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February 15, 2018
February 15, 2018
Muhammad Ali vs Leon Spinks

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THE unheralded kid from the St Louis ghetto shocked the boxing world as Leon Spinks battled his way to a 15 rounds split decision victory over Muhammad Ali to become the new heavyweight champion of the world on February 15, 1978.

A crowd of 5,300 at the Las Vegas Hilton Sports Pavilion, and millions watching TV pictures throughout the world, saw a gruelling, exciting fight with the 24-year-old Spinks proving too young, too determined and too insistent for the 36-year-old champion.

Ali, his face puffed and swollen, cut inside the mouth, looked on the verge of exhaustion at the finish of the fight. But he traded punches with the younger man in a last round of unforgettable excitement and bravery.

He took his defeat in the manner of a great fighter, without acrimony or alibis. He said he had no complaints about the decision.

And, most important of all, he said he won’t be retiring. He says he’s convinced he can do better next time and wants to become the first heavyweight in history to win the world title three times.

Ali and Spinks both agreed before the fight they’d defend against Ken Norton, the WBC’s top-rated contender, before meeting any other challenger.

The former champion will clearly want to rest after such a hard fight. Perhaps it will suit him to let Spinks and Norton punch it out, then go in with the winner.

Ali fighting for the crown again, in a bid to make heavyweight history, would be an enormous attraction, whether Spinks or his old rival, Norton, was defending against him.

As Ali said after the fight: “I’m still the draw. The people in the world are still with me. We have the chance to go another time. I can’t believe I’m finished.”

Spinks, a former Olympic light-heavyweight champion, having only his eighth pro fight, showed ability and stamina no-one had thought he could produce except, perhaps, those closest to him.

Ali was a 10-1 on favourite. Leon’s victory was the biggest upset in a heavyweight title fight since Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) forced Sonny Liston to quit on his stool after six rounds at Miami 14 years ago. Liston was favoured at 8-1 on.

The biggest heavyweight upset of them all occurred when 15-1 underdog James J. Braddock outpointed Max Baer at the Long Island Bowl, New York, on June 13, 1935.

That, incidentally, was also the last time the heavyweight title changed hands on a points decision. Spinks came in at 14st 1 1/4lbs, making him the lightest heavyweight title challenger since Germany’s Karl Mildenberger (weighing 13st 13lbs) was stopped in 12 rounds by Ali in Frankfurt on September 10, 1966.

Ali looked so much bigger than Spinks it was like a heavyweight against a light-heavy. Ali weighed 16st 0 1/4lb, giving him a weight advantage of 27lbs. At 6ft 3in he stood at least two inches taller than Spinks.

Spinks, though, refused to be intimidated either by Ali’s reputation or the physical disparity between them. He simply went in and punched, never allowing Ali to dictate the terms of the contest.

The challenger didn’t win simply by crude brawling, either. He cleverly slipped a lot of Ali’s jabs and showed a good, stiff jab of his own that often slammed into the champion’s face.

Spinks smartly ducked beneath many of Ali’s right hands, and there were times when he bobbed and weaved to have Ali missing by as many as three head punches at a time.

Ali, of course, got through with some good shots and it looked in the 10th round as if he might be getting on top. But Spinks blazed back at him in round 11 and outfought the champion through most of the last third of the fight.

There were scenes of unbridled ecstasy in Spinks’s corner soon as the final bell sounded, with Leon being lifted into the air by his corner crew.

Ali gave a shake of his head as he went back to his own corner at the end of the fight. He looked dejected, his head
hanging down.

But the same sort of thing happened after Ali’s fight with Ken Norton at the Yankee Stadium on September 28, 1976, when Ali kept his crown on a unanimous but controversial decision.

The whole of the Las Vegas arena seethed with excitement and anticipation as the verdict was awaited.

The referee doesn’t score in the State of Nevada, so it was up to the three ringside judges.

