Heavyweight boxing once had the biggest names in the world like Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, Evander Holyfield, and Joe Frazier. Those names were more popular and known than any star in any other sport at one point when heavyweight boxing was at its peak. Those days are past us sadly.
Many fights on our list are from back in the day and some of them even over 100 years ago. There are many great heavyweight boxers now like Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder but the names that made people fall in love with heavyweight boxing are the Tyson's and Ali's.
This list consists of the greatest heavyweight boxing bouts in the history of the sport. There will be many famous names and some iconic fights, knockouts, and upsets. We tried our best to rank all of these justly and had a lot of fun doing so. Now, without further ado, lets dive in to the greatest heavyweight fights of all time.
25. Joe Frazier vs Jerry Quarry (1969)
Jerry Quarry was one tough boxer. At the time of this fight Joe Frazier was the best boxer around and it's hard to argue against that claim. The fight took place in Madison Square Garden were Frazier was defending his World Heavyweight Champion belt. Quarry was very solid in the first rounds and was looking very good early on.
This didn't last long for Quarry as Frazier retaliated with lethal hooks that led to a nasty cut in Quarry's face right under his right eye. The fight was stopped in the seventh round due to how bad the cut was and Frazier remained champion. The two fought again two years later were Frazier once again triumphed over his opponent.
24. Evander Holyfield vs Michael Dokes (1989)
When Evander Holyfield and Michael Dokes fought it was a true show for the fans. Many doubted Holyfield could make it in the heavyweight division as he was a light heavyweight fighter. Dokes started the fight better landing some nice and monstrous punches early on.
However, Holyfield showed that he's the real deal and quickly responded with rapid punches and movement that Dokes wasn't expecting. In the eighth round, Dokes had Holyfield cornered raining down punches on him but Holyfield prevailed and in the tenth round he delivered a perfect uppercut that left Dokes too dazed to go on and the ref stopped the fight to give Holyfield the win.
23. Cassius Clay vs Sonny Liston (1964)
At this point Sonny Liston was at one of the greatest points in his career and he was the active heavyweight champion after knocking out Floyd Patterson. Most people had no faith in Cassius Clay, or better known as Muhammad Ali, going into the fight. There was a lot of controversy with this fight about what actually happened.
Clay went into the fight with fantastic movement and doing a good job to protect himself from Liston's heavy blows. Liston gave up from his stool right before the start of the seventh round giving Clay a monstrous win and beginning his journey to be one of the best fighters ever. The controversy came from the fact that Liston was the meanest man around and an undefeated champion, but he gave up from his corner against a 22 year old kid?
22. James Braddock vs Max Baer (1935)
This fight was later featured in Braddocks biopic movie "Cinderella Man" and it was for a good reason. Baer was unstoppable at the time and took fighting Braddock as an easy win. Baer fought carelessly and let his opponent tire him out with good body punches and quick jabs while he dropped his hands and did a bit of trash-talking.
Once Baer decided to start taking things seriously it was too late and Braddock was too dominant to stop. The fight went all the way to the final round and when it was all over Braddock had taken home the win. His huge underdog win got him the name "Cinderella Man".
21. Derrick Jefferson vs Maurice Harris (1999)
This fight was two titans clashing against each other. Maurice Harris was knocked down four times and Jefferson once in a brawl that was an absolute spectatle for the viewers watching. Jefferson dropped Harris two times in the second round but then Harris turned it around with a vicious right.
Harris was knocked by Jefferson's powerful body shots but he quickly responded with a fury of combinations that looked to end the fight. It seemed this way until Jefferson's iconic left hook that ended the fight with one of the best knockouts in the history of the sport.
20. Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury (2018)
This fight ranks as one of the most entertaining in the 21st century. The bout betwen Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder ended in a controversial draw. Fury was better throughout but Wilder got the shot he needed to drop Fury in the ninth. Fury got up dazed and it looked to be over for him.
Then came the famous last round when Wilder drops Fury with a viscious left that left him looking like he was out cold. This was until he magically stood back up and finished the fight. Even though the end result was a draw, this was one of the greatest heavyweight fights in the last century!
19. Leotis Martin vs Thad Spencer (1968)
Leotis Martin and Thad Spencer had one of the best heavyweight fights of all time, however, it wasn't even filmed. Martin dropped Spencer in the first round but Spencer picked it back up during the middle rounds and kept the fight under control.
In the eighth round Spencer had Martin at matchpoint and it was looking like he was going to take home the win. This was until Martin's lethal punch that won him the match when things weren't looking good for him. Although it was not filmed, this fight remains a classic.
18. George Foreman vs Michael Moorer (1994)
This fight crowned George Foreman as the oldest heavyweight champion in history. a 45 year old Foreman wasn't looking like the favorite before or even during the fight as Moorer was was landing punch after punch on him. This was until the tenth round of the fight.
