The biggest men’s boxing rivalries in history

by Kate Rosindale on Jun 15, 2023

The biggest men’s boxing rivalries in history

In the world of boxing, there is nothing quite like a fierce rivalry to capture the imagination of fans and spectators. 

Not only do these battles often pit two athletes at the top of the sport against each other, but they also stoke another level of epic emotion and competition.

Over the decades, there have been some unforgettable confrontations.

Here we take a look at some of the biggest men's boxing rivalries in history.


Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier 

The rivalry between Muhammad Ali, the charismatic and brash heavyweight champion, and Joe Frazier, the relentless and fierce challenger, is perhaps the most iconic in boxing history.

Their three unforgettable bouts, known as the Fight of the Century, Super Fight II, and the Thrilla in Manila, showcased a bitter feud both inside and outside the ring. Each clash brought out the best in both fighters, highlighting the essence of competition in its purest form.

Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta

In the 1940s and 1950s, Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta engaged in one of the most storied rivalries ever witnessed in the middleweight division.

Their six battles against each other embodied the classic contrast of styles, with Robinson's speed and finesse clashing with LaMotta's rugged determination and power. Their fights have become legendary, with LaMotta's victory in their first bout being one of Robinson's very few losses in an illustrious career.


Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez

The epic four-fight saga between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez had fans on the edge of their seats. Their encounters were marked by non-stop action, with both fighters displaying exceptional skills and resilience. 

The rivalry culminated with Marquez stunning the world by knocking out Pacquiao in their fourth meeting, a defining moment that left an enduring impact on boxing history.

Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield

Known for its controversial conclusion, the rivalry between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield was a testament to the unexpected twists and turns of boxing. Their first encounter resulted in a stunning upset when Holyfield defeated the ferocious Tyson.

However, the rivalry took a bizarre and infamous turn in their second bout when Tyson infamously bit off a piece of Holyfield's ear, leading to his disqualification.


Joe Louis and Max Schmeling

Beyond being a mere sporting rivalry, the bouts between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling had significant political and social implications.

In 1936, Schmeling, a German fighter, shocked the world by defeating the previously unbeatable Louis. Their rematch in 1938 took on a symbolic significance during the rise of Nazi Germany, with Louis embodying the American dream and the fight against racism.

Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward

While not as prominent on the world stage as some of the other rivalries, the trilogy of fights between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward deserves a place among the greatest boxing rivalries.

Their relentless, back-and-forth battles defined the essence of heart and courage in the sport, as both fighters exhibited an unwavering determination to emerge victorious, regardless of the toll on their bodies.