The announcer told the crowd: “We have a split decision” and boos came from all parts of the arena. Many in the crowd must have thought Ali was going to get another unpopular decision, perhaps a “sentimental” verdict on the lines of the one Joe Louis received over Jersey Joe Walcott in 1947.

This did seem distinctly possible when the score of the first judge, Art Lurie, was read out, giving victory to Ali by 143 points to 142.

There were tremendous cheers when the second score was announced, judge Lou Tabat scoring Spinks the winner by 145-140.

Then came the score of the third judge, Harold Buck, 144-141, and the announcement: “The new Champion – Leon Spinks.”

Spinks’s wife, wearing a blonde hairstyle, rushed to throw her arms around him in a scene reminiscent of the concluding one in the film Rocky and people were standing and cheering all round the ringside.

The scene in Ali’s corner was rather like that in a funeral parlour but Ali pushed his way through the people milling around in the ring to shake Spinks’s hand and acknowledge the new champion’s victory.

Many fans had probably wearied of Ali’s antics over the years and felt his clowning demeaned the most important championship in boxing, so for a lot of people, Spinks’s triumph was an immensely popular one.

Others, of course, will be saddened because Ali was licked by an opponent who might not have been considered in his class at one time.

Ali had adopted a new policy of declining interviews before the fight, claiming he was tired of talking.

His personal physician, Dr Ferdie Pacheco, was absent from his corner. Some thought this was because of bad feeling generated by comments by Dr Pacheco in his book, Fight Doctor, concerning the Ali entourage.

Dr Pacheco, though, said he’d advised Ali to retire and said he didn’t think it was right he should be in the champion’s corner.

He said he was disturbed at the punishment Ali had taken to the body, especially around the kidneys, and felt Ali could risk harming himself by continuing fighting.

Dr Pacheco warned before the fight that if Spinks could keep the pressure on for the full 15 rounds, without tiring, Ali could be in serious trouble. The doctor’s prognosis was accurate.

Spinks had only been 10 rounds twice before. Most of the boxing cognoscenti felt he’d be certain to fade after burning up stamina in the early rounds. They were hopelessly wrong.

Ali had a jaded look as he entered the ring, to the unlikely strains of “Land of Hope and Glory” while Spinks had looked relaxed and full of confidence on his way to the ring played in by “The Halls of Montezuma”, anthem of the US Marine Corps (Leon, of course, is a former Leatherneck).

Spinks had even left his dressing room before the fight to sit ringside and encourage his brother, former Olympic middle champ Michael Spinks, who outpointed Tom Bethea in a supporting bout.

Ali had found a nickname for Spinks, two in fact. He called him “Goofy” and “The Duck”, unkind references to, respectively, Leon’s gap-toothed countenance and the way Spinks’s backside somewhat sticks out. But Spinks had the last laugh.

Spinks carried the fight to Ali from the first bell and was driving Ali back at the end of the fight. He fought a disciplined fight, too, keeping more or less on top of Ali but not allowing himself to punch himself out the way George Foreman did in Zaire.

Ali urged Spinks to keep punching in the early rounds, mumbling to him through his gumshield, and Spinks obliged. Referee Dave Pearl constantly warned Ali for holding Spinks behind the neck, something Ali’s been allowed to get away with by many referees.

Spinks let nothing deter him. He took Ali’s best punches and fought right back. Ali wound up right hands in exaggerated manner, but the challenger rammed left jabs into his face.

Ali extended his left arm at times to keep Spinks off him, but Leon threw hard rights over the top.

When Spinks had Ali backed against the ropes, or in corners, he poured in punches from both hands, looking to punch around the sides of the champ’s guard or bring uppercuts through the middle. Many were taken on Ali’s arms and gloves but a lot got through.

Spinks landed some really hard rights and lefts to Ali’s ribs and his rights to the jaw often seemed to shake the champ. At times Ali danced around the ring, up on his toes, and poked and flicked at Spinks with left jabs. But Spinks patiently padded after him and often jabbed back at Ali with considerable success.

