TO put Tyson Fury’s wildly exciting victory over Deontay Wilder in perspective when it come to the greatest heavyweight fights it would be like comparing a molehill to a mountain.
It was certainly dramatic, thrilling and highly entertaining but to put it into its proper context rather than going OTT everything must be taken into consideration – particularly the quality of opponent.
I was lucky enough to have been ringside at what I consider to have been five that were better – and three were of historical significance.
6. Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder, October 9, 2021, Las Vegas.
Fury was expected to repeat his victory over Wilder but at times it was a close-run thing and he had to haul himself off the canvas after being put down twice in the fourth.
The Gypsy King, having floored Wilder twice before knocking him out in the 11th, made it a spectacular yo-yo battle that you daren’t take your eyes off.
It was a pulsating war that was certainly one of he most memorable in the pantheon of heavyweight clashes and deserves to be in the top six because of he adrenalin rush it gave everyone who saw it.
For me, it was memorable but falls short of the top five because of Wilder’s lack of quality. Apart from the terrifying power in his right hand, he fights like a novice.
It was extremely one-sided from the sixth round. In my opinion, Wilder’s corner or the referee should have pulled him out in the ninth. He was out on his feet and taking a terrible beating.
Fury did what he had to do and he did it brilliantly. But the mediocre opposition was made for him.
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5. Mike Tyson-Buster Douglas, February 2, 1990, Tokyo
Mike Tyson, the the unbeaten Baddest Man on the Planet was defending the world title against a man who was given a 42-1 chance of beating him.
Interviewing Douglas in his hotel room a couple of days before the fight he said he was going to KO Iron Mike in memory of his beloved mother who had died three weeks before – a statement that caused much sniggering among the media.
But Tyson was in the middle of marital problems and hadn’t trained properly as he considered he was going to have an easy win over no-hoper Douglas.
Despite putting Buster down in the eighth Tyson was out-boxed and outfought by a possessed challenger.
We found it difficult to believe our eyes as Douglas efficiently began to dismantle him.
In the tenth he bludgeoned a badly dazed and severely punished Tyson to the floor.
There was no chance he was going to beat the count – and who can forget seeing Mike trying desperately to put his gumshield back in his mouth as the referee tolled off the seconds.
Douglas was the new champion to world-wide astonishment in the greatest upset in heavyweight history.
4 George Foreman-Muhammad Ali, October 29, 1974, Kinshasa, Zaire
There was considerable concern for Ali’s safety when he challenged the unbeaten fearsome punching George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle.
Not only was Ali given scant chance of getting his world title back, there were real fears he would end up in hospital or even worse.
But Ali – who fought with his brains as well as his fists – devised a battle plan that completely demoralised Foreman and nearly caused his trainer Angelo Dundee a heart attack.
Ali called it “rope-a-dope”. Only someone as brave as him would have thought it, let alone attempted it.
Standing with his back to the ropes he allowed Foreman to hammer him to the body until he had punched punch himself out.
By the eighth round Foreman was completely exhausted and when Ali hit him with a left-right combination to the head his resistance had gone completely and he went crashing to the canvas to be counted out.
Against all the odds, and to the delight of his billions of fans, Ali had won his crown back at 32 for one of the greatest victories of all-time.
3. Riddick Bowe-Evander Holyfield, November 13, 1992, Las Vegas
If any fighter combined technical ability with the guts and determination never to be beaten, Evander Holyfield is that man.
His first of a trilogy of clashes with Riddick Bowe will never be forgotten. They were beautifully matched in skill and courage and and as the action ebbed and flowed there was little between them.
When they came out for the tenth little did we know we were about to witness one of the greatest three minutes in the history of then heavyweight division.
Bowe set about Holyfield, smashing him to head and body with sledgehammer blows. Holyfield was reeling all over the ring and he stood swaying as if he was standing in a gale force wind – but he refused to go down.
Holyfield was under a sustained two-handed attack for a good couple of minutes but somehow he found reserves of strength and counter-attacked with such ferocity it was Bowe hanging on for dear life until the bell.
Bowe got the unanimous decision but one of my American colleagues spoke for us all when he said: “The heart of Holyfield. No words for it.”
2. Muhammad Ali-Smokin Joe Frazier, October 1, 1975, Manila
This was called the Thrilla in Manila and it turned out to be unquestionably the most brutal heavyweight fight of all-time.
Both men had deteriorated considerably since their first clash four years earlier, to such an extent they simply couldn’t get out of the way of each other’s punches.
They virtually stood trading blows, with neither giving an inch in the suffocating heat in the arena.
By the time the bell sounded to end the 14th round they were both exhausted but Frazier’s left eye was completely closed beneath a mound of bruised flesh.
As he sat on his stool his trainer the great Eddie Futch took one look at him and said “It’s over.
“But no-one will ever forget what you did here today.”
Despite Frazier’s protests, Futch called referee Carlos Padilla over to tell him his man had retired.
If any one doubts about the ferocity of that battle, Ali’s comment ‘That’s the nearest I’ve come to dying’ says it all.
1. Muhammad Ali-Smokin’ Joe Frazier, March 8, 1971, New York
It was the first time two unbeaten fighters had fought for the world heavyweight title and such was the excitement in the 20,000 Madison Square Garden crowd, two men died of heart attacks before the opening bell.
It was publicised as The Fight of The Century and for once it lived up to its billing. We were treated to 15 scintillating rounds of non-stop action.
Ali, coming off a three-year exile, found Frazier’s relentless two-handed attack from first bell to last too much for him.
He survived being knocked down by Joe’s left hook in the 15th and last round but was narrowly beaten on points.
Both men ended up in hospital. Ali had a suspected broken jaw and Frazier took six weeks to physically recover.