Fights of the decade

30/11/2009 09:28

Yahoo! Sports' decade in review takes to the ring for a series of boxing-related top-fives. Next up is the fights of the decade, featuring five sensational bouts that electrified the sport.

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5. Israel Vazquez beats Rafael Marquez, August 4, 2007  WBC super bantamweight title.

This was one of the most anticipated rematches in recent history, following a classic encounter in March 2007 that ended when Vazquez suffered an injury to his nose.

The second version did not disappoint, as Vazquez and Marquez put together another bout featuring all-action intensity and a frenetic pace at the Dodge Arena in Hidalgo, Texas, five months after their first fight.

This time it was Vazquez who came out on top, despite being cut above both eyes in another torrid slugfest.

Vazquez floored Marquez with a left hook early in the sixth round and forced a stoppage with a blistering subsequent attack.

4. Juan Manuel Marquez draws with Manny Pacquiao, May 8, 2004  WBA and IBF featherweight titles.

This fight did plenty to boost the reputations of both fighters, but it almost came to an end within the first round.

Pacquiao started like a steam train, unleashing flurries of punches upon Marquez in the opening exchanges and had his opponent on the canvas after only 90 seconds.

Two more knockdowns followed in the same round, but Marquez survived and gradually worked his way into the fight.

The scorecards caused controversy, with one judge scoring it 115-110 for Pacquiao, another 115-110 for Marquez, and a third, Bert Clements, 113-113. It later emerged that Clements had erroneously scored the first round 10-7 to Pacquiao, when it should have been 10-6 due to the three knockdowns.

3. Erik Morales beats Marco Antonio Barrera, February 19, 2000  WBC and WBO Super bantamweight titles.

The first great bout of the 2000s also marked the start of a storied trilogy between a pair of modern greats.

Morales and Barrera refused to take a backward step, pummeling each other for 12 exhausting and thrilling rounds in a matchup that brought the Mandalay Bay crowd, and surely a fair share of the HBO viewing audience, to its feet.

In the end it was Morales who claimed a split decision, controversially, with many observers insisting that Barrera's efforts in the final round, when he knocked Morales down in the final minute, should have earned him the victory.

2. Micky Ward beats Arturo Gatti, May 18, 2002.

Two of boxing's biggest crowd-pleasers went head-to-head at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut in what quickly would turn into a battle for the ages.

Ward and Gatti both withstood a tremendous amount of punishment, pounding away with astonishing ferocity.

An amazing ninth round saw Ward knock Gatti down with a vicious left to the body and he appeared to be on course for a knockout. But Gatti refused to wilt, finding incredible reserves of strength to fight back to keep the contest alive.

Ward went on to win a majority decision, but the rousing ovation the fighters received meant there was no real loser on this night.

1. Diego Corrales beats Jose Luis Castillo, May 7, 2005  WBO and WBC lightweight titles.

The crowd was sparse at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, but those in attendance and watching on television saw 10 rounds of boxing they would never forget.

All throughout the contest, Corrales and Castillo stood toe-to-toe, slugging it out in an epic battle of willpower and tenacity, culminating with an epic comeback and dramatic conclusion.

Both gladiators entered what would be the decisive 10th round exhausted and roughed up, with swollen eyes and bloodied faces. Castillo appeared ready to seal the victory when he twice sent Corrales sprawling to the canvas, both times courtesy of brutal left hooks.

However, Corrales regained his footing and his composure, gaining extra recovery time by spitting out his mouthpiece (even though it cost him a point). Then Corrales somehow produced a devastating right hand that turned the fight on its head. Following up with a flurry of punches, he backed Castillo on to the ropes, and with the Mexican unable to defend himself, referee Tony Weeks had no choice but to step in and call the fight.

Corrales was killed in a motorcycle accident exactly two years after the fight. And although Castillo won a rematch against Corrales five months after their first fight, he has never been the same fighter since.

On this night, though, they were kings, and they combined to put together a contest that will live on in boxing history.