Ali’s followers whooped with delight when the old champion put together clusters of punches, but these bursts didn’t come often enough and Spinks was usually well-covered at such moments and evaded blows by ducking and weaving.

Spinks went into a big early lead because he was doing practically all the fighting for the first four rounds, and Ali wasn’t able to pull the fight back. Spinks looked a worthy winner.

A two or three rounds advantage to Spinks seemed an accurate assessment, because although Spinks was going
forward there were periods in the fight when he wasn’t able to make effective contact with his blows.

Most of the British writers scored for Ali, but really a lot of Ali’s jabs were just falling short or being slipped by Spinks.

As has been the case in the past, the old ring general, making his 20th title defence in two reigns, sometimes appeared to be doing more than he actually was, feinting, threatening and flicking punches without scoring meaningfully.

Spinks showed no respect for Ali and swept through the opening round, throwing punches with both hands as the champion went back onto the ropes.

In the second Ali could be heard telling Leon to “Keep it going, keep it going” and Spinks obliged. Ali pushed Spinks away from him at one stage, his left forearm under the challenger’s chin. Leon was told by the referee to “Watch that thumb there” as he jabbed a left into Ali’s face. The referee cautioned Ali three times in this round for holding.

Ali moved around and prodded away with left jabs at the start of the third but Spinks soon forced him into a corner and went to work with both hands with Ali just covering up, gloves in front of his face. Finally, Ali pushed him off but Spinks appeared to laugh at him and went right back in again. Ali missed with a left hook and Spinks struck a left jab into his face.

At one point Ali missed with a right, left and another right as Spinks ducked. Ali did get in one good right but Spinks came back at him with a right and a left hook to have Ali going back at the bell.

Spinks was still going well in the fourth, although he had to take two rights to the jaw early in the round. The referee again warned: “Take your hands off his neck, Ali!”.

Leon drove Ali against the four-stranded, red, white and blue ropes and hammered away, bringing up some vicious right uppercuts. Now Ali was bleeding from inside the mouth and he wasn’t looking at all happy with the proceedings.

Ali tried to aim rights at Spinks’s chin but Leon rallied with overarm rights of his own, really hard blows that had Ali pulling back with what appeared to be some alarm.

The fifth was the hardest-fought round so far. Ali was punching in rather more earnest now, but Spinks slammed back at him and Ali pretended to be wobbly after getting nailed by a right to the head.

Spinks was forced on to the ropes himself for a while, but fought his way off. Leon got in with two really good jabs at one stage while backed onto the ropes.

Ali was now clearly looking to turn the fight around but Spinks was stubborn and fighting to win. In the closing seconds of the seventh, for instance, Ali landed a right to the jaw and Spinks immediately retaliated with a right of his own.

Spinks was confident enough to pat Ali’s rump in the eighth as they parted from a clinch. Ali managed to get his left hand working fairly well in this round, although generally he wasn’t doing much more than keeping Spinks away from him.

The challenger kept doggedly pressing forward in the ninth but he wasn’t throwing quite so many shots as he had in the first four or five rounds.

Ali was timing his blows a bit better in this round, at one point pulling Spinks up with a left uppercut. Spinks launched an exciting attack when he pinned Ali in a corner and really banged away, but Ali got in some solid-looking blows in mid-ring and steadied Spinks with a left and right to the jaw near the end of the round.

muhammad ali

Ali’s corner seemed pleased with their man’s showing in this round and urged him to “close the show.”

This Ali tried to do in the 10th, his best round of the fight. He backed Spinks up against the ropes and opened up on him with lefts and rights, jabs, hooks, uppercuts, straight and chopping right hands.

Spinks’s head was jerked round by some of these punches and it looked as if he might be wilting, as if his earlier attacks and the effort of coping with Ali’s sheer bulk might be taking toll on his resources.

