The 10 Most Anticipated Boxing Matches Ever--And Why The Biggest One Of All May Never Happen

Mayweather Pacquiao BoxingWill Pacquiao v. Mayweather ever happen?

Photo: Combined AP Images

The beauty of boxing is that for all the talk, the showmanship, and the brashness, all arguments as to who is “the greatest” can be solved very easily. Just stick the challengers in the ring, and see who leaves standing.That’s what’s so frustrating about the inability to secure a fight between the two best pound-for-pound fighters in the world: American Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Filipino Manny Pacquiao.

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The matchup has all the public interest in the world, and the incessant trash-talk to boot. Manny Pacquiao claimed Mayweather needs to fight him to forge his legacy. Mayweather retaliated by saying he would “stomp the midget.”

Initially, it seemed getting the boxers in the ring simply required more money. They were rumoured to have agreed on a split $80 million purse, plus pay-per-view bonuses, that would mark the first time two boxers earned more than $35 million from a fight. 

Then, they got held up with drug testing. Mayweather demanded that Pacquiao submit to random, Olympic-style blood testing in the days leading up to the fight. Pacquiao wanted a specified window.

That last hurdle was finally cleared less than two months after Mayweather defeated Sugar Shane Mosley, at which point Mayweather said he wanted to take the year off.

So why does Mayweather continue to delay the epic bout?

Insiders think both parties are happy with the potential earnings, and the drug-testing issue has been agreed upon. The hold up, is good old fashion personal pride.

At 41-0, Mayweather is among the few renowned champions with an unscathed record. Only legendary Rocky Marciano could claim the same feat in as many fights. Though Mayweather says he isn’t scared of Pacquiao, he very likely is scared of seeing a dented loss column in his career record.

It would take a lot of prodding to get Mayweather into the ring. Maybe a better than 50/50 split, or a bigger payday could sway him. But more than money, it seems, he craves the respect that his undefeated record generates. Perhaps he won’t risk his legacy at any cost.

Johnson v. Jeffries (1910)

The racial storyline provided ample hype for the fight, the first of many to be dubbed 'The Fight of The Century.' African-American heavyweight champ Jack Johnson had beaten his share of underwhelming competition, and the country was in search of a 'Great White Hope' to reclaim the belt from Johnson. Enter James Jeffries. 'I should step into the ring again and demonstrate that a white man is king of them all,' he said.

After 15 rounds of slugging it out, Jeffries' handlers stopped the fight because Johnson had knocked their fighter down twice. They didn't want to lose by knockout. (Wikipedia)

Dempsey v. Tunney II (1927)

At Chicago's Soldier Field, 150,000 attendees paid $2.5 million to see the legendary Jack Dempsey try and recapture his glory. They almost got their wish when a Dempsey left hook knocked Tunney to the canvas in the seventh round.

But the fight is remembered for 'the long count' that enabled Tunney to rise just as the referee counted nine, despite being down for much longer. Tunney rallied to defeat Dempsey and the beloved former champ decided to call it quits.

Louis v. Schmeling (1938)

The 1938 bout between German-born Schmeling and Joe Louis took on added importance thanks to the looming war abroad. Schmeling had captured the heavyweight title from Louis two years earlier, and was hailed as a national hero by der Fuhrer. Prior to the rematch, FDR threw his weight behind Louis, reminding him of the significance of the fight, further adding to the media hype.

But the fight was all over in less than two minutes. Schmeling lay defeated on the canvas---a first round knockout by Louis. (Check out this republication of a terrific HBO Boxing story for more great material on the fight.)

Marciano v. Walcott (1952)

Before Walcott, Marciano had knocked out Joe Louis and two others on his way to the title bout. It was only a matter of time before the rough New Englander took the heavyweight crowd. And many thought the last obstacle, Jersey Joe Walcott, at 38, was over-the-hill. In the first round Walcott knocked Marciano down, and his assault continued. By the 12th round, Marciano appeared unlikely to take the title many thought he deserved, but in the 13th he threw one of the hardest punches ever witnessed and knocked the champ out. (Source: ESPN)

Ali v. Frazier (1971)

In 1970, Ali's boxing licence was fully restored after three years of being denied permission to fight when he refused to enter the Vietnam draft. Two victories into his comeback, Ali was matched up against undefeated heavyweight champion Joe Frazier in another 'The Fight Of The Century.' The match lived up to its hype and went the distance, with Frazier taking the decision. The boxers split a record $5 million purse.

Ali v. Foreman (1974)

Heavyweight champion George Foreman entered 'The Rumble In the Jungle' as a 3-to-1 favourite. But people were so intrigued by Ali's attempt to regain the heavyweight belt, that promoter Don King garnered each fighter a $5 million payday. Ali relied on his now-famous 'rope-a-dope' technique to let the younger, and arguably more powerful, Foreman tire himself out. A fresher Ali knocked out Foreman in the eight round.

Ali v. Frazier III (1975)

After Ali won their first rematch, the 'Thrilla in Manila' would decide who was truly the greatest heavyweight. Ali's flamboyant taunts of Frazier prior to the fight fuelled heavy media coverage. He believed Frazier was washed up.

Early on, his assessment looked to be correct, but in the middle rounds Frazier took control of the fight. Ali appeared helpless. Finally, the former champ began to tire and Ali took advantage with a technical knockout in the 14th round. He later admitted that 'Frazier quit just before I did.' (Source: SI)

Holyfield v. Tyson II (1997)

Holyfield became the first boxer since Ali to claim the heavyweight title on three separate occasions when he defeated Tyson in their 1996 fight. In 1997, the two met for a rematch that grossed $100 million. Holyfield received $35 million to Tyson's $30 million. Two million households bought the fight on pay-per-view.

Despite the hype and the record gross earning and pay-per-view purchasers, the fight was a letdown--but it will forever be remembered for Tyson's third-round disqualification after biting off a chunk of Holyfield's ear. (AP)

De La Hoya v. Mayweather (2007)

With underwhelming boxers holding the heavyweight title in recent years, the public's attention shifted to the best 'pound-for-pound' fighters. Enter super welterweights Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather at 154 pounds a piece.

2.4 million households watched on pay-per-view, generating $120 million in addition to the live gate tickets that sold out three hours after they went on sale. All told, De La Hoya took home $52 million from the fight, but he lost the title, in a split decision, to the challenging Mayweather. (Source: ESPN)

Pacquiao v. De La Hoya (2008)

The non-title bout drew a huge following--1.25 million PPV buys and a sold out gate--but the results were disappointing. Manny Pacquiao easily defeated De La Hoya, who by then, was well past his prime.

Now that you've relived boxing's glory years, check out...

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