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The best fights of the 2010s

Manny Pacquiao best fights
So far you have voted for Ali-Frazier, Hagler-Hearns, Chavez-Taylor and Ward-Gatti… But do you consider to be the best fights of the decade? By Matt Christie

The premise for Desert Island Fights is simple: You will soon be stranded on a desert island. To ease the boredom, you can take along one – and only one – fight from each of the last five decades (1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s) to watch while you’re there. Which five fights do you take?

THE first half of the decade was dominated by long and winding Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao saga, as they shamelessly flirted with each other, before eventually uniting in an event that was spectacular in its anticipation but disappointing in its deliverance. Both began to slowly fade following that showdown as Canelo Alvarez, via two controversial bouts with Gennady Golovkin, became the sports leading attraction.

In the UK, the sport enjoyed a fruitful decade as alphabet belts were won and lost in high profile encounters, Carl Froch and George Groves forged a rivalry of the ages and Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury edged to the front of a revitalised heavyweight division.

Out of all the decades, this one was the closest in regards the top three positions. From hundreds of total votes, only a handful separated the top three…

5. CARL FROCH w rsf 9 GEORGE GROVES (2013)

THIS bout might one day be seen as pivotal in British boxing history as it triggered a slew of bouts born from pantomime-style rivalries that crossed over into the mainstream thanks to the power of new and varied media platforms. But out of all the supposed ‘grudge matches’ that followed, this one stands tall as the best and, crucially, the most genuine.

Groves played a blinder in the build-up as he wormed his way into Froch’s psyche and refused to budge. And for much of their fight, as he decked and then outfought Froch, he was in supreme form, too. The infamous ending, when Howard Foster stepped in, was cruel on Groves but it spawned the lucrative record-breaking sequel won so clinically by “The Cobra”.

WATCH OUT FOR:
How astonishingly careless Froch is in the opening round which is surely a nod to the mind games Groves had been playing so masterfully beforehand. There are three hefty Groves right hands – one lands, two narrowly miss – that should have warned Froch before the fourth clatters into his chin and sends him down heavily.

DID YOU KNOW:
This was not a bout that was being clamoured for before it was signed. There was a lot of talk that Froch, after beating Mikkel Kessler in a May 2013 rematch, was close to agreeing a 2014 return with the only other man to have beaten him, Andre Ward, in a UK stadium. Groves slipped in to fill some time in Froch’s schedule and the rivalry was formed.

Carl Froch best fights

4. NAOYA INOUE w pts 12 NONITO DONAIRE (2019)

SAVAGE and enthralling, this toe-to-toe 12-rounder to decide supremacy in the bantamweight class became an immediate cult classic amongst the hardcore. Featuring two talented and loveable stars from the lower weight divisions, Inoue and Donaire managed to retain meritorious sportsmanship while pounding chunks out of each other. Inoue, the favourite, was the worthy winner but Donaire reminded everyone what made him so special in the first place.

WATCH OUT FOR:
The moment in the second round when Inoue, after a fast start, is clattered on his right eye by Donaire’s left hook. For the remainder of the round and into the third, Inoue is outfought. Then comes the fourth when, in an effort to stop the double vision from his left eye playing havoc with his aim, he covers up that optic with his glove to realign his sight. It does the trick.

DID YOU KNOW:
You’re bound to know this but worth another mention, anyway: Days after the bout Donaire and Inoue share a video phone call where they discuss the fight, their injuries and above all their respect for each other. Cue slushy messages between them on social media; they only made the fight that came before all the sweeter.

Naoya Inoue

3. ANTHONY JOSHUA w rsf 11 WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO (2017)

DON’T listen to the cool kids who now don’t rate this fight. As it unfolded on the night – Klitschko down, Joshua punches himself out, Joshua down, Klitschko in total control, Joshua catches his second wind, Joshua drops Klitschko twice more before almost punching himself out again – was the stuff that heavyweight fight fans’ dreams are made of. No, it wasn’t Ali-Frazier, but in 2017 – just when the division needed it – this delivered on nearly every level.

WATCH OUT FOR:
The fifth and sixth rounds. From the moment Joshua bludgeons Klitschko to the canvas and then unleashes crucial energy with a wildly premature celebration, he teeters closer and closer to defeat. Anyone who was present at Wembley Stadium will remember that moment when it became clear that Joshua was exhausted and Klitschko was suddenly very much in the ascendency.

DID YOU KNOW:
Negotiations – of sorts – began just hours after reports of Tyson Fury failing a drug test for nandrolone were first published in June 2016. Those stories came out days after Team Fury had postponed the scheduled July return with Klitschko to October due to an injury. Upon hearing the news, Eddie Hearn contacted Berndt Boente to enquire about arranging a Joshua-Klitschko showdown in the future.