Leon rallied strongly towards the end of the 10th, when Ali retreated into the ropes and covered up, but the champion had enjoyed a clear superiority in the round.

Unfortunately for Ali, he couldn’t keep his grip on the fight. Spinks walked right into him at the start of the 11th, jabbing hard lefts into Ali’s face.

Ali turned away briefly as if he’d been thumbed in the eye. He tried to land hard rights but Spinks stayed with him and outfought him in a fierce exchange. Then, towards the end of the round, Spinks crashed in a really heavy right to the jaw.

It looked a good round for Spinks and now Ali’s hold on the title was very unsafe indeed.

By the 13th Ali was looking weary and dispirited, his face swollen. He tried to jab, but Spinks was attacking strongly and driving hard punches at him, sometimes beating Ali to the jab.

Now the atmosphere was bubbling with excitement. An amazing upset was looking more and more probable.

Spinks kept coming forward in the 14th. There was a hectic exchange of punches late in the round, with Ali trying to fight his way off the ropes and Spinks sticking with him and, it appeared, landing the harder blows.

Coming out for the final round it looked as if the title was in Spinks’s grasp but Ali, not for the first time in his career, reached down within himself and found the stuff he needed to stage a marvellous rally.

He stood his ground and hammered at Spinks with lefts and rights. Spinks slugged back with both hands and they each rocked each other, with the crowd going wild with excitement.

Ali looked just about totally spent, and Spinks, too, seemed ready to drop, but still they kept punching. A right, then another, knocked Spinks back into the ropes, but back came Spinks to land an overarm right to the jaw of such force its shock seemed to go right through Ali’s body.

The bell ended what might well be the round of the year, three minutes of unremitting excitement as the fighters just went at each other, fighting as if their very lives were at stake.

All three judges gave the round to Spinks. It capped a great performance.

Spinks, a genuinely hungry fighter, had conquered a champion of far greater experience but one who’d been slowed and softened by age, hard fights and long periods of very comfortable living.

Ali said afterwards he felt he’d lost because of bad tactics. “In the first four rounds my strategy was bad,” he said. “It worked with people like Frazier, Foreman and Norton but not with Spinks.

“I figured he’d go, but he didn’t. He kept getting stronger. Next time I’ll have to come out on my toes and do my thing. Next time I’ll have to do better.

“He had a lot of energy and he just kept coming. He didn’t hurt me as much as Frazier, Foreman or Shavers but I couldn’t have lost to a better man. He’s a better fighter than Norton and he hit me harder than I thought.

“I couldn’t catch him up and pass him. I thought I won some rounds but then I fell back again and got a little tired.

“If I can’t get it next time I’ll just have to say: ‘I’m finally all washed up’ but I can’t believe I’m finished.

“Floyd Patterson won the heavyweight title twice but I’m going for the impossible by winning it three times.”

It could happen, too, because Ali would have the motivation he’s recently lacked. But whether it’s Spinks or Norton he’ll have to face, the fight seems certain to be exceptionally punishing.

Win or lose, Ali’s next ring appearance will surely be the final one. Who could deny he’s entitled to give it one last try?

Ali’s next fight would be a rematch with Spinks.

February 14, 2018
February 14, 2018
Jake LaMotta

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SUGAR RAY ROBINSON, 30, was a 3-1 betting favourite going into the fight at the Chicago Stadium on February 14 1951 against the 29-year old champion, Jake LaMotta, from the Bronx.

THE 14,802 crowd that night produced a net gate of $138,938 – the champion LaMotta took 45 per ecent of this earning him $62,522 plus $1,500 from sales of television and radio rights, Robinson’s 15 per cent share pocketed him $20,840 to go with his equal share of the television money.

THIS was the sixth, and final, meeting between the pair. Robinson had won four of the previous five, but LaMotta was the first man to have defeated Sugar Ray in 41 fights back in February 1943.

