5. Tony Zale w ko 3 Rocky Graziano
June 10, 1948; Ruppert Stadium, Newark, NJ
IT’S become somewhat fashionable to champion the trilogy between Tony Zale and Rocky Graziano as the most savage rivalry in history. The only problem with that is we’re basing our opinions today on second hand information from the past; this third fight between the two is the only video record of the ferocity Zale and Graziano shared. Their first two bouts (Zale won the first in six before Graziano reversed that result) were regarded as far superior contests at the time, but the rubber match is definitely worthy of inspection. Zale – who predicted a third round KO beforehand – started fast and decked Graziano early only for the middleweight king to rise and return fire in a violent second round. The end came in the third, just as the “Man of Steel” prophesised, when he dropped Rocky twice more, the last time for the full count.
DID YOU KNOW? Graziano, still glassy-eyed, was so concussed in the aftermath he failed to recognise his old acquaintance, Dr Vincent Nardiello.
WATCH OUT FOR: Zale somehow standing up to Graziano’s thunderous right hand in the second round.
4. Lennox Lewis w ko 8 Mike Tyson
June 8, 2002; The Pyramid, Memphis, TN
THIS heavyweight superfight was so eagerly anticipated it was always destined to fall short of expectation. Both Jimmy Lennon Jnr and Michael Buffer share announcer duties and, amusingly, let rip during their respective roles in a bid to outshine the other. Buffer, it must be said, won that battle. Once the fighting began there was only one winner there, too. The first round was exciting but by the second it was clear that “Iron” Mike, though brave, was long past his best. Emanuel Steward implored Lewis to finish the job at the end of the fourth – “Get this mother f**ker out of there!” – but the heavyweight champion, ever his own man, waited until the eighth to apply the finishing touches to his own masterpiece. Anyone clamouring for a Mike Tyson comeback should watch this while keeping in mind it was 18 long years ago.
DID YOU KNOW? Referee Eddie Cotton, weighing 265lbs, was chosen because of his brute strength.
WATCH OUT FOR: Larry Merchant and George Foreman bickering about Lewis being deducted a point in round four following what appeared a legitimate knockdown.
3. Barry McGuigan w pts 15 Eusebio Pedroza
June 8, 1985; Loftus Road, London
YOUTUBE is full of highlights for those with attention disorders but it’s a far more educational experience to watch a broadcast in full. The effortlessly suave Des Lynam, alongside former world middleweight champion Alan Minter, introduced this BBC show. Subsequent monster crowds have unfairly overshadowed the sheer size of this event; approximately 19m watched live on television (which puts the 1.5m who paid for Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko into context) while 27,000 fans crammed into Loftus Road for this world featherweight title fight. Anyone reading this will already know what happened – the brilliant Barry McGuigan, in the performance of his distinguished career, ended the long reign of Eusebio Pedroza over 15 rounds – but it’s well worth watching in its entirety.
DID YOU KNOW? A week before the fight, McGuigan, the owner of a fine left hook, pulled a ligament in his left arm.
WATCH OUT FOR: The pandemonium as Barry tried to make his way to the ring. The Rocky theme had long since finished by the time he managed to get there.
2. Ricky Hatton w rtd 11 Kostya Tszyu
Jun 4, 2005; Manchester Arena, Manchester
IF you haven’t yet discovered the excellent BBC podcast, Greatest Fights, with Mike Costello and Steve Bunce then now’s your chance. The premise is simple: Watch the fight on YouTube while listening to the pod which, in a recent episode, features Ricky Hatton reliving the action as you’re viewing it. Hatton’s achievement in beating Tszyu has been downplayed by some cynics but should not be. In defeating the brilliant IBF 140lbs champion, the “Hitman” scored one of his country’s greatest ever victories. It may not have been a thriller in the conventional sense but the manner in which Hatton slowly broke down the old master (unbeaten in eight years and very close to the top of the pound-for-pound lists) birthed a new British superstar in a memorable night in Manchester.
DID YOU KNOW? Tszyu fired his long-time trainer Johnny Lewis in the aftermath because he held him responsible for the decision to not come out for the 12th.
WATCH OUT FOR: Was it really a low blow in the seventh that put Hatton down? The violent retort from Hatton two rounds later certainly appeared to be.
1. Larry Holmes w pts 15 Ken Norton
June 9, 1978; Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, NV
THE last great fight of Ken Norton’s career and the first of Holmes’ produced arguably the finest crossroads collision of all time. This classic is a glorious advertisement for 15-round fights and it can be broken down into three clear chapters: Holmes, sprightly and exhibiting that legendary jab, boxes and counters beautifully to take the first five; Norton – progressing behind that cross-armed defence – bosses the middle third; then they take it in turns to win rounds 11 to 14. With their bodies succumbing to exhaustion, pure violence takes over. Gone was the need – and energy – to defend or avoid punches, as it all came down to who could land the most in the final three minutes. Norton was never the same again and it’s testament to the greatness of Holmes that he fought at the top level, on and off, for another 24 years.
DID YOU KNOW? While tucking into a steak at the Catskills mountains, his training base for the fight, Holmes told reporters, “I don’t like Norton at all. He wears so much jewellery he’s like a walking pawn shop.”
WATCH OUT FOR: Those final three minutes. Have paracetamol at the ready.
BOXING ON THE BOX
What else to watch this week
Sign-up to the completely free KOTV website and head for the KOTV Extra section. There you’ll find long edits of the fights featured in the weekly show and amateur footage from the vested careers of fighters like Carl Froch, Carl Frampton and top professional trainer, Shane McGuigan.
Loads of stuff to enjoy here, though it does come at a cost. However, the fight footage is crisp, clear and unbroken – enjoy the Vinny Pazienza-Hector Camacho-Greg Haugen merry-go-round and some sterling ESPN documentaries.
Sky have launched a new documentary channel and it features Ali &Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes, which centres around Muhammad Ali’s appearances on the Dick Cavett Show and wonderfully illustrate “The Greatest’s” playful side.
Before Russell Crowe donned some Roman armoury and caused ladies all over the world to swoon, there was another Gladiator and it starred Cuba Gooding Jnr in a 1992 boxing movie.
Hatton’s Last Stand is a 45-minute documentary that follows Ricky Hatton as he prepares for his final fight against Vyacheslav Senchenko.