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Boxing: Top 5 grudge matches that actually mattered

by Rob Dore | July 11, 2012

TAKING LIBERTIES: “Give me your tired, your poor/Your muddled asses yearning to enrich me”

By Rob Dore | boxing

David Haye has become quite the promoter for the sport of boxing, if only because listening to him attempt to hype up his latest payday makes you want to punch him squarely in the face. I wouldn’t recommend actually doing it but it won’t make you want to do it any the less.

With nothing on the line other their own egos, and a far larger payday than either man deserves, David Haye against Dereck Chisora at Upton Park this Saturday night has to be one of the least significant grudge matches boxing has ever spat out.

To calm our fury the Paddy Power Blog team decided to pick put what we see as five of the more significant grudge matches from pugilistic history.

#5: Erik Morales vs Marco Antonio Barrera

Although the animosity between these two Mexican greats wasn’t as vicious as it was between other rivals, in the ring they fought out one of the most thrilling trilogies the sport has seen. Two of the fights won Ring Magazine’s ‘Fight of the Year’ award (200 and 2004) and though Barrera trumped with two wins, we’re the real winners.

#4: Evander Holyfield vs Mike Tyson

In 1996 Holyfield upset Tyson by handing him his first defeat after his release from prison, taking his WBA and WBC belts in the process. So vexed was Mr Tyson that in the rematch one year later he decided to forgo the usual method of winning via punching and tried to chew his way to victory. After leaving visible bite marks on one of Holyfield’s ears the ref wanted to stop the fight. He didn’t and a crazed looking Mike went straight back out bit a large chunk out of Evander’s other ear. Only then was the fight stopped. This was the beginning of a descent down a very slippery slope for one of boxing’s most feared and iconic champions.

#3: Joe Louis vs Max Schmeling

When they first met in 1936, Frasier was the number one contender preparing for a title challenge. German fighter Schmeling was a former champ, past his prime. So Louis spent much of his training camp playing golf and subsequently suffered a shock defeat. When they met again two years later the fight took on a greater significance than Louis restoring his pride. The Nazi party were touting his previous victory over the African American Louis as proof of Aryan superiority, a sentiment not shared by Schmelling himself. The fight took on huge political significance but as a contest it was one-sided. Louis battered Schmeling into submission in the first round.

#2: Ali vs Frazier

There was genuine animosity between these two fighters with many of Ali’s taunts deemed to be extremely racist, calling Frazier an “Uncle Tom” and a “gorilla”. Insults which deeply hurt the less verbose Frazier. They fought three times with the first meeting, which Frazier won, being the best and the third, dubbed the “Thrilla in Manilla”, being the most famous. If only because of its catchy moniker.

#1: Jack Johnson vs The World

The boxing establishment did everything it could to prevent Jack Johnson from becoming the first black heavyweight champion of the world but he was so talented that he couldn’t be denied forever. He finally won the title from Tommy Burns in 1908. He was then matched up with a series of opponents hand-picked to wrestle the title back. Johnson lived a celebrity lifestyle and refused to even recognise the conventions and social restrictions imposed on black people at the time, including associating with white women. This caused him a lot of trouble inside and outside of the ring, including a prison sentence, but he carried on regardless. He wasn’t fighting for his race but in refusing to bow down to the conventions of others that’s exactly what he did.


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