25. Michael Carbajal Vs Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez
March 13, 1993
Las Vegas, Nevada
Venue: Hilton Hotel
When Michael Carbajal signed with Bob Arum’s Top Rank Boxing after winning a silver medal at the 1988 Summer Olympics, he was promised that he would be the first fighter in the Light Flyweight or Flyweight Division ever to make one million dollars in a prizefight. That promise came to fruition when he fought Humberto Gonzalez in a World Light Flyweight unification title fight. Both men earned one million dollars that night. They also engaged in the greatest fight in the history of that division.
The 25-year-old IBF 108-pound champion Carbajal towered over his WBC title counterpart Gonzalez. Carbajal was freakishly tall for his weight class at 5’6”. Gonzalez earned the nickname “Chiquita” because he was a diminutive 5’1”. Figuring that Carbajal had the height and reach advantage, one would surmise that Carbajal would box from the outside and keep Gonzalez from getting inside. That wasn’t the case as the opening round saw Carbajal engage in a phone booth war with Gonzalez. Carbajal got the better of Gonzalez in the first round, but he was playing with fire.
The slugfest continued in round two as Gonzalez turned southpaw. Late in the round, after landing several hard body punches, Gonzalez landed an overhand left that knocked Carbajal down. Carbajal got right back up and he was more embarrassed than hurt. Carbajal came back strong in the next round by outgunning his Mexican rival as the phone booth battle continued. He also opened a cut above the left eye of Gonzalez.
The war continued in the fourth round as both men stood toe-to-toe for the entire round. They both landed shots that would’ve knocked out most Light Flyweights. The fifth round was a tale of two halves. Early in the round, Gonzalez once again dropped Carbajal, this time with a right hook. Carbajal got up but he was badly hurt. Gonzalez jumped on him and landed several hard punches in an attempt to finish him off. Then, midway through the round, Carbajal turned the tables around on Gonzalez as he landed several head snapping shots. Gonzalez was fatigued from trying so hard to knock out Carbajal. The fifth round was the best round so far of a great fight.
The punishment handed out by both fighters continued in the sixth round. I couldn’t fathom how these two fighters continued to take each other’s punches without flinching. Finally, in the seventh round, Carbajal hurt Gonzalez with a left hook that hurt him badly. Then during another heated exchange late in the round, Carbajal landed a spectacular left hook that put Gonzalez to sleep. It was a spectacular knockout by Carbajal. Both men more than earned their million dollar purses.
The following year, Gonzalez would outbox Carbajal and win both rematches by decision. Then, on July 15, 1995, Gonzalez would get knocked out and lose his title in the seventh round of another war against Saman Sojaturang. Gonzalez retired after that fight at the age of 29. Carbajal twice won versions of the 108 pound world title before announcing his retirement in 1999 at the age of 31. Ironically, both men were inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame at the same time in 2006. They were two of the greatest little men to ever put on a pair of boxing gloves.
24. Israel Vázquez Vs Rafael Márquez III
March 1, 2008
Venue: Home Depot Center
No Latin American country has developed so many great fighters as Mexico. When two great Mexican fighters engage in a heated rivalry, both are doing it for national and personal pride. The first two fights of the Israel Vázquez-Rafael Márquez rivalry saw both men fighting as though both their personal and national pride were at stake. The third fight would see both men practically die for such pride.
Márquez stayed true to his style for the first two rounds. He stayed outside, used his left jab and landed several counterpunches against the overly aggressive Vázquez. Vázquez was able to hurt Márquez in both rounds with his missile of a left hook. The fight was already off to a rousing start. Round three was the quiet before the storm as Márquez controlled the round by staying outside and landing the more efficient punches. The fourth round was when the war ignited.
Márquez continued boxing beautifully and landed a counter right that hurt Vázquez. After an additional two right hands, Vázquez went down for the first time in their three fight series. Márquez quickly attacked Vázquez and he ran into Vasquez’s own right hand that hurt Márquez as well. The rest of the round saw both Mexican warriors landing bomb after bomb. Right before the round ended, Márquez again hurt Vázquez, this time with a left hook. The fireworks continued in the fifth and sixth rounds as Márquez landed several snap counters and Vázquez stunned Márquez in both rounds round with several right crosses.
The seventh round was back and forth action. The first half of the round saw Vázquez batter Márquez with several powerful rights and lefts. The second half of the round was the compete opposite as it was Márquez’s turn to batter Vázquez. Vázquez dominated the eighth round by landing several right hands while absorbing everything Márquez was hitting him with. Throughout the ninth round Vázquez relentlessly pursued Márquez and punished Márquez until late in the round. With about five seconds left in the round, Márquez staggered Vázquez with a jolting four-punch combination to end the round.
