The 10 Biggest Middleweight Fights in HBO History

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It’s too soon to say whether the September 16 battle for middleweight supremacy between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin will be one of the division's greatest fights. But it’s not too soon to declare it a massive event. This will be the most meaningful, most anticipated clash between two world-class boxers that the sport has seen in more than two years. And it will be one of the most meaningful, most anticipated middleweight title bouts that HBO has aired in 40-plus years of broadcasting fights.

Where does Canelo-GGG rank exactly on that list? Here are the top 10 middleweight fights in HBO boxing history:


10. Felix Trinidad vs. William Joppy

May 12, 2001

Madison Square Garden, New York City

Joppy isn’t a household name now and he wasn’t one then, but this fight was a big deal anyway for three reasons: It was a semifinal bout in Don King’s Middleweight World Championship Series; 2000 Fighter of the Year Trinidad was as scorchingly popular as any boxer alive at that moment; and the bigger Joppy was given a very real chance at upsetting “Tito,” who had never fought at middleweight before. Rarely has the decibel level at the Garden been as elevated as it was that night when the Puerto Rican icon bounced Joppy off the canvas three times on his way to a fifth-round knockout.

9. Miguel Cotto vs. Sergio Martinez

June 7, 2014

Madison Square Garden, New York City

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This transfer of the lineal middleweight title is remembered largely for Martinez’s gimpy knees making it easy for Cotto, but going in, it looked like the ultimate challenge for the undersized Puerto Rican warrior. Martinez had been the champ for four years and he’d beaten Kelly Pavlik, Paul Williams, and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. along the way. Cotto and Martinez were two of the most respected pugilists of their generation, and the former scored perhaps the most meaningful victory of his Hall of Fame-bound career as he sent the latter into retirement with a 10th-round stoppage.

8. Sergio Martinez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

September 15, 2012

Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas

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For 11 rounds, it didn’t live up to any of the hype. For the final three minutes, it exceeded all possible hype. And make no mistake, there was plenty of hype surrounding the undefeated son of Mexico’s greatest champion challenging a pound-for-pounder for the lineal 160-pound title. Between the Chavez name, a memorable 24/7 build, and a peaking Martinez, this was a perfect Mexican Independence Day weekend mega-event, even if it ended with the Mexican’s frantic 12th-round rally coming up just short against the Argentine king.

7. Canelo Alvarez vs. Miguel Cotto

November 21, 2015

Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

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Cotto was a major star and the lineal champ; Alvarez was an even bigger star as the challenger. Neither were necessarily true middleweights, but it was a 50-50 fight for many fans and experts, and the pay-per-view numbers proved that the stink of May-Pac could be shaken by the right kind of must-see battle between warriors with rabid fan bases. In the end, it was a very good but not great fight, as Canelo was too young and too sharp and he outboxed Cotto to win a clear-cut decision.

6. Marvin Hagler vs. Roberto Duran

November 10, 1983

Caesars Palace, Las Vegas

In a world in which Sugar Ray Leonard was retired — for the moment, anyway — Hagler and Duran were as big as any two stars in the sport. Duran was already a living legend, but for Hagler, this represented his first crack at a superfight and the money that comes with it and a major step toward his ambition of becoming a legend in his own right. And the fight was more competitive than many expected, with Duran boxing smartly and Hagler holding onto his strap by a single point on two scorecards.

5. Bernard Hopkins vs. Oscar De La Hoya

September 18, 2004

MGM Grand, Las Vegas

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It’s easy, nearly a decade after his career ended, to forget just how carry-the-sport-on-his-back big De La Hoya was. In long-reigning champ B-Hop, boxing’s biggest star had found an opponent against which he had nothing to lose, a challenge so great he was enhancing his legacy just by trying. It didn’t end gloriously for Oscar, who was left writhing on the canvas from as sneaky ninth-round body punch, but it was a win for everyone when the receipts from 2004’s biggest pay-per-view extravaganza were added up.

4. Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin

September 16, 2017

T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas

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There was demand among the hardcore fans for a GGG-Canelo showdown in May or September of 2016, but if it had happened then, it wouldn’t be all the way up at No. 4 on this countdown. This fight between the lineal champ and the people’s champ was kept in the toaster until it was golden brown on all sides, until it finally reached a point where picking a winner isn’t going to be easy. History and legacy will be at stake when these two beloved fighters try to separate the “good boys” from the great men.

3. Bernard Hopkins vs. Felix Trinidad

September 29, 2001

Madison Square Garden, New York City

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This didn’t draw as big a gate or sell as many PPVs as Hopkins’ fight with De La Hoya three years later would. But in terms of a fight capturing something historic — tapping into something culturally and emotionally significant as well as something of great pugilistic heft — the Hopkins-Trinidad showdown in the finals of the Middleweight World Championship Series is tough to outdo. Just 18 days after the 9/11 terrorist attack, a wounded city healed just a little bit through the power of sports, and it was Hopkins to rose to the occasion and punched his ticket to the Hall of Fame with a performance for the ages and a 12th-round TKO.

