Pacquiao vs Marquez and Gatti vs Ward: Favourite fights of the decade between 2000 to 2010

Not necessarily the best, these are some of my own personal favourite fights from this century's first decade. Please share your top five in the comments below.

Manny Pacquiao vs Juan Manuel Marquez 1 - MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, USA, 2004

The first of an epic four-part tetralogy.

The legendary Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao faced off with the skilled counter-punching Mexican, Juan Manuel "Dinamita" Marquez. A unification with the Ring, WBA (Super) and IBF featherweight titles on the line,

A unification bout with The Ring title, WBA (Super) and IBF featherweight titles on the line, the Pacman would come out like a hurricane, flooring a stunned Marquez three times in the opening stanza with a stunning blend of speed, power and straight right-hand shots that seemed likely to overwhelm el Dinamita.

Yet, despite such a one-sided opening round, and in a wonderful demonstration of counter-punching brilliance, Marquez would dominate much of an exceptional contest, with the two future Hall of Famers demonstrating barely believable levels of skill, will and fighting spirit.

Following 12 wonderfully epic rounds, Marquez would retain his WBA and IBF titles with a somewhat controversially scored draw. Many felt the Mexican had done enough to claim the scalp of the man who would come to define much of his career.

However, It should be noted that despite scoring three knockdowns in round one, Pacquiao had been awarded only a 10-7 rather than the 10-6 with which he should have been given. Had the round been scored correctly, Pacquiao would have claimed a split-decision victory.

Eight years and three bouts later, Marquez would finally overcome his great rival, scoring a thunderous knockout in the fourth and final part of this truly extraordinary fighting series.

Joe Calzaghe vs Jeff Lacy - MEN Arena, Manchester, England, 2006

Perhaps, one of the finest and most dominant performances by a British world champion in the sports long history, Joe Calzaghe put on a boxing masterclass in vesting the previously unbeaten Jeff "Left Hook" Lacy.

Entering the bout as a betting favourite, Lacy - the unbeaten IBF super-middleweight champion at the time - arrived in Cardiff, billed as a "mini Mike Tyson" and was expected to give the Welshman, making the 17th defence of his WBO title, his toughest night in the ring to date.

Of course, the Pride of Wales hadn't read the stateside script as he put on a boxing clinic, schooling the previously unbeaten Lacy as he clocked up a unanimous points decision victory against a shell-shocked Floridian who had failed to win even so much as a round.

Stretching his unbeaten run to 41-0, Calzaghe, so often under-appreciated in the UK., had silenced critics who had been quick to condemn the Welshman for a string of underwhelming opponents.

While there was perhaps some validity to those claims, Calzaghe would go on to cement his remarkable unbeaten legacy with big wins over Hall of Fame opponents Mikkel Kessler, Bernard Hopkins and an admittedly faded Roy Jones Jr.

Lennox Lewis vs Michael Grant - Madison Square Garden, New York, USA, April 2000

A battle of two heavyweight giants. Lewis, 34 at the time, had claimed a unanimous decision win over Evander Holyfield to claim the unified heavyweight championship in his previous bout and while an outstanding champion remained under-respected by a baying US sports media, desperate for a new American heavyweight king.

Step forward the unbeaten Michael Grant.

With a 31-0 unbeaten record and standing 6ft 6 and over 250lbs, Grant had been relentlessly hyped by US boxing scribes as their next big heavyweight hope. The Chicago native certainly looked the part and was, by American analysts at least, given every chance of bringing the heavyweight crown back to US shores..

However, in a display of brilliant brutality and punching power, hope would turn to hype as Lewis overwhelmed his outgunned opponent, landing a potent uppercut that floored Grant just 90 seconds into the first round.

While a badly hurt Grant would show plenty of courage in surviving the opener, Lewis unloaded his vicious uppercut on numerous occasions, scoring four knockdowns on the way to a hugely impressive second-round stoppage.

Amir Khan vs Marcos Maidana - Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas, USA, Dec 2010

A fight of the year candidate from 2010, WBA light welterweight titlist Amir Khan faced off with the hard-hitting slugger Marcos Maidana.

The Briton had endured a roller-coaster couple of years prior to this, the third defence of his WBA strap. Brutally stopped inside 90 seconds against Colombian banger Breidis Prescott in 2008, Khan roared back, first stopping an ageing Marco Antonio Barrera just six months later before claiming the WBA title with a points decision victory against Andreas Kotelnik in 2009.

Still, despite his success, questions over the Bolton born fighter´s punch resistance remained. While such questions would dog Khan for the entirety of his career - on this night - Khan demonstrated incredible levels of courage to survive a punishing late onslaught from Maidana, having floored the Argentine with a brutal body shot in the opening round.

Maidana, who would push Floyd Mayweather to his limit in the final bouts of his career, was expected by many to have too much punching power for the supposedly glass-jawed Brit. Having been outboxed for much of the fight, Maidana finally caught up with Khan in the early stages of round 10, nailing him with a sweeping right hand that almost took the Bolton fighter off his feet.

Somehow, with just under two minutes in the round remaining, Khan demonstrated enormous heart to survive the round and reached the final bill to earn a deserved points decision victory. Showcasing bags of skill in a back-and-forth contest between the skilled boxer and the rugged brawler, how Khan emerged from round 10 without touching the canvas is remarkable.

While often justifiably criticised for a badly mismanaged career, Khan has always offered value for money inside the ring, and on this occasion, he rightfully earned the respect of American fight fans with an exceptional display of flashy combinations coupled with, believe it or not, a remarkably solid chin.

Mickey Ward vs Arturo Gatti 1 - Mohegan Sun Arena, Montville, Connecticut, U.S, May 2002

The Rocky fight that actually took place. Ward vs Gatti 1 possibly remains the most violent exhibition of fighting bravery to occur in the modern boxing era.

A hugely popular and crowd-pleasing boxer/puncher, Arturo "Thunder" Gatti boasted good looks, engaging personality and an impressive array of boxing skills but came into the bout on the back of having lost five of his previous nine fights, with his best days seemingly behind him.

Ward, an unheralded Irish-American, entered the contest having already been beaten on 11 occasions and was seen by many as a mere stepping stone in the career rebuild of Gatti, who had hired the famed Buddy McGirt as head trainer in a bid to turn his career around.

However, in a truly remarkable 10 round light welterweight contest, both men would pour it all on the line in a barely believable back and forth slugfest. Think Balboa vs Creed x 10. This bout went beyond storybook theatrics or anything Stallone et al could muster.

Both warriors would taste the canvas in an enthralling display of guts and bravery with round nine, where three remarkable momentum shifts that included a knockdown and Gatti somehow surviving a Ward onslaught, captured the spirit of a genuinely extraordinary contest.

Winner of the Fight of the Year award in 2002, and surely a likely candidate for fight of the century, Ward would claim a razor-thin split decision.This contest wasn't about winners or losers,though. This was a fight that truly encapsulated the will, courage and bravery boxers endure when pushed to and beyond reasonable limits with round nine in particular, living forever in the annals of boxing's greatest stanzas.

Two further bouts between the pair cemented their shared legacy - friends outside the ring, their story would be retold in the wonderful HBO legendary nights series - a must-watch for any true fan of this beautiful, but frequently tragic sport.

Notable mentions:

Jermain Taylor vs Carl Froch

Marco Antonio Barrera vs Erik Morales 1

Ricky Hatton vs Kostya Tszyu

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