Márquez had a tremendous 10th round that was marred by a costly low blow. Referee Pat Russell had warned Márquez several times about hitting Vázquez low and finally penalized him a point after Márquez landed another low blow midway through the round. Márquez ended the round once again landing a brisk combination that hurt Vázquez. Round 11 was all Vázquez as Márquez was completely exhausted. Vázquez hurt a fatigued Márquez several times throughout the final round. Finally, with ten seconds left, Vázquez landed a brutal volley of punches that stunned and knocked Márquez against the corner ropes. Referee Russell correctly called it a knockdown because if it wasn’t for the ropes, Márquez would’ve gone down. The bell sounded and the predominantly Mexican crowd in Carson City gave both men a standing ovation. Vázquez successfully regained his WBC Super Bantamweight title with a split decision.
Neither man was the same after this fight. Vázquez suffered a detach retina and had to relinquish his title. They fought each other again for a fourth time two years later but Vázquez was completely shot and took a horrendous beating before the fight was stopped in the third round. Vázquez retired after the fight at the age of 32. He’s since been a boxing reporter for the BEIN SPORTS EN ESPANOL cable network. After defeating Vázquez in their final encounter, Márquez fought six more times, losing four times to fighters who were never as good as he was in his prime. He retired in 2013 at the age of 38. He and his brother Juan Manuel are one of the greatest brother acts in boxing history. In my opinion, both Vázquez and Márquez deserve induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Their rivalry is one of the greatest ever to occur inside the ring.
23. Juan Manuel Márquez Vs Manny Pacquiao IV
December 8, 2012
Las Vegas, Nevada
Venue: MGM Grand Arena
Manny Pacquiao is one of the greatest stars in boxing ever to come from outside the United States. In terms of American adulation, the only other international star on the legendary Filipino star’s level was the Panamanian icon Roberto Duran. There were many similarities between the two. Both were aggressive fighters who used head movement, speed, intense hunger, body punching and an underrated jab to hunt and destroy their opponents. Like Duran, Pacquiao had a charisma outside the ring that negated the fact that he spoke very little English. The most striking resemblance was the way both men’s native countries worshiped then. Pacquiao uplifted the Philippines the same way Duran uplifted Panama. When they fought, their countries came to a standstill. Duran was the greatest fighter to ever come out of Latin America. Pacquiao was the greatest fighter to ever come out of Asia.
Beginning with his arrival in the United States are the age of 22 in 2001, Pacquiao was a whirlwind. In 2003, he pummeled legendary Mexican star Marco Antonio Barrera with an amazing display of speed and power punching. Then on May 8, 2004, in his first encounter with Juan Manuel Márquez, Pacquiao knocked Márquez down three times in the very first round. That was the night fight fans finally saw the greatness in Márquez. Márquez rose from that first round shellacking and outfought Pacquiao the rest of the fight to secure a 12 round draw. Márquez’s sharp counterpunching ability would use Pacquiao’s natural aggression against him. While Pacquiao destroyed greats like Oscar de la Hoya, Shane Mosley, Erik Morales and Miguel Cotto, he would have incredible difficulty each time he’d face Márquez. He won two razor thin split decisions in his next two encounters with Márquez. Going into his fourth fight, Pacquiao was determined to finally solve the puzzle that was Juan Manuel Márquez.
Pacquiao showed incredible head movement and speed through the first two rounds of his fourth fight with Márquez. The Pac-Man stepped up the pressure in round three and landed his signature left cross several times. The Filipino southpaw was a nightmare for opponents to face because being left handed and using angles and head movement threw them off. But Márquez, because of his pristine counterpunching ability, was able to land several right crosses throughout their entire rivalry. Midway through the third round, Márquez landed one of those right crosses to shockingly knock Pacquiao down. It was the first time in their four encounters that Márquez had ever knock Pacquiao down. It wouldn’t be the last.
While round four was a tactical round fought by both fighters, round five was the most action packed round of their four fights. Pacquiao dropped Márquez with his signature left cross early in the round. Not too shortly after getting up from the knockdown, Márquez briefly hurt Pacquiao with his signature right cross. Towards the end of the round, the Filipino superstar stunned Márquez again, this time it was a right hook. Instead of retreating, the Mexican warrior stood toe-to-toe with Pacquiao until the bell rang. Márquez went back to his corner with a cut in the bridge of his nose.
