If Only: Dream Fights That Should Have Become A Reality

by James Slater: There is nothing worse than a super-fight, or a potential super-fight, that gets away from us by not taking place. Be it a rematch that simply had to happen but never did, a title fight unification that was badly needed to clear up the issue of which champion was the better, or a plain old grudge fight between two guys who couldn't stand each other, it's tough for fight fans when a must-see fight never materializes.

Here, in no particular order, this writer lists a choice of fights that had great potential but sadly never took place.

1: Lennox Lewis Vs. Riddick Bowe

When they should have fought: 1993.

Why the fight should have happened and what would have happened had it done so:

This heavyweight clash could well have been a classic. Also, for two other big reasons the fight should have taken place - 1: it would have resulted in a unification of all three major heavyweight titles, 2: these two guys hated each other! (you could also add a third reason, stating that the fight would have been a rematch - what with Lennox and Riddick having met at the '92 Olympics).

Lewis would have been my pick to win, but it wouldn't have been easy. Not yet with ace trainer Emanuel Steward and also still to work on improving things such as his balance and footwork, Lewis would have been in with a peak "Big Daddy," one who was coming off a sensational showing against Evander Holyfield - a far greater fighter than anyone Lewis had on his own resume at the time.

My pick: Lewis by close decision.

Back in and around '93, Lewis was struggling with men like Tony Tucker and Frank Bruno - two heavies who were no way near as gifted as Bowe was. Also, Bowe was a very good inside fighter - who had Lewis met that was as adept at this art form back then? On the flip side, Bowe, as we know now, had already peaked and he would never again put on a show to match his epic win over Holyfield. Lewis, the more disciplined fighter, would have pushed himself harder in pursuit of becoming the undisputed champ (Riddick was already ballooning up between fights and slowly eating his way to a shortened career). There might have been a knockdown or two along the way - on both sides - but in the end Lewis would have prevailed in a fine fight. As for no knockout - remember, no-one ever KO'd Bowe, a fighter whose bravery and ability to take punishment turned out to be quite incredible (see the two Andrew Golota fights).

2: Barry McGuigan Vs. Azumah Nelson

When they should have fought: 1986.

Why the fight should have happened and what would have happened had it done so:

This fight, which would have been a WBC and WBA featherweight title fight unification, would have pitted two outstanding fighters against each other. Ireland's McGuigan, the WBA 126-pound champion since his superb June, 1986 win over Eusebio Pedroza, wanted the fight; Ghana's Nelson, the WBC ruler at the same weight since KO'ing Wilfredo Gomez in December of 1984, wanted it just as badly; if not more so. As for the public and the media, the British press, for one example, wrote about this fight and how it should happen for what seemed like years!

Nelson would be my pick to win, but the battle that would have raged would have been a gem. McGuigan, with his amazing physical strength and stamina, would have pushed the harder-punching African great all the way. True, Azumah was stopping a lot of guys in late '85 and early '86, but he was also taken to a close majority verdict by the tough but ordinary Marcos Villasana in Feb. of '86. McGuigan was far more accomplished a fighter than was the Mexican, and Barry was also a good deal younger than Nelson.

My pick: Nelson by close decision.

At his peak and full of guts and heart, as well as enjoying and being inspired by an entire nation's love, adoration and unmitigated support, "The Clones Cyclone" would have given absolutely everything he had against "The Terrible Warrior." It wouldn't have been enough to have won, but Nelson would have remembered the fierce fight for a very long time. It's possible neither man would have ever been quite the same again.

3: Nigel Benn Vs. Chris Eubank III

When they should have fought: 1994.

Why the fight should have happened and what would have happened had it done so:

Talk about two guys who hated each other's guts! This was as genuine a grudge-match series as British boxing has ever seen. As such, two fights instead of three was nowhere near enough. Not only that, but fight two, which followed a superb, late round's stoppage victory for underdog Eubank, ended up being scored a draw. Also, adding to the essential qualities that simply screamed for a fight three, was the fact that both men held differing world titles. Truthfully, it really is staggering that Benn and Eubank never met for a third time.

Benn would be my pick to win, and here's why. Eubank, a fine fighter, caught an ill prepared "Dark Destroyer" in November of 1990, and he still had to get up off the floor to win. "Simply The Best" also took a fair amount of punishment in the first fight - even having a nasty cut opened under his tongue. Showing guts, Eubank came back to stop a weight drained Benn, whose eye had been hammered shut, in the 9th. In fight two, which took so long to make and was up at super-middleweight, Benn was 100-percent ready. The draw fooled no-one, and Benn was the victim of a poor decision that caused much controversy. Had a third fight gone ahead, Benn, once again knowing he had the stuff needed to see off the man he was so motivated to defeat, would have pounded out a clear points win - which many people said he did in fight two anyway.

My pick: Benn by commanding decision.

Benn was stronger up at 168-pounds, and from November, '90 to the September, '93 return his form was excellent. Stopping all but three of his ten victims, Benn was on a roll. Conversely, Eubank was looking a tired fighter during this period. Chris scraped by with two close and debatable points wins after the draw with Benn (against Graciano Rocchigiani and Ray Close) and before the draw with Nigel he'd been held to one by Ireland's Close in their first meeting. Had they met for a third go, Eubank would have gone home with his first loss attached to his pro record.

4: George Foreman Vs. Mike Tyson

When they should have fought: 1990.

Why the fight should have happened and what would have happened had it done so:

This fight that wasn't to be had had people talking in excited tones since 1988, a year or so into Foreman's surprising comeback. During this time, practically any issue of either Ring, KO or Boxing Monthly magazine you picked up had either an article about this prospective fight, or a letter or three sent in by fans talking about it. And when "Big "George starched Gerry Cooney in impressive fashion in early 1990, and then, the following month, "Iron" Mike lost his cloak of invincibility due to being put to sleep by James "Buster" Douglas, the fight was seen as a tough one to call. In short, everyone wanted to see it, and the fight would have made both men and all other people involved with it millions and millions of dollars. This monster of a fight would have been an EVENT. As one promoter who was doing business at the time put it when talking about this Dream Fight, "What fu***ng excitement!"

This one would have had a good shot at being short and sweet. A battle between two of heavyweight history's biggest bangers, Tyson-Foreman would also have been, as Ring magazine put it, a clash between the immovable object (Foreman) and the irresistible force (Tyson). Would old man George have been able to have timed one of Mike's rushes and clobbered him with a bomb as he came at him? Or would Tyson have snapped Foreman's head back with lightening fast combos? Or perhaps another scenario would have unfolded. What we know now about what Tyson was capable of doing when discouraged (quit, bite or foul some other way - basically lose heart) makes is possible that, had he hit Foreman with his best shots and not gotten rid of him, Mike may have looked for a way out. Remember, there have since been stories that have surfaced telling us how Mike was not in favour of fighting Foreman, telling Don King that he was not getting in the ring with "that animal."

My Pick: Foreman by mid-rounds KO.

It would have been hellish for Foreman in the first three rounds or so and, depending on who the referee was, a TKO win may well have been awarded to Tyson. If, however, a third man was appointed who was prepared to allow Foreman to take severe early-rounds punishment, Tyson would have ran out of gas and ran out of confidence. And we know what a rock for a head George had! Staggered a number of times and cut and swollen he would have been, but the phenomenally tough old warhorse who ruled his weight class in the 1970s would have taken his lumps - only to come though the pain and get Tyson out of there around the 7th or 8th round. Would Tyson have quit? Maybe. If not he'd have been knocked flat. In short, Tyson wanted nothing to do with Foreman.

Article posted on 04.08.2011

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