Top 10 Boxing Matches Amid A Lifetime’S Worth Of Outstanding And Memorable Bouts


From Muhammad Ali to Canelo Alvarez, from Carlos Monzon to Floyd Mayweather, I’ve been fortunate enough to see many of the greatest in the game’s history.

This list is not meant to be exhaustive or taken as my stance on the greatest 25 fights of my lifetime. The first 10, though, will be what I feel were the 10 greatest bouts that took place in my lifetime. The rest may well in fact be among the greatest, but I didn’t try to characterize them. They’re just highly memorable to me for one reason or another.

‘Thrilla in Manila’ takes top honors

1. On Oct. 1, 1975, heavyweights Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier met for the third and final time in Manila, Philippines, of all places. It turned out to be, in my view, the greatest fight in boxing history. They were extraordinary fighters, both of them, and they brought the best out of each other.

Their first bout, on March 8, 1971, in New York, was not only the greatest boxing event ever, and one of its best fights, it remains more than 50 years later one of the most significant sporting events ever. More on that in a bit, though.

The temperatures in Manila on fight day were brutally oppressive, and that they survived that was a miracle in and of itself. But two of the most highly skilled heavyweights ever went back-and-forth with everything they had for 14 ferocious rounds. When it was over — legendary trainer Eddie Futch mercifully called it after the 14th because Frazier couldn’t see out of one eye — Frazier proclaimed of Ali, “Lawdy, lawdy, he’s great!”


The bout lived up to its moniker, ‘The War’

2. Marvelous Marvin Hagler defended his middleweight championship against Thomas Hearns on April 15, 1985, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in a bout promoters dubbed, “The War.” Little did they know how prophetic that would be.

The first round may have been the greatest round in boxing history, but all three rounds were awe-inspiring. When people think of great fights, this is almost always the one they recall first, and with good reason.

This was the real ‘Fight of the Century’

3. Many bouts are dubbed the Fight of the Century, but nothing comes close to Muhammad Ali versus Joe Frazier on March 8, 1971. If there had been pay-per-view back then, it might have sold 10 million. It wasn’t the talk of the sports world when it occurred; it was the talk of the world, period.

Two unbeaten men with Olympic gold medals and a claim to the heavyweight championship met for all the marbles. That they had a bitter rivalry made the fight only that much more intense.

Frazier handed Ali his first loss in an epic battle that will forever live in the history books as the greatest night in boxing history.

Almost like a rerun of Hagler-Hearns

4. Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo is the greatest fight I ever covered from ringside. I sat with Corrales a few weeks before the fight and he looked at me and said, “I’ll walk through the fires of hell to win this fight.” And then he almost had to do that.

The bout had one of the most dramatic finishes ever. Corrales was knocked down twice in the 10th, and spit out his mouthpiece. When referee Tony Weeks allowed Corrales to continue, the expectation was it would take a few more shots from Castillo and the bout would be over.

Instead, Corrales landed a huge shot and wound up pummeling Castillo on the ropes, forcing Weeks to stop it. Had the fight ended after nine rounds, it would still have been a great bout and probably Fight of the Year. That 10th round, though, pushed it into all-time status.

Foreman-Lyle were real life Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots

5. George Foreman took a fight against Ron Lyle 15 months after he lost his heavyweight title to Ali in Africa. It turned out to be one of his most memorable. This wasn’t crazy boxing skill on display on this day. This was two of the hardest punchers in boxing history throwing as hard as they could at each other for as long as they could.

At one point in the fourth, blow-by-blow announcer Howard Cosell said, “Oh, Foreman is in trouble. Lyle caught him with a good left. Down goes Lyle! George fought back! George fought back with a magnificent right!”

The momentum changed with each punch thrown. It was one of the most fun fights ever. It ended with Foreman finishing Lyle late in the fifth.


‘Not that one, the one I mixed’

6. Aaron Pryor and Alexis Arguello will be forever linked in history. Pryor was an unbeaten super lightweight champion with heavy hands. Arguello was a classy boxer who held belts at featherweight, super featherweight and lightweight.


On Nov. 12, 1982, at the Orange Bowl in Miami, they met in a fight that was so intense that it’s spoken of in almost reverential tones by those who saw it live. It was an amazing, action-packed fight. The one stain on it is when notorious trainer Panama Lewis asked for a certain bottle.


