It gets no closer than this. In a fight billed as ‘The Grudge’, Groves edged his amateur rival DeGale by scores of 115-114 (twice) and 115-115 for a minor upset.
That an immediate rematch wasn’t made is understandable; the two rookies had surprised – and impressed – by risking their unbeaten records early in their careers. Also the bout had been intriguing rather than outright scintillating.
Yet the high-profile hostility between the pair, plus the fact that many thought DeGale – the aggressor for much of the fight – had done enough to nick a decision, seemed to make a sequel inevitable at some stage. It wasn’t to be. Talk of a follow-up would crop up almost every year until 2019, when the retirement of both finally put an end to it.
Demand for a rematch occurs due to a controversial outcome, a huge upset or, best of all, because a fight is so spectacular the public demand to see it again. No prizes for guessing which category the ‘eight-minute war’ fell into.
However the chance to see these titans pummel each other again wasn’t the only storyline that could have built a sequel. Although he kept a dignified silence post-fight, Hearns had broken his right hand in the first round of the contest. Would there be a different outcome if Hearns’ most fearsome weapon was in full working order?
Bob Arum saw the potential as he booked both on the same bill for their next fights, back at Caesars Palace in 1986. Hearns blasted out James Schuler in one round as middleweight champion Hagler ground out a decision over John Mugabi. A rematch seemed certain but Sugar Ray Leonard, watching at ringside, had other ideas.
Felix Trinidad W12 Oscar De La Hoya (1999)
De La Hoya had his share of disputed decisions that failed to produce rematches, as Pernell Whitaker and Felix Sturm can attest. Yet the most notable bout on his CV that always seemed set for a return which never came was a controversial decision which went against the Golden Boy. Trinidad and De La Hoya had the boxing world salivating in 1999 as they brought a combined 66-0 record to their welterweight unification fight. It proved a serious disappointment. De La Hoya’s evasive gameplan negated Trinidad’s attack and the two punchers failed to engage until the later rounds when Tito belatedly began to land.
Despite the fight being a damp squib, a rematch appeared inevitable; particularly as the bigger draw had suffered the loss. Yet Trinidad’s move to light-middleweight, then middleweight, complicated matters.
Knowing their names would always be linked, De La Hoya always sought the rematch, reportedly having dinner with Trinidad in Puerto Rico and attempting to talk him out of retirement. Trinidad may have finished his meal, but there was no second course to this rivalry.
Jake LaMotta KO10 Marcel Cerdan (1949)
The Raging Bull’s annexing of the middleweight world title began with controversy. While he was officially credited with a knockdown in the first round, many at ringside felt LaMotta had simply chucked opponent Marcel Cerdan to the canvas.
It soon became apparent that the champion had suffered a serious shoulder injury and was unable to use his left hand. Despite the dislocation, Cerdan kept the fight competitive until his corner eventually retired him after the ninth round.
US reporter Red Smith was impressed with the deposed champion, writing that: “It is difficult to believe LaMotta would have a chance with a two-handed Cerdan.” A rematch was set for LaMotta’s first defence but tragically never took place. In October 1949, Cerdan boarded a flight from France to see his lover Edith Piaf sing in New York. He never arrived; a crash in the Azore mountains took the life of everyone on board the plane.
Pernell Whitaker D12 Julio Cesar Chavez (1993)
In 1993, 65,000 people filled San Antonio’s Alamodome to watch a fight that was expected to decide the welterweight world title and crown the best pound-for-pound boxer on the planet.
It did just that, yet still left a sour taste in the mouth. Whitaker’s masterclass quieted a raucous crowd, subdued Chavez and earned the American the majority of the rounds in the eyes of almost everyone, except those who mattered most. Judges Mickey Vann and Franz Marti scored the bout a draw, 115-115.
The press reaction was vociferous. Bert Sugar’s Boxing Illustrated magazine ran a headline instructing readers not to buy the publication if they believed the fight really had been a draw. Perhaps that helped Sweet Pea remain philosophical, as he remarked post-fight that when people saw the “one” on Chavez’s then 87-0-1 record, they would remember who put it there. Whatever satisfaction he derived from that, Whitaker never received the payday of a rematch as Chavez returned to light-welterweight.
Sugar Ray Leonard W12 Marvin Hagler (1987)
The most hotly debated decision in boxing history, the mystique around this middleweight super-fight is fuelled by the fact that it never happened again. How Leonard came out of retirement to befuddle Hagler – or the judges, depending on your viewpoint – with his flashy skills is a well-told story.
Hagler yearned for a rematch, but Leonard stuck to his pre-fight promise of retiring. As usual with Leonard retirements, it didn’t stick. He would return the following year and in 1990, Sugar Ray did belatedly offer Marvelous Marvin a rematch.
Yet a disgusted Hagler had retired following the split-decision loss to Leonard and never returned to the ring. Leonard kept fighting on and off until 1997, when he was stopped by Hector Camacho. In the battle of who had the more iconic exit, at least, Hagler proved a decisive winner.