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September 24, 2017
September 24, 2017
miguel cotto

Action Images/Reuters/Tim Shaffer

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MIGUEL COTTO won an unforgettable Latin war at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on September 24, 2005.

The victory saw superstar Miguel show superhuman coolness and courage.

Both unbeaten at the time, Cotto and Ricardo Torres fought like a couple of scorpions in a bottle, with the Puerto Rican climbing off the floor for the first time to halt Colombia’s Torres at 1-52 of the seventh round in a five-knockdown thriller.

Cotto was rocked and hurt on several occasions by the hard-hitting Torres. “I had him hurt, but couldn’t put him away” moaned the loser, who had won 28 in a row with 26 stoppages.

WBO junior welterweight champion Miguel Cotto from Puerto Rico (L) celebrates his title defense over Ricardo Torres (R) from Magangue, Columbia, as referee David Fields stops the fight during the seventh round in Atlantic City, New Jersey, September 24, 2005

“I had to win” insisted Cotto, who retained his WBO light-welterweight crown.

“I’m glad I had this type of fight,” said the bruised champion. “It showed the public I can hit and take a punch.”

On the second round knockdown, Cotto said: “I’d never been down before, but I’ve lived it all now that I’ve looked up at the ring lights.”

The show’s headline act was also a knockdown-filled thriller, with Wladimir Klitschko climbing off the canvas three times to outpoint Samuel Peter.

September 23, 2017
September 23, 2017
Rocky Marciano

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IN the early 1950s, the world heavyweight title was won and lost with violent force.

After two humdrum bouts between Ezzard Charles and Jersey Joe Walcott – that Charles had won comfortably on points – a third bout did not seem a natural. But it came along, on July 18 1951, anyway. And so did one of the most unexpected, and clinical, finishes in boxing history.

In the seventh session an exchange of punches became a clinch in a corner. The referee untied the tangle and Charles – one of boxing’s greatest of all-time – skipped backwards. A leisurely Walcott pursued before masterfully dipping to his left and curling that arm into an uppercut that he slammed into Ezzard’s jaw. The champion’s face twisted, as if demonically possessed, before thumping into the canvas. Walcott, who briefly halted to admire his work, continued his strut and nestled his back on the other neutral corner.

It deserved to hold its place in history forever. But its gruesome brilliance was surpassed just over a year later. Walcott, still king at 38, stepped into the ring with Rocky Marciano, an unbeaten slugger 10 years his junior.

“They tell me Rocky used to be a baseball catcher,” Jersey Joe said before their September 23 1952 showdown. “Well, when he delivers a punch, he still looks as if he is throwing to second. I can see the punches coming from the stands.”

The older man’s verbal and physical swagger was soon threatening to underline his pre-fight boasts. He floored the chunky challenger in the opening session and was well ahead on points after 12 rounds. And then it happened.

Jersey Joe moved backwards towards the ropes, almost inviting his opponent to join him. Rocky followed, crouching and waiting to pounce, with his right hand cocked and ready to launch. His intentions were clear. Walcott steadied himself and decided to counter with a right. As he drew back his power arm Rocky’s own missile landed with hellacious force. Walcott bent at the waist, and pitched forward.

The old champion had taken his eyes off the ball. Game over.

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September 22, 2017
September 22, 2017
Jack Dempsey

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1. JACK DEMPSEY was the people’s champion when he fought Gene Tunney for the second time on September 22, 1927. Although always popular, the former hobo stole the public’s affection in defeat, when he lost to Tunney in their opening bout 366 days before. Promoter Tex Rickard was aware of Dempsey’s newfound status, and spent an entire year hyping the sequel.

2. BEFORE their opening bout, Rickard had been trying to match Tunney with leading black contender Harry Wills in an eliminator but Wills – for so long avoided – priced himself out of the market. Rickard wasted little time in making Dempsey-Tunney, and around 120,000 turned up at Philadelphia’s Sesquicentennial Stadium to watch the fight.

3. TUNNEY was the opposite of Dempsey in so many ways. Gene was considered, articulate and educated. Jack, meanwhile, was a rugged and wild creature who trusted his instincts, and acted upon them. In their first fight, Tunney had dominated with his superior boxing ability, winning a unanimous 10-round decision. His jab was a dream and Dempsey – inactive for three years and past his best at 31 – could do nothing to stop the world heavyweight title slipping from his hands.

4. SO the rematch was set for Chicago’s Soldier Field, and 104,493 fans – the majority Jack Dempsey supporters – turned up to see if Jack could regain his crown.

