A couple years ago, when everyone was getting set for the long-awaited confrontation between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, we put together a list of the “biggest” welterweight fights, the matches at 147 which were most memorable and significant. With widespread anticipation that this Saturday night we may see a truly historic struggle for the top of the 160 pound mountain, we now present the 12 biggest, most exciting, and most legendary clashes in the history of the middleweight division. Here’s hoping Canelo vs Golovkin is so thrilling and remarkable that it finds itself in contention with these all-time great battles. Check it out:
12. Sept. 29, 2001: Bernard Hopkins TKO 12 Felix Trinidad. This highly anticipated unification match had been postponed due to the terror attacks of 9/11, so when it did take place 18 days later at Madison Square Garden it became an emotional event signalling New York’s determination to carry on. The heavy-handed Puerto Rican, who was coming off big wins over Fernando Vargas and William Joppy, was favoured to defeat the long-reigning “Executioner,” but it was Hopkins who controlled the match and then battered the younger man in the final minutes.
11. Jan. 14, 1891: Bob Fitzsimmons KO 13 Jack (The Nonpareil) Dempsey. A match of two great champions, though Dempsey was long past his best days. As a result it was a brutal changing-of-the-guard fight, with the powerful “Ruby” battering Dempsey so badly that spectators, and even Fitzsimmons himself, begged the proud champion to surrender. He refused and was beaten to a pulp before he finally took the count.
10. Sept. 13, 1950: Jake LaMotta KO15 Laurent Dauthuille. The man they called “The Bronx Bull” had in fact dropped a ten round decision to Dauthuille the year before in Montreal, but then four months later he defeated Marcel Cerdan for the world title. Now with the championship on the line Dauthuille was in command, racking up the points and amassing a huge lead in a tough, bruising battle. When the bell rang for round fifteen, Jake needed a knockout while Dauthuille just needed to survive. With time running out, LaMotta unloaded a fearsome barrage of big punches to topple the Frenchman who was counted out with just 13 seconds left on the clock.
9. May 1, 1957: Sugar Ray Robinson KO5 Gene Fullmer. Many thought the great Robinson was finished after he lost the world title to Fullmer by decision the previous January in a bruising battle that saw Ray actually knocked out of the ring by “The Utah Cyclone.” But instead of a farewell fight, it was another huge win for Sugar Ray, not to mention one of the greatest one-punch knockouts in ring history.
8. Aug. 19, 1926: Tiger Flowers W15 Harry Greb. Madison Square Garden was jammed for the third and final confrontation between “The Georgia Deacon” and “The Smoke City Wildcat.” After 15 hard-fought rounds the decision went to Flowers, and while the pro-Greb crowd didn’t like it one bit, most at ringside agreed with the verdict.
7. July 16, 1947: Rocky Graziano TKO 6 Tony Zale. Sadly, no official film was made of the blood and thunder brawl that took place in front of a huge crowd at Chicago Stadium, which set a new indoor-gate record, but the majority of lucky souls who witnessed the legendary trilogy between “The Man Of Steel” and “Rocky Bob” regarded their second slugfest as the most exciting and action-packed. Graziano overcame a terrible pounding in the early going, as well as a nasty cut and swellings around both eyes, to come roaring back and almost knock Zale out of the ring before the referee halted the brutal war.
6. April 6, 1987: Sugar Ray Leonard W12 Marvelous Marvin Hagler. It was the record-setting superfight that few at the time saw coming, with Leonard unexpectedly emerging from retirement to challenge the dominant and undisputed middleweight champion who had not lost a fight in 11 years. Many anticipated a crushing Hagler win, but instead the two veterans provided a highly competitive 12 round waltz and, in a huge upset, two of the three judges scored Leonard the winner.
5. Sept. 23, 1957: Carmen Basilio W15 Sugar Ray Robinson. Almost 40 000 crowded into New York’s Yankee Stadium to see welterweight world champ Basilio challenge middleweight champ Sugar Ray, the fight also broadcast to 170 closed-circuit theatres. The historic match-up more than lived up to the anticipation with Sugar Ray and “The Onion Farmer” staging a magnificent, back-and-forth war that saw Basilio take a close decision after 15 brutal rounds.
4. Feb. 14, 1951: Sugar Ray Robinson TKO13 Jake LaMotta. The legendary “St. Valentine’s Massacre” was the sixth and final chapter in the great rivalry between Robinson and “The Bronx Bull,” the match attracting a big crowd to Chicago Stadium and a huge audience on home television. Fast-paced and competitive through the first 11 rounds, after that it turned into a one-sided battering. The two-fisted pounding LaMotta endured in rounds 12 and 13 was nothing short of brutal before the referee finally stopped it and Robinson won the world middleweight title for the first time.
3. July 2, 1925: Harry Greb W15 Mickey Walker. It was 15 furious rounds between two of the very best to ever lace ’em up, both in their primes. And while it was a battle between the middleweight and welterweight champions, Walker gave away only seven pounds, not a troubling difference considering that five months before “The Toy Bulldog” had defeated light heavyweight Mike McTigue. Some fifty thousand were on-hand to witness what was, by all reports, a truly great fight, the match becoming more intense and fast-paced as the rounds went by. The deadly close struggle and a unanimous decision was sealed in round 14 when Greb battered Walker and almost put him down.
2. Sept. 12, 1951: Sugar Ray Robinson TKO 10 Randy Turpin. When Turpin of England had defeated Robinson for the world title in front of a hometown crowd the previous July, it was one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. A massive throng sold-out the Polo Grounds in New York City to see if Sugar Ray could regain the title and a dramatic battle saw Turpin gain the upper hand and open a deep gash over Robinson’s left eye. Knowing the cut was severe enough to force a stoppage, Sugar Ray attacked, knocking Turpin down and then pounding him mercilessly until the referee stopped the match with just seconds remaining in round ten.
1. April 15, 1985: Marvelous Marvin Hagler TKO3 Thomas Hearns. One of the greatest and biggest superfights in the legendary “Four Kings” series, Hagler vs Hearns became a truly huge event after Sugar Ray Leonard retired and then both men notched wins over Roberto Duran. Marvelous Marvin Hagler was the middleweight king; Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns held a version of the 154 title. Together they were, arguably, pound-for-pound, the two best active fighters in the world. A sell-out crowd at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, and millions on closed-circuit television, witnessed one of the most thrilling brawls in boxing history with both warriors stunned in a hellacious opening round, perhaps the greatest since Dempsey vs Firpo, before a cut Hagler rallied to batter The Motor City Cobra into helplessness in round three.