Anthony Joshua

2. TIMOTHY BRADLEY w pts 12 RUSLAN PROVODNIKOV (2013)

I STILL remember hauling myself out of bed to watch this and then attempting to keep up with the action with bleary eyes while composing the Boxing News live blog. If it was a rude awakening for me, it was the mother of all shocks to the system for Bradley. The thunderous Provodnikov, a 6/1 underdog, pounded his opponent for the first six minutes; Bradley barely survived. Further plot twists ensued amid some breath-taking action. In the dying seconds, Bradley – arguably yet to truly recover from the assaults he took in the opening moments – went down. An unexpected classic.

WATCH OUT FOR:
Round six. It all starts off pleasantly enough with Bradley artfully peppering his man in close. Midway through, Bradley, growing in confidence, adds some power to his shots. They seem to awaken Provodnikov. With 40 seconds remaining, the Russian almost drops Bradley. What follows is an incredible exchange. If anyone has ever doubted the brutality of the sport – and the courage put forth by the fighters – they need only watch that final half-minute, while keeping in mind there was still six rounds to go.

DID YOU KNOW:
Four months after the bout, Bradley admitted he’d suffered from slurred speech for weeks after the bout. Dr Margaret Goodman said: “I think they [symptoms of concussion] happen more often than we imagine… I think it happens after four, eight, 10 or 12-round fights, it can happens after sparring. And people just don’t talk about it.”

Tim Bradley
Mikey Williams/Top Rank

1. JUAN MANUEL MARQUEZ w ko 6 MANNY PACQUIAO (2012)

AFTER three oft-exciting, inconclusive and contentiously scored 12-rounders, the rivalry between Marquez and Pacquiao was crying out for a definitive finish. It was the most thrilling contest of the lot – and arguably the fight of the decade – as both men went all out to end the series in style. Pacquaio went down in the third but looked back to his hellfire best in a stunning fifth as he dropped Marquez. But it would be the Mexican who would soon celebrate. The short right hand that caught his onrushing rival in the sixth deserves to take its place as one of the most destructive single punches in history. The sight of Pacquiao, with his face buried in the canvas, stunned and haunted everyone in attendance.

WATCH OUT FOR:
The end of the bout remains oddly hypnotic. Marquez, bloody and seemingly on the verge of defeat, at last times one of Pacquiao’s zig-zag attacks and boom, game over.

DID YOU KNOW:
Marquez didn’t fight again after 2014 but was consistently asked about a fifth Pacquiao bout. In 2016, he said: “I don’t want to make the mistake of wondering afterwards why I accepted that fight. This is not about money, it’s a matter of honour and pride for my country.”

Manny Pacquiao best fights

CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR
Other fights receiving votes

Canelo Alvarez w pts 12 Gennady Golovkin; Srisaket Sor Rungvisai w pts 12 Roman Gonzalez; Roman Gonzalez w pts 12 Juan Francisco Estrada; Shinsuke Yamanaka w rsf 7 Anselmo Moreno; Amir Khan w pts 12 Marcos Maidana; Carl Froch w ko 8 George Groves; Vasiliy Lomachenko w rsf 10 Jorge Linares; Carl Frampton w pts 12 Leo Santa Cruz; Ricky Burns w pts 12 Roman Martinez; Oleksandr Usyk w pts 12 Mairis Briedis; David Haye w rsf 5 Dereck Chisora; Juan Manuel Lopez w rsf 2 Daniel Ponce De Leon; Josh Taylor w pts 12 Regis Prograis; Francisco Vargas w rsf 9 Takashi Miura; Giovani Segura w ko 8 Ivan Calderon.

EDITOR’S CHOICE
My personal Top 5 for the 2010s:

5) Canelo Alvarez w pts 12 Gennady Golovkin
4) Deontay Wilder d pts 12 Tyson Fury
3) Andy Ruiz Jnr w rsf 7 Anthony Joshua
2) Ricky Burns w pts 12 Roman Martinez
1) ANTHONY JOSHUA w rsf 11 WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO
Okay, you got me, I’m a sucker for a dramatic heavyweight fight. I realise the division is not always the most talent-laden nor the producer of the most technically impressive fights but there’s nothing quite like the atmosphere at a world heavyweight title fight, particularly when genuine excitement ensues. While on a desert island, remembering those nights at ringside would do me the world of good.

THE HIPSTERS’ CHOICE
You know the type. They know more about boxing than you…

AKIRA YAEGASHI w rsf 10 PORNSAWAN PORPRAMOOK (2011)
No feeling out process, no slipping and moving, no desire to do anything bar take the other bloke’s head off. This astonishingly violent battle for the WBA strawweight title was never designed to go the distance so it’s a minor miracle it went as far as the 10th.

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