As we approach Saturday night’s humongous WBC heavyweight title rematch between champion, Deontay Wilder and former undisputed titleholder, Tyson Fury, it’s only natural to think about the most important heavyweight title rematches in recent boxing history.
And, while you could have a list 15 fights long, there are only a few that have similar historical impact to what we think Saturday not will have.
So, with that in mind, here goes:
Let’s begin with: Muhammad Ali – Sonny Liston II
The date was May 25th, 1965, over a year after then-Cassius Clay had stunned the boxing world by stopping the menacing Liston with a six round TKO. As we wrote about previously, the Ali-Liston rematch struggled to come to reality and more importantly find a location to hold it, eventually ending up in the tiny town of Lewiston, Maine.
But, that was only the beginning of the shenanigans with this rematch. That’s as once the bell rang, Ali landed what many believe was a “phantom” right hand-jab punch that sent Liston to the canvas quickly in the opening round. And, after suspiciously rolling around for over 10 seconds, Liston was stopped for the second time. It has long been debated whether the outcome was fixed by the Las Vegas and/or Chicago Mafia for Liston to take a “dive” and be knocked out
However, there was never any concrete proof, and one thing is for sure: Ali went on to a phenomenal championship reign, as arguably the greatest heavyweight of all time after that night in 1965.
That leads us to 10 years later and October 1st, 1975 and, Ali and Joe Frazier III
“Smokin’ Joe” had handed Ali’s first professional loss in March of 1971, and the two actually fought a non-title 12-round fight two years later with Ali winning. But, the third fight was as hellacious and brutal, as it was steaming hot inside the arena in Manila, Philippines.
With temperatures in the arena over 95 degrees, Ali and Frazier pounded each other, especially in the championship 13th and 14th rounds. And, that’s when Frazier’s legendary trainer Eddie Futch refused to let the fight continue for Frazier in the final round for fear that Joe might die in the ring.
“The Thrilla in Manila” certainly lived up to the hype and the nickname, but sadly also, Ali and Frazier were never the same after their brutal third fight.
Riddick Bowe-Evander Holyfield II.
The night was November 6th 1993, in Las Vegas after the unbeaten American Bowe had dethroned the champion Holyfield the previous year, and the two held a wild rematch that had everything.
And, I mean everything… including a lunatic fan flying around the outdoor arena on a propeller hang glider, who crash landed in the ring in the middle of the heavyweight title fight.
Holyfield was the better man before the bizarre 22 minute delay, while the authorities removed and arrested the disrupter of the fight. And, after a couple of rounds of the fight resuming, “The Real Deal” took back control rocking Bowe with thunderous combinations and went on to a majority 12 round decision to recapture the heavyweight title for a second time.
And, that leads us to Holyfield – Mike Tyson II
Just 7 months after he had stunned Tyson the first time with an 11th round TKO upset in November 1996, the two squared off again on June 28th, 1997, in a rematch.
However, this one quickly devolved into another bizarre’ episode involving a Holyfield title fight. Tyson, feeling that Holyfield was purposely “butting” him with his head, ended up biting Holyfield on the ears not once, but twice, in the third round of the fight.
He was subsequently disqualified by famed referee Mills Lane. Holyfield retained the heavyweight championship, Tyson was suspended for a year and find over $1 million for his actions and never lived the incident down for the rest of his boxing career.
And finally, December 7th of last year with Andy Ruiz- Anthony Joshua II
The rematch between unheralded Unified heavyweight champ, Ruiz and former unbeaten champion Joshua took place in the dunes of Saudi Arabia. It came six months after Ruiz had stunned the boxing world by stopping Joshua via a seventh-round TKO at Madison Square Garden.
Joshua put together a smart game plan of using his size reach and skill to largely stay away from Ruiz for 12 rounds and box him. Using a strong left jab and occasionally throw combination behind it, Joshua kept the out of shape Ruiz from any real offense in the fight.
The action was far from thrilling, certainly not to the level of Ruiz’s shocking upset previously, where both fighters threw bombs and suffered knockdowns before the stoppage.
In the end, it was effective for Joshua to earn a 12 round unanimous decision, and thereby regained three portions of the heavyweight title. So, he is now in position to fight the winner of Wilder – Fury at some point in the near future for the Undisputed Championship.
Will we get controversy out of this Wilder – Fury rematch, which ended in a draw last time?
If you just look at the list above, there been plenty of bizarre’ situations and outcomes in big-time heavyweight rematches, to make you think: yes.
Or, it could become a long remember rematch for the fireworks, and dramatic outcome, too.
We are all about to find out.