5. THE champion’s purse was a whopping $990,000 but he sent promoter Rickard $10,000 so he could be paid a flat $1million. Dempsey – fighting as a challenger for the first time in eight years – would earn $450,000 for his challenge.

6. BEFORE the opening bell, referee Dave Barry had carefully explained that should either heavyweight be knocked down, the other should walk to a neutral corner and then the count will begin. Previously, a fighter could hover over their wounded prey.

7. TUNNEY was in charge for the opening six rounds, his jab, again, proving the perfect weapon against the onrushing Mauler. And then, in the seventh, it happened. Dempsey noted that his rival’s guard was low and a right rocked the champion back, before a two-punch volley dropped him. The crowd went beserk.

8. DEMPSEY had won the title by beating up Jess Willard in 1919, knocking him down over and over again. Back then, the rules were different. Dempsey was allowed to greet opponents who regained their footing with a swift blast to the head. But this time, against Tunney, the rules were different. Initially, he refused to stand in the neutral corner, buying Tunney some extra seconds to recover. Eventually, the champion got up at ‘nine’. It must be noted that despite being on the canvas for 14 seconds, Tunney appeared to listen for the count and looked able to rise earlier.


9. THE majestic champion regained control, almost as soon as he regained his footing. He dropped Dempsey in the eighth round, and closed the fight in charge. Again, Dempsey lost via convincing 10-round decision.


10. DEMPSEY would retire after the bout, declaring he had plenty of cash and all his faculties. Tunney did not hang around for much longer, either, but that seventh round, and the long count, would forever be argued over by fans. But not by the fighters. Tunney claimed he had picked up the referee’s count at “two” and could have got up at any point but chose to wait until “nine” for tactical reasons. Dempsey said: “I have no reason not to believe him. Gene’s a great guy.”

September 21, 2017
September 21, 2017
Larry Holmes

MPS/USA Today Sports

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32 years ago today one of heavyweight boxing’s longest reigns as world champion came to a controversial end, as light-heavyweight ruler Michael Spinks moved up in weight and challenged heavyweight king Larry Holmes. Meeting at The Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, 35-year-old Holmes and 29-year-old Spinks put on a fight that was later called the 1985 upset of the year.‬

Most experts felt the much bigger and harder-hitting heavyweight champion, who was making the twenty-first defence of his championship (alphabet-wise only the IBF belt was on the line, Holmes having fought for the new organisation since late 1984, but no-one doubted Homes status as the true heavyweight champion), would be able to see off Spinks, despite the light-heavyweight ruler being the younger, fresher and faster man. No fighter in history had been able to move up from being the light-heavyweight champion and grab the heavyweight championship, and the odds said Spinks would not change things.‬

Indeed, there was a real sense of boxing history in the air that September night in 1985; for if Holmes won he’d have gone 49-0 as a pro – thus tying the beloved Rocky Marciano’s legendary numbers. But it was Spinks, with his “Jinx” that wound up going into the record books, as he shocked Holmes and the odds by pulling off a highly controversial 15-round unanimous decision victory. There were no knockdowns in the fight and there never looked like being a KO either way, but the fight was fought at a good pace and it was engrossing.‬

Holmes, never a guy who was overly fond of boxing judges, Vegas ones in particular, felt he’d done enough to have kept his title after the fifteen tiring rounds (the ageing Holmes simply couldn’t pin down the slippery and frustrating Spinks, and due to the miles on his clock he’d grown weary chasing his skittering target) but he was worried the three officials might side with the challenger. His concern was proven to have been valid, as foe, who was almost two-stone the lighter man, was awarded with a close but unanimous decision.‬

Holmes, who had weighed-in at slightly over 221-pounds for the fight, was devastated, soon to turn angry. It was shortly after his first loss as a pro that Holmes came out with his infamous, “Marciano couldn’t carry my jockstrap,” comment. Annoyed that he’d, as he saw it, been robbed of a very special place in boxing history, Holmes took his frustrations out on the wrong person – the treasured Marciano. Winning himself no new fans despite the fact that many people agreed that he should have been given the win over the man who had been light-heavyweight champion since the summer of 1981, Holmes instead received a ton of bad press.‬

Now 48-1, the soon to be 36-year-old vowed to get revenge over Spinks in a rematch. But, as fight fans surely know, Holmes was to fall victim to an even more debatable decision loss at The Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas some seven months later – this time Holmes going home with a split verdict scored against him. Holmes, as bitter as can be, retired from boxing after his second defeat – only to come back after a break of just less than two years, to fight the man who would subsequently destroy Spinks inside a single round; Mike Tyson. Holmes lost this fight, too, and he was stopped for the only time in his illustrious career at the same time.‬

