Castillo vs Corrales - Round 10
A round that somehow went from being three minutes between the ropes to ending up like some sort of weird Shakespearean tragedy.
Trailing on points during their fight in Las Vegas in 2005, things hardly looked good for Diego Corrales at the beginning of round 10 when he was sent to the canvas by rival Luis Castillo during their contest. To stall for time as the fight seemed to be evaporating in front of him, Corrales immediately spat out his mouth guard. It was an old pro's trick and bought him a few seconds but when he was dropped again and tried the same trick, referee Tony Weeks saw through his ruse immediately and docked him a point, leaving him dangerously behind on the judges scorecards.
Trailing despondently back to his corner the watching cameras then caught trainer Joe Goossen Informing his man that he'd 'better fucking do something now.' Remarkably though, he did. In one of the most astonishing turnarounds in recent boxing history, Corrales energised and turned the tables on Castillo with a series of clubbing right hands and the fight suddenly spun on its axis. With Castillo stuck on the ropes and seemingly defenceless, Weeks stepped in and stopped it, just at the precise moment when Castillo's eyes rolled into the back of his head and his body went completely limp. It had been a fight that boxing historian Bert Sugar would later describe as the greatest fight of all time. That might be overstepping it a bit, but certainly it's the most dramatic boxing round in the sports history.
Hatton vs Tszyu - Round 9
For all the talk of iconic boxing nights in Britain, the more sobering view is that there's only been a handful of genuine 'pound for pound' guys in recent years who have actually put their titles on the line here.
Kostya Tszyu was certainly one. Coming into his world title defence against Hatton, his reputation as a fearsome light welterweight was such that very few boxing writers had Hatton down to cause interference against a fighter who was seen as too heavy handed and technically gifted to be involved in a major upset.
They hadn't banked on one of those boxing nights of pure alchemy however when the ambition of a hungry fighter and the spirit of a partisan crowd fizz together to prove an almost metaphysical force. Hatton rode the tailwind of that energy and refused to buckle. He matched Tszyu throughout, toe to toe, punch to punch, but it was a pivotal ninth round where Hatton would cement his legacy as being world class. With the screw being turned by both fighters, one had to take control and it was the Manchester man who brilliantly did it. Hatton went inside himself and found his perfect Shiva self, whip handing Tszyu with a blur of combinations and violent energy until the champion's spirit was broken like a sackful of church glass. Tszyu would actually quit on his stool at the end of the eleventh round, but really it was the ninth round that finished him. Hatton made sure of that.
Hearns vs Hagler - Round 1
For the sheer visceral thrill of the fight game, nothing will ever quite match the violent synergy of this classic from 1985.
It was supposedly set up as a clash of styles. The relentless thuggery of Hagler versus the surgical precision of Hearns, but what actually occurred after the bell first sounded that night in Las Vegas was like a scene from Game of Thrones more than anything.
The reasons for Hearns' maniacal opening assault on Hagler have become the thing of legend ever since. Did he hate Hagler so much that his fury got the better of him, or was it an alleged pre-fight massage that had weakened the Detroit fighters to such an extent that he had to go out and try and decapitate him. Whatever the reason, it played into Hagler's hands perfectly although it should be remembered that he got hit with more power shots in the opening three minutes than he probably did in his whole career.
'It's a whole fight within a round,' as the HBO commentator famously spouted and its legend has hardly diminished ever since. From boxing writers unable to take notes on the fight because their hands were shaking that much to the sheer surreal quality of two of the greatest fighters in the world reduced to base level violence- it had everything. So much so in fact that the sport of boxing can go on for the next five hundred years and there will still be nothing like it. It's just stands alone in its ferocity.
Ali vs Frazier 'Thrilla in Manilla' - Round 14
The Frazier versus Ali match up always seemed almost Biblical in its heavy symbolism. The whip hand smartness of Ali, a cultural charmer and entertainer wherever he went compared to the sullenness of Joe, a fighter who always looked as though he had trodden on a rattlesnake and was planning his revenge.
By the time they had hit their third fight together, they seemed to have exhausted every terrible human act and emotion against each other but they had one last awful round to pour over themselves. That was round 14 in a battle that seemed more nefarious than any other fight in the history of heavyweight boxing. By the time Ali and Frazier had reached that point their rivalry had gone way beyond the pride of being the world's best heavyweight. It had tipped over into something else. All murder eyes and cartilage and a basic fight to the death. That's what that fourteenth round was about. Two athletes trying to tip each other into the precipice. By the end of it Frazier had quit virtually blind with Ali just about to quit on his stool feeling the fear and total exhaustion. It was so sinister there was no elation in the air, just a sense of unspoken dread. Never had the blue riband division had such a smell of sulphur about it.
