Lee Groves

10: Greatest 122-pound title fights

9. Soo Hwan Hong KO 3 Hector Carrasquilla – November 26, 1977, Panama City, Panama

This fight boasted several historical angles. First, it was the WBA’s debut fight in the weight class. Second, the hometown hero Carrasquilla was attempting to become the second-youngest champion ever crowned, for at 17 years 186 days he was just six days older than Wilfred Benitez when he dethroned the legendary Antonio Cervantes 20 months earlier. Finally, with a 11-0 (11) record he was trying to take one of the shortest routes to a title up to that time.

The 27-year-old Hong was already a grizzled veteran of 46 fights (39-4-3, 12) and was attempting to add a second divisional belt to his brief tenure as WBA bantamweight king. The bad news for Hong was that his 118-pound reign ended against another explosive hotshot in Alfonzo Zamora, who stopped Hong in four to raise his record to 21-0 (21).

Hong and Carrasquilla won the right to compete for this belt after winning WBA tournament semi-final bouts against Futaro Tanaka (W 12) and Jesus Esparragoza (KO 3) respectively.

Following a feeling-out first round that saw Hong gain an edge over the surprisingly composed youngster, the pyrotechnics began. A powerful triple hook sent Hong sprawling for a two-count and another hook produced a second knockdown moments later. Rights to the body and jaw decked Hong a third time but the fight wasn’t stopped because the three-knockdown rule wasn’t in effect. Hong bravely tried to fire back but his weakened legs betrayed him after fielding a right-left to the chin. Up at six, Hong did his best to fend off the rampaging Panamanian, who for all the world appeared to be a sure winner. Another wicked combination ended Hong’s round in hell and it looked like his end was near.

The end was near all right – for the other guy.

The 60-second rest did Hong a world of good as he improbably charged out of the corner and took the fight to Carrasquilla. A hook to the body and a right to the temple stunned the youngster just enough that Hong went for the kill. A cracking hook to the point of the chin snapped Carrasquilla’s head straight back and a final hook to the jaw nailed the teen-ager as he crumbled to the canvas near the ropes. Hong hovered near his motionless opponent but quickly backed away just before referee Jay Edson waved off the fight, completing one of the most incredible turnarounds in championship annals, regardless of division.

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