The first brawl of boxing’s most brutal trilogy, the 2002 bout between Lowell, Massachusetts’ Micky Ward and Arturo Gatti earned its place in history for sheer punishment. Two rough fighters, Ward and Gatti were both willing to take what the other man had to offer and the ebb and flow of the brawl made it nearly impossible to decided which fighter was getting the better of the action. The deciding moment would arrive in the 9th, though, when Ward, a devastating bodypuncher, sent Gatti to the mat with a blistering kidney shot. Although Gatti fought on, Ward won the majority decision, but the fight will always be remembered for the action not the outcome.
2. Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns — April 15, 1985
It only lasted for three rounds, but somehow this eight-minute slugfest between Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns had more drama, action and tension than almost any other fight in history. Both feared knockout artists, Hagler and the “Motor City Cobra” entered Caesars Palace in Las Vegas with much hype and immediately lived up to it. In what has been called the greatest round in boxing history, the middleweights traded power punch after power punch, but neither man would go down. Exhausted from the wild three minutes, Hagler and Hearns struggled through the next two rounds until a bloodied Hagler found victory with a right hand followed by two uppercuts.
1. Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier — March 8, 1971
If Ward vs. Gatti is boxing’s most brutal rivalry then this is the sport’s most storied. Known as “The Fight of the Century” for good reason, this 1971 Heavyweight Title match was about more than just a championship. In the eyes of many, it was a reflection of the times — a showdown between the counterculture in the guise of Muhammad Ali and the pro-war establishment represented — somewhat illogically — by Joe Frazier. Much of this was, of course, established by Ali’s famous bark, but when it came time to fight Smokin’ Joe let his fists do the talking. For 15 rounds the legendary fighters brawled amid a media circus in Madison Square Garden, pummeling each other to the point that rumors of their deaths circulated after the final bell rang. Each man lived to fight again, but it was Frazier who walked away with the win by unanimous decision.