Ten years of great fights: Ranking the best bouts on Mexican Independence Day weekend


Mexican Independence Day weekend has become a popular time of the year to hold major boxing events. Chango Carmona defeated Mando Ramos on that weekend at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1972. Years later, the great Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. staked his claim to the date, then Oscar De La Hoya took the mantle and brought the biggest bouts to Las Vegas or Los Angeles. Having a boxing event around the holiday was not just a night of fights, but a cultural celebration.

Over the past 10 years, boxing fans continue to enjoy great fights this time of year (the actual date is Sept. 16), with bouts highlighted by boxing’s biggest stars, including Floyd Mayweather and Canelo Alvarez.

Canelo Alvarez didn’t fight on the traditional date in 2019, due to difficulties in finding acceptable opponents. He noted in a news release in July 2019: “As a Mexican, it’s a responsibility and an honor to represent my country in both May and September. Those are my dates. However, as a world champion in multiple weight classes, I also have the responsibility of delivering the most exciting and competitive fights possible. That’s why Golden Boy and my team have decided to postpone the date in order to do right by my fans by promoting the best fight possible and with the best opponent possible.”

Canelo ended up fighting — and defeating — Sergey Kovalev in November. This year, a conflict with his broadcaster DAZN pushed him off a planned Sept. 12 appearance.

But moving forward, boxing fans will continue to see more significant fights take place during this time. The way the Kentucky Derby is always scheduled for the first week in May (with the exception of 2020), and the Indianapolis 500 takes place on Memorial Day weekend, there will always be boxing centered on Mexican Independence Day.

Here’s a look back at the past decade with a ranking of the best fights that took place on this weekend, along with the thoughts of the three men who narrated the action from ringside: Jim Lampley, Al Bernstein and Joe Tessitore.

1. Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennadiy Golovkin II

Sept. 15, 2018, T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas

The matchup: This was a rematch of a highly disputed decision from a year earlier, in which Golovkin had to settle for an unsatisfying split draw against Alvarez. Originally this rematch was slated for Cinco de Mayo weekend, but after Alvarez tested positive for the banned substance clenbuterol, the Mexican superstar was suspended and the rematch was pushed back.

The fight: It was another hard-fought affair, which saw a more assertive Alvarez the second time around. There were more heavy exchanges between the two, especially in the late rounds as Golovkin fought with more urgency. It was high-level boxing throughout. By the end of their 24 rounds combined, the good feelings between the two combatants had eroded a bit, but they had certainly earned each other’s respect.

The outcome: Alvarez, by the slimmest of margins, defeated “GGG” by majority decision (114-114, 115-113 and 115-113). Canelo won the WBC and WBA middleweight belts and staked his claim as one of the best fighters in the world with this effort.

Lampley: The same thing (as their first fight). Seldom have two fights been so identical in the way they were executed, in the way that the crowd treated them, and the way that the two fighters responded by going into higher and higher levels of intensity during the course of the fight.

Again, if you took away all the graphics, some of the trappings that might really help the dedicated fans understand which one they’re watching, and you put those two fights next to each other in a DVD player and asked even the smartest fan which one is the first fight and which one is the second fight — it’s just a guess — I don’t think there’s too many people that know, for sure, which one is which.

2. Canelo Alvarez vs Gennadiy Golovkin I

Sept. 16, 2017, T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas

The matchup: Golovkin was the long-reigning unified middleweight titlist, holding the WBC, WBA and IBF belts, and while Alvarez was the challenger, he was the A-side. Golovkin was considered among the very best in the sport, and Alvarez was the betting underdog despite having been involved in more big events.

The fight: It was a tight, tense affair that saw Alvarez win early rounds by boxing and moving. But the middle and late stages of the bout were controlled by Golovkin, who worked behind a steady jab. It seemed as if Golovkin had things well in hand until the championship rounds, but Alvarez mounted a late rally. After 12 rounds, it seemed as though Golovkin had done enough to win.

The outcome: The fight ended up in a controversial split draw. While judges Dave Moretti and Don Trella had it close (115-113 for Golovkin, and 114-114, respectively), Adalaide Byrd’s 118-110 scorecard in favor of Canelo will be scrutinized forever.

