May 9, 2018
May 9, 2018

Top 10 boxing fights of the last 20 years

Top 10 boxing fights of the last 20 years

To celebrate Pinnacle’s 20th anniversary this series will look back over the biggest moments from our most popular sports. These are the top 10 boxing fights from the last 20 years.

Marco Antonio Barrera vs. Erik Morales, February 19, 2000, Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Las Vegas

The Barrera vs. Morales trilogy is one of boxing's most renowned fight trilogies, involving two of Mexico's most decorated fighters.

The first fight, on February 19, 2000, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, in Las Vegas saw “El Terrible” Morales edge “The baby-faced assassin” Barrera by split decision, with scores of 115-112, 114-113 and 113-114 and was later voted Ring Magazine's Fight of the Year for 2000.

From the opening bell the fight had everything, back and forth non-stop action with both fighters throwing a bombardment of punches hard and accurate every round. Both Morales and Barrera took so much punishment, that it was almost impossible to split the pair at the final bell – despite Barrera claiming a 12th round knockdown on Morales.

The Mexican warriors had it all in boxing terms, and their styles gelled to make unmissable broadcasting for fans. The pair went on to have two more fights after this with Barrera gaining his revenge and edging the trilogy being victorious in both encounters.

Identical spirit and inner self-belief were apparent in the epic trilogy: they were natural born fighters who produced one of the best fights and trilogies in boxing history.

Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Manny Pacquiao I, May 8, 2004, MGM Grand, Las Vegas

In a fight that went on to become one of boxing’s greatest trilogies, Juan Marquez put his WBA and IBF featherweight titles on the line against Manny Pacquaio -- and only just got out of the first round.

Their fourth bout was perhaps the most unforgettable, at least for Marquez, with the Mexican spectacularly striking Pacquiao with a straight right hand that laid the Philippine sensation out cold in the 6th-round in December 2012 – but it was their first bout that got the ball rolling.

Marquez hit the canvas three times in the first three minutes but showed an abundant of heart to fight back and bewilder Pacquiao with astute counter-punching.

Pacquiao was yet a huge megastar, and Marquez was little known compared to countryman Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera. Marquez held the WBA and IBF featherweight titles, while Pacquiao was The RING Magazine and lineal champion of the division, after systematically taking apart quite astonishingly Barrera in 11 rounds in his previous bout.

At 25 years old, Pacquiao was still raw, but like a hurricane in his style, owning a brutal left hand. The contest commenced with both fighters throwing aggressive combinations. Marquez landed counters, but Pacquiao soon became the boss, as halfway through the opening round Pacquiao connected with a straight left hand down the pipe, sending Marquez to the canvas.

Both fighters then put on a show from round to round with nonstop action back and forth to the end of the fight before embracing each other at the bell in a truly heroic encounter.

The result? A contentious draw.

Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo, May 7, 2005, Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas

Diego “Chico” Corrales vs. José Luis Castillo was held in Las Vegas on May 7, 2005. The result? Corrales won via a tenth round TKO after himself being heavily dropped twice in the round that is now widely regarded as one of the greatest rounds and fights of all time.

In a ruthless encounter that had everything a fight fan could ever want – continuous and full-bodied infighting, numerous changes of energy and firepower, bravery to defy belief, vicious punishment, and a conclusion as good as any ever seen this fight really is one for the ages.

Even before Corrales dramatically made his 10th round comeback, the fight had developed into an immediate classic, a battle of nutrition, bravery, willpower and emotions that will long live on in the boxing history books.

Arturo Gatti vs. Mickey Ward, May 18, 2002, Mohegan Sun Casino, Uncasville, USA

“Irish” Micky Ward and Arturo “Thunder” Gatti took place in Connecticut in 2002, the ninth round of their bout is widely considered one of the finest rounds in living memory.

A fight that made spectators witness almost supernatural struggle and triumph, Gatti vs. Ward produced some of the most scintillating action ever witnessed inside a boxing ring. Legendary trainer Emmanuel Stewart (who was ringside reporting on the bout) labelled round 9 the round of the century – the fight – one of the best he ever witnessed.

There would in future be two more fights between the pair that again produced almost merciless displays of courage and courageousness resulting in a bond that became forged between the two men for the remainder of their careers.

It is likely fight fans will ever see another rivalry and round quite like it.

Victor Ortiz vs. Andre Berto, April 16, 2011, MGM Grand Theater, Mashantucket, Connecticut

In a bout that shocked a lot of boxing fans, “Vicious” Victor Ortiz certainly lived up to his nickname against Andre Berto, upsetting the defending WBC Welterweight Champion, who was beforehand undefeated via 12-round decision. The fight took place at the MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods in Mashantucket, Connecticut and like so many great fights, contained pulsating viewing.

At the time both Ortiz and Berto were widely regarded as two of the finest fledgeling fighters in the world and kept an absorbing pace from the first bell to the last. In the first half of the fight, both Ortiz and Berto tasted the canvas twice in a seesaw battle that left both men almost out on their feet with all the ingredients for a modern classic.

When all was said and done, Ortiz emerged victorious on all three judges’ scorecards 115-110, 114-112, and 114-111 to capture the WBC welterweight division title in an electrifying manner.

Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko, April 29, 2017, Wembley Stadium, London, England

In a fight that catapulted Anthony Joshua into boxing super-stardom, Wembley Stadium, 29 April 2017 is a date that will forever be remembered among fight fans.

