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Thread: The Most Dramatic Trilogies In Boxing History by Graham Houston

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    The Most Dramatic Trilogies in Boxing History by Graham Houston

    The Most Dramatic Trilogies in Boxing History
    By Graham Houston
    Special to ESPN.com

    One win apiece; now for the decider. The rubber match has long been a part of boxing history, the fight meant to settle the question of supremacy after each boxer has beaten the other. We have such a fight on Saturday when Israel Vazquez faces Rafael Marquez.

    Here are 10 other notable rubber-match trilogies.

    10. Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward
    The first fight between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward at the Mohegan Sun on May 18, 2002, was so intensely exciting that the subsequent installments could never match it although both were excellent bouts. Gatti, down from left hooks to the body and almost stopped in Round 9, rallied to out-punch Ward in the 10th round of the astonishing initial meeting. The split decision in Ward's favor could have gone either way. There was no question about who won the next two fights, both at Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City -- unanimous decisions for Gatti each time. The Jersey City favorite dropped Ward in the second fight, but he had to get off the canvas to win the rubber match, which was the only fight between the well-matched junior welterweights in which the boxer who scored a knockdown ended up losing the fight.

    9. Michael Carbajal-Humberto Gonzalez
    Only the first fight between 108-pound champions Michael Carbajal and Humberto "Chiquita" Gonzalez truly lived up to expectations. It was the thriller everyone had hoped to see, with Carbajal surviving two knockdowns to knock out Gonzalez in the seventh round of a marvelous match at the Las Vegas Hilton on March 13, 1993. The switch-hitting (orthodox to southpaw and back again) Gonzalez fought an aggressive, power-and-pressure fight that night -- and got caught when seemingly on his way to winning.

    In the two subsequent meetings, in Los Angeles and Mexico City, Gonzalez switched to a savvy, counter-punching strategy as constructed by his trainer Ignacio Beristain, to win close points verdicts over his hard-hitting rival from Phoenix, Ariz.

    8. Riddick Bowe-Evander Holyfield
    There is little doubt that the first fight between Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on Nov. 13, 1992, was the greatest of the trilogy, a bruising battle that saw the smaller Holyfield hurt in the 10th and dropped in the 11th but continue to give and take punches to the bitter end.

    The rematch at Caesars Palace a year later had the famous "fan man" incident when an attention-seeker with a propeller-apparatus strapped to his back parachuted into the crowd, interrupting the fight. After a 21-minute intermission, the bout resumed and Holyfield won a majority decision.

    Their rubber match at Caesars Palace on Nov. 4, 1995, had its exciting moments as Bowe survived a heavy knockdown in the sixth round to knock out Holyfield in the eighth in a clash of ex-champs.

    7. Muhammad Ali-Ken Norton
    All three of Muhammad Ali's fights with Ken Norton were closely fought. Although Norton lost the series 2-1, he scored probably the most decisive victory, breaking Ali's jaw in an upset, split decision win at San Diego on March 31, 1973.

    Ali finished strongly to eke out a split decision in the rematch at the Inglewood Forum, Los Angeles, on Sept. 10 of the same year.

    The third fight, at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 28, 1976, was the only championship fight of the series, with Ali winning a unanimous but controversial decision. Norton was the aggressor and heavier hitter but Ali scored with jabs and combinations.

    The BBC's Harry Carpenter informed the British viewing public after 14 rounds that "Norton's a long, long way ahead -- there can't be any doubt about that." At the final bell, Carpenter intoned: "We have a new heavyweight champion." The referee and two judges, though, all had Ali a narrow winner.

    6. Floyd Patterson-Ingemar Johansson
    Floyd Patterson, knocked down seven times in the third round of his first heavyweight championship fight with Ingemar Johansson at Yankee Stadium on June 29, 1959, trained with monk-like dedication for the rematch. He sensationally gained revenge with a fifth-round knockout victory at the Polo Grounds in New York on June 20, 1960.

