Monday, January 30, 2023  |



They Never Happened – part II


Johnny Tapia (left), here landing a punch against Antonio Ruiz during their 10-round fight in 1994, was arguably the best junior bantamweight ever. However, Tapia, who was in his prime at 115 pounds during the mid-1990s, never fought Mark Johnson, a top flyweight and junior bantamweight during the mid-to-late 1990s. What would have happened had they fought?



With Floyd Mayweather’s recent mastery over Canelo Alvarez and Manny Pacquiao’s upcoming fight with Brandon Rios, the subject of the Mayweather-Pacquiao mega-bout, which did not happen when it should have, has come up once again among the hardcore followers of both future hall of famers. Anson Wainwright has compiled a list of 10 super showdowns that could have taken place but didn’t along with the opinions of three top matchmakers, who tell us what might’ve happened if they had.

Recently, Wainwright penned part I of “They Never Happened” for, in which he proposed 10 other potential super bouts that, for whatever reasons, never came to pass.

Judging by the positive feedback, boxing fans enjoyed reading what Wainwright describes as his “guilty pleasure,” so he came up with a second batch of mega-match ups. Once again, Wainwright enlisted the help of three respected boxing matchmakers – Brad Goodman of Top Rank, Robert Diaz of Golden Boy Promotions and Star Boxing’s Ron Katz – to preside over the following dream fights that never happened:

Mike Tyson vs. George Foreman

What Happened: Neither fighter needs any introduction being two of the hardest-punching heavyweights in history. The opportunity for these two to have fought would have been in 1988 or ’89, the tail end of Tyson’s reign as the undisputed champion and just after Foreman returned from a self-imposed 10-year exile. This also could have come off in late-1995/early-1996 after Tyson completed his jail sentence and Foreman had not long since beaten Michael Moorer (at that juncture, making him the oldest fighter to ever win a world title). It was a fight that would have likely broken all pay-per-view records but for a variety of reasons was never consummated.

What Would Have Happened?
Ron Katz – 
Tyson by decision, the older version of Foreman wouldn’t be able to keep Tyson off of him. The hand speed of Mike would be too much for George to deal with.

Robert Diaz – The 1980s Foreman was a beast that only had trouble with a boxer/puncher like [Muhammad] Ali but not with toe-to-toe bangers like Tyson. I see the same outcome as in the [Joe] Frazier bout. Mike does not intimidate Foreman and in fact is intimidated by him. The ’96 version of Foreman was no longer intimidating and too slow for Mike. Tyson KO 6.

Brad Goodman – I like Foreman. I think Foreman became a better fighter later on in his career after he came back from his retirement. I think he would have stopped Tyson.

Roy Jones Jr. vs.  Dariusz Michalczewski

What Happened: For several years in the late-1990s to early-2000s, this fight was much debated among boxing fans, pitting “RJJ,” who’d all but cleaned up the light heavyweight division against the hardnosed German-based Pole, Michalczewski. Though light years slower than Jones, “The Tiger” would bring an uncomfortable amount of pressure whilst also being the naturally bigger man. Michalczewski’s skills were primitive by comparison but he knew how to get the job done, going an initial 48-0, including 27 world titles bouts before the wheels came off. For much of his prime, Jones wowed audiences on HBO whilst Michalzewski fought on German TV. Though boxing fans would have liked to see this fight, neither guy really pressed for it or was willing to go on the road to make it happen.

What Would Have Happened?
Ron Katz – 
Depends on where the fight took place, that’s the reason it was never made. Neither guy wanted to leave their home base but on a neutral site, I would pick Jones in a hard-fought decision.

Robert Diaz – At his best, Roy was unstoppable and I see a late round TKO in his favour.

Brad Goodman – I like Roy Jones; [he was] just too skilled and at that time he was on top of his game, he could have beaten anyone out there. If he were to stop [Michalczewski], I think it could have been late.


James Toney vs. Gerald McClellan

What Happened: Way back in the day, these two both fought out of Detroit’s Kronk Gym, where they shared heated sparring sessions, so they were readily aware of each other’s abilities. If any fighter had the skills to keep McClellan’s bone-crunching power at bay and outhustle his opponent, it was Toney. Similarly, if anyone could take out the iron-chinned Toney it would be McClellan, who probably punched harder than any other 160-168-pounders of the last 20-plus years.

What Would Have Happened?
Ron Katz – 
James had too many tools for Gerald to deal with. It would be a teacher-pupil type match with Toney winning a wide decision.

Robert Diaz – It is very interesting fight but Toney always found a way to win. Toney, unanimous decision.

