The Greatest HBO Fighter of All-Time Round 2: Savage Sixteen Part 2

By Eric Raskin

Inside HBO Boxing is crowning the greatest boxer ever to compete on the network, as determined by you, the fans. Among the countless icons and Hall of Famers who’ve battled on the HBO airwaves, we’ve selected an elite field of 32 fighters for entry in a bracket-style tournament. All matchups are previewed in depth on the HBO Boxing Podcast, and you can vote for the winners on Twitter (@HBOboxing). Who is truly the greatest? That’s for you to decide.

See Round 1: Lampley Region | Merchant Region | Kellerman Region | Lederman Region

ROUND 2

(1) Floyd Mayweather vs. (4) Evander Holyfield

It’s a battle between two of the leading lights of their respective generations, but a real study in contrasts, and not just in terms of weight class. Mayweather was lightning quick and, especially in his later years, a defensive genius first and an offensive force a distant second; Holyfield, in contrast, was the definition of not just skill but heart and hustle and all-but-guaranteed action. 

Floyd Mayweather
Super Featherweight/Lightweight/Super Lightweight/Welterweight/Junior Middleweight Champion
50-0 (27 KOs)
Years Fought: 1996-2017

Best Wins:
TKO 10 Diego Corrales 1-20-2001
W 12 Oscar De La Hoya 5-5-2007
W 12 Manny Pacquiao 5-2-2015

Round 1 Result: Defeated Vasyl Lomachenko 63%-37%

Evander Holyfield
Cruiserweight/Heavyweight Champion
44-10-2 (29 KOs)
Years Fought: 1984-2011

Best Wins:
W15 Dwight Muhammad Qawi 7-12-1986
W 12 Riddick Bowe 11-6-1993
TKO 11 Mike Tyson 11-9-1996

Round 1 Result: Defeated Michael Spinks 95%-5%



(2) George Foreman vs. (3) Larry Holmes

A meeting of two great heavyweights that could actually have conceivably taken place at a number of points in these two men’s long careers – that, in fact, was actually signed to happen in 1999 before ultimately falling through. Both men were outstanding in the 1970s – Foreman in the early 70s, Holmes in the latter part of the decade, and into the 80s – and both had successful second careers after initially retiring: Holmes after two years away, and Foreman after a full decade on the shelf. 

George Foreman
Heavyweight Champion
76-5 (68 KOs)
Years Fought: 1969-1997

Best Wins
KO 2 Joe Frazier 1-22-1973
TKO 2 Ken Norton 3-26-1974
KO 10 Michael Moorer 11-5-1994

Round 1 Result: Defeated Felix Trinidad 76-24%

Larry Holmes
Heavyweight Champion
69-6 (44 KOs)
Years Fought: 1973-200

Best Wins:
W 15 Ken Norton 6-9-1978
TKO 11 Earnie Shavers 9-28-1979
TKO 13 Gerry Cooney 6-11-1982

Round 1 Result: Defeated Marco Antonio Barrera 55%-45%


(1) Sugar Ray Leonard vs. (4) Alexis Arguello

This clash features two outstanding, multiple-weight champions, two men who were first-rate boxers and also terrific punchers, both of whom participated in some significant matchups and faced and beat many of the other big names who occupied the sport at the same time they did. The Thin Man from Managua is beloved in his native Nicaragua, but is he sweet enough to overcome Sugar Ray?

Sugar Ray Leonard
Welterweight/Junior Middleweight/Middleweight/Super Middleweight/Light Heavyweight Champion
36-3-1 (25 KOs)
Years Fought: 1977-1997

Best Wins:
TKO 8 Roberto Duran 11-25-1980
TKO 14 Thomas Hearns 9-16-1981
W 12 Marvin Hagler 4-6-1987

Round 1 Result: Defeated Shane Mosley 93%-7%

Alexis Arguello
Featherweight/SuperFeatherweight/Lightweight Champion
77-8 (62 KOs)
Years Fought: 1968-1995

Best Wins:
TKO 11 Rafael Limon 7-8-1979
W RTD 7 Bobby Chacon 11-16-1979
TKO 14 Ray Mancini 10-3-1981

Round 1 Result: Defeated Salvador Sanchez 53%-47%


(2) Marvin Hagler vs. (3) Bernard Hopkins

It’s a showdown between two dominant middleweight champions – for Hagler, his second in a row after his Round 1 win over Gennady Golovkin. Hopkins set the record for middleweight title defenses, while Hagler bestrode the division during the 1980s. These are two men who had to wait until a little bit later in their careers to secure the acclaim and recognition they merited, but whose outstanding records are now universally respected. 