    The rubber match at Miami Beach on March 13, 1961, did not capture the imagination in quite the same way as the first two meetings but Arthur Daley of The New York Times described it as "the best fight of their annual series by far."

    Patterson was down twice, Johansson once, in the wild opening round. In the sixth, Patterson put Johansson down with two successive chopping right hands. Johansson got up too late to beat the count, although, in the words of San Francisco Chronicle reporter Jack Fiske, the Swedish boxer "feebly protested he was ready to continue."

    5. Emile Griffith-Benny Paret
    Emile Griffith's welterweight championship series with Benny "Kid" Paret ended in tragedy after two well-matched contests.

    Griffith won the first encounter by 13th round KO at Miami Beach on April 1, 1961 -- but Paret eked out a split decision in the rematch at Madison Square Garden on Sept. 30 of the same year.

    Weigh-in taunts by Paret are thought to have provoked the unusually violent, vicious attack by Griffith in the 12th round of the rubber match at Madison Square Garden on March 24, 1962.

    Paret, pinned in a corner, was pounded by a succession of right-hand smashes as referee Ruby Goldstein watched as if transfixed. Paret never recovered consciousness and died in hospital 10 days later.

    4. Barney Ross-Jimmy McLarnin
    Barney Ross and Jimmy McLarnin had a scorching three-fight series for the welterweight title in New York City in the 1930s, with the first two bouts ending in split verdicts but Ross winning the decider by unanimous decision.
    Each bout attracted huge interest, in part due to the ethnic rivalry involved, with the Jewish Ross, from Chicago, meeting an Irish fighter who had defeated celebrated Jewish boxers such as Louis "Kid" Kaplan, Sid Terris, Ruby Goldstein, Al Singer and a sadly faded Benny Leonard.

    Ross snatched victory by weathering a middle-rounds surge by McLarnin to finish strongly in the first meeting at Madison Square Garden Bowl, Long Island, on May 28, 1934.

    McLarnin turned the tables in the rematch, again at the Long Island Bowl but ringside writers were divided.

    The third fight, at the Polo Grounds, saw Ross get the unanimous decision -- but Jack Miley wrote in The New York Daily News that "the fight was closer than Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in a last-reel fade-out."

    3. Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales
    All three title fights between Mexican rivals Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales took place in Las Vegas and spanned three weight classes: super bantam, featherweight and super featherweight.

    Each time, the decision was disputed but especially the split verdict in favor of Morales in the first fight, at the Mandalay Bay resort casino on Feb. 19, 2000.

    The rematch on June 22, 2002 at the MGM Grand saw Barrera score a unanimous decision victory -- but not everyone liked the careful, counter-punching style he used in the first half of the fight.

    Even though the rubber match at the MGM Grand on Nov. 27, 2004 saw Barrera barely winning a majority decision on the scorecards, he probably gave his best showing of the series, as I reported from ringside for Boxing Monthly: "Morales, make no mistake, was the boxer who suffered the most in what truly could be called an epic 12-rounder between two of Mexico's greatest fighters of recent years."

    2. Tony Zale-Rocky Graziano
    Boxing historians consider the first two middleweight title fights between Tony Zale and Rocky Graziano to have been among the greatest in history, each man scoring a sixth-round victory.

    In the first meeting at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 27, 1946, Graziano, the slugger from the East Side of New York, was the betting favorite over the older defending champion Zale, who had won six bouts after four years' service in the navy. Each man was dropped in the first two rounds, but Zale wore down Graziano with body blows.

    The rematch at Chicago Stadium on July 16, 1947, was just as dramatic and thrilling. Graziano, cut over the left eye, right eye swollen and closing, rallied to overwhelm Zale in the sixth with what The New York Times described as a "thunderous shower of full-arm rights and lefts to the head, face and jaw."

