There have been many incredible boxing matches in history, but what has been the best? That’s what we wanted to find out. We have a wonderful mix of epic encounters, brutal wars, and shocking victories. So without delay, let’s get started as we countdown from #30 to #1.
Table of Contents
- 30. Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury III (2021)
- 29. Zolani Tete vs. Siboniso Gonya (2017)
- 28. Muhammad Ali vs. Ken Norton III (1976)
- 27. Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko (2017)
- 26. Carl Froch vs. Jermain Taylor (2009)
- 25. Joe Louis vs. Billy Conn (1941)
- 24. James Corbett vs. John Sullivan (1892)
- 23. Gennady Golovkin vs Canelo Alvarez II (2018)
- 22. Andy Bowen vs. Jack Burke (1892)
- 21. Joe Calzaghe vs. Mikkel Kessler (2004)
- 20. Jack Dempsey vs. Luis Firpo (1923)
- 19. Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Marvin Hagler (1987)
- 18. Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson II (1997)
- 17. Rocky Marciano vs. Joe Walcott (1952)
- 16. Jack Johnson vs. James Jeffries (1910)
- 15. Israel Vazquez vs Rafael Marquez III (2008)
- 14. Aaron Pryor vs. Alexis Arguello (1982)
- 13. George Foreman vs. Ron Lyle (1976)
- 12. Carmen Basilio vs. Tony DeMarco II (1955)
- 11. Sugar Ray Robinson vs. Jake LaMotta VI (1951)
- 10. Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo (2005)
- 9. Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Roberto Duran II (1980)
- 8. Erik Morales vs. Marco Barrera (2008)
- 7. Julio Chavez vs. Meldrick Taylor (1990)
- 6. Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier III (1974)
- 5. George Foreman vs. Muhammad Ali (1974)
- 4. Marvin Hagler vs. Tommy Hearns (1985)
- 3. Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns (1981)
- 2. Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier (1971)
- 1. Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward (2002)
30. Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury III (2021)
Winner: Fury via Knockout
After Wilder’s humiliation in the second fight, not many people wanted to see a third fight between these two men. Many expected another dominant performance from Fury after his comfortable victory in part two of this trilogy.
However, what we got was not one, not two, but five knockdowns. Wilder down in the third, Fury twice in the fourth, Wilder in the tenth before the American was finally knocked out in the eleventh. It was one of the most dramatic title fights in recent history and a perfect ending to the trilogy.
29. Zolani Tete vs. Siboniso Gonya (2017)
Winner: Tete via Knockout
The term ‘best’ is very subjective and on this list, we have many grueling fights that lasted well over the 12 rounds that have become standard today. However, I wanted to mention one that was over in the blink of an eye.
You expect a title fight to be a close contest but instead, this was an embarrassing one for Gonya. Tete landed a clean blow five seconds into the fight, and after a short count, the referee called it off, with the fight officially lasting 11 seconds.
There have been many quick fights in boxing history but the fact that this was for a bantamweight world title made it so incredible.
28. Muhammad Ali vs. Ken Norton III (1976)
Winner: Ali via Unanimous Decision
In 1973, Ken Norton handed Muhammad Ali only his second professional defeat as he not only beat Ali over a split decision but broke his jaw in the process. In their second fight just six months later, it would be Ali that would get the better of a split decision.
However, there was a third fight which proved to be the best of the lot. It was the richest fight of all time when it happened, with Ali getting $6m from it. The fight was an attritional one, with Ali struggling to overcome his tough opponent.
After 15 rounds, Ali was declared a unanimous winner, a decision many disagreed with. Norton may not be regarded among the best ever heavyweights, but he caused Ali plenty of problems.
27. Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko (2017)
Winner: Joshua via Technical Knockout
The match-up seemed to be the ultimate passing of the torch. The young fighter up against a future hall of famer. The fight started fairly slowly but soon burst into life with one of the best rounds of heavyweight boxing ever in the fifth round, as both men were nearly knocked out.
A round later, Klitschko seemed on the verge of winning once again as he knocked down Joshua for the first time in his career. Joshua managed to see out the round and recover.
The beginning of the end happened for Klitschko happened in the 11th round when Joshua delivered one of the best uppercuts of all time. The Ukrainian legend was never able to fully recover, and the referee soon stopped the contest.