IN our preview, Boxing News stated that this was the one great advantage in LaMotta’s favour – the fact that he was the only man to have beaten Robinson as a professional. Were Sugar Ray to win, it was expected that he would relinquish his 10st 7lbs honours and concentrate on the middleweight division.

BOXING NEWS stated in its fight report that LaMotta held his own during the early rounds and in the fourth fought back furiously, but the easy moving Robinson cleverly evaded LaMotta’s storming two-handed assaults to the body.

AFTER surviving a punishing two-handed barrage in the seventh and eighth rounds, Robinson cut LaMotta’s eye with a furious counter attack to the head and body in the following session. The champion made another desperate effort to break through in the 11th but Robinson, with cool, superb covering and countering, reduced LaMotta’s efforts to wild, unsuccessful bursts.

THROUGH the remainder of this round, and the following session, blood streamed from facial cuts as he groped round the ring lunging forward with powerless punches. Groggy, helpless LaMotta was sagging at the knees, desperately holding his rival in an effort to avoid a knockout defeat as Robinson punched away at will when the referee intervened.

AT THE TIME of the stoppage, referee Frank Sikora had Robinson ahead 63-57, Franklin McAdams had it 65-55 and Ed Klein scored it 70-50 all for Sugar Ray.

AS A RESULT of the beating LaMotta took in the later rounds, where he absorbed as severe a beating as any man had ever taken in the ring without falling to the canvas, the fight became known as the ‘St Valentine’s Day Massacre’.

sugar ray robinson

IT was at the end of this battle that the groggy and defiant Bronx Bull muttered: “You never got me down, Ray” and later famously said: “I fought Sugar Ray so often, I almost got diabetes.” This win was the first middleweight title for Robinson, who would capture the title four more times over the next nine years before retiring in 1965 as the greatest fighter in the history of the sport………Read more ON THIS DAY articles here

February 13, 2018
February 13, 2018
Oscar De La Hoya vs Ike Quartey

Action Images/Reuters

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IKE QUARTEY was returning from a 14-month absence from the ring – during which time proposed fights against Felix Trinidad and ‘Sweet Pea’ Pernell Whitaker had collapsed – to challenge Oscar De La Hoya for the WBC welterweight title at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, on February 13 1999.

THIS was viewed by many as the Golden Boy’s toughest test since he turned professional seven years earlier. They felt that De La Hoya’s perfect 29-0 record was filled with fighters who were either over the hill like Julio Cesar Chavez and Whitaker, too small like Rafael Ruelas and Genaro Hernandez, or simply too over-matched like Patrick Charpentier. Claude Abrams said in his preview for Boxing News: “We knew Leonard was good, but when he defeated Roberto Duran and then Hearns, we recognised his brilliance. Now it’s De La Hoya’s turn.”

QUARTEY, himself undefeated with a 34-0-1 record, had a legitimate claim to be the world’s best welterweight. A week later at Madison Square Garden, two other fighters with designs on the top spot were scheduled to meet for the IBF strap – Trinidad defending against Whitaker.

THE winners of these two bouts looked certain to meet each other later in the year for the right to claim welterweight supremacy in one of the richest fights in boxing history.

IKE appeared to take control of the first half of the fight with his speed and power. At the end of the third round, Quartey buckled De La Hoya with a pair of crunching left hooks.

In the sixth, De La Hoya went one better and floored his man with a left hook of his own – only for Quartey to repay the favour moments later. Bazooka then claimed the next two rounds, landing a particularly hard right hand in the ninth, before tiring and allowing Oscar back into the contest in the 10th and 11th.

Oscar De La Hoya

THE GOLDEN BOY needed a big round, and in a breathtaking 12th Oscar came out from the corner like a man possessed, flooring Quartey with a vicious left hook within seconds of the restart. De La Hoya punched himself out in search of the knockout but the durable Ghanaian threw enough punches to hear the final bell.

