Love boxing battles?! There’s something incredibly beautiful about two men stepping inside of a ring, staring down each other from opposite sides while the crowd cheers and the announcer scream their names to the thousands in attendance. They all know what’s going to happen, they all know what’s about to go down. These two human beings are about to show off their technical prowess, athleticism, power and, most importantly, toughness to see who the better fighter is.
However, as wonderful as that is – and it sure is wonderful – a lot of the time it’s just business, and nothing more. However, sometimes when the styles match up right and the determination between both competitors to beat the other is on a level normal human beings simply cannot begin to fathom, truly brilliant battles between fierce warriors can occur which, in turn, bring out the sort of emotions in people that no other sporting event could even dream of doing. It’s simple. Sometimes two individuals punching each other in the face and refusing to back down to one another can be the most exciting thing on the planet and can galvanize millions of fans around the world.
Here is a list of 5 of the best boxing feuds to ever occur in prizefighting.
Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran engaged in three bouts during their rivalry. The first was by far the best, the second was the strangest and the third was a bout between two aging fighters that were nowhere close to the top of their game. In the first fight in Montreal in 1980, the sharp boxing of Leonard was apparent in the early rounds but as the fight progressed, Duran started to dominate. Duran won a street brawl by unanimous decision. The pair met five months later in New Orleans and Duran tried to engage Leonard in another brawl. He was unable to do that and called off the fight with his infamous “No Mas” decree in the 8th Round. Duran never properly recovered from that and lost the third fight on points.
Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns met in one of the most anticipated bouts in 1981 for the world welterweight championship in Las Vegas. The fight was billed as the boxing skill and artistry of Sugar Ray Leonard against the vicious punching of Thomas Hearns. Hearns had the better of it through much of the fight when Leonard’s trainer Angelo Dundee leaned in and told Leonard that he was in the process of losing the fight: “You’re blowing it son, you’re blowing it.” Leonard responded and ended up securing a 14th-Round TKO over the rubber-legged Hearns. The rematch was a close run epic in Las Vegas. Most observers gave the decision to Hearns but it eventually ended being officially declared a draw.
Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield met in three Las Vegas bouts between 1992 and 1995. This was a series that featured the heavy-handed Bowe against the all-around skill of Holyfield. Holyfield was the better boxer, but he was really a pumped-up cruiserweight. Bowe was a full-scale heavyweight who had power in both hands. In the first fight, Bowe won a tight, unanimous decision. In the second meeting, Holyfield won a majority decision, with two judges giving the edge to Holyfield while the other judge called the bout even. Finally, Bowe asserted himself in the third bout and came away with an 8th-Round technical knockout.
Zale, from Chicago, went to Yankee Stadium and knocked out the home town favourite Graziano in the sixth to win the first fight between the pair. They met a year later on Zale’s home turf at Chicago Stadium in one of the greatest brawls of all-time. Graziano managed a sixth round TKO. Zale had dominated much of the fight, pounding huge lumps all over Graziano’s face as the New Yorker took a tremendous beating. However, Graziano kept punching and when the 102-degree heat in the stadium weakened Zale, Graziano pounded him relentlessly until the fight was stopped. In the third and final bout in Newark, New Jersey’s Ruppert Stadium, Zale leveled Graziano with a 3rd-Round knockout. So interestingly, each boxer won on their opponent’s home turf.
Few will surely argue with this being the number one. Ali v Frazier was one of the most bitter of rivalries of all time – both inside and outside the ring. The first fight occurred at Madison Square Garden in March 1971, and it was the most hyped event of the sports year. Ali, the boxer, had the edge in the early rounds, but Frazier, the slugger, took charge in the late rounds. It was a close fight going into the final rounds, but Frazier knocked Ali down in the final round which helped seal a narrow win. This saw Frazier retain the heavyweight title. When Ali and Frazier met in 1974, there was no championship at stake as Frazier had lost to George Foreman. Ali won a unanimous decision.
They met again in 1975 in Manila. Ali had knocked out Foreman and he was the defending champion. In this bout, Ali’s speed and sharp left jab gave him the edge in the early rounds, but Frazier’s explosive left hook and battering-ram style had hurt Ali badly. The fight ended with Frazier unable to answer the bell for the final round. As soon as Ali was declared the winner, he collapsed to the floor. Had Frazier’s camp waited a few more seconds before throwing in the towel, there is every chance that the opposite corner would have pulled their man out as the greatest rivalry in boxing concluded with the narrowest of victories for the self-proclaimed “Greatest”.
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