5 classic boxing rematches that surpassed the first fight
Tyson Fury's first meeting with Deontay Wilder was a great fight, but these iconic bouts prove that the rematch could be even better.
Ali v Frazier III (1 October 1975)
Muhammad Ali’s first fight with Joe Frazier was dubbed The Fight of the Century, so it would take something special to surpass it.
This final instalment of the trilogy, however, is perhaps the greatest fight of all time.
Ali and Frazier had split their two previous meetings, so they headed to the Philippines for the Thrilla in Manila – the rubber match to decide the victor in the sport’s biggest rivalry.
After 14 gruelling rounds that left Frazier almost blinded and Ali as “close as I’ve ever been to dying”, it was the latter whose hand was raised.
Frazier’s trainer pulled him out before the 15th and final round, with his charge barely able to see due to the amount of swelling around his eyes.
Ali revealed he was also about to quit just before Frazier was pulled out, but he was declared the winner and received the ultimate prize – a shopping mall in the Philippines named in his honour.
Leonard v Duran II (25 November 1980)
The fight that birthed one of the most iconic quotes in boxing history: “No mas.”
Roberto Duran was nicknamed ‘Hands of Stone’ and had a head to match. When he first fought Sugar Ray Leonard in June 1980, he relentlessly walked through the American’s punches on the way to a narrow unanimous decision victory.
In the rematch, however, Leonard put together an incredible display of speed and movement that forced Duran to turn his back in the eighth round and, in Spanish, tell the referee “no more”.
Leonard had barely been touched, and even started showboating against one of the most fearsome fighters in the world.
Duran claimed stomach cramps were the reason he quit, but his manager, Carlos Eleta, revealed the truth.
“He quit because he was embarrassed.”
Lewis v Holyfield II (13 November 1999)
Lennox Lewis’ first meeting with Evander Holyfield should have been an all-time classic.
A fight between two heavyweights that Mike Tyson probably still has nightmares about, with the undisputed world title on the line, had the makings of an iconic night for the sport.
It was ruined, however, by a shocking decision. Despite appearing to have won comfortably on points, Lewis was robbed as the three judges scored the fight a split draw.
The boxing world denounced the result as one of the worst ever, and even New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani took time out of his schedule to call it “a travesty”.
In the rematch – the aptly named Unfinished Business – justice was done.
Lewis controlled the action with his unparalleled jab once again, and there were no shenanigans from the judges this time.
He claimed all four belts to become heavyweight boxing’s first undisputed champion in seven years.
Pacquiao v Marquez IV (8 December 2012)
Manny Pacquiao’s defeat to Floyd Mayweather may be his most famous fight, but his greatest rivalry was undoubtedly with Juan Manuel Marquez.
The pair met four times in three different divisions across a period of eight years.
The first three fights – the second of which was billed, like Lewis v Holyfield II, as Unfinished Business – all went the distance, with the first finishing a draw and Pacquiao winning the next two.
It seemed the Filipino had claimed the bragging rights for good, but the pair elected to meet one last time in 2012 to compete for the WBO’s unofficial title of Champion of the Decade.
Nobody could have predicted what happened in Las Vegas that night.
Marquez, remarkably (and suspiciously) looking more muscular than ever before, cracked Pacquiao with a lightning-fast counter that left the eight-weight world champion snoozing in the corner of the ring.
It was the most devastating defeat of Pacquiao’s career, and the defining moment of Marquez’s.
Froch v Groves II (31 May 2014)
Carl Froch doesn’t like to talk about it, but he once knocked out George Groves in front of 80,000 people at Wembley Stadium.
This rematch – billed as, you guessed it, Unfinished Business – didn’t quite have the drama of the first fight, when Groves, a huge underdog, knocked the granite-chinned Froch down in the first round but lost by a controversial TKO.
Unlike that first meeting, however, this one had a definitive ending.
After months of intense build-up, a record crowd crammed into Wembley to see the culmination of a rivalry between two fighters who really hated each other.
British boxing has had much bigger stars than Froch and Groves, but nothing captures the public’s imagination like genuine bad blood and that made this the country’s biggest boxing event ever.
With fans desperate to see a decisive end to a fantastic rivalry, Froch did the job with a stunning right hand in the ninth round that was voted KO of the year in 2014.
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