The world didn’t end this past Friday as predicted, although once the holidays are over and the bills start pouring in come January, many of us may wish it had. With Christmas and a new year upon us we can be sure of two things: the annual 24 hour “A Christmas Story” marathon on TBS, and plenty of mega fights that will just miss getting made. We’ll see plenty of great fights no doubt, but there’s always one or two big ones the public wants to see that just don’t get put together. Liken it to Christmas morning: you unwrap plenty of great stuff, but none of it is exactly what you asked for.
If you think about it, “A Christmas Story” and the sport of boxing are quite similar. In the movie, little Ralphie makes it more than obvious that he want that Red Ryder BB Gun. He’s rebuffed at every turn; “you’ll shoot your eye out, kid”.
When it comes to boxing, it’s the fans with the wish list. Unfortunately, it takes more than a trip to the department store Santa to get what we want, and many times we’re left without the mega-fight we were looking forward to, and with some of the fights we do see, shooting your eye out doesn’t seem like such a bad idea sometimes.
Here’s just a few of the potential super bouts that never made it to fruition:
Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Marvin Hagler II
The first bout, billed as “The Super Fight”, took place on April 6th, 1987. Leonard had already retired twice, but after watching John Mugabi’s performance against Hagler (in a bout which Hagler won by 11th round stoppage), Leonard was confident that he still had enough skill left to defeat the middleweight champion. It was a close bout, and to this day fans will still argue over who really won the fight. Officially, Leonard won via split decision; the bout was named “Fight of the Year” and “Upset of the Year” by Ring Magazine. Hagler requested a rematch, but Leonard opted to retire again as he said he would do prior to the bout. Hagler officially retired the following year, but in 1990 after another return to the ring with a 2-0-1 record, Leonard offered Hagler the rematch, which Hagler declined. He was settled in to a new life in Italy, was acting, and had no interest in boxing. Leonard went on to fight once in 1992 and 1997, losing both bouts before retiring for good.
Riddick Bowe vs. Lennox Lewis
In the early 90’s, this was probably the most sought after heavyweight bout in boxing. Bowe had won the undisputed heavyweight championship from Evander Holyfield in a grueling 12 round bout that elevated the status of both fighters. Lewis was relatively new to American fight fans, the majority of his professional bouts had been in the United Kingdom but he made a big impact in the division when he knocked out Razor Ruddock in the second round just a month prior to Bowe’s title victory. The two had met previously in the 1988 Olympic finals, with Lewis winning by second round stoppage. Bowe had said on numerous occasions that he would do what ever it took to get revenge on Lewis, and the two traded words at ringside right after Bowe had won the title. It certainly looked like both parties wanted the fight, but Lewis said that night “I think he’s going to sidestep me”, and it turns out he was correct. Rather than face Lewis, Bowe and manager Rock Newman staged a press conference which Bowe dropped the WBC title belt in a trash can. Lewis was awarded the vacant title and went on with his career. He lost and regained the title twice, and retired for good after a 2003 victory over Vitali Klitschko. Bowe went on to defend the WBA and IBF titles against no hopers Michael Dokes and Jesse Ferguson, then lost the belts to Evander Holyfield in a rematch just a one year after winning it. Aside from a short reign with the WBO title, he never held a world championship again. While Lewis’ accomplishments gain more respect as time goes by, Bowe remains a respected former world champion, but also a case of “what might have been”.
Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson
I know what you’re thinking: these guys fought twice, so why is this on the list? The fight I’m referring to is the original fight that was scheduled for 1990, not the “better late than never” match up of 1996. The original bout, set for 1990 was put off when Buster Douglas scored the upset of the ages, scoring a 10th round knockout of Tyson in Japan. Eight months later, Douglas would lose the championship to Evander Holyfield, setting up Holyfield-Tyson for 1991. Tyson would pull out of that fight due a rib injury, and then end up serving three years in prison on a rape conviction. The two finally met on November 9th 1996, Holyfield winning by 11th round stoppage in one of the most famous upsets in heavyweight history. Holyfield would win the return bout as well, this time by third round disqualification after Tyson repeatedly bit Holyfields ears, taking a chunk out of one. Tyson would go on to win some, and lose some against a series of B level opposition, and lose in his last step up against Lennox Lewis in 2002. Evander Holyfield is still technically active at the age of 50, though he hasn’t fought since mid 2011. He last held the very lightly regarded WBF heavyweight title. Despite the entertainment value of the two times these guys did meet, you still can’t help but wonder how this fight may have turned out had it taken place six years earlier.
Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather
The most recent super fight on the list, this one has been talked about for years but has never come close to being signed. With these two at the top of just about everyone’s pound for pound lists, and the money it would generate, it’s hard to believe that the bout could never be put together. Unfortunately, sometimes egos outsize everything, even money, and that seems to be the true roadblock to getting the bout made. Depending who you talk to, both guys get blamed for the breakdown whether it’s about purse split or blood testing. The way I see it, it boils down to pure ego on both sides. Neither guy feels that he needs the other; neither guy is willing to cave-in to the others requests, both guys are making tons of money on their own, so why take the risk? This works great for them, but not so well for the rest of us. Now, the fight’s been rendered pointless. Manny was KTFO by Marquez a few weeks back, and Floyd did a short stint behind bars. Both guys are past their primes and a win for either man wouldn’t prove much at this point. You can be sure it would be entertaining even at his stage for the two to make this work, and would still sell big, but the true purpose of this mega fight has come and gone.
Wladimir Klitschko vs. Vitali Klitschko
Brother vs. brother, champion vs. champion. This is the modern heavyweight showdown everyone wants to see. The Ukrainian brothers have ruled the heavyweight division for the last nine years and show no signs of turning it over any time soon. For the bulk of those nine years, the boxing public has wondered aloud, “what if” when it comes to these two squaring off in the ring. Wladimir holds multiple shares of the heavyweight title, Vitali has the WBC strap and despite getting older; they both appear to be getting better with each fight. Of course, there’s something to be said about the level of heavyweight opposition, or lack of it at the moment, but the accomplishments of these two can’t be discounted. Can you imagine these two locking horns in the ring? Even after a substantial offer from Don King (rumored to be $100 million) for the fight, the two brothers have said more than once that they will never…ever fight each other. Apparently, an incident during a sparring session years back put any idea of a potential match up out of the picture, add in the fact that mother Klitschko is dead against it, and that pretty much tells you all you need to know. It just ain’t gonna happen.