Froch vs Taylor - Round 12
There will always be this well worn cliche Stateside about British fighters clawing at the muse of defeat even before they step into a ring there.
Such was the nonsense Carl Froch had to deflect in 2009 against the authentic Jermain Taylor, a fighter who had operated around the top levels of the middleweight division with a genuine, athletic class.
In the opposite corner Froch was nowhere near as much of a slick technician but in many ways he'd never needed to be. Froch was a front forward pressure fighter, one of those terrible ring pistoleto's who cut off ring space round per round and possessed a granite chin. He would often give away the first half of a fight with a shrug of the shoulders only to turn up late on with a great alligator grin on his face and a sackful of dead leather for his opponent. In terms of stamina and bravery there wasn't an inch of give in him.
Which is precisely how the fight spun out really. Taylor waltzing a web around Froch for the early part of the fight, even sending him to the canvass in a cruelly one sided round in the third. For watching observers it might have been an exercise in both the execution and observation of class but Taylor had always had one mighty Achilles heel in his career, his suspect stamina and concentration in the latter parts of fights and the longer the fight went on and the more it evened up, there was an uncanny sense that Froch would claim his moment.
Enter round twelve, with Taylor gulping for air and moving suddenly around the ring like he was pulling a caravan, Froch went gunning for him. With three minutes left however it seemed a huge ask. Froch needed nothing less than a knock out to win the fight and even with Taylor's late frailties it seemed he was going to get away with it. Boxing however has a habit of throwing up huge, brilliant twists and Froch was about to deliver one. A huge trademark right hand in fact that sent Taylor crashing to the canvass with less than thirty seconds left on the clock. Staggering to his feet Taylor attempted to use the ropes as a solace but for Froch that position was perfect executioners territory. He unleashed a barrage of two armed punches in to his opponent and as the light went from Taylor's eyes the referee was forced to stop the contest with barely seconds left. It had been a remarkable turnaround. One of the best finishes in middleweight history in fact.
Leonard vs Hearns - Round 14
If Sugar Ray Leonard thought he had exorcised his 'gates of hell' moment with his war and redemption double header with Roberto Duran, he had another seismic puzzle to solve in his next great match up with the Kronk gym's greatest and most vicious gunslinger.
Enter Tommy Hearns. A fighter who looked as though he'd been born in a bottle and who punched like an atom bomb. On a thrilling night in Las Vegas Hearns was a Chinese puzzle hidden inside an enigma code for America's golden boy. Leonard simply couldn't get near him, out jabbed and out thought round after round by the Detroit fighter. Whatever he tried, Hearns came back with something smarter and the rounds evaporated away like spring snow.
Retiring to his stool at the end of round 12 Leonard looked to his philosophical trainer Angelo Dundee who gave him very primitive advice. 'You're going to have to knock him out son,' He rasped and that stark realisation seemed to revitalise Leonard. Beneath all the glitz and glamour of Leonard there was always a rod of jagged steel and how he would produce it. Dragging his psyche into 'slugger' mode in the thirteenth round he caught Hearns cold with his intensity and caught him with a series of sledgehammer punches that suddenly made the imposing Detroit fighter look less of an imposing giant and more of a wobbling tripod. By the end of the round he had floored Hearns twice and the axis of the fight had turned.
It would lead to an explosive penultimate round. An increasingly vulnerable Hearns trying desperately to avoid trouble as his nemesis went all out to finish him. Leonard threw caution to the wind and drew on all his reserves and his brilliant cold heartedness in the ring to cut into Hearns psyche with thundering punches. Catching him with a sickening right in the middle of the round he pinned the Detroit fighter against the ropes and unloaded. It was to prove a final act in a classic tear up. With a static Hearn's floundering on the ropes and with the life gone out of him, the referee mercifully stepped in to save him from further punishment. It was a classic turnaround in a fight that had surpassed expectations with its unrelenting drama. Two of the greatest welterweights in history laying their reputations on the line and trying to punch sparks off each other. A stone cold classic.
Ward vs Gatti I - Round 9
The Ward/Gatti trilogy will always have a special place in most boxing fans' hearts due to its unremitting honesty and athletic thunder. It's that epic first fight however and in particular a brutal ninth round that it's hard not to get misty eyed and romantic about.
