Five big boxing bouts on foreign soil

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As with many sports home advantage in boxing can be the difference between victory and defeat. The roar of a hometown crowd when a punch lands cleanly on an opponent is enough to send shivers down the spine of those in attendance let alone the fighter inside the ring. On September 28th British fighters George Groves and Callum Smith lock horns in the final of the World Boxing Super Series in Jeddah. The location comes as a surprise to many as neither fighter has ever been to Saudi Arabia, let alone fought there. Despite missing out on fighting in front of their own fans, the evenly matched clash has all the makings of a classic. Here we look at five humdingers that took place on foreign soil.

Muhammad Ali TKO 14 Joe Frazier. 1975, Manila, Philippines

When super-fights are so hyped they often fail to live up to expectation but when Ali and Frazier danced, dubbed the “Thrilla in Manila”, for the third time in their careers, they produced one of the greatest prizefights in the history of the sport. Between them the pair threw the most punches ever seen in a heavyweight title fight, despite the arena being described as ‘hot as a sauna’. Frazier’s plan was to attack the body in hopes the head would follow.  As it was, Ali took all that was thrown at him and ended in victory for “The Greatest” after 14 brutal rounds. Eddie Futch, Frazier’s trainer refused to let his fighter out of the corner for any more punishment as his eyes were swollen completely shut from the ferocious exchanges with Ali.

Muhammad Ali KO 8 George Foreman, 1974, Zaire

Going into the “Rumble in the Jungle” Foreman had a reputation of shattering bones with his unbelievable strength; few thought Ali had what it took to defeat Big George. Music legend James Brown added to the festival of culture that surrounded the fight, with Don King finally making a name for himself as a world-class promoter. As many predicted, Foreman was on the front foot in the early rounds, hammering Ali with huge left and rights and it looked only a matter of time before Foreman’s arm was raised in victory. As the fight went on things began to shift as Ali, who spent most of the time on the ropes, began taunting his opponent and whispering in his ear whenever Forman landed a shot. The now famous ‘rope-a-dope’ tactics earned Ali victory as the heavy-handed Forman finally ran out of steam in round 8. ‘The Greatest’ dropped him, and became the first two-time heavyweight champion since Floyd Patterson.

James "Buster" Douglas KO 10 Mike Tyson, 1990, Tokyo, Japan

Buster Douglas' knockout of Mike Tyson sent shock waves around the world and remains of the biggest upsets in boxing history. Tyson, seemingly invisible and at the height of his game, was used to blowing away opponents out in the early rounds. Douglas on the other hand was a talented fighter who had never lived up to his potential. Their careers met at a point where Tyson’s life outside the ring was rapidly spiraling out of control, with the fame and money that came with being the heavyweight champ largely to blame. On the flipside, Douglas, was reeling from the loss of his mother who passed away just a few weeks before. Devastated, the 29-year-old Douglas went into the flight with nothing to lose. And so it proved. The Tokyo Dome crowd didn’t know what was about to hit it, and nor did a woefully underprepared Tyson who ate a thunderous uppercut and was spectacularly knocked out in the in the tenth round.

Roberto Duran UD Sugar Ray Leonard, 1980 Montreal, Canada

Over 46,000 fans packed into the Olympic Stadium to witness the epic encounter, which Leonard has since described as the fight that made him the man he is today. Going into the, “Brawl in Montreal”, Duran had been enjoying an unstoppable run in the lightweight division, while Leonard came into the bout as an unbeaten welterweight and the sport’s golden boy. The fight was the start of an unforgettable era in boxing involving Leonard, Duran, Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns. Duran, a specialist brawler, managed to drag Leonard into a slugfest which suited the Panamanian down to the ground. Leonard, proved his toughness and stood toe-to-toe with his opponent but eventually lost the 15-rounder via unanimous decision. A much wiser Leonard won the rematch five months later, retiring Duran as he famously muttered the words, “No mas” to the referee in the eighth round.

George Groves v Callum Smith, 2018, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

The two Brits battle it out for the WBA Super World World title and Ring belt for the climax of the World Boxing Super Series on September 28th. The pair no doubt had hoped the clash would be in England, with the O2 Arena in London the obvious choice. Nevertheless, the crowd in Jeddah will be in for a treat as the two in-form fighters look to win what could be a career defining fight. Smith, the slight underdog, has a great chance of becoming world champion in what will see as a very winnable title fight. Groves on the other hand has the opportunity to cement himself as the best super middleweight out there. A loss arguably does more harm to Smith than it does to Groves. Even without a title the Londoner can expect his biggest payday against long-time rival James DeGale. Smith however would have to work his way back into contention for another shot at the gold.