This week in boxing history, PBC serves up a trio of heart-pounding heavyweight rumbles, including an epic slugfest from the 19th century, a chapter from a storied featherweight rivalry and a punishing light welterweight title rematch.
September 7, 1892 – James J. Corbett knocked out John L. Sullivan in Round 21 to win the world heavyweight championship before a crowd of 10,000 at the Olympic Club in New Orleans.
Corbett, a 4-to-1 betting underdog, broke Sullivan’s nose in Round 3 and battered the champion throughout the fight. “Gentleman Jim” dropped Sullivan to his knees with a right hand in the 21st round before finishing him off moments later with a combination. It would be the last fight for the previously unbeaten Sullivan, who won the first world heavyweight championship under the Marquess of Queensberry Rules in August 1885.
September 7, 1996 – Mike Tyson stopped Bruce Seldon in Round 1 (of 12) to win the WBA heavyweight title before a crowd of 9,511 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Seldon was a 22-to-1 betting underdog in his second title defense, and it became clear why almost immediately from the opening bell. Tyson, who entered the fight as the WBC world titleholder, stalked Seldon around the ring before dropping him once with a right hand and then a second time with a left hook. Seldon rose to his feet but was wobbly, causing referee Richard Steele to wave an end to the fight at the 1:49 mark.
September 8, 1950 – Sandy Saddler stopped Willie Pep in Round 8 (of 15) to win the world featherweight championship for the second time before a crowd of 38,781 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York.
Pep was making his fourth title defense in his second reign as champion as the fighters met for the third of their four title bouts. Saddler dethroned Pep as world champ in October 1948 before Pep won the title rematch in February 1949 in The Ring’s Fight of the Year. Pep, an 8-to-5 betting underdog in the third match, was ahead on all three scorecards despite going down in Round 3, but he retired on his stool after Round 7 due to a dislocated left shoulder. Saddler would go on to win their fourth and final meeting in September 1951 by ninth-round stoppage to retain his world title.
September 9, 1983 – Aaron Pryor knocked out Alexis Arguello in Round 10 (of 15) to retain his WBA light welterweight title before a sellout crowd of 13,000 at the outdoor arena at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
Pryor was a 2½-to-1 betting favorite entering his eighth title defense after having stopped Arguello in the 14th round of their first meeting in November 1982. Arguello was trying for the second time to become the first boxer to win world titles in four weight divisions, but Pryor knocked him down in the first and fourth rounds before sending him to the canvas for the final time in the 10th.
September 10, 1973 – Muhammad Ali beat Ken Norton by 12-round split decision to reclaim the North American Boxing Federation heavyweight title before a crowd of 12,100 at the Forum in Inglewood, California.
In a highly anticipated rematch of their March 1973 bout, when Norton broke Ali’s jaw on the way to winning a split decision, the 31-year-old former champion outboxed the powerful Marines veteran and edged his way to winning margins on two of the three official scorecards. After beating George Foreman in 1974 to reclaim the world heavyweight championship, Ali defeated Norton again by 15-round unanimous decision in September 1976 to retain his titles.