Pacquiao started the sixth round landing several hard combinations which opened up a nasty cut around Márquez’s right eye. Pacquiao dominated the round as he landed one combination after another. Despite his face being significantly damaged and the windmill that he was facing, Márquez stayed calm. With about 10 seconds left in the round, Pacquiao landed a left cross that forced Márquez against the ropes. As Pacquiao went in for the kill, he walked into a sensational counter right cross that had him go down face first. He was unconscious before he hit the floor. There was no need for referee Kenny Bayless to count. Pacquiao laid motionless for several minutes. It was one of the most amazing, one-punch knockouts in the history of the sport.
Márquez only fought two more times after his career defining knockout of his greatest rival. He will go down as one of the five greatest fighters ever to come out of Mexico. Pacquiao would win his next three fights before participating in the single, most lucrative fight in boxing history. On May 2, 2015, Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather finally faced each other years after both fighters were past their physical peak. Mayweather won a lackluster decision, but both men won when it came to their paychecks. Both men made over $150 million dollars that night as the fight destroyed all pay-per-view records with over four-and-a-half million buys.
22. Micky Ward Vs Arturo Gatti I
May 18, 2002
Venue: Mohegan Sun Arena
If ever there were two fighters made to fight each other, it was Micky Ward and Arturo Gatti. Both men were limited in boxing skills. Both men bled like pigs at a butcher shop. Both men were incredible body punchers. Both men had intestinal fortitude and hunger. Both men had two of the biggest hearts in boxing. Both men put on a gut wrenching performance when they fought each other for the very first time.
When both Ward and Gatti fought each other for the first time, they were ages 36 and 30 respectively. They both had sustained an incredible amount of punishment after years of participating in life and death struggles inside the ring. Fight fans knew going into this fight that there would be bloodshed, bone jarring punches, and an all-out war. It was all of that and then some.
Throughout his career, Ward was unable to deal with swift boxers who stayed outside and boxed him. Ward was thoroughly outboxed and defeated in such a fashion by Zab Judah, Vince Phillips, and Charles Murray. Ward had absolutely no left jab. He was a seek and destroy warrior. Knowing this, Gatti dominated the first two rounds by employing the same strategy as the men who easily defeated the slugger from Massachusetts. He moved, utilized his superior jab, and landed one combination after another. Yet, anyone who followed Gatti knew that he couldn’t keep moving at that pace for an entire fight. That movement began to curtail in round three as Ward began landing wicked left hooks to Gatti’s ribcage. Towards the end of round three, the phone booth war commenced.
The war began in the fourth round. Ward stunned Gatti with a booming right cross. Gatti came back and stunned Ward with a left hook, right cross combination. Then Ward hurt Gatti again with a right cross. Late in the round, Gatti landed a vicious low blow that cost him. Referee Frank Cappuccino deducted a point for the infraction. Round five saw a savage display of back and forth brutality. No matter how hard Gatti landed on Ward, Ward took every shot without blinking. Both men took turns hammering each other. Late in the round, Ward landed a vicious combination that wobbled Gatti. Just incredible action. Gatti went back to boxing from the outside the next two rounds and totally dominated both rounds. Going into the eighth round, Ward was fatigued and looking like he was way behind on the judges scorecards.
Gatti continued landing at will and boxing from the outside for the first two minutes of round eight. He was landing hellacious combinations and wasn’t able to hurt Ward. Once again, late in the round, Ward hurt Gatti after landing several shots to the head and body. Right before the bell rang to end the round, Ward landing a huge left hook to Gatti’s ribcage. The amount of punishment Ward walked through to get to Gatti was humanly impossible. Ward immediately went back to the body at the very beginning of round and knocked Gatti down with another picture perfect left hook to the ribcage. Gatti barely got up at nine. Ward battered Gatti for the next minute with crunching shots to both the body and head. Ward seemed to punch himself out and then Gatti took over the next minute of the round by landing his own bombs to the body and head of Ward. Now, Gatti was exhausted and hurt by another crushing left hook to his ribcage. Ward beat the hell out of Gatti for the rest of the round. One of the single, most incredulous rounds in boxing history.
It was a testament to the Montreal native Gatti’s will to win and heart that he would come back after taking a severe beating in the ninth round and out-punch and out-slug Ward for the entire 10th and final round. Both of Gatti’s eyes were completely shut, yet he was able to punish a now completely exhausted Ward to try and win either by knockout or decision. Ward won by majority decision in a fight that saw both fighters go through hell and back.
