By Joe Queijo
Felix Trinidad and Bernard Hopkins will soon do battle for the undisputed world middleweight title at the hallowed fight venue of Madison Square Garden, New York, in a throwback to the great 160lbs bouts of the past. If the pre-fight hyperbole is anything to go by, the bout looks set to follow the proud tradition of the middleweight wars of yesteryear.
Joe Queijo remembers some of the classic middleweight battles including Harry Greb vs Mickey Walker, Tony Zale vs Rocky Graziano, Marvin Hagler vs Thomas Hearns and Robert Duran (pictured) vs Iran Barkley.
Bob Fitzsimmons w ko 13 Nonpareil Jack Dempsey (14 January, 1894)
The original Jack Dempsey was supreme middleweight title-holder when lightly-regarded Fitzsimmons appeared on the scene in 1891. English-born Fitzsimmons gave the brave champion a vicious beating, repeatedly knocking him down. Dempsey refused to give and kept trying to land a haymaker to fell the ambitious challenger. Fitzsimmons floored the brave champion 13 times before finally winning in 13th round. Fitzsimmons would then become first heavyweight champion and then light-heavyweight king.
Harry Greb w pts 15 Mickey Walker (2 July, 1925)
A bout between two Hall of Famers. Middleweight champ Greb proved too good for reigning welterweight title-holder Walker as both swapped blows for the entire contest with Greb nearly finishing of his foe in the 14th before taking the decision. Hours after the bout, both slugged it out again in a New York bar with Walker claiming a kayo!
Tony Zale w ko Rocky Graziano (27 September, 1946)
Middleweight king Zale floored the challenger in the first, only for Rocky to get up and hammer the champion with a frightening barrage. Zale took a vicious beating, but suddenly in the sixth landed a perfect left hook to the body which kayoed Rocky.
Sugar Ray Robinson w ko 13 Jake LaMotta (14 February, 1951)
The sixth meeting between both men (Robinson won the series 5-1). LaMotta was the reigning middleweight title-holder with Robinson moving up after being untouchable as welterweight champ. Robinson took the first four rounds with his hard jab and jolting combinations. The champion roared back with cracking body shots to take the next four rounds. Robinson upped the tempo in the ninth as he let loose fearsome blows. It was only LaMotta’s famous iron chin that let him absorb such a beating without falling, but in the 13th another vicious combination convinced the referee to stop the now one-sided bout.
Carmen Basilio w pts 15 Sugar Ray Robinson (23 September, 1957)
Welterweight kingpin Basilio surprised Robinson by getting inside his seven and half inch reach and battering him to the body. Basilio stunned the champion in the 11th on the way to a thrilling split decision victory.
Nino Benvenuti w pts 15 Emile Griffith (17 April, 1967)
First bout of a thrilling trilogy. Italy’s Benvenuti shocked the champion by flooring him in the second only for Griffith to roar back and drop the challenger in the fourth. Both land telling shots in a fast-paced encounter with Benvenuti coming on strong in the latter rounds to take a deserved decision.
Marvin Hagler w ko 3Thomas Hearns (15 April, 1985)
Both unload on each other in a tremendous first round. Hagler seemingly took control in the second only to suffer a doctor’s inspection in the third because of a badly cut right eye. Hagler, facing possible defeat, suddenly landed a Rocky-esque leaping right hook, which stunned the challenger who fell after another southpaw right.
Roberto Duran w pts 12 Iran Barkley (24 February, 1989)
The 37-year-old Duran stunned his bigger opponent in the first. Both were hurt in a wild fourth with Duran nearly falling in the eighth from a wicked left hook. Duran came on strong down the stretch as he floored the champion in the 11th on the way to a popular split decision win.