As much as the Tyson KO hurt him physically, however, the two losses he suffered at the hands of Michael Spinks in 1985 and ’86 wounded Holmes – to this day – a lot more emotionally. Also to this day, is the fact that both Holmes-Spinks fights garner much debate amongst fans. Who really won fights one and two between the two greats?‬


September 21, 2017
September 21, 2017
Rocky Marciano

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THE final, and one of the most noteworthy names, on Rocky Marciano’s perfect 49-0 record; light-heavyweight legend Archie Moore could do little to prevent the fate that had held those who came before him. In his last bow Marciano won in typically emphatic fashion, trading knockdowns en-route to his 43rd victory by way of stoppage. Despite already having amassed over 100 knockout wins himself coming into the fight, the 38-year-old Moore had only moments of success against the heavyweight champ.

The fight got off to an inauspiciously slow start, Moore using all the experience of his 20-year career by looking to keep Marciano at bay with his seven-inch reach advantage and aiming to tie him up on the inside whenever the distance was cut. Marciano is mostly remembered for his brutish strength, but showcased his somewhat underrated boxing skills through a masterful manipulation of the ring, bobbing and weaving underneath Moore’s jab and then stepping inside at will.

In round two Moore shocked the 61,574 spectators at New York’s Yankee stadium by landing a sharp counter right after evading a lunging hook which sent the champion down to the canvas. The 4-1 favourite was up by the count of two, having seemingly recovered strongly. Although Moore failed to capitalise on the flash knockdown, often missing with wild shots, he continued to have success in the round, drawing blood from champion’s nose.

READ The magic of Rocky Marciano

In the third and fourth Rocky began to work his way back into the fight despite a small cut opening under his left eye, landing clever combinations from body to head and generally outworking his challenger. In the latter round the tempo picked up as Marciano threw a series of hooks which trapped Moore against the ropes, who spent much of the three minutes covering up well in his cross-arm defence and avoiding any hurtful blows. Moore continued to outbox Rocky at times with his long jab creating problems, but Marciano eventually returned the favour in the sixth, scoring two knockdowns. The round started in typical fashion, with Archie circling around Marciano who continued to come forward in his bull-like style. As Moore backed up towards the ropes, Rocky stepped in with a huge left which just missed its target, but followed with an overhand right which landed flush. Despite beating the count, Moore looked in serious trouble as Marciano immediately pushed him back against the ropes.

What followed was one of the most incredible exchanges of punching ever produced in a boxing ring, Marciano landed huge, clubbing hooks and Moore not only managed to stay on his feet, but somehow found the strength to stand and trade. The next 45 seconds or so were a gruelling demonstration of non-stop action that is as impressive and exhausting just to watch today on a grainy YouTube video. Finding repeated success, Marciano landed a looping right that seemed to hit Moore on the top of his head, sending him down for a second time. Just beating the ten-count, Moore was on unsteady legs but survived the short remainder of the round.


The seventh was a much closer, Moore, somewhat recovered, landed an eye-catching one two which seemed to stop Rocky in his tracks, who had perhaps punched himself out slightly. By the eighth Marciano had re-asserted his dominance however, stepping up the punishment as Moore’s right eye began to close. Sensing the nearing conclusion of the fight, both were throwing heavy punches in order to get the other man out. After many missed shots, Rocky connected with a right hook which toppled Moore for the third time. With just several seconds left in the round, the challenger was saved by the bell whilst still on the floor and was allowed to carry on into the ninth. From the bell Marciano came out with intent, unleashing lefts and rights that stopped a stationary Moore gaining any momentum back into the fight. In typical fashion for the exhilarating fight, Moore simply looked to stand and trade with the aggressor; at times landing big counters, but for the most part taking a heavy onslaught. After another incredible exchange, Marciano landed two quick left hooks that ended the fight, sending Moore down for the last time, slumped in his own corner and unable to beat the count.

The win would be Rocky Marciano’s last act in a boxing ring, cementing his legacy as an all-time great brutally dispatching a boxing legend. Moore, perhaps past his prime, would go on to fight for several more years as light-heavyweight king . His stock at heavyweight around had already fallen however, and Moore would come up short against the likes of Muhammad Ali and Floyd Patterson. In the unique history of heavyweight prizefighters, this fight will always be remembered. A truly great display of all that makes the division so exciting, the immense strength showcased as the two battled toe-to-toe goes unparalleled in today’s era.

