Eighty Fights From The 80’s (Part Two)

We know you’ve barely started sampling all the great battles we listed yesterday in Part One of this list, but we promised, and so we deliver: here’s the other half of the eighty epic fights from the 1980’s, one of the greatest decades in the long history of pugilism, with an all-star cast of greats: Duran, Chavez, Tyson, Hagler, Leonard, Hearns, plus a few lesser-known gems. All of the links either take you directly to a video of the fight, or to a post that has the video embedded. Enjoy!

Jose Ramirez vs Edwin Rosario II: A ton of action was packed into this seesaw San Juan scrap, a rematch of Rosario’s close decision the previous May. In his 93rd outing, Mexican veteran Ramirez utilised all his experience and grit to overcome two early knockdowns and pull off an improbable fourth-round TKO.

Rosario and Ramirez rumble.

Jung Koo Chang vs Katsuo Tokashiki: Jung Koo Chang’s fourth title defence against combative Japanese challenger Katsuo Tokashiki is one of the greatest ever light flyweight bouts. Teak-tough Tokashiki survived a devastating first-round knockdown and willed himself into the fight, but the champ was ultimately too strong, his final assault in the ninth devastating.

Ray Mancini vs Livingstone Bramble I: It didn’t matter how much swarming pressure Mancini put him under, Bramble just wouldn’t budge. A close contender for Fight Of The Year, this one was irresistible force meets immovable object, with ironman Bramble stopping an exhausted “Boom Boom” after fourteen rounds of continuous action.

Bramble and Mancini gave fans a brutal war.

Juan Meza vs Jaime Garza: Juan Meza’s roll-the-dice shootout with Jaime Garza was a super bantamweight classic. Boasting a combined 75 KOs coming in, the pair went straight to work, Garza dropping Meza with a big left hook inside the first minute. Then Meza surged back and cleaned the champ’s clock with the exact same punch near the bell. It was Ring magazine’s Round of the Year.

Azumah Nelson vs Wilfredo Gomez: Fans knew they were in for a treat when “The Professor” met “Bazooka.” With both having only ever lost thrilling wars to Salvador Sanchez, macho pride and honour were at stake. The bull-strong Ghanaian was the aggressor throughout, but crafty Gomez picked him off at times and was ahead going into the eleventh, at which point Nelson stormed to a brutal KO win. If only there’d been a rematch!

Nelson overwhelms “Bazooka.”

Tommy Cordova vs Freddie Roach: Neither Tommy Cordova nor Freddie Roach could ever be mistaken for stylists, but through twelve breathless rounds, the fringe contenders gave a rowdy Las Vegas audience their money’s worth. At times, the venturous pair threw hands simultaneously, resulting in a kind of collaborative death march with Cordova eventually awarded a split decision.

Tony Sibson vs Don Lee: This collision of middleweight contenders lit up Atlantic City’s Sands Casino Hotel. Lanky Lee sought to contain Sibson from range early, only to go down from a snap jab. Then he turned southpaw, from which he decked the Brit with a sweet hook-cum-uppercut in the third. The remainder unfolded excitingly, with both guys hurt on multiple occasions: seconds after scoring a knockdown, Sibson was poleaxed by a straight left in the eighth.

Lee Roy Murphy vs Chisanda Mutti: A truly legendary brawl. Murphy and Mutti rolled the dice in Monaco and gave all they had; no-one could have asked for more. But then came the unbelievable ending.

Marvelous Marvin Hagler vs Thomas Hearns: Memorably described as eight minutes of mayhem, 1985’s Fight of the Year saw two of the Fab Four wage war at Caesar’s. In a brutal three-round firefight, Hagler survived a right-hand grenade in the first to bulldoze his way to a career-defining victory over the gallant Hitman.

Hearns and Hagler gave us an unforgettable war.

Livingstone Bramble vs Ray Mancini II: Mancini was the same perpetual motion machine, but as in their first fight, Bramble made his punches count, exploiting openings and inflicting cuts. In short, he had his man’s number; “Boom Boom’s” face was a mask of red as early as the fifth, and after a closely-fought contest, Bramble claimed a well-earned decision.

