December has seen some of the best boxing wars ever, and as we have now entered the jolly holly season, it’s time to reflect on some epic holiday boxing matches.
1. December 7, 1989 – Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Roberto Duran III
Although Duran delivered a lackluster performance in the unanimous 12-round decision at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, Leonard’s last win before retirement came over Duran, closing the loop in their rivalry.
Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran reunite at the WBC convention… pic.twitter.com/jz71kQOfu9
— Michael Benson (@MichaelBensonn) November 17, 2021
Leonard became the charismatic superstar that boxing needed after Muhammad Ali retired in 1981. However, Duran was the antithesis of Leonard; where he was finesse, Duran was pure bullish aggression.
In 1980, when the two first fought, Leonard was defended his title against the Panamanian former lightweight champion. The two fought in a much-anticipated bout held in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. Duran captured the title in a unanimous 15-round decision.
The two met in a rematch in New Orleans by November of the same year. In the eighth round of the bout, Duran quit, shocking his fans and leaving Leonard as welterweight champion again. It would be forever known as the “No Mas” fight.
On this day in 1980, Sugar Ray Leonard got his revenge as Roberto Duran said "No Mas" 📆 pic.twitter.com/I0wtKpAnpH
— DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) November 25, 2021
The trilogy fight at the new Mirage Hotel on Dec. 7, 1989, marked Leonard’s second defense of his super-middleweight crown. The 33-year-old Leonard won a tactically superior bout over a lethargic 38-year-old Duran.
Leonard would lose his next two fights and retire after being knocked out by Hector “Macho” Camacho in 1997. Ironically, Duran’s last fight came via a loss to Camacho in 2001.
2. December 26, 1908 – Jack Johnson vs. Tommy Burns
Jack Johnson is the most polarizing boxer in a still-evolving America. The first Black world heavyweight champion stopped Tommy Burns in the 14th round in Sydney, Australia, in the most famous boxing division ever.
— Charles (@iamCharlesDavid) December 18, 2021
The win polarized the world.
Burns, favored to defend his crown for the 12th time, was dominated by Johnson and mocked the champion throughout the fight. The fight was stopped by the police as Burns was on the verge of getting knocked out.
Tommy Burns v Jack Johnson
• World Heavyweight Title (12th defence by Burns)
• Johnson received $5,000 & Burns $30,000, which was the largest amount ever earned by a boxer for a single fight up to that time. pic.twitter.com/n4TcxO79zO
— Boxing Nostalgia (@BoxingNostalgia) December 15, 2021
3. December 26, 1971 – Muhammad Ali vs. Jurgen Blin
Known as “The Greatest of All Time,” Muhammad Ali gained a seventh-round knockout of Jurgen Blin in a non-title heavyweight fight in Zurich, Switzerland.
On this day in 1971, Muhammad Ali defeated Jurgen Blin in Switzerland. 🥊 pic.twitter.com/wTmZLclW1H
— spacewoman reporter (@SpacewomanR) December 26, 2019
The fight was after Ali lost to Joe Frazier in the “Fight of the Century.” Although Ali had problems early against Blin, he finished the German with a powerful right cross.
— Fletcher Brown (@WorkInjuryESQ) October 29, 2021
4. December 31, 1952 – Danny Nardico vs. Jake LaMotta
The Raging Bull inspiration himself, Jake LaMotta lost in seven rounds in a light-heavyweight non-title bout in Coral Gables, Florida, to Danny Nardico.
Best Pound-For-Pound Boxer?
My Choice: Jake LaMotta
Who's Yours? pic.twitter.com/ZweCyqpgfx
— Rick Wright He/Him (@RickWrightNow) May 16, 2021
LaMotta was the former world middleweight champion. He was knocked down in round 7. In the end, his corner stopped the bout.
"You never got me down, Ray…"
🥊 #OTD in #Film #History 1980, #MartinScorsese's brilliantly bruising biopic of Middleweight champion #JakeLaMotta, starring #RobertDeNiro, #JoePesci and #CathyMoriarty, was released in 🇺🇲 pic.twitter.com/exNi0RUEa7
— Nathan Francis (@NathanFrancis__) December 19, 2021
5. January 1, 1907 – Joe Gans vs. Kid Herman
Joe Gans retained his world lightweight title with an eighth-round knockout of Kid Herman in Tonopah, Nevada. Gans was a mighty boxing trailblazer.
This man was rated the greatest lightweight boxer of all time by Ring Magazine founder, Nat Fleischer…The Old Master, Joe Gans(158-12-20). pic.twitter.com/4FFGMrN72C
— KT_BOXING (@KT_BOXING) October 17, 2016
Gans was the first Black world boxing champion of any weight class in the 20th century. He reigned continuously as world lightweight champion from 1902–1908. Gans was from Baltimore.
On August 10, 1910, Joe Gans, American boxer (World Lightweight Champion), dies of tuberculosis at the age of 35. pic.twitter.com/l8h3TlVaEL
— MMJYBBJWIdols (@MMJYBBJWIdols) August 10, 2020
Widely considered one of the greatest lightweights ever, Gans cut off the ring against Herman in Round 8, then dropped the Canadian with a devastating right to the head.
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