Lampley: What a great fight, a great memory, the whole weekend was an amazing memory. Two very, very classy guys, both of whom demonstrated everything you needed to know about the professionalism, the dedication and the serious-mindedness, the sheer professional devotion that it takes to be a great fighter.

Anyone who can tell me — one way or the other — who they believe should’ve been the winner in the fight, isn’t observing reality. It was too close to call.

3. Sergio Martinez vs Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

Sept. 15, 2012, Thomas and Mack Center, Las Vegas

The matchup: Martinez was the long-reigning recognized middleweight champion coming into this bout, but he was having trouble getting a marquee name to step up to fight him. Finally he got a shot at Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. whose WBC title had been stripped away from “Maravilla” Martinez by the WBC. Martinez was the accomplished professional. Chavez, the young upstart whose bloodline (as the son of the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez Sr.) had created a much easier path for him in the sport, and allowed him a special type of treatment not afforded many others.

The fight: For 11 rounds the athleticism and skills of Martinez dominated the action, as he was able to outbox Chavez easily and continually beat him to the punch. That is until the wheels nearly fell off in the 12th round as Chavez nearly scored a miraculous late knockout. But Martinez was ultimately able to take it across the finish line.

The outcome: Martinez regained the WBC middleweight title by unanimous decision (118-109, twice, and 117-110).

Lampley: One of the most memorable fights I ever called, because of the drama of the last two rounds. A spectacularly competent performance against an outclassed opponent for 10 rounds, followed by a shot in the dark. And if I remember correctly, Martinez injured his knee going down from that shot and fought the [rest of the] 12th round on one leg, which most of the audience was aware enough to see.

He took a ton of punishment, stood up, and won the fight. It was almost the most embarrassing moment of Martinez’s career and ironically it was also the most courageous and heroic performance of his career. That last round-and-a-half was as dramatic as we ever watched.

4. Tyson Fury vs. Otto Wallin

Sept. 14, 2019, T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas

The matchup: Fury was unbeaten and considered one of the top three heavyweights in the world. Three months earlier, Fury had made easy work of Tom Schwarz, stopping him in two rounds. This bout against the relatively unknown Wallin was supposed to be another easy assignment before facing WBC world titlist Deontay Wilder in a highly anticipated rematch scheduled for Feb. 22, 2020.

The fight: This turned out to be no garden-variety tune-up bout as Wallin, an athletic southpaw, troubled Fury with his movement and cut Fury early on over the right eye. And as the blood streamed down Fury’s face in the middle rounds, there was a palpable tension around ringside that the Fury-Wilder rematch was in jeopardy. But eventually, Fury started to use his size and walked down Wallin, who still fared much better than expected.

The outcome: When it was all said and done Fury won a unanimous decision by the scores of 118-110, 117-111 and 116-112 and kept the rematch with Wilder alive. But the scores don’t reflect just how harrowing of an experience this really was for everyone who had a vested interest in Fury.

Tessitore: It was, to me, the second full-on confirmation that Tyson Fury was committed to being — and he stamped himself — the ultimate showman in the sport ahead of everyone realizing it. He has been living in this place of, “I’m going to tell you what I’m going to do, then I’m going to go out and overdeliver in every way — and I don’t give a ‘F’.”

So literally saying, Canelo is the biggest star in the sport … hold on a second, a 6-foot-9 gypsy from Manchester is going to take over that weekend in Vegas and come out and honor all the great Mexican fighters, have a Mexican themed tribute, the trunks, and this is the most critical part, fights with a Mexican style.

He was bloodied up and laid everything out on the line. That cut was among the worst cuts I’ve ever seen with a fight continuing. I’m hard-pressed to remember a cut that was worse, that was more significant where the fight continued for that length. It was basically 80 percent of the fight with that cut.

You reflect now one year later, and Canelo still basically hasn’t contributed to the sport, and looks like he’s not going to in this calendar year. And this is the guy (Fury) who had the “event of the year” (the rematch with Deontay Wilder in February) in boxing, and has become a mainstream celebrity in America.