In many ways, despite its iconic legend it had been a fight that took a while to catch. The truth may have been actually that if Gatti had played is smarter it wouldn't have been a war at all. Technically he was a superior fighter than Micky Ward, but Arturo bless his soul could never help himself get involved in a war and that suited Micky Ward, an honest, old school warrior who loved nothing better than standing in the eye of a storm and trying to whack his way out of there.
And how he got his chance. That beautiful, bloody, bruised round that was the ninth where the two men literally punched each other to a standstill. Within fifteen sounds of the bell sounding, Gatti was already down having succumbed to a wicked Ward body shot. As he climbed from the canvass with a look of agony on his face there only looked to be one outcome but this was no ordinary fight and Gatti was no ordinary fighter. Thus it began. An unrelenting, unflinching two and three quarter minutes of poetic violence. A thrilling war where defence was at a complete minimum and the sound of permanently thudding fists could be heard above the crowd like an axe hitting wet logs. By the end of it both men virtually crawled back to their stools in complete exhaustion. They had played their part in something extraordinary but as we now know, for these two and their almost spiritual match up it was really only the beginning.
Arguello vs Pryor - Round 14
There's always been a great sinister question mark that has hung over this classic match up and a round that seemed to ring with a bell and open an ominous portent for the innocence of boxing to disappear into ever since.
What had panned out as a fantastic title fight over thirteen close and brutal rounds would actually save its greatest drama in Pryor's corner at the end of that round. As the watching HBO cameras zoomed into his corner they were to witness something extraordinary. It was a conversation led by a trainer who would eventually be disgraced from the sport, the notorious Panama Lewis.
The conversation centred around a mysterious water bottle and more ominously what was contained within it. As an aide passed Panama Lewis the bottle the cameras picked him up saying 'not that one. The other one I mixed.' That one line would have massive repercussions for Lewis and certainly the boxing career of Aaron Pryor. Not least when he bounded from his stool mysteriously revitalised and proceeded to hammer the life out of Arguello. Whatever was or wasn't in that bottle remains open to speculation but what wasn't in doubt was the outcome. After landing fourteen unanswered punches on Arguello's head the referee brought an end to the contest. As a piece of high drama it was incredible not least because it had the sense of the nefarious and suspicion oozing around it. It's been talked about endlessly ever since.
Tyson vs Douglas - Round 10
Tokyo and the beast of burden. By the time Tyson landed in the techno city the wave of expectancy had given way to a sea of gluttony. Shoddy training sessions and the Brooklyn blowtorch ordering in prostitutes to his hotel room like cold pizza. If the writing wasn't exactly on the wall, it was certainly a room and a future with a horrible view.
Still it was hard to imagine he was going to cop interference from his opponent Buster Douglas. Unfancied and slightly unhinged, he had flopped into Tokyo with a glut of personal problems and a record that hardly inspired confidence. Crucially however he had two things in his corner, a great jab and psychologically he was one of the first fighters in that period who carried no fear in sharing the ring with the monstrous Tyson.
From the opening bell that sounded out. Surprising Tyson with his confidence and that aforementioned jab he sprung his own cruel intentions early. His surprising speed in particular caused the champion problems who was probably hit with more punches in the early rounds than he had in the culmination of all his other fights put together. The unease with which a sluggish Tyson was showing was such that when he went back to his corner after round three he was literally screamed at by his team to shake him into some sort of action.
It would fall on deaf ears however. Tyson was a line drawing of himself. Only a hugely controversial eighth round gave him a salvation of sorts when he floored Douglas only for an agonisingly slow referee count to save his dazed opponent. It was the last glimpse of a chance Tyson would get. Douglas ramped up from round nine onwards, rocking Tyson on to his back heels. Suddenly all those years of inflicting pain on his opponents came back to haunt him as the role reversal saw the hunter becoming the hunted. It was all he could do to survive the round.
With his face marked and swollen, he wouldn't survive much longer. Walking on to a huge Douglas uppercut Tyson was seconds away from defeat. A combination of four punches sent him crashing to the canvass. The sight of a beleaguered Tyson scrabbling on the floor for his gum shield stripped him of his invincibility instantly. He didn't beat the count either. The beast of burden had found that cutting corners at the business end of world boxing came at a price. That price and that tenth round would always have a sense of karma about it.