Following Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko's thrilling title bout in front of 90,000 enchanted fans at Wembley Stadium, the heavyweight division has seemingly regained its place as boxing's premier division. Following over a decade of stagnation in a once-proud division, fight fans now have an exciting champion to propel the sport to newfound heights.
While Joshua-Klitschko was certainly the best heavyweight battle in a long, long time, it was not necessarily one of the greatest fights of all time. Sports on Earth looks back at over a century of heavyweight glory to determine which ones would be in the top 10.
1. Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier No. 3 (1975)
Much has been made of the "Thrilla in Manila." For some, it is the culmination of the greatest trilogy in boxing history. Others praised it as an insurmountable achievement heavyweight history. While the details will be critiqued for years to come, it is hard to deny the trilogy fight's place among the exceptional.
The fight was a savage display of courage and stubborn intent. Both fighters did irreparable damage to the other's career and likely contributed to their eventual decline. Though Ali eventually had his hand raised following a TKO, he was never quite the same after that night in Manila. The Guardian went so far as to refer to it as the "closest to sanctioned manslaughter boxing had allowed since 187lb Jack Dempsey demolished the 6ft 6in champion Jess Willard in three rounds on 4 July, 1919."
We will likely never witness anything quite like it again.
2. Jack Dempsey vs. Luis Firpo (1923)
Easily the shortest heavyweight bout on this list, the Dempsey vs. Firpo fight lasted exactly 237 seconds. The first round was particularly incredible, as Firpo was knocked down seven times before landing a right on Dempsey that sent him through the ropes and out of the ring. Surrounded by 80,000 fans, the champion regained his wits by the count of nine and survived the round. Despite the advantage, Firpo was unable to subdue Dempsey in the second round and lost by knockout after being dropped two more times.
After the fight, Dempsey claimed he saw "eight million stars" when he was knocked out of the ring and didn't realize where he was until he "came to on my stool in between rounds."
Few fight have ever rivaled this Dempsey-Firpo bout in drama.
3. Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier No. 1 (1971)
While their third fight stands out as the greatest heavyweight boxing fight of all time, the first meeting between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier was the most significant. It was the first time that two undefeated world champions stood across from each other in a boxing ring.
Back in 1970, Ali returned to his professional career after a three-year suspension for refusing to enlist in the Vietnam War. While hailed as a hero for his stance, Ali was no longer as agile as he had once been. He defeated Jerry Quarry and Oscar Bonavena that same year, which set up the much anticipated clash against Frazier.
Somehow, the fight surpassed all expectations -- an instant classic that will be remembered as the time when "The Greatest" was handed his first professional loss.
4. Rocky Marciano vs. Joe Walcott (1952)
Remembered for the "Famous Knockout" when Marciano dropped Walcott in Round 13 to win the heavyweight championship, this was the fight that sparked the legendary title reign of the great Rocky Marciano. Awarded "Fight of the Year" in 1952, the Marciano-Walcott bout was arguably the most difficult of Marciano's career. His 13th round finish is the latest of his 43 knockout wins and came after a grueling affair that saw the legend floored in the opening round. He eventually rallied back to extend his unbeaten streak to 43-0.
5. Larry Holmes vs. Ken Norton (1978)
Larry Holmes' split decision win over Ken Norton in 1978 featured arguably the tightest scorecards of all the great heavyweight battles featured in our list. The two contested for the vacant heavyweight title following Muhammad Ali's retirement earlier that year, and many believed that the victor would serve as the rightful heir to Ali.
Thus, the scene was set for a legendary bout.
Following an exceptionally close fight that culminated with a memorable final round slugfest, the scorecards turned up 143-142, 143-142, and 142-143 in favor of Holmes. Only a single point separated the two greats.
6. Jack Johnson vs. James Jeffries (1910)
Before Muhammad Ali's name became synonymous with the greatest heavyweight fights of all time, there was Jack Johnson and the original "Fight of the Century." Back in 1910, Johnson, the first African American heavyweight champion, faced former titleholder James Jeffries in a dramatic contest that emphasized the racial tension within American culture at the time. Well before the era of the Civil Rights Movement, African Americans were considered second-class citizens and Johnson was a champion vilified for his skin color and his association with fair skinned women. After five successful title defences against Caucasian opposition, Americans looked to Jeffries as the "White Hope" to defeat Johnson once and for all. The result was one of the greatest heavyweight clashes of all time.
7. Joe Louis vs. Billy Conn (1941)
Joe Louis' 18th title defense was arguably his most memorable. During the height of World War II, the legendary champion stepped in against Billy Conn, one of the most underrated boxers of his era. The contest proved to be as close as expected, with Conn ahead on the majority of the scorecards after twelve rounds. Having wobbled the champ in Round 13, Conn was convinced he could finish the job and went in for the kill. Yet with seconds to go in the round, Louis unleashed a flurry of punches that sent Conn tumbling to the canvas. It was a comeback for the ages.
8. George Foreman vs. Ron Lyle (1976)
When a legendary former heavyweight champion met the No. 5 contender on January 24, 1976, it resulted in an all-out brawl remembered as the greatest slugfest of all time. The two swung wildly for five rounds until Foreman finally landed the shot that sent Lyle down for the count. While Ron Lyle never went on to win the heavyweight title, his claim to fame will always be having George Foreman label him the greatest fighter he had ever faced.
9. Riddick Bowe vs. Evander Holyfield 1 (1992)
While Round 5 in Joshua vs. Klitschko was magnificent to behold, Round 10 of Holyfield vs. Bowe still stands as arguably the greatest round in heavyweight boxing history. Though Holyfield lost a unanimous decision that night in Las Vegas, the former champion went toe-to-toe with a significantly larger opponent and matched his power for 12 rounds, thus cementing himself as one of the toughest boxers the sport had ever seen.
10. Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko (2017)
For over two decades following Bowe vs. Holyfield, boxing's once-proud division went through one of its weakest periods in history. All but a handful of heavyweight fights and champions will be remembered during an era that was dominated by smaller, more exciting fighters. Yet in April 2017, Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko produced an instant classic that served as the exact moment that boxing's premier weight class regained its long-lost glory.
While the addition of Joshua-Klitschko to the Top 10 all-time great heavyweight fights is certainly a controversial one, it significance gives it precedence over many of the ones listed in our notable mentions. Not only did the fight represent the passing of the guard, but the rise of boxing's next heavyweight superstar.
Notable mentions: Joe Jeannette vs Sam McVey, Jack Dempsey vs. Gene Tunney, Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman, Floyd Patterson vs. Ingemar Johansson, Mike Tyson vs. Buster Douglas and Vitali Klitschko vs. Lennox Lewis.