Top Ten Fights and Knockouts Since the Turn of the Century
By Joseph Herron: This list was surprisingly difficult to make. I had forgotten how many truly great fights we’ve seen over the past eleven years. I felt bad leaving out fights such as Freitas/Barrios, Taylor/Pavlik I, Pavlik/Miranda, Vasquez/Marquez I & II, Klitschko/Lewis, Taylor/Wright, Calzaghe/Kessler, Sithchatchawal/ Monshipour, Pacquiao/JMM I & II, Ward/ Augustus, Adamek/Briggs I & II, Johnson/Tarver I, Taylor/Froch, Pascal/Diaconu and De La Hoya/ Vargas. Oh well, I guess this opening serves as an “honorable mention”. The variables I used to separate the fights that made the list, were the amount of action, skill level, significance in the sport, and impact on the fighters’ careers. Btw, Margarito/Cotto would have made my honorable mention but didn’t for the obvious reasons. (I guess this would be my dishonorable mention) Anyway, here you go…enjoy!!
Article posted on 28.01.2011
1. Corrales/Castillo I, May 2005
Because Floyd Mayweather had moved up to Jr Welterweight, a tournament between the four best lightweight fighters would decide who the king of the Lightweight Division would be.. Little did we know that the victor would not only capture the Ring title, but the imagination of the entire boxing world. Corrales defeated Freitas by knockout in the 10th round, and would eventually face the only man to arguably give Pretty Boy Floyd his only loss to date. (Before you Floyd fans send me a ton of hate mail, I said arguably.) There is a reason why I bring up the Corrales/Freitas fight when discussing Corrales/Castillo I. During the Freitas bout, “Popo” would indirectly teach Diego how to steal a hard earned victory from “El Temible”. Freitas occasionally would spit out his mouthpiece when faced with adversity in a tough fight to keep from getting seriously hurt. This questionable tactic would buy Corrales some much needed time to recover from multiple knockdowns and pull off the improbable TKO victory over Jose Luis Castillo in the tenth round. Before this amazing fight, both combatants stated that they were prepared to “walk through fire” for the WBO, WBC, and Ring Lightweight titles. For our entertainment, that’s precisely what they did. Toe to toe action from start to finish and the dramatic and unimaginable 10th round finale. Wow…what a finish. It doesn’t get any better than this in the “theater of the unexpected” we like to call prizefighting. Corrales/Castillo I, to many boxing fans, is considered to be the greatest fight in the modern era of boxing. This bout received “fight of the year” honors from The Ring in 2005. Sadly, Diego Corrales never won another fight after this historic match-up, and tragically died in an unexpected motorcycle accident in 2007. Rest in Peace, Chico!!
2. Morales/Barrera I, Feb 2000
Two of the greatest fighters of their era came together on February 19th, 2000, to begin one of the great boxing trilogies in the history of the sport. The first match-up at 122 lbs was by far the most violent and entertaining scrap of the boxing trilogy. It was a unification bout for the WBC and WBO Super Bantamweight titles. Before this fight, both Mexican fighters were only known by boxing die-hards. After the dust had settled, both men were considered by all to be superstars and would begin a new era of “little man” boxing. Before this bout, no one in the press really paid very much attention to any weight class below 130 lbs. This historic and memorable fight would change the future of boxing forever. What a way to start the new Millennium. This bout received “fight of the year” honors from The Ring in 2000.
3. Gatti/ Ward I, May 2002
What made this fight so unbelievable was that there were no belts on the line, no heated verbal exchanges, and no animosity of any kind between the two fighters. Yet, the two combatants went toe to toe as if their lives depended on it. It was one of the most amazing displays of heart and courage you will ever see in boxing throughout your lifetime, and round 9 is arguably the “round of the millennium”. The action is absolutely breath taking. Both men were in the twilight of their careers, and most boxing scribes felt that the two fighters had failed to live up to their true potential. Flawed and vulnerable, these fighters made mediocrity look beautiful. It’s hard to believe that the “Thunder” is no longer with us. God bless you, Gatti!! Boxing could use another blood and guts warrior right now. This bout received “fight of the year” honors from The Ring in 2002.