Bobby Chacon vs Arturo Frias: Past his best and with a ton of miles on the clock, Bobby Chacon could still entertain a fight crowd. The touchpaper was lit early as a brawl ignited, both trading heavy leather in close and Chacon hitting the floor. The Californian then dug his heels in, weathered Frias’ relentless aggression, hurt him in the third and finished him in the seventh. A barnburner!

Barry McGuigan vs Eusebio Pedroza: In front of 26,000 full-throated fans, Barry McGuigan achieved his world title ambitions by pounding out a hard-fought fifteen round decision over the great Eusebio Pedroza. A tactical affair through the first six, McGuigan dropped the serene Panamanian in the seventh and hurt him several more times on the home straight.

In Sunshine or in Shadow
Pedroza and McGuigan battle in London.

Julio Cesar Chavez vs Juan LaPorte: Fight fans at Madison Square Garden saw Chavez tested like never before as LaPorte gave the Mexican one of his toughest fights, even shaking the iron-jawed champion on more than one occasion, and taking Chavez the twelve round limit.

Steve Cruz vs Barry McGuigan: Barry McGuigan fought to keep his title at all costs, but in the sweltering desert heat, “The Clones Cyclone” lost a soul-baring encounter with unfancied Texan Steve Cruz. Both men hit the floor as they pushed each other to the limit, with Cruz’s ferocious final round attack, including two knockdowns, overturning the champ’s points edge.

Cruz rocks McGuigan with a hard left.

Marvin Johnson vs Jean-Marie Emebe: Johnson was a three-time world champ at 175 pounds, but this proved to the be the first occasion he successfully defended as he stopped Emebe by TKO in round thirteen after a hectic and bruising battle.

Evander Holyfield vs Dwight Muhammad Qawi I: The best cruiserweight fight in history saw a 23-year-old Holyfield overcome “The Camden Buzzsaw” to capture his maiden world championship. Holyfield-Qawi I was a pulsating 15-rounder fought exclusively in the pressure cooker, with the challenger having to box and brawl against a stocky opponent who returned every crisp combination with interest. Together they threw over 2,300 punches, Holyfield eking out a split decision.

Marvelous Marvin Hagler vs John Mugabi: Fresh off the crushing win over Hearns, Hagler squared off with “The Beast” John Mugabi. It didn’t disappoint. Periods of punishing toe-to-toe warfare interspersed with smooth boxing from Hagler, who for once met someone as mean and strong as he was. After enduring plenty of the Ugandan’s firepower, Hagler showed more wrinkles to his game and chopped the challenger down to size in eleven.

“The Beast” and “Marvelous Marvin” gave fans a war.

Hector Camacho vs Edwin Rosario: The fight that changed “Macho” Camacho’s career forever. Defending his lightweight title at Madison Square Garden, Camacho found himself taking serious punishment for the first time in his career as the heavy-handed Rosario landed big shots in rounds five and eleven to make it a close fight. Camacho got the decision but lost something else: his heart.

Robbie Sims vs Roberto Duran: On the same Vegas show as McGuigan vs Cruz, the younger Sims and the veteran Duran put on a fascinating middleweight duel, a contest between Roberto’s ringsmarts and savvy and Robbie’s greater strength and activity. “Manos De Piedra” gave a valiant performance, but a brutal scorecard from one judge (Sims by five points!) and a questionable point deduction to Duran from referee Mills Lane sealed a split decision win for Sims.

Duran and Sims go head-to-head.

Fidel Bassa vs Dave McAuley I: Twice these flyweights locked-up, both times in Belfast, and they left no-one wanting for more in terms of action. In their first clash, Bassa prevailed by TKO in round thirteen.

Sugar Ray Leonard vs Marvelous Marvin Hagler: Marvelous Marvin vs Sugar Ray was more like a “what if?” fantasy fight, destined to be debated for generations. While the illustrious pair didn’t meet in their primes, the clash nonetheless delivered fireworks and a boatload of revenue, as matador Leonard’s flash and flair saw him emerge with a hotly-contested split decision win.

Leonard vs Hagler was an era-defining event.

