The world of boxing has seen many amazing fighters take to the ring and battling it out in the name of the ‘Sweet Science’. Although there are many, many fights to choose from over the years, some of the following bouts will forever be remembered as some of the best in the long, bloody history of the sport.
10. Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo
Perhaps almost universally regarded as the best boxing bout of 2005, Corrales defeated Luis Castillo for the WBC Lightweight title in Las Vegas, Nevada. Throughout the entire match the two men traded punches and blows in hard combinations, neither willing to back down. Finally in round ten, Castillo knocked Corrales to the floor. Mere seconds after regaining his posture, he faced the mat again. After beating the count, he faced a one point penalty, due to the continuous removal of his mouthpiece. It seemed as though all hope was lost for Corrales, but then he came blasting out with a perfect right hand punch which saw Castillo stumble to the ropes. He became trapped and faced an onslaught of punches before suffering a knockout. A rematch was scheduled later in the year but due to Castillo weighing in over the maximum weight the match became a non-title bout. A shame because he won the fight just four rounds in.
9. Julio César Chávez vs. Meldrick Taylor
This world championship bout was held in March, 1990 between light welterweights Chávez from Mexico and Taylor from America. Dubbed as “Thunder Meets Lightning” (an allusion to the punching power of Chávez and the speed of Taylor) the bout remains highly controversial due to its dramatic ending. Building on his gifted speed, Taylor took the early advantage by hitting Chávez with dazzling combos and dancing around him as his foe barely landed more than one blow at a time. However, this didn’t discourage Chávez who inflicted upon Taylor bleeding from around the mouth and a broken and swollen eye socket. Whilst there was no doubt Taylor would win on points, just a mere two seconds before the final bell was rang referee Richard Steele concluded he was unable to fight, giving Chávez his TKO victory. Speculation still goes on as to whether possible bribery was the sole reason the fight was called. Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that his loss caused an early end to Taylor’s promising career.
8. Joe Louis vs. Billy Conn
In 1941, Billy Conn attempted to become the first Light Heavyweight Champion in boxing history to take the belt of World Heavyweight. Even more incredibly, he did it without going up in weight by taking on the defender Joe Louis. Conn entered as an extreme underdog, with Louis having over 25 pounds of weight over him. This didn’t deter Conn and for 13 rounds he danced around and outmaneuvered his opponent, taking a distant lead on the scorecards. Louis became worn down and dehydrated and it seemed all was lost when Conn went in for the knockout. However, as his overconfidence grew, Taylor fought back hard and with just 2 seconds left in the 13th round, secured his win by knocking out Conn. After the match was over, Louis commented that he withheld his punches throughout the fight, believing he didn’t want to beat up a smaller and lighter opponent. Whether this remains true or not, the public clamored for a rematch which saw similar results and an end to Conn’s career.
7. Micky Ward vs Arturo Gatti
The first of the brutal trilogy between these two Junior Welterweights occurred in May, 2002. For 9 rounds, Ward and Gatti exchanged brutal blows as both were willing to take whatever his opponent was dishing out in order to nab the victory. Although it was near impossible to decide who would win, the deciding moment came when Ward delivered a devastating body blow which forced Gatti to the floor, struggling to fight on. This secured Ward the victory, who won through majority decision. Both men needed care in a trauma centre immediately following the match, yet, surprisingly, they agreed to a rematch later that year which saw Gatti turn the tables and become the victor. A final rematch saw Ward lose again due to unanimous decision. Although Ward didn’t enter the ring again, he earned approximately $3 million from the three fights (the most lucrative of his career) and he became part owner of a boxing academy.
6. Aaron Pryor vs. Alexis Arguello
Lightweight Aaron Pryor was originally scheduled to fight Sugar Ray Leonard in May, 1982, but when Leonard announced upon his sudden retirement Alexis Arguello stepped up as his replacement. No slouch himself, Arguello became the 12-5 favourite and was attempting to become the first boxer to win titles in four weight divisions. Straight from the get-go, Arguello proved to be quite the contender, easily taking the lead on the scorecards. However, from the start of the 14th round Pryor came out of his corner with all guns blazing, landing a barrage of punches and unanswered blows that quickly saw the referee call the match to an end. The fight proved controversial with many believing Pryor had perhaps taken amphetamines after the 13th round. 10 months later in September 1983, a rematch was announced with similar results, albeit much faster in the 10th round. Both boxers retired shortly thereafter.