4. Toney/Jirov, April 2003
James Toney, since losing consecutive bouts to Roy Jones and Montell Griffin, had fallen into obscurity and hadn’t fought a bout of any significance since 1995. Because of the risk/reward factor, “Lights Out” became an avoided fighter and couldn’t land a decent fight. In 2003, he became the number one contender for Cruiserweight Champion, Vassiliy Jirov’s IBF title. James had no idea the impact this bout would have on his career. Jirov, at the time, was an undefeated champion with a 31-0 record, and was considered by many to be a stylistic nightmare for Toney. Many in the media also considered this fight to be James Toney’s final attempt at greatness. No one considered this bout to be a potential “fight of the year” candidate. But it was. The action and skill level of this fight was amazing. Both combatants gave it everything they had and fought as if there were literally no tomorrow. Jirov was the relentless aggressor and Toney was the slick counterpuncher. Ebb and flow, back and forth action; It was a true war of attrition, and in the end, Toney’s arm was raised as the victor. But, the real winners were the fans who had just witnessed one the greatest fights of the decade. With the win, Toney had earned a big fight with Evander Holyfield, but Vassiliy Jirov’s career was never the same. Unfortunately, the fight with Toney took everything out of “the tiger”, who hasn’t fought a significant bout since 2004. The only reason why this fight did not receive “fight of the year” honors by The Ring, was because the Gatti/Ward trilogy had concluded that same year.
5. Vasquez/Marquez III, March 2008
This match-up was a guaranteed winner from the start. Every boxing scribe knew that the Vasquez/Marquez fights would easily become “fight of the year” front runners from the point of conception. The real questions were, who would be the victor of the fights and what impact would these fights have on each fighter’s career? The first two fights ended with split results as each fighter earned a knockout victory. A “rubber” match was deemed necessary by, not only fight scribes, but the general boxing public. This third fight for the WBC Super Bantamweight title was easily the best fight of the four fight series. The action between both men was incredible, but Israel Vasquez’s performance in the 12th round was awe inspiring. In dramatic fashion, Israel Vasquez needed not only to win the final round, but at least one knockdown to win a split decision. He did both and successfully retained his title. After the fight, both men had solidified their status in the sport as Mexican legends, but also became damaged fighters who will more than likely be forced to retire as a result of the four brutal fights. This bout received “fight of the year” honors from The Ring in 2008.
6. Diaz/JMM I, Feb 2009
This breathtaking bout was, in my opinion, the greatest accomplishment of JMM’s career. Both fighters were regarded as the best 135lb fighters in the world, and their performances reflected that sentiment. This was only JMM’s second fight as a lightweight, who had just come from a TKO victory over former 2 division champ, Joel Casamayor. Juan Diaz was considered the favorite, who was a natural lightweight and was a very effective aggressor. Most boxing scribes felt that JMM could not fight at the torrid pace in which “the Baby Bull” was accustomed. Most were wrong. Not only did JMM keep up, he shocked the world by knocking out the “Baby Bull” in 9 rounds. With this great performance, JMM earned a big money fight with Floyd Mayweather. Unfortunately, Juan Diaz has struggled since the devastating loss. Although he fought valiantly and wasn’t trailing on the scorecards at the time of the stoppage, he has never been the same since being brutally knocked out. This bout received “fight of the year” honors from The Ring in 2009.
7. Gatti/Ward III, June 2003
The “rubber” match of this trilogy was more of the same with slightly different drama. Before the fight, Irish Mickey Ward had announced that the 3rd fight with Gatti would be his last. Ward gave one of his strongest efforts, but it just wasn’t enough to overcome the intestinal fortitude of Arturo Gatti. In an amazing display of mental and physical toughness, “Thunder” Gatti had broken his right hand during fourth round action. When asked by trainer Buddy McGirt if he wanted to continue, Gatti responded with a resounding yes and defeated Irish Mick as a “one-handed” fighter; forever cementing his legacy as the true “Blood and Guts Warrior” of boxing. This bout received “fight of the year” honors from The Ring in 2003
8. Morales/Barrera III, November 2004
The first bout between the two Mexican champions was, God bless them, a violent slugfest. The second fight was much more of a tactical match-up. Most boxing writers weren’t sure which strategy either fighter would employ, but everyone was in agreement that this was a “can’t miss” fight. Barrera dominated the first half of the fight with brilliant combination punching. It initially seemed as if Barrera had “El Terrible’s” number for the third fight. But like a true warrior, Erik Morales came storming back in the last half of the bout and forced a draw on one of the judge’s scorecards. After all of the animosity and punches were exchanged, before and after the fight, it was “the Baby-faced Assassin” who was proclaimed the victor in a very close majority decision. Great fight!! This bout received “fight of the year” honors from The Ring in 2004.