Matthew Hilton vs Buster Drayton: Jim Lampley said it best during commentary: “You will seldom see a more spectacular demonstration of sheer courage and competitiveness on the part of two boxers.” Matthew Hilton’s gruelling victory over veteran Buster Drayton is how all world titles should be won, with maximum effort expended against a redoubtable foe who just keeps coming.

Marlon Starling vs Mark Breland I: Marlon Starling’s come-from-behind win over welterweight champ and Olympic gold medalist Mark Breland was memorable for all the right reasons. Two excellent fighters in their prime did battle that night, and despite boxing intelligently for eleven rounds, Breland was unable to stop Starling’s brutal final onslaught.

Thomas Hearns vs Juan Roldan: Juan Roldan had already proven his mettle vs Hagler, and he brought the heat to “The Motor City Cobra” when they met in 1987. But despite landing some big shots and having Hearns seriously hurt in the opener, the free-swinging brawler was felled multiple times before being taken out in round four. The victory made Hearns the first in boxing history to win four divisional world titles.

Hearns (right) battles Roldan for a truly historic title belt.

Kelvin Seabrooks vs Thierry Jacob: Opening with the Round of the Year, wherein Kelvin Seabrooks immediately put the challenger over with a right hand, only for Jacobs to twice return the favour, this contest had the familiar ebb and flow of all storied encounters. Seabrooks overcame yet another knockdown in the sixth, eventually triumphing after Jacobs was stopped on a cut after nine rounds.

Thomas Hearns vs Denis Andries: In the first fight above 160 pounds for Detroit’s “The Hitman,” Hearns secured his third divisional world title after a wild brawl that saw him floor Andries six times before the bout was finally stopped in round ten.

Vinny Pazienza vs Greg Haugen I: Haugen had a title belt while Pazienza had the funny nickname and a sizable fan following. Both had the gift of the gab and the pre-fight trash talk was definitely above average. Battling on national television in front of a sell-out crowd in Providence, Rhode Island, the home state of “The Pazmanian Devil,” mutual animosity translated into fifteen fast-paced rounds and a decision for Vinny that many thought should have gone the other way.

Pazienza (left) and Haugen duke it out in Providence.

Nigel Benn vs Anthony Logan: It only lasted two rounds, but this free-swinging brawl between middleweight prospects was electric. Benn bull-rushed his man to start, throwing bombs, but the Jamaican soon dropped him with a crisp right hander. In the all-out war that followed, Logan seemed seconds away from a KO victory before Benn flattened him with a thunderous left hook.

Simon Brown vs Tyrone Trice I: This scorcher escapes the retrospective attention of all but the staunchest fans. The frantic opener set the tone, each guy the mirror of the other as they hurled punches in the pocket. Brown was felled in the second after fielding twelve unanswered blows, but his spearing jab slowly surfaced as Trice’s wick burned out. A final hook in round fourteen had Trice out on his feet.

Iran Barkley vs Michael Olajide: The stakes were high in this one as both “The Blade” and “The Silk” were on the cusp of a title shot at 160 pounds, a fact reflected in the bout itself which was fast and furious, both men throwing and catching, with Olajide down in the second and Barkley on the deck in round four. But a prolonged defensive spell on Olajide’s part inspired referee Arthur Mercante Jr. to step in, rather hastily many thought, and award the bout to Barkley.

Iran Barkley

Tony Lopez vs Rocky Lockridge I: California was a hotbed of terrific fights in the 80s, and Rocky Lockridge’s third title defence against Tony Lopez is one of the best. Though the combatants were very well-matched, Lopez’s movement gave him a slight edge in a gripping bout. After being floored with a glancing right in the eighth, “The Tiger” triumphed by decision.

Daniel Zaragoza vs Seung Hoon Lee: Zaragoza ventured to South Korea to defend his super bantamweight title against the local hero and while the split draw was a bit of homestyle cooking, what really matters is that both men left it all in the ring in a non-stop, high intensity firefight.

