The heavyweight division attracts more attention than the lower weights and certainly brings its own brand of excitement to ring center. There is nothing quite like the electricity that takes place in an arena when two big named heavyweights meet. The idea of big men going at it in a fight that can end at any moment has no competition in all of sports. Here is my list as a boxing historian of the 10 greatest heavyweight fights of all time based on action, drama, and sustained fighting.
1. Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier 3, Oct 1, 1975 Manila, Phillipines. Result: Ali TKO 14.
A titanic struggle that the Oct 13, 1975 Sports Illustrated called "a drama in 3 acts: 1) Ali 2) Frazier 3) Ali."
Muhammad Ali prevailed in the greatest fight of the greatest heavyweight trilogy of all time. Ali dominated the early rounds with furious jabs and speed of hand and foot. Frazier started "smoking" in the middle rounds and gave Ali such a terrible beating to the body that Ali later said, "it was the closest thing to death" that he ever had experienced. Sports Illustrated reported, "Ali slumped into his corner at the end of the 10th round exhausted and contemplated quitting." The 11th round was no better for the champion. Writer Mark Kram reported, "Ali got trapped in Frazierís corner and blow after blow bit at his melting face, and specks of spittle flew from his mouth." "Lawd have mercy!", Bundini shrieked as Ali took a terrible beating against the ropes. Ali went to the well and found deep inside himslef, a reservoir of will and determination that allowed him to come back like a true champion. Ali came out of his corner for the 12th and began to turn the fight around. Frazier's eyes began to swell shut from Ali's quick handed straight punching and combinations. By the 13 round Ali was hitting Frazier almost at will. After further punishment in the 14th Frazier's trainer Eddie Futch would not allow Joe to come out for the 15th. Ali had retained his title. This fight proved that Ali was no mere showman or a "fake" as one veteran observor once called him, but that he was indeed an all time great fighter. After the fight Frazier echoed this fact, "Lawdy, Lawdy his a great and mighty champion. I hit him with punches that would have brought down the walls of a city."
4. Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier 1. Mar 8, 1971. NY. Result: Frazier W 15.
The most historically signicant of the Ali-Frazier trilogy. The first time 2 undefeated heavyweight champions ever fought for the title. It was billed simply as "The Fight". Ali's legs were not quite the same as the 60's version and he fought more flat-footed but perhaps hit a bit harder too. Ali didn't dance but his punches were fast and accurate and they landed far more frequently than did those of Frazier. Frazier's punches landed with more power as he worked the body consistently, fighting a good fight plan and making Ali pay for his mistakes. Ali's clowning cost him some close rounds but Frazier proved he deserved the decision when in the 11th round he nailed Ali with a tremendous lef hook that Bob waters wrote, had Ali's legs doing the "dance that puppets do when the guy with the strings is drunk." Frazier capped off his career defining performance with a knockdown in the 15th and final round. A crunching left hook thrown with all the power in Joe Fraziers body dropped Ali flat on is back. Ali was down! The cameras flashed a 1,000 times. Joe Frazier had just knocked out Muhammad Ali! Only he didn't. Ali was up at 4. It was the first time Ali ever proved he could take a heavy punch. Frazier was the winner by clear unanimous decision.