    Perhaps inevitably, the rubber match on June 10, 1948 at Newark, N.J., proved to be anticlimactic, with Zale knocking out Graziano in the third round -- it was as if Rocky had burned himself out in the first two wars.

    1. Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier
    The fierce heavyweight rivalry between Muhammad Ali and Smokin' Joe Frazier started and continued at Madison Square Garden and finished in the Philippines. In the much-anticipated initial counter on March 8, 1971, it was Frazier who almost certainly suffered the greater damage even though he pounded out a stirring victory. The rematch on Jan. 28, 1974, with no title at stake, was in some ways a disappointment, a tactical rather than truly exciting contest as Ali clinched and fought in spurts to win a decision.

    Ironically, the third meeting on Oct. 1, 1975, the celebrated Thrilla in Manila, when each man was in decline, produced the greatest fight of the series in terms of back-and-forth action. Frazier could hardly see through bruised and swollen eyes when his trainer, Eddie Futch, retired him at the end of the 14th round. The New York Times' legendary columnist Red Smith noted: "It has been a series both men can remember with pride -- and pride has been the spur for both."

    Graham Houston is the American editor of Boxing Monthly and writes for fightwriter.com.

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    Re: The Most Dramatic Trilogies In Boxing History by Graham Houston

    If tonight's Vaszquez-Marquez rubber match is like their first two bouts it will definitely deserve inclusion on this list. Plus it will be a strong contender for fight of the year.

    However I would be remiss if I didn't mention Harry "Kid" Lewis & Jack Britton. Their feats make all these trilogy's pale by comparison.

    They fought 20 times for a total of 224 rounds! All the while exchanging the welterweight title several times. Britton engaged in over 350 fights & was only stopped once, in his second fight.

    Lewis used to fight & knock out heavyweights. He is definitely in the conversation as best British fighter ever along with Jackie "Kid" Berg.

    An odd coincedense about Lewis & Berg: While both were British they were also Jewish.

    GorDoom

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    Re: The Most Dramatic Trilogies In Boxing History by Graham Houston

    From the old-timers, a pair that immediately springs to mind was Tommy Ryan and Mysterious Billy Smith. The NC bout at Coney Island was an all-time classic.

    Another trilogy involving Ryan were his bouts with Kid McCoy. The first was an upset win for McCoy. The second two had controversial endings.
    Last edited by raylawpc; 03-01-2008 at 07:43 PM.

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    Re: The Most Dramatic Trilogies In Boxing History by Graham Houston

    Quote Originally Posted by GorDoom
    An odd coincedense about Lewis & Berg: While both were British they were also Jewish.
    There were many Jewish fighters in the UK during the time of these two fine fighters.

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    Re: The Most Dramatic Trilogies In Boxing History by Graham Houston

    Jeff Harding v Dennis Andries.

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    Re: The Most Dramatic Trilogies In Boxing History by Graham Houston

    Kojoe:

    Thanks for the info. I wasn't aware that there were so many Jewish fighters out of the UK. I learn something new all the time on this board!

    GorDoom

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    Re: The Most Dramatic Trilogies In Boxing History by Graham Houston

    It sounds to me, from reading Gor's post #1, that the best fight in a trilogy is virtually always the 1st fight. (I don't think Paret's being killed in #3 makes that fight best in that trilogy.)

    Makes sense--the first is such a great affair that a rematch is a natural. But at that point, how likely can #2 or #3 live up to #1--not too likely.

    For those that will say Ali-Frazier #3 was better than #1-- not IMO, not in a million years. Two fat dudes who were older, slower, and have a couple of defeats each did not do for me what their younger, faster, sharper, near-prime undefeated incarnations did in fight #1.

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    Re: The Most Dramatic Trilogies In Boxing History by Graham Houston

    Michael - I believe V/M III shows the exception to the rule. Wow, what a fight.

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    Re: The Most Dramatic Trilogies In Boxing History by Graham Houston

    Saldivar vs Winstone and Ortiz vs Laguna deserve mention as far as the quality of the bouts go.