September 20, 2017
September 20, 2017
Muhammad Ali

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IT was a battle between two hall-of-famers at very different stages of their respective careers. For Muhammad Ali it was an important fight just before what was arguably the best years of his career – with wins over Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Ken Norton still to come. For Floyd Patterson it would be the last time he graced a boxing ring, a glittering career crashed to an end with an emphatic loss. The final image of the former heavyweight champion of the world’s career; departing from the arena with his left eye almost completely swollen shut in front of 17,378 spectators at Madison Square Garden.

Before the fight the undisputed heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, who had already defeated Ali in the first matchup of their famous trilogy, was brought into the ring and introduced to the crowd. A theatrically enraged Ali went after Frazier, but would have to wait another 14 months before the pair met again, in the exact same ring, for their eventual rematch.

The rematch – Ali had cruelly gunned down Patterson in 1965 – started out evenly enough, with both fighters bringing forth their familiar style. Ali danced around Patterson, controlling the range with a casual flick of the jab, whilst Patterson found occasional success with a lunging left hook – a punch which had already floored Ali at the hands of Sonny Banks, Henry Cooper and Joe Frazier. After an inauspicious start it was in the third round when the tempo picked up, Ali unleashed his right and Patterson began to cut the distance, working well on the inside. An overhand right caught Patterson flush on the ropes, and the champion began to unload. Deciding to take his time, for most of the fourth Ali barely threw a punch, instead bending over with his chin out and inviting Floyd to go to work, delighting at every evaded punch.

As the round progressed and the two engaged, Patterson forced the champion back with relentless hooks, with Ali keeping a tight guard in defence. If the fight had been decided on appearance alone Patterson would have walked away the easy victor. Even at 37 years of age he came out in peak physical condition, with his opponent looking slightly more out of shape. Ali had started casually, or lazily depending on which way you look at it; but no longer toying with his opponent, he met Patterson in the centre of the ring early on in the fifth, the two trading heavy blows as the crowd awoke with excitement.

In Ali’s corner Bundini Brown shouted his usual mantra “let’s go to war!” as the action picked up. Ali answered the call, starting the sixth with clubbing hooks of his own, sending Patterson back against the ropes. His superior height, strength and speed began to show as a flurry of punches drew blood and formed a dangerous swelling over the left eye of Patterson.  Increasingly desperate but ever-brave, Floyd resorted to jumping in with wilder hooks, at times catching the champion, at times getting caught off balance and eating big counters. A ferocious Ali replied by taking the centre of the ring and landing accurate and damaging blows, battering Patterson around the ring and making every punch count.

For fans of Patterson, and of boxing in general, the seventh and final round makes difficult viewing. The beleaguered ex-champ was being bullied around the ring, falling to his knee early on from what referee Arthur Mercante ruled a slip. Ali teed-off at will, stalking his prey and continuing to land hurtful blows, which Patterson could barely see through his one good eye. To his credit, Floyd once more showcased his heart through battling on throughout the onslaught to hear the bell at the end of the round, in what would turn about to be the death knell on a truly great career. After sitting through a long inspection of his eye in the corner, Patterson stood up in defiance to fight through the eighth round, however the referee saved the proud fighter from himself – waving the fight off and declaring Ali the winner.

After the fight Ali paid tribute to his twice-beaten foe, “Patterson is a great, great fighter. I thought he’d be nothing, but he surprised me. I didn’t knock him out. I didn’t get him on a TKO. All I did was close his eye.” His forceful win had brought to an end the thrilling 55-8-1 (40) career of an Olympic gold medallist and two-time world champion. As for Ali, on a night where ‘The Greatest’ was below his own self-set standard of brilliance, his artistry and dominance was still on show. There would be bigger nights and better fights to come for Ali, but Patterson’s was nonetheless an impressive scalp on an already packed record.

September 19, 2017
September 19, 2017
azumah nelson

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SEVERAL candidates have been proposed for the title of greatest fighter ever to have come out of Africa. Nigeria’s Dick Tiger was world champion at both middleweight and light-heavy (when there was no super-middle division between), while South Africa’s Vic Toweel was undisputed world bantam king.

But for many the best is an easy choice: Azumah Nelson. The Ghanaian reigned as WBC featherweight king from 1984-87 and twice held the WBC title up a weight at 9st 4lbs. His second reign at the higher weight ended in January 1997, when he was 38 years old and nearly 15 years past his first world title contest.

