The Best Lightweight Fights Of All Time Featuring Pacquiao, Lomachenko And More

Five iconic lightweight fights to savour
08:50, 19 Feb 2024

The heavyweight division captures the imagination more than any other boxing division. But the fights on offer cannot always live up to the outsized expectations. No, to truly experience boxing at its frenetic, skilful and brutal best you need to look a little further down the weights. Lightweight in particular has hosted some of the most absorbing, indelible fights in history. The Sportsman has picked just five for you here to give you a flavour of what the 135-pound limit is all about.

Roberto Duran vs Ken Buchanan, 1972

Tough Scotsman Buchanan was the universally recognised lightweight king when he defended his WBA and The Ring straps against a Panamanian whirling dervish by the name of Roberto Duran. Their fight, in the bristling Madison Square Garden atmosphere, was ferocious and intense.

There were fouls aplenty as the two 135-pound hard-men engaged in a war of particularly brutal attrition. Buchanan more than held his own with a man who would go on to become one of the sport’s all-time greats, but eventually he succumbed via 13th round stoppage. To this day, many claim the blow that took Buchanan out was below the belt.

Ray Mancini vs Alexis Arguello, 1981

Watching Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini give a peak Alexis Arguello at just 20 years old is scarcely believable. The bravery, spirit and energy of the second-generation boxer from Ohio makes this fight required viewing. The chance to see a titan of the sport like Arguello made to fight to his maximum capacity is always a thrill, and the way the more experienced champion eventually breaks down the upstart is masterful.

After the fight, the gracious champion promised interviewers that Mancini would become a champion one day. The Nicaraguan was spot on, Mancini would claim the WBC championship in less than a year later.

Diego Corrales vs Jose Luis Castillo, 2005

This rough and tumble unification fight for the WBC and WBO titles is in with a shout of being the greatest fight of the last twenty years. The frightening punch volume and complete abandonment of defence by Corrales and Castillo made for one of boxing’s most visceral spectacles.

Nine rounds of gut-wrenching action gave way to one of the greatest finishes you are ever likely to see in a prize ring. Castillo knocked Corrales down at the start of the tenth session. ‘Chico’ spat his mouthpiece out and rose from the canvas. He was knocked down again only seconds later, and looked on the brink of a third career loss. Corrales spat his mouthpiece again, incurring a point penalty for doing so. 

When the action resumed, the American landed a mammoth right hand that turned the tide, before stopping his Mexican foe along the ropes with a barrage of shots. Ten rounds of savagery punctuated by a thunderous comeback. Boxing at its finest.

Manny Pacquiao vs David Diaz, 2008

WBC lightweight champion had already exorcised a ghost of Pacquiao’s past, beating Erik Morales, one of three men to defeat the Filipino at the time. As ridiculous as it may seem in hindsight, many thought a world title in a fourth weight class may be beyond Manny, who had won his first belt at flyweight.

Not for the last time, Pacquiao made a mockery of his doubters. The magnificent ‘Pac-Man’ left Diaz beaten and bloodied, outmuscling the champion and leaving a nasty gash above his right eye. A left hand in the ninth round left Diaz down face-first on the mat, with the referee immediately waving off the fight.

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Vasiliy Lomachenko vs Jorge Linares, 2018

Lomachenko already had nine world title fight wins in just eleven career fights when he moved up to lightweight. The Ukrainian phenom was a two-weight world champion looking to annex a title in a third weight class. Standing in his way was Jorge Linares, the utterly dominant WBA and The Ring lightweight champion. 

Linares was well known to UK fans for his wins over Anthony Crolla, Kevin Mitchell and Luke Campbell. A great fighter, he met his match in the ring with ‘The Matrix’. Lomachenko was knocked down in the sixth round, but battled back to secure a tenth round stoppage with a brutal body shot. He would defend the championship three times before losing it to Teofimo Lopez.

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