Boxing has long been one of the most popular and lucrative sports in the world. It may not have the status and popularity it once did in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, but it is still a sport that commands interest and attention across the world. Choosing your favorite ever boxing match is kind of like choosing your favorite song or movie, everyone will probably pick something different.
As it’s almost impossible to pick just one match that everyone will agree on, we thought the best thing to do would be to compile a list of the best. There have been so many excellent athletes in boxing history, and they have given us so many amazing fights. But, we have to say, these must rank as the most iconic and important in boxing history.
Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko – 2017
Okay, there’s a reason this year’s heavyweight bout makes our list – it brought boxing back from the dead. Boxing, and, in particular, heavyweight boxing, has been dying a slow, excruciating death for years. More concerned with money than spectacle, the sport has continually kept the top fighters apart, and interest has waned, in favor of MMA. That was, until this bout between Joshua and the once indestructible Klitschko. The fight swung both ways, multiple times, with each fighter being knocked down. It looked to be going Klitschko’s way until the 11th round when Joshua (and with him the future of heavyweight boxing) rose like a phoenix from the ashes of the old world and ushered in a new generation – claiming victory by TKO and securing the vacant WBA and IBO World Heavyweight titles.
Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns – 1981
One of the finest fights of all time, featuring two of the greatest boxers ever to grace the ring. Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns were both a part of The Fabulous Four, who all fought each other and achieved a lot of success through the ‘80s. This fight, the first between the two, was the pick of the bunch, and a masterclass in strategic boxing. Hearns using his size and reach, while Leonard, a master tactician, switched between passive and aggressive. The fight finally went Sugar Ray’s way, winning him the WBC World Welterweight title.
Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier – 1975
Also known as the ‘Thrilla in Manilla,’ this is arguably the finest bout in the history of boxing. The fight showcased two of the greatest champions the sport will ever know duking it out to try to claim superiority. Both fighters were north of 30 and considered to be in the twilight of their careers. But, they treated audiences to a 14 round masterclass of will, determination, and the endurance of the human spirit. Neither fighter would stay down, and the fight ended, with victory going to Ali, only after a TKO when Frazier’s corner through the towel in. Ali said he felt this fight was the closest he ever came to dying.
Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman – 1974
It seems only fitting that Ali should take two of the spots on our list, such is his legend. Many people would stick Thrilla in Manilla above this one, and it would be difficult to argue with that. But, we feel Rumble in the Jungle is more iconic, and perfectly summed up Ali, the world’s greatest ever fighter. It pitted the younger Foreman, World Heavyweight Champion, against the older Ali, and everyone thought Foreman would walk it. Ali sat on the ropes for 7 rounds, taking everything Foreman (one of the hardest hitters in the sport) had to give. By the 8th round, George had nothing left, and Ali dispatched him clinically, allegedly saying “Is that all you got kid?” before putting Foreman down. His legend was cemented there and then.
There have been so many amazing fights throughout boxing history, but we feel that these four have to qualify as the best. Some are up there for sheer entertainment, others for artistry, and others for their importance to the sport. One thing unites them – they all show us the pinnacle of just how exciting this sport can be.