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Breaking down the 10 greatest fights in StubHub Center history

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Since the StubHub Center (formerly Home Depot Center) first opened it’s doors on June 1, 2003, in Carson, California, it’s become the premier outdoor arena in not just North America but arguably the world.

The state of the art facility, which cost $150 million to build, plays home to a 2,450 seat Velodrome, a 27,000 soccer stadium where MLS’s Los Angeles Galaxy play their home games and of course the 8,000 seat tennis court, which is re-configured to host boxing events.

The Leo Santa Cruz-Chris Avalos and Abner Mares-Andres Gutierrez doubleheader takes place on Saturday at the venue, famously dubbed by Tim Bradley as ‘The War Ground” for its 36th boxing event.

During that time many of the best fighters in the world have plied their trade there. It has also been the host venue for four “Ring Magazine Fights of the Year”.” The AEG owned property on Avalon Boulevard is a modern day Colosseum.

Here we look back in chronological order at the 10 best fights to take place at the venue:

Fight: Israel Vazquez vs. Rafael Marquez
Date: March 3, 2007

Significance: This was tabbed as an all-action fight between two proud Mexicans at the peak of their powers and expected to produce drama and lots of it. Vazquez initially held the IBF junior featherweight before settling an old rivalry with Oscar Larios to capture the WBC title. In his previous outing he rallied to stop another Mexican, Jhonny Gonzalez, late. Marquez would be making his debut at 122-pounds after he held the IBF bantamweight crown where he reigned supreme for four years after twice beating Mark Johnson and then upsetting Tim Austin.

How it played out: It didn’t disappoint, as Marquez was dumped on to the canvas in the third round but rebounded to break Vazquez’ nose. Vazquez decided to retire at the end of the seventh frame with breathing problems. The fight was evenly contested and set up a rematch in what ultimately ended as a four-fight series.

Fight: Paul Williams vs. Antonio Margarito
Date: July 14, 2007

Significance: Margarito had long been considered the bogeyman of the welterweight division and one of the most avoided fighters in the world. He’d made seven successful defenses and entered as a slim 6/5 betting favorite against the unbeaten Williams. The 26-year-old African-American was also a nightmare for everyone he’d faced. He was very tall for 147 pounds at 6-foot-1, strong, determined and possessed a high workrate with upward of 1,000 punches in some fights.

How it played out: A close nip and tuck affair followed, and both fighters were extremely active throughout. Williams’ slightly busier style endeared him to the judges who voted in his favor at the conclusion (116-112 and 115-113 twice).

Fight: Israel Vazquez vs. Rafael Marquez III
Date: March 1, 2008

Significance: Almost a year to the day of their first meeting at the same venue with the rivalry poised at 1-1 they fought for a third time. Both fights so far hadn’t let anyone down and the third was expected to be just a violent.

How it played out: Vazquez touched down early before both men fought on even terms in another pulsating back and fourth encounter. The fight was close and up for grabs on the scorecards entering the final round before Vazquez broke through and hurt Marquez, who only stayed on his feet because of the ropes but was given a standing count. It proved to be a pivotal moment as Vazquez was awarded a split decision (114-111, 113-112 and 111-114).

Fight: Cristian Mijares -vs- Vic Darchinyan
Date: November 1, 2008

Significance: A rarity in the lighter weight classes, a unification with three titles on the line. Mijares entered having won the WBC title a couple years earlier, and he WBA belt afterward. The Mexican had been very active, ratcheting up eight defenses. Darchinyan demolished Dmitry Kirilov three months earlier to earn the IBF championship. Mijares was favored due to his awkward style.

How it played out: The Australian-based Armenian got off to an excellent start, dropping Mijares in the opening stanza and though Mijares did his best to turn the tide he was never able to hurt Darchinyan. By the ninth Darchinyan was comfortably ahead on the scorecards but added the exclamation point to his impressive performance by knocking out Mijares in the final seconds of the round with a howitzer of a left hand.

Fight: Brandon Rios vs. Mike Alvarado
Date: October 13, 2012

Significance: These two hard-nosed, all-action fighters were matched over 10 rounds in a WBO junior welterweight title eliminator on “HBO Boxing After Dark.” It had all the makings of a thriller.

How it played out: There was no feeling out process, both men went straight to it, throwing a combined 190 punches in the opening round. It set the tone, no quarter given, none asked. Rios hurt Alvarado in the second, Alvarado returned the favor in the fifth. Over the next couple of rounds both enjoyed success before Rios broke through hurting Alvarado, the Colorado-resident stumbled into the ropes and took several more shots before referee Pat Russell jumped into to stop him on his feet in the seventh round of a tremendous battle of attrition. Promoter Bob Arum asked Rios moments later, “How did you do it?!” Rios, in a way only he can, excitedly shouted, “Balls!” It set them up for a rematch that Alvarado won, which led to the trilogy, that ultimately saw Rios prevail.

