Lists

Ranking The Top 30 Heavyweight Boxing Matches Of All-Time

Darren - February 28, 2020
Lists

Ranking The Top 30 Heavyweight Boxing Matches Of All-Time

Darren - February 28, 2020
Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

29. Roy Jones Jr. vs. John Ruiz

This fight is on this list because of what Jones achieved. While the actual battle itself wasn’t as epic as some on this list, Jones put on a masterclass against a bigger man. Was Ruiz the greatest heavyweight champion in history? No one thinks that’s true, but Jones shouldn’t have been there. The only man to win titles at middleweight, light-heavyweight, and heavyweight, this was a sensational win from Jones.

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

Ruiz wasn’t able to touch Jones as the smaller man unleashed a clinic. In the end, Jones won the WBA heavyweight title but vacated it because he wanted to return to light-heavyweight where he was more comfortable. This was and remains an incredible achievement by one of the greatest boxers to set foot in a ring. He earned $10 million from the fight and deserved every dime.

Mandatory Credit: Twitter

28. Dillian Whyte vs. Derrick Chisora 2

This was a good old-fashioned slugfest between two of the most high-profile heavyweight boxers on the UK scene. Whyte had bragging rights from his victory in their first clash, but Chisora came into this boxing match ready to cause an upset. It looked like it was on the cards because he dominated the fight and two of the judges had him winning. But then Whyte ended it with one punch.

Mandatory Credit: Twitter

It’s not the most meaningful fight on this list, but it definitely was very entertaining. Chisora showed all of his veteran wiles and aggression before Whyte displayed true heavyweight power. These fights can end in a flash because the men are so big and strong. Whyte and Chisora showcased all of the best aspects of these bouts in front of an audience of passionate fans.

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

27. Mike Tyson vs. Trevor Berbick

Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion ever in 1986. He was just 20 years old when he knocked Berbick out in the second round of their hotly-anticipated clash. After destroying 27 opponents, Tyson finally had his opportunity to become the most-feared champion of them all. Berbick was the last man to beat Muhammad Ali but wasn’t in the same class as the most elite fighters.

Mandatory Credit: Boxing Junkie – USA Today

He tried to stand toe-to-toe with Tyson, but this was like grabbing a bull by the horns. Tyson wreaked havoc with his power punches, knocking Berbick down several times before the referee saw enough and stopped the fight. The watching fans knew that they saw something special happen that night in Las Vegas. ‘Iron Mike’ won the WBC heavyweight champion and also the hearts of fans.

Mandatory Credit: 247 News Around The World

26. Mike Tyson vs. Michael Spinks

It’s difficult to imagine now but many people believed that Spinks, not Tyson, was the real heavyweight champion in 1988. Tyson held three belts but Spinks was the lineal champion and owned the Ring and Boxing Magazine belts. Finally, they met in Atlantic City at an event billed as ‘Once and For All.’ However, Spinks failed to stop Tyson’s relentless onslaught.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Inquirer

‘Iron Mike’ won this clash in about 90 seconds with one of the most spectacular and destructive performances of his career. Most of his fights don’t make this list because they were too one-sided. While this certainly belongs in that category, it also had a special glamor around it because of both men’s prestige and achievements. Tthis was a very special boxing occasion.

Mandatory Credit: Neil Leifer

25. Muhammad Ali vs. Ken Norton III

There was so much riding on this fight for Ali. Norton was his toughest challenge, even more so than Joe Frazier. ‘The Black Hercules’ had won their first match by split decision while Ali took the rematch. The winner of this rubber fight would be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.

Mandatory Credit: ESPN.com

It should have been Norton. Tensions were rife in Yankee Stadium and the police were on strike in New York. Both men showed their strengths in an entertaining bout. But even Ali said that Norton should have won. He took a pounding from the challenger as his decline began.

Mandatory Credit: Pinterest

24. Evander Holyfield vs. Michael Dokes

Nobody knew quite what to expect from Holyfield in this one. It was his first fight after his move up from light heavyweight. Dokes was a fearsome opponent. The recovered drug addict had completed a full circle as he looked to win the title. Ultimately this was a very entertaining fight for 10 rounds.

Mandatory Credit: Youtube

Dokes landed some heavy punches, in the beginning, putting Holyfield under pressure. But once ‘The Real Deal’ settled in, he was able to use his speed and agility to his advantage. However, in round eight, Dokes backed Holyfield up against the cage, but he managed to hang on. A brutal uppercut in the tenth won it for Holyfield.

Mandatory Credit: ESPN

23. Joe Frazier vs. Jerry Quarry

With Ali exiled from boxing, Frazier was clearly the best in the world in 1969. But Jerry Quarry tested his mettle like never before. One of the most popular fighters in the US, Quarry showed confidence against the champion. He laid everything on the line.

