November 24, 2008

The Simple Rules:

(1) Must involve high profile fighters;

(2) If any 2 fighters have had more than one great fight, only the best fight makes the rankings.

10. Felix Trinidad v. Fernando Vargas - 2000 (154lbs) (Trinidad by TKO in the 12th)

Trinidad appeared in control of the fight, knocking Vargas down twice in the first round and almost ending it early. However Vargas recovered to knock down Trinidad in the 4th round and kept the pressure on Trinidad for the next several rounds. Vargas appeared to tire towards the end and Trinidad’s superior boxing took over. In the 12th, with Vargas needing at least a knockdown, it was Trinidad who closed the show knocking Vargas down three times before the fight was called.

9. Lennox Lewis v. Vitali Klitschko - 2003 (Heavyweight) (Lewis by TKO in the 6th)

I had to include at least one heavyweight fight and this was probably the last great heavyweight fight we will see for some time (unless the Klitschko brothers ever decide to face each other). In what turned out to be Lennox Lewis’ final fight, he summoned up the reserves to cut Vitali Klitschko for a stoppage after the 6th round that assured his great legacy. Klitschko had rocked Lewis several times in front of a raucous crowd at the Staples Center, was ahead on all three scorecards, and to the amazement of many appeared on the verge of an upset. However, Lewis, who looked his age for the first time that night, restored order, first with the long jab and then followed with damaging right hands. Although a rematch would have been exciting, Lewis correctly perceived he had nothing left to prove and retired after the fight.

8. Antonio Margarito v. Miguel Cotto - 2008 (147lbs) (Margarito by TKO in the 11th)

A modern day slugfest among two of the top welterweights that added to the great Mexico vs. Puerto Rico rivalry. Setting aside his vaunted body attack, Cotto repeated landed clean left hooks and straight right hands to the challenger’s face, but Margarito astounded the boxing world with his superhuman ability to absorb punishment and keep coming forward. Cotto showed nearly all the skill and savvy we knew he had, and it still wasn’t enough against the tireless Mexican warrior who pressed Cotto constantly for 10 rounds. The sight of seeing Cotto voluntarily take a knee to avoid any more punishment will be a memory I may never forget. Before the fight Miguel Cotto was arguably boxing’s pound for pound king. After the fight, many wondered if Cotto would ever be the same.

7. Eric Morales v. Marco Antonio Barrera I - 2000 (122lbs) (Morales by Split Decision)

If you had to pick one, I would pick the first fight between these two. Morales and Barrera stormed onto the American boxing scene in this classic encounter. Morales built an early lead with good movement and lead right hands. But eventually both fighters took turns punishing each other on the inside. Barrera came out storming in the 12th round with tremendous urgency and it appeared Barrera would get the edge with a phantom knockdown ruling in the 12th. Furious about the knockdown ruling, Morales came tearing after Barrera trying to come up with something dramatic to no avail. Ultimately, the bad knockdown call thankfully made no difference in the end.

* Barrera would get some revenge by winning the next two confrontations by decision.

6. Israel Vazquez v. Rafael Marquez III - 2008 (122lbs) (Vazquez by Split Decision)

This fight gets the nod in the trilogy because it was the rubber match (Marquez won the first, Vazquez the second) and had everything. Both fighters went down and it went the distance to a virtual draw. Marquez was most effective from the outside and built up a lead early in the fight, even scoring a surprising knockdown. Vazquez seemed to get stronger as the fight went on and there were many memorable exchanges between the two. Trailing in the 12th round, Vazquez came out with incredible fury and knocked down Marquez with under 10 seconds remaining to get the decision by a single point. The winner was almost irrelevant as a 4th fight is a requirement.