Marvin Hagler
Middleweight Champion
62-3-2 (52 KOs)
Years Fought: 1973-1987

Best Wins
TKO 3 Alan Minter 9-27-1980
KO 3 Thomas Hearns 4-15-1985
KO 11 John Mugabi 3-10-1986

Round 1 Result: Defeated Gennady Golovkin 51%-49%

Bernard Hopkins
Middleweight/Light Heavyweight Champion
55-8-2 (32 KOs)
Years Fought: 1988-2016

Best Wins:
TKO 12 Felix Trinidad 9-29-2001
W 12 Antonio Tarver 6-10-2006
W 12 Kelly Pavlik 10-18-2008

Round 1 Result: Defeated Andre Ward 51%-49%

The Greatest HBO Fighter of All-Time Round 1: Kellerman Region

By Kieran Mulvaney

Inside HBO Boxing is crowning the greatest boxer ever to compete on the network, as determined by you, the fans. Among the countless icons and Hall of Famers who’ve battled on the HBO airwaves, we’ve selected an elite field of 32 fighters for entry in a bracket-style tournament. All matchups are previewed in depth on the HBO Boxing Podcast, and you can vote for the winners on Twitter (@HBOboxing). Who is truly the greatest? That’s for you to decide.

See the other regions: Lampley | Merchant | Lederman

Named after HBO Boxing color analyst Max Kellerman, this region features four heavyweight champions – two of whom began their championship careers at lower weights – a legend apiece from Mexico and Puerto Rico, an undefeated American crossover star who dominated the sport for years, and a hyper-talented Ukrainian who may very well be the best of a new generation.

(1) Floyd Mayweather vs (8) Vasyl Lomachenko

Two men with otherworldly skills and extraordinarily precocious professional careers; will the Old Master reign supreme or will the usurper knock him off his perch?

Floyd Mayweather
Super Featherweight/Lightweight/Super Lightweight/Welterweight/Junior Middleweight Champion
50-0 (27 KOs)
Years Fought: 1996-2017

Best Wins:
TKO 10 Diego Corrales 1-20-2001
W 12 Oscar De La Hoya 5-5-2007
W 12 Manny Pacquiao 5-2-2015

Vasyl Lomachenko
Featherweight/Super Featherweight/Lightweight Champion
11-1 (9 KOs)
Years Fought: 2013-present

Best Wins:
W 12 Gary Russell, Jr. 6-21-2014
W RTD 6 Guillermo Rigondeaux 12-9-2017
TKO 10 Jorge Linares 5-12-2018


(4) Evander Holyfield vs (5) Michael Spinks

The greatest cruiserweight of all time, and one of the greatest modern light-heavyweights, both of whom moved up to grasp the mantle of lineal heavyweight champion of the world.

Evander Holyfield
Cruiserweight/Heavyweight Champion
44-10-2 (29 KOs)
Years Fought: 1984-2011

Best Wins:
W15 Dwight Muhammad Qawi 7-12-1986
W 12 Riddick Bowe 11-6-1993
TKO 11 Mike Tyson 11-9-1996

Michael Spinks
Light Heavyweight/Heavyweight Champion
31-1 (21 KOs)
Years Fought: 1977-1988

Best Wins:
W 15 Eddie Mustafa Muhammad 7-18-1981
W 15 Larry Holmes 9-21-1985
TKO 5 Gerry Cooney 6-15-1987

 


(3) Larry Holmes vs (6) Marco Antonio Barrera

A meeting across eras and weight classes, as one of the most technically proficient of all heavyweight champions meets one of the most exciting lower-weight fighters of his time.

