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The top 6 greatest fights of all time

Business is a lot like boxing, and boxing is big business. There’s usually a bit less punching and fewer weigh-ins in the boardroom, but there’s plenty of ducking and weaving, trash talk between rivals and scantily clad girls carrying big placards with the round number on them… what, that doesn’t happen at your workplace?

Let’s move on to the meat of this story – the very same meat that Rocky tenderises during his first training montage. There might be some hidden business lessons here, too, like dog medicine wrapped in a ball of mince.

1. Joe Louis vs Billy Conn – June 18, 1941

Purse: $89,000

Joe Louis vs Billy Conn

A 12kg difference between boxers might seem like an unfair advantage to the big fella, but there was a fair bit of back’n’forth between the bigger Lewis and smaller Conn before a penultimate second KO in round 13.

Unfortunately, the journos of the day were denied their ‘David and Goliath headlines – Conn was ahead on points, but his larger opponent triumphed after Conn’s overconfident attempt to knock him out despite that lead. Asked about it later, Conn said, “What’s the use of being Irish if you can’t be thick?”

2. Sugar Ray Leonard vs Tommy Hearns – September 16, 1981

Purse: $12,000,000

Sugar Ray Leonard vs Tommy Hearns

Adaptation was the key to this bout, with both men switching up tactics in response to their opponent’s manoeuvres. As you might imagine, this isn’t an easy thing to do on the fly while you’re being punched in the head and/or torso.

Hearn’s long jabs led to Leonard’s aggressive brawling led to Hearn’s return to more conventional boxing, which led to Leonard’s last-ditch all-out assault, which led to the referee ending the fight, which led to Leonard’s victory. Sometimes you have to roll the dice instead of playing the cards you’re dealt. (This folk wisdom brought to you by a concussion.)

3. Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier – October 1, 1975

Purse: $9,000,000

Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier

You knew this was coming, right? It’s the reason this list is in no particular order. The ‘Thrilla in Manila’ is one of those fights that even people who don’t like boxing can name. The third bout between these two titans rings throughout history in a way that’d make any hype man envious.

Ali won, of course, but later paid tribute to his arch-nemesis: “Of all the men I fought, Sonny Liston was the scariest, George Foreman was the most powerful, Floyd Patterson was the most skilled as a boxer. But the roughest and toughest was Joe Frazier. He brought out the best in me, and the best fight we ever fought was in Manila.”

4. Lionel Rose vs Masahiko Harada – February 27, 1968

Purse: Rose got $7,500, Harada got $70,000

Lionel Rose vs Masahiko Harada

Not every audience would put this bout on the same scale as Tyson vs Holyfield or LaMotta vs Janiro, but not only did Rose become the second Aussie to win a world championship, and not only did he become the first Indigenous Aussie to win a world championship – he did it in Japan, against a Japanese champion, with a Japanese referee and three Japanese judges. That takes heart as well as skill, something Harada acknowledged by congratulating him in the ring.

5. Diego Corrales vs Jose Luis Castillo – May 7, 2005

Purse: Castillo $300,000 (reported)

Diego Corrales vs Jose Luis Castillo

Proving that the sweet science still had something to offer in the age of MMA domination, this bout was a masterclass in stamina. Both men stood toe to toe, swapping blows for aaaages until a twice-knocked-down Corrales treated Castillo to a little chin music in the 10th.

Suddenly there was a flurry of blows and a victor – proving that sometimes winning requires the stamina to take a belting until you spot a gap in the other bloke’s defence. (Or maybe just buying yourself some time by mucking around with a mouthguard while you recover from a blow, even if it costs you a point.)

6. Anthony Mundine vs Danny Green – February 4, 2017

Purse: $10,000,000 each (reported)

Anthony Mundine vs Danny Green

After 11 years of anticipation, this explosive rematch will live on in the memories of boxing fans for generat- No, sorry. I’ve been drinking.



  1. Greg Moore

    Why in the world do you have a photo of Ali standing over Sonny Liston when you are naming the “Thrilla in Manilla”, the third fight between Ali and Joe Frazier, as the 3rd greatest fight of all time? Shocked that photo is still up after all this time. But it needs to be taken down.

  2. Andy

    Had this author actually been I a gym? Or even boxed?

    Demonstrably not “the greatest backing match of all time”!!!!

    Maybe instead of being a mercenary of the pen and writing about subjects he clearly doesn’t know, the author could write an authentic article rather than a summary for money!

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