Pacquiao vs. Marquez: A Tapestry of Trilogies

By Ted Sares on November 8, 2011
Pacquiao vs. Marquez: A Tapestry of Trilogies
There probably will never be a more savage and damaging three-fight series in boxing.

It had everything. Post-war drama, a rubber match, the Chicago vs. New York big city ingredient, unabashed ethnic pride…

“Half the time, I didn’t know what I was doin’, except I was doin’ great.”—Rocky Graziano

“The time will come when more fighters will be able to kill a man with a single punch. Man is getting stronger, he’s faster, trains better and hits harder. Another 30 years or so and boxing will be gone.”—Ingemar Johansson

Pacquiao-Marquez will have to be close and breathtaking if the trilogy is to be considered a great one, but I doubt it will surpass other great trilogies of the past. Of course, if Marquez wins, all bets are off.

A Tapestry of Other Trilogies

Floyd Patterson vs. Ingemar Johansson (1959/1960/1961) provided everything a great heavyweight trilogy should provide and then some. This was back when the heavyweight championship really meant something. Patterson’s leaping left hook knockout of Ingo in the second fight is still very scary to witness. It was a foot-twitcher and that’s as frightening as it gets. If knockdowns are your thing, there were 13 in all during this trio of ebb and flow slugfests.

With Riddick Bowe vs. Evander Holyfield (1992/1993/1995), we even got the James “Fan Man” Miller in addition to three bruising fights.

Muhammad Ali v. Joe Frazier (1971/1974/1975) carried with it social implications and Ali’s hateful trash talk. But what they did in the ring cost each combatant dearly and would link their names forever. The buildup to these fights was extraordinary — virtually epic.

Another that featured uncommon savagery (in three different countries no less) was the hard-fought fights between Jeff Harding and Dennis Andries (1989/1990/1991).

Daniel Zaragoza and Paul Banke battled for the WBC Super Bantamweight Title in 1989, 1990 and 1991, with Zaragoza winning two of the three by decision, while Banke got his win by 9th round TKO. All three bouts were held at The Great Western Forum.

And who can forget the breathtaking trilogy between Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales? Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez and Michael Carbajal put on a great series in the 1990s.  Of more recent vintage, Arturo Gatti and Irish Micky Ward displayed what happens when two fighters forget about defense and their own well being and leave it all in the ring.

The first three Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez fights were non-stop thrillers (2007-2008). They were fought consecutively, and each was for the junior featherweight championship. But before these guys were through with each other, they would be badly damaged. Marquez endured brutal punishment in his three prior fights against Vazquez, but in the end and “Once and For All” he was the last man standing.

My Favorite: Graziano vs. Zale

A case can be made for each of the above being considered as the greatest trilogy in boxing history and I’m not savvy enough to rank them. But my own pick for number one is Rocky Graziano (Thomas Rocco Barbella) vs. Tony Zale (Anthony Florian Zaleski). It had everything. Post-war drama, a rubber match, the Chicago vs. New York big city ingredient, unabashed ethnic pride, and the fact that all three fights ended via KO or stoppage. The first match was in 1946. The second was in 1947, and the third in 1948 (a period of just 21 months). We wept when Graziano lost and celebrated when he won. Ethnic pride was greater than city pride back then. The fights were not only dramatic but uncommonly brutal. The KO of Graziano in the third fight was just as scary as Ingo being sent to Nordic Dreamland in the second fight with Patterson. There probably will never be a more savage and damaging three-fight series in boxing. But another lesser known one had some interesting drama and social implications as well and warrants mention.

Triumph and Tragedy in South Africa: Morake vs. Mitchell

“It was very tough on me…I was a 24-year-old baby and already thinking about retiring. I didn’t want to box anymore. That was a real low point of my life. It throws you around a bit. It’s still tough to talk about.”—Brian Mitchell

Brian Mitchell defended his WBA super featherweight title a record 11 times, and never lost a title fight. Because of South Africa’s past apartheid policy, he became the quintessential road warrior, defending his title almost exclusively outside of his home country. He proved his worth by making 10 of his title defenses on the road. Spain, Italy (five times), England, Panama, Puerto Rico, The US (three times) and France were all countries in which he toiled, but prior to his championship run, he participated in one of boxing’s great rivalries.

