Big-fight memories are second to none
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Nothing beats a big fight week.
Promotional hype. Persistent trash talk. Glittery grand entrances. Weigh-in flexing.
All part of the run-up drama that builds to crescendo as participants receive final instructions, unveil menacing stares and retreat to corners to await in-ring combat.
The moments create recurring goose bumps, no matter the principals.
And for my money, no other sporting events -- outside of overtime playoff hockey -- come close.
Of course, with all the positively compelling elements comes the inevitable flood of "I'm an expert, you must listen to me" pre-fight analysis from keyboard-toting creatures great and small -- be they of print, website or blog affiliation.
Some are worth your attention. Most are best ignored. And surely all who get it wrong Saturday night will be back by Sunday morning alleging it was circumstance -- and not shoddy reasoning -- that prompted their fall from grace, in the hopes you'll return when the next mega-event rolls around.
I'll spare you all that in this space.
Simply for Saturday, I like Mayweather. Barely.
I expect it to be the toughest fight of his career, and I'd be far more shocked if he won easily -- as some folks somehow anticipate -- than I would if he came out of it 40-1. And regardless of the winner, I'm quite sure the weekend will provide moments worth recalling for years to come.
But rather than add to analysis we'll be shoulder-deep in by opening bell, I've decided instead to reflect on my own most memorable moments in the sport since my first exposure, in front of the TV alongside my dad for the Norton-Bobick beatdown at MSG in 1977.
As for the rest, read on...in no particular order:
Ali-Spinks II (Sept. 15, 1978) -- A defending champ with a toothless smile. "The Greatest" heavyweight of them all regaining his throne. Howard Cosell doing the blow by blow. And a stripper crashing the party. Is it any wonder I became a fan for life? What more could a 9-year-old possibly want?
Bramble-Mancini I/Hatcher-Bumphus (June 1, 1984) -- My first trip to a live fight card. Two recognizable champions against two live underdogs. So live, in fact, that both walked away from the now-demolished Memorial Auditorium with shiny title belts after upset knockouts.
Hearns-Duran (June 15, 1984) -- It's been almost 26 years and I'm not sure I've seen a great fighter look better against a great opponent than the "Hitman" did that night. And as for funny lines, Bert Sugar's "They could have counted him out in 10 languages" remains as good as it gets.
Hagler-Hearns (April 15, 1985) -- Hard to believe it's been 25 years since the generation's best superfight round. It was tough to watch my favorite carried to his stool at the end, but it wound up one of those rare events where both loser and winner are perceived better when it's over.
Tubbs-Page (April 29, 1985) -- OK, not exactly a big one. But it was my first live heavyweight title match. Camacho, Witherspoon and Bonecrusher Smith were on the undercard. And Ali was second to none working the crowd during slow moments between rounds and slower ones during them.
Leonard-Hearns II (June 12, 1989) -- I was too annoyed to sleep after the dubious scorecards were read at Caesars Palace, but, on the plus side, a superb follow-up article on Hearns by Jeff Ryan in KO Magazine convinced me how much I wanted to do this for a living.
Douglas-Tyson (Feb. 11, 1990) -- I chose a night of bar-hopping over what was sure to be another quick Tyson knockout, and I'll never forget how far my jaw dropped when buddy Dan Cline came back to our table with news that the impossible happened and Douglas was a champion.
Foreman-Moorer (Nov. 5, 1994) -- Nine rounds of watching a brave and sturdy old man being consistently beaten to the punch by a quicker and more talented young man. And then, one thudding right hand later, HBO's Jim Lampley lets loose with a chill-inducing "It happened! It happened!"
Hopkins-Trinidad (Sept. 29, 2001) -- It was spooky to be in Manhattan while workers were still digging at Ground Zero, but the old "Executioner" made it a night to remember -- ending with 100 or so guys from Philly out-yelling what had been a San Juan din just an hour before.
Tarver-Jones II (May 15, 2004) -- I couldn't have been more sure that, after uttering "You got any excuses tonight, Roy?" that one man was about to get his ass kicked. But nearly six years later, I'm still amazed at which one it was and how much it impacted 175-pound history.
Margarito-Lujan (Feb. 18, 2005) -- Another not-so-big event, memorable because I almost got to see a guy's ear fall off -- spawning the classic TigerBoxing.com headline "Can You Ear Me Now?" Also, to the joker who swiped my camera from the press table at Boardwalk Hall, I'd like it back please.
Corrales-Castillo I (May 7, 2005) -- The TV was on in the background and I was watching out of the corner of my eye until, after two rounds or so, I realized I'd stumbled onto something warranting full attention. Quite simply the best fight I've ever seen. Period.
Gatti-Damgaard (Jan. 28, 2006) -- It was for a welterweight bauble no one cared about, but a good fight nonetheless. And sadly, it wound up as both the only time I'd ever see the beloved "Thunder" fight in his adopted seaside arena -- and the last win of his eventful career.
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This week's title-fight schedule:
FRIDAY WBC bantamweight title -- Tokyo, Japan Hozumi Hasegawa (champion) vs. Fernando Montiel (unranked) Hasegawa (28-0, 12 KO): Eleventh title defense; Five straight KO wins (seven in first 25 fights) Montiel (40-2-2, 30 KO): Reigning WBO champion; Eighteenth title fight (15-2, 11 KO) Fitzbitz says: "A win here and Hasegawa will be crashing high-end P4P lists. It says here he gets it." -- Hasegawa by decision.
WBC super bantamweight title -- Tokyo, Japan Toshiaki Nishioka (champion) vs. Balweg Bangoyan (No. 10 contender) Nishioka (35-4-3, 22 KO): Fourth title defense; Eighth title fight (3-2-2, 3 KO) Bangoyan (15-0, 6 KO): First title fight; First fight outside Philippines Fitzbitz says: "Nishioka's no world-beater, but the step up in class might be too much for the Filipino." -- Nishioka by decision.
SATURDAY WBO cruiserweight title -- Oldenburg, Germany Marco Huck (champion) vs. Brian Minto (No. 5 contender) Huck (28-1, 21 KO): Third title defense; Nine-fight win streak (9-0, 7 KO) Minto (34-3, 21 KO): First title fight; First fight at 200-pound weight limit Fitzbitz says: "Curious to see if Minto fares better with weight loss than Chris Byrd. Either way, I like Huck's skill." -- Huck by decision.
Last week's picks: 2-0 Overall picks record: 186-67 (73.5 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons is an award-winning 21-year sports journalist, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a frequent contributor to sports radio talk shows throughout the U.S. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him at twitter.com/fitzbitz and read more at fitzbitzonfights.wordpress.com.