Closet Boxing Classics: What to watch this summer
Boxing enjoyed a strong first half of 2022. We saw several memorable battles, upsets and eye-catching knockouts.
We’re currently in the midst of the dog days of summer, waiting on the second half of the year’s schedule to fill out.
The next big fight we have to look forward to is Oleksandr Usyk-Anthony Joshua 2 on August 20, which is followed by the much-anticipated Canelo Alvarez-Gennadiy Golovkin 3 grudge match on September 17. And we’re waiting with baited breath in the hope that Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford will meet for the undisputed welterweight championship this fall.
However, with the summer holidays here and temperatures rising, what are the closet classics you’d recommend a fight fan watch?
I enlisted several of my Ring colleagues and boxing insiders to give their thoughts and musings on their recommendations.
Here’s how the experts see it:
THE RING MAGAZINE/RINGTV.COM
DOUG FISCHER: JAMES TONEY Vs. MIKE MCCALLUM 1
“I’ll go with James Toney-Mike McCallum I. It was a 1991 showdown between the two best middleweights in the sport. McCallum was the veteran who had reigned since 1989 and defended vs. top contenders, such as Steve Collins, Michael Watson and Sumbu Kalambay. Toney was the bold new face that had shocked the world with his KO of Michael Nunn and then narrowly defended his version of the crown vs. Reggie Johnson earlier in the year. It was a major crossroads clash between elite-level boxers with contrasting personalities. Toney was fire, McCallum was ice. And their styles meshed perfectly. Toney was a fascinating blend of aggressive fighter and slippery counterpuncher. McCallum was a master technician with a brilliant jab and a penchant for body punching. (These bad asses lived up to their nicknames.)
“Younger fans who never saw this fight will be entertained by the fast pace and high-volume punching. Older fans who haven’t seen it in a while will be reminded of the sublime technique and ring generalship on display. In time, younger fans who may not appreciate the finer points of boxing right now will come to recognize it in this hotly contested, too-close-to-call 12-rounder. There’s a reason both McCallum and Toney are in the hall of fame.”
TOM GRAY: SUMBU KALAMBAY Vs. MIKE MCCALLUM
“Kalambay defends his WBA middleweight title against the unbeaten McCallum. McCallum is looking to become a two-weight world champion after an excellent reign as the WBA 154-pound titleholder. At junior middleweight, “The Bodysnatcher” had defeated Sean Mannion (UD 15), David Braxton (TKO 8), Julian Jackson (TKO 2), Milton McCrory (TK 10) and, in his previous bout, Donald Curry (KO 5). Kalambay was coming off a pair of solid victories over Herol Graham (UD 12) and Iran Barkley (UD 15). The criminally underrated Kalambay versus future Hall of Famer McCallum is one of the finest pure boxing matches of the modern era.
ANSON WAINWRIGHT: MAHYAR MONSHIPOUR Vs. SOMSAK SITHCHATCHAWAL
“My absolute favorite fight ever was Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo. That was high drama. I remember watching the replay of it with a couple of friends, who are casual fans and they were on the edge of their seats, saying how amazing it was. I sat back and thought, ‘Boys, it only gets better.’ I’d recommend everyone watch that fight as an entrance into boxing, but many fight fans will be familiar with that fight, and as I was reminded by fight fans in a recent story, they want me to go more left-field. So, I’m going to throw out a few personal favorites: Carbajal-Chiquita and James Toney-Prince Charles Williams were terrific scraps, I grew up watching. I was privileged to be at Tim Bradley-Ruslan Provodnikov and Lucas Matthysse-John Molina Jr. live, they were later named Ring Fight of The Year, but I’m going to go with Mahyar Monshipour vs. Somsak Sithchatchawal. It was also the Ring Fight of The Year in 2006. If you haven’t seen it, you won’t be disappointed.”
MICHAEL MONTERO: ISRAEL VAZQUEZ Vs. RAFAEL MARQUEZ 3
“The easy answer is Gatti-Ward 1, but I feel like everybody has seen that fight. So, my suggestion would be Vazquez-Marquez 3, which was named 2008 Fight of the Year by The Ring. Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez had given fans two memorable battles the previous year, both of which ended in mid-rounds stoppages. Their third dance was very special. The Ring junior featherweight title fight took place at what was then known as “Home Depot Center”, just south of Los Angeles in Carson, California, and was broadcast on Showtime.”
LEE GROVES: BOBBY CHACON Vs. RAFEAL LIMON 4
“Any of the 100 fights I profile in my first book “Tales From the Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics” (which is available on Amazon) would do, but if I were to pick one fight for someone to watch, it would be the single greatest fight I’ve ever seen since I became a fan in 1974: The fourth fight between Bobby Chacon and Rafael “Bazooka” Limon. Not only was there tremendous action inside the ring and a melodramatic ending, the back story is movie material. It has rivalry, tragedy, hatred and ambition, and it would be very hard for any fight in the future to match this one. Enjoy!”