THE judges’ scores of 116-112 and 116-113 for De La Hoya compared with the 114-115 for Quartey gave the Golden Boy a close, controversial victory. After the fight, he said: “I made it a tactical fight. I wasn’t supposed to be like that. It was still one fight closer to making history. I want to prove I’m the best.”

QUARTEY could not understand how he was not awarded the victory. He said: “Oscar didn’t do anything for eight rounds. You saw the fight. He didn’t do anything. I matched him for speed and power. He came to survive. I’m too tough.”

INDEED, De La Hoya went on to face Trinidad later that same year at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino. It would be De La Hoya who, after dominating the first half of the fight, dropped a controversial decision to Trinidad. Believing he had the fight won, Oscar got on his bike for the last few rounds, allowing Tito to take them and leave the last impression on the judges. If only he had come out for the 12th round like he did against Quartey.

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February 13, 2018
February 13, 2018
Rocky Marciano

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ON THIS DAY back in 1952, Rocky Marciano continued on his explosive march towards the world heavyweight title with this six round slaughter of 35-year-old veteran Lee Savold.

Both men were coming off the back of fights with the ‘Brown Bomber’ Joe Louis, who had been on the comeback trail.

Savold was up against it from the outset in his fight with the ‘Brown Bomber’ in June 1951. Louis drew blood from Lee’s nose as early as the first minute and he was cut again in the fifth from a series of heavy left hands, appearing to be in trouble in every round of the fight. It was another left, this time a terrific hook, which finished matters in the sixth and despite trying to rise, he was counted out.

Rocky, the bookmakers’ underdog before his clash with the Louis, paid no respect to the former champion who earned $88,000 more than him for their night’s work. According to Boxing News, Marciano put a definitive end to Louis’ comeback in his eighth round knockout victory at Madison Square Garden in October 1951.

Indeed, ‘up to the finish it was anybody’s fight, but Marciano ended the affair when he smashed his rival through the ropes and on to the floor outside the ring with a left and right to the jaw.’ Boxing News also awarded Marciano the Editor’s Award for the Best Performance of the Week October 22 to 27 for his defeat of Louis.

When Savold met the ‘Brockton Basher’ on February 13 1952, Rocky ended his career in a similarly brutal fashion. The fight was a bloody, one-sided affair from start to finish with Savold putting up little more resistance than a heavy bag.

Marciano opened up cuts on his man over both his eyes and when Lee returned to his corner at the end of the sixth round, his trainer Bill Daly asked the referee to stop the match and save his man any more punishment.

Rocky then defeated Gino Buonvino, Bernie Reynolds and Harry Matthews in a combined time of seven rounds before he met Jersey Joe Walcott at Philadelphia’s Municipal Stadium for the heavyweight title.

Marciano was a slight betting favourite heading into the clash but it was Walcott who landed the first meaningful punch when he floored The Rock for the first time in 43 fights in the first round.

However, Rocky replied with a knockdown of his own through a right hand in the 13th and Jersey Joe, ahead on all scorecards at the time, was counted out.

Marciano would go on to defend his title six times against the likes of Walcott, Ezzard Charles and Archie Moore before retiring as champion with a perfect, and as yet unmatched, 49-0 record.

Delve through the extensive ON THIS DAY archives

February 12, 2018
February 12, 2018
Prince Naseem Hamed British boxers

Action Images/Sporting Pictures

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TURNING professional at 18 years of age and later and amassing a 36-1 (31) record, Naseem Hamed captured the WBC, IBF and WBO featherweight titles during his 10-year journey through the professional ranks.

He spent seven of those years setting the boxing world ablaze with his brash ring walks, cocky demeanour and explosive power. He defended his three world titles a combined 17 times and had a Hall of Fame-worthy 16-1 record against current or former champions with 14 of those victories coming inside the distance.

Here, we go 12 rounds with the ‘Prince’ – and there aren’t too many who can claim to have done that.

1. DEBUT – Ricky Beard was the man in the opposite corner for Naz’s first professional fight on April 14 1992 at Mansfield Leisure Centre. The fight ended with a knockout win for Hamed, who had to fill his shorts with lead just to ensure he was heavy enough to actually fight!

