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Boxing's most memorable welterweight fights

On March 4, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, WBA champion Keith Thurman will meet WBC champion Danny Garcia in a welterweight title-unification fight on CBS. It pits two of the top 10 pound-for-pound boxers in the world. Thurman is 27-0 with 22 knockouts, while Garcia is 33-0 with 19 stoppages.

The bout is yet another in a long line of historic welterweight fights that have captivated the boxing world. Here is a look at some of the welterweight division’s most memorable fights.

May 2, 2015: Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao

The fight took six years to make, and
Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images / JOHN GURZINSKI

The fight took six years to make, and while it became the largest grossing match in boxing history, the fight itself never lived up to the anticipation. Mayweather Jr. won a unanimous decision, 116-112, 116-112, 118-110. Drug testing was the issue that stood between the fighters for much of the negotiations, which progressed in fits and starts over the years. When they finally fought, Mayweather opened quickly, using his jab and hand speed to sweep the first three rounds on every scorecard. While Pacquiao made things interesting in the middle rounds, Floyd closed the show by taking rounds 11 and 12 on all three scorecards. The fight generated a record 4.6-million pay-per-view buys and close to $600 million in total revenue.

Sept. 18, 1999: Felix Trinidad vs. Oscar De La Hoya

At the time, this fight was considered one
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Jed Jacobsohn

At the time, this fight was considered one of the best welterweight matchups in history. Both men were undefeated and Trinidad held the WBC welterweight title while De La Hoya, also unbeaten, held the IBF title. They met in Las Vegas. The bout started out close, De La Hoya seemingly built an early lead on the scorecards. By Round 9, De La Hoya's pace began to slow. His corner felt he had built an insurmountable lead and advised him to stay away from the hard-punching Trinidad for the remainder of the fight. The strategy backfired, as Trinidad rallied and won a majority decision. Although many ringside observers felt De La Hoya won, the official scores were 115-114, 115-113 for Trinidad and 114-114. The fight set the pay-per-view record for a non-heavyweight fight at that time with 1.4 million buys.

April 12, 1997: Oscar De La Hoya vs. Pernell Whitaker

De La Hoya was 23-0 and Whitaker was
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Al Bello

De La Hoya was 23-0 and Whitaker was 40-1-1 and between them they claimed titles in seven weight classes. They fought in Las Vegas for Whitaker's WBC welterweight crown. The fight pitted contrasting styles, with the flashy southpaw Whitaker countering De La Hoya's steady, firm attack. De La Hoya ended up winning a unanimous decision, 116-110, 116-110, 115-111. Whitaker landed more punches and scored the fight's only knockdown. De La Hoya, however, held a clear advantage in power punches landed (146-72) which ultimately secured the win.

Sept. 10, 1993: Pernell Whitaker vs. Julio Cesar Chavez

This was the fight that would either confirm
Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images / BOB DAEMMRICH

This was the fight that would either confirm Whitaker's greatness or place Chavez in the elite company of only three other men to have won titles in four weight classes. The fight ended in a disappointing draw, but one thing was certain: Whitaker put on one of the finest boxing exhibitions of his era. The two champions squared off before 57,000 fans at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Whitaker was the WBC's welterweight champion and Chavez the WBC super lightweight champ. The southpaw Whitaker relied on a sharp right jab and quick right-left combinations to score. More telling, though, was the way he sidestepped Chavez's attack. Whitaker remained an elusive target and played the perfect matador to Chavez' bullish attack. The majority draw was one of the most controversial decisions of the decade. The official scoring was 115-115, 115-115 and 115-113 for Whitaker. At least 14 members of the ringside press scored the bout for Whitaker.

Sept. 16, 1981: Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns

Perhaps the glory days of the welterweight division
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Perhaps the glory days of the welterweight division came in the early 1980s when the 147-pound ranks included the likes of Leonard, Hearns, Roberto Duran, Wilfred Benitez and Pipino Cuevas. But at the top of the heap were Leonard and Hearns. The unification fight between Leonard (WBC champ) and Hearns (WBA) would determine the first undisputed welterweight king since Jose Napoles. After a slow start, Leonard wobbled Hearns in rounds six and seven and was consumed with scoring a knockout. Meanwhile, Hearns utilized his long left jab and was building a steady lead on the scorecards. The fight is famous for Leonard's trainer, Angelo Dundee, saying, "You're blowing it now, son," between the 12th and 13th rounds. In round 13, Leonard fought his way past Hearns' jab and scored a knockdown. The following round, a furious flurry left Hearns draped along the ropes and referee Davey Pearl stopped the contest.

