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September 23, 2014
September 23, 2014
Muhammad Ali vs Sonny Liston

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ONCE a feared, seemingly invincible heavyweight terror, the ageing yet still heavy-handed Charles “Sonny” Liston was in action on this day, September 23, in 1969.

At the time of his third round knockout of one Sonny Moore, the former heavyweight king was thought to be aged around 39 (his exact date of birth remains uncertain to this day, although at the time he was thought to be two years younger) and “Old Stone Face” was climbing back up the heavyweight rankings in search of one last title shot.

As things turned out, this would be Liston’s final clean knockout victory and the last in 14-fight winning streak that stretched back to 1967. After despatching the 20-30-2 Moore – who Sonny had previously stopped by a third-round TKO the previous October – Liston would meet contender Leotis Martin for the newly created NABF title. That December, after running out of gas in a fight he was winning, old man Liston was brutally knocked out himself, with a hard right hand to the head leaving him face down on the mat in round nine.

Following that disaster, Liston, 49-4(38), would win one more bout – forcing the cut prone “Bayonne Bleeder” himself, Chuck Wepner to stay on his stool after nine bloody rounds in June of 1970. But his glory days were now a very distant memory. Approximately six months after the Wepner win, Liston’s decomposing body was found in his Vegas apartment. To this day, stories of murder, of a drugs overdose and of possible suicide abound, with no-one apparently knowing for sure how Liston died.

It was a sad end indeed for a man who once ruled the entire world.

September 22, 2014
September 22, 2014

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ON this day in 1990, for a then 23-0 Chris Eubank, it was a case of first minute, first round, first punch. Going in with 28-year-old Brazilian Reginaldo Dos Santos, a hungry, world title-chasing Eubank scored a devastating highlight reel KO in just 20 seconds.

Dos Santos, who had a decent if not great record of 11-3, had been stopped in his previous fight – in the eighth round by Craig Trotter in Australia – but this was the only time he had been halted as a pro; his other two losses coming via decision. Eubank, who had fellow Brit Nigel Benn firmly in his sights, might have been expecting a few rounds of work at The Royal Albert Hall. Instead, before the TV camera could fully zoom into the centre of the ring, Eubank uncorked a clubbing overhand right that landed flush, sending Dos Santos crashing to the canvas. Managing to reach a sitting position, Dos Santos, his eyes still closed and his arms blindly reaching out, had suffered the ultimate ignominy.

Eubank adopted his by now familiar cross armed pose as he stared emotionless into the camera as he stood in a corner. The WBC Inter-Continental strap had been on the line, but the talking point of this short affair was the super fast KO. Poor Dos Santos literally never knew what hit him.

In his very next fight, 24-year-old Eubank would challenge “The Dark Destroyer” for the WBO middleweight crown, with the betting underdog relieving his bitter rival of the title via an exciting ninth round TKO in a brutal fight. Eubank had well and truly arrived; both on the world stage and, in the U.K, as a crossover star. Fully embracing his status as a ‘love to hate’ figure, the controversial and eccentric Eubank would thrill, exasperate, anger and entertain the British public for a number of years to come.

As for the unfortunate Dos Santos, he would box on for a further twelve bouts, losing his next two outings by 1st-round KO and being beaten in eight of his final dozen fights. Dos Santos did go out a winner though, winning his final four. Sadly, the Brazilian died at the young age of just 34 in 1997.

September 1, 2014
September 1, 2014

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1. GEORGE FOREMAN, fresh off an astonishing and brutal victory over Joe Frazier, made the first defence of his world heavyweight title against unfancied Puerto Rican Jose Roman on September 1, 1973. The bout was set for Nihon Budokan in Tokyo, Japan.

2. THE underdog annoyed Foreman in the build-up, belittling and insulting the champion, while promising to score the upset. The week before the fight he told reporters he would be too quick for the powerful champion, and some observers predicted that Roman’s courage could see him frustrate Foreman and last to the late stages.

3. TEN bells were rung before the fight in memory of Joe Frazier’s manager, Yancey Durham, who had passed away earlier in the week.