5. Rocky Marciano vs. Jersey Joe Walcott
Rocky Marciano, aged just 29, faced then champion Jersey Joe Walcott for the Heavyweight Belt on September 23rd, 1952. Marciano was knocked down in the first round for the time in his professional career. It was his 43rd fight. Despite this startling upset, he managed to dominate subsequent rounds, easily taking the lead in points. Marciano was a wild and powerful boxer and fared far better at slugging it out as the match continued. In the 13th round, both men left their corner and attempted a knockout, with Marciano successfully landing a vicious right hook which forced Walcott to his knees and slump against the ropes. Laying there long after he had been counted out, Marciano rose to become the new Heavyweight Champion. A year later he defended his title through a rematch but forced Walcott to the floor before the end of the first round. These two fights helped secure Rocky Marciano as one of the top fighters of all time and the only person to hold a heavyweight title and go untied or undefeated throughout his entire career.
4. Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns
Billed as “The War”, April 15th, 1985 saw undisputed Middleweight champion Marvin Hagler defend his title against Thomas Hearns; the world’s Junior Middleweight champion. Hagler, known for being a slow and steady fighter, stormed Hearns after the opening bell and quickly stunned his opponent. Before long both fighters were trading heavy blows and the first round ended with Hearns suffering a broken hand and Hagler developing a cut on his forehead. In round three, Hagler landed a staggering blow against Hearns which caused him to fall backwards into the ropes. A flurry of follow ups resulted in him facing the canvas, struggling to his feet at the count of nine but being unable to continue. Hagler retained his title as he was carried around the ring by his handlers. The bout remains to this day one of the most intense eight minutes of any fight ever and the image of a blood-soaked Hagler and a barely conscious Hearns remains as testimony to the intensity the two fighters faced.
3. Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns
“The Showdown” saw two of the best boxers of all-time square off against each other in front of a crowd of 300 million television viewers and a live crowd of over 23,000. Taking a considerable lead on the scorecard, Hearns’ long reach and sharp jab left Leonard with a swelling under his left eye and kept him at a distance. Despite winning rounds six and seven, Leonard faced a potential loss, with his trainer uttering the infamous words “You’re blowing it, son! You’re blowing it!’” Perhaps giving him the push he needed, Leonard emerged in the 13th round more aggressive, sending Hearns to the ropes and then knocking him to the floor. The next round saw the referee call an end to the fight with Leonard emerging victorious after pinning his contender against the ropes and unleashing a fury of blows. A followup fight occurred eight years later with both boxers going the distance. Although an eventual draw was decided, many, including Leonard himself, believe Hearns was the true champion of their rematch.
2. Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield
This fight saw Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield squaring off against each other a year after their former fight saw the latter win despite a huge controversy regarding illegal headbutts. Emerging as the underdog victor, Holyfield secured his win with a TKO in the 11th round. As expected, the rematch saw tensions raised between the two fighters. Both emerged from their corners with furious attacks in hope to land a knockout blow. Three rounds in, with neither of them looking to face the canvas floor, Tyson shockingly bit Holyfield’s ear, causing severe bleeding. Yet, the illegal move only resulted in points being deducted. Before the end of the round, Tyson again clinched his opponent and snapped again at his ear. With a stoppage imminent, both fighters were sent to their corners whilst security took the ring. Holyfield was declared the victor who Tyson incredulously claiming the cut on his ear were due to punches and not teeth marks. Following the fight he was fined $3 million and faced a one year ban, eventually admitting his vicious animalistic behaviour was retaliation for Holyfield’s heabutts in their ealier fight. Whatever the reason, this bout will forever be remembered as one of the most bizarre in boxing history.
1. Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier III
Dubbed the “Thrilla in Manila”, the third and final fight between Ali and Frazier saw the two battling it out for the Heavyweight belt in October, 1975. Hugely anticipated, the two fighters taunted each other with Ali declaring, moments before the first bell rang, “You don’t have it, Joe! You don’t have it!”. Ali won the first two rounds with ease; Frazier unable to keep on-balance facing an onslaught of fast punches. All that changed as he got closer to his opponent, keeping tightly on top of him, causing him to swing aggressively but missing his mark. After 14 intense rounds, both fighters were near collapse and Frazier’s trainer threw in the towel before the final round could begin. Ali emerged as the champion but was sorely exhausted, requiring his gloves to be cut off. Ali declared this was the closest he came to giving up and dying, and Frazier was his best opponent.