Sugar Ray and Co. showed it how: The “fantastic four” in the boxing ring


Sugar Ray and Co. demonstrated it
The “fantastic four” in the boxing ring

From Martin Armbruster

The boxing year 2021 starts with a bang: the young lightweight Ryan Garcia enters the big stage with a knockout triumph. The world of fistfighting has been electrified ever since. Fans and experts alike are dreaming of a new, golden era of the “fantastic four”.

In the 20s and 30s of the last century boxing was the most popular sport in the USA alongside horse racing. It was not only wonderful to bet on the knocking. Sport stood for spectacle. Week after week, the best price fighters in the world – lightweights or heavyweights – dueled. Business was booming in New York in particular. Madison Square Garden became the “most famous arena in the world” not least because of its legendary boxing nights.

In the following decades, boxing gradually lost its importance. With the creation of professional leagues, football, baseball, and basketball pushed fistfighting off the top of the popularity charts. Boxing remained a big deal. The public interest – the mainstream – was increasingly limited to the heavyweight. Especially because the premier class experienced a golden era in the 1970s. All the greats of that decade fought against each other at least once – and the world icon Muhammad Ali shone above all of them.

Golden era of the “fantastic four”

Sugar Ray Leonard (links) gegen Marvin Hagler 1987.

After the resignation of the “greatest”, the heavyweight fell into a hole – but not boxing. Which was because some classes deeper four century fighters let their fists fly: Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler – the “Fabulous Four”, the fantastic four.

It was a unique quartet: Duran, the relentlessly marching man from Panama. Leonard, the good-looking, eloquent high-quality technician. Hearns, the “Hitman” with the light-off switch in his right hand. And Hagler, the grim puncher with dynamite in both fists. From 1980 to 1989, the “Fantas” in world, middle and super middleweight boxing rings faced each other again and again. “Those were really big fights. They were reported in the newspapers on page one, not just in the back of the sports pages, no, page one!”, Boxing historian Steve Farhood recalled recently in an interview with “” .

Unforgettable how Duran inflicted his first bankruptcy on US hero Leonard, only to give up a few months later in the rematch with the words “no mas” (both in 1980). It will not be forgotten how Leonard, behind on points, knocked out Hearns on lap 14 (1981). Or how Hearns laid the iron hard Duran flat (1984). Or “The War”, the three-round nonstop carnage between Hearns and Hagler (1985). And of course the sensational Leonard comeback against Hagler (1987). And. And. And. The “fantastic four” gave boxing another golden era. The sport remained relevant even in the post-Ali era. In any case, much more relevant than today.

New Faust Quartet gives hope

In 2021, important boxing matches in the USA (and also Great Britain) can usually only be seen on pay-per-view. For big duels, the fans really have to dig into their pockets. The “fight of the century” between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao in 2015 cost $ 99 on HD TV. Nothing will change in this business model. Despite this, boxing could again arouse the collective interest of the sports world in the foreseeable future. On the one hand, the duel between British champions Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua beckons in the heavyweight division. On the other hand, a new edition of the “fantastic four” is preparing for a good 50 kilograms lower.

The lightweight (up to 61.2 kg) is suddenly on everyone’s lips in the USA. Ryan Garcia is responsible for this. The 22-year-old signed up last Saturday in Dallas with a crushing knockout victory over the strong Briton Luke Campbell in the top of the world. Garcia’s promoter, none other than “Golden Boy” Oscar de la Hoya, already considers “King Ryan” to be “the next big thing”, the new face of boxing.

De la Hoya could be right. Mainly because Garcia has three strong rivals in the lightweight division who also claim the throne: Teófimo López (23), Gervonta Davis (26) and Devin Haney (22). The new “fantastic four”? In the USA, fans and experts alike rejoice, some even see a new, golden era approaching. As with the original quartet, the mix is ​​right. The handsome Garcia – defensively vulnerable, but equipped with a knockout hammer. López, also with steam in his fists, also extremely well versed in boxing. Haney, like Garcia, lightning fast, but still relatively inexperienced. “Tank” Davis, a brutal knockout thug, southpaw on top.

Lopez and the “paper belt”

Verbally, the “Fantastischen Vier 2.0” let it rip right after Garcia’s opening of the boxing year. “I’m on a mission to knock out Gervonta Davis in two rounds. This man is going to hit the boards. Two rounds, that’s a promise,” Garcia trumpeted in an interview with TMZ Sport. Davis did not take long to ask. “You know who you talked to ten minutes before you marched in (against Campbell, d. Ed.). The fight is already over. Now shut up and get ready!” Tweeted the Floyd Mayweather-managed tank “.

Instagram star and hobby model Garcia versus the bull-necked ghetto boy Davis: The duel could be marketed as “Beauty and the Beast”. The fact that the former welterweight rivals de la Hoya and Mayweather pull the strings as shadow men in the background would add spice to the battle. And even if the fight doesn’t happen (for now), the chances are good that two of the young Faust fantasies will soon clash. Haney recently holds the world title with the WBC association, Garcia is his mandatory challenger as an “interim” world champion. The two know each other from amateur days, and have had one or two skirmishes in the social media world.

There remains Lopez, who in October 2020 with a sensational victory over Grandmaster Vasiliy Lomachenko conquered the belts of all important associations (WBA, WBC, WBO, IBF) and has since been considered the legitimate world champion of the light boys. “No matter how you twist and turn it. I’m THE lightweight champion. All the other guys just hold paper belts,” he replied via Twitter to Garcia’s co-triumph in Texas. But Lopez also has to prove himself worthy of a real champ. “Tank” Davis, a “regular” WBA world champion (the parade example of a “paper belt”, d. Ed.) Is his mandatory challenger according to the statutes of the Panama Association.

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