Criteria: Competitiveness of Bout; Significance of Bout; Drama & Suspense; Talent on Show.
This list gets periodically updated as recent fights are considered & intermittently enter the rankings list.
1. Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier III, Oct 1, 1975.
“It will be a Killa and a Thrilla and a Chilla when I get The Gorilla in Manila.“
Ali made $9 million and Frazier about $5 million. The Philippines was under Martial Law when the bout occurred. Ali later admitted, “Frazier quit just before I did. I didn’t think I could fight any more.” A member of Ali’s corner has said that Ali was telling them to “cut (my gloves) off, cut ’em off“. ESPN’s SportsCentury named the Thrilla in Manila the 5th greatest sporting event of the 20th century. The Philippines’ first major shopping mall was named after Muhammad Ali and is found right beside the Araneta Coliseum.
2. Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns I, September 16, 1981.
Angelo Dundee, told Leonard, “You’re blowing it, son. You’re blowing it.“
Attendance of 23,618. Leonard made $11 million & Hearns $8 million for this 1981 Super Fight. Tickets were priced from $50 to $500. According to Sugar Ray Leonard “Everything was proceeding according to plan until, about two weeks before the bout, one of my sparring partners, Odell Hadley, accidentally struck me on my left eye with his elbow. . . . By the next morning, my eye started to swell, and there was talk of possibly postponing the fight. . . . There would be no postponement. I was determined to fight on September 16 as long as I could breathe.“
3. Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Meldrick Taylor I, March 17, 1990.
Among the most controversial fights of all-time. Ring Magazine Fight of the Decade for the 1990s. This was both Meldrick Taylor’s finest & most tragic hour. He would never be the same fighter after this brutal & ever so tight loss to the Mexican icon Chavez.
4. Aaron Pryor vs. Alexis Arguello I. November 12, 1982.
Pryor was due to challenge Sugar Ray Leonard for the Undisputed Welterweight Championship when Leonard was forced into retirement by a detached retina. Pryor vs. Arguello was thus the fall back option. Arguello was the 12-5 favorite in a timeless classic clash between two all-time greats of the sport.
5. Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns, April 15, 1985.
“The most electrifying eight minutes ever“
“The War” was the promotional name given to this clash by Bob Arum. The Motorcity Cobra had recently moved up from welterweight to junior middleweight then to middleweight. Hearns was seen as one of the hardest punchers ever, scoring knock outs in 30 of his first 32 professional bouts.
6. Rocky Marciano vs. Jersey Joe Walcott. September 23, 1952.
Rocky Marciano was trailing on points going into the 13th when an atomic right that was destined for boxing folklore put Jersey Joe Walcott down and out.
7. George Foreman vs. Ron Lyle. January 24, 1976.
George Foreman was down twice in the 4th round. Ron Lyle went down in both the 4th and 5th rounds. Ring Magazine Fight of the Year for 1976 (& that’s saying something). This was timeless high-octane heavyweight fare.
8. Larry Holmes vs. Ken Norton. June 9, 1978.
Ring magazine makes the 15th round of Holmes vs. Norton 7 on their list of “The Most Exciting Rounds In Boxing History.” The same publication had Holmes 5th and Norton 22nd on the listing of “The 50 Greatest Heavyweights of All Time.“
9. Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier I. March 8, 1971.
“Fight of the Century“
“You know, you’re in here with the God tonight” – Ali’s to Frazier
“If you are God, you’re in the wrong place tonight” – Frazier’s reply
10. Micky Ward vs. Arturo Gatti I, May 18, 2002.
“We told you it might be a candidate for fight of the year. We didn’t know it might be a candidate for fight of the century.” Jim Lampley
Gains points for the incredible all action displays from both fighters.
11. Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Marvin Hagler. April 6, 1987.
The decision was exceptionally controversial. Jose Guerra’s score of 118-110 for Leonard was widely criticized. “JoJo Guerra should be put in jail,” said Pat Petronelli, Hagler’s co-trainer. Having watched the fight myself perhaps 30 or 40 times & submitted it to a 9 hour review I’m of the opinion that, ironically, it was Guerra’s card which was the most accurate of all. Hagler lost the first four rounds, almost beyond question, leaving himself a mountain to climb in the final 8 rounds – needing to win 7 of those 8 to win on the cards in the absence of a knock down. No knock down & no true revival was offered up as Leonard fought to a smarter strategy & implemented that game-plan to near perfection. It is often called the most controversial judging call in living memory – which is a harsh disservice to even mild injustices seen the world over every other week.
12. Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo I. May 7, 2005.
Both warriors sustained tremendous punishment in an all-time classic slugfest.
13. Henry Armstrong vs. Lou Ambers. August 17, 1938.
Ranked #12 Greatest Title Fight of All-Time by The Ring Magazine in 1996.
14. Riddick Bowe vs. Evander Holyfield I. November 13, 1992.
Total Punches Holyfield Bowe
Landed 242 357
Thrown 475 711
Percent 51% 50%
15. Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman. October 30, 1974.
#1 contender Muhammad Ali becomes the second man to regain the World Heavyweight Championship. Don King‘s first major boxing promotion. The Rumble in the Jungle was shown on closed-circuit television throughout North America and was broadcast in 100 countries. The fight was meant to start at 4:00 a.m. Zaire time to accommodate North American television audiences.
16. Joe Gans vs. Battling Nelson. September 3, 1906.
With President Teddy Roosevelt’s son Kermit in attendance two of the greats of their era put on a 42 round classic under the Nevada sun with Gans earning $11,000 to Nelson’s $22,500.
17. Rocky Graziano vs. Tony Zale II, July 16, 1947.
Tony Zale took over thirty largely unanswered punches on the ropes, forcing the referee to stop the fight.
18. Joe Louis vs. Billy Conn. June 18, 1941.
The Brown Bomber was trailing on points on two of the three judges scorecards going into the 13th.
19. Nigel Benn vs. Gerald McClellan. February 25, 1995.
KO Magazine Fight of the Year 1995.
20. Willie Pep vs. Sandy Saddler II. February 11, 1949.
Ring Magazine Fight of the Year for 1949.
21. Roberto Duran vs. Sugar Ray Leonard I. June 20, 1980.
Joe Frazier, ringside, was asked if Duran reminded him of anybody. It was a leading question, assuming that Duran’s ferocity would remind Frazier of himself. “Yeah,” Joe replied. “He reminds me of Charles Manson.“
Roberto Duran: “He is the best I have fought. He hit me hard a couple of times, but I was never in bad shape. He was pretty good, but he had to be because he was fighting me.”
Sugar Ray Leonard: “People questioned whether I could take the big punch. I showed them. I have to give Duran a lot of credit. He is the toughest man I’ve ever fought.”
Angelo Dundee: “You never fight to a guy’s strength. You try to offset it, and Ray didn’t. Duran was being Duran, and Ray was going with him.”
22. Dwight Muhammad Qawi vs. Evander Holyfield. July 12, 1986.
Considered perhaps the last great fifteen round title fight.
23. Marco Antonio Barrera vs. Erik Morales III. November 27, 2004.
24. Carmen Basilio vs. Sugar Ray Robinson. September 23, 1957.
Ring Magazine Fight of the Year 1957.
25. Nigel Benn vs. Chris Eubank I. November 18, 1990.
‘Whatever I may think of Chris Eubank, I have nothing but respect for the way he worked tonight‘ Nigel Benn.
26. Jim Jeffries vs. Tom Sharkey II. November 3, 1899.
Coney Island A.C., Brooklyn, New York, USA
“The battle was probably the fiercest that the American fight-going public ever witnessed.” New York Times.
27. Jersey Joe Walcott vs. Ezzard Charles III. July 18, 1951.
Ring Magazine Fight of the Year 1951.
28. Ad Wolgast vs. Joe Rivers. July 4, 1912.
With simultaneous blows, Rivers & Wolgast knocked each other out. Both men were counted out but the win was given to Wolgast as he was deemed to have started to rise before the ten count. #11 Best Title Fight of All-Time according to Ring Magazine (1996).
29. Sugar Ray Robinson vs. Jake LaMotta VI. February 14, 1951.
The final clash between these two legends of the sport would come to be known as the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.“
30. Cassius Clay vs. Sonny Liston I. February 25, 1964.
Clay would later remarked, “Liston’s not afraid of me, but he’s afraid of a nut.“
“If Sonny Liston whups me, I’ll kiss his feet in the ring, crawl out of the ring on my knees, tell him he’s the greatest, and catch the next jet out of the country.” – Clay, pre-fight.
