The Greatest Boxing Matches of All-Time
“The War.” “The Showdown.” “The Rumble in the Jungle.” These are the fights that lived up to the hype.
It’s been aptly dubbed the “sweet science,” but professional boxing’s greatest bouts aren’t always defined by strategical brilliance. From blistering slugfests to unforgettable triumphs of will, the matches on this list encompass all the qualities that make the ring game great. Now, are you ready to rumble? 10. “Sugar” Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns — Sept. 16, 1981
The first clash between two of boxing’s most talented fighters was a study in adaptation. Opening as expected, the Welterweight Title unification bout saw the lankier Hearns keeping his shorter opponent at a distance while scoring with long jabs at will. A brilliant strategist, Leonard knew the fight could not continue this way, so he changed up his game plan and aggressively went after “The Hit Man.” “Sugar” Ray’s assertiveness carried him through the 6th and 7th rounds, but soon Hearns adapted himself, swinging the fight back in his favor by boxing instead of brawling. The fight looked to be going the “Motor City Cobra’s” way until Leonard threw all caution to the wind and attacked his opponent, scoring a knockdown in the 13th before pounding Hearns until the official stopped fight in the following round.
9. Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo — May 7, 2005
Boxing’s popularity has undoubtedly waned in the past decade, but there are still occasional reminders of what makes the sport great. This 2005 brawl for the WBC Lightweight Title was one such flash of brilliance. A 10-round war of attrition between California’s Diego Corrales and Mexican dynamo Jose Luis Castillo, the match saw both fighters stand toe to toe in the center of the ring and trade shots for nearly half an hour before a thrilling chain of events occurred. After being knocked down by Castillo two consecutive times in the 10th, Corrales staggered to his feet and threw a miraculous right hand that caught “El Terrible” on the chin. Smelling blood, “Chico” attacked and unleashed an offensive flurry on his opponent that forced the official to call the fight.
8. George Foreman vs. Ron Lyle — January 24, 1976
The kind of power punching slugfest that defined heavyweight boxing in its heyday, the 1976 brawl between George Foreman and Ron Lyle was a fight with two boxers who wanted to prove something. Coming off his loss to Muhammad Ali in the storied “Rumble in the Jungle” (more on that later), Foreman needed to fight his way back into the title picture. Lyle, on the other hand, was desperate to assert himself as a top fighter. So the big men traded shots for five straight rounds, each going down twice in interim. In the end, Foreman knocked Lyle down for a third and final time, putting an exclamation point on one of the most thrilling heavyweight bouts of all time.
7. Erik Morales vs. Marco Antonio Barrera — February 19, 2005
The greatest boxing rivalries are often fought in trilogies and the feud between dangerous Mexican boxers Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera was no exception. A wild series fought over the course of five years, each of the three showdowns would be worthy of a place on this list, but it is their third meeting in Las Vegas that earned this spot. An intense, 12-round bloodbath, the bout saw the two fighters pickup right where they left off with constant go-for-broke punches from the opening bell. Although neither man went down in the match, each looked as though they had survived a car accident by the time things were over. As close as it was, Barrera was the man who took the majority decision, winning the battle and the war.