The greatest heavyweight fights in boxing history

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Danny Howard

January 4th, 2021

There’s no substitute for the action and drama of an epic heavyweight fight.

These five fights were equal parts breathtaking and bone crunching and stand as the best fights in the division’s history.

5. Michael Moorer vs. Bert Cooper

Moorer is one of the most underrated heavyweights of all time.

While he couldn’t sustain enough momentum to be a star and didn't have the mental fortitude that defined the standouts of his era, there were moments in his career where he showed what he was made of.

This savage bout was one of the best of the 1990s, as Moorer and Cooper traded knockdowns and absorbed a ghastly amount of punishment. Moorer finally put Cooper down in the fifth to become the first southpaw heavyweight champion.

4. Larry Holmes vs. Ken Norton

By 1978, the Ali/Frazier/Foreman tandem retired and the last man standing of the era was Norton.

He was given the heavyweight title vacated by Ali and had his first defense against the unknown Larry Holmes, who used this brutal war to reign in a decade of dominance.

This was a grisly affair. Both men were known for their boxing prowess and gave an exhibition of violence, including a legendary 15th round. Holmes won by split decision and began a seven-year run as champion.

3. Evander Holyfield vs. Riddick Bowe I

This savage bout between undefeated heavyweights was the first of a trilogy in the 90s.

Before Bowe ruined his career by eating himself out of his prime, his title win over Holyfield showed why many thought he had enough to go down as one of the all-time greats.

These two battered each other senselessly, including a breathtaking 10th round, where Holyfield, on the verge of being stopped, gallantly fought back. Bowe won by decision.

2. George Foreman vs. Ron Lyle

This was boxing’s equivalent to King Kong vs. Godzilla, and it still holds up as one of the greatest slugfests ever.

Foreman was on the comeback trail, following his loss to Muhammad Ali, and he was matched up against the big-punching gatekeeper Lyle.

It was five rounds of pure hell, as both men traded knockdowns before Foreman uncorked Lyle with a combination so murderous that it could have fallen a moose.

Considering how hard both men could punch, it’s a shock they continued fighting after this affair.

1. Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier III

While their historic first clash could also have taken the top spot, there’s no doubt that the third and final encounter between Ali and Frazier transcended the sport.

The Thrilla in Manila saw the worn rivals hit each other with everything they had under the sweltering heat of the outdoor arena, and they each other to the brink of disaster.

With Frazier unable to see and taking an ungodly amount of punishment, his corner stopped the fight at the end of the 14th round. This fight is required viewing for anyone getting into boxing.