Hall of Famer Mitchell (45-1-3) and Jacob “Dancing Shoes” Morake fought each other four times in the 1980s and each fight was close and grueling. In fact, Morake is the only man to ever beat Mitchell and he did this in their first duke.

“Dancing Shoes” was a skinny Sowetan whose upper body was covered in burn scars. He toiled as an insurance clerk by day, but like so many others, he relied on boxing to support his family. In 1985, “Dancing Shoes” (20-10-2) faced Mitchell for the fourth time. The tally was 2-1 in Mitchell’s favor going in. The fight was held at the famed Superbowl in Sun City, South Africa and at stake was the South African super featherweight title. Mitchell was 25-1-1 at the time. 

Ironically, Mitchell wasn’t really considered a puncher, nor was Morake for that matter. Jacob could sting, slice, and dice and he loved to showboat. In fact, he was notorious for letting an opponent back into a fight because of excessive showboating. The Ali shuffle was his favorite move and gave him the nickname “dancing shoes.” Both were smooth and fluid boxer as well.

Back then, Mitchell was one of the few white South African boxers to fight in black townships, and that served him well when he later fought on the road, frequently defending his title in hostile environments. In fact, he became so popular with the black fans, he was often referred to as a “black boxer in a white skin.”

The Fourth Fight

Going into their fourth and final fight, apartheid was alive and well in South Africa. Yet here was a black from Soweto fighting a white from Johannesburg in front of a segregated crowd of boxing fanatics at the supercharged Superbowl in Sun City (a great boxing venue with a great boxing atmosphere). These two were professionals; what they did in the ring transcended the hate and turmoil that existed elsewhere in the country. These two respected one another, and even the crowd at the Superbowl seemed to know it.

They had fought a total of 34 rounds, but this time Mitchell stopped the game Morake in the 12th and final round. Morake had taken a significant amount of punishment in the fiercely contested fight. Dehydrated, he collapsed in the 12th round and never regained consciousness. He was hospitalized and died the following day of head injuries. Some say that in the final rounds, he clearly was unable to defend himself, but I have never been able to corroborate this though in this connection, reference is made to the compelling book by Gavin Evans entitled Dancing Shoes Is Dead: A Tale of Fighting Men in South Africa, Black Swan, 2003. According to one account, Evans believes Morale’s courage, his trainer’s desperate hope, and what he terms the inaction of the referee all contributed to the tragic ending.

After deep self-reflection, an emotionally devastated Mitchell returned to the ring in March 1986, knocking out Julio Ruiz in six rounds at Sun City.

In the end, he and the classy Mitchell had a great rivalry going, and according to South African boxing lore (and in a bizarre twist of fate), Morake stated to friends before his fateful fight with Mitchell that he’d rather die than lose.


As for Mitchell, he finished with a great record of 45-1-3, won the WBA and IBF junior lightweight titles, was always the epitome of dedication, was highly respected because he had beaten all notable local opposition before beginning his tour of title defenses, and retired on a high note. However, to this day, he cannot talk about his rivalry with “Dancing Shoes’ without his eyes misting up.


1946 Apartheid (apartness) begins as a Government system in South Africa
1981 Morake over Tsotesti in 10 to win Transvaal Super Featherweight Title
1982 Morake over Mitchell in 12 to win Transvaal Super Featherweight Title
1083 Mitchell over Morake in 12   to win South African super featherweight title
1984 Mitchell over Morake in 12 to win South African super featherweight title
1985 Mitchell over Morake by TKO in 12 to win South African super featherweight title
1986 Mitchell over Layne by TKO in 10 to win WBA super featherweight title
1994 End of apartheid as a Government enforced policy, though vestiges still exist.
1995 Mitchell over Flores in 10. Mitchell’s last fight.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Floyd Patterson vs Ingemar Johansson I - June 26, 1959 - Round 3

Ingemar Johansson vs Floyd Patterson II - June 20, 1960 - Rounds 1 - 3

Ingemar Johansson vs Floyd Patterson II - June 20, 1960 - Rounds 4 & 5

Floyd Patterson vs Ingemar Johansson III - March 13, 1961 - Entire fight - Rounds 1 - 6 & Interview

