10. Jim Braddock vs Max Baer
“A Cinderella Story”
James Braddock rose in the boxing rankings in the late 1920s but Braddock’s career declined after becoming a light heavyweight contender, winning only 9 out of 30 bouts but he somehow got a few unlikely wins receiving his nick name The Cinderella Man and a shot against Heavyweight Champion Max Baer, fight which took place in Madison Square Garden Bowl, New York, on June 13th, 1935.
“As an exhibition of good boxing, the match lacked intrinsic excitement,” was written in Time. “But the crowd was on its toes right up to the final bell on the chance that Baer might somehow suddenly land the dread blow which would cut down the striving underdog.”
Max Baer, known for his punching power killed an opponent earlier in his career and was worried that he might do the same to Braddock. “I’m scared stiff I’ll kill Braddock,” he told the reporters. “I dreamed last night I hurt the boy. I woke up in a cold sweat.”
Cinderella Man Movie
Braddock was a 10 to 1 underdog and Baer didn’t take him seriously. Though the hard working Braddock could do little damage to Baer and won round after round until the champion realized that he is losing and he needed a knock out to win but it was too little too late. Jim Braddock was declared the winner becoming the heavyweight champion of the world, a champion with the biggest career turnaround in boxing which was portrayer in the 2005 movie Cinderella Man, Russell Crowe being the main character.
After his win over Max Baer, he fought a series of fights and two years after he lost his title to Joe Louis who was 23 years old at the time via a knock out in the 8th round, but despite the loss he received enough money to no longer worry about his finances.
He retired after his victory over Tommy Farr and went to serve in the army during World War II.
9. Antonio Tarver vs Roy Jones Jr. II
“More Than Personal”
Roy Jones and Antonio Tarver were part of a wonderful action packed boxing trilogy, full of blood sweat and tears and full of surprizes.
On November 8th, 2003 the two fighters met for the first time in the ring for a professional boxing match that was billed “Now it’s personal” that had on the line the WBC, IBO, The Ring and the vacant WBA light heavyweight championship. Two judges had the fight scored 117-111 and 116-112, but one judge had it scored even at 114-114. The crowd booed after the decision was announced, shouting bullshit.
The Ring light heavyweight titles
Tarver vs Jones Jr. part 2 came after a tightly contested fight in which Jones Jr. got a controversial win over Tarver. The second fight took place on May 15th, 2004.
Many within the boxing community expected the margin of victory to be wider this time, Roy Jones being amongst them. But things didn’t go as the champ expected they would and in the second round Jones was hit by a one-punch knockout. Jones Jr. lost the WBC, WBA (Super), IBO, IBA and The Ring light heavyweight titles. The career of Roy Jones, a man considered even today one of the world’s greatest pound for pound boxers, would never recover.
On the 1st of October, 2005 the fighters met a 3rd time and unlike the previous two fights, only the IBO, NBA and The Ring light heavywieght championship belts. This fight was billed No excuses, title that came from a remark made by Antonio Tarver at Roy Jones Jr. , when the second fight started Antonio Tarver stated “You got any excuses tonight, Roy?”
Tarver was the aggressor for the entire fight stalking Roy Jones all over the ring leaving him with few options. Ultimately, Antonio Tarver outpunched landing 107 out of 341 power punches, Jones Jr. had a higher percentage of 36% success rate, but landed only 74 out of 207 power punches. All judges scored the fight in favour of Tarver with two scores of 116-112 and one of 117-111, declaring him the winner.
8. Sugar Ray Leonard vs Marvelous Marvin Hagler
I have never need a huge fan of Sugar Ray Leonard but there is no denying that he was very smart both inside and outside of the ring. He knew that fighting Marvin Hagler in 1984 would be a mismatch for him, but in 1987 Marvin Hagler was a fighter in decline and Sugar Ray Leonard saw that and took advantage.
Sugar Ray Leonard dominated the negotiations too, he got to pick the ring size, type of gloves, the amount of rounds but Marvin Hagler got 1 million dollars more than his opponent.
But where Sugar Ray was really brilliant was in the night of the fight. His original plan was to trade punches with Hagler but that changed during training camp where things did not go as planned in sparring, new plan being to stay away from Hagler and only hit him in the last fifteen seconds of every round.
In preparation for this fight Sugar Ray Leonard engaged not in sparring but in full scale fights behind closed doors in his training camp, 12 rounds with a referee and light gloves so he can withstand the power of Hagler.
Miraculously, Sugar Ray Leonard won the fight. The judge who scored it 118-110 for Leonard is mocked to this day, but the other two were split evenly, second judge scored it 113-115 for Hagler and the third 115-113 for Leonard.
Hagler started celebrating prematurely and was upset with the judge’s decision and never fought again and went to live in Italy, saying: “He fights like a girl. His punches don’t count.” But the judges disagreed.
It was another brains versus brawns matchup, I personally scored the fight 115-114 for what it’s worth but I am no professional judge.
Sugar Ray Leonard retired after he got knocked out by Hector Camacho in 1997.
7. Hasim Rahman vs Lennox Lewis I
“Thunder in Africa”
Lennox Lewis went in to the fight as the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, having defeated major opponents in a two-year period of heavyweight domination. Hasim Rahman on the other hand was barely known. Lewis compromised his built up, filming Ocean’s Eleven and came to South Africa too late for his training camp and couldn’t properly acclimate to the different conditions.
“I wanted to fight in Africa like my hero Ali did,” Lewis wrote. “But I should have arrived in South Africa earlier to get better acclimatized. I felt sluggish and winded, but you live u learn — sometimes the hard way!”
The 20 to 1 odds in Lewis’ favour speak volumes about the shock value of this result. Lewis, worn out and unprepared caught a haymaker that shocked the boxing world. Hasim Rahman walked away with the IBF, IBO and WBC heavyweight titles.
“I can’t take anything away from Rahman though. He did everything he was supposed to do for that fight and it paid off for him.”
Lewis after being inducted into the 2009 Boxing Hall of fame, also stated that Rahman wanted to make his first title defence against Mike Tyson but he invoked the rematch clause in his contract and seven months later Hasim Rahman vs Lenox Lewis II the Final Judgment was on , fight in which Lewis got his revenge and title back.