Ranking the 5 most unusual venues in boxing history
As Dillian Whyte prepares to fight Alexander Povetkin in Eddie Hearn's back garden, we look at five of the most outlandish venues from boxing's past.
5. Kinshasa, Zaire | George Foreman v Muhammad Ali | 30 October 1974
How did one of boxing’s biggest ever fights end up taking place in a central African dictatorship? It’s a silly question, really.
Promoter Don King needed someone to bankroll the fight after promising both Foreman and Ali a record $5m each – double any previous purse in the sport’s history.
In stepped Zaire dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who agreed to host the contest, and his Libyan counterpart Muammar Gaddafi, who provided the necessary funding.
Spurred on by famous chants of “Ali, boma ye,” (Ali, kill him) it was the challenger who dethroned the champion to reclaim the heavyweight crown he had lost seven years earlier.
‘The Rumble in the Jungle’ was the fight that paved the way for prize fights to be taken worldwide.
4. Almancil, Portugal | Chris Eubank v Ron Essett | 27 June 1992
A golf course car park on the Algarve coast is not your typical venue for a world championship fight, but then again, Chris Eubank is not your typical fighter.
The enigmatic Englishman chose to make the third defence of his WBO super-middleweight title against American Ron Essett at the Quinta do Lago Hotel in Almancil.
The fight was billed ‘The Treat in the Heat’ but, after Eubank won a unanimous decision over 12 tedious rounds, was renamed ‘The Bore on the Shore’ by unimpressed onlookers.
The stunning backdrop of the sun setting over the Atlantic Ocean did, however, make up for the turgid action in the ring.
Eubank was partial to a wacky location throughout his career, with a tennis centre in Dubai and Sun City in South Africa among the other places he fought.
3. Manila, Philippines | Muhammad Ali v Joe Frazier | 1 October 1975
In 1972, the corrupt president of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, declared martial law and began to rule as a dictator.
Just three years later, his country hosted the biggest boxing match in history, with Ali defending his title for the fifth time in a trilogy fight with long-time rival Frazier.
Despite the Araneta Coliseum being air-conditioned, it is thought that the ring reached temperatures of up to 49C, leading to both boxers collapsing by the end of the fight.
After 14 brutal rounds it was Frazier’s corner who threw in the towel, although Ali later admitted he had instructed his to do the same, with 'The Greatest' claiming he felt close to death.
Aside from leaving a lasting legacy in the Philippines – including the construction of the country’s first shopping mall, which was named after Ali – the ferocity of the fight is thought to have contributed to the physical decline of both men in the ensuing years.
2. Brentwood, Essex | Matchroom Fight Camp | 22 August 2020
It isn’t often that world-class boxing takes place in someone’s back garden.
That is exactly what has been happening at Matchroom Fight Camp, Eddie Hearn’s project to get boxing going again after lockdown.
It should be said that this is no ordinary garden – the ring is set in the grounds of Matchroom HQ, the Hearn family’s former residence, where Eddie and his team plot their domination of world boxing.
Hearn has set up a bio-secure bubble within the walls of his white mansion, with boxers able to isolate in a hotel nearby. A gym, pool and other facilities are provided on site.
Fight Camp is the scene for three world title fights, with Terri Harper, Katie Taylor and Dillian Whyte all defending their belts at Matchroom HQ.
And, with the immediate future of sporting events still uncertain, it wouldn’t be a surprise if we see more boxers put their belts on the line in Brentwood in the coming months.
1. The Playboy Mansion | David Haye v Vance Winn | 15 July 2003
No, you didn’t read that wrong. David Haye really did fight at the Playboy Mansion.
In just his fifth bout as a professional, ‘The Hayemaker’ found himself making his ring walk through the gardens of the famous Hollywood house to fight in front of Hugh Hefner himself.
Haye’s opponent on the night was Vance Winn, a journeyman who never really lived up to his surname – the American finished his career with a record of six victories, 22 losses and two draws.
It took just 54 seconds for Haye to finish the fight, with Hefner waiting by ringside to greet the young Brit and take an obligatory photo or ten.
There is no footage of the rest of the evening, but you can be certain it was a big one for Haye and his entourage.
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