25. GENE TUNNEY PTS 10 JACK DEMPSEY
September 22, 1927
TUNNEY outboxed Dempsey 12 months earlier and 104,943 were at Soldier Field in Chicago to see if he could do it again. They saw what would be known as ‘The Battle of The Long Count.’ Dempsey fell behind early and remembered the seventh as a “do or die” round. He connected with a right and then “let loose with everything” until Tunney hit the floor for the first time in his career. But in forgetting to abide by the new rule of going to a neutral corner he gave Tunney ample time to recover.
24. JAMES J BRADDOCK PTS 15 MAX BAER
June 13, 1935
BRADDOCK was named “The Cinderella Man” after upsetting the 1/10 favourite. Only 366 days earlier, Braddock was working on the docks, a former light-heavyweight contender with a damaged right hand who was struggling to pay the bills. Baer was fond of mocking opponents during fights, but found himself on the receiving end as Braddock shook off his best punches with a smile and outboxed him.
23. DEONTAY WILDER DREW 12 TYSON FURY
December 1, 2018
“THERE’S no rush,” Fury said after it was announced he would fight again in June, 2018. “I’m going to take my time. Muhammad Ali had three years out, had two warm-up fights and lost to [Joe] Frazier [in 1971]. Maybe if he had another two he would have won.” Fury then did exactly what he said he wouldn’t do, jumping in with Wilder after two straightforward wins, over Sefer Seferi and Francesco Pianeta. Fury defied all odds, boxing masterfully at times only to be dropped in the ninth. But it was the knockdown he suffered in the 12th, and the insane manner in which he recovered, which engraved this contest’s place in history.
22. LARRY HOLMES PTS 15 KEN NORTON
June 9, 1978
HOLMES was on top early, Norton roared back – and was then on the brink of defeat in the 13th. Norton landed some heavy shots in the 14th to leave the fight level on the scorecards going into the last. The fighters produced one of the best three minutes in heavyweight history – and Holmes edged it to win the WBC belt.
21. RIDDICK BOWE PTS 12 EVANDER HOLYFIELD
November 13, 1992
GOING into this fight, Holyfield was considered a colourless champion and there were doubts about Bowe’s heart.
Thirty-six minutes later, both had proved themselves. The 10th round is one of their first fight is remembered as one of boxing’s best.
Bowe dazed Holyfield and unloaded on him for around a minute.
The champion survived the storm – and then hit back to have Bowe looking unsteady. Bowe went on to drop Holyfield in the next and won unanimously on the scorecards.
20. LEOTIS MARTIN RSF 9 THAD SPENCER
May 29, 1968
THE Royal Albert Hall crowd were entertained by these two world-ranked Americans. Spencer was the boxer, Martin the puncher and the momentum swung throughout until Martin went for broke in the ninth after being badly cut and forced the stoppage. Several in attendance still claim this was one of the best fights they’ve ever seen.
19. VITALI KLITSCHKO RSF 8 CORRIE SANDERS
April 24, 2004
SANDERS had a game plan that was straightforward enough. He wanted to put his southpaw left on Klitschko’s chin. That punch had felled younger brother Wladimir 13 months previously and he had Vitali looking disorganised when he connected in the early rounds. Sanders was badly shaken up himself late in the fifth, but his punch kept him in the fight until Klitschko hurt him in the eighth and unloaded.
18. JOE LOUIS KO 13 BILLY CONN
June 18, 1941
“WHAT’S the point in being Irish if you can’t be thick,” shrugged Conn after blowing his chance to add the heavyweight championship to the light-heavyweight title he had previously relinquished.
After 12 rounds, Conn led by two and three points with the other judge having them level and Louis remembered coach Jack Blackburn telling him: “You’re losing on points, you got to knock him out.’”
Conn had to stick to his boxing, but after opening a cut on Louis’ ear, he fancied he could knock out the champion – and got knocked out himself instead.
