This week in boxing history, PBC celebrates a quintet of pulse-raising championship bouts, including the first heavyweight to regain the world title, a monumental heavyweight title rematch, a knockout performance by “Smokin’ Joe,” a star-studded welterweight showdown and a lightweight slugfest in extreme heat.
June 20, 1960 – Floyd Patterson knocked out Ingemar Johansson in the fifth round to become the first boxer to regain the world heavyweight championship before an estimated crowd of 40,000 at New York’s Polo Grounds.
After losing his title to Johansson in June 1959 in the first of their three consecutive meetings, Patterson floored the Swedish champion with a leaping left hook in Round 5 before knocking him flat on his back with another left hook that ended The Ring’s Fight of the Year. Patterson reclaimed the world title after eight previous heavyweight champions had tried and failed, and went on to stop Johansson in Round 6 of their rubber match in March 1961.
June 20, 1980 – Roberto Duran beat Sugar Ray Leonard by unanimous decision to win the WBC welterweight championship before a crowd of 46,317 at Olympic Stadium in Montreal.
In the richest prizefight in history to that point, Duran outslugged Leonard, a 9-to-5 favorite who was returning to the site of his 1976 Olympic gold medal victory for his second world title defense. Duran, a former unified lightweight champion who vacated his titles in 1979, would go on to lose a rematch with Leonard five months later in the infamous “No Más” fight.
June 22, 1938 – Joe Louis knocked out Max Schmeling in Round 1 to retain his world heavyweight championship before an estimated crowd of 72,000 at New York’s Yankee Stadium.
In one of the most highly anticipated rematches in boxing history and The Ring’s Fight of the Decade, Louis was dominant in making his fourth defense of the title he won by beating James Braddock exactly one year earlier, flooring the former champion Schmeling three times to avenge his loss to the German in June 1936.
June 23, 1969 – Joe Frazier stopped Jerry Quarry in the seventh round to retain his New York State Athletic Commission heavyweight championship before a crowd of 16,570 at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Frazier was recognized as the world champion by six states with unbeaten Muhammad Ali suspended from boxing and Jimmy Ellis possessing the WBA title. Making the fourth defense of his title, Frazier opened a gash under Quarry’s right eye that led the ring doctor to order a stop to the bout, which The Ring named Fight of the Year, after Round 7. Also of note, 1968 U.S. Olympic gold medalist George Foreman, who would succeed Frazier as world champion, made his pro debut on the undercard with a third-round TKO of Don Waldheim.
June 23, 1986 – Steve Cruz beat Barry McGuigan by unanimous decision to win the WBA featherweight title at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
The temperature at the outdoor arena was 110 degrees at the start of the bout, which The Ring deemed Fight of the Year. McGuigan entered his third title defense as a 5-to-1 favorite, and the champion was unknowingly ahead on the scorecards after 14 rounds despite being knocked down in the 10th and having a point deducted for a low blow in the 12th. With both fighters fatigued by the heat, Cruz gained two knockdowns in the 15th, which was named Round of the Year, to edge the Irishman, who was taken to a hospital afterward.