(Read From the Vault: Still Standing)

2. Marvin Hagler vs. Tommy Hearns

April 15, 1985

Caesars Palace, Las Vegas

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Part of what made the savagery of the eight minutes Hagler and Hearns shared so iconic was that fights this big pretty much never become this violent this fast. Most superfights feature two professionals with elite skill and therefore take a few rounds to heat up. Hagler and Hearns wasted no time sizing each other up and delivered on the event’s nickname “The War” from the instant the opening bell rang. Hagler’s third-round knockout of Hearns pushed the “Four Kings” era into a different place in the public consciousness, establishing it as the go-to reference for multi-way rivalries for the ensuing 32 years and counting.

(Read From the Vault: Eight Minutes of Hell)

1. Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Marvin Hagler

April 6, 1987

Caesars Palace, Las Vegas

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It was like something out of a movie: The baby-faced superstar who’d been forced to retire young daring to come back after a three-year break against the long-reigning champ widely considered the best pound-for-pound fighter around. It was an event so momentous and so wrapped in curiosity that it sold itself. And Leonard didn’t only know how to sell the fans; he also knew how to sell the judges, and he convinced two of them to award him maybe the most debated decision of all-time, capping an upset and a comeback more fantastic than anything Hollywood could script.

(Read From the Vault: Still Fighting)

Watch: Hey Harold! Cotto vs. Kamegai

HBO Boxing unofficial scorer Harold Lederman discusses Miguel Cotto vs. Yoshihiro Kamegai. Cotto vs. Kamegai happens Saturday, August 26 at 9:45 PM ET/PT.

CompuBox Preview And Prediction: Cotto vs. Kamegai

By CompuBox

Miguel Cotto and Yoshihiro Kamegai are nearing the sunsets of their respective careers. The nearly 37-year-old Cotto has fought pro 16 1/2 years while the 34-year-old Kamegai is nearing the 12-year mark. They've fought a combined 77 times and scored 57 knockouts. Both are also coming off career-long layoffs -- 21 months for Cotto, 350 days for Kamegai. They both endured fights that challenged their toughness (L 12 Saul "Canelo" Alvarez for Cotto, RTD 8 in Kamegai's physical rematch with Jesus Soto-Karass). When the two veteran boxers face each other on August 26, the next step for the winner may be unclear. However, the path for the loser is defined: retirement.

Cinnamon Crunch

Although Cotto was 35 when he fought Alvarez, his ring smarts and toughness made the Mexican's margin of victory (119-109, 118-110, 117-111) appear far wider than reality. Cotto was the more active fighter as he averaged 52.4 punches per round to Alvarez's 40.3, and he was the better jabber (31.2 thrown/4.5 connects per round to Alvarez's 15.5/3.1, resulting in a 54-37 connect lead). But Alvarez, whose nickname translates to "cinnamon," was more accurate in all phases (32%-21% overall, 20%-15% jabs, 40%-30% power) and thus led 155-129 overall and 118-75 power.

The round-by-round breakdowns revealed a slim 6-5-1 lead for Alvarez in total connects but a 9-3 bulge in landed power shots, which, along with Alvarez's youth and obvious star power, may account for the wider scoring. Up until then, Cotto's pairing with Freddie Roach produced what many called a career resurrection after his dismal decision loss to Austin Trout. In out-pointing Sergio Martinez to win the lineal middleweight crown and in blowing out Delvin Rodriguez and Daniel Geale, Cotto made the most of his 40.5 punches per round by landing a combined 49% of his total punches, 44% of his jabs (11.6 thrown/5.1 connects per round) and 51% of his power shots.

Still, even as he won almost every round and scored seven knockdowns, Cotto's absorbed 38% of their power shots, which, given that Alvarez landed only 30% of his hooks, crosses and uppercuts, indicated that figure reflected Cotto's confidence in his own chin rather than a sign of diminishing reflexes. That said, how will those reflexes be at age 36 and coming off a loss and a 21-month hiatus?

There's an 'O' in Yoshihiro, but There's No 'D'

While offense is Kamegai's stock and trade, his defense suffers because of it. Kamegai has shown a propensity to be drawn into high-contact firefights as he and his foes average a combined 151.5 punches per round (67.4 for Kamegai, 84.1 for his foes), well above the combined 112.8 division average (56.4 times two).