Larry Holmes
Heavyweight Champion
69-6 (44 KOs)
Years Fought: 1973-2002

Best Wins:
W 15 Ken Norton 6-9-1978
TKO 11 Earnie Shavers 9-28-1979
TKO 13 Gerry Cooney 6-11-1982

Marco Antonio Barrera
Super Bantamweight/Featherweight/Super Featherweight Champion
67-7 (44 KOs)
Years Fought: 1989-2011

Best Wins:
TKO 12 Kennedy McKinney 2-3-1996
W 12 Naseem Hamed 4-7-2001
W 12 Erik Morales 11-27-2004


(2) George Foreman vs (7) Felix Trinidad

Two of the most destructive forces of their times face off in this clash, as the heavy-hitting heavyweight preacher from Houston meets Puerto Rico’s favorite son.

George Foreman
Heavyweight Champion
76-5 (68 KOs)
Years Fought: 1969-1997

Best Wins
KO 2 Joe Frazier 1-22-1973
TKO 2 Ken Norton 3-26-1974
KO 10 Michael Moorer 11-5-1994

Felix Trinidad
Welterweight/Junior Middleweight/Middleweight Champion
42-3 (35 KOs)
Years Fought: 1990-2008

Best Wins
W 12 Pernell Whitaker 2-20-1999
TKO 12 Fernando Vargas 12-2-2000
TKO 5 William Joppy 5-12-2001

The Windfall Factor: The Story of the Night Bert Cooper Almost Beat Evander Holyfield for the Heavyweight Title

Illustration by Adam Stafford

HBO Boxing commemorates the 25th anniversary of the night Bert Cooper nearly upset Evander Holyfield for the heavyweight championship with a special web feature from boxing writer Carlos Acevedo detailing not only the legendary fight but the rise and fall of the larger-than-life characters involved with it. 

"By the late 1980s, the end of the glitziest decade since the Jazz Age, Bert Cooper was at rock bottom. Zealous partying had waylaid his stamina. At times, he popped more tabs on Old Milwaukee cans than jabs in sparring sessions. He swapped speedbags for dimebags—and worse. His mentor, Joe Frazier, had left him, and his reputation in the ring was in ruins after he quit on the stool against a comebacking George Foreman in Phoenix on June 1, 1989."

Read the full story here.

Boxing Podcast: Ep. 140 - Hall of Fame Ballot, Upcoming Fights

HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney discuss a variety of topics -- some boxing-related, some not -- including the International Boxing Hall of Fame ballot, some recently announced junior lightweight fights, and a certain popular HBO show.

The Latest From The Fight Game With Jim Lampley

1000 Fights: Holyfield-Bowe

By Carlos Acevedo

This Saturday, HBO Boxing airs its 1,000th fight. To commemorate the occasion, HBO Boxing Insiders selected their favorite fights from the HBO catalog and wrote about them.

November 13, 1992

In the early 1990s, a crime wave fueled by the crack wars stretched across New York City from Far Rockaway to Wakefield. In 1992, for example, there were over 2,000 homicides reported in The Big Apple. Sirens and gunshots were nightly lullabies when I was a teenager, struggling to keep nightmares at bay. I imagined it was the same for Riddick Bowe, who, by challenging undisputed heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, had a chance to leave that squalor behind. One of 13 children raised by a single mother, Bowe was from Brownsville, Brooklyn, a killing zone that measured a little over one square mile and had even earned its own grim nickname: Gunsmoke City. Barely 21 years old when his sister was murdered and his brother died of AIDS, Bowe somehow managed to avoid the pitfalls of drugs and crime.

More: HBO Boxing Insiders Pick from 1000 Fights

Because boxers are solitary athletes performing under the starkest (but most personal) circumstances, identifying with them is easier than, say, identifying with a football player. Maybe this is the key to why boxing, despite its many ills, has survived for as long as it has. For me, Riddick Bowe was a conscientious young man who walked his mother across urban badlands to her night shift job in a Canarsie factory. In addition, he was, in one simple way, selfless: He was ready to let as many street kids as possible tag along with him while he chased impossible dreams. My brother and I took the bus to Bartow Avenue in CO-OP City to watch the fight on pay-per-view and to see if Bowe could buck odds that transcended the ones set by wiseguys in the bookie joints.