26. Carl Froch vs. Jermain Taylor (2009)
Winner: Froch via Technical Knockout
While not the biggest fight on this list, anyone that watched it live will remember it forever. It’s fair to say that Carl Froch was never blessed with the biggest natural talent but what he always had was a relentless desire, a granite chin, and a thundering right hand.
For almost all of this fight, it went as many predicted. Froch had his moments, but Taylor was winning the fight and ahead on all the cards.
Froch never stopped coming, and in the dying seconds of the 12th round, Taylor couldn’t keep him out any longer, and the referee stepped in to end the fight. It was one of the most dramatic finishes we’ve ever seen.
25. Joe Louis vs. Billy Conn (1941)
Winner: Louis via Knockout
Coming into this fight, Joe Louis had an incredible record of 49-1, with his only loss coming to Max Schmeling, a loss he’d already avenged during a 25-fight winning streak. He was the huge favorite and showed his dominance in the first couple of rounds.
However, Conn soon got going, and it looked as though the tide had turned in the contest. Conn hurt Louis, and it seemed as though there would be a shock on the cards. Louis had other ideas. He recovered well and landed a heavy blow with his right hand. Conn was hurt, and Louis didn’t miss his chance as he soon finished the contest.
24. James Corbett vs. John Sullivan (1892)
Winner: Corbett via Knockout
The two fighters were evenly matched, and the bout went back and forth for the full twenty one rounds. What made this fight so special was the sheer physicality of it. Both Corbett and Sullivan landed huge shots that would have knocked out most opponents, but they kept getting up and coming back for more.
In the end, it was Corbett who emerged victorious, but both men had put on an extraordinary display of courage and determination. This fight truly was one of the greatest boxing matches of all time at a time when boxing was still illegal in many states, and there was often no limit on the length of fights.
23. Gennady Golovkin vs Canelo Alvarez II (2018)
Winner: Alvarez via Majority Decision
The first fight between Golovkin and Alvarez had ended in a controversial split decision, with many believing that Golovkin deserved the victory. The rematch was seen as a chance for both fighters to prove themselves once and for all. And boy, did they deliver.
From the opening bell, it was clear that this was going to be an epic battle. Golovkin came out swinging, but Alvarez was more than up to the challenge. The two fighters traded blows for the entirety of the match, with neither fighter ever truly gaining an advantage.
In the end, it was another controversial decision with Alvarez winning by majority decision. The third fight wasn’t as epic, with Alvarez winning once again, but this time in a more convincing fashion via a unanimous decision.
22. Andy Bowen vs. Jack Burke (1892)
In 1893, two brave boxers faced off in what has come to be known as perhaps the most brutal boxing match ever. Neither Andy Bowen or Jack Burke had the best boxing record, but little did they know that they were just about to be immortalized in boxing history.
For 110 rounds, the two men traded punches, with neither fighter gaining an advantage. Finally, the referee decided to intervene and called the fight a draw. The two men had been fighting for over seven hours. Unsurprisingly, this is the longest glove match ever recorded.
21. Joe Calzaghe vs. Mikkel Kessler (2004)
Winner: Calzaghe via Unanimous Decision
When it comes to boxing, there are few matches that can rival the excitement and intense action of Joe Calzaghe vs. Mikkel Kessler. This was a fight between two world-class champions, both at the top of their game.
The match was intensely fought from start to finish, with neither fighter giving an inch. In the end, it was Calzaghe who emerged victorious, but only just. This was a truly classic boxing match and one that any fan of the sport will remember for years to come as an example of true boxing excellence.
20. Jack Dempsey vs. Luis Firpo (1923)
Winner: Dempsey via Knockout
Jack Dempsey vs. Luis Firpo in 1923 was one of the best boxing matches of all time for several reasons. Dempsey was the Heavyweight Champion of the world, and Firpo was an up-and-coming boxer from Argentina.
The match took place at New York’s Polo Grounds and drew a huge crowd. The fight was incredibly brutal, with both boxers taking and delivering hard punches. At one point, Firpo even knocked Dempsey out of the ring.
The bout only lasted two rounds but had an incredible total of 11 knockdowns. In the end, Dempsey won the match by knockout, but Firpo proved that he was a force to be reckoned with.
19. Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Marvin Hagler (1987)
Winner: Leonard via Split Decision
On April 6, 1987, two of the greatest boxers of all time met in the ring. The fight was billed as “The Super Fight” and lived up to its hype, going toe-to-toe for 12 rounds of brutal action. In the end, Leonard emerged victorious by a narrow margin, winning in a split decision. The match was later named “Fight of the Year” by The Ring magazine.
The fight was an instant classic. Leonard used his superior speed and movement to avoid Hagler’s big shots and score with quick flurries of his own. Hagler stalked Leonard throughout the fight, cutting off the ring and wearing him down with his ferocious body attacks.
In the end, it was a close fight that could have gone either way. However, Leonard’s superior boxing skills ultimately won out, giving him one of the most famous victories in boxing history and ending Hagler’s marvelous career.
18. Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson II (1997)
Winner: Holyfield via Disqualification
The rematch between Tyson and Holyfield was one of the most anticipated fights in boxing history. The first fight, which took place in 1996, shocked many as Holyfield was victorious.
In the lead-up to the rematch, there was much trash talking from both camps, and the hype surrounding the fight was intense. When the two finally stepped into the ring, they did not disappoint. The match was a back-and-forth battle, with both fighters taking turns on top.
In the end, it was Holyfield who emerged victorious, but in crazy fashion. Tyson decided to bite not one but both of Holyfield’s ears. He was disqualified, and it was the beginning of the end for Tyson’s dominant era.
17. Rocky Marciano vs. Joe Walcott (1952)
Winner: Marciano via Knockout
For thirteen rounds, the two men fought an intense and brutal battle. Walcott was a skilled boxer with lightning-fast reflexes, but Marciano was a powerhouse who could deliver a devastating blow.
Many thought that Marciano was overrated at the time, and Walcott wanted to prove it. It looked as though he was just about to when Rocky was knocked down for the first time in his career.
Struggling to see, Marciano showed courage and aggression to come back into the fight, eventually landing a knockout blow in the thirteenth round. They fought again a year later, but this time Marciano would dispatch Walcott with a first round knockout.
Walcott retired after their two fights while Marciano would go on to end with a perfect 49-0 record.
16. Jack Johnson vs. James Jeffries (1910)
Winner: Johnson via Knockout
In 1910, America was treated to one of the most thrilling boxing matches in history. In one corner was Jack Johnson, the heavyweight champion of the world. In the other corner was James Jeffries, a previously retired boxer who had once held the title.
From the opening bell, Johnson and Jeffries went toe-to-toe, exchanging blow after blow. The fight continued for 15 rounds, with Johnson dominating the proceedings. In the end, Johnson emerged victorious, cementing his place as one of the greatest boxers of all time with a 15th-round KO.
The fight was also notable for its racial implications. Johnson was the first African American to hold the heavyweight title, and his victory over Jeffries proved that black athletes could compete with their white counterparts. The fight was a watershed moment in sports history, and it remains one of the most legendary boxing matches of all time.
15. Israel Vazquez vs Rafael Marquez III (2008)
Winner: Vazquez via Split Decision
Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez met for the third time in 2008, and their rematch did not disappoint. Both boxers were evenly matched, and the bout was incredibly close throughout.
In the end, Vazquez emerged victorious, winning by a split decision. However, the real winner was the sport of boxing itself. The match was a thrilling display of skill and heart, and it is widely considered to be one of the best boxing matches of all time.
Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez are both hall-of-fame caliber boxers, and their fights were a testament to the competitive spirit that defines the sport. They fought for a fourth time in 2010, with Marquez winning via knockout. It meant their incredible series of fights ended 2-2.
14. Aaron Pryor vs. Alexis Arguello (1982)
Winner: Pryor via Technical Knockout
Aaron Pryor, the reigning junior welterweight champion, took on Alexis Arguello, a three-time world champion in different weight classes. The fight was billed as a clash of styles, with Pryor’s aggressive style up against Arguello’s more technical approach.
Pryor started the fight strong, landing a number of hard punches that shook Arguello. However, Arguello battled back and managed to drop Pryor in the 10th round. Pryor showed incredible heart and determination, getting back up and continuing to fight. In the end, Pryor emerged victorious.