Brad Goodman – James Toney would have taken him to school. Toney would have won on points. Toney wasn’t a big puncher.


Shane Mosley vs. Felix Trinidad

What Happened: Trinidad had just left the confines of 147 when Mosley invaded them, beating Oscar De la Hoya in 2000. By the time Mosley ventured to junior middleweight, Trinidad was a full-blown middleweight. It all just comes down to bad timing. Had the fight happened, Mosley was the more naturally-talented guy whilst Trinidad wouldn’t have been overawed, pressing the Sugar Man. Not unlike the proposed Toney-McClellan fight, Mosley’s chin was all but infallible during his prime. At the same time, he never met a puncher quite like “Tito.”

What Would Have Happened?
Ron Katz – 
I think “Tito’s” physical advantages will win the day for him in a terrific fight. I could see Trinidad getting off the deck to win a hotly-disputed split decision.

Robert Diaz – A great fight at Madison Square Garden, back-and-forth action but Shane had difficulties with taller fighters. I see Trinidad in a close decision.

Brad Goodman – I think Mosley would have won. Mosley could have maybe stopped him. Just too skilled, had a real good chin. I like Mosley.


Miguel Cotto vs. Ricky Hatton

What Happened: A fight that bandied about in the midst of the last decade, which would have done tremendous business either in Manchester at the MEN Arena or the Etihad Stadium (the home of Hatton’s beloved Manchester City) or New York at Madison Square Garden (where throngs of Puerto Rican’s and Brits would have descended). It’s possible the fight might have been staged at Yankee Stadium to accommodate the huge following both enjoyed. Think about it: tens of thousands travelled from Britain for Floyd Mayweather vs. Hatton in Las Vegas, so there’s no reason to think a similar amount wouldn’t have made this journey. The real kicker here is the fight would likely live up to the expectations, two attack-minded fighters looking to push each other back. Neither guy would have far to look to find the other.

What Would Have Happened?
Ron Katz – 
A total wipe-out as Hatton is made to order for Cotto. A game Hatton gets stopped midway through the bout.

Robert Diaz – Wow, two of my favourite fighters and friends. DRAW.

Brad Goodman – Not even a contest, Miguel Cotto, hands down. Absolutely beats him down and stops him probably sometime in the second half of the fight, just busts him up.


Oscar De la Hoya vs. Kostya Tszyu

What Happened: All but a done deal, Tszyu needed only to beat Vince Phillips, an obstacle proving too much back in 1997, when the Russian was stunningly stopped in the 10th stanza. Though Tszyu was able to rebound and rebuild his career, by the time he had reached the apex of his game, De la Hoya was out of reach and so was a career-high payday. A very interesting fight where both possessed the power to hurt and probably stop the other, this would have been nicely poised and been the biggest threat to the “Golden Boy’s” early ascension to boxing royalty.

What Would Have Happened?
Ron Katz – 
Oscar would have to fight the perfect fight. Tszyu has great power and his punches came from different angles. At the end of the day, I could see Tszyu stopping Oscar late in the match with Oscar having his moments.

Robert Diaz – Very good fight and you have speed and style vs. Tszyu stalking, trying to catch Oscar. I see a very similar fight as De La Hoya vs. Chavez [I]. I see a bloody Tszyu being saved by the ref in round 10.

Brad Goodman – Wow, that’s a very tough fight. I would say Oscar would win a close decision but not with a lot of confidence.


Diego Corrales vs. Arturo Gatti

What Happened: This meeting between the ultimately ill-fated pair would have been one for the ages and should have come with an 18 certificate (like an R-rating or a “Parental Advisory” sticker in the States). Though these two never shared a weight class, they were only a division apart for most of their careers. Tragically, Corrales and Gatti passed away far too young in 2007 and 2009, respectively. Between them, they were involved in an incredible six “Fight of the Year” award winners (five of them were to Gatti) and three “Round of the Year” nods (as voted by The Ring magazine) plus countless honourable mentions. It’s sure to be the type of all-action fight with many twists and turns in momentum with both more than capable of suddenly ending the action. That said, you can be sure you’d have to nail either to the canvas to keep them there. Both would be licking their lips at the mere thought of facing each other, each the very embodiment of a warrior. I’m sure both would be smiling down from the heavens, nodding with approval of this match-up.

What Would Have Happened?
Ron Katz – Hide the women and children for this one. Corrales’ skill level was better and in a knockdown, drag-out brawl, Diego comes out on top with a bloody, stoppage win.