TONY ZALE VS. ROCKY GRAZIANO I & III - Sept 27th 1946 / June 10th 1948 (Old Time Radio)

rocky graziano fights tony zale II 2 second fight boxing history shared

The Greatest Boxing Fights of All Time - Rocky Graziano vs Tony Zale in 1948

Carbajal vs Gonzalez pt1

Carbajal vs Gonzalez pt2

Carbajal vs Gonzalez pt3

Carbajal vs Gonzalez pt4

Israel Vazquez vs. Rafael Marquez (Highlights)

Israel Vasquez vs. Rafael Marquez II Highlights Video

Israel Vazquez vs. Rafael Marquez III Highlight Video

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  1. MRBILL-HARDCORE XXX 03:49am, 09/15/2012

    C’mon, is “Packy-Marquez 4” really warranted in ‘12?????? I mean the rubber match of ‘11 and over 140+ pounds was only okay at best…..

  2. the thresher 05:00pm, 11/11/2011

    Rios, Groves, Bute,  and Sillakh, the Ukraine kid who lives in LA are the future of boxing.

  3. MRBILL-HARDCORE XXX 03:37pm, 11/11/2011

    Brandon Rios is a plus for the sagging 2011 game of boxing, but Rios ain’t fighting dudes I give a damn about…... Now, a match between him and Khan would be of interest….

  4. te tumbo 03:32pm, 11/11/2011

    Gatti v. Ward, Vasquez v. Marquez, Barrera v. Morales, THOSE were trilogies. otherwise, and because of Pacquiao’s shamelessly cynical and calculated stalling over the past 8 years, this is No trilogy. consequently, we will never know how an actual trilogy would’ve unfolded between these two in their respective primes and at their optimal fighting weights. THAT’s what Pacquiao has deprived the fight-fans and the Sport of Boxing of.

  5. JC45 04:25pm, 11/10/2011

    Very old school then Ted , respect but a fight to the death. Cheers mate.

  6. the thresher 03:42pm, 11/10/2011

    No. They held a mutual respect for one another.

  7. JC45 02:34pm, 11/10/2011

    Did Zale and Graziano dislike each other Ted? They certainly fought each other like they did.

  8. JC45 02:30pm, 11/10/2011

    GDay everyone, Ali v Frazier for mine . An easy choice. Zale v Graziano and Bowe v Holyfield fill the minors. Didnt LaMotta and Sugar Ray fight six times , Ted?  I’m a bit over my fave sport at the moment. Joe dying has made it a bit difficult to ignore the mismatches , ancient p f p list and the usual corruption - refs shenanigans.Take a look at this years big fights . We had a heavyweight superfight that sucked dogs balls ( Haye v Wlad ) . A farce ( Floyd v Ortiz) , a 47 year old man rolling around the ring clutching his shoulder ( as much as I love BHops as a fighter he should retire , my old man and bro both think Dawson should have kept the title he won of Bernard ) and now a 38 year old vs Pacquiao. Thank christ for fights like that awesome bout at lt fly between the Japanese bloke and the Thai you posted , Ted.

  9. "Old Yank" Schneider 06:42pm, 11/09/2011

    Rios is a blast to watch!

  10. the thresher 03:52pm, 11/09/2011

    Timothy Bradley vs. Joel Casamayor. Argh. Major mismatch. Disgraceful.

  11. the thresher 03:50pm, 11/09/2011

    mrbill, If Brando Rios is on the undercard, I will pay. If not, I’ll pass.

  12. MRBILL-HARDCORE XXX 09:51am, 11/09/2011

    Dish Net. is offering the PPV for $55 to $65 bucks…... Way too steep…...

  13. "Old Yank" Schneider 06:22am, 11/09/2011

    MRBILL—BINGO!  You are speaking to one who is pissed off over this bout—too late; wrong weight; all wrong.

  14. MRBILL-HARDCORE XXX 01:50am, 11/09/2011

    I know I’m in the minority, but “Pack-Marquez 3” is not truly necessary in ‘11….. Its just that the sport / bidness has fallen onto hard times the last few years and promoters are scrambling to make a decent fight that’ll sell tickets….. And, as of late, all the big fights on PPV have been sucking eggs to the max…... I’m not a happy camper at this current juncture in time….. Not that anybody gives a rats azz…... Just sayin’....