It was a true clash of styles, and both fighters showed tremendous heart and skill. It is no wonder that this fight is still considered one of the best of all time.
13. George Foreman vs. Ron Lyle (1976)
Winner: Foreman via Knockout
Before Muhammad Ali humbled him, George Foreman was considered to be almost unstoppable. Lyle was his comeback fight, and he was desperate to get back to winning ways after Ali ruined his 40-0 record.
But Ron Lyle was no slouch. A former contender for the title, he had only lost three out of 35 fights. From the start, it was clear that this was going to be an epic battle. Foreman came out swinging, but Lyle refused to back down.
The two men traded punches for five rounds, with each man going down twice in the process. The fifth knockdown of the fight was delivered by Foreman, and it proved to be the winning KO. The fight was named Ring Magazine’s fight of the year.
12. Carmen Basilio vs. Tony DeMarco II (1955)
Winner: Basilio via Technical Knockout
There have been many times in boxing when an opponent overcame adversity to write an incredible story. This is one of those fights that could easily be a scene out of a Rocky film.
It was for the World Welterweight title, and Basilio had already won the first fight between them by TKO, but the second fight was much harder work. Basilio broke his left hand in the early rounds, which gave DeMarco a significant advantage.
By the 12th round, DeMarco was significantly ahead on the scorecards, and a win seemed likely. That was until a thundering shot knocked him down. He beat the count but couldn’t fully recover and the referee soon waved it off, Basilio once again winning by TKO.
11. Sugar Ray Robinson vs. Jake LaMotta VI (1951)
Winner: Robinson via Technical Knockout
Is this the best series of boxing fights ever? It would be hard to argue otherwise. What makes it even more incredible is that Robinson and LaMotta’s last fight turned out to be their best, and a thrilling end to their fights together.
LaMotta came out swinging in the sixth match. Both men landed some serious blows, but as the fight wore on, Robinson became increasingly dominant. Due to the beating he took and the day it was held, it became known as the “Valentine’s Day Massacre.”
Now let’s countdown the top ten boxing matches in history!
10. Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo (2005)
Winner: Corrales via Technical Knockout
There are huge fights that capture the world’s attention then there are the regular title fights that happen almost every weekend. This was the latter as the two men squared up to win the WBC Lightweight Title.
By the end of the fight, however, everyone knew that this was a contest to be remembered forever. The men went toe-to-toe in an awesome display of courage and determination. Corrales was knocked down twice in the 10th but wouldn’t give up.
He landed a huge right hand against the odds, which rocked Castillo. Corrales wouldn’t let him off the hook, and after relentless pressure, the referee stopped the fight.
9. Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Roberto Duran II (1980)
Winner: Leonard via Technical Knockout
This will be forever known as the “No Mas” fight. It was one of the best boxing matches of all time for a number of reasons. First, both Leonard and Duran were at the top of their game, making for an evenly-matched fight. Second, the fight itself was incredibly fierce, with both boxers going toe-to-toe throughout.
Also, the atmosphere in the arena was electric, with fans on both sides passionately cheering on their respective fighter. Finally, the ending was truly memorable. Duran, who was known as a courageous fighter, quit. He told the referee, “No Mas,” which means “No More” in English.
8. Erik Morales vs. Marco Barrera (2008)
Winner: Morales via Split Decision
A lot of fights on this list started off slowly before bursting into life. This was one that ignited right from the first bell. The first round was incredible, as both men threw plenty of punches and took plenty of hits.
That frenetic pace never waned away as they continued to fight, seemingly not caring about any self-preservation. In the fifth, Morales took control with some devastating combinations, but Barrera soon fought back with some huge blows of his own.
Neither man could find that knockout blow, and it ended up going to the cards, with Morales winning by split decision.
7. Julio Chavez vs. Meldrick Taylor (1990)
Winner: Chavez via Technical Knockout
We mentioned with Carl Froch vs. Jermain Taylor how Froch won in the dying seconds when he was behind on the scorecards, and that’s exactly what happened here. Going into the fight, Chavez was 68-0, and not many were expecting a close contest.
Taylor surprised many by controlling the fight and was ahead of the scorecards, on the brink of getting a unanimous decision. Chavez had other ideas, and with just two seconds left on the clock, Chavez knocked his opponent out in a truly dramatic finish.
6. Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier III (1974)
Winner: Ali via Retirement
If we were doing a list of the most famous boxing matches, this could well be number one. In 1975, two of the greatest boxers of all time stepped into the ring for the third and final time. Muhammad Ali, the self-proclaimed “greatest” boxer ever, was looking to win the series after besting Frazier in their previous match but losing the first.
Frazier was looking to cement his legacy with a victory over his longtime rival. The stage was set for an epic battle, and the fight did not disappoint. For fourteen rounds, Ali and Frazier traded punches in what can only be described as a war.
In the end, it was Ali who emerged victorious. Frazier’s eyes closed up, and his corner threw in the towel, reportedly when Ali was telling his own corner to cut his gloves off, although it’s disputed as to whether or not he seriously wanted to quit.
5. George Foreman vs. Muhammad Ali (1974)
Winner: Ali via Knockout
The fight between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali in 1974 was one of the most anticipated boxing matches of all time. Ali was the underdog, as his fearsome opponent had a 40-0 record, knocking out nearly every man he faced along the way.
Coined “The Rumble in the Jungle” due to being fought in Zaire, Ali had the idea to tire out Foreman by covering up and taking his heavy punches on his arms and gloves in a tactic he called “rope-a-dope.”
It worked magnificently as Foreman struggled in the African heat. In the 8th round, Ali sensed his moment. He came alive and surprised Foreman with a flurry of punches. It showed a different side of Ali, as he used his nous, fitness, and experience to get the win.
4. Marvin Hagler vs. Tommy Hearns (1985)
Winner: Hagler via Technical Knockout
In 1985, two of the best boxers in the world faced off in what would become one of the most iconic fights of all time. Marvin Hagler, the reigning middleweight champion, was known for his powerful punches and ferocious fighting style.
Tommy Hearns, on the other hand, was tall and rangy with a reach that gave him a significant advantage over his opponents. Despite their different styles, both men were undefeated going into the fight. From the opening bell, it was clear that this would be an epic battle.
In the end, it was Hagler who emerged victorious, knocking out Hearns. This fight had everything: two evenly matched opponents, back-and-forth action, and a thrilling finish. It is no wonder that it is still considered one of the greatest boxing matches of all time.
3. Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns (1981)
Winner: Leonard via Technical Knockout
This fight lived up to all the hype as one of the best boxing matches ever, with both men giving everything they had for fourteen rounds of intense action. In the end, Leonard emerged victorious, but only after one of the most thrilling boxing matches ever seen.
Hearns showed plenty of heart, but as the fight went on, he was starting to take a beating. He was knocked down in the 6th and 13th rounds, before the referee was forced to stop the fight in the 14th.
For any fan of boxing, Leonard vs. Hearns is a must-see. It is a perfect example of two great fighters at the top of their game, putting on an unforgettable display of skill and courage.
2. Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier (1971)
Winner: Frazier via Unanimous Decision
This is a contest that is undoubtedly one of the best boxing fights of all time. Its nickname was “The Fight of the Century,” and given that title, it had a lot to live up to even before a punch was thrown.
That title seemed fair, given that both men were undefeated with three title belts on the line. Thankfully for the crowd at Madison Square Garden, the fight did not disappoint.
The eagerly anticipated contest with Ali started off quickly, but Frazier was relentless and slowly and surely worked his way back into the fight. Frazier then floored Ali with a right hook in the last round, and all three judges gave the fight to “Smokin'” Joe. Three years later, Ali would get his revenge.
1. Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward (2002)
Winner: Ward via Majority Decision
When it comes to the greatest boxing matches of all time, one of Ali’s fights often gets ranked as number one, and it’s hard to argue against that. But when it comes to pure, relentless boxing carnage, nothing has ever come close to Gatti vs. Ward. You could hardly take a breath at home watching it.
It has to be the best boxing fight due to the brutality. Both seemingly cared very little about their defense as they slugged away at each other from the first minute to the last.
The final few rounds were particularly punishing, with both men taking shots that would have knocked out many other fighters. It was the type of fight that no one deserves to lose, but in boxing, there has to be a winner, and Ward got the decision.