Lee Groves

10: Greatest super middleweight title fights

5. June 8, 1996 – Frank Liles KO 3 Tim Littles II, Telewest Arena, Newcastle, England

If one counts their amateur contests, Liles and Littles met four times previously. Liles went three-for-three in their simon pure encounters but as pros Littles held the upper hand in their lone professional confrontation nearly three years earlier. His harder punching trumped Liles’ boxing skills en route to a commanding (117-111, 116-112 twice) decision that enabled Littles to defend his USBA belt. Though their most recent contest was a decent action fight, their styles hardly suggested that greatness would erupt the second time around.

But erupt it did.

With 1:20 remaining in the first round Littles lunged in with a long lead right that scored but also left him dangerously open for a Liles right uppercut that stiffened his knees. Liles nipped out to long range, spun away from a looping hook and hammered Littles to the floor with two right hooks and a left cross. After Littles maximized referee Mitch Halpern’s eight-count, Liles roared in for the finish but the timekeeper mistakenly rang the bell 58 seconds early.

Littles absorbed another Liles assault early in the second but an arcing right that nailed Liles flush convinced the challenger he had turned the tables. In the heat of the moment Littles resorted to an assortment of foul tactics such as low blows, rabbit punches and wrestling moves that would have made WWE Superstar CM Punk nod in admiration. Frustrated by Liles’ constant clinching, Littles shook free and landed three consecutive blows to the back of the head that drew a point penalty.

Moments later, Liles drove the desperate Littles to the canvas a second time with a well-timed right hook. Now likely down by five points due to the knockdowns and the point deduction, Littles complained bitterly between rounds but got silence in response. Realizing he would get no help from anyone outside his own corner, Littles then took matters into his own hands — literally.

Using his left forearm as a battering ram to get past Liles’ jab, Littles fired a right over the top, ducked under a right hook, then drove a right to the ribs, a right to the ear, a right to the back of the head and a final right over the top to drop Liles for a four-count. In his haste to finish Liles off, Littles again executed a hip-toss that brought the challenger to the brink of disqualification.

Liles continued to stall, making sure Littles’ punishment was dished out in small, easily digestible pieces. All the while his head was clearing and eventually his senses returned to the point where he spotted the one opening that saved his title.

With time running out in a wild third round, Littles advanced, ducked under a left cross and prepared to throw yet another right. Unfortunately for Littles, he bobbed up into the path of a crushing right hook to the jaw. Littles never saw the punch coming and he fell forward on his face. Somehow he arose at seven but because he stumbled forward toward the corner pad, Halpern waved off the fight with just two seconds left on the clock.

“My hook is my biggest shot,” Liles said afterward. “He walked right into it and it was a brick. Anytime I hit anybody like that I just step over them.”

And step right into history.

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