Robert Diaz – WOW! Cannot even envision it! War of all wars! Corrales TKO 10.

Brad Goodman – Corrales would beat the crap out of him, just too skilled. I mean, obviously, he’d have to be careful not to be hit by one of Gatti’s bombs. I just think Corrales with his overall skill would get to Gatti before Gatti got to him. I think he would stop Gatti in around six rounds. I think whether it was junior lightweight or lightweight, Corrales had too many skills for him but Gatti would have been in the fight the whole way because of his gameness and Corrales’ bad chin. But even with that said, I think he’d have got to Gatti and cut him up and then stopped him.

Azumah Nelson vs. Barry McGuigan

What Happened: This was close to being made during the mid-to-late 1980s, another battle falling foul to one participant losing at a crucial time. In this instance it was McGuigan, who fought Steve Cruz in the summer of 1986 in Las Vegas fading during the championship rounds due to the searing heat before dropping a unanimous decision. McGuigan was never the same again and never mixed it up in world-class outings, while Nelson headed up to junior lightweight where he further enhanced his already impressive r├®sum├®, standing as one of the best fighters to ever come out of Africa.

What Would Have Happened?
Ron Katz – 
The old “Professor” would frustrate McGuigan throughout and win a clear-cut decision.

Robert Diaz – Azumah was a professor and Barry was a warrior. That would equal a bloodbath in the desert. Azumah TKO 9.

Brad Goodman – I would say Azumah. Tough fight [McGuigan] would have been in but Azumah was just too skilled.


Kennedy McKinney vs. Tracy Patterson

What Happened: Tracy Patterson is the adopted son of former heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson and was the WBC 122-pound titlist for over two years in the early-to-mid-’90s. McKinney was a decorated amateur whose career almost didn’t take off due to personal problems, however the 1988 Olympic gold medalist held the IBF strap during a similar time frame. A fight between the two seemed a natural as both were talented boxer-punchers who had been featured on network TV and basic cable before both unexpectedly lost in the summer of ’94. Both enjoyed further future success as Patterson became a two-division world champion after briefly holding the IBF 130-pound crown (losing it to Arturo Gatti) while McKinney went on to be one-half of the main event on the inaugural HBO Boxing After Dark telecast (losing to Marco Antonio Barrera in a bid for the WBO 126-pound title). The window of opportunity was sometime in 1993; however, at the time, there wasn’t really enough clamour for HBO or Showtime to put up the big bucks for a junior featherweight clash.

What Would Have Happened?
Ron Katz – 
Interesting match but I see McKinney’s power as being the difference. Both fighters could hit the deck in this one but the announcer calls it for McKinney in a majority or split decision.

Robert Diaz – Tracy would take an early lead but would not be able to handle Kennedy’s power. Kennedy had real punching power. McKinney by clear decision.

Brad Goodman – I would lean towards Kennedy McKinney, just the better amateur credentials, just the better fighter. He probably would have stopped him late I think.

Johnny Tapia vs. Mark Johnson

What Happened: Two of the finest practitioners to ever campaign at junior bantamweight, a division in which Tapia never lost. Tapia, who endured more in life than you’d wish on your worst enemy, was a skilled boxer, adept in all facets of boxing with a heart that belied his size. While Johnson, a Washington D.C. native, plied his trade in the early years cross-country at the Great Western Forum where he regularly put beatings on quality Mexican opponents. It was hard for an American flyweight to catch on with the public, so not unlike Mike McCallum before him, Johnson was never quite able to get the adulation he craved and because of his weight and lack of name opponent. Thus, he was never really able to show the world just how special his talent was. “Too Sharp” stepped up to 115 pounds in 1999 but “Mi Vida Loca” moved up to 118 and while they fought at or around the same division until the middle of the next decade, they were never laced them up and met in the ring.

What Would Have Happened?
Ron Katz – 
A decision win for Johnson over the ever game and pressing Tapia. Johnson was a fabulous boxer with a very high skill level. Tapia would be a step behind throughout and in the end, Johnson wins a competitive decision.

Robert Diaz – The battle of the little guys, two of the best but Tapia’s never-quit attitude would be too much for Mark.

Brad Goodman – I would say “Too Sharp.” At that time, he was probably the best 115-pound champ we ever had. I think [Johnson wins] on points. Tapia was just too game to get stopped.



Artwork (Corrales vs. Gatti) / Coyote Duran
Photos / THE RING

Please feel free to send in your suggestions and we’ll do an interactive “They Never Happened III” where you get to pick the fights and our matchmakers will offer their expert theories.


Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him at