The most iconic boxing fights in history

Heavyweight bouts are the brightest events in the world of boxing, attracting the attention of millions of fans of this masculine sport. Yet, these are real battles of titans. So let us tell you about the past decades’ most exciting victories and defeats.  

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Max Baer – James Braddock. June 13, 1935. New York City.

Not an easy time for the United States or the world. The great depression shook the world, so much so that it is still remembered to this day when a new crisis looms.

James worked like a squirrel on a wheel, working on the docks and struggling to feed his family. Then, miraculously, he managed to secure the right to face the reigning champion, Bair. He thought the upcoming match was some amusing entertainment. But it was not. Desperation and the test of crisis had hardened Braddock. Plus, the hard physical work is worth something.

Joe Louis versus Max Schmeling. June 22, 1938.

Once again, New York, USA. This story can also be categorized as a fairy tale, which nevertheless happened in reality. The same can be said of the characters.

  • Joe comes from a poor African-American family. Since childhood, he was forced to fight for a place in the sun. For him, boxing was an opportunity for a social elevator.
  • Max Schmeling is the complete antipode, the negative pole. “True Aryan,” a favorite of Hitler.

The athletes already knew each other – in 1936, Schmeling knocked out Luis at the famous Berlin Olympics.

However, by 1938, the score had changed. Louis became the reigning world champion, and Schmeling became a contender for the title.

Joe had learned his lesson in Berlin and proved his worth. After that, Schmeling faced all the power of the American – after a series of knockdowns, followed by a knockout.

Joe Louis retained his championship belt. Schmeling was put to shame, and the match itself was voted fight of the decade by The Ring Magazine.

Rocky Marciano – Jersey Joe Walcott. September 23, 1952.

Rocky is the only heavyweight boxer to “retire” as the reigning champion. Not a single defeat!

And the way he won the championship title was this.

The champion at the time was thirty-eight-year-old Jersey, Joe Walcott. He had seventy fights, while Marciano had forty-two.

The contender for the title was able to counter his experience and technique with youth and a strong punch.

And in the thirteenth round, during another exchange of punches near the ropes, Rocky got his opponent with a short right hook to the jaw. Walcott collapsed, hanging from the strings. He couldn’t get back up long after the referee counted ten. 

Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman. October 30, 1974.

It is the famous “The Ruble in the Jungle .”Since then, the name of this bout has become a household name. It seemed that everything was in Foreman’s favor. Fortune itself favored Foreman, who was younger, taller, and heavier. Moreover, they had more considerable arms span and better punching power. But this did not help the defending champion. The intelligent Ali outplayed Foreman. The eighth round was the decisive one. The exhausted Foreman lost his ability to defend himself. A series of five crushing punches was missed. It ended with a left hook and a right straight to the head.

He was never able to rise to the count of ten, which is how Ali earned the title of the boxer of the year.

Quezon City, Philippines. Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier. October 1, 1975.

Like the Ali vs. Foreman fight described above, it was decided to hold this match outside the States. The choice fell in Quezon City, Philippines. The opponents had already met and had the opportunity to become well acquainted with each other’s techniques. And both were at their best. During the break before the final three minutes, Frazier’s coach decided to stop the fight. He assessed the condition of his pupil and made a decision. Ali asked his coach to throw in the towel. A moment’s delay and victory by TKO was scored to Ali, although luck could have turned on the other side. It is believed that this match was the tensest in the history of boxing.

Larry Holmes – Ken Norton. June 9, 1978. Las Vegas, USA.

The encounter was a part of Ken’s defense of his WBC title. He won the title without any fight. Its owner, Leon Spinks, refused to defend the title for the rematch with Muhammad Ali. In the history of boxing, the fight is one of the toughest in terms of the number of punches missed by both opponents. The fight was a close match of strength and power. It defined the character of the fight for the whole distance of fifteen rounds.

Holmes won by split decision with a record-breaking close score: 143-142 in favor of Holmes twice and 143-142 in popularity of Norton.

Atlantic City, USA. Mike Tyson – Michael Spinks. June 27, 1988.

Late 80’s. Mike Tyson is at his best. Iron Mike had collected belts in almost all the significant versions by then. All that was left was The Ring magazine’s belt. And then – the complete set! And the owner of the prestigious award was undefeated Michael Spinks. Mike had outdone himself. In that fight, after the bell, he immediately rushed to attack. In the first minute, his trademark combination of “left uppercut, left hook to the body” made his opponent go down on one knee. That’s how Spinks got his first knockdown in his long boxing life.

Then there were two more hooks to the head from Tyson, after which his opponent could no longer get back on his feet. Spinks decided to end his professional career just a month after this defeat.

Las Vegas, USA. Mike Tyson – Evander Holyfield. November 9, 1996.

By 1996, Tyson was not at his best. Behind him were imprisonment, loss of all titles, and physical condition.

But the same year, he was given the WBA and WBC belts. But he got rid of the last one because he refused to fight the mandatory challenger. The meeting between Tyson and Holyfield was planned even before the “walk” of the former and was postponed for several reasons.

In general, Holyfield had the opportunity to prepare well. Consequently, Tyson has never been able to give Holyfield at least one strong punch. Tyson was desperately losing the fight on points. In his position, he could only count on a knockout. That was precisely what he was aiming for. And so, at the end of the tenth round, a series of punches from Holyfield hit Iron Mike, although he managed to stay on his feet. And at the beginning of the next game, the referee stopped the fight. Tyson’s opponent won by TKO. That’s how Holyfield won the championship belt.

Sports analysts at the time opined that it was not solely due to technique and tactics but psychological stability – he was the first of Tyson’s opponents who had no fear of him.

It underscores the point that in boxing, it is not only physical fitness that matters but also morale and the will to win.

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