Tomorrow, Tyson “The Gypsy King” Fury defends his WBC and The Ring heavyweight titles against Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder.
The fight is the third stanza in one of the most heated rivalries in heavyweight boxing history. However, the battle is a throwback to other heavyweight trilogies that have laid a tapestry of pugilism greatness.
On the precipice of heavyweight boxing history, here are the top five heavyweight boxing trilogies.
5. Floyd Patterson vs. Ingemar Johansson
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johannson engaged in a classic rivalry for the world’s heavyweight championship.
Their first fight took place at Yankee Stadium in June 1959, and Johansson shocked the world. He knocked Patterson down seven times over three minutes, ultimately winning the battle in the third round via TKO.
Johansson became the fifth man born outside the U.S. to win the title.
However, Patterson returned the favor the following year, knocking Johannson out in the fifth round of the rematch. The fight took place at the Polo Grounds in New York City.
The third fight was the longest in the trilogy but only went to the sixth round, with Patterson emerging victorious. The two losses to Patterson were the only defeats of Johannson’s career.
4. Riddick “Big Daddy” Bowe vs. Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield
On November 13, 1992, Evander Holyfield was on a high after becoming a champion two years earlier. He defended it three times successfully before meeting Riddick Bowe.
Holyfield came into the initial contest as the former undisputed cruiserweight champion and now undisputed heavyweight champion. He was unbeaten in all 28 of his matchups in his career up to that point.
Bowe also came in unbeaten, with an impressive 27 knockouts in his 31 victories. Bowe was considered the favorite to win because of his physical advantages in size, weight, and reach.
“Big Daddy” was heavier and had a two-and-a-half-inch height advantage. Bowe lived up to the hype when the two met at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.
The epic tenth round of their first pairing is now considered one of the best rounds in heavyweight boxing history. After twelve rounds, the judges ruled in favor of Bowe 117-110 twice and 115-112.
The second pairing of Riddick Bowe vs. Evander Holyfield came a year later at the infamous Caesars Palace. The fight had outlandish events like the seventh-round ring invasion by a parachutist.
In the relatively uneventful fight — except for the bizarre drop-in by the parachutist — Holyfield got his revenge via a majority decision win.
The third and final battle, again at Caesars Palace, wasn’t for Bowe’s WBO title. However, you would think that a title was on the line. The fight ended in the eighth when Bowe stopped Holyfield for the first time in Holyfield’s career.
3. Muhammad Ali vs. Ken Norton
Ken Norton shocked the world in March 1973 when he upset a lethargic Muhammad Ali via a 12-round split decision in San Diego. Norton broke the jaw of the former champion with a ruthless performance. The decision could have easily been unanimous for Norton.
Five-and-a-half months later, Ali, in top fighting shape, took the rematch in Inglewood, California. He danced like the old Ali and survived Norton’s pulverizing body attack. By duking it out in the late rounds, Ali escaped with a slim split decision for the win.
The fight is the most controversial heavyweight title defense of Muhammad Ali’s glorious career due to scoring.
Their last pairing was on September 28, 1976, at Yankee Stadium. The rubber match was for the undisputed heavyweight championship. This time, a victorious Ali felt dejected after winning a 15-round unanimous decision.
Norton entered the bout as the No. 1 contender, but thousands of fans booed the world’s most famous athlete for what they considered a wrong decision in Ali’s favor.
2. Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder vs. Tyson “The Gypsy King” Fury
Although the two will have the finale to the trilogy on Saturday, it has all the makings already of a classic heavyweight trilogy. The first contest pitted undefeated defending WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder against undefeated challenger and former WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, IBO heavyweight champion Tyson Fury.
A crowd of over 17,000 at the Staples Center watched a 12 round fight of attrition. Fury survived two knockdowns and the right hand of death from Wilder. Ultimately, the fight resulted in a draw, where Wilder retained his WBC belt.
In the second pairing, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Wilder got manhandled. Eventually, after Fury dropped Wilder on the canvas multiple times, his corner threw in the towel. Although Deontay felt he had a shot if the fight continued, Fury led on all judge’s cards.
When the two meet tomorrow in the T-Mobile Arena, they are expected to make history.
1. Muhammad Ali vs. “Smokin” Joe Frazier
Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier is the best boxing trilogy of all time.
Dubbed the “Fight of the Century,” it was Ali’s third fight back after being out of the sport for more than three years as a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War.
Ali was attempting to regain the heavyweight crown that he never lost. Both came in undefeated at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 1971. “Smokin’ Joe” would leave that way shocking the world by winning the 15-round classic.
However, in January 1974, Ali won the rematch against Frazier. It set up the now-iconic “Rumble in the Jungle” bout with George Foreman.
But a year later, on October 1, 1975, the trilogy fight dubbed the “Thrilla in Manila” took place in the Philippines. Ali won, hammering Joe Frazier for 14 rounds. Frazier’s corner would not let their fighter come out for the final round.
The final fight with Joe Frazier cemented Muhammad Ali’s legacy as a true icon.