Mandatory Credit: Getty Images

However, this would prove to be his undoing. ‘Irish Jerry’ stayed on the attack but played into Frazier’s hands. Frazier was able to get his timing down and took over from the fourth round on. Frazier kept landing heavy right hands, eventually opening up a deep cut on Quarry’s head. The referee stopped the fight in the tenth round.

Mandatory Credit: Pinterest / Manos Athanasiadis

22. Rocky Marciano vs. Ezzard Charles

One of Marciano’s two toughest fights, this one was as close as he ever came to losing. Known for his love of a brawl, Charles was a very difficult stylistic match-up for Marciano as he was more technical and defensive. This made for a very intriguing fight which Charles thought he actually won.

Mandatory Credit: ESPN

That could be a stretch too far. But he definitely did give Marciano a very tough test. Marciano almost knocked Charles out in the sixth round, but he was able to hang on until the end. They had a rematch later that year with Marciano winning in the eighth round.

Mandatory Credit: RTE

21. Cassius Clay vs. Sonny Liston

Nowadays there’s talk about Liston owing the mob and taking a dive. But this was still a captivating fight that sent Clay on the path to greatness. Immortalized in one of the most iconic sports photos ever, he dropped Liston several times on the road to victory.

Mandatory Credit: Audiomack

Clay’s movement was sensational as he avoided Liston’s shots. A shady moment occurred in the fifth round as Clay complained something was in his eyes from Liston’s gloves. But he regained his sight and bounced back in the sixth to dominate Liston and seal an infamous win.

Mandatory Credit: The Mirror

20. Derrick Jefferson vs. Maurice Harris

Fights like this just don’t happen these days. That’s probably just as well for the sake of the current fighters’ brain cells. In short, this wasn’t a mere boxing match, it was a war. Jefferson and Harris met in Atlantic City and slugged it out for six rounds of sheer brutality.

Mandatory Credit: Bloody Elbow

The second round between them is the stuff of legend. Jefferson dropped Harris twice before Harris smashed him with a hammer of a right hand. But the ending was just as epic. It looked like Harris was going to finish Jefferson after dropping him with body shots. He was pouring it on when Jefferson suddenly connected with a left hook and it was lights out.

Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated

19. David Tua vs. Ike Ibeabuchi

One of the few non-title fights on this list, this one is not for the fainthearted. New Zealander Tua fought Nigeria’s Ibeabuchi in 1997. Their 12 -round fight was a true war of attrition as they slugged it out with relentless abandon. There are few fights more brutal than this over the past thirty years.

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The two heavyweights threw 1,730 punches over the course of 12 rounds. That’s 139 more than the Thrilla in Manila, which had two more rounds. Finally, Ibeabuchi got the win but both men left everything in the ring. Later in his career, Tua challenged Lennox Lewis for the heavyweight title.

Mandatory Credit: talkSPORT

18. Lennox Lewis vs. Vitaly Klitschko

This was a true fight for Lewis. A rematch with Mike Tyson was in the cards if he got past Klitschko but that’s not what happened. Instead, we got a full-blown battle. Klitschko hurt Lewis in the first round and it was clear this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park for him.

Mandatory Credit: Boxing News

Klitschko was clearly ahead when a nasty cut did him in. The doctor stopped the fight after round six as the bleeding wouldn’t stop. He was furious because he was up on all the judges’ scorecards. He wanted a rematch but it never came as Lewis retired.

Mandatory Credit: EssentiallySports

17. Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson

After this fight, Tyson’s aura was never the same. His loss to Buster Douglas was a freak incident. But this was truly the end of an era. All the critics thought that Holyfield was past his prime. Yet that turned out not to be the case as he put a clinic on ‘Iron Mike.’

Mandatory Credit: Sportscasting

Tyson had the aggression but lacked the finish and intimidation factor of his earlier career. Holyfield was able to answer everything and dropped Tyson in the sixth. He eventually finished him off in the eleventh round with another brutal barrage. It was a defining moment.

Mandatory Credit: Metro

16. George Foreman vs. Michael Moorer

Foreman went into sharp decline after losing to Ali. He retired for 10 years before sealing his legacy in a dramatic as possible fashion. The 45-year-old fought 27-year-old Moorer in 1994 for the heavyweight title. Although Moorer appeared able to land at will, Foreman wore down the champion.

Mandatory Credit: Bleacher Report

He scored some significant blows that softened up Moorer. By the time he landed the big right hand that finished the fight, Moorer had nothing left. Foreman became the oldest man to win the heavyweight title, sending the boxing world into shock. What a comeback story.

