Sunday Sermon: The Fall Of An Empire
‘Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around. His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory’
HBO recently announced their plans to fold up shop, confirming they have kicked boxing to the curb in 2019. We can speculate why, blame Peter Nelson or congratulate Bob Arum and Al Haymon, but I won’t. Instead I’ll pay homage to the good things, fighter and events HBO brought to the boxing world.
Here’s a list of HBO most memorable events.
Muhammed Ali-George Foreman – The Rumble in the Jungle
There was a time when Las Vegas wasn’t the home to all major fights and promoters actually staged the fights outside of the United States. Muhammad Ali was a heavy underdog although he had avenged previous losses to Ken Norton and Joe Frazier in the year leading up to the encounter. Foreman on the other hand was Ivan Drago before Ivan Drago. He was a killer, perceived to be too big and unbeatable.
Ali turned in, arguably, the best performance of his legendary career. The ‘monstrous’ aura of Foreman was annihilated by the GOAT as Ali rope-a-doped, matadored and schooled the bully.
The magnitude of this event has nor never will be matched.
Muhammed Ali-Joe Frazier 3 – The Thrilla in Manilla
Need a fight to turn any casual sports fan into a boxing fan, put on Ali-Frazier 3 and they’ll be a fan for life.
There isn’t a trilogy in the history of sports that will ever match the brutality, savagery or historical importance of Ali-Frazier. It was built on hatred, patriotism and social divide. Ali was Kaepernick before Kaepernick and Frazier was perceived as an Uncle Tom. However, the slander leading up to the finale, after years and years of disrespect, was met with respect after the third installment.
The lasting effect the trilogy had on both individuals is heartbreaking. Frazier only fought two more times after ‘The Thrilla in Manilla’, his last fight coming a full six years later. Although Ali fought 10 times following the third installment, he was never the same, losing to guys like Leon Spinks, Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick. Both Fighters health would deteriorate with the passing years and was probably the leading example of why championship fights were changed from 15 rounds to 12 rounds.
Aaron Pryor Vs Alexis Arguello – The Battle of Champions
Few fights in the history can match the volume, gut-wrenching pounding both fighters absorbed over the course of 14 rounds. The first round was a classic as both fighter hurt each other and would set the tone for what would become one of the the greatest, action-packed fights in the history of the sport.
Of course, the glaring controversy surrounding the fight. Pryor’s head trainer, Panama Lewis, a perceived dirtball and cheater, used a water bottle containing what is now believed to have been antihistamine pills starting as early as round two. He can be heard on the fight recording to hand him the bottle before round 11, “No, not that one, the one I mixed”. Pryor inexplicably caught a second wind and proceeded to pound out a knockout over Arguello in round 14, with Arguello collapsing to the canvas after the referee stepped in to stop the fight.
They would rematch a year later with Pryor again stopping Arguello but it was nowhere near the exciting encounter of their first fight.
Marvin Hagler-Thomas Hearns – The War
We may never see another encounter of this magnitude unfold quite like Hagler-Hearns did. They were arguably two of the biggest names in the sport at the time – still to this day – and what proceeded after the first bell rang, couldn’t have been expected or even hoped for.
There was no feeling out process, this was a 100-yard dash as opposed to a marathon. Whoever could withstand the tortured pace would cross the finish line on their feet instead of their back. Three rounds of hell proceeded and when the dust settled, Hearns was dead on his feet, exhausted as Hagler beheaded him, causing Hearns to fall head first into the canvas.
We’ve seen plenty of wars over the years and fast-paced fights. We’ve never seen Hagler-Hearns though and we probably never will. With the luxurious paydays and fighters less willing to take a loss these days, most high profile fights have become tactical and fought in spurts.
Julio Cesar Chavez vs Meldrick Taylor – Thunder Vs Lightning
Power and tenacity versus speed and precision, you couldn’t ask for a better recipe of contradicting styles. How would they mesh? Would it cause for a boring, wrestling march?
It only led to one of most action packed, controversial fights you’ll ever witness.
Chavez hit Taylor with every combination in the book. Taylor buzzed Chavez with every counter, lead variation ever taught in a boxing gym. The war of nutrition was fought to the very last seconds of the fight.
With under 17 seconds remaining, Chavez leveled Taylor, dropping him with a straight right hand in the corner. Taylor beat the count but instead of focusing on referee Richard Steele, Taylor had his eyes on his corner, ignoring referee Richard Steele’s commands. Steele would stop the fight with only four seconds remaining.
