Showtime Boxing to take final 10-count: Top 5 greatest fights revisited

When Cuban super middleweight David Morrell steps between the ropes to defend his WBA “regular” super middleweight title against Sena Agbeko at the Armory in Minneapolis, there will be a lump in many ringsider’s throats. However, it’s not the main event that will elicit this emotional response, it’s the fact that December 16, 2023, will be the final broadcast of the beloved Showtime Championship Boxing series.

Showtime Boxing began in 1986 and has hosted some of the greatest and most famous fighters of all time, including Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Floyd Mayweather.

Among the elite-level professionals who have contributed in a broadcasting capacity are Tim Ryan, Gil Clancy, Al Bernstein, Steve Farhood, Barry Tompkins, Jim Gray, Mauro Ranallo and many others. The platform has been an institution and will be greatly missed.

“The company’s decision is not a reflection of the work we have done in recent years, nor of our long and proud history,” said Showtime Sports executive Stephen Espinoza in a statement to staff.

“Unfortunately, in a rapidly evolving media marketplace, the company has had to make difficult choices allocating resources, resetting priorities, and reshaping its content offering. While today’s news is certainly difficult and disappointing, it is entirely out of our control.”

MORE: Breakdown of Paramount shutting Showtime Sports

Espinoza couldn’t be more right in relation to the “long and proud history” of the company. Thanks to Showtime Boxing, fight fans have been treated to some of the greatest moments in the sport’s history and that should never be forgotten.

Just as was the case when HBO departed from boxing in 2018, the achievements of the fighters, as well as the individuals who gave them the platform to perform, should be celebrated.

The Sporting News now looks back at Showtime Boxing’s five greatest fights.

Marvelous Marvin Hagler vs. John Mugabi

  • Date: March 10, 1986
  • Location: Caesars Palace, Las Vegas
  • World titles: Undisputed middleweight

How about this for an intro? Hagler vs. Mugabi was Showtime Boxing’s maiden broadcast and they hit the ground running with one of the greatest middleweight championship fights of the modern era.

Coming off his stunning third-round knockout triumph over Thomas Hearns in April 1985, Hagler was the best fighter in the world and, at long last, an authentic superstar. After 11 months off – his longest period of inactivity by far – “The Marvelous One” had a taste for blood and returned to action with a vengeance.

John “The Best” Mugabi had earned his ring moniker. The Uganda-born power-puncher had a perfect record – 26 fights, 26 wins, 26 knockouts, with 10 of those stoppages coming in the first round. The challenger was moving from super welterweight to middleweight, but he’d carried his power up with him and he was hungry.

Mugabi got off to a great start, blasting Hagler with some horrific power shots in the early rounds. However, the more experienced Hagler made the necessary adjustments and began punishing his man heavily in the sixth. Mugabi gave it everything he had, but Hagler ended matters in the eleventh with a succession of crunching rights.

Result: Hagler KO 11

Roberto Duran vs. Iran Barkley

  • Date: February 24, 1989
  • Location: Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey
  • World titles: WBC middleweight

This one had the makings of a ‘passing of the torch’ moment.

Duran was 37 years old and hadn’t scored a significant victory since posting an eighth-round stoppage of Davey Moore for the WBA super welterweight title in June 1983. In five and a half years, Duran had posted seven wins against three losses and he’d looked a shell of himself in a split decision victory over the unheralded Jeff Lanas in his most recent fight.

Meanwhile, the 28-year-old Barkley had already conquered one of The Four Kings when he spectacularly knocked out Thomas Hearns in three rounds to win the WBC middleweight title.

The Ring Magazine via Getty Images

This result was foreboding for Duran fans who once watched Hearns obliterate their hero in two rounds. Barkley was a natural middleweight and at 6-1, he towered over the 5-7 Duran.

Never write off an all-time great. Motivated by the chance to become the first Hispanic fighter to win four world titles in as many weight classes, Duran had whipped himself into excellent fighting shape.

The ex-champ stunned Barkley with a right in the opening round, absorbed everything the champion could throw, and punctuated an astonishing performance with a pulverizing combination knockdown in round 11. It was close, but Duran took the decision and the championship.

Result: Duran SD 12

Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield 1

  • Date: November 9, 1996
  • Location: MGM Grand, Las Vegas
  • World titles: WBA heavyweight

In the early 1990s, this was considered the biggest heavyweight title matchup since Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier clashed two decades earlier. But when Tyson was jailed for rape in 1992, the division was forced to move on without him.

