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18 SEPTEMBER 2014

 

Great Fights And Great Nights: The Best Left Hooks Ever Thrown


Pacquiao flattens Hatton
Pacquiao flattens Hatton

By Danny Winterbotom: Throughout the annals of boxing history there have been many an exponent of the left hook. From the brutally beautiful explosiveness of ‘Smokin Joe Frazier’s numbing left to the exquisite timing of Sugar Ray Robinson. Combined with speed and accuracy a left hook can produce a key knockdown or fight ending knockout, a boxers best friend.

Below we take a look at some of the most devastating deployments of one of the sweetest punches in a fighter’s arsenal.

SUGAR RAY ROBINSON KO5 GENE FULLMER: May 1 1957, Middleweight World Title

The perfect punch in boxing is a rare beast indeed, rarer perhaps than a hole in one in golf. On May 1,1957, at the Chicago Stadium, Sugar Ray Robinson produced one of the best left hook’s ever thrown in a championship contest in his second meeting with Utah’s granite chinned middleweight champion Gene Fullmer.

In the first contest between the pair Fullmer used all his awkwardness and unpredictability to throw Robinson off his stride as the 36-year-old former three time champion failed to deal with the bundle of energy that poured forward at him round after round, taking the title with a unanimous decision.

Before the rematch many boxing scribes had written off the chances of Robinson making him a 3-1 underdog come fight time, and Fullmer himself was bullish about repeating his win over the great man. Having gotten wind of Fullmer’s boastfulness, the Sugar man responded with six ominous words “No man has beaten me twice”.

For four rounds Robinson was about to eat his words as the champion swarmed him, hustling and bullying him out of his stride, a carbon copy almost of their first encounter. Robinson, the tactical master that he was, had noticed in Fullmer’s eagerness to finish him off that he was dropping his hands dangerously low, an invitation he wasn’t about to pass up. Sugar Ray began to show him the right hand, teasing him, hoping the champion would fall into his trap so he could drop the bomb. He bided his time then in round five as Fullmer missed with a sweeping right hand, he took full advantage. As fast as a bullet Robinson connected with brutal accuracy, flooring the stunned champion heavily. He pumped his tree trunk like legs in despair as he flailed around on the canvas unable to get up as the referee reached the count of ten. Having never previously been knocked out in his career, Fullmer, still feeling the effects of the blow, struggled to understand quite what had happened to him. “Why is Robinson jumping around between rounds?” he asked, “He just won, they counted to ten” was the frank and honest retort.


WAYNE ALEXANDER KO2 TAKALOO: VACANT WBU LIGHT MIDDLEWEIGHT TITLE

British knockout artist Wayne Alexander produced one of the most shocking one punch, left hook finishes ever seen on these shores when he put domestic rival Takaloo to sleep in the second round of their WBU light middleweight encounter at York Hall, Bethnal Green on September 10, 2004.

Alexander, despite being a long way from world class, was one of those rare breed of prize fighters that could take you out with one shot, either hand, at any given moment. That night, in front of a packed house, he connected with the greatest punch he ever threw, Takaloo never saw it coming.

The build up to the highly anticipated bout saw both men indulge in a little bit of prefight hyperbole. Takaloo told the world how he had laid out a then unbeaten Alexander in a heated sparring session in 1998 and that he was about to repeat the dose in front of the watching public.

Despite his reputation as a fearsome banger Croydon’s Alexander was, like so many punchers, vulnerable himself. He came into the contest on the back of a shocking eighth round stoppage loss to journeyman Delroy Mellis, whilst Margate’s Takaloo lost an eight rounder on points to controversial Portuguese brawler Eugenio Monteiro.

So, the scene was set with both men having a lot to prove in a fight that has become famous worldwide for its brutal conclusion.


Round one saw Takaloo circling the ring, popping out his jab as a menacing Alexander stalked him, waiting for a chance to land his bombs. The first meaningful punch however came from Takaloo as a right hand seemed to stagger the Croydon slugger to the delight of his fans at ringside.

