The best boxing fights that did not happen

With a Terence Crawford-Errol Spence combat on the MayPac trajectory, at finest, boxing followers are ceaselessly reminded can’t-miss fights ceaselessly don’t occur. Varied obstacles have impeded much-anticipated bouts. Listed below are the trendy period’s largest makeable fights that didn’t find yourself happening.


Evander Holyfield-Vitali Klitschko

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Wladimir Klitschko was the higher prospect and loved an extended reign as heavyweight champion, however the elder Klitschko brother possessed a superior chin and hardly misplaced a spherical as a professional. Vitali had Lennox Lewis in bother, successful on the playing cards earlier than a minimize stopped their 2003 bout. His profession lacked a defining victory, nevertheless. Holyfield, whose power of schedule was fairly robust, made sense as an opponent within the early 2000s. After Lewis dethroned him as unified champion in 1999, a win over the still-developing WBO champ (Klitschko) would have certified as important. An unlucky Holyfield- John Ruiz trilogy transpired as an alternative.


Ricardo Lopez-Michael Carbajal

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Lopez authored certainly one of his technology’s finest careers, going 51-0-1. “Finito” reigned at strawweight (105 kilos) for a lot of the Nineties; Carbajal campaigned at gentle flyweight (108) for a lot of his profession. Regardless of Carbajal’s weight, the American was concerned in broadly seen bouts with rival Humberto Gonzalez within the mid-’90s. Though Lopez-Gonzalez additionally qualifies for near-miss standing, the Mexican 105-pound champion entered talks with Carbajal for a 1997 combat for the latter’s gentle flyweight belt. Negotiations didn’t come to fruition, denying Lopez a signature combat that may have elevated the off-radar nice’s profile. 


Larry Holmes-George Foreman

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Regardless of being the identical age and every remaining heavyweight contenders nicely previous 40, the 2 legends by no means fought. When Holmes rose as a contender within the mid-Nineteen Seventies, a post-“Rumble within the Jungle” Foreman was adrift after his title reign ended. He stepped away in 1977, and Holmes took over the division quickly after. When Foreman resurfaced 10 years later, Holmes unretired for a Mike Tyson combat. Whereas Foreman-Holmes was agreed to for a 1999 senior-tour-esque combat, previous to funds scuttling the bout, probably the most practical would-have-been interval for it will have been the early ’90s — when each had been high-end contenders previous 40.


Oscar De La Hoya-Winky Wright

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It feels unusual to incorporate De La Hoya on such an inventory. His power of schedule is famous. “The Golden Boy” took on virtually everybody notable from his period and by some means fought Bernard Hopkins and Manny Pacquiao. However he did combat at 154 kilos for a number of years within the 2000s. A defensive grasp and one of many nice junior middleweights, Wright was a tough matchup and thus prevented. However De La Hoya indicated an openness to combating him in 2002. He spent the subsequent two years within the division; no combat transpired. This matchup probably would have catapulted Wright to stardom; the late-blooming fighter moved up in weight in 2005.


Lennox Lewis-Wladimir Klitschko

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Lewis’s time because the heavyweight kingpin was winding down when this combat made sense. The youthful Klitschko was the WBO champion from 2000-03. Although the WBO belt was not as well-regarded as it’s at this time, the rising prospect and future heavyweight king was a extremely rated contender. Their would-be 2001 bout ended up being foiled by Danny Ocean and crew ; that “Ocean’s 11”-universe occasion could or could not have affected Lewis’ preparedness for Hasim Rahman, a fringe contender who KO’d him in April 2001. Lewis in all probability beats the pre-Emanuel Steward Wladimir, however the Steward-trained Lewis did have a troublesome time towards Vitali Klitschko in his closing bout.


Wilfred Benitez-Pipino Cuevas

The Ring Journal through Getty Photographs

This battle of traditionally precocious champions would have taken place within the late Nineteen Seventies. Benitez grew to become the youngest champion in boxing historical past, successful a 140-pound title at 17. A yr later, Cuevas claimed the WBA welterweight strap at 18. Each had been champions all through the late ’70s, and Benitez moved as much as Cuevas’ 147-pound division in 1977 and gained the WBC belt in January 1979. This boxer-vs.-puncher unification matchup and high quality chapter within the storied Puerto Rico-Mexico rivalry didn’t materialize. The 2 ended up dropping their respective belts to future icons Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns, respectively. 


