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Home Boxing GREATEST (lesser discussed) RIVALRIES, Part 1
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GREATEST (lesser discussed) RIVALRIES, Part 1

 

boxing-knockoutsWhat constitutes a great boxing rivalry?  Typically it is more than two fights.  Not that one cannot exist with only two.  Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling is one good example.  However, unless the weight of democracy is riding on it, some back and forth is usually necessary to be truly memorable.  Each combatant winning at least once is a necessity as well.  Pryor-Arguello, as well as Robinson-Bobo Olsen could not count, as only one man won in each pairing.
 
Even using these parameters, the lists are long.  I would like to give some credence to some of the lesser sung heroes of the boxing rivalry category... more modern examples, and long ago examples.  Everyone knows about Ali-Frazier, Pep-Saddler, La Motta-Robinson, and Graziano-Zale, so there is no need to rehash those.  These are not obscure fighters, however, but rivalries that simply deserve more attention.
 
Harry Greb vs. Gene Tunney
These two men were arguably the top light heavyweights in the 1920's, minus Georges Carpentier.  They tangled a total of 5 times, with Greb only winning the first.  Although many feel Greb deserved the decision in 2 of the other contests, Tunney would emerge victorious in all 4 subsequent matchups.  Not bad for a guy who many suggested retire after the Greb loss.  In fact, it was the only loss of Tunney's career.  Greb even entered the Fighting Marine's dressing room after the fifth fight, to finally wave the verbal flag of surrender, telling Tunney, "I will never fight you again."
 
Vinny Pazienza vs. Greg Haugen
You take two lightweights with big egos, sturdy chins, great stamina, and average power, and you are sure to have fireworks.  This was a 1980's lightweight rivalry at a time when men like Chavez, Whittaker, and Camacho called the division home, and yet, these two American fighters were packing 'em in, and entertaining TV fans.  Pazienza showed incredible heart in winning their first match in his own back yard, but the next two fights would take place on more neutral soil.  Haugen outslugged Paz clearly to regain his title in Atlantic City 7 months later, which taught Vinny a lesson.  Most feel Paz was lucky to get the decision in the first fight, and he had long been ignoring his boxing skills.  He boxed more cautiously in the rubber match, however, winning the 10 round non-title decision, and the rivalry.
 
Emile Griffith vs. Nino Benvenuti
Griffith was already a bit long in the tooth, and Benvenuti would not go on to be a memorable champion, so this rivalry often gets left out when people talk about middleweight titlists.  This is especially true when one thinks of Griffith vs. Benny Kid Paret immediately, when the former 3 division champion's name comes up.  That rivalry certainly had more drama and overall action.  However, the Italian did a good job of making sure the fights were fought on his terms, and even won over Griffiths' NYC home crowd with the Italian contingency.  It's a rare European that wins a title in the US, and Nino became a hero for doing it twice.  Winning the 1st and 3rd bouts both by decision.  Griffith won the second, as the title changed hands in each bout.  Griffith would fight on for many years, and even earn a title shot with Benvenuti's conqueror, Carlos Monzon... the Argentine Hall-of-Famer being yet another reason people often forget about these two.
 
Chris Strait
www.convictedartist.com

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