Deontay Wilder and the new WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury look set to gift the boxing nation another trilogy saga that is sure to live long in the memory of fighters and fans alike.
Their first encounter confined within the ring was monumental, colossal and, not least of all controversial, with the Bronze Bomber retaining his belt after the judges deemed the contest a draw.
It had everything from the boxing prowess of Fury to the crunching hit of Wilder. Fury defied belief to get back up from Wilder’s cannon of a right hand – deemed the most powerful in boxing history – to make the count and rescue a draw. Though, many believed that it should have won him the fight.
The second was no less entertaining but entirely different. Fury employed a new trainer and adopted a new tactic never before seen in his illustrious career. He claimed he was going to take the fight to Wilder and be the first man to knock him to the canvas. He was deemed crazy but again defied description by stopping Wilder in seventh round, sending the American to the canvas multiple times throughout the fight.
And now, it looks all but established that the two will go toe-to-toe one last time. Whether you believe that Wilder deserves a chance to win back his belts or not, there is no denying that the grand finale to this long rivalry is going to be really special.
History tells us that trilogy fights create everlasting memories. Seldom do these opportunities happen in the sport, but when they do, they are something to behold.
So, with that being said, what are the most memorable trilogy fights in boxing history?
5. Muhammad Ali vs Ken Norton
After Ali proved to the boxing world that he was human after all, losing to Joe Frazier in 1971, he resumed business as usual and went on an emphatic 10-fight win streak before a matchup with Ken Norton changed everything once again.
In what many believed would be another routine win, Norton shocked the world in devastating fashion by breaking Ali’s jaw in their first meeting in March 1973.
Ali didn’t look as though he had fully recovered from that setback in time for their second fight later that year in September, and just managed to edge the victory via a split decision.
Viewers had to wait a full three years to see the two go at it for the third and final time; Ali won the bout via a unanimous decision.
4. Floyd Patterson vs Ingemar Johansson
Knocked down an almost laughable seven times in round three of his first fight with Ingemar Johansson in 1959, Floyd Patterson was thought to be undeserving of a rematch.
However, astonishingly, the American defied all the odds to knockout his opponent just one year later, triggering cause for a final third encounter.
The third fight did not disappoint either as it got off to a flying start; Patterson hit the canvas twice, Johansson once, in the wild opening round at Miami Beach. By the end of the sixth round, the most unlikely of comebacks drew its conclusion. Johansson was sent packing after two swinging right hooks and Patterson reigned victorious.
3. Emile Griffith vs Benny Paret
This story transcended the world of boxing. It extended into a world of hate and discrimination in one of the most bitter rivalries the sport has endured. In 1961, Griffith won the first encounter after a 13th round KO at Miami Beach… back when they boxed 13 rounds that is. Paret eked out a split decision in the rematch at Madison Square Garden later that same year.
After two brutal but respectful fights, bad blood arose as Paret was thought to have taunted Griffith about his sexuality at the weigh-in. The fighter attempted to get under the skin of his opponent with vicious homophobic slurs which, in turn, proved more costly than anyone could have anticipated.
Enraged by these comments, Griffith pinned Paret against the corner of the ropes and beat him senselessly as the referee watched on in disbelief. After the beating, the fighter never regained consciousness and tragically lost his life 10 days following.
2. Marco Antonio Barrera vs Erik Morales
This was an all-out war between two Mexican fighters. It was well-documented that the two really did not like each other, adding more spice to the fierce competition. The matchup pitted together the recent WBO super-bantamweight champion against the undefeated WBC super-bantamweight champion.
Morales took the victory in the first bout between the two via a controversial split decision in 2000; many believed that Barrera, being the more aggressive of the two, ought to have won the contest in what was labelled as the fight of the year.
The rematch, though, didn’t come until two years later in Las Vegas where Barrera took a controversial points decision of his own. Again, the public were unhappy with the outcome after the fighter was dropped by Morales with a brilliant body shot.
The final fight, that is widely considered as the best between the two, ended more emphatically with Barrera winning it via a unanimous points decision. Despite wobbling and narrowly avoiding being knocked down, Barrera’s infamous left hook just proved too much for Morales on the night. The pace of the fight was mesmerising.
1. Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier
You can’t possibly cite a list of the best boxing trilogies of all-time and not included the contest between Ali and Frazier. Their first encounter in 1971 was dubbed the fight of the century as Frazier proved that Ali could be beaten after all with a unanimous points victory. Ali staggered on several occasions against the ropes as Frazier shocked the world.
Ali, as predicted, returned soon after to reclaim his title with a comfortable win to set up the big finale. It was a fierce contest and one that ended with Ali’s glove raised in the air. The doctor on the night deemed Frazier unfit to continue before the 11th round, giving Ali a stoppage victory; a win that cemented his heroic status.
- Wilder has vowed to return to the top after losing his WBC belt to Fury
- Could Fury pay-off Wilder to cancel the third and final fight to their trilogy?
- If it does take place, what are the chances of it being in the UK?