“Eat your words!” – Clay to reporters after the fight.
Clay subsequently announced his membership of the Nation of Islam. Ring Magazine Fight of the Year 1964, Fight of the Decade 1960’s and Upset of the Decade 1960’s.
31. Terry McGovern vs. George Dixon. January 9, 1900.
The singular highlight of Terry McGovern‘s stellar career and the beginning of the end of Dixon’s.
32. Matthew Saad Muhammad vs. Yaqui Lopez. July 13, 1980.
33. Carmen Basilio vs. Johnny Saxton II. September 12, 1956.
Ring Magazine Fight of the Year 1956.
34. Tony Zale vs. Rocky Graziano I. September 27, 1946.
“[Zale] looked like a man who had been in hand-to-hand combat with a buzzsaw.”
35. Jack Dempsey vs. Luis Firpo. September 24, 1923.
Eleven knockdowns. Firpo down seven times in the first round alone.
“In the shortest and fiercest battle ever fought between heavyweights, Jack Dempsey knocked out Luis Firpo at the Polo Grounds. But no champion ever had a closer call.” New York Times.
36. Tony Canzoneri vs. Kid Chocolate. November 20, 1931.
“….One of the greatest lightweight championship battles in local ring annals.” New York Times.
37. James Toney vs. Vassiliy Jirov. April 26, 2003.
Harold Lederman had the 2003 Boxing Writers Association of America Fight of the Year even (113-113) though James Toney picked up the unanimous win in what was nothing short of a modern boxing classic.
38. Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward III. June 7, 2003.
Ring Magazine Fight of the Year 2003. A fitting finale to an historic trilogy.
39. Azumah Nelson vs. Salvador Sanchez. July 21, 1982.
Sanchez progressively gained the upper hand over Nelson during the late rounds and closed the show in emphatic fashion in the 15th round. Less than a month later Sanchez would die in a motorcycle accident in what remains one of the most tragic events in 20th century boxing history.
40. Gene Fullmer vs. Carmen Basilio. August 28, 1959.
41. Jack Johnson vs. Stanley Ketchel. October 16, 1909.
Jack Johnson apparently said, “He crossed me and I made him pay for it.“
25th Greatest Title Fight All-Time by Ring Magazine (1996).
42. Jimmy Young vs. George Foreman. March 17, 1977.
43. Israel Vazquez vs. Rafael Marquez II. August 4, 2007.
44. Ivan Robinson vs. Arturo Gatti I. August 22, 1998.
Total Punches Gatti Robinson
Landed 274 400
Ring Magazine Fight of the Year and Upset of the Year 1998.
45. Carmen Basilio vs. Tony DeMarco II. November 30, 1955.
Ring Magazine Fight of the Year 1955.
46. Tony Lopez vs. Rocky Lockridge. July 23, 1988.
Ring Magazine Fight of the Year 1988.
47. Muhammad Ali vs. Ken Norton III. September 28, 1976.
Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York, USA
48. Roberto Duran vs. Iran Barkley. February 24, 1989.
Ring Magazine Fight of the Year 1989.
49. Israel Vazquez vs. Rafael Marquez. March 1, 2008.
Boxing Writers Association of America Fight of the Year 2008.
50. Victor Ortiz vs. Andre Berto. April 16, 2008.
Judge: Julie Lederman 111-114
Judge: Glenn Feldman 112-114
Judge: Clark Sammartino 110-115
51. Danny Lopez vs. Mike Ayala. June 17, 1979.
Ring Magazine Fight of the Year 1979.
52. Michael Carbajal vs. Humberto Gonzalez. March 13, 1993.
With just one second left in round 7 and behind on all scorecards, Carbajal sensationally knocks Gonzalez out with a left hook. Ring Magazine Fight of the Year 1993.
53. Rocky Marciano vs. Ezzard Charles. September 17, 1954.
“One of the greatest action heavyweight championship bouts of all-time“
54. Erik Morales vs. Marco Antonio Barrera I. February 19, 2000.
Ring Magazine Fight of the Year 2000
Judge: Carol Castellano 114-113
Judge: Duane Ford 113-114
Judge: Dalby Shirley 115-112
55. Floyd Patterson vs. George Chuvalo. February 1, 1965.
Ring Magazine Fight of the Year 1965.
56. Steve Cruz vs. Barry McGuigan. June 23, 1986.
Barry McGuigan was ahead before he was knocked down twice in the very last round.