Nostalgia, of course, can distort the past, but the big boys in boxing simply do not fight like this any longer. In fact, Bowe and Holyfield—heavyweights, remember—combined to throw more punches than Floyd Mayweather, Jr., and Manny Pacquiao did in their Fight of the Century snoozer last month.

A slight favorite entering the ring in Las Vegas that night, Holyfield seemed confident that Bowe was too inexperienced to stand up to his razor-sharp combinations. Although Holyfield landed his share of bruising shots early, he was gradually being worn down by Bowe, who, for such a big man, had lethal infighting skills. Bowe worked the body in the trenches, hooked when there was even a sliver of space, and landed damaging uppercuts when Holyfield leaned in.

By the ninth round, Bowe had taken control. Then came the 10th and three electrifying minutes. Seeking a respite from the wearying pace, Holyfield relaxed momentarily on the inside. Almost instantaneously Bowe ripped a right uppercut that sent Holyfield reeling and then crashing into the turnbuckle. Somehow, Holyfield managed to stay on his feet. Sensing the realization of a dream he’d had since he was a little boy, Bowe charged and opened up a vicious crossfire attack—the kind no longer seen in heavyweight bouts. After nearly half-a-minute of battering Holyfield around the ring, Bowe, exhausted, let the champion stall long enough to clear his head. Always an undersized fighter with an oversized heart, Holyfield proved his own never-say-die magnificence by shaking Bowe with blow after blow for the final 30 seconds of the round. The bell rang and everything else seemed anti-climactic after that. Bowe dropped Holyfield in the 11th round and went on to win a clear unanimous decision, becoming the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world and, in some strange symbolic/subconscious way, a glimmer of hope for the future.

Later, we were down in the parking lot, waiting for a ride home, the fight long over, but the adrenaline still pumping. That one frosty night in 1992 seems brighter now. The streetlights, come to think of it, glittered like diamonds lost among the high-rises.

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Shane Mosley, Terence Crawford and Evander Holyfield Discuss Mayweather-Pacquiao

Golovkin Latest to Take His Bow at the Garden

Evander Holyfield lands a left jab against Lionel Byarm in his professional debut at Madison Square Garden on November 15, 1984  (Photo by: The Ring Magazine/Getty Images)

Evander Holyfield lands a left jab against Lionel Byarm in his professional debut at Madison Square Garden on November 15, 1984  (Photo by: The Ring Magazine/Getty Images)

By Kieran Mulvaney

After two outings at the Madison Square Garden Theater – a January 2013 stoppage of Gabriel Rosado and a thumping of Curtis Stevens in November that same year – Gennady Golovkin takes his bow on Saturday in the Garden's "big room," the arena that has hosted some of the world's greatest fighters (and arguably history's biggest fight) during its prestigious history. In fact, all four fighters on HBO's World Championship Boxing card are making their MSG debuts; heavyweights Bryant Jennings and Mike Perez have also both fought and won at the Garden Theater before, while Golovkin opponent Daniel Geale is competing for the first time in New York and only the second time in the United States.

The circumstances under which some of the sport's more celebrated names have made their first Garden appearance vary widely, as do their subsequent career arcs. The following is just a sampling of famous fighters who have enjoyed memorable nights at the world's most famous arena. Golovkin, Geale, Jennings and Perez will all be hoping to follow in their footsteps.

Muhammad Ali

The record shows that Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, first fought at Madison Square Garden in his eleventh pro fight, against Sonny Banks on February 10, 1962. (That debut began inauspiciously, as Banks dropped Ali in the first round before being dropped himself in the second and stopped in the fourth.) He returned the following year to outpoint Doug Jones, and in 1967, he defeated Zora Folley to defend his world heavyweight title for the last time before being forced into fistic exile. But those three contests were all at the previous incarnation of the Garden, which since 1925 had stood on the west side of 8th Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets. That's sixteen blocks north of the MSG's most recent iteration, which opened in 1968 and where Ali fought twice. The first occasion was the second fight of his comeback, a fifteenth round stoppage of Oscar Bonavena, and his subsequent outing was the epic challenge of Joe Frazier that has gone down in history as 'The Fight of the Century.'