4. FOREMAN was led to the ring by a Dixieland band, and two Playboy bunnies presented the fighters with bouquets of flowers. Roman sang along gleefully to his country’s national anthem – a contrast to the cold stare adopted by the favourite.

5. SOME 8,000 fans packed into the Hall to see if Roman’s promises could be fulfilled. But his challenge was a disaster. Lacking the spite of his predictions, the challenger started tentatively and his jabs fell short of the target. Foreman’s desire to punish Roman was evident from the opening bell as he came out blazing.

6. FOREMAN did not stop throwing punches, many were wild and inaccurate but enough landed to bully Roman to the ropes and he collapsed on his backside under the force. Then came the controversy. With Roman on the canvas, Foreman unleashed a right hand that collided with his rival’s face. Roman’s manager Bill Daly and trainer Al Braverman – cotton buds behind his ears and a ragged combover dangling on his head – jumped on to the ring apron to remonstrate with referee Jay Edson.

7. EDSON did not count the incident as a knockdown but did not punish Foreman either. “Foreman hit him as he was going down,” the referee would explain. “By not counting and allowing Roman to get up, in my opinion that was punishment enough for Foreman. It took the play away from him. You cannot stop the momentum of a punch in the middle of a flurry unless you’re a magician. But I gave Roman eight to 10 seconds to recover.”

8. IT was not enough time for the outclassed challenger. Foreman stalked menacingly, and a looping uppercut landed flush that sent Roman down, legally this time. He got to his feet but was dazed and confused when he rose, allowing Foreman to plot the finishing blast. It came via a brutal right to the body. Roman, a crumpled mess, was counted out.

9. ALTHOUGH Roman was not expected to win, his efforts were a disappointment to the fans, some of whom paid £71 for ringside seats. Foreman – paid handsomely with a $1million cheque – was booed by fans as he left the ring. Roman called his conqueror the “dirtiest fighter in the world.” He added: “He should never hit a fellow while he is down. He pushed me down and began to hit me while I complaining to the referee.”

10. FOREMAN’S victory cleared the way for potential bouts with Muhammad Ali, Ken Norton, or a rematch with Frazier. “None of them need to start screaming,” Foreman’s manager Dick Sadler said about the queue of suitors. “We’ll get to all of them in good time.”

August 11, 2014
August 11, 2014

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ON this day in 1954 Archie Moore fought Harold Johnson for the fifth time, at Madison Square Garden, New York. The fight was for Moore’s world light-heavyweight title. Archie Moore had won three of the previous four meetings between the pair. All the previous fights had gone the 10-round distance.

  1. FOR the fifth fight there was a rematch clause in the contract. If Johnson won, he would have had to give Moore a rematch within 90 days with a 30-30 purse split. Prior to the fight Moore had been a 2-1 betting favourite, but the odds narrowed to 8-5 by the day of the fight.
  1. TICKET prices for the fight started at $2, and were also sold at $4, $6, $8 and $10. A crowd of 8,327 produced a gross gate of $34,024. With the cost for the TV-radio fee set at $50000.
  1. AT the time of the fight the eight-count knockdown rule was waived during a championship fight, but referee Ruby Goldstein forgot this issuing a count to six before the bell rang when Johnson had dropped Moore in the 10th round, even though Moore had arose at three.
  1. THEN again in the 14th round when Moore dropped Johnson, Johnson arose at six but Goldstein continued his count to eight. “You know how it is,” he said afterwards.” You handle so many fights with the eight-count that you forget.”
  1. MOORE was behind on the two of the three official score cards going into the 14th but the 175-pound champion said he had no doubts about the outcome.
  1. AFTER Johnson rose from the knockdown, Moore swarmed over the swaying challenger until Referee Ruby Goldstein stepped in and stopped the bout. Handing Moore a 14th round technical knockout victory.
  1. MOORE went on to fight and lose to Rocky Marciano and Floyd Patterson for the for the world heavyweight title. Before finally retiring in 1963, after a final knockout win over Mike DiBiase, his 131st knockout victory of his career, which is still a record to this day for most knockout wins.
  1. IN 1990, Archie Moore became a member of the International Boxing Hall Of Fame in Canastota. Finishing his career with an astonishing 185 wins, 23 losses, 11 draws and 1 no contest, with 131 official knockouts. Archie Moore died of heart failure in 1998, four days before his 82nd birthday.
  1. JOHNSON would continue to fight on for another 17 years after winning the world light-heavyweight Title in February 1961 with a ninth round technical knockout win over Jesse Bowdry, in Miami Beach, Florida.
  2. HAROLD JOHNSON ended his career with an impressive 76 wins from 88 fights, with only 11 defeats and 1 no contest. Johnson was also inducted into the International hall of fame in 1993.