Alexander, after a cagey opener, started the second round with more intent as he attempted to close the distance down and unload his heavy artillery, but Takaloo was seemingly unwilling to engage, instead setting himself for the counter. With Takaloo backed into a neutral corner the former European champion began to let his hands go but a sharp counter to the right side of his body almost doubled him over as now it was Takaloo’s turn to let the heavy punches fly. Alexander was hurt and backed off prompting Takaloo to let more punches go in an attempt to finish him off, then BANG, the Croydon banger let an instinctive left hook counter go detonating on the chin of a defenceless Takaloo who crashed to the canvas, his head bouncing off the bottom rope in sickening fashion. Like a dose of general anaesthetic the brutal blow had put the three time WBU champion in the land of slumber, a count was not needed, Alexander’s left hook had seen to that.


DONALD CURRY KO2 MILTON McCRORY: WBC, IBF AND WBA WELTERWEIGHT TITLES

“The Lone Star Cobra” Don Curry joined an exclusive club of one when he blitzed WBA welterweight champion Milton McCrory in two rounds with a thunderous left hook counter of the highest order at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel on December 6, 1985.

In unifying the 147lbs division he joined Marvin Hagler as the only other undisputed champion at the time, and the first undisputed welterweight champion since Sugar Ray Leonard, cementing his standing as one of the very best in the world.

This highly anticipated bout featured two undefeated champions, Curry 23-0 (17) and McCrory 27-0 (22) both battling for divisional supremacy. 23-year-old McCrory came into the bout on a run of four successful defences of his title and was expected to push the Texan master craftsmen all the way.

With boxing sanctioning bodies in the middle of changing the duration of championship fights from fifteen rounds to twelve during the mid eighties after the tragic Ray Mancini vs. Duk Koo Kim contest in which Kim lost his life, McCrory was given the option on the winning of a coin flip to choose the bouts length. The “Ice Man” decided upon 12, wisely perhaps because of his questionable stamina. So, 12 rounds it was to decided the undisputed welterweight champion of the world.

From the moment the first bell sounded Curry was the aggressor, forcing the gangly McCrory onto the back foot, and with only seconds on the clock he landed a perfectly timed right hand over the jab of the WBC champion knocking him off balance. The entire session was a demonstration of Curry’s exceptional counter punching skills as time and time again he shot right hands over and around the guard of McCrory. Mid way through the opener with the “Ice Man” on the retreat, Curry landed his first left hook staggering the legs of his opponent. Noted as an extremely talented boxer, the aggressive first round had shown Curry also possessed the power in his punches to get respect at the highest level.

The second and ultimately final round began as the first had ended with Curry on the attack forcing McCrory to the ropes with effective counter punching and a forceful body assault. McCrory was now cautious with his punches for fear of being picked off by the razor sharp counters coming back at him, unable to land anything of note through the tight guard of the Texan. As McCrory let a rare burst of punches go, Curry timed his counter left hook to perfection, landing on the point of the chin sending the WBC and IBF champion awkwardly to the canvas. As television camera’s zoomed in for effect it was clear to see that McCrory was in no position to continue as he desperately tried to stand upright, but referee Mills Lane allowed him to fight on, not for long as a defenceless Milton was hammered by a right that finished the job the sweetly timed left hook had started. The “Ice Man” had been iced by one of the best left hooks you will ever see.



MANNY PACQUIAO KO2 RICKY HATTON: IBO LIGHT WELTERWEIGHT TITLE


I don’t mind admitting it, I was a huge Ricky Hatton fan back in the day at the time he was packing the M.E.N Arena to the rafters, feasting on questionable opposition maybe, but it was exciting times on the Manchester fight scene. Fast forward to May 2009, two fights, and almost two years after his first crushing loss to Floyd Mayweather, and Hatton was back on the biggest stage to face the ferocious Filipino Manny Pacquiao. Ricky had convinced the boxing public that fighting at his favoured weight of 140lbs would make him a much tougher opponent for Pacquiao than he had made for the bigger Mayweather up at welterweight. He figured on being the bigger man, the physically stronger man that would be able to impose his style at a weight he had been unbeaten at in 44 contests. It took less than two completed rounds to shatter that opinion, and Hatton’s jaw, as “Pacman” brutalised the “Hitman” with a devastating left hook.