Photo Credit: Anthony Neste

Photo Credit: Anthony Neste

Evander Holyfield

As a member of the hugely successful 1984 U.S. Olympic boxing team, Holyfield fought at the Garden in his first professional contest – on a card with fellow Olympians and professional debutants Meldrick Taylor, Pernell Whitaker, Virgil Hill, Mark Breland and Tyrell Biggs – on November 15 later that year. "I'm fighting against a guy who's Philadelphia state champion," Holyfield recalled almost 30 years later. "This guy looks just like Joe Louis and he was already a champ. He had 12 fights already and I ain't had no fights. So I realized that I'm supposed to win, so I guess I'll go in there … and win." And so he did, via six-round decision. Holyfield didn't return to the Garden until 1996, when he stopped Bobby Czyz in his last outing before meeting Mike Tyson.

Photo Credit: Will Hart

Photo Credit: Will Hart

Lennox Lewis

Lewis fought three times at the Garden, and all three occasions were memorable. He made his MSG debut while rebuilding his championship bona fides following his shocking 1994 KO loss to Oliver McCall. His opponent, on May 10, 1996, was the durable veteran Ray Mercer, who gave him a torrid time in a terrific fight that Lewis won by split decision. There were plenty ringside who thought the Brit was a little fortunate to escape with the win that day, but there were plenty more who felt he was outright robbed the next time he fought in the arena, when he somehow left with nothing more than a draw after seemingly dominating Holyfield in their heavyweight unification bout. There was no doubt about the outcome in his third and final Garden outing, however, when he bounced Michael Grant off the canvas several times before finally stopping him in the second round in April 2000.

Naseem Hamed

The flashy featherweight made only one appearance at MSG, a mouth-watering December 1997 clash with New Yorker Kevin Kelley, but what an appearance it was. His ring entrance – beginning with shadow dancing and ending with a forward somersault over the top rope – lasted seven minutes, which wasn't much less than the duration of the fight itself. The fight may have been brief, but it was spectacular: Hamed was down in the first, touched his glove to the canvas for a knockdown in the second, then bounced back to knock down Kelley in that same round. In the fourth he touched the canvas again, but decked Kelley with hard punches on two separate occasions in that frame, the second time hard enough that Kelley couldn't beat the count. "What we just saw was the Hagler-Hearns of featherweight fighting," enthused HBO's Larry Merchant.

Photo Credit: Richard Corman

Photo Credit: Richard Corman

Felix Trinidad

Trinidad's Garden debut – against Australian Troy Waters on August 23, 1997 – was over almost as soon as it began, the Puerto Rican dropping his foe twice and stopping him in round one. By this time, he was already closing in on superstardom, and would come one step closer with his next Garden outing, a dominant twelve-round decision against fellow future Hall-of-Famer Pernell Whitaker. More sensational, arena-rocking victories followed – against William Joppy in 2001 and Ricardo Mayorga in 2004 – but it was also at the Garden that he suffered his most high-profile defeat, against Bernard Hopkins in September 2001. The arena was also the site of his final fight; flabby and faded, he was easily outpointed by Roy Jones Jr. in January 2008.

Photo Credit: Will Hart

Photo Credit: Will Hart

Miguel Cotto

Who could have known, when then-junior welterweight Cotto defeated Muhammad Abdullaev on June 11, 2005, that it would be the beginning of one of the closest relationships between fighter and venue in modern boxing? Cotto dominated his former amateur foe en route to a ninth-round TKO, the first of nine outings (so far) at the arena; the best of them – perhaps the greatest night of his sensational career –  may have been the most recent, when he thumped Sergio Martinez to seize the middleweight crown in June. If all goes according to Golovkin's plan Saturday night, we could soon see a unification fight between the two middleweight champs in the near future – and one iconic venue comes to mind.