5. Shane Mosley v. Oscar De La Hoya I - 2000 (147lbs) (Mosley by Split Decision)

A tremendous battle by the two greatest welterweights of the era (apologies to Floyd Mayweather Jr., Felix Trinidad, or anyone else) fought at their peak in their native Southern California. De La Hoya built a significant lead with an effective jab and greater activity over the first half of the fight. Mosley began to rally in the second half and the 10th, 11th, and 12th rounds featured numerous great exchanges between the two fighters both of whom displayed incredible hand speed on that night. It finished a close fight that Mosley deserved with his superior energy and effective right hands in the 12th round.

* Mosley would get the decision again in a 2003 rematch that was competetive but much more technical. De La Hoya basically called that decision a "robbery" and he was right.

4. De La Hoya v. Vargas - 2002 (154lbs) (De La Hoya by TKO in the 11th)

This will likely be Oscar De La Hoya’s signature win in a fight against wanna-be-but-not-quite legend in Fernando Vargas. Vargas had called De La Hoya out for this fight and the bad blood was very real. Vargas also assured himself a considerable size advantage by pumping himself full of steroids while training, a fact we learned after the fight. The first half of the fight alternated each round from De La Hoya’s masterful boxing to Vargas’ rough inside fighting. The second half of the fight saw De La Hoya start to dominate and put all of his punches together. He ultimately floored Vargas in the 11th with a perfect left hook and shortly thereafter De La Hoya finished him off for the TKO.

3. Eric Morales v. Manny Pacquiao I - 2005 (130lbs) (Morales by Unanimous Decision)

After Pacquiao had dominated Marco Antonio Barrera many had expected more of the same against “El Terrible” but they were proven wrong. Morales frustrated Pacquiao with his jab and lead right hand all night while avoiding most of Paacquiao’s left hands. However, numerous times Morales was willing to go toe-to-toe with Manny and often won the exchanges. The 12th round was a classic as Morales refused to sit on his lead and amazingly decided to fight southpaw against Pacquiao. Despite being hit repeatedly Morales stubbornly stayed lefty and traded with Pacqiuao until the final bell. When asked by Larry Merchant why he took such a huge risk Morales responded, "Did you enjoy it? That's why."

*Pacquiao would eventually get his revenge in their next fight by handing a game but aging Morales the first knockout loss of his career. Their 3rd fight, which resulted in another knockout for Pacquiao, provided some exciting moments, but really never should have happened as Morales was a shot fighter by then.

2. Juan Manuel Marquez v. Manny Pacquiao I - 2004 (126lbs) (Draw)

When is the last time you saw someone get knocked down 3 times in the first round and come back? That is precisely what Marquez did in this classic match with the explosive Manny Pacquiao. Marquez ate countless Pacquiao left hands in the first two rounds of their fight and appeared too far behind on points. Nonetheless he slowly took control of the fight with his counter right hand and befuddled Pacquiao with his technical brilliance. Marquez outbattled Pacquiao in a furious 12th and believed he had won, but the bout was called a draw.

*Their second fight in 2008 was close as well with Pacquiao escaping with a controversial split decision.

1. Diego Corrales v. Jose Luis Castillo I -2005 (135lbs) (Corrales by TKO in the 10th)

Neither of these two fighters was ever really considered the greatest at this or any other weight class. Nonetheless, who can deny that this is the defining fight of the last decade? How many casual boxing fans even knew who these guys were before this fight? Probably not many. Yet almost immediately after this bout it was the fight everyone had to see for themselves. If a fight is action-packed, this is the fight that it gets compared to.

The bout was nonstop action with the two fighters slugging it out in a phone booth for much of the night. Every so often Corrales would remember that he could outbox Castillo if he stayed outside but that never lasted long and the slugfest would continue again. The 10th round of this fight will be remembered in boxing history forever. Corrales was knocked down twice and was penalized a point after the second knockdown for spitting out his mouthpiece. Aware of his predicament, Corrales began a furious rally and stopped Castillo, a fighter who had never even been knocked down before, in the very same round.

*The two did fight a rematch which Castillo won by knockout. However, he came in over the 135lbs weight limit and no titles were on the line. Castillo again failed to make the weight days before a third fight which was cancelled as a result.

Manish Pandya
Staff Editor of

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