Classic Fight Ali v. Bonavena Thurs PM on OLN

02.08.06 – OLN, in collaboration with Top Rank, today announced details of the classic fights to be featured on Fight Night: Top Rank’s Legends of the Ring. From Muhammad Ali to Joe Frazier and Sugar Ray Leonard to Thomas Hearns, these classic fight packages will not only include the action inside the ring, but tell the back-story of each match as it happened. When feasible, classic fights will be enhanced to include interviews with the contenders, pre-fight press conferences, weigh-ins, and behind-the-scenes banter between contenders. Hosted by famed ring announcer, Michael Buffer, the first classic fight, Ali vs. Bonavena, will premiere Thursday, August 3 at 9 p.m. ET..

“Top Rank’s extensive classic fight library includes some of the most historic fights in boxing and will enable OLN, as we transition to Versus, to bring these legendary fighters and their contribution  to the sport to a modern audience,” said Marc Fein, Senior Vice President of Programming and Production for OLN.

“These classic fights will be packaged in such a way that the viewer will not see just the fight but will also get the whole story around the fight." 

Fight Night: Top Rank’s Legends of the Ring, Schedule follows (subject to change):

*The below dates are premieres. Classic fights will repeat throughout the year. Additional classic matches will be announced shortly.*

Muhammad Ali vs. Oscar Bonavena, August 3 at 9 p.m. ET)

It was December 7, 1970 and it was Ali's second comeback fight since his reinstatement as a licensed boxer and his appeal on his conviction for refusing to enter the military was still pending before the Supreme Court. The fight was action-packed and featured Bonavena rocking Ali in the ninth round with a big right hand.  It looked like the fight would go the full 15 rounds before Ali came roaring back, scoring three knockdowns to win the fight by knockout in the final round.

Muhammad Ali vs. Ken Norton I (Thursday, August 17 at 9 p.m. ET)

March 31, 1973 became known as the "Broken Jaw Fight" because Ali fought from round two with a broken jaw. Norton executed trainer Eddie Futch's game plan perfectly - taking Ali's jab away by catching it with his right glove and slamming his own jab simultaneously.  Norton made it a very long night for Ali by out-jabbing him and winning a split decision, a harbinger of a memorable trilogy between former and future world champions.    

Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier II (Thursday, September 7 at 9 p.m. ET)

On January 28, 1974, two great fighters with distinctly different personalities met again at Madison Square Garden in the sequel to the "Fight of the Century”. Many consider this fight to be Ali's finest post-exile performance.  In addition to avenging his loss, Ali's victory over Frazier led to his challenge of world champion George Foreman, who had dethroned Frazier the previous year.  Ali hurt Frazier badly in the second round, but referee Tony Perez mistakenly stopped the round with 20 seconds remaining.  By the time Perez realized his mistake, it was too late for Ali to take advantage.  After that, Ali controlled the fight and shut down Smokin' Joe's offense.

George Foreman vs. Tommy Morrison (Thursday, October 12 at 9 p.m. ET)

On June 7, 1993 Foreman and Morrison fought each other for the vacant WBO heavyweight title. Morrison confounded the experts and Foreman by changing his style.  Instead of blasting away at his opponent, Morrison's trainer, Tommy Virgets, programmed Morrison to box the perfect fight needed to beat Foreman - to keep hitting him and moving around him, never staying front of him for too long.  A lesson world champion Michael Moorer should have heeded when Big George fought him next. Foreman, then 45-years-old, would knock Moorer out to become the oldest heavyweight champion.

Duran Comeback: Roberto Duran vs. Pipino Cuevas / Roberto Duran vs. Davey Moore
(Thursday, November 9 at 9 p.m. ET)

By the time Roberto Duran stepped into the ring against former world champion Pipino Cuevas on January 29, 1983, most had written him off as a force in boxing.  "Manos de Piedra" (hands of stone) had lost three of his previous five bouts, including the infamous "No Mas" rematch against Sugar Ray Leonard, a  world title challenge against Wilfred Benitez, and a 10-round tune-up against the unheralded Kirkland Laing, awarded "Upset of the Year" by The Ring magazine.  Duran turned back the clock and in front of a sellout Mexican crowd in the Los Angeles Sports Arena, tore into the former world champion, knocking him down several times before the fight was stopped in the fourth round. 

A rejuvenated underdog, Duran followed that victory with his challenge of undefeated WBA super welterweight champion Davey Moore at Madison Square Garden on June 16, 1983.  Duran celebrated his 32nd birthday in style, getting into peak physical condition, to hand Moore a terrible beating.  The sellout crowd was electric, many in support of the Bronx-born Moore's homecoming, with the remainder mostly Panamanian, passionately rooting for native son Duran. The Panamanian slugger left the ring having redeemed himself for the "No Mas" disaster and with his third world title in as many weight divisions.

The network will be changing its name to Versus on September 25. The new moniker is the culmination of a two-year network evolution. It was chosen not only for its bold nature, but because it universally evokes competition.  Versus will focus squarely on competition and the inherent challenges an athlete or sportsman face in the field.  The channel will celebrate sports at its best, where participants compete at their highest levels with the greatest passion.

OLN ( is the national cable home of the National Hockey League (NHL) and the Stanley Cup Playoffs as well as best-in-class events like The Tour de France, the America's Cup, the Dakar Rally, the Professional Bull Riders (PBR), the Arena Football League (AFL), the Boston Marathon, AMA Motocross, Davis Cup and USSA Skiing. Now in more than 69 million homes, the network features the best field sports programming on television and is a destination for sports fans, athletes and sportsmen to find exclusive, competitive events that audiences can't find elsewhere. The network offers unique, competition-themed original programming and is the exclusive home of Survivor in syndication. OLN, a wholly owned company of Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ: CMCSA, CMCSK), is distributed via cable systems and satellite operators throughout the United States.

Article posted on 02.08.2006

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