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May 18 In the Boxing History Books: The Making of 'Ring of Fire'

In Saudi Arabia, on May 18, boxing history will be made. The first undisputed world heavyweight champion in the four-belt era will be crowned in Saudi Arabia, the first undisputed champion in the premier boxing division since Lennox Lewis.

With this, it is fair to wonder, will the 'Ring of Fire' prove to define May 18th in the long, rich and successful history of sports?

However, there are plenty of standout moments for 'Ring of Fire' to deal with, whether they're historically significant or deeply underappreciated by many fans.

Back in the early days of the sport, when glory was discarded in favor of the simple brutality of prizefighting, Ted 'Kid' Lewis was one of the world's greatest fighters.

In a lawless era, when safety was not even a consideration, 'The Aldgate Sphinx' built a great record of 189-32-14 and on May 18th 1916, he would have one of many career defining fights. After losing to longtime rival Jack Britton, the career welterweight will head to the Big Apple to face Mike Gibbons, a contender for the World Middleweight title.

The 10-round bout took place at Madison Square Garden – the second venue with that name, before it was replaced by the Mecca of New York that it is today. After that, the fight was decided by newspaper scores, most of the papers sided with 'St Paul Phantom' Mike Gibbons, some said it was a draw.

The loss would not deter 'Kid' Lewis, who would later play rival Britton; the following year, 1917, would be his last as a combatant.

Mike Gibbons, on the other hand, would go from strength to strength, defeating Jack Dillon and the legendary Harry Greb the year after his encounter with 'Kid'.

During the 1960s, boxing emerged from the era of Lewis and Gibbons, although it was not as refined as we see it today. It was in the turning tide of the 1960s that Eder Jofre would become known as the Golden Bantam. The 72-2-4 fighter has since gone down as one of – if not the – greatest bantamweight fighter of all time.

In 1963, the Brazilian fighter was undefeated in 45 matches with only three draws in his record; he had yet to meet his rival, the Japanese fighting hero Harada.

Jofre, the holder of the newly created WBC and WBA World Bantamweight titles, will put them on the line against 32-3-2 Johnny Jamito, all the way back in Quezon City, Philippines.

25,000 Filipino spectators would fill the Araneta Coliseum to watch the match, which would boost Jamito in the early rounds, as he would come in relief of the unusually slow Jofre. After the novelty wears off, Jofre would look for the pace of the fight, although Jamito would continue to receive punches from far and wide.

The ninth round will be eventful, with a left hook taking out the challenge. However, Jamito was always on his feet, despite the terrible blow his body took. Further, at 11, a right hand pushed Jamito into the ropes and a left caught him on the rebound, sending him to the canvas as the bell went off.

Jamito gave his all, but was forced to leave the game before the start of the 12th round.

Jamito would make two attempts at the OPBF belt, before retiring in 1971, with a record of 47-11-4. Jofre would continue the sport, losing twice to Fighting Harada, before becoming the WBC featherweight champion and retiring in the mid-1970s.

In the early 1970s, a young man walked out of a gym in a small American town. The soon to be 'Marvellous' Marvin Hagler would make his debut on May 18th 1973 at the Brockton High School Gymnasium – the most low key of low key venues. His opponent was one of his first players; a former fighter named Terry Ryan.

Carrying the card – if you can call it that – was Tony Petronelli, a Brockton native who finished his career with a whopping 42-4-1 record, fighting for trinkets at the national level. His heyday would come at the hands of Wilfred Benitez, who Petronelli would challenge for his WBA World Super Lightweight belt; he would lose by TKO in the third.

In the end, the low-key debut just highlights how even a low-key, small show can be steeped in world boxing history.

Of course, history is also largely defined by what is largely unknown.

Such is the case with Shoji Oguma, the Japanese flyweight champion. Retiring with a 38-10-1 record, the southpaw from Fukushima experienced many ups and downs throughout his career. However, the 18th of May 1980 would see the first of a trilogy of fights that would go on to define his legacy in the annals of boxing history; against Korean fighter Chan Hee Park (17-4-2).

Oguma looked for the belt he had held before; He fought for the WBC World Flyweight title against Betulio Gonzalez (76-12-4), before losing in quick succession to Mexico's long-time reigning champion Miguel Canto (61-9-4).

Chan Hee Park will be taking the title from Canto, setting the odds for Oguma to regain his title. And, on May 18, 1980, his turn would come.

Park, with his fan-friendly style and athleticism, would push the action, although Oguma would stay on his toes in the middle of the ring, an area he found most comfortable.

Both men spent a long time examining each other, respecting the speed and power of the other in their songs. Oguma has shown excellent ringmanship, forged from years of world-class experience, however, Park has had a strong temper to combat this.

Each exchange was full of fast pace and ring-smarts. Darting moves and a sharp jab could help give Oguma a slight edge in the opening round. The park will do a more effective job in the next round.

Park's downfall will be his failure to deal with Oguma's southpaw style, as his core work and powerful movement can cause the Korean attacker to slow down. The fight was so fierce, in fact, that Oguma would knock Park out of the arena, even though the referee was not paying attention.

It was back to the fight, it was back and forth without stopping. The ninth round seemed to maintain the pace of all previous rounds, the movement still crisp and sharp. However, attacking the body with three punches will send Park to the canvas, where he will be defeated.

Oguma, finally, will reclaim his old title – and spark a new rivalry.

In recent history, the maturity of the rivalry will create the highest viewership.

Canadian shooter Arturo Gatti would fight his first of three fights against his rival Micky Ward on May 18, 2002, in a fight that would be announced as Fight of the Year 2002 by Ring Magazine.

Iconic fighter, 'Thunder' Gatti will be interrupted by 'Irish' Ward in a very close heat, perhaps one of the greatest displays of human power ever to take place on the canvas. Both men hit the canvas at different points, Ward was dropped by a low blow from Gatti in the fourth and, in retaliation, Gatti was cut down with a nice left hook to the body.

And, in a great display of sportsmanship, the two would embrace at the finish line; enemies had become friends by showing physical combat.

In these stories of the past, it is easy to see where the 'Ring of Fire' stands; from small hall debuts to world title defenses, from well-known explosions to underground rip-ups, they all share tenderness, heart and love.

Each legend expresses the spirit of the boxer as a legend and, on May 18, at the Kingdom Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury will cement their place in this wide and diverse group; one will be awarded as the first undefeated heavyweight champion in a four-belt era and leave history in the continuing archive books.

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