The Ten Greatest Fights Ever Held In The Greatest Ever Place - Las Vegas!

05.02.06 - By James Slater: Being at a big fight is a truly incredible experience, I have been lucky enough to attend quite a few big fights and there really is no comparison to watching on television, although this too is a great experience. Madison Square Garden is for many the greatest venue to attend a fight, the place is just soaked in tradition and atmosphere and it is a very special place for both the fighters and the fans.

Many legendary boxers have fought here and quite a few had their pro-debut in the Garden, men like George Foreman and Evander Holyfield to name just two. The greatest night for most at the Garden though was the first epic fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1971. This was the first time two undefeated heavyweight champions ever fought one another. It was indeed an historic event and fittingly it took place in such a venue.

For me though, the best place to attend a fight, the most exciting, the most glitzy and just the plain most fun has to be Las Vegas - Fight Town as it is commonly known. I love the place and so do the fighters that box there, Vegas was a virtual second home to such ring greats as Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler, although the marvellous one wasn’t quite so keen on the judging that he received there! The Mandalay Bay and the MGM Grand are the two most frequently used venues for the big fights in Vegas these days, both great venues, they are two beautiful hotels and they have excellent boxing arenas.

Caesars Palace was the place to see a fight in the 1980s but The MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay have now taken over and dominate Vegas boxing. What a legendary place Las Vegas is, it too, like Madison Square Garden, has a long history of hosting fights, right back to the first world title fight it held in 1960 between Don Jordan and Benny “Kid” Paret. Almost every big name fighter has appeared there since. Vegas truly is Fight Town.

Among the many great fights that were held in Vegas are the Leonard Vs Hearns welterweight classic in 1981, the Hagler-Hearns war in 1985 and the Holyfield-Bowe trilogy in the 1990s. Also, the Tyson-Berbick fight in 1986, when “Iron Mike” made boxing history by becoming the youngest ever heavyweight champion at the age of twenty, and Foreman Vs Moorer in 1994, when “Big George” did likewise by becoming the oldest at the age of forty five. Many people may prefer the traditional Madison Square Garden but for me it has to be Las Vegas. But maybe I am biased because I have such special memories and have had such great experiences there.

Boxers are heroes to me. They always have been, as far back as I can remember, and I’m sure they always will be. For years I’ve followed them, on TV and in publications such as the great Ring magazine. I’ve followed their careers, some of them practically from start to finish in this way, but I’d never gone as far as I’d really wanted. I’d never seen them fight live, in the flesh, at ringside (Sure, I’ve been to a few fights, the ones my finances permitted, but I’d never been present at any super fights, in the grand arenas such as Caesars Palace or Madison Square Garden). Let alone actually met them. Until the year 2003.

My experience was far greater than the wildest of any of my dreams could possibly have been. I went to Fabulous Las Vegas. For over a month.

Spending months travelling abroad was something I always had the urge to do and when I finally found myself in a position to do so (I sold my house as a means, having finally found the courage, and went for it!) I combined it with a grand amount of quality time devoted to my love of boxing, spent in Fight Town. Talk about two birds and one stone. I had the absolute time of my life!

Through Europe and across the states of the US I travelled with Vegas always firmly in my sights as the final destination. America in general was the highlight of my trip but the realisation of a lifelong desire surpassed put all that had preceded it to the confines of distant memories. I never set off with the intention of writing about my trip, but for just an average Joe boxing fan such as myself, tales describing the seeing of legends in action and, yes, the actual meeting of and conversing with the same, more than qualified for doing so. To have rubbed shoulders with and had such intimate access to living legends despite being only a self bank rolled nobody without the backing of either a publisher or anyone else was no doubt a remarkable experience.

During my superb time in Vegas, I was fortunate to meet and spend time talking with the following fighters; Oscar De La Hoya, “Sugar” Shane Mosley, Vernon Forest, Iran “The Blade” Barkley, Floyd Mayweather, James “Lights Out” Toney, Evander Holyfield, Wayne McCullough, Chris Byrd, Roy Jones, Hasim Rahman and, finally, my number one sport’s idol, Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns! Talk about a collection of modern day greats. And I can honestly say, that every single one of these talented men carried themselves as one would expect, they were nothing but gentlemen to me. I felt incredibly lucky to have spent the time with them that I did

As a result of my experiences I am much more comfortable calling boxing my sport (even though I have never boxed) after the trip I felt more qualified to do so. I am a fan for life, I know for a fact. Even the recent disappointing, not to mention shocking, news that two of the fighters I either met, or saw fight (James Toney and Cruz Carbajal) tested positive for steroids shortly after failed to turn me off the sport. This news was negative, to be sure, but the massive high of something like the recent spectacle of the absolute bearing of souls by fighters Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo in their majestic super fight, in which Corrales did something that appeared simply impossible and pulled off a remarkable win by KO in round ten after being in the most perilous, close to certain defeat position imaginable, is an example of what makes my sport so fantastically addictive and keeps the thought of ever giving up on it out of the question. I know there will be more great fights like this one in the years to come. How then, could I possibly lose interest in this masterful sport?

I’m in too deep now and I like being there. I’m in for keeps.

And so to my list of the best ever fights held in, to my mind, the best ever place to see a boxing match, Fabulous Las Vegas.

One - Marvellous Marvin Hagler v Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns - 1985
Two - Erik Morales v Marco Antonio Barrera - 2000
Three - George Foreman v Ron Lyle - 1976
Four - Julio Cesar Chavez v Meldrick Taylor - 1990
Five - Diego Corrales v Jose Luis Castillo - 2005
Six - “Sugar” Ray Leonard v Thomas Hearns - 1981
Seven - George Foreman v Michael Moorer - 1994
Eight - Riddick Bowe v Evander Holyfield - 1992
Nine - Larry Holmes v Ken Norton - 1978
Ten - Mike Tyson v Trevor Berbick - 1986

Article posted on 06.02.2006

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