“I was not the best because I killed quickly. I was the best because the crowd loved me.”-Sir Oliver Reed, Gladiator
The sweet science of boxing has fascinated and enthralled me since childhood. The obsession began when I witnessed Buster knock out Iron Mike at age 10. The remote location of my family’s home forced my parents to purchase a satellite dish or be cut off from the outside world and HBO Championship Boxing/Boxing After Dark became my favorite Saturday nights. The most well-conditioned athletes on earth competing in a sport that is truly you against the world, on its biggest stage, typically in the city of sin that embraces the spectacle and ego that accompany these modern-day gladiators have created more than a few dramatic moments, to say the least. I remember where I was for Ward vs. Gatti III like most people remember where they were during 9/11. Here are some of moments that are total recall for me anytime I hear Michael Buffer’s voice and why being ringside, in a tux, for a championship fight in the desert is on my list of to do’s in this life before the final bell.
Prince Naseem Hamed-10/31/98
The definition of a showman who delivered entrances that were as entertaining as his knockouts, in a featherweight division not known for them. He destroyed opponents with bizarre, snake-like angled punches that often connected and hit as hard as a mule. The only thing faster than the Brit’s hands was his mouth, forcing laughs from even the opposing fighters as Naz channeled his inner Ali. Thirty plus KO’s, WBC belts and countless front-flips combined with an ego even Kanye couldn’t comprehend guaranteed that love him or hate him, the Prince’s talent in the ring was as undeniable as the spectacle which surrounded it.
Roy Jones Jr. 02/02/02
Over seventy fights in three different weight classes with almost fifty by way of KO is why Roy is considered the greatest, pound for pound boxer, ever. His ability to change styles mid round and commitment to conditioning led to WBC belts in multiple divisions over the course of an almost three-decade career in the ring. The lightning that was in Jones Jr.’s hands allowed him to take kamikaze like chances, leaving himself wide-open, then quickly turning his predator into prey as he unleashed punches with unmatched speed and ferocity before they could even draw back to throw one.
Kelly Pavlik 09/29/07
The Ghost of Youngstown, Ohio retired at 30 but in his short career dominated the middleweight division with incredible knockouts, a determination to win and toughness that made him easily one of my favorites to watch. His two epic battles with Jermain Taylor displayed the desire and superhuman ability of Pavlik to only grow stronger as the fight went longer. Coming back after being declared dead in a fight was his trademark and the Ghost’s 7th round of his first fight with Taylor was his ultimate resurrection.
Micky Ward 05/18/02
Not sure why the movie The Fighter ended after the pride of Lowell, Mass beat Shea Neary since the trilogy he had against Arturo Gatti are considered possibly the greatest fights in the history of boxing. Both men standing toe to toe, round after round not giving an inch, employing defensive strategies from Rocky IV created endings even Hollywood could not write. Life imitated art as the two became friends in the hospital after the first fight, cracking jokes as they got stitched up and the friendship continued during and after three incredible bouts. When Gatti tragically passed at only age 37, Micky was the one who delivered his eulogy.
Buster Douglas 02/11/90
Before that fateful night in Tokyo, Mike Tyson was the equivalent of Godzilla in the heavyweight division, an apex predator among the giants that mauled challengers typically in the first rounds. Nobody had ever gotten up from a Mike Tyson knockdown unless assisted by medics before Buster Douglas. He shocked the world as a 42-1 shot, not thought of as a legitimate contender by anyone except his mom, who died just days before the fight. During the dark years of my life, his story as told by Eric Thomas, was what made me get back up when it felt like I didn’t have another round in me. Mama said knock you out.