2. FIRST WORLD TITLE – Three years later, at Cardiff Arms Park on September 30 1995, Hamed captured his first world title (WBO) by stopping the home favourite Steve Robinson in the eighth round. Robinson had successfully defended his title seven times before facing Hamed.

3. BOOM BOOM – Five fights later, Naz came up against American Tom ‘Boom Boom’ Johnson. Johnson had defended his IBF featherweight strap 11 times coming into this bout at the New London Arena but, like Robinson before him, was cut down by Hamed in the eighth round.

4. KNOCKOUT – In his eighth defence of the WBO featherweight title, Hamed came up against Jose Badillo, the tough Puerto Rican who had only lost one of his 20 professional contests – Hamed became the first to register a knockout in the seventh round at the Sheffield Arena on October 11 1997.

5. MADISON SQUARE GARDEN – Was the venue on December 19 of the same year for arguably Naseem’s greatest night, when the ‘Prince’ rose from the canvas three times to halt Kevin Kelley in the fourth round. This was Hamed’s ninth defence of the WBO featherweight title and his first appearance on American soil.

6. VAZQUEZ – Hamed’s next fight came against Wilfredo Vazquez who was on an eight-fight winning streak which included four defences of the WBA title – which Hamed would have won with this 7th round stoppage at the Nynex Arena had Vazquez not been stripped for taking the fight.

7. SPLIT – Naz’s unanimous decision over the granite-chinned Wayne McCullough in October 1998 would prove to be his last with trainer Brendan Ingle and promoter Frank Warren.

8. ANOTHER INGLEPaul Ingle was in the opposite corner on April 10 1999 at the M.E.N Arena. Down twice before the 10th, it looked as though Ingle could force a stoppage and become the first man to beat Naz. However, Hamed turned the tide back in his favour in the very next round and put an end to Ingle’s challenge with a powerful left hand.

9. JOE LOUIS ARENA – Detroit was the setting in October 1999 when Hamed unified his WBO strap with Cesar Soto’s WBC version in a unanimous decision win.

10. MAGIC CARPET – It had been eight years since South African Vuyani Bungu had tasted defeat and no man had ever stopped him. Entering the ring on a ‘magic carpet’, the ‘Prince’ soon changed that stat by halting his man in the 4th at the Kensington Olympia on March 11 2000.

11. PLAYING WITH FIRE – Was how Naz’s April 2001 challenge against Marco Antonio Barrera at the MGM Grand was billed. Although he was the favourite heading into the contest, Hamed dropped a unanimous decision after twelve rounds, the scorecards reading 116-111 and 115-112 twice.

12. FAREWELL – Hamed only fought once more after the Barrera fight, despite initial talk of a rematch with the Mexican. In his last professional fight, on May 18 2002, Hamed looked under-par in easily outpointing Manuel Calvo at London’s ExCel Arena, winning almost every round. Much talk of a return surrounded the ‘Prince’, but this was his last fight at the age of 28.


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February 11, 2018
February 11, 2018
Willie Pep vs Sandy Saddler

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WILLIE PEP liked to box. Sandy Saddler liked to fight. And when they got together, all manner of hell broke loose.

In their first meeting, in October 1948, the unfancied Saddler snapped Pep’s six-year reign as world featherweight champion. The elegant Pep struggled with Saddler’s confrontational roughness, his nose was bloodied in the opening round, he was decked twice in round three, and he was unable to beat the count of 10 after another trip to the canvas in the fourth.

“I wasn’t ready for a tough fight,” Pep understated afterwards.

Just three months and 13 days elapsed before the rematch (February 11, 1949 at Madison Square garden). Pep wanted his title back, and this time he was ready, as one could be, for Saddler’s astonishing savagery.

It takes a special kind of man to rebound from the kind of defeat Pep experienced in their first encounter. The defensive master was determined to be that man.