9. Liakhovich/Brewster , July 2007
This fight was, without a doubt, the best heavyweight bout over the past 11years. It was a fight for Brewster’s WBO Heavyweight title and was a vicious scrap. Both men were throwing serious bombs and giving each other a severe beating. It was not only violent, but skillful…everything you wish to see in a prizefight. Although both men got hurt during the fight, there were no real knockdowns throughout the match. The “White Wolf” took a knee in the seventh round to avoid receiving more punishment at the hands of relentless Lamon Brewster, but shockingly no one was floored. Both fighters displayed incredible heart, toughness, and granite chins. Even though both men handed out a beating, Sergei Liakhovich was deemed the victor on all of the judge’s scorecards. Tremendous fight and one of my all-time favorites!! In my opinion, this fight should have beaten out Vasquez/Marquez II for The Ring “fight of the year” in 2007.
10. Dorin/Spadafora, May 2003
Most boxing die-hards who remember this tremendous fight agree that this was one of the most gruesome fights they have ever seen. The amount of blood was ridiculous; I thought I was watching WWE. It was a Lightweight unification bout and both men were undefeated. Leo Dorin, the puncher, was 21-0 and Paul Spadafora, the boxer, was 36-0. This fight was a perfect combination of beauty and brutality. A “perfect storm” which ended with an imperfect result; the judges scored this fight a draw. If there were a rematch, a draw wouldn’t have been a bad thing. But, unfortunately a rematch never took place due to the fact that Paul Spadafora was found guilty of the attempted murder of his fiancé, Nadine Russo. He shot her in the midsection while she was pregnant. Spaddy stayed in jail until 2006. He attempted a comeback, but was thrown back in the stoney lonesome for parole violation in 2007…Nice!! Leo Dorin fought two more fights and retired in 2004. Dorin/Spadafora was recognized as a “fight of the year” candidate for the year 2003.
Not much you can say about this next list except, “Wow, did you see that!!” Seriously, here is my personal list of the best one punch knockouts over the past 11 years. It’s amazing what an effect the knockouts had on the recipients’ careers, as well as the entire sport of boxing.
1. Tarver/Jones II, May 2004
A real shock to most boxing fans; this KO created a huge ripple effect throughout the entire boxing world. Several of my friends had to take a brief hiatus from watching the sport. It was devastating to a lot of boxing die-hards. If I remember correctly, it was extremely quiet on the boxing forums the next day. In the immortal words of Antonio Tarver, “Got any excuses tonight, Roy?”
2. Lewis/Rahman I, April 2001
It’s amazing what can happen when you don’t take another fighter seriously. Instead of training, Lennox was filming “Ocean’s Eleven” with Wladimir Klitschko, while Hasim was working his tail off; training for a Championship fight in South Africa. Most felt the end result was just. The HBO crew was making jokes at Lennox’s expense at the end of the HBO broadcast. That’s not nice.
3. Martinez/Williams, November 2010
I know some people who are still trying to get over this one…mentally and financially. This one rocked boxing. Folks, I have been telling people for years that it was only a matter of time before “Maravilla” was recognized as a top 10 P4P fighter. Now do you believe me? I would love to see a “leftovers” match between Pavlik and Williams, wouldn’t you?
4. Pacquiao/Hatton, May 2009
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t see this one coming. I knew Pac would win, but not this way. It’s a shame how far Hatton has fallen since this fight, isn’t it? The legend of Manny Pacquiao had officially begun with one left hook to Hatton’s jaw. Talk of being the greatest fighter of all time quickly ensued. Can you really blame Floyd for not wanting to fight Manny after his Dad had a ringside seat for this one?
5. Donaire/Darchinyan, July 2007
Wow!! Someone finally had the guts to stand up to the “Raging Bull”. This was one of the best stories I had ever heard in boxing. Vic breaks Glenn, Nonito’s brother, Donaire’s jaw, and forces little bro to submit via TKO. His brother not only avenges his loss, but does so by devastating, one-punch knockout. Does it get any better than that in boxing? …like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.
6. Lewis/Rahman II, November 2001
Revenge…how sweet it is. That was probably the hardest punch I think I’ve ever seen in boxing. Jim Lampley described that punch as “thudding power”. That shot could have probably knocked out secretariat.
7. Johnson/Jones, September 2004
Say it ain’t so, Roy!! I think we all knew that Roy would never be superman ever again after this. I was afraid for Roy’s health after this one.
8. Klitschko/Brock, November 2006
Calvin was truly hit with a “steel hammer” with this shot. Calvin had to retire shortly after his fight with Eddie Chambers due to a very serious injury. Our prayers are with you Calvin. God Bless you!!
9. Green/Codrington, November 2005
What happened to this version of Allan Green? It still is one of the best knockouts I’ve ever seen.
10. Peter/Williams, December 2004
I seriously thought Jeremy Williams was dead after that shot. Who Next?
