The 10 best Showtime fights of all time

Showtime Boxing will close its doors for good after its 748th and final show on Saturday. By the end, the network will have aired 1,820 fights, including 640 world title fights.

In advance of this milestone, here is one man’s list of the 10 best brawls ever to feature on the network:

10. Marvin Hagler TKO 11 John Mugabi, March 10, 1986

The very first main event on Showtime was one of the best, as middleweight champion Hagler turned back the challenge of the undefeated Ugandan. Mugabi, who was moving up from 154 pounds, showed no fear of the pound-for-pound champ, standing in front of him and exchanging vicious blows, particularly in an action-packed sixth round. Hagler gradually took over, however, and in the eleventh round, a succession of three right hands drove Mugabi into the ropes and another two dropped him to the canvas, where he stayed for the duration of referee Mills Lane’s 10 count.

9. Roberto Duran W 12 Iran Barkley, February 24, 1989

Duran was 37 years old and far past his best when the former lightweight, welterweight and junior middleweight champ took on the younger, bigger, stronger Barkley for a middleweight belt. The scale of his challenge was highlighted in the eighth round when a Barkley hook literally spun him around. But Duran showed his boxing acumen as well as his resilience, landing right hands over Barkley’s jab until the American’s left eye swelled shut. In the eleventh, Duran dropped Barkley to put the seal on a split decision win in the 1989 Fight of the Year.

8. Tyson Fury D 12 Deontay Wilder, December 1, 2018

The heavy-hitting Wilder was the favorite heading into this match of unbeaten heavyweights but found himself bamboozled for large parts of the contest by Fury’s boxing skills and movement. The American’s power would not be completely denied, however, as he dropped Fury in the ninth and then again in the twelfth. The latter knockdown appeared to have finished the fight, but after lying prone for several seconds, Fury sat up and hauled himself to his feet, even taking the fight to Wilder for the rest of the contest. The scorecards read 115-111 for Wilder, 114-112 for Fury and 113-113, for a split decision draw. Fury would win the second and third bouts of the trilogy.

7. Evander Holyfield KO 11 Mike Tyson, November 9, 1996

Watched again almost thirty years later, it lacks its original impact, but at the time this was one of the most shocking outcomes in modern boxing history. Holyfield had retired with a misdiagnosed heart condition in 1994, having lost to both Riddick Bowe and Michael Moorer beforehand; he would lose by knockout to Bowe after returning from retirement, and there were genuine concerns about his health and safety entering the long-anticipated fight with Tyson, who was coming off back-to-back knockouts of Frank Bruno and Bruce Seldon. But although Tyson seemed to stun Holyfield with the first punch he landed, he did not appear to trouble him again. Holyfield steadily beat Tyson into submission, dropping him in the sixth round, until by the end of the tenth Tyson was on the verge of defeat. He came out of the corner for the eleventh, but Holyfield wasted no time in finishing him off, prompting Showtime color analyst Bobby Czyz to exclaim: “This is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever been privileged to witness.”

6. Jorge Castro KO 9 John David Jackson, December 10, 1994

Buried on the undercard of a pay-per-view with five title fights, this forgotten classic pitted the undefeated Jackson against 95-4-2 Castro for a junior middleweight belt. Castro, a face-first slugger,
attempted to assert himself early, but Jackson’s fast combinations saw the Argentine beaten repeatedly to the punch. In the sixth, a swelling on Castro’s left eye exploded in a gusher of blood. From that point on, Castro struggled to see, and in the ninth round, Jackson drove him to the ropes, seemingly on the verge of scoring a stoppage win. But Castro, back to the ropes, caught his assailant with a desperate left hook and Jackson collapsed to the canvas. He beat the count, but was dropped twice more in rapid fashion, forcing referee Stanley Christodoulou to stop the fight.