DIEGO MORILLO: VICTOR GALINDEZ Vs. RICHIE KATES
“At its best, boxing is a demonstration of two people doing everything in their power to overcome odds that are not only implicit in the fight itself, but in their lives at large. It is a fleeting moment of pain, resilience, tears, blood, courage and insanity that, in their best possible expressions, remain in history forever, chiseled in stone. The stakes, the cut (one of the most gruesome facial lacerations ever seen in a prizefight, anywhere), the blood being sprayed around, the drama surrounding the long hiatus within the fight, and the made-for-Hollywood ending, of course, make this one of the most spectacular fights of all time – and a hidden gem that every boxing fan in the world should learn about.”
MARTY MULCAHEY: CARLOS ZARATE Vs. ALFONSO ZAMORA
“I am going to propose a fight with tons of drama before, during, and after the event. It was the battle of the Z-boys in 1977, with former stable mates (they also shared the same manager) Carlos Zarate (45-0, 44 KO’s) and Alfonso Zamora (29-0, 29 KO’s) putting their undefeated records and KO streaks on the line. The now bitter Mexican rivals wanted this fight so much that neither put their title on the line to avoid sanctioning body interference. There was a very strange start to the fight, when a fan stripped to his undershirt and tight grey shorts, ran into the ring to referee the fight. He was quickly and literally thrown out of the ring by five Los Angeles police officers in riot gear. Once the strangeness was over the battle resumed, continued, and ended in brutal fashion! The fight completely ruined the loser (and the police were forced into action a second time to separate the corners after the fight), and claims of substance laced gloves ensued. It was an electric atmosphere from start to finish, both in the ring and out, that had fans guessing and on edge for weeks. Yes, there are more exciting fights to watch, but if you understand the times, circumstances, true animosity, and disparate careers of what looked like two legends in the making, this fight measures up to any for melodrama and historical importance. Alongside Max Schmeling defeating Joe Louis in their first fight, maybe the most significant meeting of boxers that did not involve a world title belt?”
RON BORGES: MARVIN HAGLER Vs. THOMAS HEARNS
“Hagler-Hearns. The greatest first round in boxing history AND the greatest eight minutes in boxing history. That first round sucked the air out of the arena for anyone who was there. I was honored and grateful to have been among those in the crowd. What a fight! If I could watch only one fight on a loop for the rest of my life, that would be the one. It had everything. Corrales-Castillo. My Lord what a fight. The essence of the spirit of boxing, the never quit mentality required to succeed and sheer bravery. Christy Martin vs. Deidre Gogarty. This is the fight that made women’s boxing. The female version of Gatti-Ward. I could go on but that’s what happens when you spend 50 years of your life writing about boxing and attending boxing matches. You see some stinkers but a lot of greatness.”
WAYNE MCCULLOUGH (FORMER BANTAMWEIGHT TITLEHOLDER/ TRAINER): ERIK MORALES Vs. WAYNE MCCULLOUGH
“My fight with Erik Morales is a great one – a back-and-forth war. During the fight he was hitting me, HARD, so I yelled at him to “hit me harder” and he did and that was only the second round. He was practically lying on the stool in his corner between the ninth and 10th rounds and told his cornerman, Miguel Diaz, that he wanted to quit! I wish he would have. After the fight I was headed into the arena to watch Hamed vs. Soto. But I stopped by to see Morales in his dressing room first. He was lying on the massage table, exhausted, wearing a massive puffer jacket. I was still pretty fresh – hard fights were nothing to me. He stood up, took off his jacket, removed his track suit top and gave it to me. What a sign of respect. He has always said I’m the second toughest fight of his career. We really should have fought again.”
DUKE MCKENZIE (FORMER THREE-DIVISION TITLEHOLDER/TV ANALYST): CORNELIUS BOZA EDWARDS Vs. BOBBY CHACON 1
“For skill, guts, drama, heart, power, fitness, cuts, knockdowns and never giving up, this one gets my vote. Two modern day warriors.”
ROBERT DIAZ (MATCHMAKER, GOLDEN BOY): MARVIN HAGLER Vs. THOMAS HEARNS
“With the purpose of bringing in a new fan into the game, my thought was definitely three rounds of hell: Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns. Then I have to say ‘The Battle of the Z Boys.’ Carlos Zarate vs. Alfonso Zamora. Two undefeated world champions fighting 10 rounds, a combined record of 74-0 (73 knockouts), is just unheard of. Add to it the drama between the corners and then the fan that jumped into the ring to challenge both champions. You had it all.”
STEVE FARHOOD (TV ANALYST): JOSE LUIS CASTILLO Vs. DIEGO CORRALES
“The fight I would most recommend is Corrales-Castillo I. If you want a combination of world-class skills, a brutal pace, non-stop action, and a finish that is STILL difficult to believe, this is the one. And Gatti-Ward I ain’t too shabby either.”
