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Friday, 31 May, 2002, 14:11 GMT 15:11 UK
Five of the best
Evander Holyfield trades blows with Riddick Bowe in 1992
Holyfield (left) could not land the heavy punches
BBC Sport Online's Sanjeev Shetty

Whether or not the meeting between Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson turns out to be one of the great world title fights, the sense of occasion and hype that surrounds it will make the bout a memorable one.

With that in mind, BBC Sport Online provides a purely subjective view of the five greatest world title fights ever.


5) Riddick Bowe W12 Evander Holyfield, 1992

Some fights take on legendary status because of notable ebbs and flows which keep the spectator gripped for the entirety of the contest - Bowe-Holyfield had it all in one round.

The 10th round of this contest will be remembered by everyone who watched it, either live or on television.

It began with Bowe throwing a right uppercut which appeared to knock the last vestige of fight out of Holyfield.

But, after withstanding a 90 second battering to head and body, a groggy Holyfield regrouped and began to show the determination, spirit and tenacity that has made him one of boxing's greatest champions.

On unsteady legs, he mounted an attack which contained numerous hooks to the body and head of Bowe, forcing the younger man onto the backfoot.

But the soon-to-be new champion showed his pedigree by flooring Holyfield in the 11th and winning the 12th to take a unanimous decision.

Fought at a frenetic pace throughout, Bowe-Holyfield was so good that the pair fought twice more, with them claiming a victory apiece.


4) Muhammad Ali TKO14 Joe Frazier, 1975

The "Thriller in Manila" was perhaps the most gruelling fight in heavyweight history.

It featured two men slightly past their prime, engulfed by their mutual dislike.

Ali now claims that he never held ill feeling towards Frazier, but Smokin' Joe has never made such a confession.

Enraged by Ali's description of him as an "Uncle Tom", Frazier chased Ali around the ring for three intoxicating battles, with this last one certainly the most damaging.

For the first six rounds, Ali coped with relative ease against the on-rushing Frazier.

But Frazier came back into the fight during the next five rounds, setting up a brutal finale.

His eyes closing, the challenger became a pedestrian target for Ali's right hand and rounds 13 and 14 were obscenely one-sided.

As the forlorn figure of Frazier walked back to his corner at the end of the penultimate round, his legendary trainer Eddie Futch told him: "Sit down son, it's all over. Nobody will ever forget what you did here today."


3) Rocky Marciano KO13 Jersey Joe Walcott, 1952

Rocky Marciano walks away from Jersey Joe Walcott
Marciano (right) after landing the punch nicknamed "Suzie Q"
One of the less gifted champions of heavyweight history, Marciano won his crown in a fashion which became synonymous with his career - he battled for it.

Although in the twilight of his career, Walcott still took a big lead against his challenger, registering a heavy knockdown in the second round.

For much of what followed, it was Walcott who dominated, forcing Marciano to follow him around the ring and accept numerous jabs for his trouble.

Yet Marciano, nicknamed the "Brockton Blockbuster" was impossible to discourage.

By the 13th, he was starting to force the champion into uncomfortable situations, before making the decisive move.

Walcott moved straight back to the ropes to avoid a Marciano charge and, with the two fighters barely 12 inches apart, the challenger landed a right hand.

It was the kind of punch which is done justice by slow motion replay - it travelled less than a foot, landed flush on Walcott's chin and rendered him unconscious from the moment of impact.


2) Jack Dempsey KO2 Luis Firpo, 1923

As Marvin Hagler and Tommy Hearns proved, a great fight does not need to go past three rounds. Dempsey proved that more than six minutes of action is overrated.

There was a total of nine knockdowns in the first round - seven scored by Dempsey, two by Firpo.

It was the last of those Firpo knockdowns which has become part of boxing legend.

The Manassa Mauler Jack Dempsey
Dempsey's style usually guaranteed an exciting fight
Hurt by a right hand., Dempsey moved to the ropes where another big right hurled him through the ropes and onto the typewriter of a ringside journalist.

It is believed that, with the assistance of those reporters, Dempsey climbed back into the ring just before the 10 count could be completed and finished off the Argentine in the following round.

The nature of the brawl typified Dempsey's fighting style - the "Manassa Mauler" always had an insatiable thirst for combat.


1) Joe Frazier W15 Muhammad Ali, 1971

Sometimes overlooked because it ended with an Ali loss, this fight captured the imagination of the world before the first bell rang and delivered an unmissable brawl.

Both men were undefeated entering the fight - Ali was considered by many the "people's champion" because he had been stripped of his crown after electing not to join the army during the Vietnam war.

Frazier had become champion after winning the ensuing heavyweight tournament and was bitter at the way Ali had belittled him during the pre-fight build-up.

The fight was fought at a hectic pace - Frazier relentlessly pouring forward, while Ali mounted a stern offence on the backfoot.

By the 11th round, Frazier's attack assumed dominance and he punctuated a superb performance with a knockdown in the 15th.

A look at the Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson fight

Lewis stuns Tyson

Our man in Memphis

Clickable guides

Background features

Statistics

SPORTS TALK
Links to more Lewis v Tyson fight stories are at the foot of the page.


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