10) Lennox Lewis TKO6 Vitali Klitschko
This, sad to say, was the last great heavyweight title fight. It was a battle between a Lennox Lewis that was coming to the end of a legendary career, and a Vitali Klitschko who had not yet reached his prime. Klitschko was the aggressor through the first two rounds and landed many hard shots to the head of Lewis, winning both rounds on all three judge’s scorecards. In the second round, Klitschko was able to stagger Lewis with two hard right hands that opened a cut under Lewis’ left eye, and it looked like Lewis’ title reign was coming to an end. However, in the third round, Lewis got back on track by coming out aggressively and landed a strong right hand within the first 10 seconds that opened up a deep cut above Klitschko’s left eye, which would prove to be the difference in the fight. Despite his injury, Klitschko fought on bravely, answering many questions that previously had been raised about his heart. The two fought a close round as they traded jabs and power punches throughout, though Lewis could win the round on the scorecards.
Klitschko rebounded to take round four, in which both fighters appeared to be fatigued. In round five, Lewis landed consecutive hard punches to Klitschko’s ribs with his right hand while in a clinch with Klitschko. By the time round five had ended, the condition of Klitschko’s eye had grown worse. He was nevertheless allowed to continue into round six. Lewis took advantage of Klitschko’s impaired vision to land a monstrous uppercut in the sixth round. By now, both fighters looked exhausted, often staggering after coming together. Between rounds six and seven, it was determined by the ringside doctor that the damage to Klitschko’s eye had become too severe, and the fight was stopped. Klitschko was ahead 58-56 on all three judges’ scorecards, but in the end, Lewis went out on top, and Klitschko proved that he was a force to be reckoned with in the heavyweight division.
9) Evander Holyfield TKO 11 Mike Tyson
Finally, the fight people had waited for nearly a decade was happening! The feeling from most experts coming into the match was that Holyfield was a shot fighter, and Tyson would handle him easily. Just listen to Showtime and Tyson fanboy Bobby Czyz during the fight, and you will understand what most people thought would happen in this battle. The problem was everybody forgot to tell Holyfield he was through. Tyson came out aggressively at the first bell and was seemingly having his way with Holyfield, but Holyfield started countering successfully and finished the stronger as the round progressed. The biggest problem in this fight was Tyson’s inability to adjust his battle plan, which led to Holyfield pretty much dominating the fight from the second round on. The end came violently in the eleventh round, with Holyfield stopping Tyson and proving once and for all his greatness.
8) Larry Holmes TKO 13 Gerry Cooney
The fight was billed as “The Pride and the Glory,” and it was one of the biggest fights in boxing history. Gerry Cooney came into the fight as “The Great White Hope,” who was unproven but had a huge punch and had the right complexion to sell this huge event. Larry Holmes was the Rodney Dangerfield of boxing as he truly got “No Respect.” Holmes controlled the first two rounds and dropped Cooney in the second round. Cooney regained his composure and fought Holmes on even terms from rounds 3-8. The start of the ninth round showed Cooney to be fatigued and Holmes, who had a lot of experience in these situations, seemed to get even stronger. Cooney looked like he was trying to survive and go the distance from the round tenon. Holmes finally finished Cooney in round thirteen to once again retain his title. In the end, Holmes still did not gain the respect he deserved from this fight, and neither did Cooney.
7) Buster Douglas KO 10 Mike Tyson
Nobody and I mean NOBODY, saw this coming! Tyson was a 42-1 favorite to make quick work of Douglas just as he had done to the rest of the challengers to his title. Douglas truthfully dominated this fight from the opening bell. He used angles and movement and a stiff jab that confused Tyson all night. The only scare for Douglas came in the eighth round when Tyson caught him towards the end and put Douglas down. It seemed that Tyson would take control at the start of the ninth round, but Douglas again picked the charging Tyson apart. Finally, the end came in the tenth round with Tyson on the canvas frantically trying to find his mouthpiece.
6) Muhammad Ali KO 8 George Foreman
Ali was considered over the hill; Foreman was considered invincible. Ali started in the first round by surprising Foreman with straight lead right hands to catch Foreman off guard. Foreman seemed to adjust by the end of the round and started finding Ali. Ali picked his spots to attack Foreman from the second round on, and when he wasn’t attacking Foreman, he was allowing Foreman to hit him while using his now-famous “Rope-a-Dope” strategy. The end came near the eighth round when Ali unleashed a hellacious combination, dropping Foreman to the canvas. Foreman was unable to beat the count, and Ali was once again the champion of the world.
5) Riddick Bowe UD 12 Evander Holyfield 1
Most boxing experts went into this fight believing that Bowe would be too young and big for Holyfield. Instead, this battle was a give-and-take struggle that proved that Bowe was a little too big and strong for Holyfield. The tenth round will go down as one of the greatest in boxing history as both fighters were hurt on several occasions. The eleventh round saw Bowe beat Holyfield from pillar to post, even knocking Holyfield down. But, as he did his entire career, Holyfield, no matter how bad he was hurt, would just come back stronger.
4) Evander Holyfield MD 12 Riddick Bowe II
This fight was a rematch of their classic fight from the previous year, and this fight had it all. The pre-fight weigh-in was the first sign that this just maybe Holyfield’s night. Riddick Bowe weighed in eleven pounds more than he did the previous year, and he looked out of shape. Nevertheless, Bowe won the first three rounds and seemed on his way to retaining his title. Holyfield, though came back and controlled rounds 4-8, and of course, we cannot forget “The Fan Man” entering the ring as the action was going hot and heavy. Did the 21 minute time out affect the fight? We will never know, but after this fight, you could never question Evander Holyfield again. You couldn’t question Bowe’s heart in the ring either, but you could question his heart in getting ready for a fight.
3) Larry Holmes SD 15 Ken Norton
Norton was the number one contender to newly crowned Leon Spinks’ heavyweight title. Spinks refused to fight Norton and chose instead to give former champion Muhammad Ali a rematch. The WBC gave Norton their belt, and he defended against Larry Holmes in June of 1978. This fight was an even give and take the battle for the first thirteen rounds, but what happened in rounds 14 and especially around 15 turned this from a memorable fight into a legendary battle that should never be forgotten. The last two rounds resembled a Rocky movie as the fighter took turns landing big shot after big shot. In the end, Holmes got a razor-thin decision and from there would be the champion until September of 1985.
2) Muhammad Ali TKO 14 Joe Frazier III
Neither fighter was what they once were, but they were still all-time greats, and this was their final stand. The first two rounds were all Ali as Frazier was at too great a distance to be effective, and Ali controlled those rounds with his jab. After that, Frazier did well and controlled a lot of rounds 5-10. From around eleven on, though, Joe seemed to tire, and Ali started controlling the distance between the two fighters much as he did through the first few rounds of the fight. Finally, after Ali won round fourteen big, Frazier’s cornermen had seen enough and threw in the towel.
1) Joe Frazier UD 15 Muhammad Ali 1
This battle was billed as the “Fight of the Century,” and it did not disappoint! This fight had tremendous cultural meaning and was more than just a fight. Ali began the fight by dominating the first three rounds by continually peppering Frazier with jabs. By round three, though, Frazier was starting to impose his will on Ali, and by the sixth round, Frazier had clearly taken control of the fight. Finally, in the last segment, the left hook “Smokin Joe” decked Ali was one of the most iconic and replayed shots in boxing history. While Ali had his moments during the fight, the night clearly belonged to Frazier.