Johnny Tapia-Mark Johnson

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The boxing world missed a uncommon all-American flyweight battle 20-plus years in the past. Johnson got here up in an intriguing period. The likes of Michael Carbajal, Humberto Gonzalez, Danny Romero, and Tapia campaigned at and round 112 kilos throughout this era. Johnson couldn’t land a combat with any. A fellow Corridor of Famer, Tapia held a 115-pound belt for a number of years however left the division when “Too Sharp” entered it in 1999. Johnson was a top-10 pound-for-pound common within the late ’90s; Tapia surged to that degree after beating Romero in an all-New Mexico duel in 1997. This combat would have peaked then, however Johnson was unable to land it.


Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Paul Williams

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Recognized to cherry-pick, Mayweather delaying matchups with Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley is a much bigger boxing sin. However he didn’t face Williams, opting to combat multiple no-hopers throughout his early welterweight years. In Mayweather’s protection, different huge names weren’t desperate to face Williams both. Not fairly an A-lister, Williams would have posed a difficulty for Mayweather. The 6-foot-1 southpaw with a 79-inch attain took Antonio Margarito’s welterweight belt in 2007. After huge fights with Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton, Mayweather staged a near-two-year retirement. Williams moved up in weight in 2008 and was tragically paralyzed in a 2012 bike accident. 


Pernell Whitaker-Ike Quartey

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Quartey resided as a top-five welterweight for five-plus years in the 1990s. For a chunk of this period, Whitaker resided as the pound-for-pound king; the historically gifted defender snatched that claim from Julio Cesar Chavez in 1993. Whitaker campaigned at welterweight from 1993-99 and held the WBC belt for a lot of that stretch. Quartey, who gained the WBA’s 147-pound strap in 1994, couldn’t ebook a unification combat with Whitaker. Talks did begin for a 1998 combat, however “Candy Pea” was in decline by then. And mentioned talks broke down. The Ghanaian ended up dropping a cut up determination to Oscar De La Hoya in 1999.


Thomas Hearns-Mike McCallum

The Ring Journal through Getty Photographs

Hearns waged legendary battles at welterweight and middleweight — towards Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvelous Marvin Hagler — however his finest weight could have been 154 kilos. Hearns smashed Roberto Duran at junior middleweight in 1984 and fought there from 1981-86. McCallum was the division’s different beltholder for many of that stretch. Whereas “the Physique Snatcher” fought huge names within the Nineties — Roy Jones Jr., James Toney — he couldn’t get one of many Nineteen Eighties’ “4 Kings” within the ring. A mid-’80s combat towards his former Kronk Gymnasium stablemate would have supplied an opportunity for McCallum to assert his prime win and an opportunity at one other high quality victory for Hearns, who moved up in 1987.


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15. Roman Gonzalez-Naoya Inoue

Roman Gonzalez-Naoya Inoue

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Each are nonetheless energetic, however this combat won’t happen. Gonzalez, whom most seen because the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter following Mayweather’s 2015 retirement, has resided at 115 kilos since 2016. Throughout that point, “Chocolatito” has engaged in a storied round-robin with Juan Estrada, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, and Carlos Cuadras. The fearsome-punching Inoue spent three-plus years on this division (2014-17) and held a belt all through however moved to bantamweight with out going through Gonzalez or his rivals. The youthful Inoue passing via this stacked division with out going through its A-listers was a missed alternative for boxing.


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14. Sergio Martinez-Gennadiy Golovkin

Sergio Martinez-Gennadiy Golovkin

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Martinez was appropriate to keep away from Golovkin. The Kazakh destroyer would have bulldozed the growing old middleweight champ when the combat was mentioned (2013-14). Knee points and age did within the slick Argentinian southpaw by then. However each GGG and “Maravilla” gained middleweight belts in 2010; Golovkin, nevertheless, didn’t come to the States till 2012. GGG loomed all through Martinez’s four-year reign, and whereas the eight-year middleweight champ is seven years youthful than Martinez, GGG was desperate to face Canelo Alvarez regardless of their eight-year age hole. An early-2010s combat between Golovkin and agile Martinez would have been a must-see for boxing purists.


Prince Naseem Hamed-Juan Manuel Marquez

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One in all boxing’s prime stars within the late Nineties, Hamed dominated the featherweight division for years. A formidable cadre of opponents — Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera, and Erik Morales — entered the 126-pound division throughout Hamed’s reign. Marquez served because the unorthodox showman’s necessary challenger round 2000. Whereas the famed counterpuncher was years away from his peak, he’s one yr older than Hamed. Blessed with a novel skillset and punching energy that attracted huge audiences to the small weight class, Hamed opted for a special path. However accidents and a humbling 2001 loss to Barrera ended his profession by age 28.


Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Kostya Tszyu

Andrew Couldridge/Motion Photographs/Icon Smi

Mayweather’s keep at 140 kilos was temporary, probably due to that division’s longtime alpha. Tszyu joined Mayweather atop pound-for-pound rankings within the early 2000s. Every was a borderline top-three fighter in 2004, despite the fact that the dreaded Australian — the junior welterweight champ for almost a decade — was 35 by this level. After 4 years at light-weight, Mayweather fought simply thrice at 140. Tszyu noticed his three most profitable opponents — Mayweather, Oscar De La Hoya, and Shane Mosley — go via his division with out going through him. Mayweather confronted weak opposition at 140 earlier than leaving the division in 2005.


Sergey Kovalev-Adonis Stevenson

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The sunshine heavyweight combat to make for a number of years grew to become tough to finalize when Stevenson moved from HBO to Showtime. Stevenson backed out of a deal to face Kovalev on HBO, heading over to the then-boxing chief’s rival community. Stevenson grew to become the lineal 175-pound champ after a first-round KO of Chad Dawson in 2012, however Kovalev loomed as a menacing problem. The Russian puncher fought a 49-year-old Bernard Hopkins as an alternative in 2014 however couldn’t get Stevenson within the ring. Kovalev misplaced the lineal title to Andre Ward in a disputed 2016 determination; Stevenson was content material to maintain his belt through lower-profile fights.


Roy Jones Jr.-Dariusz Michalczewski

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Unmatched in his prime, Jones doesn’t have many huge names on his resume throughout his 175-pound keep. Michalczewski, a Polish fighter who camped in Germany throughout his prime, loomed as his prime challenger for a number of years within the late Nineties and early 2000s. The would-be Jones foe held the WBO gentle heavyweight belt for almost a decade, after dropping from cruiserweight. Virtually all these title defenses got here in Germany, nevertheless, and neither he nor Jones desired to depart their house turf for a combat. This 175-pound unification simmered for longer than Kovalev-Stevenson. Jones and Michalczewski had been carried out as champs by 2004, dropping their belts in a seven-month span.


Riddick Bowe-Mike Tyson

The Ring Journal/Getty Photographs

For a brief interval within the Nineties, Bowe was the person to beat at heavyweight. The 6-foot-5 fighter took the lineal title from Evander Holyfield in 1992 and beat him of their 1995 rubber match. Bowe’s peak, nevertheless, got here throughout Tyson’s three-plus-year jail sentence. Tyson additionally mentioned throughout a 1994 interview he didn’t count on to combat Bowe; the 2 had been as soon as classmates at a Brooklyn elementary faculty. This might have been a much bigger subject had Tyson not gone to jail, however each fighters’ stars light in 1996. Holyfield knocked out Tyson, and Bowe was dropping on the playing cards in each Andrew Golota fights (pre-low blows). Bowe left the game for eight years in 1997.


George Foreman-Earnie Shavers

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Two of the game’s nice punchers competed in the course of the heavyweight division’s premier interval, and despite the fact that Shavers is 5 years older than Foreman, his path to boxing’s higher reaches took longer. This combat would have made sense just for a short while within the mid-Nineteen Seventies when Shavers was driving his late-blooming profession towards a title shot. However Foreman left the game in 1977, taking this bout off the desk. Shavers pushed Muhammad Ali to the restrict that yr and later joined Foreman in knocking out Ken Norton early, however probably the most tantalizing fights for him — towards Foreman and Joe Frazier — didn’t come collectively.


Joe Frazier-Ken Norton

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Two of the greats at heavyweight boxing’s Nineteen Seventies zenith, each Frazier and Norton fought trilogies with Muhammad Ali. Every beat Ali as soon as, and lots of argue Norton deserved at the very least another win in that collection. Frazier and Norton additionally every fought Foreman, proving poor stylistic matchups for the terrifying puncher, however they by no means matched up on this round-robin of kinds. This miss is reasonably easy; the 2 had been shut pals and most well-liked to not meet up in what would have been an enchanting combat.