5. Steve Cruz W 15 Barry McGuigan, June 23, 1986

In hindsight, it was perhaps not the best of ideas to showcase Belfast’s McGuigan in the searing heat of a Las Vegas summer’s day; and yet, McGuigan came within a couple of minutes and a points deduction of retaining his featherweight title. The unheralded Cruz surprised McGuigan early with his strength, but even so, the champion started strongly and fast – perhaps too strongly and too fast for the conditions at Caesars Palace’s famous outdoor arena. Comfortably ahead through eight rounds, McGuigan began to feel the pressure down the stretch from Cruz, who dropped him in the tenth. Referee Richard Steele docked a point from McGuigan in the twelfth round, but somehow the Irishman found the strength to dominate the thirteenth and fourteenth rounds. Doing so, however, seemingly sapped McGuigan of his last remaining reserves, and Cruz dropped him twice more in the fifteenth and final round to secure the win by scores of 142-141, 143-142, and 143-139.

4. Anthony Joshua KO 11 Wladimir Klitschko, April 29, 2017

In front of 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium, Joshua reached the pinnacle of his career in this stoppage win over former champ and future Hall-of-Famer Klitschko. After a cautious opening few rounds, the fight exploded into life in the fifth as Joshua sent Klitschko to the canvas. The Ukrainian, however, finished the round stronger, buzzing Joshua just before the bell; and in the sixth, he returned the favor, dropping Joshua on to his back and stunning the massive crowd. Klitschko, however, failed to press his advantage, and in the eleventh, Joshua erupted again. Two more knockdowns had Klitschko on the verge of defeat, and a follow-up barrage completed the task. Klitschko would announce his retirement shortly afterward.

3. Nigel Benn KO 10 Gerald McClellan, February 25, 1995

It is difficult to write positively of a fight that had such a tragic ending, but this was a night of immense drama, strength, and skill. McClellan entered the ring with 29 KOs in his 31 wins, and although Benn sported a record of 39-2-1 (32 KOs) himself, there were enough doubts about his chin that McClellan was a big favorite. The first round had barely begun when that favorite tag seemed justified, McClellan knocking Benn through the ropes and seemingly setting up an early finish. Benn, however, hauled himself back into the ring and promptly went to-to-toe with his American foe. By the midway point of the fight, the Englishman was in the ascendancy; McClellan scored a second knockdown in the eighth, but it would prove a temporary respite. An exhausted Benn missed wildly with a right hand in the ninth, causing his head to crash into McClellan’s, exacerbating the signs of distress the American was already showing. In the tenth, Benn dropped McClellan to one knee for a count of seven and then again for the full count; as Benn celebrated wildly, McClellan began experiencing acute distress in the corner and was rushed to hospital, where he underwent brain surgery. He would remain in the hospital until August and continues to live with the after-effects of his war with Benn to this day.

2. Israel Vazquez W 12 Rafael Marquez, March 1, 2008

The third bout of this rivalry was arguably the best, but the second could just as easily also find its way onto this list. Marquez won the first contest and Vazquez the second, both by stoppage; this was the only fight in the series (which would ultimately include a disappointing and best-forgotten fourth contest) to go the distance. Marquez dropped Vazquez in the fourth, only for Vazquez to retaliate by hurting Marquez twice before the round’s end. The two went back-and-forth over the next several rounds, with Marquez suffering a point deduction in the tenth. In the dying seconds of the twelfth and final rounds, Vazquez knocked Marquez into the ropes, referee Pat Russell calling it a knockdown by dint of the ropes holding Marquez up. That was enough to secure Vazquez the win by split decision scores of 111-114, 114-11, and 113-112.

1. Diego Corrales KO 10 Jose Luis Castillo, May 7, 2005

This was not only the best fight ever broadcast on Showtime, but quite possibly the greatest fight of all time. The contest had already been a thrilling and violent exposition through nine rounds, but it was the tenth that elevated it from an excellent fight to an all-time-great battle. Less than 30 seconds into the round, Castillo floored Corrales, who spat out his mouthpiece to buy himself extra time. Just seconds after he rose at the count of eight, Corrales was down again, this time harder than before; again, he spat out his mouthpiece, and this time referee Tony Weeks deducted a point. As he replaced the mouthpiece, Corrales trainer Joe Goossen calmly and memorably told his fighter that “You’d better fucking get inside of him now,” and to the astonishment of all, he did precisely that. Corrales hurt Castillo with a big right hand and backed him to the ropes, where he began teeing off on him. As Castillo's hands dropped and his head rolled around on his neck, Weeks stepped in to halt the contest. Neither man would be the same again; indeed, it would be Corrales’ final win, and two years later to the day, he died in a motorcycle accident.