Heavyweight boxing is a thrilling spectacle. Fighters can land a knockout blow at any given moment and millions of people around the world tune in for the biggest heavyweight bouts.
That will be no different on December 7th when Anthony Joshua faces Andy Ruiz Jr in the ‘Battle of the Dunes’. With so much hype surrounding the rematch, boxing fans could be treated to a memorable night of boxing action.
Ahead of that battle, we looked at the some of the most memorable heavyweight fights in the history of boxing. Let’s start with Muhammad Ali’s first clash with Joe Frazier in 1971…
Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier (1971)
This fight set the stage for the entire Ali-Frazier trilogy. This bout marked the first time ever that two undefeated heavyweight champions would fight for the title – something had to give and ‘The Fight’, one of boxing's greatest rematches, would certainly live up to the hype.
Ali got through more work in the earlier rounds and he was strictly all business, with next to no dancing around the ring. However, Frazier was incredibly tough and he focused primarily on Ali’s body, which turned out to be an excellent plan of attack in the later rounds.
Frazier landed a huge left hook in the 15th round and, while Ali got to his feet and made the count, that proved decisive as he was awarded the win by unanimous decision. The great Muhammad Ali had fallen for the first time but boxing fans knew that he would be back to fight another day.
This was the beginning of a very special heavyweight rivalry…
Jack Dempsey vs Luis Firpo (1923)
You’ll be hard pressed to find a bout with more action than this fight. With a grand total of 11 knockdowns in less than four minutes, this is the most dramatic boxing match of all-time. You’d have got good boxing betting odds on that many knockdowns in a fight…
In modern day boxing, this fight would’ve almost certainly been stopped after Firpo was knocked down for the third time in the space of a round. However, he made the count on all three occasions before finding a new lease of life after his fifth (yes, FIFTH) knockdown.
Neither fighter was concentrating on defence – it was all about being on the front foot. An eighth knockdown for Firpo in the opening round wasn’t enough to stop him and he got back up in an incredible show of defiance.
However, all of those knockdowns took their toll in the end as Dempsey claimed a victory in the second round. This fight remains unique to this day and it will never be matched.
Rocky Marciano vs Joe Walcott (1952)
Marciano was the challenger entering this fight but most boxing fans believed that he was going to win. However, Walcott started quickly and put Marciano on the canvas in the first round. Anyone who thought Marciano would cruise to victory was wrong.
Marciano started to come into his own midway through the third round but Walcott battled back to dominate the seventh, eighth and ninth rounds. The 10th round was pivotal, Walcott had Marciano shaking but the youngster hung in there to get to the end of the round.
Walcott was ahead on the judges’ scorecards but things were about to change. The fate of the heavyweight title shifted in the 13th round, with Marciano landing a perfect right hand to clinch the win.
It was a huge moment in the heavyweight division at the time, with the victory helping to coin the term “championship rounds” for the final three rounds of a boxing match.
Larry Holmes vs Ken Norton (1978)
The 1970s were dominated by the Ali-Frazier trilogy but it would be foolish to ignore this bout. Norton and Holmes were widely regarded as ‘sub par’ fighters at the time but this fight would change the perception of both men – it was an all-time great bout.
Norton, who had lost to Ali two years prior to this contest, started slowly but found his feet midway through the bout. As the fight approached the 12th round, Holmes had a slight lead on scorecards but the fight was about to really take off with just three rounds remaining.
Holmes dominated the 13th round before Norton responded with his best round of the fight in the 14th. The 15th and final round consisted of both fighters landing huge punches in the centre of the ring.
It was a fantastic way to end the fight, with Holmes edging a split decision after a real war of attrition in Las Vegas.
Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier (1975)
With the series level at one win apiece, Ali and Frazier went toe-to-toe for one final time in the ‘Thrilla in Manila’. Ali dominated the early stages of the fight but Frazier got going in the middle rounds and Ali soon found himself under serious pressure.
According to reports, Ali claimed that it was “the closest thing to death” that he had ever experienced. Things didn’t get any easier for Ali until the start of the 12th round, with the former Olympic gold medalist finding a second wind in the latter stages of the bout.
Ali dug deep and showed incredible resolve and determination to get himself back in the fight. After two very one-sided rounds, Frazier’s trainer Eddie Futch threw in the towel as Ali retained the title.
This wasn’t the usual showboating Ali but one that confirmed his status as an all-time heavyweight superstar.
*Credit for the main photo belongs to AP Photo*