In front of a record crowd of 90,000 in London, 'AJ' scrambled off the canvas to halt the ageing Wladimir Klitschko in 11 pulsating rounds and prolong his flawless professional record. The fight had the whole lot: anxious moments, intrigue, strategic rounds, drama, knock-downs and plenty of edge of the seat moments. 

It was high-level combat in stages. The cautious first few rounds, the fiery back and forth fifth and sixth rounds, the recovering rounds from seven to ten and then Joshua’s tense, yet destructive onslaught in the final stages. The uppercut that snapped back Klitschko’s neck and his ability to soak up the punch was just another chapter that defined the heroic battle. 

It was a definitive bout in a heavyweight division that had been crying out for a new star for the best part of 10 years – and it duly delivered. Four brutal knockdowns and the subsequent barrage finish from Joshua ensured the fight will be talked about for many years to come.

 “Prince” Naseem Hamed vs. Kevin Kelley, December 19, 1997, New York, Madison Square Garden

Technically unprincipled in the 20 years by a few months – but this was a fight that had to make the list!

It was December 1997 and the precocious British talent that was “Prince” Naseem Hamed was in town to mark his American debut on U.S soil in a memorable slugfest with Kevin Kelley.

The Prince, aged just 23 was already a world champion after dismantling Steve Robinson two years prior in Cardiff to lift the WBO crown. The brash, cocky and unorthodox trash talker had promised to take America by storm and did just that in an electrifying back and forth encounter with Kelley.

30-year-old Kelley lived and fought out of Flushing, Queens, New York. And wasn’t about to let Hamed reign on his parade. A two-time Golden Gloves winner, Kelley was a former WBC Featherweight champion and widely recognised as the toughest test of Hamed’s career.

The fight saw multiple knockdowns. Wild swinging, unparalleled drama, and as dramatic a finish as you can witness inside a boxing ring. Hamed eventually knocked out Kelley in the fourth round with viewers witnessing three knockdowns each.

Up a split second after the count of “10,” Kelley all but fell into referee Benjy Esteves’s arms and the fight was waved off after 2 minutes and 27 seconds of the fourth-round in an instant classic.

A claim backed up at the time by lead HBO commentator Larry Merchant who upon Hamed dispatching of Kelley quoted – "What we just saw was the Hagler-Hearns of featherweight fighting."

Israel Vazquez vs. Rafael Marquez III, March 1, 2008, Home Depot Center, Carson, California, USA

After two epic battles in 2007, Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez continued their rivalry in 2008 with another extraordinary clash over twelve pulsating rounds at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.

In a fight that had blood, guts, and more blood, Marquez seemed to have done enough early on to secure victory, but Vazquez became stronger as the fight developed. The 11th and 12th rounds produced some of the most scintillating action you can witness, with both rounds swinging in favour of the ever-aggressive Vazquez.

Vazquez would just not stop punching and came within seconds of stopping Marquez, sending him to the canvas with a bombardment of punches. Referee Pat Russell was seconds away from calling the bout off, but Marquez wanted more, and by the time the two fighters locked horns again, the bell sounded with the sold-out crowd on their feet to applaud the bravery of both men.

Vazquez was eventually victorious via split decision, a result fiercely disputed by Marquez. But the real winners were the fans who saw the fight of the Year and one of the best fights of the last 20 years.

Kostya Tszyu vs. Ricky Hatton, June 4, 2005, MEN Arena, Manchester, England

On June 4, 2005, Ricky “Hitman” Hatton propelled himself towards global stardom becoming the WBA light-welterweight champion of the world defeating the ever-formidable Kostya Tszyu, then the world's No 2-ranked pound-for-pound boxer. In an epic battle of nutrition, guts, and bravery, Mancunian Hatton made Tszyu quit on his stool after 11 brutal rounds of overwhelming action overcoming the odds in dramatic fashion as 22,000 screaming, fanatical and ecstatic British fans celebrated their hero’s triumph.

Tszyu, like Frazier did against Ali, had no petrol left in the tank with a round to go. And his trainer, Johnny Lewis, waved the contest off, with his man exhausted on his stool. There was no rejection from Tszyu. Who instantly stood up and hugged the new champion in a mark of respect for the performance “The Hitman” had just produced. He wanted the torment and pain to end, even with only three minutes to go and, in Ricky Hatton, a new superstar had emerged.

Frederic Gosset vs. Xia Yu Quing, October 7, 2007 Sichuan Stadium Center, Chengdu

This is a fight that likely only real hardcore boxing fans have seen, and it was a battle not for the faint-hearted.

Both Gosset and Yu Quing were not world-class fighters – far from it. Gosset (11-46-2, 3 KO) and Quing (9-5-2, 1 KO) were contending a second fight after their 2006 contest had concluded in a technical draw due to headbutts.

That trend persisted in the second bout when a nasty headbutt opened one of the worst cuts a fighter can obtain over the left eye. Quing, happily carried on with constant blood flow obscuring his vision throughout the bout trading punch after punch until the final bell.

With both Gosset and Quing trading blows at a frantic pace in some of the most vicious action you can witness in a boxing ring boxing fanatics were not disappointed. The cut and level of blood were undeniably frightening, and almost unsettling to watch and the fight should never have been allowed to go on in retrospect.

If you like blood and more blood in your favourite fights of all time you will love this bout.

Has your favourite fight made the list? Tweet @PinnacleSports to let us know which fight you think deserves a mention.

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