With nicknames like "The Mecca" and "The World's Most Famous Arena," New York's Madison Square Garden has played host to just about every form of sports and entertainment since first opening its doors five blocks away in 1879. Within that great history, there has been a fair amount of legendary fights, whether planned in the form of boxing and pro wrestling or organically spawned within the grounds of competition. But The Garden had yet to play host to the Octagon until Saturday night's UFC 205, which invades MSG in the first mixed martial arts card to be held in New York City in company history. Before the UFC sets down its flag in midtown Manhattan for the first time with a stacked card, headlined by lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez against Conor McGregor, let's take a look back at the most memorable fights to take place at MSG.
Jake LaMotta vs. Sugar Ray Robinson
October 2, 1942
In the first of six meetings between the Hall of Fame boxers over a nine-year span, Ray Robinson moved up to middleweight and soundly outpointed Jake LaMotta, right, over 10 rounds. Robinson, the longtime welterweight champion who improved to 36-0 with the win, had begun to exhaust his options at 147 pounds and boxed circles around his larger opponent, despite weighing in at 15 pounds below the middleweight limit of 160. The fight took place hours after the conclusion of Game 3 of the 1947 World Series between the Yankees and Dodgers in Brooklyn. Robinson went on to win the overall series between the two fighters 5-1, with LaMotta scoring his lone victory by decision in their second fight, in 1943.
Joe Louis vs. Rocky Marciano
October 26, 1951
Well past his prime in the final bout of his legendary career, Joe Louis officially passed the torch to the up-and-coming Rocky Marciano, who was less than a year away from winning the world heavyweight championship. Marciano was hesitant to accept the fight against the 37-year-old Louis, his boyhood idol, who badly needed the money. "The Brown Bomber," who had once held the heavyweight title for an incredible 11 years and eight months before relinquishing it to Ezzard Charles in 1950, ultimately succumbed to Marciano in Round 8 after being knocked down twice. Referee Rudy Goldstein stepped in to wave off the bout without a count after Louis was sent through the ropes and onto the ring apron.
Gordie Howe vs. Lou Fontinato
February 1, 1959
Nicknamed "Mr. Hockey," Gordie Howe is remembered over his Hall of Fame career as a 23-time NHL All-Star who scored an incredible 801 goals, a record that stood until Wayne Gretzky broke it in 1994. But he is just as easily remembered as one of the toughest to ever lace up a pair of skates and was no stranger to throwing fists. Howe, who played 25 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, had his most famous fight at MSG against New York Rangers' enforcer Lou Fontinato. Their feud had been brewing for some time, but Howe got the best of him in this exchange, breaking Fontinato's nose, dislocating his jaw and leaving him a bloodied mess.
Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier I
March 8, 1971
Known simply as "The Fight of the Century" -- or, even simpler, as "The Fight" -- the whole world seemed to stop and take notice the night Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier met for the first of three memorable heavyweight duels in the 1970s. Their first meeting held the greatest cultural significance. The unbeaten Ali had recently returned from a three-year exile after being stripped of the heavyweight championship for draft evasion. Frazier, meanwhile, had captured the undisputed title in his absence, making this fight the first time an unbeaten former heavyweight champion had faced the current unbeaten one. Frazier floored Ali in Round 14 with a devastating left hook and went on to win by unanimous decision.
Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier II
January 28, 1974
Nearly three years after their first meeting, Ali and Frazier met for the second time at MSG, this time in a non-title pairing after Frazier had lost the title by knockout to George Foreman in January 1973. This 12-round bout was the least memorable of their epic trilogy, with Ali, left, gaining revenge via a close yet unanimous decision. Ali went on to win their third meeting, dubbed "The Thrilla in Manila," in 1975.
Mike Milbury and the Boston Bruins vs. Rangers fans
December 23, 1979
Rangers fans got up close and personal with the rival Bruins during a bizarre sequence just two days before Christmas. After a melee broke out between both teams, a Rangers fan reached over the glass to strike Bruins' player Stan Jonathan with a rolled-up program, drawing blood in the process, before stealing his stick. A number of Boston players followed the lead of noted Bruins' brawler Terry O'Reilly by jumping into the crowd to confront the fan. In the most memorable sequence of the frightening exchange, Boston defenseman Mike Milbury grabbed a shoe off of the guilty fan and began beating him with it before arena security jumped in.
WrestleMania I: Hulk Hogan and Mr. T vs. Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff
March 31, 1985
In the inaugural offering of sports entertainment's most celebrated annual show, Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation (now the WWE) invaded MSG with a star-studded card featuring celebrity appearances by the likes of Muhammad Ali, Liberace and Cyndi Lauper. In the main event, actor Mr. T teamed with Hulk Hogan, the WWF heavyweight champion and rising cultural phenomenon, to win one for the good guys against Piper and Orndorff.
Tie Domi vs. Bob Probert
February 9, 1992
In what is considered one of the greatest hockey fights in history, Tie Domi, the brash enforcer of the Rangers, squared off with Bob Probert, one half of the Red Wings' "Bruise Brothers" duo alongside Joey Kocur. Despite giving up five inches in height to the 6-foot-3 Probert, Domi held his own as the two traded blows at center ice. Probert, who suffered a cut over his eye, used his reach advantage effectively to land a series of stiff right hands, forcing Domi to swing wildly for the fences.
WrestleMania X: Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon
March 20, 1994
In WrestleMania's first appearance at MSG since its inaugural card in 1985, Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon stole the show with an incredible ladder match to unify the Intercontinental championship. In the first match of its kind for the WWE on a stage this large, the two superstars seemingly created new ways to utilize the ladder as a weapon in a match that raised the bar of expectations for the future. In the end, Ramon pushed Michaels off the ladder one final time, forcing him to get tangled in the ropes and allowing "The Bad Guy" to grab the belts hanging from high above the center of the ring.