17. RON LYLE KO 6 EARNIE SHAVERS
September 13, 1975
IF you haven’t watched this on YouTube, why not? Lyle actually came out jabbing – for about a minute. Shavers tagged him and tried to overwhelm him – so Lyle started letting his hands go to keep him off. Lyle was saved by the bell at the end of the second after a thunderous left hook dropped him and spent much of the third on the ropes, Shavers’ head pressed into his chest. The crowd roared when Lyle rallied with left hooks and uppercuts and the fourth and fifth were more of the same. Shavers wobbled late in the fifth and Lyle went for the finish in the next, forcing him to the ropes with a double jab and unloading clobbering right after clobbering right until Shavers fell flat on his face and was counted out.
16. IKE IBEABUCHI PTS 12 DAVID TUA
June 7, 1991
LARRY MERCHANT confessed he had “never heard of him until the fight was made,” but within a minute, there were signs Ibeabuchi would be a name he would remember. He walked through the sort of right-hand thunderbolt that felled most of Tua’s opponents – and kept churning out punches. Ibeabuchi and Tua threw an astonishing 1,730 punches between them and the Nigerian survived a desperate 11th round to win a disputed, but unanimous decision on the scorecards.
15. LENNOX LEWIS RTD 6 VITALI KLITSCHKO
June 21, 2003
KLITSCHKO declared: “I feel like the people’s champion” to cheers after a gruesome cut over his left eye ruled him out of a fight Larry Merchant said resembled Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward for back-and-forth drama. Klitschko, who came in for Kirk Johnson at two weeks’ notice, had Lewis wobbly in the second before the champion landed what would prove to be the decisive punch in the next, a right that slashed open the gash over Klitschko’s eye. He was cut under his left eye as well before being pulled out.
14. ROCKY MARCIANO PTS 15 EZZARD CHARLES
June 17, 1954
MARCIANO afterwards said the former champion gave him “my toughest fight” and Don Dunphy told listeners: “Two more game or gallant fighters never fought for the title.” The fight ignited in the fourth. Charles opened a deep cut on the side of Marciano’s eye – and Rocky threw everything at him. Charles had to fight out of his skin just to keep the champion away and only just got through the ninth after enduring a terrible pounding. Charles would rally at times but Rocky won by margins of two, three and four rounds on the cards.
13. CASSIUS CLAY RTD 6 SONNY LISTON
February 25, 1964
THE night “The Louisville Lip” shook up the world – and changed boxing. Liston was a 1/7 favourite for a reason. He was a fearsome puncher who had demolished Floyd Patterson twice and several other top-10 ranked heavyweights, while Clay had struggled with Doug Jones and Henry Cooper.
There were even concerns for the challenger’s mental health after some bizarre behaviour in the build up to the fight and at the weigh in but Clay dazzled before appearing blinded in the fifth round in which he landed only one punch. The fight was level on the scorecards after six rounds when Liston was pulled out, citing an injury to his left shoulder.
12. FLOYD PATTERSON KO 6 INGEMAR JOHANSSON
March 13, 1961
PATTERSON had his left hook, Johansson carried dynamite in his right glove and they swapped knockouts in two previous fights to set up this up-and-down decider. Patterson wrote in his autobiography that ahead of the fight he decided to “gamble, take the chance of getting hit with his right hand in order to get to him.” The gamble almost cost Patterson his title as twice in the opening round he was dropped by rights. Johansson went for the finish, ran onto a left hook and found himself on the floor in a crazy first session. Patterson appeared to have taken more damage but by the sixth, he was on top and drilled Johansson to the floor for the full count.
11. MICHAEL MOORER KO 5 BERT COOPER
May 15, 1992
FORTY seconds into the fight and favourite Moorer didn’t know where he was after Cooper volleyed him to the mat with right hands. Moorer pulled himself together, tightened his defences and when he spotted an opening, he aimed a southpaw right hook at Cooper’s jaw – and he landed flat on his back. Cooper opened up again in the third to drop Moorer and kept him pressed on the ropes on the resumption. But Moorer noticed Cooper stumble in the fifth after he shipped a right hook and jumped through the gears to blast him to the floor with a 10-punch salvo. Though Cooper was up at ‘nine,’ the drama was over.
