The Fights Of The Decade: Bloody Battles, Brutal Beatings And Shocking Stoppages

Here are our picks of the best boxing matches over the last 10 years
07:00, 26 Dec 2019

Timothy Bradley retains WBO welterweight title against Ruslan Provodnikov in a 12-round unanimous decision, March 2013   

After controversially claiming his 147Ib title against Manny Pacquiao in June 2012, Timothy Bradley made the first defence of his WBO welterweight title against Russia's 140Ib champion Ruslan Provodnikov at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.

Many pundits predicted that Bradley would have an easy night's work after the Pacquiao fight. 'Desert Storm' was by far the more established boxer and many felt he would use his technical skills to outwork and outbox the slugger Provodnikov over 12 rounds. The fight brought anything but the predicted outcome, as Bradley stood in the pocket and went toe-to-toe with 'The Siberian Rocky' in a 36-minute war.  

Bradley was not known for being an aggressive come-forward brawler, partly due to his lack of power. At the time, Bradley had only stopped less than half of his opponents. Early on in the fight, Bradley stomped his feet in the middle of the ring and had wild exchanges with Provodnikov.

In the 12th and final round, Provodnikov produced an onslaught that saw Bradley get thrown across the ring and fall into the ropes. Bradley, who was on the verge of suffering a knockout defeat, took a knee as the final seconds of the fight approached - surviving to win a 12-round decision.

After the fight, Bradley said he was concussed by a punch in the first round of the fight. Scans after the fight revealed Bradley's brain had swollen, he had blood in his urine, and his speech was slurred for two months following the bout.  

This was, unsurprisingly, awarded The Ring magazine's 2013 Fight of the Year.

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Timothy Bradley's speech was slurred for two months following the bout
Timothy Bradley's speech was slurred for two months following the bout

Juan Manuel Marquez beats Manny Pacquiao by knockout in the 6th round, December 2012

Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez have one of the most memorable rivalries in boxing history. They fought to a 12-round draw in their first meeting in May 2004, had their first rematch four years later where the Filipino beat Marquez in a split-decision victory and they went on to meet in a trilogy bout in November 2011, where Pacquiao controversially retained his WBO 147Ib title in a majority decision, a fight that many people felt Marquez won.  

On December 8th 2012, Pacquiao and Marquez met for the fourth and final time at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas with the WBO's Fighter of the Decade title on the line. The two fighters exchanged wildfire from the first bell and Marquez stamped his authority on the fight when he knocked Pacquiao down in the third round.

Pacquiao recovered and levelled the Mexican to the canvas for his own knockdown to even out the fight.

Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach urged his fighter to go and look for the knockout in the sixth round, but Marquez landed a huge counter right of his own that knocked Pacquiao out flat, leaving him unconscious for several minutes and producing one of the most iconic boxing shots of the decade. Marquez finally got his win over Pacquiao.

The image of Pacquiao's unconscious body during his fourth fight with Marquez is one of the decade's most iconic
The image of Pacquiao's unconscious body during his fourth fight with Marquez is one of the decade's most iconic

Anthony Joshua stops Wladimir Klitschko in 11-round thriller to unify heavyweight titles, April 2017

In a bout that was billed as one of the biggest heavyweight fights of all time, former world champion Wladimir Klitschko made a sensational return to the sport to challenge IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. Klitschko lost his unified titles to Tyson Fury back in November 2015 and took almost 18 months out before returning to the ring to fight the undefeated Joshua.  

The 80,000 tickets sold out  and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, allowed more tickets to be sold to take the total attendance to 90,000, which equalled Len Harvey and Jock McAvoy's record in 1939, and made it the most-watched heavyweight fight in 90 years.

The fight started off very tentatively, with both fighters unwilling to take any risks in the first quarter of the fight. The first big moment was in the fifth round when Joshua came out throwing big power shots that staggered Klitschko very early in the round and eventually drilled him to the canvas for the first knockdown. Klitschko recovered and went on to hurt Joshua against the ropes, which seemed to have taken the wind out of the Brit.

In the sixth, Klitschko landed a huge right hand that knocked Joshua down on his back. Joshua weathered the storm and the following rounds were again very tentative. Joshua was the fighter to catch a second wind, and got his second knockdown of the fight in the 11th round when he hurt Klitschko with an uppercut in the pocket which snapped his head back. This time Joshua didn't allow Klitschko to recover, and sent him crashing to the canvas once more before one last barrage against the corner was enough for the referee to step in and stop the fight.   

Joshua unified the IBF and WBA titles with victory, and the fight was awarded Fight of the Year for 2017.

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Naoya Inoue outpoints Nonito Donaire in World Boxing Super Series final, November 2019

Japan hosted arguably the fight of 2019 back in November. Undefeated hometown star Naoya Inoue would meet multiple-division world champion Nonito Donaire to contest for the 118Ib World Boxing Super Series final. Inoue would put his IBF and Ring magazine titles on the line in an attempt to unify with Donaire's WBA title.  

Inoue, known for his fast, aggressive and hard-hitting style, dictated the pace of the fight early on but seemed to begin to struggle from the second round onward when Donaire started to utilise his aggression and creativity in his offence to get his own success.

The fighters were evenly matched in the first quarter of the fight before Inoue once again took control from the fifth round. Inoue, nicknamed 'The Monster', had an 89% knockout ratio going into the fight, and Donaire was, somehow, taking all of his big shots to head and body.

The ninth round was a vital moment in the fight - Donaire landed one of his trademark right hands that had Inoue on wobbly legs and forced to clinch with 'The Filipino Flash'. 

Going into the championship rounds, Donaire was down on the cards and he would need a knockout if he was to be victorious in the fight.

It was Inoue that managed to force the first and only knockdown of the fight with a lethal body shot that floored Donaire. It looked like Inoue may go on and stop his opponent, but Donaire managed to see the final bell.

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Inoue vs Donaire was arguably 2019's Fight of the Year
Inoue vs Donaire was arguably 2019's Fight of the Year

Canelo Alvarez beats Gennady Golovkin in their rematch to win unified middleweight titles, September 2018  

Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez and middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin seemed destined to fight for years after the two fighters made their rise on HBO to worldwide stardom. Both had headlined pay-per-view events and had built a following in the sport because of their exciting, fan-friendly styles that led to high knockout ratios for both men.  

They first met in September 2017 and fought to a 12-round draw that many felt Golovkin had clearly won, and almost immediately after the controversial result, negotiations started for a rematch. They agreed to fight in May on Cinco De Mayo weekend, but the fight was cancelled after Alvarez failed a drug test when traces of Clenbuterol were found in his system.

The pair once again agreed to a rematch in September 2018. The fight sold out at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas with a capacity of 21,965 people at the venue.  

After the first fight, Alvarez was criticised by Golovkin's team for his negative style of fighting. In the rematch, Alvarez fought a much different style and reverted back to his aggressive approach, and asserted it early on to push Golovkin back. Both fighters landed their biggest punches throughout the 12 rounds and neither man showed to have been affected by any of them. They kept moving forward, exchanging fire with fire.

At the end of the fight, Alvarez won a 12-round majority decision to win the unified middleweight titles and hand Golovkin the first loss of his career. CompuBox stats showed that Golovkin landed 234 of 879 punches thrown (27%) and Álvarez landed 202 of his 622 punches (33%). In eight of the rounds, Golovkin outlanded Alvarez but failed to get the decision.  

The rematch was named Fight of the Year for 2018.