2. Antonio Avelar KO 8 Wilfredo Vazquez Sr. — May 30, 1986, Miami Beach, Florida
The only non-title fight on this list was nevertheless a war for the ages in terms of action, drama, courage and shifts of momentum. The stakes were high for both men; Puerto Rico’s Vazquez was three months removed from a stirring but unsuccessful decision loss to WBC bantamweight titlist Miguel Lora and just six days earlier he stopped Jose Cervantes in three. Meanwhile, the 27-year-old Avelar was close to the end of his run and although he was 9-3 since losing his WBC flyweight title three years earlier, his last bout was a TKO loss to a 6-5 fighter named Arturo Mujica two months ago. Team Vazquez figured they could beat an older, slower and ring-worn veteran with a recognizable name, but Avelar had some surprises in store.
The warriors traded boulder-fisted power shots over the first four rounds with Vazquez gaining a slight edge each time. Each opened small slices over the other’s right eye in the third and though the pace was hard the fight was still following the expected script.
Everything changed in the fifth — the greatest single three minutes this writer has yet seen. Avelar decked Vazquez in the round’s first seven seconds only to be dropped himself a little after the one-minute mark. Over the next 50 seconds Vazquez repeatedly snapped Avelar’s head with winging left-rights while Avelar fired back in kind, if inaccurately. Avelar somehow turned Vazquez into the ropes and stunned the younger man with vicious power shots. At time, the pair landed simultaneous bombs and at round’s end the crowd inside the arena were screaming themselves hoarse.
The sixth and seventh saw the combatants continue to trade — if only at a slightly slower pace. Avelar’s doggedness in the face of Vazquez’s youth and power paid off huge in the eighth as the Puerto Rican’s exertions finally got to him. A straight right to the chin decked Vazquez, but despite rising at four his sightless stare indicated not all was right. This extraordinary fight was stopped at the 1:10 mark, gaining Avelar an eventual shot at Lora while forcing Vazquez to regroup.