration. For one night, ten rounds, Douglas was the greatest fighter who ever lived. He controlled the space in the ring like a master, knew his range, controlled and bullied Mike, showed courage when he got knocked down, and came back to dominate the so-called “Baddest Man on the Planet.” All “long count” nonsense aside, Douglas fought the perfect fight. The uppercut he slammed into Mike’s jaw in the tenth round is still amazing to behold, and watching the biggest underdog in history fight his way to victory under the most dramatic circumstances is still one of the best stories in sports history. Mike, who I have come to respect and appreciate for his self-awareness and honesty, finally retired in 2006. When asked how he felt with his career ending he responded that his career ended in 1990, citing the first time his aura of invincibility dissipated and he was handed his first loss in a great, great fight.
2.) Marvelous Marvin Hagler vs. Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns (1985): For years this was THE greatest single fight of all time. Hagler and Hearns both lived in the shadow of media darling Sugar Ray Leonard. When they met in 1985 everyone knew it would be a short, vicious battle but no one knew how short and how vicious. In three rounds Hagler and Hearns gave the world some of the greatest combat ever. Hagler, known to be a tough but smart bully boxer charged Hearns immediately. Hearns slammed his vaunted right hand into Hagler, briefly stemming Marvin’s charge and breaking the hand in the first round. Looking at this fight now you get the feeling when Hearns landed his right and Hagler barely wobbled back…the fight was over. Hagler continued to pummel into Hearns toward the end of the first and into the second round. During the second Hagler was cut and in the third, fearing a stoppage due to the gash, Hagler again bulled his way to Hearns and battered him to the canvas. Less than nine minutes of action, but it showed the heart and desire of both fighters and, unlike the fights we have often today, showed two warriors willing to leave everything in the ring to win.
1.) Arturo “Thunder” Gatti vs. “Irish” Micky Ward I-III (2002-2003): I’m calling this one fight as it really is 30 rounds of beautiful combat that took place over 13 months. The first fight is a true legend. Gatti showing his heart, with the best single round ever, the famous ninth, that saw Gatti go down from a Micky Ward left hook to the liver only to rise (itself a herculean feat) and win the tenth. In the second fight Ward was knocked down in the second round, a rare occurrence, and then dominated for the remaining eight rounds. The third fight saw Gatti dominate early, only to break his right hand and fight Ward off one-handed. The two most honest, honorable, tough fighters you could ever see in a single fight, as we got three fights. They became so close from the experience that Ward trained Gatti at the end of Arturo’s career. Sporting events are entertainment, pure and simple, but when Gatti and Ward were in the ring you couldn’t help but feel elevated by the range of humanity they displayed during their 30 legendary rounds.
Of course depending on what might happen in the next few years something may show up to unseat one of the above great fights…but it’s doubtful. Boxing isn’t dead. It goes through phases of ups and downs, but always comes back, usually on the shoulders of a new, exciting, successful fighter. There’s still a lot to get excited about under the hot lights of the boxing ring. We shouldn’t let the disappointment of a superfight of the two so-called “best” fighters weaken our interest in the sport. The above fights show it to be one of the most exciting and humanly dramatic forms of entertainment.