And he began their bout at a sold-out Madison Square Garden as though the first had never occurred. His boxing was sublime as he bewildered the new champion like many had expected him to first time around, but few thought he was capable of doing in the sequel. Pep would move inside, dispatch his hands into the target zone before his feet carried him out of danger. After eight rounds, Pep had won all but one. It seemed that normality had been restored to the featherweights.

But, just when it seemed like the fight was slipping away, Saddler ruggedly fought back. Suddenly Pep was in the kind of combat he disliked. The rough and undisciplined kind. Pep was in trouble in the ninth and took a hellacious pounding in the 10th as Saddler threatened score a knockout. Ringsiders waited for Sandy to apply the conclusive strike, waited for Eddie Joseph to rescue the unravelling Pep.

The bedraggled soldier called on his deep reserves and valiantly survived. During the final five sessions, the combatants bitterly slugged it out.

After 15 intense rounds that combined skill and bravery, Pep was declared the deserved victor. The rivalry wasn’t over, but the class disappeared.

Saddler won their final two contests but they were ruined as spectacles by incessant foul play. In fight three, Pep failed to answer the bell for round eight after dislocating his shoulder. The rivalry came to a close in September 1951 with Saddler victorious again. But the bout was littered with thumbing, wrestling, and kneeing. Both were subsequently suspended by the New York State Athletic Commission. Like all memorable couples, they had brought out the best and worst in each other.

READ: The 10 greatest featherweights of all time

February 11, 2018
February 11, 2018
Marvin Hagler

Richard Mackson/USA Today Sports

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1. TONY SIBSON relinquished his European and Commonwealth titles to ensure he got the right preparation for his tilt at Marvin Hagler’s WBC and WBA middleweight titles on Friday February 11, 1983.

2. HAGLER was unbeaten in his last 30 fights leading into this contest at a sold out 14,000 capacity DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts. These included wins over fellow Brits Kevin Finnegan and Alan Minter, along with stoppages of Vito Antofuermo, Fulgencio Obelmejias twice,  and an 11-round win over Mustafa Hamsho.

3. FINNEGAN – who Hagler would refer to as one of the toughest men he fought – outpointed Sibson for the British middleweight title back in November 1979.

4. IN the Boxing News – established in 1909 – preview, Tim Mo noted Sibson’s good record against southpaws and his ‘knack of hitting southpaws round their blindside’ with his ‘shatteringly hard’ left hook.

5. HAGLER would go on to destroy the challenger over six one-sided rounds before referee Carlos Padilla waved the contest off after Sibson’s second visit to the canvas in the round.

6. BN’S Harry Mullan described the victory in his ringside report as such: “Hagler’s performance was quite flawless: Sibson was the No. 1 contender, and the emphatic manner of his defeat emphasised the gulf that exists between the champion and the rest of the world.”


7. MULLAN went on to describe how “Hagler confused him with switch-hitting from southpaw to orthodox, cut him up with hurtful, stinging series of jabs, and went in punching to finish the job in the sixth. It was cold, ruthless, perfection, and it made nonsense of Sibson’s pre-fight boasts.”

8. “I KNOW now what I’ve got to do to become champion of the world,” Sibson told the morning-after press conference with wry humour: “I’ve got to improve.”

9. SIBSON looked to rebuild after the defeat by fighting on Hagler’s undercards in his next few defences, but this never materialised. Sibson managed to secure two more world title shots; a stoppage defeat for Dennis Andries’ WBC light-heavyweight title, followed by another stoppage loss in his last fight for Frank Tate’s IBF middleweight strap.

10. ROBERTO DURAN would be the only man to hear the final bell in Hagler’s next six fights – which included one of the the greatest fights of all-time against Thomas Hearns. In his last bout, in 1987, Hagler would lose a hotly debated decision to a returning Sugar Ray Leonard – one Marvelous Marvin would never get over.