57. Arnold Taylor vs. Romeo Anaya. November 3, 1973.
#15 Greatest Title Fight of All-Time (Ring Magazine 1996).
Ring Magazine’s #1 Bantamweight Fight of the Last 80 Years (1922-2002).
58. Ted Lewis vs. Jack Britton. August 31, 1915.
The first of 20 bouts between the two legendary fighters.
59. Somsak Sithchatchawal vs. Mahyar Monshipour. March 18, 2006.
2006 Ring Magazine Fight of the Year
2006 Boxing Writers Association of America Fight of the Year
2006 ESPN.com Fight of the Year
10th Round was named Ring Magazine Round of the Year
9th Round was named ESPN.com Round of the Year
60. Tommy Ryan vs. Tommy West. March 4, 1901.
#18 Greatest Title Fight of All-Time (Ring Magazine 1996).
61. Bobby Chacon vs. Cornelius Boza-Edwards. May 15, 1983.
Ring Magazine Fight of the Year 1983.
Judge: Duane Ford 113-115
Judge: Lou Tabat 112-115
Judge: Dave Moretti 111-117
62. Joey Giardello vs. Henry Hank. January 30, 1962.
“This is the worst I’ve ever been hit in 14 years. This man hit like a mule. But I won by a slight edge.” Joey Giardello
63. Chartchai Chionoi vs. Efren Torres I. January 28, 1968.
“Thailand’s Chartchai Chionoi retained his world flyweight boxing championship in a blood-drenched duel Sunday.” United Press International.
64. Benny Leonard vs. Richie Mitchell. January 14, 1921.
Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, USA
65. Max Schmeling vs. Joe Louis I. June 19, 1936.
Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York, USA
66. Stanley Ketchel vs. Billy Papke. July 4, 1909.
67. Jim Braddock vs. Max Baer. June 13, 1935.
68. Saman Sorgaturong vs. Humberto Gonzalez. July 15, 1995.
69. Paulie Ayala vs. Johnny Tapia. June 26, 1999.
Chaos followed the fight as the Tapia camp was livid at the decision. Tapia’s brother-in-law punched Todd DuBoef of Top Rank in the aftermath.
70. Nino Benvenuti vs. Emile Griffith. April 17, 1967.
71. Jake LaMotta vs. Laurent Dauthuille. September 13, 1950.
“All Dauthuille required when he bell sounded for the final round was to play safe, and had he boxed he would have come through triumphantly.“
72. Kid Gavilan vs. Carmen Basilio. September 18, 1953.
War Memorial Auditorium, Syracuse, New York, USA
“I licked him. I licked him good. I want to fight him again as soon as I can. He never hurt me but he stuck his thumb in my eye with one of those bolos.” Carmen Basilio
73. Floyd Patterson vs. Ingemar Johansson III. March 13, 1961.
Patterson was knocked down twice in the 1st. Johansson also down once in the same round. Johansson was KO’d in the 6th.
Ring Magazine Fight of the Year 1960.
74. Archie Moore vs. Yvon Durelle. December 10, 1958.
Canadian Press “Sporting Event of the Year” 1958.
75. Erik Morales vs. Paulie Ayala. November 16, 2002.
Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Judge: John Keane 117-111
Judge: Burt A. Clements 117-111
Judge: Anek Hongtongkam 116-112
76. Dick Tiger vs. Gene Fullmer. October 23, 1962.
77. Giovani Segura vs. Ivan Calderon. August 28, 2010.
Ring Magazine Fight of the Year 2010.
78. Jeff Harding vs. Dennis Andries. June 24, 1989.
Mike Tyson, Jeff Fenech, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Maury Wills were all in the crowd that night.
“What amazes me with Harding, being that much taller, is that he’s coming in very close to Andries and throwing some tremendous body shots. For the public watching it they don’t look like they are devastating punches but they’re hurting him and for a man of that age it must be weakening.” – Alan Minter, ex-middleweight champion.
79. Miguel Cotto vs. Antonio Margarito I. July 26, 2008.
Total Punches Cotto Margarito
Landed 280 267
80. Jermain Taylor vs. Kelly Pavlik I. September 29, 2007.
“What a performance by young Pavlik. To get off the floor, the difference in this fight, one man got off the floor, the other man didn’t.” Larry Merchant
81. Arturo Gatti vs. Wilson Rodriguez. March 23, 1996.
It took over a minute for Rodriguez to get off the canvas and regain his senses.
82. Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield I. November 9, 1996.
Tyson started as a 25-1 favorite with bookmakers, but the odds were 6-1 by the time the fight went down. The Real Deal had lost two of his previous four outings – but this was to be perhaps his greatest hour as he tore down the myth of Mike Tyson. A fight five years in the making proved well worth the wait.
Ring Magazine Fight of the Year and Upset of the Year 1996.
83. Arturo Gatti vs. Gabriel Ruelas. October 4, 1997.
Ring Magazine Knockout of the Year and Ring Magazine Fight of the Year 1997.
84. Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Juan Diaz II. February 28, 2009.
“What you just saw was a really good young fighter knocked out by a great old fighter.” Max Kellerman
“February twenty-eighth is a little early to proclaim something the Fight of the Year, but good luck to the rest of the sport in producing something that good or that significant.” Jim Lampley
Boxing Writers Association of America Fight of the Year 2009
Ring Magazine Fight of the Year 2009
85. Bob Foster vs. Chris Finnegan. September 26, 1972.
Empire Pool, Wembley, London, United Kingdom
Ring Magazine Fight of the Year 1972.
86. Orlando Salido vs. Juan Manuel Lopez II. March 10, 2012.
87. Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Wilfred Benitez. November 30, 1979.
“From a technical standpoint, there was more done in this fight than I’ve seen done for a long time. You saw two smart, scientific fighters—two champions in the ring at the same time. They brought the best out of each other.” Angelo Dundee
88. Manny Pacquiao vs Juan Manuel Marquez I. May 8, 2004.
Judge: John Stewart 115-110
Judge: Burt A. Clements 113-113
Judge: Guy Jutras 110-115
89. Robert Quiroga vs. Akeem Anifowoshe. June 15, 1991.
“Even though Robert won the fight and proved that he was a real world champion, he was never the same after this fight. He just could never relentlessly attack another opponent after what had happened to Kid Akeem. He never admitted it, but I knew that he had lost his killer instinct in the ring.”
90. Rafael Limon vs. Bobby Chacon IV. December 11, 1982.
91. Wilfredo Gomez vs. Lupe Pintor. December 3, 1982.
92. Alexis Arguello vs. Ruben Olivares. November 23, 1974.
93. Mike Weaver vs. John Tate. March 31, 1980.
94. Naseem Hamed vs. Kevin Kelley. December 19, 1997.
Hamed down in the 1st, 2nd, and 4th. Kelley down once in the 2nd and twice in the 4th. This was a smack-down brawl.
95. Ruben Olivares vs. Chucho Castillo. April 18, 1970.
“Only two other men have gone the distance against me and tonight was the first time I’ve ever gone 15 rounds. I don’t like Chucho, but he’s not a bad little boxer. He gave me the worst round of my life when he put me on the floor in the 3rd round.” Ruben Olivares.
96. Aaron Pryor vs. Alexis Arguello II. September 9, 1983.
Alexis Arguello was down in each of rounds one, four and, finally, ten.
97. Carlos Monzon vs. Rodrigo Valdes. July 30, 1977.
Monzón won a sensational 15 round battle by scores of 144-141, 145-143 and 147-144.
98. Barney Ross vs. Jimmy McLarnin. May 28, 1934.
99. Harry Greb vs. Mickey Walker. July 2, 1925.
100. Jorge Fernando Castro vs. John David Jackson. December 10, 1994.
Ring Magazine Fight of the Year 1994.
Carlos Monzon vs. Nino Benvenuti
Quartey vs. De La Hoya
Bobo Olson vs. Kid Gavilan
Michael Moorer vs. Bert Cooper
Holyfield vs. Bowe III
Alejandro Gonzalez vs. Kevin Kelley
Marco Antonio Barrera vs. Kennedy Mckinney
Buster Douglas vs. Mike Tyson
Representation in Top 100 by Decade
Fighters with Most Appearances in Top 100 Fights
#ESNews Nation Top 5’s
Hennan Farooq of London, England
1. Thrilla in Manilla
2. Ward vs Gatti I
3. Corrales vs Castillo
4. Morales vs Barrera I
5. Hagler vs Hearns
Matt Hamilton, for ESNewsReporting!