5. Floyd Mayweather vs. Victor Ortiz

Sept. 17, 2011, MGM Grand, Las Vegas

The matchup: Ortiz actually came into the bout as the defending titleholder, having just captured the WBC welterweight belt by handing Andre Berto his first loss in a memorable bout that April. Mayweather had not fought since he defeated Shane Mosley by unanimous decision in May 2010. This was actually a split-site card, as a young Canelo headlined at Staples Center in Los Angeles, where he stopped Alfonso Gomez in six rounds.

The fight: This event will always be remembered for how it ended. Just as the action started to ramp up, as Ortiz became more emboldened in the fourth round, he deliberately head-butted Mayweather during an exchange. There was a timeout called by referee Joe Cortez and Ortiz had a point deducted for his flagrant foul. After Cortez called both boxers to resume action, Mayweather took advantage of Ortiz looking away and struck him with a two-punch combination that knocked him out.

The outcome: Mayweather was ruled the winner by fourth-round KO.

Lampley: Mostly I remember Joe Cortez looking away, looking at photographers, or press row. I’m not sure what it was at that moment what Joe was looking at. Mayweather with his spectacular awareness of everything, seeing it, using that moment to whack Victor with what a fair number of people thought was a sucker punch, or a dirty shot.

I remember that maybe the first thing I said, or certainly one of the first things that I said on the air was, “defend yourself at all times,” — that’s one of the first rules of the sport, and Victor had his hands down below his waist.

6. Floyd Mayweather vs. Marcos Maidana II

Sept. 13, 2014, MGM Grand, Las Vegas

The matchup: This rematch was set up as a result of a great first encounter between Mayweather and Maidana. Coming off his whitewash of Canelo in the previous fight, not many expected Mayweather to have too difficult of a time against Maidana, who earned this payday by defeating Adrien Broner the previous December. But Mayweather got all he could handle from the hard puncher from Argentina in May 2014. Mayweather would eventually be awarded a majority decision, but the fight was in doubt going into the championship rounds. Mayweather, who doesn’t have many rematches in his record, decided to give Maidana one to clear up any doubt.

The fight: Mayweather made the necessary adjustments for the rematch and was able to box much more comfortably the second time around. Maidana wasn’t able to consistently pressure Mayweather as well as he did in their first meeting.

The outcome: Mayweather won a unanimous decision by scores of 115-112 and 116-111 (twice).

Bernstein: So, I’m one of those people who thought the original fight was a draw, and I remember the excitement for the Maidana rematch. A lot of the Mayweather fights — other than the Canelo fight — people thought of them as semi-foregone conclusions because Mayweather is Mayweather. And it was a big event.

The second Maidana fight, after what happened in the first one, people did not think it was a foregone conclusion by any stretch of the imagination. So the excitement level of that fight was considerable and I felt it as we built up to the telecast. You could feel it in Las Vegas among the boxing people. You could feel that this was interesting because we didn’t know, “Was Mayweather slipping now?” Because any way you want to look at that first fight, Maidana was able to get a lot done in that first fight.

The rematch started to take the turn of the usual Mayweather fight, which is where the other guy does a couple of things early that are good, then Mayweather runs it through the computer and by Round 4 he has it figured out. That did not happen in the first Maidana fight. Yes, Mayweather did have a better second half of the fight, but it took him till Round 7, 8, in my opinion, to truly figure him out.

He did it earlier in this fight, around the third or fourth round, you got the sense that, “Hmmm, Maidana’s not able to get the same things done he did in the first fight.”

7. Floyd Mayweather vs. Canelo Alvarez

Sept. 14, 2013, MGM Grand Las Vegas

The matchup: Alvarez was an ambitious young fighter, so much so that at age 23, fresh off a victory over Austin Trout to unify two junior middleweight world titles, he was willing to put his WBC and WBA belts on the line against Mayweather in a fight at a catchweight of 152 pounds. In an era when many young boxers are protected and made to wait for big fights, Alvarez did everything he could to make the Mayweather fight a reality.

