This week in boxing history, PBC highlights three world championship thrillers that were named Fight of the Year, a stunning middleweight title upset and the first 1984 U.S. Olympian to win a world championship.
July 10, 1951 – Randolph Turpin upset Sugar Ray Robinson in a 15-round decision to win the world middleweight title before a sellout crowd of 18,000 at Earls Court Arena in Kensington, London.
Robinson, 30, lost for just the second time in 133 professional fights, and for the first time since dropping a unanimous decision to Jake LaMotta in February 1943. Turpin, 23, battered Robinson, who was making the first defense of his 160-pound title, to become the first British-born world middleweight champion since Bob Fitzsimmons in 1895. Robinson regained the title in a rematch two months later with a 10th-round TKO in New York.
July 12, 1986 – Evander Holyfield defeated Dwight Muhammad Qawi by split decision to win the WBA cruiserweight title at the Omni in Atlanta.
With the victory, Holyfield (12-0, 8 KOs) became the first member of the highly decorated 1984 U.S. Olympic team to win a professional world title. Holyfield successfully defended his title in a December 1987 rematch with a fourth-round knockout of Qawi.
July 13, 1980 – Matthew Saad Muhammad stopped Yaqui Lopez in Round 14 to retain his WBC light heavyweight title at the Great Gorge Playboy Club in McAfee, New Jersey.
After an action-packed Round 8, which The Ring named Round of the Year after the fighters slugged it out toe-to-toe, Muhammad finished off the fourth defense of his world title with four knockdowns in the 14th, including a straight right that dropped Lopez for the final time in their rematch and brought a close to the Fight of the Year.
July 15, 1995 – Saman Sorjaturong stopped Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez in the seventh round to win the IBF and WBC light flyweight titles at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California.
Both fighters were knocked down twice in a thrilling upset that The Ring named Fight of the Year. Gonzalez, a three-time world champion at 108 pounds, retired after coming up short in the fourth defense of his titles. Sorjaturong was stripped of his IBF belt the following year but defended his WBC crown 10 times before losing to Yo Sam Choi in October 1999.
July 16, 1947 – Rocky Graziano stopped Tony Zale in the sixth round to win their world middleweight championship rematch before a crowd of 18,547 at Chicago Stadium.
After Zale’s knockout of Graziano in their first fight was named The Ring’s 1946 Fight of the Year, the rematch earned repeat honors. The Ring also ranked the rematch No. 2 on its list of the 100 Greatest Title Fights of All Time in 1996. In the finale of their storied trilogy in June 1948, Zale knocked out Graziano in Round 3 to regain the title.
While no film footage of their second fight was thought to have existed, a bootlegged recording of the bout surfaced several years ago.