    Loi vs Ortiz by most accounts also belongs.

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    Re: The Most Dramatic Trilogies In Boxing History by Graham Houston

    Quote Originally Posted by doomeddisciple
    Michael - I believe V/M III shows the exception to the rule. Wow, what a fight.
    Didn't see it, Doomed, but I believe you. I look forward to seeing it.

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    Re: The Most Dramatic Trilogies In Boxing History by Graham Houston

    Quote Originally Posted by GorDoom

    Lewis used to fight & knock out heavyweights. He is definitely in the conversation as best British fighter ever along with Jackie "Kid" Berg.

    GorDoom
    Anybody hear of Jimmy Wilde?

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    Re: The Most Dramatic Trilogies In Boxing History by Graham Houston

    I have his whole career on Blu Ray.

    Vastly overrated.

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    Jimmy Wilde

    Knocking out Heavyweights is not only a myth. It's a simple piece of laziness done on the part of those looking at Wilde's record and seeing the name Jack Sharkey and thinking it's the same Jack Sharkey.

    Hey Joe Gans is on Wilde's resume as well. Of course if anyone was paying attention, the Joe Gans that Wild beat in 1912, wasn;t the former Lightweight champion.

    The little matter of the former lightweight champion Gans dying in 1910, was the first thing that tipped me off.

    You know, a simple cross referencing of the fighters records and validating whether one is alive or not, will wake those asleep, up.

    Hawk

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    Re: The Most Dramatic Trilogies In Boxing History by Graham Houston

    The Most Dramatic Trilogies in Boxing History
    By Graham Houston

    I'm certainly glad Mr. Houston actually sees fit to go as far back as the 1930's in his survey of boxing history.

    And he even has another one in there from the 1940's.

    Wouldn't want to stay too close to the present when dealing with boxing history.

    No sir.

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    At least Mr. Houston

    HAS read up on some history and then validated it.

    As opposed to buying into mythology such as Jimmy WIlde beating Heavyweights.

    Hawk

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    Re: At least Mr. Houston

    Quote Originally Posted by GorDoom

    Lewis used to fight & knock out heavyweights. He is definitely in the conversation as best British fighter ever along with Jackie "Kid" Berg.
    I answered:

    Anybody hear of Jimmy Wilde?


    Quote Originally Posted by hawk5ins
    HAS read up on some history and then validated it.

    As opposed to buying into mythology such as Jimmy WIlde beating Heavyweights.

    Hawk
    You have a reading comprehension problem, hawk?

    Or do you just read too fast?

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    No problems whatsoever.

    I knew what you were getting at.

    It wasn't lost on anyone here.

    Hawk

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    Re: The Most Dramatic Trilogies in Boxing History by Graham Houston

    Gor,

    Marquez/VAquez definately deserves to be in the top 10 or even the top 5. Get rid of the Carbajal/Gonzalez and fit it in there somewhere. Just a thought

    Quote Originally Posted by GorDoom
    The Most Dramatic Trilogies in Boxing History
    By Graham Houston
    Special to ESPN.com

    One win apiece; now for the decider. The rubber match has long been a part of boxing history, the fight meant to settle the question of supremacy after each boxer has beaten the other. We have such a fight on Saturday when Israel Vazquez faces Rafael Marquez.

    Here are 10 other notable rubber-match trilogies.

    10. Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward
    The first fight between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward at the Mohegan Sun on May 18, 2002, was so intensely exciting that the subsequent installments could never match it although both were excellent bouts. Gatti, down from left hooks to the body and almost stopped in Round 9, rallied to out-punch Ward in the 10th round of the astonishing initial meeting. The split decision in Ward's favor could have gone either way. There was no question about who won the next two fights, both at Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City -- unanimous decisions for Gatti each time. The Jersey City favorite dropped Ward in the second fight, but he had to get off the canvas to win the rubber match, which was the only fight between the well-matched junior welterweights in which the boxer who scored a knockdown ended up losing the fight.

