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What to watch from boxing history this week

Muhammad Ali boxing history
Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao – star names galore as Paul Wheeler selects five fights from boxing history that are worth revisiting this week

5. MUHAMMAD ALI w pts 15 JIMMY YOUNG
April 30, 1976; Capitol Center, Landover, MD

WATCHING Ali in this fight, you would not think you were watching the greatest heavyweight in history … not by a long shot. Weighing in at what was then a career-heaviest 230lbs, the defending undisputed champion was sluggish and out of shape, while Young was fit and motivated.

In the first round, Ali threw just five punches and landed none, while Young threw 74 and landed 18. Calling the action from ringside, Howard Cosell remarked: “Ali is doing no fighting at all. None whatsoever.” Incredibly, two of the three judges scored the round even.

Although Ali increased his output as the contest progressed, the joyous celebrations from Team Young at the final bell did not seem out of place. The punch stats certainly suggested that a new champ was set to be crowned. However, it was Ali who was awarded a hotly contested unanimous decision.

DID YOU KNOW? Ali entered the ring to significant fanfare, but after the bout, the crowd’s response to him was much colder. They loudly jeered the verdict.

WATCH OUT FOR: Ken Norton providing colour commentary from round 12 onwards. His desperation for Ali to win and preserve their lucrative future rubber match is obvious in his tone.

4. ORLANDO CANIZALES w rsf 8 BILLY HARDY
May 4, 1991; Civic Center Arena, Laredo, TX

FIGHTING in his hometown of Sunderland, Hardy had pushed Canizales extremely hard the previous year, losing to the IBF bantamweight boss on a close split decision. In their rematch, it was Canizales’ turn to have home advantage at an outdoor venue in a blisteringly hot Texas, where the temperature was nearly 38°C at ringside.

Although Hardy gave Canizales all he could handle in their initial clash, the red-headed Mackem was never able to make his mark in the return bout. After suffering a cut by his left eye in the second round, the brave challenger was sent tumbling over by a left hook in the following frame.

With his educated aggression and fast fists, Canizales turned up the heat in the eighth. The skilled boxer-puncher connected with a right hand accompanied by a lashing left that caused Hardy to fall flat on his back. The fight was immediately halted.

DID YOU KNOW? This was Canizales’ sixth successful defence of his IBF title. He would go on to make a further 10, including one No Contest.

WATCH OUT FOR: The brilliant Ian Darke performing play-by-play duties alongside legendary boxing scribe Colin Hart for the Eurosport broadcast. They both know their stuff.

3. MANNY PACQUIAO w ko 2 RICKY HATTON
May 2, 2009; MGM Grand, Las Vegas, NV

IN the build-up to his bout with Pacquiao, there was speculation that all was not well between Hatton and his trainer, Floyd Mayweather Snr. These disconcerting rumours foreshadowed what was to be a dark night for the British fan favourite.

At the opening bell, Hatton came out looking to apply pressure and unsettle his illustrious rival, though his determination to attack left him dangerously open to Pacquiao’s whirlwind counters. Twice Hatton was floored in the opener – first by a right hook, then by a left hand at the end of a flurry.

In round two, Hatton continued to stubbornly press but was caught clean by a devastating left that deposited him onto the canvas and out of the fight. Lead HBO commentator Jim Lampley described the blow as “the most spectacular one-punch shot of Manny Pacquiao’s incredible career.”

DID YOU KNOW? With the win, Pacquiao claimed Hatton’s lightly regarded IBO super-lightweight title. He had never fought for an IBO belt before this, nor has he competed for one since.

WATCH OUT FOR: The soothsaying Emanuel Steward, working as an analyst for HBO, highlighting Hatton’s lack of head movement. Just seconds later, Pacquiao scores the decisive, contest-concluding punch.

Manny Pacquiao

2. SUGAR RAY ROBINSON w ko 5 GENE FULLMER
May 1, 1957; Chicago Stadium, Chicago, IL

AFTER losing his world middleweight crown to Fullmer on points four months previously, Robinson was attempting to regain the title and reign for a fourth time in the division. Heading into the rematch, the rugged, pressure-fighting champion, who at 25 was 10 years younger than Robinson, was the favourite with the bookmakers.

Having been decked by Fullmer in their first fight, the stylish Robinson was content to maintain his distance in the return bout, rather than getting overly involved in close. Whenever Fullmer tried to let his hands go on the inside, Robinson tied him up. After four rounds, all three of the judges had Fullmer ahead by one point.

The end, when it arrived in the fifth, came out of nowhere. Fullmer missed with a right to the body and Robinson countered with a glorious left hook that put him down for the count.

DID YOU KNOW? The Hall of Famers met twice more after this. The third contest was drawn, while Fullmer won the fourth via decision.

WATCH OUT FOR: The finishing shot from Robinson that has come to be known as “the perfect punch”. Before this, no fighter had ever been able to stop or KO Fullmer.

1. FLOYD MAYWEATHER w pts 12 MIGUEL COTTO
May 5, 2012; MGM Grand, Las Vegas, NV

IT was not often that Mayweather ever looked like he had actually been in a fight after one of his contests. Following his clash with Cotto, you could clearly tell that he had. Although the quality Puerto Rican did not make much of a dent in Mayweather on the scorecards, he gave him one of his physically toughest matchups and left the defensive genius with a bloodied nose.

Defending his WBA super-welterweight title, Cotto was game and relentless throughout. He constantly came forward, launching solid backhands behind a purposeful jab. Yet ultimately, Mayweather’s superior speed and accuracy led him to a deserved victory in a competitive and highly watchable encounter. Mayweather, whose guaranteed purse totalled $32 million, put on a show in the closing round as he broke through his opponent’s guard with jabs, hooks and uppercuts. Unyielding until the end, the proud Cotto swallowed everything that came his way and battled valiantly up to the final bell.

DID YOU KNOW? Mayweather scaled 151lbs for this bout – the heaviest of his entire career.

WATCH OUT FOR: All-time greats and former foes Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns, seated together at ringside, chewing the fat before the fight.

FURTHER VIEWING
Floyd Patterson w ko 11 Brian London (1959); Lennox Lewis w rsf 8 Phil Jackson (1994); Floyd Mayweather w pts 12 Oscar De La Hoya (2007); Floyd Mayweather w pts 12 Manny Pacquiao (2015).

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