When Artie Curley handed him one, he said, “Not that one, the one I mixed.” Pryor had been fading and Arguello was catching up. Lewis had Pryor drink from the bottle after the 13th. It was never revealed what was in the bottle, but a reinvigorated Pryor roared out of the corner and stopped Arguello in the 14th.

‘You’re blowing it, son!’

7. In a 15-month span beginning on June 20, 1980, through Sept. 16, 1981, the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard fought five times. The first two of those were against Roberto Duran, which he split. After wins over Larry Bonds and Ayub Kalule, Leonard faced Thomas Hearns on Sept. 16, 1981.

It turned out to be one of the classic slugfests. After Leonard hurt Hearns badly in the seventh, trainer Emanuel Steward told Hearns to box. Hearns boxed beautifully and took over the fight, closing Leonard’s eye in the process. After the 12th, a decisive moment came. Leonard trainer Angelo Dundee exhorted his man on, telling him, ‘You’re blowing it, son.”

Leonard rallied in the 13th and finished the job in the 14th.

Gatti and Ward put on a show

8. Arturo Gatti had a huge reputation as one of the most exciting fighters in boxing long before he first met Micky Ward on May 18, 2002. Ward, though, was just beginning to develop that reputation and wasn’t as widely known.

But 10 rounds later, was he ever known! They put on a brutal back-and-forth slugfest in the first of three consecutive meetings that all were sensational.

Hatred between Morales and Barrera translates to the fight

9. The enmity between Mexican stars Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera was well known long before they ever fought each other. When they signed, every meeting between them was tension-filled. Neither hid his distaste for the other.

When the bell sounded, though, the hatred translated, which it often did not. They were skilled fighters who used every bit of their skill and heart to torment the other. It was a brilliant, close, tense fight that is hard to forget decades later.

Tyson Fury outslugs the biggest slugger of them all

10. Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder met a third time for the WBC heavyweight title on Oct. 9, 2021, at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. They’d fought to a split draw in 2018, when Fury incredibly arose from a hard knockdown in the 12th, and Fury dominated the rematch in 2020. He stopped Wilder in the seventh.

Wilder is one of the hardest punchers in the history of the sport. He dropped Fury twice in the fourth round. Fury dropped Wilder three times in a wonderful battle and stopped him in the 11th to retain his belt.

The rest

These are fights I found memorable for one reason or another. Some of them would qualify as among the best fights of my lifetime — most of them do, actually — but that’s not why they were chosen

• Muhammad Ali TKO 8 George Foreman, Oct. 30, 1974: The term “rope-a-dope” was introduced to the boxing lexicon in this fight.

• Marco Antonio Barrera MD 12 Erik Morales, Nov. 27, 2004: More of the same in the third and final fight between these greats.

• Israel Vazquez W 12 Rafael Marquez, March 1, 2008: The third in their four-fight series was brutally wonderful.

• Juan Francisco Estrada SD 12 Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, March 13, 2021: The great Chocolatito was robbed for the second time in his legendary career (IMHO).

• Anthony Joshua TKO 11 Wladimir Klitschko, April 29, 2017: Hugely entertaining brawl and, sadly, the last we saw of the great Klitschko.

• Evander Holyfield W 15 Dwight Muhammad Qawi, July 12, 1986: Watch it, then thank me later.

• Buster Douglas KO 10 Mike Tyson, Feb. 10, 1990: One of the biggest shockers ever.

• Roberto Duran W 15 Sugar Ray Leonard, June 20, 1980: Simply, a legendary night

• Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. TKO 12 Meldrick Taylor, March 17, 1990: Chavez kept his unbeaten record alive with a TKO with two seconds left.

• Ray Mancini KO 14 Deuk Koo Kim, Nov. 13, 1982: Tragedy.

• Carlos Monzon TKO 12 Nino Benvenuti, Nov. 7, 1970: The beginning of the reign of a man who would become one of the greatest middleweights in history.

• Willie “Caveman” Lee KO 5 John Lo Cicero, July 9, 1981: You have to see this.

• George Foreman TKO 2 Joe Frazier, Jan. 22, 1973: One of Foreman’s uppercuts literally lifted Frazier off of his feet.

• Larry Holmes TKO 13 Gerry Cooney, June 11, 1982: President Reagan was set to call Cooney if he won, but did not call Holmes.

• Larry Holmes SD 15 Ken Norton, June 9, 1978: Great fight throughout, but perhaps best 15th round in a title fight ever.


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