Rather than rejoice with a church trip, an egg hunt or huge slab of ham, we'll take a look back at a few ghastly knockdowns that looked as if they may have maimed the guys on the receiving end. Except these men harnessed otherworldly will and not only peeled themselves off the canvas, but went on to seize a win from the snarling, rabid jaws of defeat.
There were certainly many to choose from, but these are some of the more memorable, though not in any particular order.
1. Julio Gonzalez UD12 Julian Letterlough, Round 3
This is a fight often passed over when compiling lists of some of the better scraps of the 2000's. Two good punchers traded knockdowns a few times in the fight, matched one another punch for punch in a handful of rounds and producing some sickening exchanges. The knockdown in question happened not long into the 5th round, after both men had already been down once apiece. As Gonzalez marched forward attempting to apply his trademark pressure and push Letterlough backwards, "Mr. KO" caught Gonzalez with a cracking left hook that left the Mexico native looking up at the lights.
Not only did Gonzalez get up, but he managed to live through another knockdown in the 10th. He would floor Letterlough again in the 11th on his way to winning a hard-fought decision.
2. James "Buster" Douglas KO10 Mike Tyson, Round 8
Of all the cliches used to describe a fighter's invincibility, most were probably used for Mike Tyson sometime in the 1980's. By 1990, his private life had begun to collapse around him, but his professional world was crumbled by a motivated and in-shape fringe contender named James Douglas. Then-unbeaten and considered basically unbeatable, Tyson was dominated and stifled round after round. Towards the end of the 8th, Tyson landed the same crunching right uppercut that had previously rendered most of the heavyweight division incontinent.
Rather than stay down, a disappointed "Buster" Douglas slowly rose, and two rounds later returned the favor with a well-time uppercut and overhand slams that had Tyson fumbling around for his mouthpiece before the count finished, claiming the heavyweight championship for himself.
3. Tim Bradley UD12 Kendall Holt, Round 1
Much will be exaggerated and played up in the pre-fight coverage of Tim Bradley's showdown with Manny Pacquiao this summer, but don't accuse the guy of packing it in when things go sour for him on fight night. Fresh off destroying WBO 140 lb. champ Ricardo Torres (with the help of an unintentional headbutt) in the 1st round and surviving walking bore Demetrius Hopkins, Holt entered the unification match up known for his punching power, and Bradley his tenacity. It was only two minutes in, but things were going well for Tim to that point. But caught up in an exchange, Bradley dined on a wicked left hook that near turned him sideways as he fell awkwardly onto his back.
Surprisingly unhurt, Bradley got up, wisely gathered himself by taking a knee for the rest of the 8-count, and stood up again to face the guy who just leveled him. And aside from another quick knockdown in the 12th, Bradley did well to smother Holt's power and outbox him to a decision victory.
4. George Foreman KO5 Ron Lyle, Round 4
Not a ton needs to be said about this slugfest that the fight doesn't say for itself. It was a sloppily brutal and wild encounter where both guys just took turns hurting each other. After having already risen from a hard knockdown earlier in the 5th and putting Lyle down a minute later in kind, Foreman was caught a deadly right hand in mid-swing that folded him to the canvas at the end of the round.
Clearly groggy, Foreman hoisted himself up and wobbled back to his corner as the bell sounded to end the round. In the next round, his unreal toughness and vaunted punching power bailed him out, and he managed to fight exhaustion and end the fight with a series of booming power shots, barely able to keep himself upright.
5. Larry Holmes TKO11 Earnie Shavers, Round 7
Just a few fights removed from an epic battle with Ken Norton for the WBC heavyweight belt, Holmes made his 4th defense in a rematch with legendary puncher Earnie Shavers. Chances are, if you asked a handful of boxing pundits who the hardest puncher in boxing history was, right or wrong, at least one of them would tell you it was Shavers. And he proved it by absolutely laying waste to Larry Holmes in the 7th round, after 6 solid rounds of getting outmaneuvered. Just as Holmes stepped into a corner, Shavers unleashed a vicious right hand that immediately put Holmes down, looking as if he was completely unconscious upon hitting canvas.
But Holmes was up halfway through the count, survived the round and a few more desperate attempts from Shavers to end matters, and forced ref Dave Pearl to save Shavers from taking more huge right hands about halfway through the 11th.
To become world champion, one may need a lunchbox full of handspeed, footwork, ring smarts and conditioning. It's a meal fit for a king, in a sport of kings. But it's not enough to become myth.
It's not that fighters can't improve toughness or ability to absorb punches, but the intestinal fortitude necessary to shake off annihilation is one of the more valued traits in the world of boxing, and the ability to do it more than once is rare indeed.
For these men, once was enough.
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