More often than not, matchmaking is such that we each have a pretty clear idea of who we believe will be the better man when two combatants eventually meet. The more open questions are how the battle will ensue, how long it might last, and how it might end, who will be the victor. In a sport where parity is neither encouraged nor enforced, there is no reason why, for the seeable future, we can expect to see any significant change.
Critics who bemoan the current state of the sport will often, with some validity, argue that it was not always this way. But there is an equal argument to be made that for all of the great highlights of yesteryear, there were plenty, if not a majority of, equally totally predictable matches and results.
But what interests me always are those special and indelible moments when you were totally in shock at either the pattern of the fight, it’s nature, or it’s outcome. Not simply what we refer to a upsets….but upsets of expectations.
Ali and Frazier’s first fight and their battle in Manila were two that stand out for me. Watching Frazier get past Ali’s most high speed artillery in the first moments of Round One , withstanding inhuman punishment, and then roaring back to hurt the Great one and eventually knock his tassels upside down in fifteen was beyond any reasonable expectation. Seeing that same Frazier all but killed by the hammering punches of the young George Foreman was another.
I can go on. Leonard battling back bruised and nearly beaten to stop Tommy Hearns. Pryor stopping Arguello late. Antonio Tarver cold cocking Roy Jones. Corrales giving up his natural advantage of reach and standing in a phone booth, hooking with a hooker…..and then getting off the floor twice to stop Castillo is surely indelible.
Those are some obvious examples not merely of upsets…but of upsets of expectations. I would love to hear more from you all about those nights when you either expected one thing (or nothing) and got another altogether extraordinary.