Greatest-ever heavyweight boxing fights including Holyfield vs Tyson and Ali vs Frazier ahead of Joshua and Fury bout
ANTHONY JOSHUA vs Tyson Fury will be the biggest fight in British boxing history – but where could this rivalry land in the rich annals of all-time heavyweight duels?
Two British combatants in Saudi Arabia is not going to captivate or capitalise on the giant American market that likes their boxing late in the night long after their mainstream mainstays.
But the battle will draw the UK’s biggest pay-per-view audience ever – with promoter Eddie Hearn targeting around 2.2million buys.
And Fury’s veteran promoter Frank Warren has claimed that the all-English clash between two hugely contrasting characters – and the spectacular build-up we will hopefully see – drums up a hysteria last seen around the 1966 home World Cup win.
The form books can be ripped up. Fury showed enough vulnerability to need 47-stitches for a cut inflicted by unknown southpaw Otto Wallin and then became the sort of powerhouse who can obliterate Deontay Wilder inside seven sensational rounds.
And Joshua went from being bashed all over New York by Andy Ruiz Jr to showing enough poise and his old trademark power to avenge the loss and then savage Kubrat Pulev.
This is a pick’em fight where partisan crowds will stick to their man in all weather and the rest of the world will sit on the fence or take a punt.
It almost certainly can’t fail to take its place alongside some of the most celebrated heavyweight fights of the modern era, when Muhammad Ali and a few friends changed the face of the sport forever.
Here, SunSport looks at the some of the iconic heavyweight clashes that were absolutely made for the era of colour television.
Deontay Wilder draws with Tyson Fury (December 2018, LA)
No boxing fan should ever let time diminish the superhuman strength the Gypsy King showed in rising in that iconic 12th round.
In his quest for the Bronze Bomber’s WBC crown, Fury had already been dropped in the ninth.
But it was the Lazarus-like rising in the final minutes, after two violent flush shots, that stunned the world.
The way he went on to attack Wilder and dominate the remainder of the round remains a mystery.
The theatre of Fury’s rise, when he is clearly unconscious for the first six seconds of Jack Reiss’ count, sparked dozens of memes and comparisons with WWE icon The Undertaker.
And it helped secure the 6ft 9in Brit the giant ESPN and Top Rank contract that helped put on equal billing with Anthony Joshua and spark their rivalry into motion.
Anthony Joshua beats Wladimir Klitschko (April 2017, London)
Fury quite fairly likes reminding AJ that he had dethroned the heavyweight legend three years earlier with a supreme clinic in elusive, points-scoring boxing.
But Joshua’s Wembley KO of Dr Steelhammer was far more thrilling and thumped the legend into retirement.
Just a few miles from his North London home the Watford hunk battered Klitschko into the canvas in the fifth and looked moments from glory.
But the ten-year champ stunned the Brit and he was rocked for the remainder of the round before a right hand smashed him senseless and down in the sixth.
Klitschko failed to capitalise and in the 11th round AJ starched him with perhaps the most iconic uppercut in British boxing history.
Somehow Klitschko remained upright from that looping dig but he was dropped twice after and then stopped on his giant feet.
Lennox Lewis beats Vitali Klitschko (June 2003, LA)
The last undisputed heavyweight utterly dominated a lot of his early fights, was infamously stunned in a couple, was robbed in one, avenged all three, and beat Mike Tyson when he was past his prime.
So his bloodbath retirement bout with the older Klitschko remains his most thrilling. The fact Vitali is still fuming about it now and fans want to argue their case makes it a great fight.
Lewis was a famously sluggish starter and he let the short-notice sub opponent take the upperhand.
But a trademark right hand from the Englishman slashed a gruesome gash into Dr Ironfist, who was sadly not medically qualified to tend to his own wound.
The bout was stopped after the sixth with Klitschko 58-56 up on all three cards.
Lewis promised a rematch but then retired – and the row over how the remaining six would have gone rages on.
Evander Holyfield beats Mike Tyson (September 1996, Las Vegas)
The groggy bite-fight rematch that followed this will remain one of the most notorious in boxing’s endless list of shame. But this was a far longer and more fulfilling cracker for all the right reasons.
After the Douglas dethroning, Tyson was on an eight-fight win streak and had won both the WBC and WBA titles.
The Real Deal was 34 and had lost three fights in the previous four years, so he was expected to be a sacrificial lamb for the hungry new savage.
Tyson’s first punch looked like it could win the fight but the former undisputed cruiserweight clung on and slowly punched and bullied his way back into the bout, standing up to Tyson in a way nobody had before.
Holyfield was brutally generous with his head and he dropped Tyson with a perfectly-timed left uppercut at the end of the sixth.