The fight: Mayweather was the professor and Alvarez the student. Mayweather gave a boxing clinic to his younger foe, and the most noteworthy aspect of this fight was the scorecard of judge C.J. Ross, who somehow had the fight as a draw.

The outcome: Mayweather won a comfortable majority decision, as Craig Metcalfe (117-111) and Dave Moretti (116-112) had him winning handily.

Bernstein: To me, Canelo is fascinating because nobody was 100 percent sure of his original emergence. Then, despite the loss to Mayweather, he actually became a larger-than-life figure again. Not that the loss to Mayweather diminished him in any way. But he rebuilt his story in another way. There’s two layers to it: certainly people thought Canelo was potentially a very marketable fighter, whose skill set was very good, but people didn’t know he was going to be a superstar.

Many other fighters would’ve ended up being diminished by losing to Mayweather, who, let’s be honest — you had a loss [against Mayweather] and you didn’t really comport yourself exactly the way people wanted to see. Then, somehow he managed to improve himself.

8. Canelo Alvarez vs. Josesito Lopez

Sept. 15, 2012, MGM Grand, Las Vegas

The matchup: In all fairness, while this fight was a physical mismatch, originally, Paul Williams was slated to face Canelo on this date before Williams got into a life-altering motorcycle accident. Victor Ortiz was considered as a replacement opponent before Lopez stopped Ortiz in nine rounds that June at Staples Center. With that, Lopez — who was really a junior welterweight — faced Alvarez as a junior middleweight.

The fight: As expected, Canelo was simply too big and strong for Lopez, who was on the canvas in the second, third and fourth rounds before getting stopped in the fifth.

The outcome: Canelo scored a fifth-round TKO victory.

Bernstein: The prevailing idea was that Josesito Lopez was way too small for [Canelo], that physically he was more than he could handle. And that’s exactly what it turned out to be.

9. Canelo Alvarez vs. Liam Smith

Sept. 17, 2016, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

The matchup: Smith was good enough to have come into this bout as the WBO 154-pound titleholder. But he simply didn’t have the overall skills and strength to hold off Canelo, who at this stage of his career was further sharpening his skills. The fight was staged at the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, with over 51,000 fans in attendance.

The fight: Canelo systematically broke down Smith, going to the body with a pounding left hook. Smith had some moments but couldn’t ever truly hurt Alvarez. Smith was floored in Rounds 7 and 8 and then halted in the ninth.

The outcome: Canelo KO9.

Lampley: You sort of knew it was something of a mismatch going in. You have to love Liam Smith, he’s a good guy, he’s surrounded by good people. He fights as well as he can, but there was a very serious talent differential.

Canelo was in the middle of a very rapidly accelerating rise, an arc towards superstardom. The crowd underlined that, the proof was there, it was visible with Cowboy Stadium. What a magnetic attraction Canelo was, and he rewarded them with a typical demonstration of counter-punching and body-punching skills.

There were a couple of left hooks to the body that were … thunderous body shots. Over the course of calling fights, I learned to appreciate the value of body punching — the value of the single-most meaningful punch in boxing, fight in, fight out — which is the left hook to the body. Canelo demonstrated it that night.

10. Floyd Mayweather vs. Andre Berto

Sept. 12, 2015, MGM Grand, Las Vegas

The matchup: This was billed as Mayweather’s retirement bout, just four months after he finally faced and defeated Manny Pacquiao. But quite frankly, everyone had their doubts about Mayweather really hanging up the gloves. And after the disappointing nature of Mayweather-Pacquiao, interest in the Berto fight was very muted.

The fight: It looked more like a sparring session, as Mayweather and Berto didn’t do much damage to each other over 36 dull minutes. If this was to be the end of Mayweather’s career (and it wasn’t), it went with a whimper and not a bang.

The outcome: Mayweather via unanimous decision by scores of 120-108, 118-110, and 117-111.

Bernstein: Honestly, it didn’t feel like his last fight. It really didn’t. I think that was the big selling point of it, but everybody knew that at that point Berto was not the same fighter he had been before. So I don’t think there was a feeling that there was a huge buzz concerning that fight.

I think there was skepticism if that was [Mayweather’s] last fight.

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