Moorer was exhausted by this point and Foreman delivered a huge right hand to finish the fight and crown him champion. This knockout left everyone speechless and Formean dedicated his win to "all my buddies in the nursing home".
17. Rocky Marciano vs Ezzard Charles (1954)
Rocky Marciano and Ezzard Charles fought twice this year. In their first bout Marciano won by points and it was the first time that anyone had even come close to beating the legendary fighter. The fight was a brawl but Marciano got the unanimous decision.
The second fight was just as entertaining as the first. The two battled it out but Marciano ultimately got the win with a big knockout in the eighth round. His corner had suggested he go for the body but Marciano said "I don't knock 'em out in the body. I knock 'em out on the chin".
16. Buster Douglas vs Mike Tyson (1990)
Buster Douglas vs Mike Tyson could be considered one of the biggest upsets in the history of boxing. At the time Mike Tyson was unstoppable and Douglas was a 42:1 underdog. Douglas dominated Tyson from the first round but Tyson delivered a viscious uppercut in the eighth round that almost won him the fight.
The ref started the count but Douglas got back up and in the tenth round he knocked out Tyson with a huge punch. Mike Tyson was the undefeated heavyweight world champion going into the fight so this was one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, upsets ever seen.
15. Michael Moorer vs Bert Cooper (1992)
This five-round bout is one of the best fights there is. Cooper came out strong looking to bring a good fight to the reigning champion and dropped him the very first round. Both fighters brawled it out until the fifth round were Moorer put Cooper against the ropes and finished the fight with an uppercut and left hook combination.
Moorer became the first left-handed heavyweight champion in history and this fight was the 1992 KO Magazine Fight of the Year. This fight was the definition of a brawl and both fighters didn't ease up for a second which in hindsight was a mistake by Cooper.
14. Lennox Lewis vs Vitali Klitschko (2003)
This fight was called the "Battle of the Titans" and it was rightly named. Current heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis faced off against former champion Vitali Klitshcko. Klitschko hurt Lewis early on and was winning the fight throughout. However, a nasty cut above his left eye cut the fight short after the sixth round giving Lewis the win.
Such a close match and controversial outcome was screaming for a rematch but that never happened as Lewis actually retired after that match the next year. Lewis never had his rematch with either Klitschko or Tyson, two fights the boxing world would've loved to see!
13. Floyd Patterson vs Ingemar Johansson (1961)
Floyd Patterson was the heavyweight champion after Rocky Marciano retired which at the time made him the youngest heavyweight champion in history at only 21 years old. Johansson destroyed the young champion in three rounds after having knocked him to the ground seven times.
Only a year later Patterson got his revenge with a fifth round knockout which led to the third and final bout between the two. Both fighters went down in the first round of the third fight and after many rounds of brutal hits Patterson knocked out Johansson in the sixth round and despite him trying his hardest to get up, his body didn't allow it.
12. Anthony Joshua vs Wladimir Klitschko (2017)
This was a very hyped up fight that had a slow start. The first couple of rounds were nothing special and there were minimal exchanges between the two fighters. However, in the fifth round Joshua knocked Klitshcko down to the mat and the round that followed Klitshcko almost took Joshua out.
The fight had started to heat up and after some very exciting rounds Anthony Joshua took the victory in the eleventh round via technical knockout. Klitshcko retired a few months after and the fight was named Fight of the Year by The Ring and Boxing Writers Association of America.
11. Rocky Marciano vs Joe Walcott (1952)
Joe Walcott was a very underrated heavyweight boxer. Walcott was ahead for the majority of the fight and if it had gone to the bell there is no doubt that he would've taken the win. However, in the thirteenth round Marciano knocked Walcott out with a beautiful one punch KO.
Walcott knocked down Marciano in the very first round and was looking extremely dominant. Marciano retired undefeated with 49 fights but this was definitely his closest call out of all of his fights. Marciano's deadly knockout let him retire undefeated and scrape a win against Walcott.
10. Ike Ibeabuchi vs David Tua (1961)
Both fighters threw a combined 1,730 punches this match in what was an absolute brawl. This heavyweight title fight was a brutal one. The fight itself was a close one all around with Ibeabuchi taking the win at the end of it all.
Tua was the favorite going into the fight but the underdog prevailed in what is considered one of the biggest brawls in heavyweight boxing history. After the fight, Ibeabuchi was taken to the hospital for the massive headache that he had and Tua had surgery on his elbow a week later.