    9. Michael Carbajal-Humberto Gonzalez
    Only the first fight between 108-pound champions Michael Carbajal and Humberto "Chiquita" Gonzalez truly lived up to expectations. It was the thriller everyone had hoped to see, with Carbajal surviving two knockdowns to knock out Gonzalez in the seventh round of a marvelous match at the Las Vegas Hilton on March 13, 1993. The switch-hitting (orthodox to southpaw and back again) Gonzalez fought an aggressive, power-and-pressure fight that night -- and got caught when seemingly on his way to winning.

    In the two subsequent meetings, in Los Angeles and Mexico City, Gonzalez switched to a savvy, counter-punching strategy as constructed by his trainer Ignacio Beristain, to win close points verdicts over his hard-hitting rival from Phoenix, Ariz.

    8. Riddick Bowe-Evander Holyfield
    There is little doubt that the first fight between Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on Nov. 13, 1992, was the greatest of the trilogy, a bruising battle that saw the smaller Holyfield hurt in the 10th and dropped in the 11th but continue to give and take punches to the bitter end.

    The rematch at Caesars Palace a year later had the famous "fan man" incident when an attention-seeker with a propeller-apparatus strapped to his back parachuted into the crowd, interrupting the fight. After a 21-minute intermission, the bout resumed and Holyfield won a majority decision.

    Their rubber match at Caesars Palace on Nov. 4, 1995, had its exciting moments as Bowe survived a heavy knockdown in the sixth round to knock out Holyfield in the eighth in a clash of ex-champs.

    7. Muhammad Ali-Ken Norton
    All three of Muhammad Ali's fights with Ken Norton were closely fought. Although Norton lost the series 2-1, he scored probably the most decisive victory, breaking Ali's jaw in an upset, split decision win at San Diego on March 31, 1973.

    Ali finished strongly to eke out a split decision in the rematch at the Inglewood Forum, Los Angeles, on Sept. 10 of the same year.

    The third fight, at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 28, 1976, was the only championship fight of the series, with Ali winning a unanimous but controversial decision. Norton was the aggressor and heavier hitter but Ali scored with jabs and combinations.

    The BBC's Harry Carpenter informed the British viewing public after 14 rounds that "Norton's a long, long way ahead -- there can't be any doubt about that." At the final bell, Carpenter intoned: "We have a new heavyweight champion." The referee and two judges, though, all had Ali a narrow winner.

    6. Floyd Patterson-Ingemar Johansson
    Floyd Patterson, knocked down seven times in the third round of his first heavyweight championship fight with Ingemar Johansson at Yankee Stadium on June 29, 1959, trained with monk-like dedication for the rematch. He sensationally gained revenge with a fifth-round knockout victory at the Polo Grounds in New York on June 20, 1960.

    The rubber match at Miami Beach on March 13, 1961, did not capture the imagination in quite the same way as the first two meetings but Arthur Daley of The New York Times described it as "the best fight of their annual series by far."

    Patterson was down twice, Johansson once, in the wild opening round. In the sixth, Patterson put Johansson down with two successive chopping right hands. Johansson got up too late to beat the count, although, in the words of San Francisco Chronicle reporter Jack Fiske, the Swedish boxer "feebly protested he was ready to continue."

    5. Emile Griffith-Benny Paret
    Emile Griffith's welterweight championship series with Benny "Kid" Paret ended in tragedy after two well-matched contests.

    Griffith won the first encounter by 13th round KO at Miami Beach on April 1, 1961 -- but Paret eked out a split decision in the rematch at Madison Square Garden on Sept. 30 of the same year.

    Weigh-in taunts by Paret are thought to have provoked the unusually violent, vicious attack by Griffith in the 12th round of the rubber match at Madison Square Garden on March 24, 1962.