  15. MRBILL-HARDCORE XXX 01:43am, 11/09/2011

    Me too, Ted….. I love old fight clips and films of old ringers from the 1910s and 1920s, but some of the old farts who post in the classic section of ESB talk like the fights were yesterday and that they were all there ringside….. C’mon, WTF?

  16. MRBILL-HARDCORE XXX 01:40am, 11/09/2011

    Marquez is age 38 and over 140 pounds here… Do the math, he’s in over his head in 2011…. He is a warrior, but he doesn’t care if he loses cuz he’s making big bucks—-again by facing Manolo Pacquiao… This is likely to be a letdown PPV cuz a waxing by “The Packer” is very possible…...

  17. mikecasey 05:02pm, 11/08/2011

    Damn shame you weren’t around in those days, Ted. I vividly remember Caesar fleeing from his palace and screaming, “Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me”!”

  18. the thresher 05:01pm, 11/08/2011

    pugknows, correct. That’s because boxers fought so much. Plus the great black fighters fought each other all the time.

  19. the thresher 04:48pm, 11/08/2011

    I know. I just don’t go back that far. I like to write about what I know. But you are right.

  20. mikecasey 04:26pm, 11/08/2011

    Ted (Kid) Lewis and Jack Britton went far beyond trilogies. So too did Langford and Wills. Burley fought Holman Williams often - and Holman got the better of it. (See Lewis against Johnny Basham on YouTube).

  21. pugknows 03:50pm, 11/08/2011

    I think it’s fair to say that trilogies were not all that rare back in the day (40’s and before)

  22. the thresher 03:02pm, 11/08/2011

    Kid Gavilan was another

  23. the thresher 03:01pm, 11/08/2011

    Of course, SRR, Fullmer, Basilio, etc all participated in multiple fights.

  24. the thresher 02:50pm, 11/08/2011

    Cheekay, thanks amigo

  25. the thresher 02:49pm, 11/08/2011

    FD, It would have if Castillo had not missed the weight—or was it Chico—-or both?

    Dana Rosenblatt vs Paz should have been a trio. Also, Camacho and Duran. Also, Paz and Duran. Also, Duran and Jorge Castro.

    Come to think about it, Paz and Greg Haugen put on a nice trilogy.

  26. FrankinDallas 02:44pm, 11/08/2011

    How about “could have been” trilogies? I can think of one big one that didn’t happen: Diego Corrales vs Jose Luis Castillo.

  27. Cheekay Brandon 02:15pm, 11/08/2011

    Quickly wanted to say - fantastic article! I’ve actually been wanting to read something good about trilogies…you nailed it.

  28. jofre 01:57pm, 11/08/2011

    Ted, thanks for the memories. This article was sure joy to read.

  29. "Old Yank" Schneider 01:36pm, 11/08/2011

    Ted—If Marquez pulled out an upset it would beg for a 4th—1 draw, and 1 each—requires a 4th bout in any red-blooded fan’s book!

  30. mikecasey 01:19pm, 11/08/2011

    Indeed, Yank - an oldie but a goodie!

  31. "Old Yank" Schneider 01:13pm, 11/08/2011

    Mike—Here’s an old one:  I heard you quit boxing because of your hands—the ref kept stepping on them!

  32. mikecasey 12:16pm, 11/08/2011

    Guys, in the unlikely event that this fight should end controversially or inconclusively, I’ll take Manny and Juan out back and give them both a damn good thrashing. Tell them to start without me if I don’t show up. (Ah, the old jokes are always the best!)

  33. the thresher 11:27am, 11/08/2011

    Well, Jerry seemed to think that.

  34. mikecasey 11:23am, 11/08/2011

    Ted, you might have nailed Mike’s problem right there. He never seemed right after those Rossman battles. He did a Ring interview after that in which he bragged that he would be world champion within months. And he clearly sounded like a guy who wasn’t quite there anymore. I couldn’t help thinking of Ad Wolgast being stopped by a kindly street cop out in the middle of nowhere. Wolgast told the police officer that he was training for a fight with Bat Nelson that had taken place years before.

  35. the thresher 11:08am, 11/08/2011

    “Old Yank” Schneider, I agree and that’s actually the point of this piece. However, If JMM does the impossible, then we might have a new GREAT trilogy to talk about.

  36. the thresher 11:07am, 11/08/2011

    Mike Quarry fought 3 with Mike Rossman and took terrble punishment in the last two. Jerry begged him not to fight, but Mike would have none of it. Many think the Rossman fights did irreparable damage to Mike.

