Ten greatest bouts at Madison Square Garden ahead of monumental UFC 205 in New York
Ten greatest bouts at Madison Square Garden
On November 12th, the prestigious Madison Square Garden will host a historic night, as UFC 205 arrives in New York City for the first time ever after the state’s longtime professional MMA ban was revoked earlier this year.
MSG will witness the organisation’s maiden event to occur in the Big Apple, while it also marks the first time since UFC 7 in 1995 that the state has held such a sporting spectacle.
Conor McGregor’s attempts to make history by being the first fighter to hold two UFC titles simultaneously will headline the monumental night in New York, as he contests current lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez. The Irishman is 15/8 with Coral to stop his latest opponent in the first round at MSG.
Widely known as the ‘world’s most famous arena’, the Garden has hosted many mammoth sporting events, from boxing, basketball, ice hockey and WWE, and will next draw in a colossal audience for an incredible UFC 205 card.
Ahead of what is sure to be another epic night in New York, Coral look back at the ten greatest bouts at Madison Square Garden which went down in history as memorable match-ups from both boxing and WWE…
Jake LaMotta v Sugar Ray Robinson I – October 2, 1942
MSG was long held as the mecca of boxing until Las Vegas took over the mantle as the main host city for the sport’s biggest fights, most prominently the MGM Grand.
Although, one of the earliest super bouts to take place in the Garden was the first of six eventual meetings between Jake LaMotta and Sugar Ray Robinson, with the latter prevailing via a comfortable unanimous decision.
The bout saw Robinson make his debut at middleweight and he was sent crashing to the canvas at the hands of ‘the Raging Bull’ in the first round, before regaining his feet and taking complete control of proceedings.
LaMotta gained revenge in the second clash by handing Robinson his first ever career defeat, though ‘Sugar Ray’ secured a further four wins over the New Yorker.
Sugar Ray Robinson v Henry Armstrong – August 27th, 1943
Almost a year after his maiden brawl with LaMotta, Hall of Famer Robinson collided with Henry Armstrong at MSG, in what was then a battle between the two greatest pound-for-pound stars of the sport.
The flamboyant ‘Sugar Ray’ was again victorious in front of the New York crowd, earning a unanimous points decision which at the time took his record to 45-1. He ended his incredible 200-bout career in 1965, finishing with 173 wins, six draws and 19 losses.
Joe Louis v Rocky Marciano – October 26, 1951
Reigning as the world heavyweight champion from 1937 to 1949, Joe Louis is regarded as one of the division’s all-time greats. Having hung up his gloves in 1949, ‘the Brown Bomber’ faced several lower level foes before a showdown with Rocky Marciano.
The latter heavyweight legend stepped into the Madison Square Garden ring to face a Louis that was well past his best and brutally stopped his opponent inside eight rounds, sending him sailing through the ropes, despite having been regarded as the massive outsider for success.
Marciano ultimately ended his own career undefeated with a record of 49-0, one which Floyd Mayweather Jr levelled in 2015 before retiring.
Muhammad Ali v Joe Frazier I – March 8, 1971
The initial meeting between heavyweight legends Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier was dubbed ‘the Fight of the Century’ in 1971, as they squared off for an epic contest in front of a rapturous MSG crowd.
It was Frazier that prevailed on points to hand Ali, who had previously returned from his three-year suspension for refusing to be inducted into the armed forces, his first ever career loss.
Ali was sent to the canvas in the final round from a vicious left hook after the early stages had been very close, and he even showcased the famous ‘rope-a-dope’ tactics for the first time ever, though eventually tasted defeat.
The showdown in New York’s illustrious venue was broadcast to over 35 foreign countries and veteran boxing writer John Condon later called it “the greatest event I’ve ever worked on in my life”.
WrestleMania X: Intercontinental Championship ladder match: Razor Ramon v Shawn Michaels – March 20, 1994
The old WWF’s first-ever televised ladder match between Kliq members Scott Hall (as Razor Ramon) and Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania X was an instant classic. MSG had hosted the first-ever flagship event of the WWE a decade earlier, so the 10th anniversary pay-per-view returned to New York.
Wrestling bouts that involved climbing a ladder to retrieve something, in this case the Intercontinental Championship, were not unheard of before, but a worldwide audience and rapturous crowd at the Garden brought the format to global notice. You can trace the subsequent Attitude Era tag team bouts between Edge and Christian, the Hardy Boyz and Dudley Boyz to this iconic origins here.