The veteran went up through the gears and had Tyson spark out at the end of the tenth but he somehow remained horizontal. His corner refused to pull their man out so he was stopped while on his feet but senseless at the start of the 11th.
Riddick Bowe beats Evander Holyfield (November 1992, Las Vegas)
The first installment of the three-fight rivalry was certainly the best and round 10 remains one of the greatest single rounds in the history of the sport.
If the pesky paraglider who gatecrashed the rematch had interrupted that iconic three-minute masterpiece, the Vegas crowd might have hung him with his own chords.
Holyfield was five years older and two stone lighter but held up to some almighty abuse and even bounced up off the floor in the 11th, when any right-minded soul would have surrendered.
All three judges correctly gave Big Daddy the win but the tenth round has eclipsed even the scorecards.
An instant barrage rocked Holyfield and an uppercut almost beheaded him but he refused to fold.
And by the halfway point it was clear Bowe had punched himself out so Holyfield, with about half an eye left, slashed and bashed his way back and they slugged away for a moment after the bell and even helped hold each other up before the interval.
Buster Douglas beats Mike Tyson (February 1990, Tokyo)
The 42-1 underdog had recently lost his beloved mum and was expected to be battered within an inch of joining her.
But Tyson had lost mentor Cus D’Amato and split from Kevin Rooney, leaving his personal and professional life in disarray, and parasite powerhouse Don King captaining the sinking ship.
Douglas was decked in the eighth and Tyson’s most diehard fans still complain he was saved by a long count.
But what happened in the tenth is not up for debate as Douglas battered the Baddest Man on the Planet to the floor and he had partied away his ability to recover.
Muhammad Ali beats Joe Frazier (October 1975, Manila)
The first fight changed the sport forever, the second was a decent non-title bout that has faded with time but the third might be the finest sporting spectacle ever.
It is no exaggeration to say both combatants almost died by putting their lives and souls on the line and being too proud and tough to quit.
In the sweltering heat of a 10am Philippines morning, in an arena with a tin roof, the aging pair slugged and sweated it out in a packed sauna, until Frazier’s legendary promoted Eddie Futch stopped his man from beginning the 15th and final round, uttering the immortal line: "No one will forget what you did here today".
Over in the Ali corner, he was begging coach Angelo Dundee to cut off his gloves and end the agony a round early too, but Futch beat them to the white towel.
Neither man was ever the same fighter again but Ali’s success helped him carry on for six years and ten fights too long, until Parkinson’s disease was gnawing into him while he was standing in the ring on the cusp of his 40th birthday facing young starving monsters like Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick.
Somehow, watching it back now 46 years later, there is a part of you that still wonders if Frazier might just nick it. And that can only be magic.
Muhammad Ali beats George Foreman (October 1974, Kinshasa)
Big George brutalised Joe Frazier inside just two one-sided rounds in January 1973.
The same little left-hook slugger who just two years and and two fights earlier had outgunned Muhammad Ali.
So when the gruff 25-year-old unbeaten beast took on the 32-year-old twice-beaten showboater in Zaire, now DR Congo, a Serious Harming on Safari was considered far more likely than a Rumble in the Jungle.
Perhaps the long delays and Foreman’s appetites in his personal life drained away at his performance. But Ali still pulled out an upset for the ages and put Rope-A-Dope in the dictionary forever.
Giant thudding Foreman was allowed to whack away at Ali’s arms and torso until the 40-0 sensation was utterly spent.
Ali clipped Big George with a right hand in the eighth and the yells of ‘timber’ could have been heard all the way back in the US as the behemoth toppled and Ali was The Greatest again.
Joe Frazier beats Muhammad Ali (March 1971, New York)
At the start of the 1960s, Beatlemania took over the world and then America beat Russia to the Moon in ‘69.
These things were captured by the newfangled television contraption and then The Fight of the Century was made for 1971.
There were so many enthralling storylines that made this fight the transcendental event it was.
Cassius Clay had somehow vanquished Sonny Liston and then disgusted America by ditching his name, joining the Nation of Islam and rejecting the draft for the Vietnam War, for which he lost three years of his career.
During that tragic hiatus, 5ft 11in Frazier had become king of the big men and even sent money to Ali to help him feed his family.
But, once the fight was made, Ali used all his lip and charisma to make the bout a bitter cannot-miss battle for the ages – a trick he repeated incredibly throughout his all-too-long career.
Frank Sinatra, the biggest rock star of his time, was so desperate for a ticket he took a job as a photographer and Burt Lancaster, the Hollywood superstar of the era, was a commentator.
Ali made the brighter start but he could not get to grips with Frazier’s trademark and almost predictable left hook.
That looping honey shot landed dozens of times to bust Ali’s jaw and drop him in the 15th and final round.
The judges and referee gave Frazier the win and helped one of the most celebrated rivalries/brotherhoods in sport.
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