If you were to ask an international group of enthusiasts what was the greatest boxing match ever, there would be no consensus. Balls like ‘the Rumble in The Jungle,’ which Muhammad Ali pitched ‘The Greatest’ against George Bigman ‘Big’ in Zaire in 1974 and ‘The Thriller in Manila,’ Ali against Joe Frazier’s ‘Smokin’ in the Philippines in 1975 , the two of which Ali won, were probably the first to be mentioned.
But also in contention would be ‘the War’ in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA in 1985, which saw ‘Amazing’ Marvin Hagler beat Hearns Thomas ‘the Hitman’ in the third round; the Arturo ‘Thunder’ Gatti trilogy and the Micky Ward ‘Irish’ trilogy and three fights between Marco Antonio Barrera’s ‘Baby-faced Assassin’ vs Erik ‘the Terrible’ Morales.
But what about the biggest local fights ever?
At the height of boxing in Guyana, the Christmas season was highly anticipated. Nary and Boxing Day went by when there was no grand show of pugilistic effort. But the popularity of boxing in Guyana has undoubtedly faded over the past decade, though there are still occasional reminders of what makes the sport great.
With that in mind, we recruited the services of some highly respected and knowledgeable people in the boxing fraternity to weigh in on the biggest local fights ever. Boxing has been aptly dubbed the ‘sweet science’, but the biggest bouts of professional boxing in Guyana are not always defined by strategic brilliance. From blistering slugfests to unforgettable victories of will, the games named by these pundits cover all the qualities that make the ring game great.
For Guyana Boxing Association President Steve Ninvalle, the slugfest between Lalta ‘the Coolie Bully’ Narine and Robin ‘the Albion Prince’ Lall is at the top of his list.
“The best boxing match I’ve ever seen live,” he said, was when Narine went up against Lall for the Guyana featherweight title. “I think that fight took place in April 1994 and was won by Robin Lall…
“It was a fight where both fighters showed their boxing and brawling skills. As a matter of fact, it was such an outrage that the late Joe Hillaire presented the winner with a trophy at the end.
“We couldn’t have helped to approve during that episode. It’s not something I think I’ve ever done but that will stay with me the best fight I’ve ever seen alive and only last year I was talking to Robin about that. He has left an indelible mark in my memory, as a journalist and a lover of boxing. ”
Former legendary boxer, coach and promoter Keith Bazilio also known as a boxing encyclopedia had a different view.
“The best match I ever saw live in Guyana was Mike Parris against Juan Batista. Darius Forde had just been beaten by Batista and it was highly expected that he would destroy Parris because of the fight he had won against Forde in the [Cliff Anderson] Sports Hall, ”said Bazilio.
“But we saw a completely new Mike Parris who didn’t stand barefoot, he moved and used the ring wisely. Parris and Batista fought for 10 rounds, topped, both boxers struck, both boxers split punching.
“It was a tremendous fight and Parris proved to be an absolute boxer. In that fight, the tickets were sold out and throughout the fight everyone was on their toes. Class, punch, execute all the ingredients for a great fight that was in that fight.
“I would put it in the top line because it was not a one-sided affair in any way. The fights saw flow within the rounds. “There was no-one who could say they were not getting their money, he added.
Legendary boxing referee Eion Jardine, who has witnessed thousands of punches and ruled in 359 of them agreed with Ninvalle’s choice.
“I started looking at boxing in the late 60s and I can say that this is at the top of the list. The way the fighters went together was amazing, ”Jardine was enthusiastic.
“Seeing two East Indian boxers also made it a lot more special because there weren’t many East Indian boxers who put on a show like that.
“They both had contempt for each other and from round one to 12 people were on their feet. The reports after that fight: man was the talk of the town! ”
Well-known referee, judge, panelist and commentator Keith Campbell, who started boxing in the early 70s, chose the slugfest between Jeff Roberts and Michael Benjamin as his top choice.
Campbell said: “He had all the classics. They were two equally matched boxers. It was Benjamin’s sweeping force against Roberts’ skill. Roberts was going for his third title, but unfortunately the decision left a bad taste in the mouths of many fans. But that did not diminish the excitement the two boxers provided.
“In my humble opinion this was the best fight I have ever seen live in Guyana.”
What if you were asked to give your opinion on what is the biggest battle you have ever seen in this 83,000 square mile? What would be your choice and why?