The Five Greatest Lightweight Fights Of This Century

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A look at the best lightweight matches of the 21st century as Gervonta "Tank" Davis and Ryan Garcia look to add theirs to the list when they throw down Saturday night on SHOWTIME Pay-Per-View.

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The ingredients are there for one of the greatest lightweight fights in history. Gervonta “Tank” Davis and Ryan “KingRy” Garcia, two undefeated 135-pounders in the prime of their careers, will meet on Saturday in a Premier Boxing Champions event on SHOWTIME Pay-Per-View (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

A five-time, three-division world champion, the undefeated 28-year-old Davis (28-0, 26 KOs) is a southpaw lightweight Mike Tyson, with dynamite in both hands coupled with elite boxing ability. The 24-year-old Garcia (23-0, 19 KOs) has been a constant shadow for Davis, with his enormous social media following and is under new trainer, Hall of Famer Joe Goossen.

Can Garcia withstand Davis’ powerful left uppercuts? Can he keep Davis away with his boxing ability? Can Davis get inside Garcia’s 5-foot-10 frame and 70-inch reach? Can Davis hold up against Garcia’s vaunted left hook?

The two young superstars get to finally settle it on Saturday.

Time will eventually tell if their performance will merit inclusion on the pantheon of this century’s top five lightweight fights.

Here’s the history that they will be competing again—all mesmerizing, all resonating.

5 Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Juan Diaz I

Date: February 28, 2009

Location: Toyota Center, Houston, Texas

At stake: WBA and Vacant WBO lightweight championship

Records at the time: Marquez 49–4–1 (36 KOs), Diaz 34–1 (17 KOs)

Result: Marquez KO 9 (2:40)

Significance: The fight took place in Diaz’s hometown of Houston. It didn’t matter to Marquez, the future Hall of Famer who was considered the world’s No. 2 pound-for-pound fighter. Although he was 35, it did not mean he was worn down. Diaz, at 25, was a pressure fighter who won through attrition. He was tailor made for “Dinamita,” the veteran counterpuncher who loved it when opponents came forward. The first round was an indication of how Diaz would push Marquez against the ropes. When Marquez could not find his rhythm early, Diaz took advantage, strafing Marquez with cuffing left hooks. Diaz opened a cut in the upper corner of Marquez’s right eye. Marquez found the left uppercut in the fourth. In the opening minute of the eighth, Marquez opened a cut outside Diaz’s right eye from a left uppercut. Yet, it was a left hook that stunned Diaz in the last 30 seconds of the round. With 45 seconds left in the ninth, Marquez downed Diaz with a left uppercut, and 20 seconds later, Marquez ended it with a right. At the time of the stoppage, the fight was even, with Marquez up two points on one scorecard, Diaz up two on another, and a third judge had it even.  

4 Joel Casamayor vs. Diego Corrales III

Date: October 7, 2006

Location: Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada

At stake: Corrales vacated the WBC lightweight title on the scale

Records at the time: Casamayor 33–3–1 (21 KOs), Corrales 40–3 (33 KOs)

Result: Casamayor SD (116-111, 115-112, 113-114)

Significance: The first time they met, crafty, Cuban southpaw Casamayor stopped Corrales in the sixth after knocking Corrales down twice and his gumshield split open his lip. Corrales came back to beat Casamayor by decision in their second fight and was a 2-to-1 favorite to win their third, until Corrales weighed in at 140, vacating the WBC title. Corrales, who had not fought in a year, was coming off a crushing fourth-round knockout loss in his rematch against Jose Luis Castillo. Since Castillo did not make weight for the rematch, Corrales kept the WBC lightweight title. He then relinquished it on the scales, putting the title on the line only for Casamayor. During fifth round of the third fight, Casamayor’s right foot landed on Corrales’ lead left foot, leaving the Cuban off balance and it appeared he was knocked down by Corrales, so ruled referee Kenny Bayless. Working Corrales’ corner, Goossen thought his fighter was up. Casamayor wound up winning by split-decision, behind an effective straight left hand throughout much of the fight.  

