Marquee sporting events are all about the matchups. If you want to see a great baseball game you're going to go with the Boston Red Sox playing the New York Yankees over the Baltimore Orioles versus the Seattle Mariners every time.
Boxing is no different. There is a reason Muhammad Ali versus Joe Frazier means a whole lot more, even today, than a matchup of Manny Pacquiao and Joshua Clottey or Floyd Mayweather and Zab Judah. Clottey and Judah are both fine fighters in their own respects but they aren't in the same class as the most elite fighters.
One big name in a fight might be enough to make some money and generate interest among devoted fans, but you need two headliners facing off to really make a splash with the casual spectator. It is the casual observer that boxing has lost because fighters like Pacquiao and Mayweather refuse to fight each other.
When I think about the ridiculous dance those two great boxers have run around each other it makes me yearn for a better time in the sport. For that reason, I give you the five greatest dream fights of all time.
This is not an exhaustive list of the best fights ever but I believe these selections exemplify the things we all love the most about boxing.
In 1981, Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas "The Hitman" Hearns squared off to decide who was the true king of the welterweight division. The ensuing battle was one of the greatest fights of all time.
An action packed fight throughout, Leonard fell behind on the scorecards despite doing significant damage to Hearns in the middle of the fight. By the last few rounds it became clear that if the fight was going to go to a decision then the Hitman would have a distinct advantage.
That is when Sugar Ray Leonard switched into a extra gear and took over the fight. Leonard badly hurt Hearns in the 13th, so much so that Hearns fell through the ropes at one point. Hearns survived the 13th but it would be his last complete round.
Sugar Ray finished off the Hitman in the 14th round when the referee stopped the bout after Leonard continued to punish Hearns. The stoppage was the only option for Sugar Ray Leonard as Thomas Hearns was still ahead on points when the fight was finished.
Before I get long-winded about this fight (and I know I'm going to no matter how hard I try and avoid it), let's get to the basics. Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson in the 10th round of a title bout that wasn't supposed to be much of a fight at all.
At the time, Tyson was seen as almost invincible and Douglas was seen as an unmotivated waste of talent. It is widely considered the greatest upset in boxing history, and perhaps the greatest upset ever in all of sports.
This is my favorite fight I have ever seen. I understand that I haven't been around long enough to have seen the glory days live, but I have seen pretty much every meaningful fight that you can get on DVD and Buster Douglas versus Mike Tyson is my favorite.
I'm not sure if it's the back story involved with Douglas leading up to the fight in which he had to deal with the death of his mother, or if its the fact that Douglas boxed a nearly perfect match that night, but whatever it is I get goosebumps every time I watch this fight.
The only reason this does not rank higher on my list is because heading into the bout, this matchup was extremely underwhelming and aside from this fight Buster Douglas was not a boxer of much significance. Still, this one night was one of the best boxing had ever seen.
For my complete thoughts on this fight click here.
Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier met in the final of their epic trilogy in a fight known most famously as "The Thrilla in Manila". Ali won when Frazier failed to come out for the 15th round of a bout that Ali would later say was the closest he has felt to death.
Many people probably think this fight should probably be higher on the list and they have a valid point. The matchup itself is of two of the greatest heavyweights the sport has ever seen. Furthermore the fight was everything fans could have possibly asked for and more as the action left both men completed exhausted.
The reason I don't have this higher on the list is because of the way it finished. Frazier's corner forbidding him to continue on despite his protest, while Ali was practically asking his corner if he could quit because he literally thought he had nothing left.
However, after all of abuse Ali and Frazier poured out on one another, the ending was kind of anticlimactic. There was no dramatic knockout or controversial decision. The fight just ended with each man having given everything they had. While there is something to be said for that, I prefer the dramatic knockout.
Before I say anything, just watch this. That is why this fight is ranked second on my list. After absolutely abusing each other for nine rounds, Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo stood toe-to-toe and decided it was time to finish it.
I will never understand how Corrales went from getting knocked down twice in the first minute of the 10th round to earning a knockout victory over Castillo barely a seventy seconds later. Somehow it happened, and it made for one of the greatest fights in boxing history.
If Douglas vs. Tyson is my favorite fight, this is a very close second. Watch that clip one more time before you move on. Unbelievable.
"The Rumble in the Jungle" tops my list of all-time dream fights. In case you don't know, this is the fight where Muhammad Ali pulled off his famous rope-a-dope strategy to defeat George Foreman.
While in retrospect Ali is clearly seen as the better fighter, at the time Foreman was favored to win the bout. Ali was just a few fights removed from his second career loss and was still seeking to regain the heavyweight title after losing it to Joe Frazier three years earlier.
Foreman on the other hand, was a rising star in the sport and had recently dismantled the only two fighters which had beaten Ali at the time, Frazier and Ken Norton. George Foreman had established himself as the ruler of the heavyweight division.
Despite being the underdog, Ali's strategy to let Foreman tire himself out before going on the attack resulted in a victory for Ali and one of the most iconic knockouts in the history of the sport.
These are my favorite fights, what are yours?