10. ROCKY MARCIANO W KO 13 JERSEY JOE WALCOTT
September 23, 1952
THE 42-0 Marciano had stopped his previous seven, had never been dropped himself and was a decade younger at 28.
Marciano would later say he always felt he would catch up with the veteran champion, but with only nine minutes left, it looked like Walcott, who scored a knockdown in round one, knew too much for him. Charley Goldman, Marciano’s trusted trainer, told him before the 13th: “This is not looking good. You’ve got to get out there and knock him out as soon as you can.”
Marciano manoeuvred Walcott to the ropes and both loaded up on right-hand piledrivers. It was Marciano’s Suzy Q punch that reached its target first, leaving Walcott crumpled on the ropes, Rocky adding an apostrophe by way of a clipping left hook as he headed to a neutral corner.
9. GEORGE FOREMAN KO 5 RON LYLE
January 24, 1976
FOREMAN needed redemption following his collapse against Ali 15 months earlier and Lyle fancied that with his punch, he had a chance against anyone. What a fight they had.
Foreman was shaken up late in the first, then had Lyle in some trouble in the second. Lyle spent much of the third pinned in a corner, but kept landing rights whenever Foreman stopped punching.
The fourth round was simply sensational, with two Lyle scoring two knockdowns against Foreman’s one. Both were tired and hurt by the fifth. Foreman appeared to be in worse shape than Lyle – and he started shipping more heavy punches. It seemed only a matter of time before Foreman fell – surely for the last time – before from nowhere, he found the target with rights and suddenly, Lyle was on rubbery legs. Foreman drove him to the ropes, then clobbered him with left hooks that flung him into a corner and kept the punches coming until he fell.
8. EVANDER HOLYFIELD RSF 11 MIKE TYSON
November 9, 1996
THERE were fears Holyfield would lose more than this fight.
He was rumoured to have heart irregularities and though Tyson was several years removed from his pomp, he had destroyed Peter McNeeley, Buster Mathis, Frank Bruno and Bruce Seldon since being released from prison.
Holyfield did more than stand up to Tyson, he beat him up. Tyson was dropped in the sixth, cut over both eyes – with Holyfield’s head possibly responsible – and by the 11th, he didn’t have enough left to keep Holyfield off him and the referee rescued him.
Holyfield said afterwards: “The prize has to be greater than the pain.”
7. ANTHONY JOSHUA RSF 11 WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO
April 29, 2017
JOSHUA told Klitschko during the seventh: “You’re getting knocked out in the next round.”
It seemed unlikely.
Joshua had been badly shaken up in the fifth – after dropping the veteran champion earlier in the session – and floored in the sixth.
Steve Farhood reckoned that at the halfway stage, Joshua had “about one chance in 10 of winning. He looked exhausted and close to defeat.”
Klitschko was in no rush to finish Joshua in front of 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium – and allowed him to recover. The fight was in the balance after 10 rounds and Joshua made his breakthrough in the 11th, a right uppercut knocking Klitschko dizzy and setting up the first of two knockdowns.
6. JAMES ‘BUSTER’ DOUGLAS KO 10 MIKE TYSON
February 10, 1990
THE American public had become so bored of watching Tyson predictably destroy his rivals that Don King took this fight to Tokyo where he felt there would be a bigger appetite for tickets.
Tyson had chinned Tony Tubbs inside two rounds in the same city a couple of years earlier and Douglas seemed certain to go the same way.
Douglas had been stopped in three of his four defeats, but, using the death of his mother as inspiration, the 6ft 4ins Douglas boxed superbly behind his jab against the 5ft 10ins champion.
Douglas showed his heart – previously questioned – by getting off the floor in the eighth to drop and stop Tyson two rounds later in what remains the biggest upset in boxing history.
