In 1943, Sugar Ray Robinson, by far the greatest boxer who ever lived, defeated Hall of Famer Jake LaMotta on Feb. 5 at Olympia Stadium in Detroit. Two weeks later, he defeated "California" Jackie Wilson at Madison Square Garden in New York. Exactly seven days later, Robinson headlined The Garden again, this time defeating LaMotta in a rematch Feb. 26.
The greatest fighter of all time fought three times in 21 days that month, including two wins over a fellow Hall of Famer known for his incredible toughness.
Those days are gone forever in boxing, and probably for good reason. It's not safe for fighters to get hit as much as those boxers did when the sport was one of the biggest in the world. They're missed, though, because the sport's fans knew they'd see the best fight the best on the regular. And not only did Robinson face "The Raging Bull" twice in 1943 he faced the legendary Henry Armstrong six months later.
Boxing has been through much in the past 80 years, much of it disappointing and devastating. It's common in the 21st century for big fights to never get made. It's also common that fans are forced to wait years to see those kinds of fights.
But July will at least give a hint of what boxing was like in its heyday, when the three biggest sports in the U.S. were baseball, boxing and horse racing.
Six of the finest boxers in the world will compete in July, with two mega-bouts occurring in the final week of the month. On July 25 in Tokyo, undisputed bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue moves up to face unified super bantamweight champion Stephen Fulton. Four days later, in a fight fans have been calling for for years, WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford meets unified champion Errol Spence Jr. for the undisputed belt.
But they're not the only elite fighters competing in July.
On Saturday, a pair of welterweights with the kind of talent to one day be in the same class as either Crawford or Spence will compete in separate fights. Unbeaten Vergil Ortiz Jr. faces Eimantas Stanionis on Saturday (9 p.m. ET, DAZN) for a version of the WBA title. Spence is the WBA champion so the title should be ignored in Ortiz-Stanionis. The WBA gives out title belts like they're Tic Tacs and most of them mean nothing.
But Ortiz-Stanionis is an outstanding fight. So, too, is the other welterweight bout taking place Saturday on Showtime, Jaron Ennis against Roiman Villa.
Ortiz is 19-0 with 19 KOs. Ennis is 30-0 with 27 knockouts. Here's the great thing about this: In separate conversations with Yahoo Sports, both Ortiz and Ennis said they hoped they got a chance next to fight the Crawford-Spence winner. But that's going to be a complicated affair, and so each said they'd love to fight each other.
Ortiz and Ennis are among a pack of young fighters who have pushed promoters, managers and TV networks to allow them to fight the best out there. And that's why all of a sudden in 2023, we've had so many significant bouts, with so many more to come.
Ortiz said there was a simple reason he's been pushing for the best and would be wiling to fight Ennis next in the type of fight in modern boxing that is put off repeatedly.
"I don't care what anyone else does," Ortiz said when asked about the motivation of being willing to fight Ennis so quickly in their careers. "I'm doing it for me. I want to prove I'm the best. I'm not doing it to show my generation's the best. I'm doing it to show I'm the best and I want everyone to know that. Not only do I want to prove that to everyone, mostly, I want to prove that to myself."
Ennis is coming off a disappointing win over veteran Karen Chukhadzhian in January and got a lot of flak for it. It's motivated him to make a statement during his fight with Villa on Saturday in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
He, too, wants the winner of Spence-Crawford, but he knows that Ortiz is out there as well.
Neither Stanionis for Ortiz nor Villa for Ennis are easy bouts. Both have the talent to push the young stud welterweights to their limits, and perhaps beyond.
Ennis believes in himself and nearly echoed Ortiz when he said he's down to fight.
"I know what I'm going to do [Saturday]," Ennis said. "I know I'm going to shine. I'm going to do my thing and I'm going to win. I'm going to get the stoppage. Like I said before, I want to fight the winner of Spence and Bud, but if we don't get that fight, then I want the winner of Ortiz and Stanionis. If I don't get that, OK, let's go. I'll fight [Yordenis] Ugas or Keith Thurman. I just want to fight top guys. I don't want to fight bottom-tier guys.
"I want to fight tough guys where I can showcase my skills and my abilities against the elite guys, the top guys, and show the world that I'm really the best in the world."
Those words are music to any serious boxing fans' ears.
If the sport is in the hands of guys like this, it's in for a good, long run of success.