August 10, 2014
August 10, 2014

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ON this day in 1963 Dick Tiger defended his world middleweight title against American Gene Fullmer, their third meeting, at the Liberty Stadium, in Ibadan Nigeria, Tiger’s home nation.

  1. HEADING into this fight Fullmer had gained notoriety from his four fights with the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all-time, Sugar Ray Robinson. Fullmer boasted a 2-1-1 record over Robinson winning the first and last meetings between the pair.
  1. TEN months before their third fight, in Candlestick Park, California, Fullmer would defend his world titles against Tiger for the first time. Tiger, who lost the first four fights of his career, all against English opposition, entered the fight with a record of 45-14-2.
  1. IN front of a crowd of 11,600 Tiger beat Fullmer via unanimous decision to capture the world middleweight titles and handed Fullmer only his fifth career defeat.
  1. FOUR months later the rematch took place at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and after 15 hard fought blood-drenched rounds Tiger retained his championship when the fight ended in a draw.
  1. A THIRD and final fight was set in Nigeria, on August 10 1963. A crowd of over 35,000 produced a gate of $250,000. Tiger was guaranteed $100,000 and Fullmer $60,000.The rubber match ended after Gene Fullmer retired in his corner in round seven.
  1. THIS would be Fullmer’s final fight; he would end with a career record of 55-6-3. After hanging up his gloves Fullmer appeared in a cameo role in the 1968 film The Devil’s Brigade as a Montana bartender.
  1. TIGER would go on to fight and beat Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. Tiger floored Rubin three timess en-route to a unanimous decision, and would retire with a record of 60-19-3 cementing his legacy as one of the greatest fighters to come out of Africa.
  1. TIGER was banned from returning to Nigeria because of his involvement in the Biafran movement, which lead to the Nigerian civil war.
  1. TIGER was appointed CBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, but he returned his insignia as a protest for what he perceived as a lack of support by Great Britain to the Biafran cause.
  2. AFTER retiring Tiger took a job as a security guard at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. While working he felt strong pains in his back. He got tested by doctors and was diagnosed with liver cancer, an illness which would end his life at only 42 years of age on December 14 1971.

August 7, 2014
August 7, 2014

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THIS was the second meeting between Roy Jones Jnr and Montell Griffin. The first took place five months previously on the March 21 1997, at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Going into the first fight Jones had captured the WBC light-heavyweight championship after defeating Mike McCallum. This made Jones a three-division world champion after previously winning titles in the middleweight and super middleweight divisions.

THE first defence of his title would be against Griffin, who just like Jones was undefeated. Griffin entered the first fight off the back of his second victory over James Toney, for the lightly-regarded WBU title.

HEADING into the 9th round of their first bout, Jones was slightly ahead on the scorecards. He caught Griffin with a right hand that staggered the challenger into the ropes. Jones then unloaded with a flurry of punches forcing Griffin to take a knee. Jones then landed a right–left combination knocking Griffin face first into the canvas.

REFEREE Tony Perez then proceeded to count Griffin out. The fight was stopped at the 2:27 mark. Jones, thinking he had won, started to celebrate with his corner. However, Perez then announced he was disqualifying Jones for the illegal shots. It handed Griffin the victory, and Jones his first career defeat.

AFTER the first fight Griffin had expressed a desire to fight against Virgil Hill, who was then the IBF and WBA champion. However, a rematch was made set for August 7, 1997. Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut would be the venue for the rematch, billed as “Unfinished Business”.

