It’s always interesting hearing a great fighter talk about the great fights that inspired him as he was a young wannabe. Ray Mercer – who gave us a few fights that rank as special (see his war with Bert Cooper, his slugfest with Lennox Lewis, and his chilling KO of Tommy Morrison) – was recently kind enough to list his top 5 favourite fights.
“Merciless” knows his boxing history and it has to be agreed that the five classic fights he gave me are indeed special. Most of Mercer’s picks are heavyweight fights, to no real surprise seeing how the 60 year old is a heavyweight himself, but each of the following five battles no doubt feature on many a fight fan’s list.
1: Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier III
2: Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward First Fight
3: Mike Tyson- James “Buster” Douglas
4: Jack Johnson-Stanley Ketchell
5: Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson.
“Ali-Frazier III, ‘The Thrilla in Manila,’ has to be my pick for my favourite fight ever. That fight was brutal and that’s what I really like about it. I watch it every single time it’s on ESPN Classic. Both guys were real warriors, who absolutely wanted to win. Ali had talked so much trash before that fight, he had to back it all up! Which he did. You needed to be in great, great shape to beat Joe Frazier, and Ali dug real deep in that one.
“You know, I’m not sure what would’ve happened had [Eddie] Futch not stopped it by pulling Joe out at the end of the 14th round. Joe wanted to go on, as he had that warrior’s heart, but he couldn’t see and it was a good call. It could’ve been even worse and even more brutal had they come out for that 15th. I think Ali was ready to fight and I don’t think he would’ve ever quit (Ray is referring to the now somewhat infamous, “cut ‘em off” story, that says Ali wanted to quit at the end of that 14th-round). Ali never quit in his life!
“That fight was special. I hope we will see action like that again – in any weight class, not just at heavyweight – but I don’t think we will. Fighters have changed today. Trainers have changed as well. Ali was definitely my childhood hero.
“I really love the Johnson knockout over Ketchel. He (Ketchel) had some balls fighting the heavyweight champ; and not just any champ – a great fighter in Jack Johnson. That KO was just nasty, he knocked his teeth out! Johnson was a bad dude, man!”