By Shaun Tate
With Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder just days away from settling the score of their controversial first encounter. Off The Hook took it upon themselves to revisit some of the heavyweight divisions greatest ever rematches.
The history of the sport of boxing is littered with great rivalries, and the sport’s premier division isn’t lacking in re-runs of fights that have thrilled, shocked, and left fans in a state of amazement. The first fight between this pair caused its own degree of dispute for different reasons; many believe Fury should have been hailed the victor despite seeing the canvas twice during the duration of the bout. Fury certainly showed he was more technically adept than his American counterpart, but the knockdowns left the fight closer on the cards than he would have hoped.
The second area of contention came from the second felling of the Gypsy King, as Fury miraculously rose on the count of nine. Some felt that Fury was given leeway by referee Jack Reiss who allowed him extra seconds to prove he was fit to continue. Either way, Fury was able to finish the fight strongly and judges deemed the bout a draw.
With the unforgettable moments of this fight in mind, lets have a look back at some of the other controversial fights that have warranted rematches in heavyweight history.
Lennox Lewis Vs Evander Holyfield II, Thomas & Mack Centre, Las Vegas, 13th of November 1999
As far as recent history goes, this heavyweight unification title fight is best remembered for the controversy caused by the first fights scoring of a draw. Holyfield walked into the fight as the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation heavyweight champion after dethroning Mike Tyson in a sizeable upset two years prior adding the latter championship by avenging a loss to Michael Moorer in a separate classic rematch.
Lewis had also been champion for two years after taking the World Boxing Councils version of the title on board in his own revenge mission against Oliver McCall. After Tyson’s loss to Evander and Bowe dropping down the rankings due to poor performances against Andrew Golota, this was the divisions marquee fight between a stand-out number one and two fighter.
With three belts on the line, most where expecting to have a then fully unified champion by the end of the night and that they would have had the judging not come under scrutiny when the three ringside judges scored the bout a split decision score with scores or 116-113 (Lewis), 115-115 and 113-115 (Holyfield). The general consensus was that Lewis had won a clear decision and thus had been hard done by in the battle.
Fortunately for fans, there would be an immediate rematch as the pair squared off less than eight months later. This time Lewis was hailed the victor but in a far more competitive fight than the first time round in which it could be argued Holyfield may have even edged it. With the controversy of the first fight still fresh in the memory for most there was little in the way of complaints though and Lewis was finally crowned king of the division.
Muhammad Ali Vs Sonny Liston II, Central Main Civic Centre, Lewiston, 25th May 1965
Possibly the most infamous rematch in the sports history (thought there are a few in this series that will challenge that), Muhammad Ali was able to dispose of Sonny Liston in a single round in a fight that has more theories in number than the bout lasted in seconds.
The fight was fresh off oof its own set of drama in the first outing that saw accusations of using astringent solutions of the gloves to temporarily blind Ali (then going by the name Cassius Clay), though Ali was able to overcome the odds and beat Liston into submission by the seventh round.
If the first fight had set the conspiracy theorists off, then the second fight ‘Phantom Punch’ sent them into overdrive after Liston was felled and the bout called to a halt after two minutes and twelve seconds. Many theorized that the fix was in, that the Nation of Islam had gotten to Liston as well, among some other more eccentric notions of what went down. That wasn’t the only area of controversy either as former heavyweight champion Jersey Joe Walcott saw over the in ring officiating and failed to pick up the count. This led to the pair resuming the fight after it was over not realising that the full ten count had been administered.
Whether it was a fix or Liston was caught ‘cold’ is still debated by fans to this day, but the fight itself has its own legacy as marking the first great rivalry of Muhammad Ali’s illustrious career.
Jack Dempsey Vs Gene Tunney II, Soldiers Field, Chicago, 22nd September 1927
The third fight of todays series is another that has something in common with Wilder Fury I in that its known as the fight of the ‘Long Count.’ Jack Dempsey had held the world championship for seven years when he was eventually defeated by Gene Tunney over ten rounds in Philadelphia in 1926.
Dempsey hadn’t been the most active champion however, with the Tunney fight ending a three year hiatus from the ring. Dempsey wouldn’t go into the second with such inactivity as he fit in a victory over Jack Sharkey before jumping into the second fight.
With something to prove, Dempsey fought a more aggressive fight and seemingly had Tunney on the verge of defeat in round seven when he dropped Tunney with a barrage of shots. Dempsey however became his own enemy when he failed to adhere to a rule change whereby you must move to the neutral corner after knocking your opponent down.
By standing over Tunney and waiting to capitalise on his downed opponent rising he inadvertently gave Tunney an extra five seconds to recover before the count was administered. Unlike Fury, Tunney’s head was clear as he awaited the referee to nine before rising and continuing with the bout, where he was again able to outpoint Dempsey over ten, seeing his arm raised over the former champion once more.
In part 2 were going to look at three of the biggest upsets that were met with rematches – keep an eye out, and don’t forget to share with fellow fight fans.