    Paret, pinned in a corner, was pounded by a succession of right-hand smashes as referee Ruby Goldstein watched as if transfixed. Paret never recovered consciousness and died in hospital 10 days later.

    4. Barney Ross-Jimmy McLarnin
    Barney Ross and Jimmy McLarnin had a scorching three-fight series for the welterweight title in New York City in the 1930s, with the first two bouts ending in split verdicts but Ross winning the decider by unanimous decision.
    Each bout attracted huge interest, in part due to the ethnic rivalry involved, with the Jewish Ross, from Chicago, meeting an Irish fighter who had defeated celebrated Jewish boxers such as Louis "Kid" Kaplan, Sid Terris, Ruby Goldstein, Al Singer and a sadly faded Benny Leonard.

    Ross snatched victory by weathering a middle-rounds surge by McLarnin to finish strongly in the first meeting at Madison Square Garden Bowl, Long Island, on May 28, 1934.

    McLarnin turned the tables in the rematch, again at the Long Island Bowl but ringside writers were divided.

    The third fight, at the Polo Grounds, saw Ross get the unanimous decision -- but Jack Miley wrote in The New York Daily News that "the fight was closer than Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in a last-reel fade-out."

    3. Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales
    All three title fights between Mexican rivals Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales took place in Las Vegas and spanned three weight classes: super bantam, featherweight and super featherweight.

    Each time, the decision was disputed but especially the split verdict in favor of Morales in the first fight, at the Mandalay Bay resort casino on Feb. 19, 2000.

    The rematch on June 22, 2002 at the MGM Grand saw Barrera score a unanimous decision victory -- but not everyone liked the careful, counter-punching style he used in the first half of the fight.

    Even though the rubber match at the MGM Grand on Nov. 27, 2004 saw Barrera barely winning a majority decision on the scorecards, he probably gave his best showing of the series, as I reported from ringside for Boxing Monthly: "Morales, make no mistake, was the boxer who suffered the most in what truly could be called an epic 12-rounder between two of Mexico's greatest fighters of recent years."

    2. Tony Zale-Rocky Graziano
    Boxing historians consider the first two middleweight title fights between Tony Zale and Rocky Graziano to have been among the greatest in history, each man scoring a sixth-round victory.

    In the first meeting at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 27, 1946, Graziano, the slugger from the East Side of New York, was the betting favorite over the older defending champion Zale, who had won six bouts after four years' service in the navy. Each man was dropped in the first two rounds, but Zale wore down Graziano with body blows.

    The rematch at Chicago Stadium on July 16, 1947, was just as dramatic and thrilling. Graziano, cut over the left eye, right eye swollen and closing, rallied to overwhelm Zale in the sixth with what The New York Times described as a "thunderous shower of full-arm rights and lefts to the head, face and jaw."

    Perhaps inevitably, the rubber match on June 10, 1948 at Newark, N.J., proved to be anticlimactic, with Zale knocking out Graziano in the third round -- it was as if Rocky had burned himself out in the first two wars.

    1. Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier
    The fierce heavyweight rivalry between Muhammad Ali and Smokin' Joe Frazier started and continued at Madison Square Garden and finished in the Philippines. In the much-anticipated initial counter on March 8, 1971, it was Frazier who almost certainly suffered the greater damage even though he pounded out a stirring victory. The rematch on Jan. 28, 1974, with no title at stake, was in some ways a disappointment, a tactical rather than truly exciting contest as Ali clinched and fought in spurts to win a decision.

    Ironically, the third meeting on Oct. 1, 1975, the celebrated Thrilla in Manila, when each man was in decline, produced the greatest fight of the series in terms of back-and-forth action. Frazier could hardly see through bruised and swollen eyes when his trainer, Eddie Futch, retired him at the end of the 14th round. The New York Times' legendary columnist Red Smith noted: "It has been a series both men can remember with pride -- and pride has been the spur for both."

    Graham Houston is the American editor of Boxing Monthly and writes for fightwriter.com.

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