BRUCE TRAMPLER (MATCHMAKER, TOP RANK):
“There are dozens, of course, and naming one takes the light off of others equally deserving. You’d probably want to gently suggest the George Foreman vs. Ron Lyle heavyweight fight, and Hearns vs. Hagler, the Gatti-Ward trilogy, and the Erik Morales vs. Marco Antonio Barrera series, and Oscar De La Hoya vs. Fernando Vargas, Kennedy McKinney vs. Barrera and of course, the dramatic 1993 battle between Michael Carbajal and Chiquita Gonzalez in Las Vegas. That should get him hooked.”
CHRIS LLOYD (COMMENTATOR): DWIGHT MUHAMMAD QAWI Vs. EVANDER HOLYFIELD 1
“One of the last classics in the 15-round era, this was an honest battle of wills, conditioning and mental strength. Holyfield’s first world title fight would prove one of his most grueling encounters against a bullish, physical champion in Qawi who met him blow for blow in every exchange. The action is relentless, you won’t be able to take your eyes off it.”
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI (FORMER TWO-WEIGHT TITLEHOLDER/ COMMENTATOR): ANTHONY JOSHUA Vs. WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO
“The best fight I ever worked was Joshua vs Klitschko, that’s a good one. The atmosphere first with fight week build-up, it felt like the European version of Mayweather vs. Pacquiao or Mayweather vs McGregor. However, unlike those two dud fights, come the end of the week the AJ vs Wlad fight lived up to all the hype and then some. It was spectacular, from the atmosphere inside the stadium, to the walkouts where both fighters had this aura of royalty as they made their way to the ring amidst the mass hysteria of a raucous crowd. When the action started the fight lived up to every bit of the hype. The hairs on my neck were standing as the back-and-forth momentum swings showed the championship mettle of both fighters while keeping the crowd in a frenzy. All the way through to the end, it was an incredible fight and event. When it was over you just knew you’d witnessed something special. I rarely watch back fights that I work. I’m a bit like Johnny Depp in that way (Depp won’t watch movies that he acts in for fear of over thinking and not being natural in future acting jobs) however that fight was so good that I watched it several times. I even watched it with other broadcasts and different commentary just to make sure it really was that good. The fight lives up to the expectation every time. As far as fights I haven’t worked, the fight I would suggest is Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Meldrick Taylor 1. Heartbreaking as it is, it just shocks you if you don’t know the result. And the action was terrific.”
JOLENE MIZZONE (MANAGER): ARTURO GATTI Vs. MICKEY WARD
“My fight of course is Arturo Gatti vs. Mickey Ward, the first one. I will never forget sitting in press section and watching Buddy McGirt almost climb the stairs to stop the fight and Mikey Red grab him by his shirt to not stop it. That is one of my greatest memories. To think we all may have not gotten the trilogy. To explain the fight? Simply a war.”
RUDY HERNANDEZ (TRAINER): WILDREDO GOMEZ Vs. LUPE PINTOR
“Wilfredo Gomez vs. Lupe Pintor – a fight from beginning to end. A must see. Bobby Chacon vs. Cornelius Boza Edwards 1, 2 and 3. They fought and made fans.”
BRAD GOODMAN (MATCHMAKER, TOP RANK): ROBERTO DURAN Vs. DAVEY MOORE
“Without hesitation it has to be Roberto Duran vs. Davey Moore. As a native New Yorker, we had an undefeated hometown champion defending against the comebacking legend. And the winner was… the sold-out crowd that night at MSG. Another recommendation would be Mark Kaylor vs. Errol Christie.”
KATHY DUVA (PROMOTER, MAIN EVENTS): MATTHEW SAAD MUHAMMAD Vs. YAQUI LOPEZ
“I suppose that any of the Gatti-Ward fights would be the easy answer for me. And I am tempted to recommend the first or second Holyfield-Bowe fights as well. But I am going to assume that most fight fans have watched those already.
“I saw the rematch between Yaqui Lopez and Matthew Saad Muhammad in person in McAfee, New Jersey in 1980 because Main Events had Rocky Lockridge on the undercard. The Lopez-Saad fight is still the first one that comes to mind when I get asked a question like this. Maybe because it was the first time I saw elite big men who could really hit up close? But that bout left an indelible impression on me, and it happened 42 years ago! It was a WBC light heavyweight title fight and it was named Ring Magazine’s Fight of the Year. There was non-stop action and big punches throughout. Both fighters had so much heart. It was just an incredible opportunity to be there at ringside and watch the fight up close.”
TIM BRADLEY (FORMER TWO WEIGHT TITLEHOLDER/ COMMENTATOR): DWIGHT MUHAMMAD QAWI Vs. EVANDER HOLYFIELD 1
“Evander Holyfield vs. Dwight Muhammad Qawi. Qawi was so skilled that I don’t think we will ever see another fighter at cruiserweight with his size, standing only 5’5”and weighing 190 pounds, compete against the best. Still to this day, Holyfield claims this to be the most brutal fight of his entire career.”