In the rematch with Soto Karass, Kamegai's most recent fight, they fired 169.5 punches per round (81.5 for Kamegai, 88 for Soto-Karass). Moreover, Kamegai landed an insanely high 40.5 total punches per round (more than double the 17.0 super welterweight average) and 36.5 power shots per round (triple the 12.1 division norm) while prevailing 50%-34% overall and 55%-39% power en route to an eight-round corner stoppage. Even now, Cotto promises to present a far more elusive target -- and a much more intelligent one, too.

Inside The Numbers

Cotto landed 25.9% of his jabs in his last ten fights, 5.4% higher than middle average, and 37.9% of his power shots. (Opponents landed 38.6% of their power shots.)

Kamegai is busy, averaging 67.4 punches per round in his last six fights, putting up above average offensive numbers. He did so with a price, as opponents landed 42.7% of their power punches and 29.3 punches per round- 12.6 more than the middle. avg. Kamegai did land 40.7% of his power shots and 21.1 power shots per round- 9.2 more than the middleweight avg. 77% of Kamegai's thrown punches are power shots (CompuBox avg.: 58.5%), and 85.1% of his landed punches are power shots (CompuBox avg.: 72%)

Prediction

Cotto may be rusty, but he still possesses far more ring craft than Kamegai, whose swarming style seems made for Cotto's versatility and accuracy. A late-round TKO is possible, but he'll likely score a big points victory that will likely lead to one last big fight.

PODCAST: Cotto vs. Kamegai Preview

HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney preview Saturday's Miguel Cotto vs. Yoshihiro Kamegai fight, analyzing what Cotto's retirement plans mean, how career-long layoffs will affect both combatants, and what style of fight gives Kamegai his best chance. They also talk about the "StubHub magic" potential of the co-featured bout, Rey Vargas vs. Ronny Rios.

Cotto-Kamegai Preview: Miguel Cotto Starts to Say Goodbye, Miguel Cotto-Style

Photograph: Will Hart

Photograph: Will Hart

By Eric Raskin

Miguel Cotto is all fighter. He’s so much a fighter at his core, in fact, that the only way he knows how to announce his retirement is by signing to fight. In the same late-summer stretch that saw Wladimir Klitschko, Juan Manuel Marquez, Tim Bradley, and Shane Mosley all decide, for various reasons, to step away without entering the ring one last time, Cotto is verbally indicating that he’ll join them – but not until he gets one or two more punch-ups out of his system.

On Saturday, Cotto, closing in on his 37th birthday and more than 21 months removed from his last bout, will touch gloves at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., with Yoshihiro Kamegai in the first show of the Puerto Rican warrior’s farewell tour. It’s going to be a brief tour; Cotto has promised he’ll be retired by the time we turn the calendars over to 2018, so it’s Kamegai and maybe one more, if the right fight can be arranged by December. If not, maybe Cotto-Kamegai is goodbye. However many hooks Cotto (40-5 with 33 KOs) has left in his quiver, he’s allocating them across this Saturday and maybe one more Saturday after that, and then he’s out.

Of course, it’s a boxing retirement, so there’s always reason for skepticism. Even Cotto’s trainer, Freddie Roach, isn’t totally sold. "Miguel will retire at the end of the year, but I wonder if he will remain retired," Roach recently told BoxingScene. "If [Gennady] Golovkin beats Canelo [Alvarez] and then Cotto faces him, I think it would be a great fight, on a historic level. And if he wins that, he'll want more I think. But first, he has to deal with Kamegai."

How much of a challenge will dealing with Kamegai be? The Japanese veteran has compiled a record of 27-3-2 with 24 KOs – solid numbers, though against dramatically lower competition than what Cotto has faced. He lost a competitive decision when he stepped up to face Robert Guerrero in 2014, dropped decisions when he couldn’t match the skills of Johan Perez or Alfonso Gomez (a fighter Cotto crushed nearly a decade ago), and turned in career-best performances in two all-action fights in 2016 against Jesus Soto-Karass – the first scored a draw, the second a one-sided eighth-round stoppage that earned Kamegai this opportunity.

At age 34, coming off a career-long 350-day layoff, a dangerous offensive fighter but a subpar defensive boxer, Kamegai is a sizable underdog. But he is resilient; Kamegai has never been knocked out or even knocked down as a pro, so while Cotto figures to reach his chin early and often, there’s no guarantee said chin will notice. It’s supposed to be a get-well fight for Cotto following his 2015 points defeat to Canelo Alvarez, but he’s had fights like this go awry before. Slick southpaw Austin Trout, who upset Cotto in 2012, knows a thing or two about that.

“Of course, Miguel Cotto, if he’s motivated, you have to give him a big edge in this fight,” Trout told Inside HBO Boxing. “But the beautiful thing about boxing is everybody has a chance. Kamegai didn’t just start boxing. He’s been doing this for years. When you have experience, you have a chance. And Miguel doesn’t only lose to skilled boxers. Remember, Manny Pacquiao went straight to Cotto, took it to him. So did Antonio Margarito. He has been beaten by people who come at him. So Kamegai’s style could give him a chance.”