While Tyson was incarcerated, Holyfield’s career went through peaks and troughs. He lost his championship to Riddick Bowe in one of the greatest heavyweight title fights of all time but regained it in a rematch. However, a loss to Moorer, a second defeat to Bowe, and an underwhelming win over Bobby Czyz had many convinced that “The Real Deal” was shot.

Tyson was released in March 1995 and quickly resumed his reign of terror. Just seven months into his comeback, the ex-champ regained the WBC title by stopping Britain’s Frank Bruno in three rounds and then splatted Bruce Seldon in one to pick up the WBA version.

“The Baddest Man on the Planet” was back and everyone was terrified. Well, almost everyone.

On fight night, Holyfield, unlike the vast majority of Tyson’s opponents, came to the ring with a smile on his face. The challenger wasn’t intimidated by the Tyson mystique and turned in the greatest performance of his career.

Holyfield was dominant throughout, decked Tyson in round six, and put the finishing touches on an epic triumph in round 11.

Result: Holyfield TKO 11

MORE: My Sweetest Victory: Evander Holyfield reveals secret to beating Mike Tyson

Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo 1

  • Date: May 7, 2005
  • Location: Mandalay Bay Events Centre, Las Vegas
  • World titles: WBC, WBO, Ring Magazine lightweight

Corrales had reestablished his image after being outclassed by Floyd Mayweather in 2001. While “Chico” had fallen short against the excellent Joel Casamayor, he’d avenged that defeat to pick up the vacant WBO super featherweight crown. Upon moving up to lightweight, Corrales took on WBO champ Acelino Frietas and came from behind to score a dramatic stoppage.

Castillo also had a history with Mayweather. In fact, many fans believe that the Mexican star deserved to win a decision against him in April 2002. However, when Mayweather won the rematch decisively, Castillo, like Corrales, was forced to rebuild and he did so courtesy of excellent wins over Juan Lazcano, Casamayor, and Julio Diaz. The Lazcano triumph gave Castillo the vacant WBC title.

Corrales vs. Castillo was one of the greatest fights in history. Despite having functional height and reach advantages, Corrales elected to meet Castillo on the inside and the action was incredible.

In the 10th, Castillo decked his man with a sharp left hook, then put him over again with another left. Following both knockdowns, “Chico” had spat out his mouthpiece for which he received a point deduction.

Battered and woozy, his left eye almost closed, Corrales needed a miracle. He found it.

When the bout resumed, Corrales nailed his man with a hard right and an even harder left. Castillo wilted and was stopped seconds later by a savage, head-snapping assault. There’s been nothing like it since.

Result: Corrales TKO 10

Israel Vazquez vs. Rafael Marquez 3

  • Date: March 1, 2008
  • Location: Home Depot Centre, Carson, California
  • World titles: WBC and Ring Magazine super bantamweight

Criminally overlooked, it’s arguable that Mexicans Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez turned in the most consistently exciting trilogy in modern boxing history. Yes, there was an ill-advised part four, won by Marquez, but this was and always will be a trilogy.

While Ali-Frazier II, Gatti-Ward II, and Barrera-Morales II didn’t live up to acts I and III of those fistic plays, Vazquez and Marquez produced three back-to-back classics that will forever stand the test of time.

The only reason the first encounter, which was won by Marquez, wasn’t awarded Fight of the Year 2007 was because it was beaten out by the rematch, which was won by Vazquez, the same year. The third encounter was the best of the series and took Fight of the Year for 2008.

As was the case in fights one and three, the ebb and flow of the bout was incredible. Both men traded hellacious combinations throughout and Vazquez hit the canvas in round four.

The superior speed and timing of Marquez was carrying the day but Vazquez slowly battled his way back and was aided further when his rival was deducted a point for a low blow in round 10.

But it was the 12th and final round that took this fight into the stratosphere. Desperate for a big finish, Vazquez nailed his countryman in the closing seconds and only the ropes held Marquez up.

Ruled a knockdown, this crucial moment gave Vazquez the split decision win and saw him retain his championships. It doesn’t get any better.

Result: Vazquez SD 12

MORE: SN’s Top-12 pound-for-pound boxers

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