Fight: Tim Bradley vs. Ruslan Provodnikov
Date: March 16, 2013

Significance: Bradley returned nine months after his controversial win over Manny Pacquiao. In the ensuing months he’d become something of a boxing pariah. He took on grizzled Russian puncher Ruslan Provodnikov, whom Bradley was expected to easily outbox. After all, Provodnikov was stepping up not just in terms of fighting an elite boxer but also moving up seven pounds to welterweight.

How it played out: Bradley fought like a man with something to prove from the first bell. Bradley was badly hurt in the opening round and again in the second round, showing huge heart to stay on his feet and in the fight. He gathered himself and steadied the ship, boxing instead of fighting with the heavy-handed Russian. The defending champion was hurt again in the sixth but was able to again use his considerable boxing skills to smash up Provodnikov’s face over the course of the next few rounds. However, instead of continuing to box, the Californian – who later revealed he had no recollection of the fight – was drawn into a shoot-out and was again caught and rocked, finally as the horn sounded to signal the final 10 seconds of the bout, Bradley finally went down. He was able to just about stand and see out the fight in a wild modern day classic that won fight of the year honors, and Bradley ended up with a controversial decision victory.

Fight: Lucas Matthysse vs. John Molina
Date: April 26, 2014

Significance: Matthysse and Molina were matched as part of a Showtime tripleheader  that also featured Keith Thurman-Julio Diaz and Omar Figueroa-Jerry Belmontes on a glittering all-star Golden Boy promotion. It was an important fight for Matthysse who was bidding to get back to winning ways having lost to Danny Garcia the previous September.

How it played out: While Thurman easily took out Diaz and Figueroa labored to outpoint Belmontes, Matthysse-Molina was a straight up brawl. The hard-nosed, rugged Argentinean endured a tumultuous start: he was dropped in the second, cut in the third and on the canvas again in the fifth. However, he was able to use his sharper technique to slowly but surely peg the California native back, putting Molina on the mat in the eighth and 10th before bludgeoning him into defeat in the penultimate round of an outstanding fight that later garnered honors as “THE RING Magazine Fight of The Year.”

Fight: Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Gary Russell Jr.
Date: June 21, 2014

Significance: When Lomachenko (1-1, 1 KO) announced his intentions to turn pro he said he would move quickly. In just his second fight he faced the vastly more experienced WBO featherweight champion Orlando Salido. On that occasion he lacked the nuances of the pro game, but learned and grew as the fight progressed. On the other hand, Russell (24-0, 14 KOs) for all his talent hadn’t faced anyone of note and had been roundly criticized for the poor level of his opposition. The two were matched on a summer’s evening for the vacant WBO featherweight title.

How it played out: Although not the high octane shootout many of the others on this list are, this was a high-class boxing match between two elite fighters. Lomachenko proved himself against the best opponent he’s faced to date in a fight he could ill afford to lose. The two-time Olympic gold medalist used his greater poise to offset Russell’s lightning-fast handspeed. At the conclusion of 12 rounds, the only surprise was that it was announced as a majority decision, as Lisa Giampa’s 114-114 scorecard was vetoed by Pat Russell and Max De Luca, who both sided with Lomachenko 116-112.

Fight: Francisco Vargas vs. Orlando Salido
Date: June 4, 2016

Significance: Vargas looked to make the first defense of his WBC junior lightweight throne against his countryman Salido. This matchup pitted two rugged, physical, heavy-handed pressure fighters, neither who take a backward step. On paper it looked a can’t miss all-action fight.

How it played out: It played out just like we had hoped and then some. Both men exchanged from the get go, tearing into each other, round after round. The two continued their assault on each other, their faces swollen and covered in crimson red. The fight was ruled a majority draw.

Fight: Juan Francisco Estrada vs. Carlos Cuadras
Date: September 9, 2017

Significance: Estrada and Cuadras were matched together on the much anticipated “Super Fly” card just a month ago. The promotion was headlined by the Srisaket Sor Rungvisai-Roman Gonzalez rematch and saw Naoya Inoue make his U.S. debut. Cuadras, a former WBC 115-pound titlist and Estrada, a former unified flyweight champion were matched in a WBC eliminator, with the winner becoming the mandatory challenger to Rungvisai and maybe more importantly, Mexican bragging rights.

How it played out: Cuadras picked and poked his way to an early lead. Estrada was never far behind and continued to try to close the distance. In the second half of the fight he enjoyed more success and looked the stronger man. In the 10th round, Estrada dropped Cuadras to the canvas with a right hand in what would be a pivotal moment. When Michael Buffer announced the scorecards, he initially tabbed Cuadras as the winner (114-113 on all three scorecards), only to correct them seconds later.

 

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