1. Wilfredo Gomez KO 14 Lupe Pintor — December 3, 1982, Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
Why is this fight at the top of the list? First, both fighters were established champions. Gomez, the WBC super bantamweight champion, possessed an eye-popping 37-1-1 record with every win coming by knockout. He also owned the all-time record for consecutive title-defense knockouts with 16 – obliterating Roberto Duran’s previous mark of 11. Meanwhile, Pintor was not far removed from a three-year, eight-defense reign as WBC bantamweight champion, defeating the likes of Alberto Sandoval, Albert Davila, Johnny Owen and Seung Hoon Lee.
The other reason is the unforgettable war they produced. Gomez won the first two rounds by out-speeding Pintor and the Puerto Rican appeared on his way to a fantastic victory when he launched a full-frontal assault in round three. When referee Arthur Mercante stopped the action to caution Gomez about low blows – one of many Gomez had landed to this point – that pause gave Pintor just enough time to collect himself and unleash an inspired counter-offensive. Unlike Gomez’s volleys, Pintor’s were hard and accurate, and those blows turned the fight Pintor’s way. Round three would eventually be named round of the year by THE RING.
From that point forward, Gomez-Pintor was a grueling test of skill, strength and resolve that pitted the champion’s crisper combinations and Pintor’s thudding blows to head and body. Despite landing far more punches, it was Gomez’s face that bore the scars of battle. The area around his eyes swelled grotesquely while Pintor’s features were shockingly unmarked. Pintor upped the pressure in the seventh through ninth, though he lost a point for low blows in round nine.
With his championship in mortal danger, Gomez responded like the legend he eventually became. Gomez’s peppering combinations drove the champion to the limits of his endurance and after several rounds one corner man rushed across the ring and carried the champion to his stool. Still, Gomez pushed on, even stunning Pintor in the 12th with a hook-cross.
While Pintor appeared unaffected on the outside, the punishment he absorbed wreaked untold havoc on his physical and emotional resources. With stunning dispatch, Pintor sank to the floor after fielding hooks to the chin and liver in the 14th. After Pintor bravely rose, Gomez finished the war with a combination capped by a pulverizing hook to the chin that decked Pintor again and persuaded Mercante to intervene at the 2:44 mark. At the time of the knockout Gomez led by four and six points while Pintor was ahead by one on the third card.
Lee Groves can be emailed at email@example.com. Groves is a boxing writer and historian based in Friendly, West Virginia. He is a full member of the BWAA, from which he has won five writing awards, and an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He is also a writer, researcher and punch-counter for CompuBox, Inc. and the author of “Tales From the Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics.” To order, please visit Amazon.com or e-mail the author to arrange for autographed copies.