Lee Groves

The 12 best fights never made from flyweight to heavyweight


Ever since Manny Pacquiao’s sensational 12th-round TKO of Miguel Cotto to win the WBO welterweight title in November of 2009, the boxing world and casual sports fans alike have thirsted for one fight and one fight only –Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr.

The stakes of this dream fight would have gone far beyond a mere title defense for Pacquiao; it would have determined pound-for-pound supremacy not only for the night in question but also their ultimate place in history. Like Ali and Frazier, Leonard and Hearns and Chavez and Taylor, the winners would be remembered more favorably by historians for generations to come while the losers would suffer an indelible indignity.

“Yes, he was great,” they would say of Frazier, Hearns and Taylor. “But he lost against (Ali, Leonard or Chavez).”

After Mayweather controversially annexed the WBC welterweight belt from Victor Ortiz last September, Mayweather-Pacquiao turned into a potential unification fight, upping the ante for a fight that didn’t need upping. The financial rewards would have been unprecedented – figures as high as $60 million a piece have been mentioned, though not in official circles – and the long-sought re-emergence of boxing as a mainstream sport (at least in the United States) would have been a most welcome, if temporary, development.

“Would have.” “Should have.” “Might have been.” Those are the worst phrases boxing fans could utter because that meant something that needed to happen never did. After endless teasing in the press, on the phone and at the negotiating table, Pacquiao-Mayweather remains an unfulfilled dream. Last week reports of a direct phone conversation between the fighters surfaced but as of now nothing has been worked out. Rumors of a June rematch between Pacquiao and Cotto also swirled, and if true, their second act would bring this entire saga full circle.

Because of promotional, political, logistical and managerial roadblocks – as well as surprising in-ring results – a number of history’s greatest matches have never taken place. The vast majority of such fights occupy the glamour divisions (heavyweight, middleweight and welterweight), so in the interest of fairness and equal opportunity, the following article will deliver an intriguing twist: What were the best fights never made in each of 12 weight classes?

This tome will not match fighters from different eras because that’s been done before. Each of the fights listed here had a theoretical likelihood of being made because the fighters’ schedules would have allowed it had the parties chosen to pursue it. The fights will be listed in ascending weight class order, so without further delay let’s start with the flyweights.

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