The Top 5 Trilogies in Boxing History

Sport, Boxing, World Heavyweight Championship, New York, pic: 8th March 1971, Joe Frazier, USA, left, led to a neutral corner by the referee after Frazier floored Ali in the 15th round, on his way to beating Muhammad Ali to retain the title, The epic fight ending with Frazier gaining a unanimous points victory (Photo by Rolls Press/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Whenever something significant happens in sports, everybody is quick to jump on it was the greatest train we have ever seen. On Saturday night Tyson Fury dominated 8 out of 11 rounds against Deontay Wilder, and it was all of a sudden being compared to Ali/Frazier! Then I heard how it was one of the greatest heavyweight championship fights ever, and it wasn’t! What was it? For the most part, it was a one-sided ass beating in a trilogy fight where it was not needed because the other two battles were so decisive. So today, let’s take a look at the five greatest trilogies in boxing history, and you judge for yourself if Wilder/Fury belongs?

Honorable Mention

Zale/Graziano

Morales/Barerra

Griffith/Paret

5) Bowe/Holyfield

This was as close as we have ever seen in the Heavyweight division of two guys duplicating Ali/Frazier. Bowe was a big talented heavyweight who didn’t always bust his ass in training, but he was as tough as they come in the ring. Holyfield was the epitome of a warrior who was never afraid to fight anyone. The first fight between these two was genuinely epic as Bowe came to the ring in the best shape of his life. The first fight was an all-out war, a close but clear decision in favor of Bowe. The rematch saw an out-of-shape Bowe lose his title to Holyfield by a narrow decision that included the famous fan man incident. Bowe got up off the canvas and stopped Holyfield in the eighth round; the rubber match had a decisive end.

4) Ali/Norton

Nobody ever gave Ali more problems than Ken Norton. Norton pulled one of the greatest upsets in boxing history in the first fight. The rematch was probably the most decisive of the three fights, and it was still a very close decision with Ali evening the series at one each. The third fight at Yankee Stadium was very close again with a slim majority favoring Norton but Ali would get the decision. The first two fights are highly underrated action fights, and all of the fights to this day are argued about by fight fans when it comes to who won the fights.

3) Gatti/Ward

These fighters were not all-time greats, but they were two all-time greats in the heart department and putting them in a ring together guaranteed you blood and guts action. The first fight was the best, which means it was one of the greatest fights in boxing history. After that, ward won a razor-close decision, the rematch was a close win for Gatti, and the third matchup saw Gatti take the trilogy. These three fights were truly amazing, and if you have not seen them, you need to.

2) Barney Ross/Jimmy McClarnin

All of these fights attracted huge interest, in part due to the ethnic rivalry involved, with the Jewish Ross, from Chicago, meeting an Irish fighter who had defeated celebrated Jewish boxers such as Louis “Kid” Kaplan, Sid Terris, Ruby Goldstein, Al Singer and a sadly faded Benny Leonard. Ross snatched victory by weathering a middle-rounds surge by McLarnin to finish strongly in the first meeting at Madison Square Garden Bowl. In the rematch, McClarnin turned the tables and won a closely disputed decision. The rubber match saw Ross prevail by a razor-thin judgment.

1) Ali/Frazier

This is number one, and nothing else compares to these two in a squared circle. The first fight was maybe the most skillful war that anybody has ever seen in a boxing ring. Frazier upset Ali, but these two men put on perhaps the most significant sports spectacle of the entire 20th century. Ali won the rematch by unanimous decision, and the third fight was considered an easy fight for Ali against a Frazier who never really looked the same again after that first war with Ali. The first third of the fight looked like all of that might be true until suddenly Frazier dug in and went to war with Ali in a fight where the brutality seemed almost beautiful. The fight was stopped before the final round because Frazier had nothing left. The truth was, as Ali later told everybody, he had nothing left either.

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