GRIFFIN stated that “I’m coming in angry, with a lot of rage.” This bad blood was due to the fact Roy had accused the champion of faking an injury to win the title from Jones. This was a statement that hit a nerve with Griffin. “The man contradicts himself; he makes himself look bad he has problems.”

THE fight however lasted only two minutes and 31 seconds. Jones came out swinging and sent Griffin stumbling into the ropes after just 20 seconds. Referee Arthur Mercante correctly ruled it a knockdown, with only the ropes keeping Griffin up.

AS the first round drew to an end, Griffin threw a jab and Jones answered in devastating fashion. Roy leaped from the floor with a left uppercut-cum-hook which shook Griffin to his foundations knocking him onto the seam of his trunks.

GRIFFIN tried to clamber back to his feet, but fell forward into the ropes as Arthur Mercante reached the count of nine, and waved the fight off.

JONES caught up in the heat of the moment, after avenging his first career defeat, announced that he wanted to save boxing by fighting Evander Holyfield.

August 2, 2014
August 2, 2014

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1. “HE wasn’t much,” remembered Thomas Hearns’ trainer Emanuel Steward about his young protege when asked in 1980 about the beginning of their relationship. “In fact, he was one of worst fighters. He lost three of his first four amateur fights. But he wanted to be a fighter. The other guys would mess around, skip training, but not Thomas. He was totally dedicated.”

2. SO Steward persevered with the lanky young man. Hearns started to get the hang of fighting. Steward realised Hearns fists were laced with dynamite and, after they turned professional, nurtured a destroyer. By August 2 1980, the young welterweight was ready to challenge WBA champion Pipino Cuevas.

3. “I NEVER saw a welterweight hit as hard as this kid,” said promoter Bob Arum after watching Hearns destroy Pedro Rojas. “One punch and Rojas was on queer street. Nobody is going to beat this kid. Nobody is going to stand up to him. He hits better than Ray Robinson did.”

4. STEWARD predicted that his charge would destroy the accomplished Cuevas: “Cuevas could be the toughest fight,” he speculated, “or a very easy fight. I think Cuevas could be kayoed in the first round, because Pipino is too easy to hit, and no one who can be hit that easy can stand up to Thomas Hearns.”

5. FORMER world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, preparing for an ill-fated comeback, also tipped Hearns to triumph. “It will be a great fight in every way, but Hearns will win by knockout or decision because my group is backing him. I don’t back a loser. Really, the only way a smaller man like Cuevas can win is if he holds a big advantage in punching power or hand speed. Although he has hand speed and punching power he doesn’t have an edge over Hearns.”

6. THE prophecies rang true. Hearns – who entered the bring to the ‘Rocky’ theme tune – was frightening as he battered Cuevas into defeat in just two rounds at the Riverside Joe Louis Arena in Detroit in front of 14,000 fans. The promoters hoped the 21,000-seater venue would be full, but there was high unemployment in Detroit following a slump in the car making industry.

7. BUT the noise from the crowd was thunderous, much like Hearns’ punching. Lefts and rights rained all over the 5ft 8ins Cuevas from the opening bell and he was distressed. Never before had he felt punches like that, delivered with accuracy and spite, from a 6ft 1in frame designed for destruction.

8. THE champion barely survived the opening round, and his admirable spirit in the second hastened his fall. He could not land anything without clattering headfirst into the accurate violence Hearns was launching in return. Cuevas staggered all over the ring under the pressure, drunkenly trying to remain upright, swaying untidily to the beat of the challenger’s punches.

9. A VICIOUS right hand ended matters. Cuevas collapsed and it was clear on impact the thrashing was complete. The dazed loser was helped to his stool by his team and he sat on his stool for several minutes while the fog slowly cleared. “Hearns is too tall and long to be a welterweight,” he said when his senses returned.

10. HEARNS would grow out of the division, not before losing a thriller to Sugar Ray Leonard, and win world titles all the way up to light-heavyweight, cementing his reputation as one of the greatest fighters of all-time along the way. And on this night against Cuevas, he proved he was one of the hardest hitters to ever grace the sport of boxing.