Boxing, otherwise known as ‘The Sweet Science’, has been around for centuries. From the ancient Greek civilizations first lifting up their fists in play, to the glitzy glamorous lights of the Las Vegas strip, boxing has been etched in the pages of human history. The sport is followed by millions all over the world and is one of the most popular sports of all time.
The intense build-up, the outside-the-ring drama, the adrenaline-pumping action — it’s all part of the experience of a high-profile boxing match. For many reasons, boxing has endeared to humanity as a sport since the earliest records of time.
It may be the ability of boxing to allow us to peer deep into our own capabilities, discover what we are made of, and unleash our true greatness. They say boxing is the most difficult test of a man’s being, when he is allowed to share the ring with a worthy adversary, and left to discover the sweet taste of victory or the bitterness of defeat.
Over the years, boxing has produced many spectacles. The sheer number of captivating match-ups is too many to count. Fans have been treated to more than a handful of great fights. Some fights, however, have truly left an indelible mark in our memories.
To celebrate these monumental match-ups, we have come up with a list of fights that have captured imaginations. Today, Evolve Daily shares the five biggest and most memorable fights in the history of boxing.
Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao
MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada 2015
In a matchup that was billed ‘Fight of the Century’, the bout between colossal welterweights Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. of the United States and Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao of the Philippines was nearly five years in the making before it got signed, sealed, and delivered. The bout drew in massive appeal and broke a plethora of financial records. It stands alone as the richest fight in boxing history with over US$410-million in revenue.
Although the fight itself sort of underwhelmed, with Mayweather cruising to a rather easy unanimous decision victory over a past-prime Pacquiao, the two prizefighters took home record paydays with Mayweather bagging over US$180-million in total purse, while Pacquiao garnered a cool US$120-million. This doesn’t count the pay-per-view upside and various endorsement deals both guys had coming into the fight.
With the world watching, two of the best pound-for-pound legends of the sport met in the ring in what was an absolute spectacle to behold. Though the fight wasn’t as exciting as everyone hoped it would be, it still goes down the biggest fight in the sport’s colorful history, so far.
Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier
Araneta Coliseum, Manila, Philippines 1975
Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier met each other a total of three times, delighting crowds with their epic rivalry for years, but it was the final fight in the historic trilogy that was truly a masterpiece.
The famed “Thrilla in Manila” took place at the Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City in 1975, and was the most hyped rubber match of all time. With both Ali and Frazier each coming into the fight with one win apiece, the third fight was supposed to settle once and for all who the better boxer was.
Ali was aggressive, moving well and trading heavy blows with Frazier but soon began to tire towards the latter part of the fight. This gave birth to Ali’s famous “Rope-a-Dope” strategy, where he made constant use of the clinch and let Frazier tire himself out before putting the finishing touches on him. Ali ended up winning via technical knockout when Frazier was unable to answer the call of the 15th round bell.
Sugar Ray Leonard vs Tommy Hearns
Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada 1981
The four horsemen of boxing — Tommy “Hitman” Hearns, “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, “Hands of Stone” Roberto Duran, and “Sugar” Ray Leonard — are considered some of the greatest welterweights to ever live. Of the nine bouts that took place between them, the bout between Leonard and Hearns in 1981 would turn out to be the most memorable.
Billed as “The Showdown”, the fight pit a 25-year-old prime Leonard against an undefeated 22-year-old knockout artist in Hearns. The winner would be crowned the WBA and WBC World Welterweight Champion and consensus best. The match certainly did not disappoint.
Leonard ended up defeating Hearns by 14th round technical knockout, dealing “Hitman” the first loss of his career. It was an amazing display of heart and skill by Leonard, who earned perhaps the victory which has defined his entire run as a professional and which will be remembered for all of time.
Micky Ward vs Arturo Gatti
Mohegan Sun Casino, Uncasville, Connecticut 2002
The absolute war that was Micky Ward vs Arturo Gatti in 2002 would go down as one of the most action-packed battles in the history of boxing. They aren’t the two most technically sound boxers of their time, but without a doubt had the most heart.
The bout had ‘Fight of the Year’ written all over it before it even began, and fans could tell right from the opening bell that it was going to be a special night. Fans didn’t care who was the better boxer this evening, all they wanted to see was some real action — and that’s what they got.
Ward won the first bout, through sheer willpower and heart. The two would meet again two more times, with Gatti taking both the rematch and the rubber match, but it was Ward who arguably scored the most meaningful victory of the series. Fans of boxing will always point to the Gatti-Ward trilogy for anyone looking to be introduced to this epic sport.
Mike Tyson vs Lennox Lewis
Pyramid Arena, Memphis, Tennessee 2002
“Iron” Mike Tyson, also formerly known as ‘The Baddest Man on the Planet’, is one of the most feared heavyweight world champions in the history of boxing. Grown men, who often times were much bigger than Tyson was, would cower in fear of facing the kid from Brooklyn, New York. Guys were mentally defeated before they even stepped into the ring with Tyson.
But in 2002, Tyson challenged British heavyweight star Lennox Lewis, for the IBF, IBO, and WBC world heavyweight belt. Everything about the match was hyped from start to finish, including an altercation between both boxers and their teams prior to the fight at a New York press conference.
By the time they stepped into the ring to face off, fans were so into the bout that it goes down as the fourth highest grossing fight of all-time. Lewis, however, dominated the entire bout and knocked out Tyson in the 8th round.