Riddick Bowe vs. Andrew Golota
July 11, 1996
Andrew Golota was winning this fight against former heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe, but repeated low blows by Golota resulted in a disqualification loss. But that was only the half of it. Bowe's team immediately rushed the ring to attack Golota, with one team member hitting him in the head with a giant cellphone. A riot broke out in the ring and spread into the crowd. The result was 22 injuries, 16 arrests and one unforgettable scene captured by HBO cameras. Golota's trainer, 74-year-old Lou Duva, passed out in the ring and was nearly dropped from a gurney as he was carried out of the ring and through the chaos in the crowd. In their bizarre rematch five months later in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Golota was disqualified a second time for a similar set of low blows while leading on the scorecards.
Larry Johnson, Jeff Van Gundy vs. Alonzo Mourning
April 13, 1998
The Knicks evened their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series with the Heat following a 90-85 victory in Game 4. But the game will forever be remembered for what happened toward the end. With just 1.4 seconds left in the game, former Charlotte Hornets teammates Alonzo Mourning, right, of the Heat, and Larry Johnson of the Knicks unloaded a series of wild haymakers on each other, none of which landed. If that wasn't crazy enough, diminutive Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy inserted himself into the melee as a peacemaker, grabbing onto Mourning's leg in almost comical fashion as he was dragged along. Johnson and Mourning were suspended for the pivotal Game 5, but the loss of Mourning proved more costly for the Heat. The Knicks advanced with a 98-91 victory in Miami.
Lennox Lewis vs. Evander Holyfield
March 13, 1999
Heavyweight titleholders Evander Holyfield, left, and Lennox Lewis came together for a massive title unification bout in front of a sellout crowd of more than 21,000. But the fight, which was billed as "Undisputed," was forever stained by a decision that was both disputed and controversial. Lewis, who appeared to control Holyfield behind his jab by a comfortable margin, settled for a draw in what is considered one of the worst decisions in big-time boxing history. Both fighters (and their promoters) benefited financially from the controversy, because an immediate rematch was ordered for eight months later in Las Vegas, with Lewis taking home a clear decision win.
Marcus Camby vs. Danny Ferry
January 15, 2001
Jeff Van Gundy struck again. The former Knicks coach found himself in the center of mayhem a second time, in 2001, after a fight broke out during a regular-season game between New York and San Antonio. After Knicks center Marcus Camby was inadvertently poked in the eye by Spurs forward Danny Ferry while the two jostled for a rebound, an angry Camby broke free from initial restraint and uncorked a wild roundhouse punch in Ferry's direction. But Camby was intercepted by Van Gundy, who stepped between the two players at the last moment, causing a collision of heads that left Van Gundy with a cut above his left eye that required a dozen stitches. Camby was suspended five games and fined $25,000 by the NBA for his actions.
Bernard Hopkins vs. Felix Trinidad
September 29, 2001
Originally scheduled for Sept. 15, the middleweight unification bout was postponed two weeks following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City. In what turned out to be an emotional night for many at ringside, Hopkins, right, painted a masterpiece by dropping and eventually stopping Trinidad in Round 12 to become the division's first unified champion since Marvelous Marvin Hagler in 1987. It was thought to be a possible coda for Hopkins' great career at age 36. But "The Alien" continued to evolve in the years that followed, becoming the oldest fighter in boxing history to win, defend and unify world titles. Hopkins is still technically an active fighter today at age 52.
October 22, 2005
MSG has been the home to plenty of big men throughout the years, including Hall of Fame Knicks centers Willis Reed and Patrick Ewing. But neither can hold a candle to the strength (and width) of the competitors in the World Sumo Challenge. Ronny Allman of Norway, bottom, is taken down by Bulgaria's Georgiev Stiliyan during the competition.
New York Knicks vs. Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets
December 16, 2006
With 1:23 remaining in the Knicks' eventual 123-100 regular season loss to the Nuggets, it was another diminutive member of the home team who played a major role. After New York's Mardy Collins was fouled by Denver's J.R. Smith to start the chaos, 5-foot-7 Knicks guard Nate Robinson got into it with Smith, and things escalated as the two spilled into the front row of the crowd behind the basket. Cooler heads appeared to prevail momentarily, but Nuggets' star Carmelo Anthony landed a punch to the face of Collins. The fallout was severe, with seven players suspended for a total of 47 games. Anthony led all suspensions at 15 games, losing more than $640,000 of his salary.
Royal Rumble: John Cena wins
January 27, 2008
The WWE has become known for shocking returns in recent years, and no one has done it better than John Cena, who time and again has returned from injury much quicker than anticipated. His surprise return from a torn pectoral muscle at the Royal Rumble created one of the loudest pops from a WWE audience in recent memory. Cena went on to win the match by eliminating Triple H and securing a title shot later that year at WrestleMania XXIV.
Rangers vs. Devils line brawl
March 19, 2012
This one didn't take long to get heated up. As soon as the puck was dropped in the opening faceoff, members of the Rangers and Devils dropped gloves to kick off a rousing brawl, which featured three separate fights at the start. New Jersey's Cam Janssen, left, traded punches with New York's Brandon Prust. The brawl marked the third such skirmish between the two teams that season, and all three took place early in games. The most telling image from the night was the bloody face of New Jersey's Ryan Carter as he skated off the ice.
First annual "Grapple at the Garden"
December 16, 2012
In the first collegiate wrestling event in the building's history, a total of 14 national programs entered MSG, including seven schools ranked in the top 25 at the time, competing in two rounds of dual meet action.