5. MUHAMMAD ALI w rsf 11 RON LYLE
May 16, 1975; Convention Center, Las Vegas, NV
IN his second defence since winning the WBA and WBC heavyweight titles from George Foreman, Ali faced off against Lyle, who had been granted his shot despite coming off a loss to Jimmy Young. In the first six rounds, the champion did little in an attacking sense. He attempted to employ the rope-a-dope tactics he had used so effectively against Foreman, but to no avail. From the seventh onwards, Ali began to enjoy success by countering Lyle’s jab with right hands over the top. The challenger was made to miss more frequently in the later sessions, though he did get through with a few shots. In the 11th, a crashing right caused Lyle to stagger back into the ropes, where Ali followed up with a sustained two-fisted assault to force the referee’s intervention. At the time of the finish, Lyle was ahead on two scorecards and level on the other.
DID YOU KNOW? On the undercard, Larry Holmes improved his record to 14-0 in an eight-rounder.
WATCH OUT FOR: Lyle openly discussing his seven-and-a-half years in prison, including his near-fatal stabbing, in a pre-recorded interview with Howard Cosell.
4. WILFREDO GOMEZ w pts 15 ROCKY LOCKRIDGE
May 19, 1985; Coliseo Roberto Clemente, San Juan, Puerto Rico
CONTROVERSY reigned as Gomez was awarded a disputed majority decision in front of his Puerto Rican countrymen to take the WBA super-featherweight championship from Lockridge. The American had won the title in stunning fashion against Roger Mayweather the previous year, while Gomez went into the fight off the back of a knockout loss to Azumah Nelson down at featherweight. For much of the contest, Lockridge looked to be in command. In the 10th round, commentator Ferdie Pacheco declared, “Gomez has no legs left. None whatsoever.” However, the local favourite showed tremendous heart to raise his game in the final third of the bout, albeit without seeming to have done enough to win. Nevertheless, the judges thought otherwise, with Gomez receiving the verdict and becoming a three-weight world champion.
DID YOU KNOW? This turned out to be the final major victory of Gomez’s career, as he fought on just three further occasions.
WATCH OUT FOR: The irate post-fight reaction of Lockridge’s manager, Lou Duva. Speaking after the result has been announced, he barks, “He didn’t lose this goddam fight!”
3. ROCKY MARCIANO w rsf 9 DON COCKELL
May 16, 1955; Kezar Stadium, San Francisco, CA
AFTER winning British and European light-heavyweight titles, plus British and Commonwealth belts at heavyweight, Cockell travelled to the USA to compete for world honours before a crowd of 18,000. In the opposite corner was Marciano, who was putting his heavyweight crown on the line for the fifth and penultimate time. What followed was a brutal one-sided beating, during which Marciano demonstrated his incredible conditioning and relentless aggression, while Cockell displayed an iron chin and astonishing bravery. The challenger was knocked head-first through the ropes at the end of a punishing round eight, prior to being decked twice in the ninth. A barrage of heavy hooks floored him first, with a bludgeoning right leading to the second knockdown. A final pair of clubbing blows led the referee to step in at last.
DID YOU KNOW? It was alleged that promoter Jimmy Murray short-changed both fighters and paid Marciano’s manager, Al Weill, a $10,000 ‘side payment’.
WATCH OUT FOR: The scarcely believable level of punishment that the courageous Cockell soaks up in the eighth.
2. GUS LESNEVICH w rsf 10 FREDDIE MILLS
May 14, 1946; Harringay Arena, Harringay
LESNEVICH’S first fight in Europe saw the American defend his world light-heavyweight title against British and Commonwealth king Mills. The bout looked like it was going to be a short one when the challenger took four separate counts in the second round. Amazingly, Mills was able to survive the session and mount a stirring comeback from the third frame onwards. By the sixth, Lesnevich was sporting a badly swollen left eye, which was accompanied by a heavily bleeding nose in the ninth as Mills continued to attack. The tables turned once more in the 10th, and this time definitively. A double-handed salvo drove Mills down by the ropes, before a powerful right dropped him again. After the same strike led to another knockdown, the referee waved the contest off, with Lesnevich pulling through in an exciting, see-saw encounter.
DID YOU KNOW? In their July 1948 rematch, Mills triumphed on points to take Lesnevich’s title at the second attempt.
WATCH OUT FOR: The voice-over on the broadcast revealing that the cost of a ringside seat at the event was 20 guineas (£21).
1. MICKY WARD w pts 10 ARTURO GATTI
May 18, 2002; Mohegan Sun Casino, Uncasville, CT
THE first instalment of one of the most celebrated trilogies in boxing history saw Ward pip Gatti to a majority decision in an unforgettable super-lightweight battle between two lion-hearted, all-action warriors. Vicious combinations were exchanged throughout, with the advantage constantly switching from one man to the other. Gatti lost a point in round four following a low blow that prompted Ward to drop to all fours. A legitimate knockdown occurred in the ninth – a round that is regarded as one of the best ever. After being struck by a trademark Ward left hook to the body early on in the session, Gatti grimaced in pain and sunk to one knee. He barely made it to his feet yet somehow mustered the energy to trade punches as the delirious crowd roared their approval. Ward ultimately took the verdict, but the fans were the true winners.
DID YOU KNOW? Gatti, who beat Ward in fights two and three, went on to become a two-division world titlist and Hall of Famer.
WATCH OUT FOR: Emanuel Steward being unable to contain his sheer excitement while commentating on the breathtaking ninth round.
BOXING ON THE BOX
What else to watch this week
Updates are provided on the likes of Josh Warrington and Conor Benn on The Boxing Show, which is televised at 2pm this Friday (May 15) on Sky Sports Main Event.
At 1pm on Saturday (May 16), the boxing-dedicated channel is showing the 2017 clash between Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao and Aussie underdog Jeff Horn. If you are a fan of upsets then this is one for you.
On the BT Sport Boxing YouTube channel, you can view a full-fight replay of the 2014 grudge match between Billy Joe Saunders and Chris Eubank Jnr.
Julio Cesar Chavez features in episode one of docuseries FightWorld, with the Mexican legend explaining his country’s rich boxing heritage.
The Good Son: The Life of Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini examines the fallout from the titular boxer’s tragic bout with Duk Koo Kim in 1982.