9. Evander Holyfield vs Mike Tyson (1996)
Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson were scheduled to fight six years before they actually did but that plan fell apart when Tyson lost the heavyweight title to Buster Douglas. By this point Tyson was past his prime and Holyfield dropped him in the sixth round. Holyfield had a response for everything Iron Mike threw at him.
Holyfield was the superior fighter this match and in the eleventh round the bout was put to a stop as Holyfield won after launching a vicious combination on Tyson. Holyfield was named the 1996 Fighter of the Year by The Ring and the Boxing Writers Association of America.
8. Muhammad Ali vs George Foreman (1974)
This fight crowned Muhammad Ali as the heavyweight champion of the world for the second time in his career after knocking out George Foreman in what's known as the "Rumble in the Jungle". Ali was the underdog coming into the fight but you can never undersell a legend like he was.
Foreman landed some very hard punches on Ali but that was his plan all along. Ali waited for Foreman to get tired and then in the eighth round he answered with a barrage of quick combinations that laid Foreman on the mat to give Ali the win.
7. George Foreman vs Ron Lyle (1976)
This was Foreman's first fight after losing his heavyweight title to Muhammad Ali which was another fight on this list. Lyle came out strong against the former champ and almost stopped him in the very first round. Foreman came back and did much better in the second.
Then came the legendary fourth round. This round is considered as one of the best rounds in boxing history. Lyle started the round knocking Foreman down, who then got back up and returned the favor. Not long after Lyle knocked Foreman down again. It all ended in the fifth round were Foreman came back strong and put the fight away raining punches on Lyle.
6. Larry Holmes vs Ken Norton (1978)
The final round in this fight may be the best one in the history of heavyweight boxing. Larry Holmes and Ken Norton were fighting for the world heavyweight title that Norton had just acquired. The fight itself was fantastic and very even throughout.
What makes this fight legendary is the final round. After a very intense 14 rounds Holmes and Norton both found the energy to come out and completely battle it out for the entirety of the last round to give the fans one of the most exciting endings to a fight ever seen. Holmes won the title by minimal points.
5. Joe Jeannette vs Sam McVea (1909)
This was a completely different era of boxing. This fight was named the "World Colored Heavyweight Championship" and is a good contender for the most ferocious bout on this whole list. These fights could only be won by knockout and this fight lasted three hours and went for 48 rounds.
Both Jeannette and McVea refused to give up throughout the fight which was one of the most brutal affairs the world of boxing has ever seen. Jeannette ended up winning the fight when McVea threw in the towel after his eye was so swollen he couldn't even open it. Brutal scenes!
4. Riddick Bowe vs Evander Holyfield (1992)
Holyfield was one of the biggest names in boxing when this match took place and the odds were all in his favor. The two ended up fighting twice and while both were good bouts, their first fight was spectacular. Holyfield and Bowe traded heavy punches in every single round.
Holyfield struggled trading punches with Bowe as he was much bigger and stronger but he showed why he's the legend that he is during that fight. Both fighters went at it and in the 11th round Bowe knocked Holyfield down. He miraculously finished the round and when it was all over, Bowe won by unanimous decision in one of the greatest heavyweight boxing matches of all time.
3. Jack Dempsey vs Luis Firpo (1923)
This was the biggest fight there ever was at that time and it will always be iconic. Luis Firpo was the first Latin American fighter to challenge the world heavyweight title. Firpo dropped Dempsey almost immediately in the first round to which Dempsey responded by dropping Firpo seven times in the space of a minute and a half.
Towards the end of the first round Firpo hit Dempsey right on the chin literally dropping him out of the ring. Dempsey somehow recovered and in the second round he knocked Firpo out. The fight had 11 knockdowns in four minutes in what is one of the most historic and brutal fights the sport has ever seen.
2. Joe Frazier vs Muhammad Ali (1971)
Named "The Fight of the Century", this was the most anticipated fight the boxing world had ever seen. This was the first time two undefeated heavyweight boxers fought for the title. Ali took the first rounds but Frazier quickly showed why he is the champion that he was.
In the 15th round Frazier hit Ali with one of the most historic left hooks in boxing history. Ali somehow got up and when it was all over Frazier won via unanimous decision. The fight was fantastic and widely regarded by many as the biggest boxing match in history.
1. Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier (1975)
The "Thrilla in Manila" was the third fight between the two boxers after Frazier won the first bout and Ali the second. Although it didn't have the same anticipation as their very first fight, both boxers showed why they are legends in this one. Ali started strong again on the first rounds but in the middle ones Frazier bashed Ali with strong body shots.
Ali regained momentum in the last couple of rounds and towards the end of the fight Frazier could barely see from how swollen shut his eyes were. Eddie Futch, Frazier's trainer, asked the referee to stop the fight after the 14th round to give Ali the win. This historic fight is the greatest heavyweight title fight in history.