Madison Square Garden – Middleweight Battles
BY ANSON WAINWRIGHT
Over the years, Madison Square Garden in New York, has hosted some of the biggest fights in boxing. Throughout its illustrious history, dating all the way back to 1879 – it’s been remodeled and moved three times since – it has housed hundreds of fights.
As well as boxing, “The Mecca,” as it’s affectionately known, is a regular venue for other sports, including basketball, ice hockey and professional wrestling and concerts – featuring a who’s who of the music industry – political rallies and circuses (some would say the two are one and same thing! Not me, of course – even P.T Barnum showcased his talents at the historic venue.)
From a boxing standpoint, it is considered home. It was the site of the first Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight in 1971. Before and since then many of the very best have fought there. The building seems to have a special affinity with the fight game and in no division more than at middleweight. This Saturday, big time boxing returns to MSG in the form of the 160-pound showdown between IBF/WBA/WBC titleholder Gennady Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs.
Here we look back at all the middleweight title fights that have taken place in the great building.
March 17, 1921 – Johnny Wilson SD 15 Mike O’Dowd: The New York-born Wilson won a close split decision.
Jan. 18, 1924 – Harry Greb UD 15 Johnny Wilson II: Wilson lost the title to Greb five months earlier. Three wins earned him a rematch. It was a close run affair but the legendary “Pittsburgh Windmill” won a unanimous decision in a competitive bout.
Feb. 26, 1926 – Tiger Flowers SD 15 Harry Greb: After two years as champion, Greb dropped the title by split decision in a fight many at ringside felt he deserved. He was the stronger fighter throughout and hurt fellow future Hall-of-Famer Flowers on several occasions.
Aug 19, 1926 – Tiger Flowers SD 15 Harry Greb II: The pair rematched six months later and Flowers again won via controversial circumstances, Greb again appearing to do enough to win. Tragically, withing 15 months, both had passed away, first, Greb, at 32, due to complications from eye surgery. Bizarrely, Flowers would lose his life after also having eye surgery.
Jan. 13, 1933 – Ben Jeby KO 12 Frank Battaglia: Jeby won the NYSAC’s tournament to find a successor to Mickey Walker. Jeby was comfortably ahead when he stopped Battaglia in the 12th round.
March 17, 1933 – Ben Jeby D 15 Vince Dundee: Jeby denied Dundee the opportunity to win the NYSAC title, fighting the Italian-born, Baltimore resident to a hard-fought draw.
Feb. 19, 1937 – Freddie Steele UD 15 Babe Risko: Steele retained his unified titles by wide 11-4 decision on all three scorecards.
Jan. 6, 1939 – Fred Apostoli TKO 8 Young Corbett III: Nine months after losing a non-title bout, Joe DiMaggio’s old schoolmate gained a measure of revenge by stopping Corbett.
Oct. 2, 1939 – Ceferino Garcia KO 7 Fred Apostoli: Apostoli lost his title to Garcia – who became the first Filipino world champion –
by seventh round knockout. Interestingly, Garcia also worked as a driver and bodyguard for actress Mae West, while Apostoli later served in World War II, as a gunner on USS Columbia.
May 23, 1940 – Ken Overlin UD 15 Ceferino Garcia: Former Navy veteran Overlin took the NYSAC from the defending champion, using his better skills to good effect.
Nov. 1, 1940 – Ken Overlin MD 15 Steve Belloise: Overlin got off the floor in the sixth round to edge Belloise by majority decision in an exciting contest.
Dec. 13, 1940 – Ken Overlin SD 15 Steve Belloise: Six weeks after their first meeting, the Navy veteran’s engaged in a rematch. This time Overlin eked out a split decision, preventing Belloise from becoming a world champion like older brother Mike, who held the distinction at featherweight in the mid-1930s.
May 9, 1941 – Billy Soose UD 15 Ken Overlin: Overlin appeared to do enough to retain his NYSAC crown, only for the dissenting judges to award Soose the unanimous nod. Soose never defended the title, retiring several months later to join the Navy.
Nov. 11, 1941 – Tony Zale UD 15 Georgie Abrams: “The Man of Steel” recovered from a first round trip to the canvas to beat up Abrams’ body to win recognition as the unified middleweight king.
July 12, 1950 – Jake Lamotta UD 15 – Tiberio Mitri: Lamotta defended the NYSAC belt against the once-beaten Italian.
Oct. 23, 1953 – Bobo Olson UD 15 Randy Turpin: Olson dropped Turpin twice before winning the vacant throne by unanimous decision.
Jan. 2, 1957 – Gene Fullmer UD 15 Sugar Ray Robinson: The younger Fullmer upset the slight 6-5 favorite Robinson to win the middleweight title, dropping the 35-year-old Robinson in the seventh, on the way to a hard-fought but just unanimous decision.
