The Shortlist: Biggest Fights Ever Held in Las Vegas

The Shortlist: Biggest Fights Ever Held in Las Vegas
Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

Back in February, Tyson Fury’s resounding knockout victory over Deontay Wilder saw Las Vegas come to a standstill, joining the vast litany of combat events hosted by America’s greatest entertainment utopia.

These preceding fights held in the ‘bright light city’ have also gone down as legendary, and for good reason.

Sugar Ray Leonard v Thomas Hearns – September 1981

In this hotly-anticipated 15-round bout, Hearns won rounds 9-12 unanimously, while Leonard was sporting a swollen left eye in the latter stages. In the 13th round, Hearns looked set to finish Leonard, but Sugar Ray stung Hearns with a right, and proceeded to annihilate him.

Sent crashing twice thereafter, Hearns survived both counts, but was less fortunate in the 14th, with Leonard unleashing a combo that prompted referee Davey Pearl to stop the contest. Sugar Ray Leonard duly became the undisputed Welterweight champion.

Interestingly, they met again eight years later, again

 in Las Vegas – but with a result that remains controversial even today.

Marvin Hagler v Thomas Hearns – April 1985

Marvin Hagler’s reign had lasted for four and a half years by the time he took on Hearns, in a superfight that represented a huge crossroads in boxing culture. Hearns’ punching power was considered without equal at Middleweight, with a return of 30 knockouts from his first 32 professional bouts.

Hearns’ efforts to dominate from the outset backfired immensely, in a manner not unlike George Foreman (against Muhammad Ali) 11 years previously. Though he cut Hagler in the first round, and re-opened the wound in the third, Hagler smashed a vicious right hand to Hearns’ chin, and then landed two uppercuts. Hearns fell face first to the canvas, and it was over.

Mike Tyson v Peter McNeely – August 1995

Mike Tyson highlights will be figuring a lot in the coming months, especially if his rumoured return to the ring becomes reality. Those that check out here would undoubtedly see a real reflection of his chances should any bout be sanctioned.

Regardless of the hypothetical odds for or against Tyson in 2020, he wouldn’t be as lethal as he was during his first comeback 25 years ago.

An official time of 1:29 in round one was all Mike Tyson needed to earn victory on his return from jail back in 1995. Tyson scored his first knockdown via the trademark right uppercut, which had decimated far better opposition previously. In lieu of throwing in the towel, McNeeley’s manager Vinnie Vecchione illegally entered the ring to stop the fight once the pummelling started in earnest.

It was as good as over already, but Tyson was declared the winner by disqualification. Overall, the fight grossed $96 million worldwide, with $63 million coming from PPV buys – which themselves yielded over 1.52 million viewers in the US.

Evander Holyfield v Mike Tyson II – June 1997

Tyson’s two matches with Evander Holyfield in the following years would beat every figure generated by his fight with McNeeley. Of course, it is the second of those Holyfield/Tyson bouts that people remember most prominently. Hungry for a knockout, Tyson began the third-round chomping at the bit and going for a quick kill.

Clearly annoyed to the back teeth with Holyfield’s clinching and alleged headbutting, Tyson infamously bit off an inch of cartilage from Holyfield’s ear. Blood dripped everywhere, and Tyson did it again during another clinch. The fight was stopped at the end of the round, with Holyfield granted the win via disqualification by referee Mills Lane.

UFC 52: Randy Couture vs Chuck Liddell – April 2005

At the time, UFC 52 was the highest-grossing UFC event ever at the live gate, generating over $2.57m in ticket sales, alongside 280,000 PPV buys – considerably above the UFC’s existing record (150,000 buys) at the similarly Vegas-based UFC 40.

In this main event, both fighters were evenly-matched, but Couture was riled by an eye poke. Though deemed accidental, Couture hit Liddell with vicious retaliatory strikes. The ‘Ice Man’ survived this attack, and countered with a straight that sent the incensed Couture down.

Two more punches went in on the defenceless Couture, and Liddell was declared the winner by TKO – and the new UFC Light Heavyweight Champion – just two minutes and six seconds into the first round.

Another fight – a rematch between Matt Hughes and Frank Trigg for the Welterweight title – also garnered much post-event talk. Eventually, it became the second fight to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame, and it remains one of Dana White’s personal favourites even today.

De La Hoya v Mayweather – May 2007

This bout set a new high for PPV buys ahead of a boxing event. No less than 2.4 million watched this clash, utterly eclipsing the aforementioned ‘Holyfield v Tyson II’. The fight also generated $136m in PPV revenue, and the record would stand until the 2015 staging of Mayweather v Pacquiao.

Mayweather was declared the victor via split decision, with nothing to separate the combatants over twelve rounds. Judges Jerry Roth and Tom Kaczmarek scored the fight 115-113 in favour of Mayweather and De La Hoya respectively, but Chuck Giampa’s decidedly wider scoring margin (116-112 for Mayweather) was a huge talking point in the aftermath.

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