Roberto Duran vs Iran Barkley: Almost two decades after dethroning Ken Buchanan for the lightweight title, 37-year-old Duran tamed middleweight champ Iran Barkley in a riveting 12-rounder, punctuating an inside-fighting masterclass with a knockdown in round 11. Barkley fought an excellent fight, but the smaller, older man simply would not be denied.

Barkley and Duran rumble.

Mike Tyson vs Frank Bruno: All expected another perfunctory Mike Tyson knockout, but instead Britain’s Bruno shook “Iron Mike” in the first round and then forced him into a fun heavyweight rumble before finally succumbing in round five.

Daniel Zaragoza vs Paul Banke I: Another great page from the Inglewood Forum scrapbook. In a battle of southpaws, champion Zaragoza struggled to discourage free-swinging Banke, despite throwing a ton of leather just to keep him honest. Banke heavily dropped Zaragoza in the ninth, only for the badly-bleeding Mexican to sweep the late rounds and earn a split decision.

Evander Holyfield vs Michael Dokes: Was Holyfield a pretend heavyweight or the division’s heir apparent? This action-packed gut check against ex-titlist Michael Dokes suggested the latter, though many reserved judgement. The Ring later called it the best heavyweight battle of the decade.

Holyfield and Dokes gave us a great heavyweight slugfest.

Jeff Harding vs Denis Andries I: As with many trilogies, Harding vs Andries I set a standard its sequels couldn’t surpass. Andries commenced his title defence in style, dominating centre-ring and meting out punishment. But a bloodied Harding absorbed the pressure as momentum gradually swung his way; the 11th was a barnstormer and Harding’s rousing final-round assault saw him snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Sugar Ray Leonard vs Thomas Hearns II: Eight years on from their first clash, Leonard and Hearns remained two of the best fighters in any division. And they delivered the goods in their rematch, each staggering the other and Hearns scoring two knockdowns before the judges contrived to call it a draw.

Hearns staggers Sugar Ray.

Azumah Nelson vs Jim McDonnell: Coming off a huge win over Barry McGuigan, McDonnell showed nothing but guts and fitness in his struggle against the more experienced and savvy Nelson and gave fans a terrific fight, but “The Professor” stopped him in the final round.

Michael Watson vs Nigel Benn: Probably the best all-British fight of the eighties and certainly one of the greatest ever. For six rounds “The Dark Destroyer” brought hell, fire and brimstone to tidy boxer Watson, flailing away as “The Force” tucked up, countered smartly and bided his time. Then knocked out his tormenter with a stiff jab. Genius.             — Ronnie McCluskey 

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7 thoughts on “Eighty Fights From The 80’s (Part Two)

  • May 13, 2020 at 4:14 pm

    Good list and summaries. Mike Rossman vs Luke Capuano is a great fight too.

  • July 17, 2020 at 8:55 pm

    Once again not a disappointing list, but I thought there was some missing:
    Mugabi vs. Green
    Sims vs. Barkley
    Pinklon Thomas vs. Weaver
    Carl Williams vs. Ferguson
    Kalule vs. Kalambay
    Tyson vs. Reggie Gross
    Mike McCallum vs. Julian Jackson
    Mike Weaver vs. Carl Williams
    Berbick vs. Thomas
    Greg Page vs. Mark Wills I

  • April 29, 2021 at 2:56 pm

    Take a bow guys. This list and the 90s one have given me hours of entertainment. Any chance of a 00s list? Even a 70s list (though they’d be harder to find on YouTube).

    • May 4, 2021 at 9:55 am

      Cheers, Alex. Hopefully get round to more of these lists, so watch this space.

      • May 5, 2021 at 7:28 am

        Appreciate the response Ronnie. Can’t wait!

  • August 5, 2023 at 8:00 am

    Love these lists.
    Sure, we can split hairs over some that could have been included or excluded but there’s a really nice balance between the bigger, well-known and established classics and ones that would have flown under most people’s radars.

  • December 4, 2023 at 8:26 am

    Laporte vs. Gomez
    Hagler vs. Roldan
    Mancini vs. Chacon
    Costello vs. Smith
    Limon vs. Bethelmy
    Chavez vs. Rojas
    Chavez vs Ramirez

    Might belong in this otherwise excellent list!


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