Premium History Issue

What to watch from boxing history this week

Barney Ross
Two major upsets feature in our latest selection of classics from boxing history, writes Paul Wheeler

5. CORNELIUS BOZA-EDWARDS w rtd 13 BOBBY CHACON
May 30, 1981; Showboat Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV
THOUGH not as thrilling as their rematch two years later – won by Chacon – the first meeting between these two exciting super-featherweights was still highly watchable. Southpaw Boza-Edwards was making his maiden defence of the WBC crown, while the wildly popular Chacon had previously been a WBC champion himself down at featherweight. The competitive contest featured entertaining exchanges throughout. Chacon enjoyed a particularly fruitful fourth round, during which he could not miss with overhand rights. However, Boza-Edwards came on strong in the latter sessions as his opponent began to tire. Jolting jabs from distance and hurtful hooks and uppercuts on the inside left Chacon with blood leaking from a wound by his left eye. With Chacon growing increasingly weary, the challenger’s team were forced to retire their brave but beleaguered man ahead of the 14th.

DID YOU KNOW? In a barnstorming fourth fight with Rafael Limon the following year, Chacon won the WBC super-feather strap at the third attempt.

WATCH OUT FOR: Chacon being told by his corner prior to the 13th that they are giving him one more round before pulling him out. They stayed true to their word.

4. FIGHTING HARADA w pts 15 EDER JOFRE
Jun 1, 1966; Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan
IN May of the previous year, former world flyweight champ Harada had become the first man to defeat Jofre when taking the bantamweight title from him on a razor-thin split decision. Just as in the first bout, the return clash was held in Harada’s homeland. Once again, the Hall-of-Fame duo were extremely well matched, with Harada’s ferocious, whirlwind attacks and Jofre’s classy skills and heavy punching making for an attractive blend of styles. The contest was fought at a blistering pace, which suited the younger local more so than his Brazilian challenger. For much of the fight, both boxers unleashed a torrent of blows near incessantly. Yet it was Harada who was able to maintain this blazing tempo the longest, as shown in the final frame when a bloodied Jofre found himself pushed back to the strands. A tight verdict went Harada’s way again, though this time it was unanimous.

DID YOU KNOW? Jofre retired after this loss, before returning just over three years later and going on to claim WBC featherweight honours.

WATCH OUT FOR: The extravagant trophy that is awarded to the winner following the matchup. The giant prize is nearly as big as Harada himself.

3. VINCE PHILLIPS w rsf 10 KOSTYA TSZYU
May 31, 1997; Trump Taj Mahal, Atlantic City, NJ
PHILLIPS pulled off a huge upset to wreck Tszyu’s unbeaten record and end his near-two-and-a-half-year reign as IBF super-lightweight king. The unfancied challenger connected with right hands and body shots all night long against Tszyu, who made the fatal mistake of not respecting his opponent’s power. The acclaimed champion got his tactics wrong, but his recklessness made for a stirring scrap. An overhand right sent Tszyu stumbling to the mat in round seven, before a nasty gash appeared under Phillips’ right eyebrow in the ninth. With Tszyu also bleeding from cuts by both eyes, a bloody close-range battle ensued. After yet another clean right hand buckled Tszyu’s knees in the 10th, a follow-up assault forced the referee to intervene, leading to joyous celebrations from Phillips, who had overcome drug addiction to reach this point. At the time of the finish, the fighters were level on the scorecards.

DID YOU KNOW? Tszyu, who went on to unify the WBC, WBA and IBF titles at 140lbs, did not lose for another eight years after this defeat.  
WATCH OUT FOR: Team Tszyu urging their man to “watch that right hand” and “keep your hands up” in the later rounds. He did not heed this advice.

2. ANDY RUIZ JNR w rsf 7 ANTHONY JOSHUA
Jun 1, 2019; Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
THIS fight was supposed to be a stateside showcase for the unbeaten Joshua, who was making his first appearance outside of the UK in what was his seventh straight world heavyweight title defence. The 2012 Olympic gold medallist and reigning WBA, IBF and WBO ruler boasted considerable advantages in height, reach and strength over Ruiz, who had come in as a substitute at around four weeks’ notice. Despite being a 12-1 underdog, Ruiz turned Joshua’s American dream into a nightmare in what was one of the biggest sporting upsets of all time. The third round was arguably the most dramatic in heavyweight history, with Ruiz rising from the canvas to drop Joshua twice. Two more knockdowns were scored by Ruiz in the seventh, leaving the exhausted, bloody-nosed champion unable to continue. Joshua, however, would not have to wait long to exact his revenge. He won his belts back in a rematch just six months later.

DID YOU KNOW? Ruiz did not box for the whole of 2017 because he was working in construction and real estate.

WATCH OUT FOR: Joshua fidgeting with his mouthguard and looking strangely out of sorts as he is introduced in the ring.

Anthony Joshua

1. BARNEY ROSS w pts 15 JIMMY McLARNIN
May 28, 1935; Polo Grounds, New York, NY
EXACTLY one year after their opening encounter, these Hall of Famers concluded their legendary trilogy with a rip-roaring rubber match. Ross dethroned welterweight titlist McLarnin via split decision in their first contest to become only the third man in history to win world titles in three separate weight divisions. The sequel saw McLarnin regain his championship, with the vote again being split. In the third and deciding bout – refereed by ex-heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey – the title switched hands once more, with Ross receiving a unanimous verdict at the end of a gruelling struggle. The aggressive challenger relentlessly rushed at McLarnin with furious flurries, but the defending champ refused to give up his belt without a fight. Perhaps aware that he was down on the scorecards, McLarnin went all out for a knockout in the closing round, yet Ross stood firm to triumph 2-1 in their sensational series.

DID YOU KNOW? Ross served in the US Marine Corps in World War II. He was awarded a Silver Star Medal for his bravery during the Guadalcanal campaign.

WATCH OUT FOR: McLarnin, ever the showman, performing a forward flip at the final bell to the delight of the crowd.

BOXING ON THE BOX
What else to watch this week

SKY SPORTS
Settle down and enjoy a whole day’s worth of Fight Night Classics this Saturday (May 30) on Sky Sports Action.

BOXNATION
At 1pm on Friday (May 29), an episode of BoxNation Presents looks back on a star-studded show at the London Arena in 1997 that featured four separate world title bouts. “Prince” Naseem Hamed, Steve Collins and Robin Reid are among those who were on the bill.

BT SPORT
From 11.30pm on Saturday (May 30), BT Sport 3 is showing three-and-a-half hours of Muhammad Ali fights, including Karl Mildenberger, Zora Folley, Ernie Terrell and Juergen Blin.

NETFLIX
The latest film in the unrivalled Rocky series, Creed II, sees the son of Apollo Creed take on the son of Ivan Drago.

AMAZON
Sons of Cuba is a feature-length documentary focusing on the young boxers of the Havana Boxing Academy – a renowned conveyor belt of talent.

FURTHER VIEWING
Henry Armstrong w pts 15 Barney Ross (1938); Lou Nova w rsf 11 Max Baer (1939); Carlos Monzon w pts 15 Emile Griffith (1973); Mike Tyson w rsf 6 Pinklon Thomas (1987); Terry Norris w ko 8 Donald Curry (1991).

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