Every once in awhile there is a fight that leaves the viewer wanting more. A fight that is a pure classic from start to finish. Whether these fights end with a winner or in a draw they leave the imagination wanting more. The below is a look at some of the best rematches and trilogies to enter the ring. Throughout the years there have been numerous classics dating back to Ali vs Frazier and Leonard vs Duran, while recent classics involve Gatti vs Ward and a potential future classic such as Estrada vs Gonzalez. These fights have knockdowns, blood, controversy, and more. Let us look at early classics, the middle years, and finally current classics.
First, an old classic involved Jake LaMotta (83-19-4, 30 KOs) vs Laurent Dauthuille II (45-13-4. 24 KOs) when the met in Montreal and Dauthuille won by unanimous decision. The rematch occurred in 1950 with Dauthuille again leading going into the final round. In a mistake that cost him the belt, he traded blows with LaMotta in the 15th round and was knocked out. This is one of the greatest final round knockouts in boxing history. Another classic between Rocky Graziano (67-10-6, 52 KOs) and Tony Zale (67-18-2, 45 KOs) in the late 40s. Their first meeting was one of the more brutal fights in boxing history that ended with Zale winning after being brutalized in the first half of the fight. The second fight produced more fireworks but the reverse. Graziano was beaten badly early but ended up stopping Zale after his eye shut. The rubber match ended in anti-climactic fashion with a third-round knockout by Zale. Finally, Floyd Patterson (55-8-1, 40 KOs) vs Ingemar Johansson (26-2, 17 KOs) who fought three consecutive battles between 1959-1961. Patterson was knocked down a miraculous seven times in their first meeting and then somehow knocked Johansson out a year later in their rematch. The third fight continued in spectacular fashion with both men being knocked down in the first round. Patterson once again reigned victorious and could be one of the most underrated trilogies in boxing history.
Fast forward to the 1970s and we start off with Roberto Duran (103-16, 70 KOs) vs Esteban De Jesus (57-5, 32 KOs) who although may have been a notch below Duran talent wise, was able to give Duran his first career loss in a non-title fight in 1972. De Jesus knocked Duran down in the first round of the rematch but was eventually knocked out in the 11th. Finally, in the trilogy Duran once again knocked De Jesus out by 12th round KO. This trilogy helped Duran notch himself as one of the best lightweight champions of all time. Although there were various battles there is one trilogy that sticks out in this time frame and that is Muhammad Ali (56-5, 37 KOs) vs Joe Frazier (32-4-1, 27 KOs). Their first battle named “the fight of the century” in 1971 touted two undefeated heavyweight champions, which ended in Ali being knocked down in the final round, securing Frazier’s win. Frazier lost a non-title fight to Ali a few years later and thus set a rubber match up between the two in 1975. This fight was known as none other than “The Thrilla in Manila”. The fight had more punches thrown than any other heavyweight fight up to that time. Ali took the win after Frazier’s corner refused to let him come out for the final round after both eyes had swollen shut. Rounding out the middle years is Sugar Ray Leonard (36-3-1, 25 KOs) vs Thomas Hearns II (61-5-1, 48 KOs). The first battle took place in 1981 with Sugar Ray winning by 14th round knockout and being nominated fight of the year. The rematch which did not happen for eight years had its own fireworks but did not live up fully to the first battle. However, Leonard was dropped twice in the fight and on his way to a loss. But a late rally earned him a draw, which to this day is still a debated result.
Last on the list are some more recent classics, but nonetheless some very solid fights. First up, Evander Holyfield (44-10-2, 29 KOs) vs Riddick Bowe (43-1, 33 KOs), a fight that brought two young undefeated heavyweight monsters in the ring together. Holyfield was giving up roughly 30 pounds to Bowe and eventually lost in their first matchup, although he was able to make it a battle. Their first fight would go down as one of the best heavyweight fights of the decade. Their rematch had the bizarre incident of a man parachuting into the ring. This time Holyfield was able to reclaim the title and give Bowe his first loss. The trilogy had more drama, where Holyfield knocked Bowe down in the fifth, only to have Bowe knock Holyfield out in the eight round and avenged his only career defeat.
In terms of recent classics, the epic trilogy between Mickey Ward (38-13, 27 KOs) vs Arturo Gatti (40-9, 31 KOs). These fights may not have involved titles, but they were some of the bloodiest, intense, and savage fights of our time. In one of the craziest rounds in boxing history, round 9 had Ward knockdown Gatti, which secured the majority decision for him. Gatti won the rematch just six months later with another memorable battle. The rubber match was set for June 2003 and again another war, what could have been the best fight in the series. Gatti fought most of the trilogy with a broken hand but overcame an early knockdown to win by decision. Next up, are two sets of four fight series. The first being Rafael Marquez (41-9, 37 KOs) vs Israel Vazquez (44-5, 32 KOs), which took place between 2006-2010. This series had controversay, bloodied battles, knockdowns, knockouts, and titles. To conclude our list is none other than Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) vs Juan Manuel Marquez (56-7-1, 40 KOs). Their first meeting in 2004 had Marquez knocked down three times in the first round and yet stunningly, it ended in a split decision draw. In 2008 and 2011 Pacquiao won by split and majority decisions. However, the fourth fight had all the fireworks. Pacman was down in the third and Marquez was down in the fifth. Then in the sixth, the moment many know, saw Pacquiao knocked flat out by a huge right from Marquez.
Throughout the decades we have seen some of the greatest battles in boxing and all the men in this article showed great heart, guts, and glory. The story does not end here. There are potential for many future rematches and trilogies in the years to come. We have already seen massive battles and comebacks from men such as Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz Jr., Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury, and Juan Estrada vs Roman Gonzalez, and many more. There were also many battles not listed as there were just too many to go over. As time goes on, I hope we continue to see boxing shine with great fights and fighters. The only question is will you see it happen!
What's your favourite boxing rematch? Let us know in the comments below!
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