Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Hardcore or casual, every fan has had to suffer through at least one matchup between two elite-level boxers that failed to meet expectations -- those fights that are hyped as the second coming of Rocky Graziano-Tony Zale, Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward or Diego Corrales-Jorge Luis Castillo, only to disappoint.
I have compiled a list of five boxing matches that were billed as such. Whether it was because the combatants decided not to engage or because something untoward happened, these mega fights failed to deliver on their promise:
April 3, 2010
When these two future hall of famers first locked horns in 1993, they were middleweights; and Jones was nearly untouchable. He thrashed Hopkins for 12 rounds and won a clear-cut unanimous decision. In the years following the encounter, Hopkins became a superstar and tried everything in his power to drag Jones back into the ring. Even when Jones was widely regarded as the world’s greatest pound-for-pound fighter, Hopkins was in chase mode. However, Jones wanted nothing to do with him. When the rematch finally saw the light of day, Jones was coming off a horrendous first-round knockout loss to Danny Green. Finally, after Jones’ skills had eroded and left him a broken shell of his former self, he agreed to a rematch almost a decade after its expiration date. The fight did not sell out the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas because boxing fans are a smarter than most believe. What happened over 12 hideous rounds made the somewhat-filled arena jeer and boo the lack of action. Jones was on his bike the entire time, refusing to engage. Hopkins is not impervious to blame, either; he simply walked down Jones and threw punches when he knew he could land them. Jones realized he was losing badly and did everything in his power to avoid being knocked out again.
July 2, 2011
Haye had traded verbal barbs with the Klitschko brothers for years, unleashing insults and creating shirts that depicted him holding the decapitated heads of his hulking enemies. Klitschko and Haye promised to send each other to the hospital, and for the first time in his hall-of-fame career, the Ukrainian had an opponent dig under his skin like an Alabama tick. Per the norm, the promoters relished the notion of mutual hatred, and the hype machine fired on all cylinders; and as usual, the media and massive boxing fan base gobbled it up like a swarm of Pac-Men. Though most picked Klitschko to teach the disrespectful Haye a lesson, a sizeable percentage of boxing scribes chose the latter in an upset. They could not have been more wrong. When the final bell sounded, there was no question as to whether or not Klitschko had won. Haye was so clearly petrified by the Ukrainian’s massive build and vaunted power that he did everything possible to avoid exchanging. For all the trash talking he did, Haye ran for 36 straight minutes and hardly ever let either of his fists fly. It was embarrassing for Haye, as he refused to fight and instead opted to survive for the allotted rounds.
Dec. 7, 1989
Duran beat up Leonard in their first match, but “Sugar” Ray’s dizzying boxing made Duran quit in their rematch: the “No Mas” fight. Almost a decade after their ballyhooed rematch, the two rivals finally got together for their rubber match. Not many expected the two aging superstars to electrify the boxing world with an all-time classic, but they did expect a solid, entertaining fight. What they were given was an abysmal 12 rounds of inaction. The fight was so bile-inducing that most casual fans have forgotten about it. Leonard bounced around the ring, flicking out his jab and throwing the occasional flurry. Duran walked after him, missing almost everything he threw, which was not much. Leonard won every minute of every round in a fight that elicited plenty of boos and snores. Leonard-Duran 3 was a colossal waste of time and energy for everybody involved.
October 25, 1990
Douglas never quite belonged at the top of the heavyweight heap and could not handle the spotlight after he shocked the world by knocking out Mike Tyson in Tokyo. However, those who were not privy to the real guts of the boxing world leading up to his showdown with Holyfield were jazzed to see how he would deal with defending his title. Douglas was expected to use his jab and reach to keep Holyfield at bay. Holyfield had some terrific wins already, but so-called experts questioned whether he could handle a genuine big man, especially the one who had punched out Tyson. Some remained skeptical of Holyfield -- until they saw how overweight Douglas had become between fights; his flab was not even close to being gone by the time training camp was wrapping up. Meanwhile, Holyfield seemed to be chiseled out of pure marble when he climbed into the ring. The “Real Deal” employed his game plan immediately, while Douglas seemed lost and gunshy. In the end, “Buster” was in way over his head and eventually ate a perfectly timed counter right hand in the third round that floored him for good.
Sept. 18, 1999
Hailed as the “Fight of the Millennium” because it was the last major bout of the 1900s, De la Hoya- Trinidad was a boxing junkie’s wet dream manifested in physical form. Pitted against one another were by far the two best welterweights on the planet; they were both undefeated; they were both capable of the spectacular knockout; and they were both at their physical peak. The timing of the fight could not have been better, a showdown years in the making. What transpired inside the ring that night was puzzling and maddening. De la Hoya boxed beautifully and essentially took “Tito” to school. His footwork, jab and quick combos perplexed the Puerto Rican, who could not get off his shots. De la Hoya dominated his rival, but he did just enough to win rounds because he seemed leery of opening up his attacks. Still, it was far more than what Trinidad was giving in return. Trinidad finally landed two decent right hands in the sixth round, leading de la Hoya to retreat and throw even fewer punches. What happened next is still difficult to believe: De la Hoya’s corner advised him to back away and coast until the end. De la Hoya then climbed on his bike and sped away from the pressing Trinidad for the final rounds. “Tito” did not do anything noteworthy in rounds nine through 12, but he swept those rounds because de la Hoya ran away from him. Trinidad was eventually awarded a majority decision, much to the chagrin of Team Golden Boy and the collective boxing world.