Ward and Gatti immediately fought each other again two more times. While good fights, neither one had the same drama as the first fight. Gatti won both by decision. Ward wisely retired after their third and decisive fight. He became a trainer, and alongside his brother Dick Ecklund, owns and operates a boxing gym in his hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts. A movie about his life starring Mark Wahlberg as Ward was released in 2010 to outstanding reviews. Gatti’s life after their three fight trilogy was not as kind.
Gatti should’ve retired after his last fight with Ward. Instead, he continued fighting and suffered more unnecessary punishment to a body that had sustained more punishment than any other high profiled fighter I’ve ever seen. In 2006, he fought the greatest fighter of the 21st century, Floyd Mayweather. For six rounds, Gatti took a horrific beating and barely hit the elusive iconic Mayweather before his corner wisely stopped the fight. Gatti would get knocked out in his last two fights before finally retiring at the age of 35, a year later.
Two years after marrying his Brazilian wife Amanda Rodrigues, they went on a vacation to her native Brazil. On the morning of July 11, 2009, Gatti was found dead while hung by a pocket book strap at the resort he and Amanda were staying at. Amanda was initially charged with murder. The coroner’s report quickly ruled that Gatti had committed suicide and all murder charges were dropped. Eleven years later, details of Gatti’s tragic end at the age of 37 remain extremely sketchy. Gatti’s life outside the ring was as violent as it was inside the ring. There were several reports of domestic abuse while he was married to Amanda. Witnesses who last saw Gatti and his wife in public claimed that Gatti had beaten his wife and then left her and got into a cab. Whatever happened afterwards is pure speculation and may never be uncovered.
21. Jorge Castro Vs John David Jackson I
December 10, 1994
Venue: Estadio de Béisbol Monterrey
Jorge Castro was the epitome of an Argentinian brawler. The man had a granite chin and kept coming, yet could not be stopped. John David Jackson was a southpaw boxer with both superior foot and hand speed. Castro had won the WBA Middleweight title in August of 1994 after Jackson had been stripped of the title for participating in a non-sanctioned fight, one of the most ridiculous reasons I’ve ever heard of a fighter being stripped of his title. Castro’s first defense of his newly won title would be against the former champion Jackson.
Jackson came out determined to win back the title that was stolen from him. The first two rounds saw the 31-year-old former champion keep the fight in the middle of the ring and landed several right jabs and hooks against the 27-year-old defensively challenged champion from Argentina. In the third round, Castro laid up against the ropes and allowed Jackson to throw over 60 unanswered punches. It was Castro’s version of the rope-a-dope. With less than 30 seconds left in the round, Castro bounced off the ropes and landed several ripping shots to both Jackson’s head and body.
Castro rushed out of his corner to start round four and forced his will on Jackson. The entire round was a slugfest that saw Castro stun Jackson with both left hooks and right uppercuts. Round five and six showed Jackson being able to keep the fight outside and land several combinations, although Castro was able to land some very telling rights to the head and hooks to the body. Early in round seven, Jackson landed a wicked left cross that opened up a massive cut on Castro’s right eyelid and had him badly hurt. The rest of the round saw Jackson totally have his way with the rugged Argentinian.
Round eight was more of the same, with the cut on the lid of Castro’s eye getting increasingly worse. Referee Stanley Christodoulou was dangerously close to stopping the fight. For the first two minutes of the ninth round again, Jackson unmercifully battered Castro with one razor sharp combination after another. Once again, Jackson badly hurt Castro with another left cross. With blood gushing out of his right eyelid, Castro was all but out on his feet against the ropes. Jackson, in going for the kill, walked into a riveting left hook that dropped him. Jackson’s head violently bounced off the canvas, but on instinct he was able to get up at the count of eight. Now Jackson was out on his feet and Castro wasted no time in capitalizing on his opportunity as he dropped Jackson twice more, resulting in referee Christodoulou stopping the fight in one of the most stunning turnarounds in boxing history.
This would be the 96th win of Castro’s career. He would lose his title a year later. Castro would fight 38 more times after losing his title and would unsuccessfully lose twice in attempts at winning another world title. He would retire in 2007 after an astonishing 130 wins out of 144 fights at the age of 39.
Jackson was never the same after his dramatic knockout loss to Castro. He would lose three of his last six fights, including a rematch with Castro, before finally retiring in 1999 at the age of 36. Jackson currently is one of the most sought out trainers in the sport. His biggest success was leading Sergey Kovalev to the Light Heavyweight Championship of the World.