Mandatory Credit: Sky.com

15. Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko

Klitschko dominated the heavyweight division with his brother Vitaly for 10 years. The veteran Ukrainian took on young champion Joshua in front of 90,000 in Wembley Stadium. Four rounds went by without much action, but then it suddenly exploded into life.

Mandatory Credit: Irish Mirror

Joshua dropped Klitschko in the fifth but then punched himself out when he looked for the finish. Klitschko nearly took out the exhausted champion in the sixth round. Finally, Joshua managed to recover some energy and knocked out the veteran in the eleventh round with a brutal left hook followed by a barrage of punches.

Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated

14. Michael Moorer vs. Bert Cooper

This fight became the stuff of legend. Moorer fought Cooper in 1992 for the vacant WBO heavyweight title. Cooper came out like a bull as he looked for a fast knockout. In sum, the announcers were right with their claims that this one was not going to go all 12 rounds. But Cooper’s aggression would be his downfall.

Mandatory Credit: Boxing News 24 Forum

Moorer came back strong and the two boxers exchanged knockdowns. Cooper kept coming forward like the Terminator but that didn’t end well for him. Moorer was able to time his entry with a right uppercut and a left hook. That was all she wrote.

Mandatory Credit: The Spokesman-Review

13. Riddick Bowe vs. Evander Holyfield

Holyfield was a superstar at this point. Yet he didn’t count on the threat of Bowe, who was excellent at nullifying all his usual tactics. Usually, Holyfield stayed on the outside, outworking heavier opponents. But Riddick’s outstanding jab kept him at bay.

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It looked like Riddick had won in the 11th round when an uppercut-left hand combo rocked the champion. But then Holyfield turned the tide and put a savage battering on the challenger. It was an epic round, but too little, too late for Holyfield as Bowe held on for the decision.

Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated

12. Larry Holmes vs. Ken Norton

By all rights, Norton wasn’t even the heavyweight champion. The WBC stripped Leon Spinks after he refused to fight Larry Holmes, holding out for a rematch with Ali. That fight eventually happened but it overshadows another classic with one of the best rounds you’ll ever see.

Mandatory Credit: Getty Images

Both men had their moments in this back-and-forth clash. The final round is famous for its craziness. First of all, Norton appeared to be in charge before Holmes came surging back. He was close to finishing the champion but won the decision anyway. A truly epic fight.

Mandatory Credit: Newsweek

11. Anthony Joshua vs. Andy Ruiz 1

Coming into this one, nobody expected anything from Ruiz, a last-minute replacement for Jerrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller. Short and chubby, Ruiz stood in stark contrast to WBO, WBA, IBF, and IBO champion Joshua. The first knockdown came in round three when Joshua put Ruiz down. But then the challenger stunned the world.

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

He unleashed a barrage of punches to knockdown Joshua who rose unsteadily to his feet. Then he knocked him down for a second time at the end of the round. The finish came in the seventh round when Ruiz upset Joshua with a TKO victory. It was one of the biggest shocks in heavyweight history.

Mandatory Credit: The Sun

10. Mike Tyson vs. Buster Douglas

In 1990, Tyson seemed like an indomitable force. Watching his fights was like attending an Aztec human sacrifice. You knew what was going to happen before the two men stepped into the ring. Then Douglas stunned the world. A 42-1 underdog, nobody gave him a chance against ‘Iron Mike.’

Mandatory Credit: Daily Record

But this wasn’t just a lucky knockout, it was a brilliant overall performance from Douglas. He worked his jab effectively with well-timed right hands, putting Tyson under pressure and into uncharted territory. Douglas finished Tyson in the 10th round, almost removing his head from his body.

Mandatory Credit: The Undefeated

9. Joe Louis vs. Billy Conn

Before Muhammad Ali, there was Joe Louis. In 1941, he looked unstoppable. When he fought Billy Conn, 60,000 people came to watch at the Polo Grounds. Louis used his size and skill to dominate Conn in the early rounds, but then Conn rocked Louis with a slick combination.

Mandatory Credit: DeviantArt

From then on it was back and forth. Both men scored knockdowns throughout the fight. It looked like Conn might even pull off an unlikely win with a savage attack in the twelfth. But finally, Louis beat him down in 13th round, as his body gave in. The toll the fight must have taken on their bodies was crazy.

Mandatory Credit: The New Yorker

8. Fury vs. Wilder II

The second meeting between two of the three best heavyweights in the world as of right now, this was a spectacular win for Fury. He came into this clash heavier and having changed champs just seven weeks out from the fight. But he put on a career-best performance to beat down The Bronze Bomber in stunning fashion.