June 20, 1980: Roberto Duran vs. Sugar Ray Leonard

Photo Credit: AP / Anonymous

"The Brawl in Montreal" was one of the few fights that transcended boxing. It was a welterweight version of Ali vs. Frazier. The matchup between Leonard, the welterweight champ and Olympic hero, and Duran, the hard-hitting lightweight king, captured the imagination of even the most casual sports fan. Leonard played the role of the smooth boxer while Duran carried the reputation as a devastating puncher. They clashed before 46,317 fans at Montreal's Olympic Stadium. Duran took control of the action early and drew Leonard into a slugfest. The fighters often battled toe-to-toe, which clearly benefited the Panamanian challenger. When it ended after 15 rounds, Duran won the title with a close unanimous decision, 146-144, 145-144 and 148-147. Leonard wouldn't make the same mistake again. When they met in a rematch later that year, Leonard's slick boxing ability and a comfortable 24-foot ring frustrated Duran into submission. The proud champion uttered the words "No Mas" in round eight.

The Emile Griffith vs. Benny Paret trilogy

The trilogy between Emile Griffith and Benny Paret
Photo Credit: AP

The trilogy between Emile Griffith and Benny Paret was fierce and there was real animus between the two fighters, and unfortunately, it ended in tragedy. In their first meeting on April 1, 1961, Griffith captured the welterweight title with a 13th-round knockout. They met again six months later, and this time Paret took back his belt with a narrow split decision.

Paret, from Cuba, failed in a bid to capture the middleweight crown before returning to the 147-pound ranks to meet Griffith for a third time on March 24, 1962 at Madison Square Garden. At the weigh-in, Paret made derisive remarks about Griffith and questioned the New Yorker's manhood. Once the bell rang, the two mixed it up immediately. Paret nearly ended the fight in round six, when Griffith was saved by the bell after absorbing a multi-punch combination. Nothing could save Paret from what was about to happen in the 12th round. Griffith backed Paret into a corner and had him in trouble after landing a series of hooks and uppercuts. Paret was hanging defenseless on the ropes as referee Ruby Goldstein hesitated, allowing Griffith to prolong the attack. Perhaps part of Goldstein's lack of action was because Paret often feigned injury, hoping to catch overanxious opponents on the way in. But this wasn't an act and by the time Goldstein intervened, Paret was slumping to the canvas. Paret never regained consciousness. He lapsed into a coma and died 10 days after the fight.

July 11, 1948: Sugar Ray Robinson vs. Kid Gavilan

This showdown between future Hall of Famers took
Photo Credit: AP

This showdown between future Hall of Famers took place at Philadelphia's Municipal Stadium. Robinson, right, asserted his dominance in the second half of the bout as Gavilan painfully realized his tenure as champion would have to wait until Robinson left for the middleweight division. Gavilan fought well early and managed to stagger Robinson in round eight. The championship rounds, though, belonged to Sugar Ray, who captured a unanimous decision after 15 rounds.

The Barney Ross vs. Jimmy McLarnin trilogy

One of the most celebrated boxing trilogies took
Photo Credit: AP / Murray Becker

One of the most celebrated boxing trilogies took place between Hall of Famers Barney Ross (pictured) and Jimmy McLarnin. They battled three times for a total of 45 rounds within one year. Each contest was close. The first two were decided via split decision and the third by a disputed verdict. Their first meeting took place on May 28, 1934 at the Madison Square Garden Bowl in Long Island City. McLarnin entered as the welterweight champ and Ross as the reigning lightweight and junior welterweight champ. Each fighter knocked the other down in round nine, and Ross won his third title via split decision. The scores for Ross were 13-1-1 and 12-2-1. Meanwhile, the judge who voted for McLarnin had it 9-1-5. Four months later, at the same venue, it was McLarnin who regained the crown with a split decision. The final meeting took place at the Polo Grounds on May 28, 1935, exactly one year after their first meeting. As in their previous encounters, the battle was fast-paced and Ross was awarded the decision. The referee, former heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, somehow managed to score seven of the 15 rounds even.


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