There is nothing more enthralling and terrifying than to see two highly celebrated heavyweights fighting in a ring. The idea of big men going at it in a fight that can end at any moment has no competition in all of sports.
Very few big-fights fully live up to the expectations provoked when they are initially announced, and even rarer are the ones that surpass them. But only a few completely blow away all preconceived conjectures and become the part of history
Here is the list of the 10 greatest heavyweight fights of all time based on action, drama, and sustained fighting.
Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier 1 – March 8, 1971
When Joe Frazier met Muhammad Ali at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 1971, the storyline went much deeper than two undefeated heavyweights clashing for the belt.
The Fight of the Century is the title boxing writers and historians have given to the boxing match between WBC/WBA heavyweight champion Joe Frazier (26–0, 23 KOs) and Ring magazine/lineal heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali (31–0, 25 KOs), which took place on March 8, 1971, at Madison Square Garden in New York City. After 15 rounds of thrilling toe-to-toe action, Frazier won a unanimous decision. It was the first time that two undefeated boxers fought each other for the heavyweight title.
Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns April 15, 1985
Marvelous” Marvin Hagler and Thomas “Hitman” Hearns fought one of the greatest fights in boxing history. The bout that became known as “The War” lasted only a little over eight minutes, but those minutes were full of action. The fight took place at the Caesars Palace casino in Las Vegas on April 15, 1985.
The fight is considered by many to be among the finest boxing matches in history, due to its constant action, drama, and back-and-forth exchanges. Hagler won the fight by knockout in the third round.
Micky Ward vs. Arturo Gatti — May 18, 2002
The first brawl of boxing’s most brutal trilogy, the 2002 bout between Lowell, Massachusetts’ Micky Ward and Arturo Gatti earned its place in history for sheer punishment. Two rough fighters, Ward and Gatti were both willing to take what the other man had to offer and the ebb and flow of the brawl made it nearly impossible to decided which fighter was getting the better of the action. The deciding blow was likely landed in the 9th, when Ward dropped Gatti with a left-hook to his ribs.
Although Gatti fought on, won the fight by majority decision, but the fight will always be remembered for the action not the outcome.
Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman — October 30, 1974
The Rumble in the Jungle was a historic boxing event in Kinshasa, Zaire on October 30, 1974. It has been called “arguably the greatest sporting event of the 20th century”.
A huge, powerful puncher, Foreman made mincemeat out of Joe Frazier and embarrassed Ken Norton in two rounds before it was announced that he would be fighting Muhammad Ali in Zaire in a bout dubbed “The Rumble in the Jungle.” Although he was beloved, Ali was looked at as the underdog going into this title match. Foreman was too big, too powerful. “The Louisville Lip” was ready for his young opponent, though, and using a technique he called the “rope-a-dope,” Ali famously covered himself up against the ropes and let Foreman throw bombs until he wore himself out. By the eighth round, the big man was exhausted and Ali capitalized, delivering a hard right hand that knocked Foreman out and cemented the boxer’s reputation as “The Greatest.”
Aaron Pryor vs. Alexis Arguello — November 12, 1982
The Battle of the Champions, was a term used by promoter Bob Arum regarding the November 12, 1982 boxing match between Aaron Pryor and Alexis Argüello. This 1982 dream match pitted the arrogant, boastful Aaron Pryor against the proud, enduring Alexis Arguello in a 15-round slugfest. Dubbed “The Explosive Thin Man,” Arguello was attempting to become the first man to win titles in four different weight classes when he stepped in the ring with the light welterweight Pryor. He came close, too, controlling most of the fight with his dangerous hands, but “The Hawk” came alive in the final rounds, battering Arguello with punches until the fight was stopped in dramatic fashion. A mysterious black bottle that disgraced trainer Panama Lewis handed Pryor in-between rounds threw the fight’s outcome into question, but “The Hawk” would silence his critics by defeating Arguello even more decisively 10 months later.
Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Meldrick Taylor — March 17, 1990
The world championship bout held on March 17, 1990 between WBC world champion Julio César Chávez of Mexico and IBF world champion Meldrick Taylor of the United States, both at light welterweight, was a historic event in professional boxing. It was titled “Thunder Meets Lightning” as an allusion to the punching power of Chávez and fast hand speed of Taylor.
Although it lasted for 12 thrilling rounds, this 1990 bout between Mexican hero Chavez and Philadelphia prodigy Taylor is remembered for two seconds. The most dramatic moment was when Chavez delivered a solid minute of boxing and pummeled Taylor into submission, knocking him to the canvas with only a couple seconds left in the match. The Referee asked Taylor if he could continue. Some claim Taylor nodded yes, but the referee decided that since Taylor refused to answer – awarded Chavez a knockout.
Erik Morales vs. Marco Antonio Barrera — February 19, 2000
Ring Magazine‘s fight of 2000 was fully justified as the slender boxers belied their small stature to deliver a heavyweight performance which didn’t relent and resulted in Morales winning by a split decision. An intense, 12-round bloodbath, the bout saw the two fighters pickup right where they left off with constant go-for-broke punches from the opening bell. Although neither man went down in the match, each looked as though they had survived a car accident by the time things were over. As close as it was, Barrera was the man who took the majority decision, winning the battle and the war.
George Foreman vs. Ron Lyle — January 24, 1976
It was, in the words of Red Smith, who had witnessed almost all of the heavyweight bouts in the more than 50 years of his career at ringside, “The most two-sided battle of heavyweights in recent memory.” It was the George Foreman-Ron Lyle heavyweight fight. The scheduled 12-round heavyweight elimination contest between Foreman, the former heavyweight champion, and Lyle, the No. 5-ranked contender. The kind of power punching slugfest that defined heavyweight boxing in its heyday, the 1976 brawl between George Foreman and Ron Lyle was a fight with two boxers who wanted to prove something. Coming off his loss to Muhammad Ali in the storied “Rumble in the Jungle” (more on that later), Foreman needed to fight his way back into the title picture. Lyle, on the other hand, was desperate to assert himself as a top fighter. So the big men traded shots for five straight rounds, each going down twice in interim. In the end, Foreman knocked Lyle down for a third and final time, putting an exclamation point on one of the most thrilling heavyweight bouts of all time.
Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo — May 7, 2005
On May 7, 2005, Corrales defeated José Luis Castillo for the WBC and WBO lightweight titles in a titular unification bout via TKO in the tenth round (Corrales held the WBO title, Castillo the WBC title). This 2005 brawl for the WBC Lightweight Title was one big fight of brilliance. A 10-round war of attrition between California’s Diego Corrales and Mexican dynamo Jose Luis Castillo, the match saw both fighters stand toe to toe in the center of the ring and trade shots for nearly half an hour before a thrilling chain of events occurred. After being knocked down by Castillo two consecutive times in the 10th, Corrales staggered to his feet and threw a miraculous right hand that caught “El Terrible” on the chin. Smelling blood, “Chico” attacked and unleashed an offensive flurry on his opponent that forced the official to call the fight.
“Sugar” Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns — Sept. 16, 1981
Sugar Ray Leonard won the WBC welterweight title with a fifteenth-round knockout of Wilfred Benítez in 1979. He lost it to Roberto Durán by a close decision in June 1980 and regained it five months later in the infamous No Más Fight, in which Duran quit in the eighth round. It was the first clash between two of boxing’s most talented fighters. Opening as expected, the Welterweight Title unification bout saw the lankier Hearns keeping his shorter opponent at a distance while scoring with long jabs at will. A brilliant strategist, Leonard knew the fight could not continue this way, so he changed up his game plan and aggressively went after “The Hit Man.” “Sugar” Ray’s assertiveness carried him through the 6th and 7th rounds, but soon Hearns adapted himself, swinging the fight back in his favor by boxing instead of brawling. The fight looked to be going the “Motor City Cobra’s” way until Leonard threw all caution to the wind and attacked his opponent, scoring a knockdown in the 13th before pounding Hearns until the official stopped fight in the following round.