Top 5 Epic Boxing Wars During Christmas Season | Iconic Fights Go Down Around The Holidays

(Photo: @MichaelBenson screen shot)

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

After winning titles in five different weight classes during a lengthy and legendary career, Sugar Ray Leonard fought Roberto Duran for a third and final time.

Sugar Ray Leonard – An Exclusive With The Shadow League

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.

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.

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.

Hagler vs. Leonard: 30 Years Later

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

LaMotta was the former world middleweight champion. He was knocked down in round 7. In the end, his corner stopped the bout.

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.

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.

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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Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.