    One thing is for sure. Trilogies can be very damaging to the participants.

  37. "Old Yank" Schneider 11:04am, 11/08/2011

    Enjoyed this a lot!  My biggest concern with Pacquiao/Marquez #3 is that is will be damn near impossible for it to live up to these great trilogies from the past.

  38. the thresher 10:50am, 11/08/2011

    Ezzard Charles was another who fought a lot of multiples. He duked with Jersey Joe 4 times and did a trilogy with rugged Lloyd Marshall, Rex Layne, Archie Moore, and Jimmy Bivins. He did 5 with Joey Maxim.

    Charles fought the greatest level of opposition of any fighter in history.

  39. the thresher 10:42am, 11/08/2011

    Victor Galindez fought many guys multiple times. That was not unusual in Argentina.

  40. mikecasey 10:35am, 11/08/2011

    Me too, Ted. Thanks so much. My dad will love this!

  41. Big Boss Man 10:29am, 11/08/2011

    I’m biased when it comes to the Bull, but I must say this one is a truly superb article.

  42. FrankinDallas 10:27am, 11/08/2011

    How about dualogies (is that a word?)
    Freddie Roach had great twin bouts with Danny Cruz and Louis Burke. Dwight Muhammed Qawi had viscous double bouts with Holyfield and Matthew Saad Muhammed. I guess three’s a charm, though.

  43. the thresher 10:26am, 11/08/2011

    Thanks, Pug. I remember it like it was yesterday.

  44. the thresher 10:23am, 11/08/2011

    Rocky Graziano vs Tony Zale II was filmed? Link included?—Xggp7Z…
    It’s hardly the greatest quality you’ll ever find but I was still amazed to see it was filmed. I was always under the belief only the III fight was filmed.

  45. mikecasey 09:51am, 11/08/2011

    Tex, it frustrates me no end. What I’d give to see Harry and Mickey Walker in their classic duel. And why weren’t the first two fights between Tony and Rocky filmed? I’m sure someone can answer that question, but it’s not as if they took place in the 1890s!! My dad idoliized Rocky and swears he saw film of their classic second fight. But I have never been able to find it.

  46. TEX HASSLER 09:42am, 11/08/2011

    It is a shame that all 3 Zale vs Graziano fights were not filmed. That almost ranks along with the fact that no one can find any film footage on Harry Greb the all time great middleweight, who regularly fought and beat heavyweights. My guess is there will be no Pacquiao - Mayweather III and we will be fortunate to see them fight at all. Keep up the good work Mr. Sares and come out writing.

  47. mikecasey 09:36am, 11/08/2011

    Lovely, Pug! You’re quite right!

  48. pugknows 09:31am, 11/08/2011

    Enjoyable read and I liked the way you didn’t need to list or number the different trilogies. I also like your take on Graziano-Zale. You will remember that when Rocky won, we who are Italian all went out into the streets to celebrate. The Sares’s, Marottas, Macaluso’s, Partapilo’s, Rinaldi’s, Fortunato’s, Iovino’s. It was Italian vs. Polish and Graziano vs. Zale. Forget about NYC vs. Chi-town. That meant zilch.

  49. the thresher 09:28am, 11/08/2011

    Thanks Mike and Bill.

  50. the thresher 09:27am, 11/08/2011

    Don, I actually listened to those fight on the radio. I think we may have seen the last one on TV which was a 9” Admiral with a magnifier that was filled with olive oil to increase the picture to 13.” Go figure. When Graziano won, we went into the streets to celebrate. Those were crazy times, but they were great ones. It was post-war time and people were looking to have fun.

    SORRY I couln’t make it to Dorchester, but I need one more month to get my energy back 100%.. I did play one hole of golf today and that went great.

  51. Don from Prov 09:14am, 11/08/2011

    My favorite among those that I actually saw was the MAB/Morales trilogy.  Graziano/Zale was the stuff of myth and I loved reading about those wars when I was growing up.

  52. mikecasey 09:04am, 11/08/2011

    Lovely, lovely read and immaculately researched. Nice one, Bull!

  53. dollar bond 09:03am, 11/08/2011

    Great piece Ted,  thanks for the memories.  God bless Joe Frazier

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