BOB FITZSIMMONS W KO 14 James J Corbett
March 17, 1897
Carson City, Nevada
CORBETT laughed off the idea of fighting Fitzsimmons after it was put to him. ‘Gentleman Jim’ had little regard for his boxing or manners and thought there would no interest in a match against the middleweight champion.
Fitzsimmons, who left Cornwall when he was three years old for New Zealand (so, admittedly, calling him a Brit abroad is a stretch), was considered too small to give him any trouble.
As it turned out, the public did want to see the fight and a crowd of around 6,000 headed to Carson City to see if the 157lbs Fitzsimmons could dethrone a champion who weighed in 26lbs heavier.
The crowd included several Cornish miners based in nearby Virginia City and Fitzsimmons’ wife, Rose. The story goes, Rose implored her husband to “hit him in the slats,” meaning stomach, to turn the fight his way.
Dropped for ‘nine’ in the sixth, Fitzsimmons also had his nose bloodied and bottom lip cut before Corbett started to slow – and in the 14th round, Fitzsimmons did as he was told.
He turned southpaw to drive all the breath out of the champion with a left to his stomach.
The former champion didn’t take defeat well and had to be pulled away from Fitzsimmons as he shaped to throw a punch at him.
JOE ERSKINE W DQ 5 George Chuvalo
October 2, 1961
CHUVALO said it was “preposterous” that Muhammad Ali should call him a dirty fighter. He fought dirty against Erskine.
The plan was for Chuvalo to dispose of the Welshman and move on to challenge Floyd Patterson for the championship.
Erskine looked the ideal opponent, a small non-puncher who had been stopped in two of his previous four by Henry Cooper.
In total, Cooper beat Erskine in four of their five fights, but always said ‘Jolting Joe’ would have challenged for world honours had he been equipped with more size and a bigger punch, views echoed by Angelo Dundee in his autobiography, I Only Talk Winning.
Though still respected as a craftsman, Erskine was thought to be on the slide by the time he faced Chuvalo.
The fight didn’t go as expected. Chuvalo was slung out in the fifth for repeatedly butting Erskine, explaining afterwards: “He walked right onto my head.”
Perhaps Chuvalo was getting frustrated. The consensus among the Canadian press afterwards was that the fight was in the balance after four rounds, Erskine winning the third and fourth.
Afterwards, Erskine’s manager rejected talk of another fight with Cooper and declared they wanted to fight Sonny Liston instead. Alas, in his next fight, Erskine was stopped in nine rounds by Cooper.
DICK RICHARDSON w KO 1 Karl Mildenberger
February 24, 1962
THE expectation of the 16,000 crowd was that Richardson would go the same way as Mildenberger’s previous 19 opponents.
That run – including nine knockouts – took the German southpaw to a European title challenge.
Richardson was known to German fans having twice beaten Hans Kalbfell in European title fights and it took Newport’s answer to Rocky Marciano only two minutes and 35 seconds to beat Mildenberger. The bout was scheduled for 15 rounds.
The punch that started it all was a right to the cheekbone. It robbed Mildenberger of his senses and left him defenceless.
Richardson seized his chance, pounding him to defeat for the best win of his career. It was reported at the time that Mildenberger, still more than five years away from giving a peak Muhammad Ali plenty to think about before being stopped in the 12th, did not regain consciousness for two minutes. While he was still on the canvas, Richardson was announced as the winner.
The victory garnered a mention in the May 1962 edition of US publication, Boxing & Wrestling Illustrated, who moved Richardson up their world rankings to a lofty 13th.
But his flirtation with the best in the division didn’t last when, four months later, former world champion, Ingemar Johannson, knocked out Richardson in eight rounds.
MICHAEL BENTT W RSF 1 Tommy Morrison
October 29, 1993
LEGEND has it that Las Vegas bookmakers didn’t bother offering odds on this fight. There was only one possible outcome. Morrison would blow away Bentt and go on to fight Lennox Lewis.
It didn’t turn out that way.
Bentt, born in East Dulwich and a Peckham resident until he moved to New York with his family aged five, thought his pro career had been over after three minutes.
That was how long it took Jerry Jones to beat him on his debut, sending the former world class amateur into retirement and depression.
Confidence restored by a sparring session with Gary Mason after Mickey Duff rang him out of the blue, Bentt won his next 10, giving him just enough credibility with the WBO to warrant a certain beating at the hands of Morrison.
He was soon buzzed and on the ropes. Morrison went for the finish and around a dozen punches later, Bentt was still on his feet. Morrison took a deep breath as he reloaded – and Bentt started hitting him back. The punches came out fast and kept finding the target. Morrison was down three times and it was all over in 93 seconds.
LENNOX LEWIS W KO 8 Mike Tyson
June 8, 2002
LEWIS and Tyson went way back. When they were teenagers, Lewis headed to the Catskills in New York for sparring. As was his way, Tyson befriended Lewis and then viciously set about him after the bell rang. Lewis was on the receiving end for a round and then got his own back.
Talk of them fighting each other started in 1996 and when they finally fought, Tyson had been left damaged by James ‘Buster’ Douglas, Evander Holyfield and the rigours of time.
Lewis was favourite when the bout was at last confirmed but plenty gave the ageing Tyson a chance.
Lewis had been beaten by complacency before – Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman were the beneficiaries before being wiped out in rematches – but he wisely took Tyson seriously.
