When Gennady Golovkin and Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez meet in Las Vegas on Saturday, they have the opportunity to define both their own reputations and the era in which they fight.
The heavyweight division is viewed as the traditional location of boxing's glamour bouts but Golovkin and Alvarez will add to an esteemed middleweight tradition when the Kazakh superstar puts his WBA, WBC and IBF belts on the line at the T-Mobile Arena.
Here we look at some of the great contest to have taken place at 160lbs through the ages – bouts that GGG v Canelo has every chance of being mentioned in the same breath as, should it live up to lofty expectations.
Tony Zale v Rocky Graziano II (1947)
In the second fight of a bloody and brilliant trilogy for the middleweight title, defending champion Zale tore after New York favourite Graziano, having climbed off the canvas for a stunning comeback knockout win in their initial 1946 encounter. Graziano was badly cut above the left eye, with his right swollen shut from a left hook that forced him to take a knee. But, as Zale tired amid searing heat at Chicago Stadium, a desperate Graziano turned the fight around with a thudding body shot in the fifth and emphatically ended matters in the next session. Zale would have the final word on the rivalry, scoring a three-round TKO 11 months later.
Gene Fullmer v 'Sugar' Ray Robinson II (1957)
Widely regarded as the finest boxer of all time, Robinson won the middleweight title a remarkable five times between 1951 and 1960. Fullmer owns the rare distinction of holding a winning record against Sugar Ray, having triumphed twice and drawn one of their four bouts. However, it is Robinson's victory in their second encounter at Chicago Stadium that lives longest in the memory. Reigning champion Fullmer was narrowly ahead on the judges' scorecards when Robinson landed an exquisite left hook on his chin to end the argument in the fifth. He later called the blow "the most perfect punch of my career".
Nino Benvenuti v Carlos Monzon I (1970)
Monzon ventured out of his native Argentina to face Benvenuti in Rome, with the Italian idol and reigning WBC and WBA middleweight king a heavy betting favourite. The visitor made a mockery of his underdog status, picking apart the skilful but ageing champion before a shuddering right hand brought the end in round 12. A three-round blowout in the rematch was the first of 14 successful title defences for the rangy and relentless Monzon – a spell of dominance that ran until his retirement in 1977.
Marvin Hagler v Thomas Hearns (1985)
A bout never absent from the conversation when the thorny issue of the best fight of all time is discussed, "Hagler/Hearns" has become a descriptive shorthand for whenever tactics are abandoned and all caution, along with every punch in the book, is thrown to the wind. After a tempestuous build-up, Hagler responded to the opening bell by winging a wild right hand narrowly over Hearns' head. The action never let up from there.
Hearns brazenly backed the power that had wrecked Roberto Duran at the same Caesars Palace and rattled Hagler with an early right hook. Plenty more followed and the unified champion was also cut, but Hearns ended a breathless first round staggered by a left hook and follow-up right. The relentless pace ultimately took more out of Hearns and Hagler, fearing defeat after the ringside doctor was invited to inspect his wound, uncorked a brutal right that sent his foe tottering across the ring. It rendered Hearns defenceless for the finishing salvo that ended seven minutes and 52 seconds of utter mayhem.
Marvin Hagler v 'Sugar' Ray Leonard (1987)
Also a conqueror of Duran and Hearns, Leonard was persuaded to end a three-year hiatus and box as a middleweight for the first time in a Las Vegas money-spinner against Hagler. It seemed a fanciful mission for the two-time former welterweight king, whose retirement had been partially enforced due to a detached retina, but Leonard called upon every facet of his quicksilver skillset and pulled through a punishing ninth round to claim split-decision victory. The verdict remains hotly disputed 30 years on, not least by Hagler, who quit the sport and did not return when he was unable to secure the rematch he craved.
Iran Barkley v Roberto Duran (1989)
With Hagler settling into retirement in Italy, Leonard up at super-middleweight and Barkley having shockingly knocked out Hearns to win the WBC title, a golden middleweight era appeared to be at an end. But the last of the 'Four Kings', the 37-year-old Duran, had designs on redemption and prevailed in an Atlantic City barnburner. The veteran repeatedly slipped Barkley's ramrod jab to send home booming rights, although there was work to be done at halfway. A left hook spun Duran around in eight but Barkley's left eye was closing with the Panamanian hero coming on strong. A five-punch combination dumped Barkley in his own corner in the 11th and probably the greatest lightweight ever closed out a split-decision triumph to become a four-division champion.
Hace 28 años vencí a Iran Barkley y con esa victoria me converti en el 1er latino en conquistar 4 títulos en diferentes categorias. pic.twitter.com/nQYTlLzK70— Roberto Durán (@robertoduranbox) February 24, 2017
Bernard Hopkins v Oscar De La Hoya (2004)
Hopkins and De La Hoya will sit ringside on Saturday in their current guise as promoters, having steered Alvarez towards a shot at greatness. Their meeting for the unified middleweight crown 13 years ago throws up some uncomfortable omens for their protege. De La Hoya was boxing's first six-weight world champion but fighting at middleweight for the second time. Hopkins was unbeaten in 11 years and making his 19th title defence. Although both men had their moments in a tactical, technical opening half, Hopkins's status as the seasoned middleweight came to bear fruit as he ground De La Hoya down before leaving him writhing with a withering left to the midsection in round nine. Golovkin's 19th defence, against a Hispanic fighting icon, comes this weekend.