3 Robert Easter vs. Richard Commey

Date: Sept. 9, 2016

Location: Santander Arena, Reading

At stake: Vacant IBF lightweight title

Records at the time: Easter 17-0 (14 KOs), Commey 24–0 (22 KOs)

Result: Easter SD (115-112, 114-113, 113-114)

Significance: This is a greatly underappreciated gem. Neither fighter lost. Neither was ever knocked down. Both fighters entered the bout riding five-fight knockout streaks. The 25-year-old Easter had stopped former 130-pound titlist Argenis Mendez in five, while the 29-year-old Commey, originally from Ghana, was fighting for only the second time in the United States. He entered the fight off an eight-round knockout over Bahodir Mamadjonov in May 2015. The sway of the fight began going in Easter’s favor in the fifth, when he took advantage of his speed from the outside. But with 1:08 left in the eighth, Commey popped Easter with a blunt right, knocking Easter off balance. To regain his footing, Easter touched the canvas with his right glove and referee Benjy Esteves Jr. called it a knockdown—the first in Easter’s career. Easter, however, was very aware and coherent. By the end of the eighth, Easter had Commey pushed up against the ropes. Both fighters went at each other in the ninth, with Easter landing rights over Commey’s defense, and Commey snapping Easter’s head back with a left hook. The deciding blow came with 2:47 left in the 12th, when Easter rocked Commey with a straight right that buckled his knees. Commey, somehow, managed to stay on his feet. He was hanging on. It was Easter’s exclamation point on his only first world title.    

2 Humberto Soto vs. Urbano Antillon

Date: December 4, 2010

Location: Honda Center, Anaheim, California

At stake: Soto WBC lightweight title 

Records at the time: Soto 53-7-2 (32 KOs), Antillon 28-1 (20 KOs)

Result: Soto UD (115-112, 114-113, 114-113)

Significance: The interesting twist about this classic, which continues to age well after 13 years, is that it was the third consideration to a card that was falling apart. All-time great Julio Cesar Chavez was supposed to be the headliner, and when he came down ill, future Hall of Famer Nonito Donaire was supposed to step in for a bantamweight fight against Wladimir Sidorenko. Due to overseas TV obligations, that was shifted in place of Soto-Antillon. Talk about striking gold. It was Soto’s third title defense and Antillon was not supposed to pose a real threat to the three-time world champion. Antillon, getting his second title chance, would be the bull. Soto would be the matador. Antillon did not disappoint. He came right out at Soto, pressing with his high-defensive shell. With a minute left in the first, Antillon shoved Soto down to the canvas. About 30 seconds later, referee Ray Corona warned Antillon about a low blow. It would be an ongoing problem. The third round may be the most memorable. Antillon ran to Soto to start the round. Soto counter punched with right uppercuts and left hooks. Antillon still kept charging. Antillon tapped Soto with a left to the body, and Soto couldn’t keep the challenger off. Antillon kept landing to the body. Soto tried to create distance, and couldn’t. Antillon had no problem taking the punishment. Ringside announcer Rich Marotta captured the moment, saying “Somewhere up there Diego Corrales is looking down on this fight and smiling.” Antillon and Soto went back and forth until the final seconds of the fight. The winning difference was Soto, unmarked, using his accurate punching over the bloody, defiant Antillon.

1 Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo I

Date: May 7, 2005

Location: Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada

At stake: Corrales’ WBO lightweight title/Castillo’s WBC lightweight title

Records at the time: Corrales 39-2 (32 KOs), Castillo 52-6-1 (46)

Result: Corrales 10 KO (2:06)

Significance: This fight holds a special place in boxing history. It is this century—and this generation’s—Hagler-Hearns. It is without a doubt this century’s greatest lightweight fight and arguably the greatest lightweight championship fight of all-time. The action was constant. It was short on skill and large on guts and determination. What magnifies the fight as special is Corrales’ improbable comeback. He had that tendency. He was someone who was never out of a fight, despite his eyes being slits that he could barely see out of and face a swollen, grotesque mask. He also was shrewd. Each round of this fight was significant, though none more than the 10th. Castillo had been chopping Corrales down to the body. They started the 10th by touching gloves, and with 2:34 left in the round, Castillo knocked Corrales down with a textbook left hook to the jaw. Corrales had the wherewithal to spit out his mouthpiece. Corrales went down again with 2:06 left and he bought more time for himself by taking out his mouthpiece. Referee Tony Weeks took a point away from Corrales for the infraction. The momentum change came 31 seconds later when Corrales landed a right that stunned Castillo at 1:35. Four seconds later, Corrales nailed him with a left hook. Castillo was then on the retreat and deflating. Corrales pursued and had Castillo in serious trouble in the last minute of the 10th. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in and ended it. The interesting point is no one from Castillo’s corner argued over the stoppage. Showtime blow-by-blow announcer Steve Albert put it right when he said, “They said going in this could be a fight that people would remember for years. And I think they will.”

Two years later, exactly to the day of this epic confrontation, Corrales was killed in a motorcycle accident at the age of 29. Goossen, Corrales’ trainer, said after the fight: “These two should never fight each other again. You would have to be sadistic to want to see this again. It’s too much.”

For a closer look at Davis vs Garcia, check out our fight night page.

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