This Friday we get to see how Cristobal Arreola is progressing on Friday Night Fights on ESPN 2. He faces off against Joey “Minnesota Ice” Abell. The 47th ranked fighter has never fought anyone at this level, but out of 27 wins the Minnesota native has 26 knockouts. I just hope, for Chris’s fans, that Arreola’s hands are not still giving him problems. Rumors are that his hands haven’t been the same since the Adamek fight. We’ll just have to tune in on Friday night to find out.
On Saturday, January 29th, the long awaited match-up between Tim Bradley and Devon Alexander finally takes place. I have to say I am genuinely excited for this one. When asked who I thought would be crowned the victor of this fight, I would tell colleagues, “I honestly don’t know.” Well, I have finally removed my imprint from the fence. Sometimes fights are decided by the variables that usually aren’t taken into consideration by most ringside observers. In my opinion, this will be one of those fights. There is a surreal and mature calmness about Devon Alexander that tells me he will defeat Timothy Bradley. There is also something in Bradley’s eyes that tells me “Desert Storm” recognizes this. He knows this is Devon’s time…like it or not…this time belongs to the younger fighter. Don’t worry about styles with this one…this fight will be measured by the immeasurable.
Alexander will win by technical knockout in the mid to late rounds to become the Ring Jr Welterweight Champion.
The Reader Mailbox
“I read your article on the Jackson curse.....Very interesting. It
triggered a memory of an interview with Mike Tyson (which I can't find
anywhere now) - But I remember Tyson mentioning that he was in his
little room waiting to fight Douglas listening to MJ on his boom box.
He said he wore out the batteries while in Japan. That much I recall
clearly. So yes - I do buy the curse. Like the Fight Night series
curse, the Madden curse...oh, you ever hear of some curse of the
Mahara? If you haven't it's quite alright ...Just don't say "Come to
me Great Mahara" three times in front of a mirror while holding a
candle ... just kidding.
Anyway - I was wondering if you could do an extended article on the cheating.
Name the names of the judges that changed the Hopkins scorecard and
research those guys.
Find out what Danny Green was drinking just before round 4 in his
Flores fight. Nobody is saying anything about this is
clearly cheating and perhaps even assault with a deadly weapon.
For fun you should Find out why Chad Dawson is quieter than Pootie
Tang. Who does he hang out with? Is he a good guy or a thug? Dawson's suspense is killing me.
By the way - I predict David Lemieux is P4P #1 by the end of 2011.”
- Gary in the Bronx
Thanks for writing, Gary.
The Mahara curse, eh? You guys don't have anything on us Catholics...I'm half Hispanic also...that means I'm supposed to suffer and learn to enjoy it!
Just kidding. Seriously, I think it's a great idea to do an expose' of the judging in boxing...Bad officiating has become a rampant problem in all sports. That's why I love the Heavyweights...you don't see the Klitschkos getting bad decisions. The Brothers K only use two judges for their fights: the left and the right fist.
I have no comment yet on your Danny Green theory, but I'll definitely do some digging. Thanks for the conspiracy theory…always like a challenge.
Bad Chad is a little too timid for a boxer, isn't he? That's alright, he just hired Manny Steward to do his trash talking for him. I actually think that Joe Goosen might be a better fit for Dawson. Goosen is famous for giving boxers, who are set in their ways, new wrinkles to their fight games. Look what he did for Chico Corrales’ career. Btw, Chad is a really good guy and only plays the role of fighter on TV. He's a quietly content family man. He doesn’t use women as sparring partners, like a certain loudmouth fighter who is infatuated with money and 0 losses.(refute this one, Floydians) This would probably explain why he doesn't fight like other boxers with a mean streak. During his fights, he seems to have trouble putting his foot on the gas and putting his opponents on their seats. I hope and truly believe that Manny can make him a more aggressive, complete fighter...he's already pretty darn good!!
Also, Lemieux is a certified “badass”. It's only a matter of time before the rest of the world is in on the secret. He has pop in both gloves and wants to put his opponents out as quickly as possible. What's not to like, right? Btw, he does need to be careful fighting Rubio in April though. It’s obvious why his handlers chose Rubio, but the rugged Mexican still has skills and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
I'm glad you enjoyed the "MJ curse" story...the evidence is pretty convincing and has made me a believer. I defy any fighter to try and disprove this theory. It is for real...and no, you can't fight a bum with over 20 losses to lift the curse. You might just pay an even heavier price…Lol.
As always, send your thoughts, questions, and comments to email@example.com . Hope to hear from you!!
More Next Week…
previous article: UK Boxing: Matthew Hatton; Stephen Foster; Denton Vassell
next article: Mexico City Guerreros Climb Above .500 with 3-2 Win Over Memphis Force