Jermain Taylor v Kelly Pavlik I (2007)
Taylor ended Hopkins' record run in 2005 and held off the veteran in a rematch. Following three underwhelming outings as champion, Pavlik ended any notion of Taylor becoming boxing's next superstar. It looked over in the second, when a right to the temple from Taylor scrambled Pavlik and a crunching follow-up combination sent the Ohio man limply to the canvas. Somehow, he survived the crisis and staggered through to the end of the round. By the next session Pavlik was firing back with solid rights and completed a stunning turnaround in round seven, driving Taylor back into his corner and sapping him with uppercuts and hooks as he slumped on the ringpost.
23. November 2017
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|Jones returns to lead much-changed Wales against All Blacks|
|Chelsea´s best chance of success is Champions League, claims Lampard|
|F1 Raceweek: Hamilton not relishing imminent Halo, Vettel wants Baku awards|
|Cummins savours taking ´dream´ Root wicket|
|Jones makes nine England changes as Simmonds starts at number eight|
|Robben: It could be over for me after this season|
|Newcastle Jets 4 Melbourne Victory 1: Nabbout at the double|
|Chawrasia leads from Fitzpatrick in Hong Kong|
|Vince revels in silencing the doubters|
|Happy Sanchez could win the Premier League for Arsenal, Lauren claims|
|Davis leads Australian Open as Spieth struggles in the wind|
|Halep tips Dimitrov for grand slam glory|
|The Ashes round-up: England falter after Vince and Stoneman half-centuries|
|Angered Neymar storms away from Real Madrid questions|
|Bayern played their worst ´for a long time´ - Boateng|
|Australia fight back on tight first day in Brisbane|
|Neymar form no surprise for Alves|
|Fiji ready for another mission impossible - Naiqama|
|Vince helps England continue fine start|
|Thunder roll as Westbrook goes off against Warriors, Cavs win|
|Kiwis would consider Bennett as coach|
|Meninga unhappy with Aussie preparations ahead of World Cup semi|
|Federer congratulates Basel after Man Utd scalp|
|Heat snap Celtics´ 16-game winning streak|
|Spurs star Leonard has unique issue, Popovich says|
|England steady after early Cook loss in Brisbane|
|Gremio 1 Lanus 0: Cicero gives Brazilians advantage in Libertadores final|
|Hazard: I admire Madrid, but I´m happy at Chelsea|
|Neuer or De Gea? Digne says Ter Stegen is world´s best keeper|
|Allegri satisfied with draw against ´extraordinary´ Barcelona|
|Nainggolan reaffirms Roma commitment after Simeone praise|
|Chiefs sign veteran CB Revis|
|England choose to bat as Warner, Marsh cleared to play for Australia|
|Beathard, not Garoppolo, named 49ers starter v Seahawks|
|Simeone hails Griezmann´s ´extraordinary´ volley|
|Emery hails Neymar after stunning Celtic win|
|Freeney joins Lions day after being cut by Seahawks|
|Championship Review: Wolves thrash 10-man Leeds, Middlesbrough cruise|
|Goncharenko delighted for clean sheet star Akinfeev|
|I hope Barcelona rest Messi – Jesus|
|Broncos name Lynch starting QB for Raiders game|
22. November 2017
|Thiago suffered a serious injury, says Heynckes|
|Valverde explains decision to bench Messi|
|Coleman the latest to join Rebels revolution|
|LeBron: Defensive consistency key to Cavs winning streak|
|Bills revert to Tyrod Taylor as starting QB after Nathan Peterman disaster|
|Absent Stokes wishes England well|
|Iniesta hails ´splendid´ Ter Stegen as Barcelona seal last-16 spot|
|Griezmann shrugs off goalless streak after wonderstrike keeps Atletico´s hopes alive|
|We should have been 5-0 up – Mourinho unimpressed with wasteful United|
|Toure reveals Guardiola anger with City´s Feyenoord display|
|Warriors star Durant says he will play against Thunder|
|Paris Saint-Germain set Champions League scoring record in Celtic rout|
|Sporting CP 3 Olympiacos 1: Dost on target as hosts stay in contention|
|Bielsa suspended by struggling Lille|
|Anderlecht 1 Bayern Munich 2: Lewandowski and Tolisso give visitors win|
|Atletico Madrid 2 Roma 0: Griezmann returns to form with wondergoal|
|Basel 1 Manchester United 0: Late Lang goal leaves Mourinho´s men with work to do|
|Paris Saint-Germain 7 Celtic 1: Cavani and Neymar score braces in sparkling win|
|Juventus 0 Barcelona 0: Messi benched but Valverde´s men in last 16|
|Bennett backs New Zealand to recover from World Cup exit|
|No Samoa donation from England squad - Borthwick|
|Conte pleased to take pressure off Atletico clash|
|Success in Europe will help Milan´s league form, Montella claims|
|Bauza sacked by Saudi Arabia|
|Browns´ Josh Gordon returns to practice|
|Azarenka confirms place at ASB Classic|
|Willian: For me, it was a penalty|
|Akinfeev keeps first Champions League clean sheet since November 2006|