5. LARRY HOLMES w pts 15 TREVOR BERBICK April 11, 1981; Caesars Palace, Las Vegas
You can find the entire HBO broadcast on YouTube and it’s the pre-fight content that will really appeal to boxing anoraks. Holmes, completely unaware he would fight on for another 21 years, is believable when he explains why he plans to retire in 1982 to focus on his riches and family. “I’m already a multi-millionaire, I live clean and I will go out of this sport clean,” he reasons.
We see Larry with his wife and daughter, and he’s also asked some tough questions about dispensing with his manager, Richie Giachetti. “Let me tell you that Richie quit,” Larry snaps in an early nod to his fierce sense of self-worth.
The fight – watched at ringside by Joe Louis the day before he passed away – is entertaining enough. Holmes was widely expected to stop Berbick but the robust challenger lasted 15 and halted Larry’s march to what would have been a division-record of nine consecutive KO wins in world title fights.
Did you know? Even Las Vegas didn’t fancy Berbick’s chances. The only bet most bookmakers offered was whether Holmes would win inside seven or if it would go longer.
Watch out for: Holmes’ jab was arguably the best in history. Also worth checking out footage of the pair’s slapstick street brawl that occurred 10 years later as Holmes, dressed in a shell suit, leaps on to a car to take a flying leap at his old rival.
4. FLOYD MAYWEATHER JNR w pts 12 ZAB JUDAH April 8, 2006; Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas
This fight is remembered for two things: The ‘knockdown’ in the second round when Judah – who bossed the early going – caught Mayweather with a right hook that caused his glove to brush the canvas. That incident was missed by referee Richard Steele but nobody failed to see the chaos that occurred in round 10.
A blatant low blow from Judah, by then growing frustrated with his opponent’s superiority, plunged into Mayweather. Floyd’s trainer, uncle Roger, jumped into the ring where he was soon joined by Zab’s trainer, father Yoel, and punches were exchanged. It took five minutes to clear the ring.
In one of his tougher fights – and one always used in the propaganda that Mayweather struggled with southpaws – Floyd ultimately cruised to a fairly lopsided unanimous decision victory.
Did you know? Despite losing his preceding bout in an upset to Carlos Baldomir, Judah retained recognition as the IBF’s champion because the Argentinian refused to pay the sanctioning fees.
Watch out for: That moment in the second round when Mayweather touched the canvas. Should it have been ruled a knockdown?
3. OSCAR DE LA HOYA w pts 12 PERNELL WHITAKER April 12, 1997; Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas
Though past his best, the sublime skills of Whitaker were yet to meet their match despite two highly controversial decisions (a loss to Jose Luis Ramirez in 1988 and a draw with Julio Cesar Chavez in 1993) blotting his copybook.
De La Hoya was the other side of his peak and, as the fighter on the rise, was installed as a 3/1 favourite to take Whitaker’s WBC welterweight title.
The contest was typical Whitaker fare: defensively brilliant, he was effective in shutting out his opponent’s strengths but the narrative that “Sweet Pea” was robbed is untrue. It was a desperately close fight where each man made their case for victory. What isn’t up for debate, though, is that the cards in Oscar’s favour (116-110 twice and 115-111) didn’t tell the right story.
Did you know? Whitaker gave away seven years, four inches in height and reach, but on the same-day weigh-in he came in at 157lbs, seven more than his opponent. The official weights of both was 146 1/2lbs.
Watch out for: The flash knockdown suffered by De La Hoya in the ninth, and Larry Merchant’s displeasure at Whitaker losing a point for an accidental head clash in the third.
2. JEFF FENECH w pts 12 MARCOS VILLASANA April 8, 1989; National Tennis Centre, Mebourne
The Australian commentary team’s love for Jeff Fenech is clear during the ring-walks as they nearly blow a gasket while welcoming their hero to the ring. The WBC featherweight champion, only 24, seemed to have a long career ahead of him but he would later admit that around this time, his career was already unravelling as a consequence of being a national icon so young.
In a 2016 conversation with Boxing News, Fenech said of his partying and womanising ways: “I wish I could have stayed a little more humble, I could have stayed more grounded, but fame and fortune doesn’t let that happen. I could get away with anything I wanted.”
He controlled this highly-entertaining bout with the robust Mexican Villasana but he would break both of his hands in the process. “My hands were always like balloons after a fight,” Fenech would later say.
Did you know? Fenech would regularly spar light-heavyweight countryman Jeff Harding and former 175lbs champion Matthew Saad Muhammad at this time. He blamed that hard sparring for later wrecking his punch resistance.
Watch out for: Even with broken hands, Fenech in full flow is a mightily impressive sight.
1. MARVIN HAGLER w rsf 3 THOMAS HEARNS April 15, 1985; Caesars Palace, Las Vegas
When you’re tasked with ranking fights from this particular week in history, there can only one choice for the top spot. Ferocious, thrilling and impossible to turn away from, this blazing humdinger – at less than eight minutes long – stands up to multiple viewings.
Type ‘Marvin’ into the YouTube search engine and after a series of Marvin Gaye tracks, there it is near the top: Marvin Hagler vs Thomas Hearns. You’ll find a HD version without too much trouble and if ever a fight deserved high-def, it’s this one.
Hearns promised his jab would be the key to victory. But Hagler’s tactics – “I have one thing on my mind and that is to destroy him” – left Hearns with no choice but to slug it out. It resulted in one of the most amazing fights in history, and surely the greatest ever opening round.
Did you know? Such was the clamour to see the bout live, arenas all over the world – like the 15,000-seater Boston Garden – sold out of tickets for closed-circuit viewings.
Watch out for: The moment they go eyeball to eyeball before the first bell. It will still give you chills.
Further viewing: Evander Holyfield w rsf 8 Carlos DeLeon (1988); Oliver McCall w pts 12 Larry Holmes (1995); Mike McCallum w ko 11 Michael Watson (1990); Julian Jackson w rsf 5 Ron Collins (1992)