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Top-10 Heavyweight Title Fights Since 1970

Which did you enjoy the most?
Publish Date: 09/04/2023
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

Greatest Heavyweight title fights since 1970

The 1970s and the 1990s were the Golden age of Heavyweight boxing and most of the fights on this list happened in those decades. We are looking for sustained action and hopefully a dramatic ending.

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. 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 was able to 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.

Video: Fights of the Decade: Lewis vs. V. Klitschko (HBO Boxing)

Fights of the Decade: Lewis vs. V. Klitschko (HBO Boxing)

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 as the round progressed Holyfield started countering successfully and finished the strongly. 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.

Video: Mike Tyson (USA) vs Evander Holyfield (USA) | KNOCKOUT, BOXING fight, HD

Mike Tyson (USA) vs Evander Holyfield (USA) | KNOCKOUT, BOXING fight, HD

 

8) 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, 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 of the round and put Douglas down. It seemed that Tyson would take control at the start of the ninth round, but once again Douglas picked the charging Tyson apart. The end came in the tenth round with Tyson on the canvas frantically trying to find his mouthpiece.

Video: Buster Douglas shocks the world with 10th-round KO of Mike Tyson | ESPN Archives

Buster Douglas shocks the world with 10th-round KO of Mike Tyson | ESPN Archives

7) Larry Holmes TKO 13 Gerry Cooney

The fight was billed as “The Pride and the Glory” and 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 round 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 round ten on. Holmes finally finished Cooney in round thirteen to once again retain his title. In the end, Holmes did not gain the respect he deserved from this fight nor Cooney.

Video: Larry Holmes vs Gerry Cooney - Highlights (The PRIDE & The GLORY)

Larry Holmes vs Gerry Cooney – Highlights (The PRIDE & The GLORY)

 

6) 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. 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 you could never question Evander Holyfield again after this fight. You couldn’t question Bowe’s heart in the ring either, but you could question his heart in getting ready for a fight.

Video: Evander Holyfield (USA) vs Riddick Bowe (USA) II | BOXING fight, HD

Evander Holyfield (USA) vs Riddick Bowe (USA) II | BOXING fight, HD

5) Muhammad Ali KO 8 George Foreman

Ali was considered over the hill; Foreman was considered invincible. Ali started off in the first round by surprising Foreman by using 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 end of 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.

Video: Muhammad Ali vs George Foreman

Muhammad Ali vs George Foreman “Legendary Night” Highlights HD ElTerribleProduction

4) 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. 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 be 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 in the round. But, as he did his entire career, Holyfield, no matter how badly he was hurt, would just come back stronger.

Video: Riddick Bowe vs Evander Holyfield I - Highlights (FIGHT of the Year 1992)

Riddick Bowe vs Evander Holyfield I – Highlights (FIGHT of the Year 1992)

3) Larry Holmes SD 15 Ken Norton

Norton was the number one contender to the 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 battle for the first thirteen rounds, but what happened in rounds 14 and especially round 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 would be the champion until September 1985.

Video: Larry Holmes vs Ken Norton (Highlights)

Larry Holmes vs Ken Norton (Highlights)

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. Frazier did well and controlled a lot of rounds 5-10. From round 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.

Video: Muhammad Ali v. Joe Frazier III Full Fight Highlights 1080p

Muhammad Ali v. Joe Frazier III Full Fight Highlights 1080p

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 over control of the fight. The left hook “Smokin Joe” decked Ali with in the last segment 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.

Video: Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier 1 Highlights

Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier 1 Highlights

Honorable Mentions

Wilder/Fury 3

Holmes/Weaver

Holmes/Witherspoon

Holmes/Spinks 1

Holyfield/Foreman

 

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