The amazingly loyal and loud travelling fans of the “Hitman” had converged on Las Vegas, drinking the bars dry in the expectation of a Hatton win. Sat at home I longed to be out there myself to savour the atmosphere but had an unnerving feeling that it could be a tough night for Manchester’s favourite son.

The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end as a focused Hatton made his way to the ring to the now famous strains of “Blue Moon”

As Manny embraced his corner men chants of “There’s only one Ricky Hatton” reverberated around the MGM Grand as Hatton bounced on his toes in his corner ready for war. Straight from the off Hatton wanted to engage Pacquiao, trying to close the distance down and forcing the Filipino onto the back foot. Watching from home I felt Hatton seemed edgy, not thinking enough and too eager to trade with Pacquiao as he began to ship some hurtful punches. When Pacquiao was afforded the time and space he stunned the Mancunian with a hard right hand forcing Hatton to grab and maul his way out of trouble. The realisation that he was in deep seemed etched across his face as he emerged from the clinch with the Filipino whirlwind desperate to follow up his attack. When Manny let his punches go he looked leagues above a bewildered Hatton and nearing the end of the one sided session a barrage of right hands sent him over again.

Seemingly undeterred, Hatton continued to pour forward in round two but was being out punched by a razor sharp Pacquiao who moved away from Hatton’s attacks before stopping and tattooing Ricky with several power punches to the head. Hatton was already fighting hard to just stay with the mercurial Filipino but he was about to be finished in spectacular fashion. With brutal irony a distant verse of “Rule Britannia” emanated from high up in the stands just as, with only seven seconds remaining in the round, Pacquiao detonated a brutal left hook square on the chin of Hatton who was out cold before he hit the canvas. It was one of the most brutal left hook finishes I have ever seen, and one that well and truly ruined my night!


JOE FRAZIER UD15 MUHAMMAD ALI: THE FIGHT OF THE CENTURY, WBC AND WBA WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLES

Forty years have passed since Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali first embarked on their violent relationship at New York’s Madison Square Garden on March 8, 1971.

This most epic of grudge matches, set to a back drop of political unrest, riots and bad mouthing, had polarised America with many of the population still seething at Ali’s refusal to go to war for his country in Vietnam, instead favouring the pro war Frazier.

The anticipation of the contest was so electrifying that come fight time the Garden was awash with a who’s who of celebrities of the day including Frank Sinatra, Woody Allen and Burt Lancaster who provided commentary for the closed circuit broadcast.

Ali and Frazier, both undefeated at the time, were guaranteed a then record purse of $2.5 million each, but more important than the money, the scene was set for a match with weighty overtones.

For those that had predicted Ali’s superior speed of hand and foot would prevail were confident of a result early in the fight as the man formerly known as Cassius Clay fired out rapier like jabs into the face of “Smokin’ Joe”, causing welts to appear on the champions face. Frazier, not easily deterred, continued his march forward, willing to take punches to land his own hard shots to the body. As Frazier’s body attack began to take its toll on the come backing former champion, Ali started to tire, only his combination punching keeping the marauding champion at bay in a brutal contest.

They were deemed level going into the eleventh round until Frazier landed a crushing left hook that had Ali groggy on the ropes. He survived the round but was unable to keep Frazier off him after that.

By round 14 the champion was ahead on all three judges’ scorecards, and it was about to get worse for “The Greatest” as in the final round Frazier landed an almighty trademark left hook, dropping Ali for only the third time in his career. He rose at the count of eight with a grotesque swelling on the side of his jaw, clear evidence of the power carried by the champion in his vaunted left.

There was no disputing the verdict in favour of Frazier as he took the unbeaten record of Ali. So brutal had the contest been that both men were sent immediately to hospital for observation, where a discharged Ali heard the terrible news that Frazier had died from his injuries. Of course this turned out to be misinformation and just another foot note in this most incredible of boxing trilogies.

November 4, 2011





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