Taylor was ahead comfortably on two scorecards heading into the final round.
Mike Tyson-James Buster Douglas – Tyson is Back
This will forever go down as one of the biggest upsets in the history of sports.
Tyson’s persona can only be matched by the most legendary of legends in the history of entertainment. He was at the height of popularity and in the prime of his career. He was feared, celebrated and he soaked in every moment of it. Douglas was a sacrificial lamb in what was suppose to be Mike’s career-defining fight against Evander Holyfield.
Douglas kicked Mike’s ass from the opening bell. With Tyson’s left eye beginning to swell shut, he finally landed his trademark uppercut in round eight, sending Douglas crashing to the canvas. History will tell you that Douglas benefited from a “long” count. However, Douglas, by the only account that matters, the ref’s, beat the count.
Douglas would recover and in the 10th round, Tyson was crawling on the canvas trying to retrieve his mouth piece from a uppercut. He was done, discombobulated as referee Octavio Meyran counted him out and wrapped his arms around the fallen fighter.
Sylvester Stallone couldn’t have wrote a better script.
Oscar De La Hoya-Felix Trinidad – The Fight of the Millennium
De La Hoya will go down as one of the most popular boxers in the history of the sport. Trinidad will always be viewed as a feared and respected fighter. There aren’t many fights in the history of the sport that can match the anticipation of this event.
Like many fights on this list, controversy surrounding the ending makes it more dramatic. De La Hoya boxed beautifully for the majority of the fight. He kept Trinidad at bay and didn’t allow him to ever fall into a groove or set his feet long enough to inflict a lot of damage. For some odd reason though, De la Hoya changed his game plan and coasted for the final 3 rounds believing he had the fight in the bag.
It back-fired, to the surprise of De la Hoya and probably everyone associated with it, and who was viewing the fight. Trinidad would be awarded a victory by majority decision.
The fight would set the record for non-Heavyweight PPV buys with 1.4 million.
Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson – It’s On
The fight paved the way for cross-rival networks HBO and Showtime to co-produce a boxing event. There wasn’t no doubt who was going to win the fight as Lewis was in the prime of his career. You could dream and pray Tyson had one last uppercut left in him. But let’s be honest, Tyson was so shot by this time it was almost depressing watching Lewis bust his face up.
The weird thing about this fight is that Lewis took one fight after this and abruptly retired. Tyson took a few more paydays before riding off into the sunset as well.
Roy Jones-John Ruiz- Never Take A Heavyweight Lightly
This is a bit of a biased pick as Roy Jones Jr is my favorite fighter and my reason for the passion I have for boxing. Historically, what Roy accomplished on this night can only be matched by one fighter in the history of the sport, Bob Fitzsimmons.
Jones would capture the Middleweight title in 1993 before becoming on of the greatest Light Heavyweights in the sports history. Jones would always tease the media and fans with talks of moving up to the Heavyweight division but no one ever took him serious. That all changed when Don ponied up a King’s ransom for Jones’ services.
John Ruiz somehow won a Heavyweight title. It was the perfect scenario, a smaller heavyweight, less skilled and not much of a puncher. Still, you’re talking about giving up 25-plus pounds.
Roy did what he always did in his amazing career, he performed in a manner that few ever did. It was the last great hurrah of his career.
Floyd Mayweather vs Oscar de la Hoya – The World Awaits
It was the most lucrative bout to date, generating $139 million. It also produced the first-ever installment of HBO’s award-winning 24/7 series. De la hoya was a mainstream star at this point of his career and it provided Mayweather that final stepping stone to super-stardom.
The fight lived up to expectations as De la hoya pressed Mayweather for 12 rounds. Mayweather provided us with his usual pop shot antics, slick defense and blazing hand speed. In the end, the tension was thicker than butter as people awaited the decision.
Mayweather would walk away with a split decision, his undefeated record intact and his new moniker, ‘Money Mayweather.”
Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao- The Fight of the Century
Yes, it was five years passed its due date but the magnitude, interest and generated revenue still exceeded all expectations. The best part of the fight was the lead up and the shit talking between the fans of both.
The fight was lackluster to say the least. Pacquiao, hurt or not, was and still is, on the downside of his career. It was your typical Mayweather performance, tactical, educational and drama-less.
Mayweather flashed his $100 million check and laughed at the post fight press conference. Pacquiao cried about a shoulder injury and the judging but ultimately, it was all sour grapes in the end.