5. TYSON FURY KO 11 DEONTAY WILDER
October 9, 2021
THE irony is, this is the fight nobody wanted to see. The public wanted to see Fury fight Anthony Joshua, but Wilder won an arbitration forcing Fury to meet him for a third time.
Fury-Joshua surely wouldn’t have matched this for thrills. Fury had Wilder down in the third and was then dropped twice himself in the fourth and saved by the bell.
Fury was the stronger in the second half, scoring knockdowns in the 10th and 11th. Bob Arum said afterwards: “I have been in this business 57 years and I have to say I have never seen a heavyweight fight as magnificent.”
4. MUHAMMAD ALI KO 8 GEORGE FOREMAN
October 30, 1974
TOLD by Angelo Dundee: “Stay off the ropes,” Ali did the opposite and invited the hardest hitting heavyweight champion since Sonny Liston to unload on him. But Ali was in control from the opening round, despite Foreman roaring forward and doing his best to craft the knockout win the majority predicted he would score.
“I know what I’m doing,” Ali told his corner and of course, he did, blocking Foreman’s bombs and fighting in spurts until he sent the champion dramatically cartwheeling to the canvas in the eighth with a series of pinpoint punches after bursting from the corner.
This was arguably Ali’s greatest triumph, and one that was loaded with drama from start to finish.
3. JOE FRAZIER PTS 15 MUHAMMAD ALI
March 8, 1971
THIS was billed as ‘The Fight of the Century’ and it did not disappoint. Frazier and Ali were both unbeaten (26-0 and 31-0 respectively) and with a claim to the heavyweight throne. Frazier perhaps benefitted from Ali’s three-year absence but, in truth, Joe turned in one of the greatest of all boxing performances to win this in style.
Madison Square Garden was packed with 21,455 fans and the fight was beamed into 35 foreign countries.
Ali taunted Frazier in the build-up but Joe, whose relentless aggression was a sight to behold, answered with his fists. Ali started fast but was tiring by the sixth. It looked level going into the 11th, a round so hard for Ali, the doctor visited him in his corner before allowing him to continue. Frazier punished him in the 13th and dropped him in the last with the sweetest of left hooks to make sure of the unanimous points win. That Ali heard the final bell is one of his most underrated achievements.
2. JACK DEMPSEY KO 2 LUIS FIRPO
September 14, 1923
THERE were 85,000 fans squeezed into New York’s Polo Grounds and another 35,000 locked outside. Those who got in saw only three minutes and 57 seconds in the top-of-the-bill fight – yet they got value for money and then some.
Firpo came from Argentina with a businessman’s brain, Italian nobility in his blood and – according to a press release – thunder in his right fist.
Dempsey raced from his corner at the opening bell – and touched down after being clipped by a right hand. Dempsey went on to drop Firpo five times in the opening round – and was also knocked out of the ring himself. He wrote in his autobiography: “It was pitch dark for a few seconds, then I managed to focus on Firpo’s fuzzy form in the ring. Before I knew it, I had been pushed back. I don’t remember climbing back into the ring, but I remember seeing about 20 Firpos standing in front of me.” Dempsey was still dizzy when he went back to his corner, but was revived by smelling salts and knocked Firpo out in the second.
1. MUHAMMAD ALI RTD 14 JOE FRAZIER
October 1, 1975
A PREDICTABLE number one but this remains the greatest heavyweight fight. “It’s real hatred,” said Frazier. “I want to hurt him.”
It’s been claimed that one billion people saw the fight, including 100 million in closed-circuit television theatres. Every single one of them saw a fight they would never forget.
Boxing News reported “rounds seemed to speed by” as Frazier set a blistering pace and Ali kept his defences tight and punched back when he could. Ali landed enough to close Frazier’s left eye and almost close his right and, as Frazier’s feet slowed, he took more punches.
Ali couldn’t miss him with rights in the 11th round, smashed his gum shield out of his mouth in the 13th and with one round to go, Ali led by four, five and six points on the scorecards. There would be no more, Eddie Futch memorably telling Frazier after the 14th: “It’s all over. The world will never forget what you did here today.”