Then there are the matters of Cotto’s age, wear and tear, and ring rust. His latest hiatus from getting paid to fight has gone on nearly twice as long as Kamegai’s at one year, nine months, and five days. (Helping to reduce the rust: Cotto went through most of a training camp for a planned fight with James Kirkland this past spring.)

"He shouldn’t be too rusty," Trout says. With Miguel’s experience, he knows how to fight. I don’t think he’ll all of a sudden forget how to fight because he was off for almost two years. "But how old is Cotto going to be on the night of the fight? That’s the question. Cotto’s gone through some wars. He’s fought the best. How much does he have left? I’ll say this, though: He looked good against Canelo. He looked sharp, he fought well. Canelo was just younger and a little stronger, but Miguel fought well against him."

In general, Cotto has fought extremely well since joining forces with Roach immediately after his loss to Trout. He’s gone 3-1 with 3 KOs and has shown no drop-off in skill at his advancing age. Boxers who use their feet and angles, like Gomez and Perez, give Kamegai fits. Kamegai fights at a fast pace; he throws a lot, lands a lot, and gets hit a lot. In the Soto-Karass rematch, 493 of their 562 combined landed punches were power shots. If Cotto fights smart and avoids a brawl, and hasn’t lost multiple steps since the Canelo bout, Kamegai probably has not much more than the proverbial puncher’s chance.

But that isn’t dampening his enthusiasm in the least.

“For me to fight someone I’ve been a fan of since I was 20 years old is an honor,” Kamegai said. “I look forward to fighting him, and I’m out here to win this fight. I don’t speak English well, but I do speak boxing, and I plan to put on a very entertaining fight.”

But can he do more than entertain against the Hall of Fame-bound four-division titlist? We’ve seen plenty of top fighters over the years get beaten into retirement in what they thought were reasonably safe fights. Images flash to mind of Ricky Hatton stumbling against Vyacheslav Senchenko, Arturo Gatti crumbling against Alfonso Gomez, and most recently, Bernard Hopkins tumbling against Joe Smith Jr.

You’re always one punch from disaster in boxing. But in his mind, even though he knows the end is near, Miguel Cotto isn’t quite one punch, or even one fight, away just yet.

“Miguel has given the game a lot,” Trout says. “He’s a future Hall of Famer. He doesn’t have to prove anything. I’m happy for him if he’s able to retire on his own terms. That’s what you want for every boxer.”

***

In the co-featured bout on Saturday evening, fans will be treated to the sort of fight with the potential to extend the StubHub Center’s reputation as a magnet for magnificent warfare. Freddie Roach isn’t the only iconic trainer working a corner on this night, as Nacho Beristain’s undefeated Mexican junior featherweight Rey Vargas (29-0 with 22 KOs) meets SoCal contender Ronny Rios (28-1 with 13 KOs), who’s won five in a row since an upset loss to Robinson Castellanos that looks better with every subsequent Castellanos appearance. It’s essentially a pick-’em fight and a high-class clash of styles between aggressive puncher Vargas and skillful boxer Rios.

"I am thankful that Golden Boy Promotions has gotten this fight for me," said Rios, "and I expect a tough, tough war from Rey." The respect is largely mutual. "I know Ronny Rios is an extremely tough challenger," Vargas said. "But he has never tasted power like mine, and I am confident I will come away with the victory."

Podcast: Klitschko, Marquez, and Bradley Retirements

HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney celebrate their 200th episode by looking back on the careers of recently retired warriors Wladimir Klitschko, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Tim Bradley, discussing their most memorable fights, best performances, and Hall of Fame credentials.

“Easy Work”: In Camp with Gennady Golovkin

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

By Kieran Mulvaney

Abel Sanchez steers the Audi along the empty roads, the early morning sunlight glinting through the trees and dappling the road. The air is crisp and clear, and for it being 6 AM at an altitude of roughly 7,000 feet, the morning is surprisingly and pleasantly warm. On a day like today, Big Bear exudes an irresistible charm.

Read full article here.

"This Is the Moment": In Camp with Canelo Alvarez

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

By Kieran Mulvaney

Austin, Texas, April 2009. The small knot of reporters standing in a hotel lobby was in town to cover a Golden Boy Promotions fight card headlined by the controversial and ultimately tragic Venezuelan lightweight Edwin Valero. But at this particular moment, the thoughts of Ramiro Gonzalez – formerly a sports writer for Mexican newspaper La Opinion, and subsequently a media liaison for Golden Boy – were on a younger boxer south of the border, and he wanted to share what he knew.

Read full article here.