Tyson went to the press conference with a troubled mind. He had split from both his wife and his trainer, Tommy Brooks, and California police were investigating another claim of rape.
Tyson erupted and bit Lewis during an ugly ruck, leaving Emanuel Steward, the champion’s trainer, to say: “For the betterment of boxing it’s probably best the fight doesn’t take place.”
Lewis was desperate to fight Tyson, however. “If I had never fought him,” he later said. “They would have said Tyson would have beaten you.”
We will never know who would have won had they met in their primes, but, fighting 22 days before his 36th birthday, Tyson found Lewis too fresh, big and skilled and that his feet and fists simply couldn’t carry out the instructions they were being sent any more.
For round after round, Lewis – the older man by nine months – punished him before knocking him out.
DANNY WILLIAMS W KO 4 Mike Tyson
July 30, 2004
THOUGH Tyson would beat Frank Bruno twice and marmalize Julius Francis before the loss to Lewis, it would be Danny Williams who punctuated his rivalries with British boxers. At 38, Tyson was more than a decade removed from his prime and he’d been out of the ring for 17 difficult months since stopping Clifford Etienne in 49 seconds.
But for three minutes, possibly six, Tyson – who earned $8m but would only keep $2m due to spiralling debts – was still dangerous at a certain level.
Williams, beaten by Michael Sprott for the British and Commonwealth titles six months earlier, knew that if he could get through the opening two rounds, he had a chance.
The bout was on pay-per-view in America, costing $44.95, and the Freedom Hall was packed with 17,273 fans. If Tyson fever was fading, it was still proving hard to shake. And briefly, it looked like Mike was going to roll back the years.
Rocked and hurt in the first, Williams was told by coach Jim McDonnell before the second that the worst was over.
There were more tough moments for Williams, but he stood up to Tyson, cut him, hit him low, pushed him back and, after landing what was reported as 25 unanswered punches in round four, knocked him out.
DAVID HAYE W PTS 12 Nikolai Valuev
November 7, 2009
AT 7ft tall and more than 22 stone, Valuev was bigger than any other heavyweight belt-holder in history. He was tough as well having never been floored or particularly shaken in 52 previous fights.
None of which seemed to bother Haye, at least not publicly. He dismissed the danger he faced with the easy-going flippancy of a street tough hanging around the basketball courts with his mates.
Valuev was, he said, “A scary, hairy dude” and “too ugly, way too hairy, to rule the world.”
Haye’s mother, Jane, rang him to tell him off and he protested it was all part of selling the fight. Not that it needed much selling.
The uneducated wondered how anyone could concede nine inches in height and seven stones in height and still beat them.
With speed. The advice from coach Adam Booth was “sting and be gone,” perhaps drawing inspiration from how close an ageing Evander Holyfield had got to outscoring Valuev the previous year. Haye did that well enough to win a deserved majority points decision.
But it was far from a thriller. Neither boxer really landed a great deal with the lone highlight coming in the final minute of the 12th round, when Haye confirmed his victory with a swift combination that had Valuev tottering in the most unbecoming way.
TYSON FURY W PTS 12 Wladimir Klitschko
November 28, 2015
THE question wasn’t who would win, but how long would Fury last?
Boxing News, though tipping Fury to hear the final bell, wrote in the preview: “Try as we might, it’s hard to visualise any kind of victory for Fury.”
Tyson himself excitedly reeled off several such scenarios when brought face to face with Klitschko by broadcasters Sky Sports. He reckoned Klitschko – the senior fighter by 13 years at 39 – was “old” and “slow.”
The champion looked at him curiously, narrowed his eyes and said, in the manner of a father addressing his son, “I think this has come too soon for you.”
Fury wasn’t the reckless gunslinger of his early career having reinvented himself with his uncle Peter and Team Fury struck an early blow for the challenger, insisting that layers of padding were removed from under the ring.
Fury went on to glide around the canvas, putting his hands behind his back, toying with the champion who had not lost a fight for more than 10 years.
Fury, according to CompuBox, took only 52 punches throughout the 12 rounds and won unanimously on the cards. It remains one of the most unexpected and best victories by a British fighter – in any weight class – on foreign soil.
TYSON FURY W RSF 7 Deontay Wilder
February 22, 2020
Las Vegas, Nevada
THE consensus was Fury, after boxing beautifully and carefully for large parts, beat Wilder in their first fight in December 2018.
Broadcasters BT Sport and Showtime both had him ahead by four points after 12 rounds, Boxing News by two, but the judges came up with a split draw and Fury had a rethink before the rematch.
He swapped trainer Ben Davison for SugarHill Steward, explaining that he wanted a knockout, and a coach taught the ways of the Kronk gym by his uncle Emanuel – when alive, one of Fury’s biggest admirers – would help him deliver it. Barely anyone believed he could take the fight to a puncher like Wilder and win.
Fury had only scored one knockdown in his previous eight fights, but at a colossal 19st 7lbs, he was able to knock Wilder back with jabs from the opening moments. In front of the eyes of a packed MGM Grand, Fury was doing exactly what he’d threatened to do.
Fury had Wilder looking hurt and disorganised late in the second and dropped him in the next.
Up at four, Wilder looked beaten, but punched with Fury in an exciting fourth before Fury took over.
He dropped Wilder again in the fifth and it was waved off in the seventh after Fury had driven the bewildered WBC belt-holder into a neutral corner and found gaps in his defences with some heavy punches.