Mandatory Credit: The Mercury News

Wilder was never able to get going. Knockdowns in the second and fifth-round put him on wobbly legs before his corner threw in the towel in the seventh, ensuring his first defeat for the Alabama native. Fury walked away as the new WBC champion. He brought the crowd to their feet by singing Don McClean’s American Pie.

Mandatory Credit: Round By Round Boxing

7. George Foreman vs. Ron Lyle

There are many different types of boxers and fights. Sometimes you get technical masterclasses, and then you get brutal brawls. This one falls into the latter category. Lyle started fast, staggering Foreman with a punch to the body in the first. But then Foreman came back and almost finished him in the second.

Mandatory Credit: Syracuse.com

Lyle recovered and knocked the champion down twice in the fourth. In sum, this was total carnage. But Foreman was able to hang on and knocked out the challenger in the next round. Later, in his autobiography, Foreman called Lyle the toughest foe he’d ever faced.

Mandatory Credit: The Times

6. Tyson Fury vs, Deontay Wilder 1

We’d argue that the original was much, much better than the sequel. Fury perhaps shouldn’t have even been fighting in this one. Only one year earlier he weighed 400 pounds and was suicidal. However, he got himself into fighting shape to take on the hardest hitter in combat sports. It looked like he should have won too, outpointing Wilder across 12 rounds.

Mandatory Credit: The Independent

But two knockdowns sealed the draw for the champion. The second in the twelfth round was ridiculous. Fury looked out cold when he hit the ground but he rose from the dead like Lazarus, a truly iconic moment. In the end, the judges controversially awarded the fighters a draw. But what a fight it was.

Mandatory Credit: New Statesman

5. The Rumble In The Jungle

Ali fought Foreman in Zaire in 1974. This was an older Ali taking on the hardest heavyweight puncher of all time. It looked like Foreman would be too much for a potentially over-the-hill Ali. But Ali defied his underdog status again to put on a masterful performance.

Mandatory Credit: History.com

His plan was to exhaust Foreman with rope-a-dope, sticking and moving around the ring. It worked to perfection. Although Ali absorbed some brutal shots, he was able to hang on and finish him with a fast combination in the eighth in a stunning victory for Ali.

Mandatory Credit: The Times

4. Jack Dempsey vs. Luis Firpo

The oldest fight on this list was unbelievably insane. 90,000 were in attendance at the Polo Grounds with another 25,000 standing outside. Dempsey stormed in but Firpo stunned everybody watching by dropping him with a right hand. Things just got crazier from then on.

Mandatory Credit: Eurosport

Dempsey came back, knocking Firpo down a ridiculous seven times. This was a different era. Then Firpo sent Dempsey crashing through the ropes. Finally, Dempsey came back in with a massive cut and dominated the challenger until he got the finish.

Mandatory Credit: eCRATER

3. Rocky Marciano vs.  Jersey Joe Walcott

Marciano famously went 49 fights unbeaten before he finally retired. But Walcott was the man who came closest to beating him. In September 1952, Walcott was the champion and put a technical beatdown on Marciano for 12 rounds. He even knocked Marciano down in the first round.

Mandatory Credit: Pinterest / Manos Athanasiadis

But you could never count Marciano out. His right hand was a piston and he made it count in the 13th round. Walcott was sailing towards a decision win when he made a fatal error. He dropped his hands when Marciano let fly with a vicious right that smashed him into oblivion.

Mandatory Credit: Getty Iris

2. The Fight Of The Century

It’s rare that a hyped heavyweight fight exceeds expectations. But that’s exactly what happened in Madison Square Garden when Ali met Frazier with the heavyweight title on the line. It was a war of attrition. Ali took the early rounds as Frazier took punishment to gauge his opponent’s timing. From then on it was all about wearing Ali down and battering him.

Mandatory Credit: Considerable

But Frazier left the judges in no doubt with one of the most iconic left hooks of all time. He dropped Ali in the fifteenth round. The Ring and lineal champion rose back to his feet, showing tremendous heart. Both men became legends that day. They’d fight two more times in iconic clashes.

Mandatory Credit: Lars Karlsson

1. The Thrilla In Manila

This savage war is definitely the greatest heavyweight clash of them all. Ali fought Frazier for the second time in a battle that lasted for a brutal 14 rounds. Everything was at stake in this trilogy fight with the winner taking the bragging rights.

Mandatory Credit: Pinterest

Ali started strong with his jab but then halfway through Frazier put in ferocious work to the body. Towards the end of the fight, Ali regained control, and eventually, the swelling around Frazier’s eye was too much. It definitely shortened both men’s careers. But as far as classic heavyweight fights go, this one was, is, and will be definitive.

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