As the Barrera Vs McKinney fight was the fight for me that stood out in 1996 on HBO, I would like to point out some other fights that deserve recognition. Without further ado, here are my honorable mentions.
David Tua KO1 John Ruiz, 3-15-1996, Atlantic City, New Jersey:
This card was billed as the “Night of the Young Heavyweights.” Both Tua and Ruiz were looking to make statements as the next heavyweight star to look out for. The undefeated Tua wasted no time, he went after Ruiz and blew him out in nineteen seconds of the 1st round by brutal fashion. After the fight, Tua would have more memorable knockouts and John Ruiz would be known as one of the most boring fighters to watch. Ironically Tua would never become a world champion and Ruiz did become a world champion. Boxing works in funny ways sometimes.
Arturo Gatti KO6 Wilson Rodriguez, 3-23-1996, New York, New York:
Arturo Gatti was making a 1st defense of his IBF Junior Lightweight Title and what a tough one it was. In the fight, Rodriguez was out boxing and busting up Gatti. Gatti was dropped in the 2nd round and both of his eyes were swollen up bad. The right eye was practically shut. However, Gatti would come back to drop Wilson in the 5th round with a body shot. He then knocked out Rodriguez with a left hook in the 6th round in a dramatic comeback. Gatti was behind on points by the time of the stoppage. This started the legend of Arturo Gatti and we would see more memorable fights from him. This was the second BAD card following the Barrera/McKinney fight. What a follow up it was.
Pernell Whitaker SD12 Wilfredo Rivera, 4-12-1996, Cupecoy Bay:
Pernell Whitaker was making the 6th defense of the WBC Welterweight title and Whitaker was an all-time great. He beat the best fighters during his era and for the most part dominated all his opponents. He was basically undefeated for twelve years. The loss to Jose Luis Ramirez and draw to Julio Cesar Chavez on his record should have been wins for him. He fought the undefeated Wilfredo Rivera but Rivera was unknown at that time. This was the 1st fight we saw Whitaker in a tough fight and close to losing. It went all twelve rounds and Whitaker barely won the fight. I had Rivera winning a close fight and most observers were split on who won the fight. Whitaker claims it was a bad night, but I believe he was showing signs of old age. Whitaker would beat Rivera again in a rematch later on that year and more convincing.
Lennox Lewis MD12 Ray Mercer, 5-10-1996, New York, New York:
This fight was truly an underrated heavyweight slugfest. Lewis and Mercer, who were both former Olympic gold medal winners, matched up very well. Both fighters took their best shots and it was a very close fight. Lewis who had the better boxing skills of the two fighters was force to brawl by the Merciless Ray Mercer This happened to be the co-feature of the night, but it really should have been the main event. At the end, the scorecards were close and the fight could have gone either way. I personally thought Ray Mercer won a close fight. Too bad these fighters did not have a rematch.
Kevin Kelley KO8 Derrick Gainer, 6-15-1996, Jacksonville, Florida:
This fight was in the Featherweight division and a battle of southpaws. Just like Barrera/McKinney, Gatti/Rodriguez, and Lewis/Mercer, this fight would be another brawl. The fight had a total of 4 knockdowns. Kelley dropped Gainer in the 3rd round with a straight left hand. In the 4th round, Gainer landed a right hook on the eye of Kelley which prompted Kelley to go down. Kelley’s right eye closed up fast from that right hook. Kelley came out in a fury in the 5th round and dropped Gainer again with a left hand. Gainer survived the round and continued to
fight. In round eight, Kelley landed another left hand that took Gainer out. A great knockout to end a great fight. Both fighters would meet again two years later and Gainer would get revenge. Gainer would beat Kelley by a clear unanimous decision but the rematch was uneventful.
Riddick Bowe DQ7 Andrew Golota, 7-11-1996, New York, New York:
It was named the Event of the Year by Ring Magazine, but in an ugly way. Poland’s Andrew Golota was undefeated and one of the top heavyweights coming up and was fighting Bowe in a pro Bowe crowd at Madison Square Garden. This was supposed to be a victory for Bowe but it was anything but that. Golota was clearly out boxing a flat Riddick Bowe. We would find out though that Golota was a dirty fighter and had an issue of keeping his hands up.
Golota would lose points in the fourth and sixth rounds for low blows. There was another point deduction for Golota in the beginning of the 7th round. Golota would land another low blow on Bowe which prompted the disqualification in the 7th round. This would cause Bowe’s handlers to jump in the ring and attack Golota, which led to a brawl in the ring. The riot would spread across the arena and it ended up being a race riot. There were many arrests and injuries that night. It was not the best fight of that year on HBO, but I won’t forget it. The two fighters would meet in a rematch later in the year and Golota was once again disqualified for low blows, but this time in the 9th round. After that neither Bowe nor Golota were the same fighters anymore.