A few high spots from the first of two HBK v Hall encounters immediately leap to mind; Michaels’ diving body splash from off the ladder and being tangled up in the ring ropes long enough to allow The Bad Guy to keep his title. Razor retaining left The Heartbreak Kid, well heartbroken.
SummerSlam 1998: Intercontinental Championship ladder match: Triple H v The Rock – August 30, 1998
MSG hosted another high-profile singles ladder match at The Biggest Party of the Summer in 1998. Triple H may have hurt his knee wrestling Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson at SummerSlam, but the bout launched both their careers as individual stars.
This 24-minute match stole the show, upstaging even Stone Cold Steve Austin v The Undertaker. It also established a rivalry which The Game and The Most Electrifying Man in All-Entertainment have teased rekindling numerous times over the years. Who wouldn’t want to see Rocky and The Cerebral Assassin go at it one more time?
Lennox Lewis v Evander Holyfield – March 13, 1999
To this day, the highest grossing fight in the long-standing history of Madison Square Garden is the first heavyweight unification face-off between Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield before the turn of the Millennium.
Those in attendance in New York witnessed Lewis keep Holyfield at bay with a tactical performance, using his jab wisely to send the American off balance and pepper him with combinations. Controversially, despite landing 348 punches compared to Holyfield’s 130, Lewis was on the end of declared draw.
The sanctioning body ordered a rematch eight months later and Lewis was able to gain his revenge with a unanimous points win, though it was the first MSG meeting that last longer in the memory.
Bernard Hopkins v Felix Trinidad – September 29th 2001
In what was the second highest grossing bout to be held at MSG, veteran fighter Bernard Hopkins unified the middleweight division with a 12th-round stoppage of Puerto Rican Felix Trinidad.
‘The Executioner’ was seen as the underdog for the scrap for the first time for many years, prompting him to place a $100k bet on himself to triumph, which was commissioned by his sponsors.
In the build-up to the fight Hopkins caused a press conference riot as he threw the Puerto Rican flag to the floor, adding further attraction to the New York dust-up.
It was Hopkins who succeeded in the end as he halted Trinidad in the final round, as he was heading towards a lopsided points win anyway. The victory, which was Trinidad’s maiden defeat, saw ‘the Alien’ become the first undisputed middleweight champion since Marvin Hagler in 1987 and was later named Fighter of the Year.
Survivor Series 2002: First-ever Elimination Chamber match for the World Heavyweight Championship: Shawn Michaels def. Triple H, Booker T, Chris Jericho, Rob Van Dam and Kane – November 17, 2002
Some four years later on from downing The Rock, Triple H entered MSG and the first-ever Elimination Chamber match as World Heavyweight Champion, though the now WWE was a very different place.
The edginess of the Attitude Era was done, rival firms WCW and ECW were driven out of business and most of the best stars in wrestling were competing for the same promotion.
That’s why former WCW bigwig Eric Bischoff was placed in charge of Monday Night Raw, the very show his Nitro had been battling in a bitter ratings war throughout the late 1990s.
The storyline went that Bischoff wanted to make his mark on WWE, so a multiple participant cage match with a twist was devised and claimed to be his brainchild; the Elimination Chamber. Over 10 tonnes of unforgiving steel and two miles of chain were needed to construct it.
Two wrestlers would start while the other four entrants were locked in Plexiglas pods and released into the match at intervals. The last man standing would be World Heavyweight Champion.
Battling Triple H were friend and rival Michaels, the eventual winner; former five-time WCW champion Booker T; Chris Jericho, his WrestleMania X8 main event opponent from earlier in the year; ECW heartthrob Rob Van Dam; and Kane, who The Game had recently bested following a highly controversial storyline.
HBK’s elbow off the top of a chamber pod and Van Dam’s Rolling Thunder onto the steel and chain floor are instantly conjured when thinking back to the initial Elimination Chamber. Michaels bested his DX buddy Triple H, as The King of Kings’ reign as world champion ended, only for him to regain the belt a month later.
WrestleMania XX: Goldberg def. Brock Lesnar – March 14th, 2004
The 20th anniversary of WrestleMania also hailed from MSG, and we could easily have selected The Undertaker’s return in his Deadman gimmick for this list, but Lesnar and Goldberg are due to go at it one more time.
This 2004 bout between The Beast Incarnate and the WCW Power Plant product was met by an infamously bitter crowd, as all New York seemed to know Lesnar and Goldberg were done with WWE after the match.
Even Stone Cold in as guest referee couldn’t prevent wrestling fans from heaping scorn on what was a dream match between two real heavyweights. Goldberg got the win via his Jackhammer, but will his retirement bout be victorious or will the master of the F5 take him to Suplex City?
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