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Boxing's biggest rivalries

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Saturday’s Froch vs Groves rematch is just the latest in a storied history of fights that got way too personal. James Donaghy looks at boxing’s bloodiest feuds

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Carl Froch vs George Groves (1)

“F*ck me!” – that was all Carl Froch could manage when George Groves sent him to the canvas for only the second time in his career in last September’s world title showdown. Groves’ speed and counter rights dominated before a Froch surge in the ninth prompted referee Howard Foster to end the fight to a chorus of boos. It caused uproar and set up Saturday’s equally fiery rematch.

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Miguel Cotto vs Antonio Margarito (2008)

The moment Antonio Margarito was busted for wearing illegal hand wraps against Shane Mosley, people wondered about the life-changing beating he had given to Miguel Cotto just six months earlier. Had Margarito beaten Cotto’s face to a pulp with loaded gloves? His punches felt like “bricks in each hand”, said Cotto. In the rematch Cotto’s superior skills told and Margarito’s shut right eye forced a ninth-round stoppage.

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Paulie Malignaggi vs Adrien Broner (2013)

When two of the loudest mouths in boxing clashed for Malignaggi’s WBA title, fireworks were expected. That Broner was dating Malignaggi’s ex Jessica Corazon sent the event into Jerry Springer territory. Broner spoke to Corazon on speakerphone during a press conference and Malignaggi dismissed her as his “sidepiece”. After eking out a disputed points decision, Broner was gracious: “I beat Paulie. I left with his belt and his girl.”

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Errol Christie vs Mark Kaylor (1985)

“Ugly b***k b*stard,” were the three words Errol Christie claims Mark Kaylor whispered to him at a press conference promoting their British title eliminator in 1985. A punch-up and further brawling followed in the car park as photographers gleefully recorded the action. The atmosphere at their fight was poisonous, and a knockdown-strewn fight ended in the eighth with a three-punch Kaylor combo knocked Christie out.

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Jack Johnson vs Jim Jeffries (1910)

The first black heavyweight champion, Johnson was America’s worst nightmare in the 1900s. Flashy, articulate and fearless – he beat up white men in the ring, slept with white women out of it and took great glee in both. Public pressure for a Great White Hope brought unbeaten champ Jefferies out of retirement, but come the big day he was stopped in the 14th. Cue race riots that left 20 dead and hundreds injured.

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Lennox Lewis vs Frank Bruno (1993)

The build-up to the fight for Lewis’s WBC belt turned nasty after Bruno questioned Lewis’s Britishness and Lewis responded by calling Bruno an Uncle Tom, provoking a libel writ. The battle started with Bruno dominating Lewis with his jab and wobbling him with a huge right in the third. The pedigree of Lewis told in the end, though. A flurry of punches in the seventh ended the fight and Frank’s third world title bid ended in a familiar cocktail of heartbreak and concussion.

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Chris Eubank vs Nigel Benn

“Nigel, we both know when this is all over, you’re going to end up working on the door of a nightclub.” This was just one salvo from the largely untested Brighton-based middleweight Chris Eubank’s campaign of lisping insults aimed at the explosive WBO champion Nigel Benn. His palpable hatred of Eubank was at a level rarely seen in boxing. Their 1990 title fight sustained a murderous intensity for half an hour before the ref stopped a battered, swollen Benn four seconds before the end of round nine.

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Wladimir Klitschko vs David Haye

A multilingual philanthropist with a PhD, Wladimir Klitschko is a hard man to dislike. Not that it stopped David Haye giving it a good go. In 2009, Haye wore a T-shirt depicting himself standing over the bodies of Wlad and his brother while holding aloft their severed heads, followed by the 2011 release of an iPhone game where players could decapitate an anonymous Eastern European heavyweight. In the event, Haye lost – citing a broken toe. Poor lamb.

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Joe Louis vs Max Schmeling (1938)

German heavyweight Schmeling’s victory over Louis in 1936 was a PR coup for the Nazis. For the rematch, an estimated 70 million people listened in the US as Louis demolished Schmeling in 90 seconds, cracking several of Schmeling’s vertebrae.

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Oscar De La Hoya vs Ricardo Mayorga (2006)

‘Golden Boy’ De La Hoya was everything former gang member Ricardo Mayorga despised. Mayorga insulted De La Hoya, his wife and child and promised he would make Oscar “his bitch”. De La Hoya stopped his rival in six one-sided rounds.

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Emile Griffith vs Benny Paret (1962)

Cuban Paret wasn’t one to skirt around the issue of welterweight champion Griffith’s bisexuality. At the weigh-in Paret said, “I’m going to get you and your husband.” Twelve million watched live in the US as Griffith unloaded 18 unanswered shots to Paret’s head. He died 10 days later and boxing broadcasts were dropped from TV networks.

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Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier (1971-75)

Ali characterised the decent Frazier as a slow, stupid white man’s champion. The damage inflicted on Ali in three fights would contribute to his early-onset Parkinson’s. “I did that to him,” Frazier would say of his tormentor’s condition.

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George Groves vs James DeGale (2011)

Before the fight, DeGale repeatedly referred to Groves as “ugly boy” and “a moron”. Although DeGale went into the fight as favourite, Groves won a tight decision that still bothers DeGale.

Froch vs Groves II is on Sky Box Office on 31 May

(Images: PA; Action; Getty)

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