Five boxers who were one fight away from greatness

Profile Picture: Danny Howard

May 11th, 2020

Greatness is subjective, but there’s no debate that these fighters missed the boat.

Join us as we take a look at five fighters who were on the cusp of immortality but fell short when it mattered most.

Zab Judah (vs. Floyd Mayweather)

Judah held titles in two weight classes and commanded attention during his prime, but he never got it done when it mattered the most.

His potential for greatness and his major flaws were on full display in his highly anticipated clash with Floyd Mayweather. Mayweather was outclassed early on, but he adjusted and shut Judah down. Losing his composure and taking a beating, Judah fouled Mayweather late in the fight and lost a decision.

Had Judah held it together to beat Mayweather, it would have solidified his credentials as one of the best of his era.

Hasim Rahman (Lennox Lewis rematch)

Rahman shocked the world when he knocked out a poorly prepared Lewis to become heavyweight champion. Hoping to avoid the distinction of being a one-hit wonder, Rahman had a rematch with Lewis months later, with a disastrous result.

Lewis destroyed Rahman, and the loss sent him spiraling toward irrelevance. Though Rahman captured the title once more, after Lewis retired, he missed his shot at legitimacy when Lewis blew him up.

Juan Diaz (vs. Juan Manuel Marquez)

Had Diaz defeated Marquez in their legendary 2009 war, there is no doubt he would be among the best Mexican fighters of his era. Diaz was a long-reigning lightweight champion on the cusp of stardom, and defeating Marquez would have made him a legend.

In a blistering bout, he succumbed to Marquez’s masterful counter punching. Diaz fell off shortly after the loss, and his run at the top of the division is mostly forgotten.

Fernando Vargas (vs. Shane Mosley)

At one time, Vargas was the youngest junior middleweight champion in history and was gaining a tremendous following.

Knockout losses to Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya turned his meteoric rise to a rapid free fall.

His last chance to rehabilitate his career came in a pair of crossroad fights with Shane Mosley. Vargas lost both via stoppage. Had Vargas defeated Mosley even once, it would have erased the notion that he couldn’t win the big one.

Tony Bellew (vs. Oleksandr Usyk)

After Bellew scored back-to-back upset knockouts over David Haye at heavyweight, he returned to cruiserweight to face Usyk, the undisputed champion.

Though Bellew put up a magnificent effort, he came up short on the cards and retired after the loss. Beating Usyk after the Haye victories could have been enough to earn him a spot in the Hall of Fame, but it just wasn’t meant to be.