Top 5 Welterweight Bouts of the Past 40 Years

January 24, 2010

Many people are mourning the lost matchup between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. Certainly, that fight would have done huge Pay-Per-View numbers and made both fighters extremely rich. However, for the boxing fan, a much more important question is: Would this bout live up to the hype and be a potentially all-time great fight?

With that in mind, it might be useful to examine the 5 Greatest Welterweight Bouts of the last 40 years.

Honorable mentions are given to the following fights:

Sugar Ray Leonard v. Wilfred Benitez (1979)
Pernell Whitaker v. Julio Cesar Chavez (1993)
Oscar De La Hoya v. Julio Cesar Chavez (1998)
Vernon Forrest v. Shane Mosley (2002)
Vernon Forrest v. Ricardo Mayorga (2003)
Miguel Cotto v. Shane Mosley (2008)
Andre Berto v. Luis Collazo (2009)
Manny Pacquiao v. Miguel Cotto (2009)

But here are the top 5:

5. Mickey Ward v. Arturo Gatti I (2002)

This fight qualifies as a Welterweight bout because both fighters were fighting above the 140 pound limit. Gatti and Ward engaged in a slug fest for the entire 10-round fight and there was almost never a lull in the action.

In many ways, despite the competitive spirit of the fight, Gatti largely outclassed Ward through the first part of the fight, displaying high-level boxing skills and making Ward appear to be a mere journeyman. However Ward was able to get to Gatti's body in the middle rounds and began inflicting serious punishment.

The 9th Round saw Ward batter Gatti all over the ring, and it appeared many times that the referee would have been justified in stopping the fight. Yet the resiliency shown by Gatti in that round was amazing and can only be compared to fictional movie character Rocky Balboa. To further solidify his toughness, Gatti recovered and went on to win the 10th and final round.

The only thing disappointing about the fight were the scores of the judges, who inexplicably gave Ward the majority decision.

4. Oscar De La Hoya v. Ike Quartey (1999)

This was De La Hoya's toughest victory and the 30th of his 31 consecutive victories to start his career. Quartey, like De La Hoya, was a defensively sound fighter with a good chin and a tremendous left jab. Both fighters were undefeated going into the fight and the title bout proved to be a close battle throughout.

De La Hoya struggled to find his rhythm against Quartey's accurate left jab, but snuck inside for a flash knockdown in Round 6. However, De La Hoya overestimated his advantage and soon found himself on the canvas, courtesy of a Quartey left hook.

Quartey was able to control much of the action in the center of the ring until De La Hoya begin making a comeback in the last few rounds. Down on most people's scorecards, De La Hoya came out storming in the 12th round and dropped Quartey with his classic "45" left hook. Seizing the opportunity and fighting with reckless abandon, De La Hoya threw non-stop punches for nearly a full-minute in attempt to finish the fighter from Ghana. To Quartey's credit he kept throwing punches back in the face of the De La Hoya onslaught and while those punches had little or no actual effect on De La Hoya, they prevented the referee from stopping the fight.

Ultimately, De La Hoya became exhausted and arm-weary in the final minute of the fight and could not finish Quartey as the round ended. However, De La Hoya received a split-decision as a result of his performance in the 12th Round.

3. Shane Mosley v. Oscar De La Hoya (2000)

When the two best Welterweights of the last 10 years faced each other in their primes, the results were spectacular. De La Hoya built up a significant lead over the first half of the fight by stifling Sugar Shane with an accurate jab and some solid left hooks. When Mosley did get inside, De La Hoya landed solid left hooks to the body and head to keep him at bay.

However, Mosley came on in the second half of the fight and effectively used his speed and quickness to take control. Finally letting his hands loose, Mosley repeatedly landed solid right hands, but the Golden Boy walked through the shots and keep pressing the action, displaying an incredible chin and will he did not show in the Trinidad fight.

In a furious 12th round both fighters went for broke with the Staples Center crowd cheering wildly throughout. Mosley's superior hand speed, tenacity, and energy gave him the decisive round, resulting in a split decision victory over De La Hoya.

2. Roberto Duran v. Sugar Ray Leonard (1980)

The "Brawl in Montreal" was a classic bout that tested the wills of two all-time great fighters. The trash talking done by Duran leading up to the fight influenced Leonard's decision to "man up" and attempt to defeat Duran with a physical, inside fighting style. The result was tremendous action throughout.

This too-often forgotten fight was not unlike the Corrales v. Castillo classic that is highly lauded by the newest generation of boxing enthusiasts. Although the conclusion was not as dramatic as in that fight, the skill level was much higher.

Duran (A.K.A "Hands of Stone") most often pressed the fight and tried bullying Leonard on the inside. However, Leonard had significant success bouncing off the ropes and countering with shots of his own. Both fighters displayed tremendous resiliency and will, taking and giving heavy shots nearly every round. Leonard finished the fight strong by winning the 14th and 15th rounds, but lost by a close majority decision.

Ultimately, the fight displayed the unique all-around skills and toughness of Duran while Leonard, even in defeat, proved that he was much more than a flashy boxer with quick hands and feet.

1. Sugar Ray Leonard v. Thomas Hearns (1981)

Promoted as the "Superfight" this was easily the greatest Welterweight fight of the era as it featured the two best Welterweights of the last 40 years fighting in their prime.

While the power of Hearns was felt early by Leonard, it was the tremendous skills of Hearns, who until that time had won every one of his Welterweight bouts by knockout, that kept him ahead in the fight even after he suffered serious damage from Leonard in the middle rounds. With a stifling jab, Hearns puffed up Leonard's left eye (and later it was confirmed Leonard had suffered a detached retina) and kept him at bay until late in the fight.

Behind on the scorecards, Leonard was scolded by legendary trainer Angelo Dundee after the 12th Round, "You're blowing it son, you're blowing it!" Leonard responded with a vengeance and threw caution to the wind. Leonard caught Hearns with a furious barrage of punches and then proceeded to batter Hearns around the ring in the 13th round, eventually scoring a knockdown. But the round ended before Leonard could finish the job and everyone wondered if Hearns could hold on to the lead for two more rounds.

Hearns began the 14th in survival mode, moving and jabbing, and appeared to have regained his legs...until Leonard caught him with a huge right hand that sent him sprawling into the ropes. Leonard raised his arms in triumph immediately after landing the punch and followed up with several brutal body shots before the referee stopped the fight in the 14th Round.

By Manish Pandya
Staff Editor of

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