Madison Square Garden is iconic for a variety of reasons, but none more so stand out as much as the relationship it has with massive boxing events. For many years the most significant names have fought out their grudges underneath the brightest lights in the world in the Big Apple. Some stars are made in New York, while some boxers’ careers have plummeted.
The most visible recent example would be the fall from grace of previously undefeated Anthony Joshua, who saw his perfect record extinguished by the relatively unknown Andy Ruiz Jr at the Garden. The brutal seventh-round TKO turned the boxing world on its head and highlighted everything that we love about the sport.
The bookmakers were offering prices as high as 33/1 for Ruiz to win the bout, let alone stop him. To put that into context, that is a similar price to the New York Mets winning the 2019 World Series, after being almost dead in the 2. It was unthinkable, and something you could never foresee happening.
There was no more perfect place for this monumental event than New York City, and especially the Garden. It has had a famous relationship with boxing ever since 1925, and there is a unique feel about any event that is held under the illustrious lights. But some stand out more than most and these bouts have become forever immortalised with something that is far more than just an arena.
Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier
By no means was Joshua the most famous boxer to lose his undefeated record at the Garden, that honour remains to be the legendary Muhammad Ali. The battle between Frazier and Ali was defined as the fight of the century, with one man having to lose their unbeaten record. However, the fight was more than just a boxing match; it was generational clash and two greats of the sport battling it out for the honour to be called the best.
Frazier came into the fight with a perfect record of 26-0, while Ali was 31-0. But it was to be Frazier celebrating at the final bell as the fight went the distance before a unanimous decision awarded the title to Frazier. In the 15th round, Frazier landed a left hook which put Ali on his back, but he was able to get up and hang on before the judges decided on the winner. It will be forever the standout bout at the Garden.
Mike Tyson vs Mitch Green
Tyson was the most revered fighter in the world at this point of his career in 1986, and he came into his debut bout at the Garden with a perfect 20-0 record. His opponent was Mitch Green who had one defeat on his record at the time. It was an easy sell to the city, with both fighters coming from New York. The disdain between the rivals ensured that is was an event that the world wanted to see.
Tyson was unable to add another KO victory to his record, but he very rarely looked tested throughout the bout before winning by a hugely lopsided unanimous decision. The two rivals would never share a boxing ring again. However, they did fight each other in a street fight two years later, just highlighting the hatred between the athletes.
Bernard Hopkins vs Felix Trinidad
While you would be forgiven for thinking that this was a mistake because there have been more illustrious fighters to compete at the Garden; this bout was significant for a whole different reason. It was an extraordinary night in the history of the sport as the entire world united in the face of advisory as the event was the most significant event following the 9/11 attacks. Both fighters paid honours to the fallen before the fight, and it highlighted that the sport can unite everybody no matter their race or background.
The fight itself was a shock result, as Hopkins entered the bout as the underdog; the first time this was the case in many years. He was on his way to a routine point win before a brutal shot floored Trinidad in the 12th round. The win was one of the biggest in his career, and subsequently saw World Boxing Hall of Fame and Ring Magazine both name Hopkins as the 2001 Fighter of the Year.