Oct. 21, 1965 – Dick Tiger UD 15 Joey Giardello: Tiger rounded out a successful year, leveling their four-fight series by regaining the WBA/WBC titles he had lost to Giardello 22 months prior. The win also went along way to helping Tiger secure his second THE RING magazine “Fighter of the Year” award.
April 25, 1966 – Emile Griffith UD 15 Dick Tiger: Griffith upset Tiger – the 8-5 favorite – dropping the defending champion in the ninth, the first knockdown of the Nigerian’s career. Despite the knockdown, many at ringside believed Tiger deserved the decision.
July 13, 1966 – Emile Griffith MD 15 Joey Archer: Archer came mightily close to winning the middleweight title, only to drop a razor-thin majority decision.
Jan. 23, 1967 – Emile Griffith UD 15 Joey Archer II: Griffith received the nod by close yet unanimous decision in their rematch. Archer retired afterward.
April 17, 1967 – Nino Benvenuti UD 15 Emile Griffith: Both men were on the canvas in the early going but Benvenuti won the WBA/WBC titles in THE RING magazine’s “Fight of the Year.”
March 4, 1968 – Nino Benvenuti UD 15 Emile Griffith III: Griffith had regained his title six months prior to set up a rubber match. Benvenuti won the trilogy, dropping Griffith in the ninth to accentuate the victory. Benvenuti would go on to win THE RING magazine’s Fighter of the Year honors.
June 30, 1975 – Carlos Monzon TKO 10 Tony Licata: In Monzon’s lone appearance stateside, the Argentinean used his considerable ring savvy to see off a spirited challenge from Licata.
Oct. 19, 1984 – Marvin Hagler TKO 3 Mustafa Hamsho: The Marvelous One dropped Hamsho for the first time in his career in the third before stopping the Syrian-born New Yorker in the same round to retain his unified middleweight titles.
Aug. 23, 1997 – Julio Cesar Green UD 12 William Joppy: Green caused something of an upset unseating Joppy in a fight that saw both men on the canvas. In the end, Green won a close but unanimous decision.
April 14, 2001 – Bernard Hopkins UD 12 Keith Holmes: Hopkins easily outpointed Holmes in the first fight of the “Sugar Ray Robinson Middleweight Championship Tournament” designed to crown one man. Hopkins set up a showdown with the Felix Trinidad-William Joppy winner by winning a wide unanimous decision.
May 12, 2001 – Felix Trinidad TKO 5 William Joppy: Trinidad dropped Joppy three times en route to an emphatic fifth round stoppage.
Sept. 29, 2001 – Bernard Hopkins TKO 12 Felix Trinidad: Originally scheduled for September 15 but was postponed due to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. This was the first sporting event to happen in New York after the atrocity. Trinidad – who entered as a 2-1 favorite – dressed as a fireman for his ringwalk, in homage to the responders whom lost their lives. Hopkins surprised many and boxed his way into a sizable lead before punctuating his ascendancy in the fight with a final round stoppage to add “Tito’s” WBA title to his WBC and IBF belts and win the Sugar Ray Robinson tournament. Hopkins would later be named THE RING magazine’s Fighter of the Year.
Jan. 19, 2013 – Gennady Golovkin TKO 7 Gabriel Rosado: Golovkin’s first appearance in “The Big Apple.” He reportedly got off his sickbed to bludgeon Rosado for seven rounds to retain his WBA belt.
Nov. 2, 2013 – Gennady Golovkin RTD 8 Curtis Stevens: Stevens did himself no favors, trash-talking Golovkin in the build-up. In turn he was promptly beaten up before his corner rescued him.
June 7, 2014 – Miguel Cotto RTD 10 Sergio Martinez: Cotto became the first Puerto Rican to win world titles in four weight classes. He dropped the shop-worn Martinez three times in the first round and beat him up throughout until the Argentinean’s corner ended the one-sided bout. Cotto who was fighting at MSG for the ninth time in his career, added THE RING and WBC belts to his illustrious collection.
July 26, 2014 – Gennady Golovkin TKO 3 Daniel Geale: Golovkin’s power was too much for the out-gunned former champion, who was taken out in impressive fashion.
Oct. 17, 2015 – Gennady Golovkin TKO 8 David Lemieux: The Kazakh terror added Lemieux’s IBF strap to his WBA belt and proved there’s more to his game than just power, systematically breaking the game but one-dimensional Canadian down with a measured jab before forcing the inevitable stoppage.
Golovkin-Jacobs will be the 35th middleweight title fight at MSG.
This will be Golovkin’s fifth middleweight title fight at the Garden, more than any other fighter in history. However, Griffith holds the record at 26, for most overall appearances during his career.