This is the first proper post in this website on combat sports (the only sports I’ll ever write about here), which is something I have immense passion for. In this occasion, let’s talk about something that temporarily made the Philippines the top producer of salt in the world. It has been a month since the so-called “Fight of the Century”—Mayweather vs. Pacquiao—an over-hyped pay-per-view that should have happened 5 years before that has already proven to be forgettable. The reason why it happened is because it just had to happen and for the money. But that doesn’t mean boxing is a dead sport; not by a long shot. (To hell with those who do think so.)
Unfortunately, Mayweather vs Pacquiao was just a stylistic match-up that did not favor aggression, so fans were left unsatisfied. I’ve actually talked a bit about that fight, as well as many other instances of competitors being overly defensive and “boring” in this article about “playing lame.” Also, there was absolutely no way Mayweather would lose in Las Vegas unless he got knocked out.
If that match made you not want to watch boxing anymore, I suggest that you stick around because boxing is still exciting, as long as you know where to look. Here are 5 matches you can watch right now to help wash away that bitter taste in your mouth. If a whole month has not helped you forget that match, kind of like a bad breakup, then these 5 great battles (and many others like it) can surely help you rebound.
NOTE: These are merely my suggestions from the fights I can remember from the top of my head. This was written for the more casual viewer who may want to follow boxing more but don’t know where to look.
Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo I
While they weren’t household names, they were formidable contenders in the lightweight division during the mid-2000s. Diego Corrales will forever be remembered in the boxing world for his fortitude, and this fight with Jose Luis Castillo is what cemented his legacy as a man who never quit even when the chips were down.
It was a damn exciting match, and also resulted in one of the greatest comebacks in boxing. Just go to the 10th round and witness how “Chico” somehow wins against Castillo after getting dropped twice.
RIP Diego “Chico” Corrales
Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Meldrick Taylor I
Both were known for throwing punches in bunches, so there was bound to be cluster bombs in this confrontation. Meldrick Taylor was an Olympic gold medalist and the undefeated IBF Light Welterweight champion. He was the king of hand speed of the 90s before Manny Pacquiao came about. This fight was his first real test, and it was against a living legend.
JCC was already at 68-0; he was literally a boxing demigod at this point. He took Roger Mayweather to school twice and broke through every obstacle in his way. It was going to be 18 more fights before he would get a blemish on his record with a draw against defensive genius Pernell Whitaker. You’d think he was untouchable.
This would become the 1990 Fight of the Year, and JCC broke Meldrick Taylor. The result was controversial; the fight was stopped with 2 seconds still on the clock. The loser would still be formidable until their second encounter, wherein JCC further broke him and left him no longer the same fighter.
Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier III
This happened here in Manila almost exactly 40 years ago. It’s crazy to think that I often pass by whenever I commute was where this battle was fought. Something that seems so mundane now is such an indelible part of boxing history.
“The Thrilla in Manila” is such an awesome name. It had two great fights before it and too grand of a story to ignore. I didn’t just pick this one out of the trilogy because of the venue, but also how it was a see-saw affair that still brings chills up spines to this day.
RIP Smokin’ Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali (EDIT: 09MAY2019 5:34PM)
Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns
Simply known as “The War,” this 3-round 8-minute slugfest on April 15, 1985 may have been short, but it’s still touted by pundits as the greatest 3 rounds ever fought in modern boxing history. It has been 30 years since that night, but this match is still awesome to watch. I’m also a very big fan of both fighters, and their other matches are also great.
This was what I wanted Mayweather vs Pacquiao to be; they each have their similarities to Hagler and Hearns. Hagler is predominantly a southpaw and Hearns used the Philly Shell. But I guess you have to be Hagler and Hearns in this insane 80’s blender for this to happen.
Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward I
As you may have noticed by now, many great fights tend to result in rematches. What we have here is perhaps one of the greatest trilogies in boxing history. Both were known for their tenaciousness, so it was a formula that actually did work. Thirteen years before Mayweather vs Pacquiao, this actually happened, so how can you hate boxing?
Go watch Micky Ward and trainer Dicky Ecklund’s biopic The Fighter, then watch this fight. There’s no way you can’t root for Ward after that, and you can’t hate on Gatti either after seeing how he survived and fought back in the 9th round. It was the 2002 Fight of the Year, and perhaps the true Fight of the Century.
RIP Arturo Gatti
What I’ve listed here are some of the best battles from the past. However, there are still lots of matches in recent years and in the future that will trump them. The death of boxing has been greatly exaggerated time and time again. Despite mixed martial arts now giving boxing very stiff competition, there’s always room for this great sport.
We still have the likes of Gennady “GGG” Golovkin and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, two aggressive fighters who are taking the sport by storm. Miguel Cotto is better than ever after having been beaten by Mayweather and Pacquiao, and he’s holding down the middleweight division (although he has to stop ducking GGG).
If you’re into the more technical aspects of boxing without the sleep-inducing inanity, then you should watch Guillermo Rigondeaux with arguably the best 1-2 in the business. Amir Khan is also steadily becoming a star in the welterweight division (who’ll hopefully fight Mayweather).
Nicholas Walters overpowered Nonito Donaire, who himself has always been exciting and had beaten Vic Darchinyan twice with left hooks. We got the likes of Vasyl Lomachenko and Ruslan Provodnikov as well, who are similar to GGG as exciting fighters from Eastern Europe with extensive amateur backgrounds.
There are plenty of other exciting boxers like Lucas Mathysse, Terence Crawford, Sergey Kovalev (trounced Bernard Hopkins, who is no regular old man), Naoya Inoue, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, and many more. I also quite like watching Andre Ward and Carl Froch, no matter what people may say about them.
The lighter weight classes sure are fun to watch right now, although we can only hope that the heavyweight division will get back to how it was before (crossing my fingers on Deontay Wilder making it).
If you think Mayweather is boring, then current world heavyweight champion Wladimir Kitschko is the cure for insomnia.
There will be more posts on matches that are better than Mayweather vs Pacquiao from other combat sports, namely kickboxing, Muay Thai, and mixed martial arts in the coming weeks. (If I get even crazier, I’ll add in sumo wrestling just for kicks.)