Shane Mosley-Felix Trinidad

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Going into 2001, Mosley and Trinidad ranked first and second on Ring Journal ‘s pound-for-pound record. Each had been flush with momentum after beating Oscar De La Hoya, with Mosley’s win extra convincing than Tito’s. Fairly than taking a superfight with Mosley, who lobbied for such a bout, Trinidad set his sights on a transfer to middleweight. Mosley-Trinidad would have been an enormous occasion in late 2000 or 2001. As a substitute, Tito climbed to 160 kilos and noticed Bernard Hopkins derail his profession. Vernon Forrest dimmed Mosley’s star shortly after, although “Sugar Shane” recovered. The boxing world misplaced out when the unbeaten champs went their separate methods.


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5. Juan Manuel Marquez-Erik Morales

Juan Manuel Marquez-Erik Morales

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This century’s finest round-robin got here when Marquez, Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, and Manny Pacquiao fought a mixed 13 instances from 2000-2012. Nonetheless, an all-Mexico warfare between Morales and Marquez is absent from this bracket. Regardless of being three years youthful, Morales beat Marquez by six years to a significant belt. However each had been contenders by 1996 and stayed in or across the similar division for over a decade. It was by some means 2011 earlier than the 2 agreed to combat. Even that fizzled. With Morales peaking early and Marquez’s finest stuff coming in his 30s, an early- to mid-2000s featherweight combat would have been a pay-per-view occasion. 


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4. Lennox Lewis-Riddick Bowe

Lennox Lewis-Riddick Bowe

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Lewis beat each professional fighter he confronted, however an enormous (no pun meant) identify is absent from the Brit’s resume. Bowe-Lewis is the Nineties’ defining miss. Lewis defeated Bowe within the 1988 Olympics’ tremendous heavyweight gold-medal match, however “Massive Daddy” beat him to professional stardom by taking Evander Holyfield’s lineal title in 1992. A promotional stunt had Bowe throw certainly one of his belts within the trash reasonably than face necessary challenger Lewis. They had been again on observe to combat in 1994 and ’96, nevertheless. Oliver McCall‘s upset win over Lewis and Bowe opting to step away from the game after his Andrew Golota experiences — which confirmed a decline — buried the bout for good.


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3. Mike Tyson-George Foreman

Mike Tyson-George Foreman

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An under-discussed interval in Tyson’s profession: the early-Nineties stretch in between his Buster Douglas loss and a career-changing jail sentence. That interval proves related right here as a result of Foreman entered the image as a Tyson rebuild/cash-cow opponent. Fearful of how his style would match with the bigger Foreman’s, a picking-up-the-pieces Tyson most well-liked to go in one other route for his 1990 restoration interval. “Iron Mike” fought Henry Tillman, Alex Stewart, and Razor Ruddock earlier than jail, whereas Foreman quickly pushed champion, Evander Holyfield. A lesser Tyson may have challenged then-champion Foreman after jail, however he was rebuilding his profile by that time.


Roberto Duran-Alexis Arguello

The Ring Journal through Getty Photographs

By 1977, Arguello — a former featherweight champion — claimed a 130-pound belt. The Nicaraguan legend additionally fought a number of instances at light-weight over the subsequent two years, probably making ready for a battle with Duran, the best light-weight in boxing historical past. Whereas talks of this conflict did happen, Duran was wrapping up his 135-pound run by this level. “El Cholo” was carried out within the division by 1978 and ended the Nineteen Eighties at middleweight. Duran-Sugar Ray Leonard I — a ferocious Duran outing — and Arguello-Aaron Pryor I — the combat of the ’80s — confirmed what sort of action-crazed occasion this could have been had Duran stayed at 135 a bit longer.


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1. Sugar Ray Leonard-Aaron Pryor

Sugar Ray Leonard-Aaron Pryor

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The relentlessness Pryor displayed towards Arguello created the final word trendy boxing near-miss. Regardless of Pryor developing whereas Leonard, Duran, and Hearns fought at welterweight, the tenacious junior welterweight didn’t rating a combat with any of them as a professional. Whereas prior Leonard-Pryor negotiations broke down over low affords to the much less well-known fighter, the 2 reached an settlement to vie for Leonard’s welterweight belt in 1982. Leonard quickly struggling a indifferent retina in a tune-up combat threw off these plans. “Hawk” moved on to Arguello later that yr, however Leonard’s first retirement took a combat with boxing’s star of the second off the desk, altering Pryor’s profession.

Sam Robinson is a Kansas Metropolis, Mo.-based author who principally writes concerning the NFL. He has lined sports activities for almost 10 years. Boxing, the Royals and Pandora stations that includes feminine rock protagonists are a few of his go-tos. Sometimes fascinating tweets @SRobinson25.

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