Add that Azumah was a gentleman both in and out of the ring, with nary a whiff of scandal about him, and here was a man who was a great advertisement for the sport, his nation and his continent.

Nelson could have been a much bigger star if like many before him he had based himself exclusively in Europe or the USA. Instead, as a devoted family man he lived in Ghana and travelled mostly for fights and training camps. Often he was hidden away on the undercards of shows promoted by Don King, with whom he had signed.

In Europe he could have been more famous if he had fought Barry McGuigan, who held the WBA 9st title when Nelson was the WBC champ. A showdown would have been huge but never happened because, as has become common, each had earning potential to fulfil on his own. When Barry lost his crown in June 1986, Nelson was still WBC king and had to look elsewhere for paydays.

The closest they came to meeting was at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Canada, when they won gold medals at adjoining weights (McGuigan at bantam, Nelson at feather). The next big amateur showcase would have been the 1980 Moscow Olympics, but for some bizarre reason Nelson ended up representing Africa in the October 1979 World Cup competition at light-welter, two weights above his natural division, and turned pro in disgust.

He progressed steadily, winning the Commonwealth title, but in June 1982 was still a 13-fight unknown when he received a surprising call-up to challenge WBC champ Salvador Sanchez at Madison Square Garden.

The scheduled challenger had dropped out and Nelson was drafted in, to the bemusement of many in the game. Nelson held a no. 6 ranking with the WBC but it was feared he might prove another Mensah Kpalongo, who three years earlier has benefited from a similar high listing to fight WBC bantam ruler Carlos Zarate – and embarrassingly folded in three rounds.

One who knew how good Nelson was, was respected coach Charles Atkinson, in whose Liverpool gym Nelson had been training on and off since 1980.

Nelson gave Sanchez all he could handle, and was actually leading on one card when he was stopped in the 15th and last round.

Eddie Cool, Boxing News’ veteran New York correspondent, called it, “The most exciting featherweight bout ever held in the new Madison Square Garden, and the best since the one in which Willie Pep regained his title from Sandy Saddler in the old Garden”.

If ever there was a case of a fighter making his name in defeat, this was it. US television viewers now knew who Nelson was. Still, it was another two and a half years before he got another title shot, against Wilfredo Gomez in Puerto Rico. This time there was no mistake as Nelson hammered talented but fading Gomez into an 11th-round defeat.

The following year Nelson came to the UK and dispatched Pat Cowdell with one punch, an arcing left uppercut-cum-hook. It was a sensational punch.

In 1988 the 5ft 5ins but solidly-built Nelson moved up to super-feather and won a contested split decision over Mario Martinez for vacant WBC belt. A year later Azumah would stop Martinez in the 12th round of a rematch.

He was one of the best fighters in the world, but had to travel to find opponents. King couldn’t make money out of him, so was reluctant to invest cash into luring big name opponents to fight the Ghanaian.

In May 1990 he bit off more than he could chew in challenging Pernell Whitaker for the WBC lightweight title and lost on points. But “Sweet Pea” would go onto to hold world titles all the way up to 11st, so it was no disgrace.

Two of his biggest nights came against Jeff Fenech. The all-action Aussie had held world titles at three weights when he got the worse of a draw against Nelson in Las Vegas in June 1991. A return nine months later, on Fenech’s home turf of Melbourne, saw Azumah destroy him in eight rounds. He blamed malaria for his poor performance in their first encounter.

Nelson boxed on through the 1990s, defying age to see off young challengers in a variety of locales. In March 1997 he lost his WBC super-feather belt to Genaro Hernandez, but event then the decision was split.

His last real fight was in July 1998, when he lost to Jesse James Leija, against whom he’d already drawn, lost and stopped in title bouts. But in 2008 he bizarrely came out of retirement for a third fight with Fenech, who won a majority 10-round decision. Both scaled well over their best weight and it was a sad coda to the careers of both.

When he was a world champion in the mid-1990s, Nelson came to London and visited the BN offices. He charmed everyone with his friendliness and class. It was a shame he never enjoyed the fame his talents deserved.


Eric Armit, Boxing News’ long-time world results expert, was consulted by the WBC over whether Nelson was a worthy opponent for Salvador Sanchez. Said Eric, “I’m ashamed to admit I actually hesitated, but after a few moments’ consideration I told them I was confident Azumah would give Sanchez a good fight.” Did he ever!