Lee Groves

10: Greatest light heavyweight title fights

When Tavoris Cloud risks his IBF light heavyweight belt against onetime WBA titleholder Gabriel Campillo on Saturday in Corpus Christi, Texas, the expectations for two-way action will be sky-high.

That’s because this match pits a volume-punching knockout artist in Cloud (23-0, 19 knockouts) against Campillo (21-3-1, 8 KOs), a slick southpaw capable of firing 100-plus punches per round once he gets his motor going.

The questions surrounding this match are plentiful. Will the dynamic Cloud be encased in ring rust after eight months on the shelf and having just one fight in 14 months? How will the notoriously slow-starting Spaniard deal with Cloud’s opening sprint? Will Campillo’s 10 years in the pro game and 33 years on earth prove too burdensome against the champion’s all-out style? The answers, quite literally, are in the fighters’ hands.

One underlying issue that applies to all title fights is their ultimate place in history. Most bouts are quickly forgotten because they’re non-competitive, repetitively routine or dreadfully dull. Even fights that surpass expectations have a tough time stacking up against the sport’s glorious past. But every so often a championship encounter ignites a spark of history that explodes into an inextinguishable flame. Even when the fight is still in progress — as was the case with Hagler-Hearns, Ali-Frazier I, Zale-Graziano I and II and Corrales-Castillo I — those who watch know they’re witnessing something they’ll remember until their dying day. These are the fights that fans live for and that’s why they keep tuning in.

The light heavyweight division is one of boxing’s star-crossed divisions because it’s stuck between the glamorous and money-laden heavyweight and middleweight classes. But one can’t deny that the 175-pounders have produced more than their share of fantastic fights. The mingling of 160-pound speed and heavyweight clout sometimes delivered extraordinary contests that rivaled — and often exceeded — the best efforts of their more famous brethren. This article honors 10 such fights — and there were plenty from which to choose.

Will Cloud and Campillo produce a spectacle worthy of joining the following list? The odds say no, especially when one considers the heights they must approach. Many of these fights are all-time classics while others are under-the-radar cult favorites. Whichever category they fall under, the common denominator is that they represent everything that makes boxing such a compelling sport.

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