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)