Most Anticipated Boxing Rematches and Their Backstories

By Victor Ramirez   2023-11-10  

Boxing has a long, dramatic history of anticipated rematches between elite fighters. These do-overs give top boxers a chance to run it back after controversial outcomes or to further stoke the embers of their simmering rivalries. Rematches promise new endings to these gripping tales of the ring. 

Top 5 Boxing Rematches That Shocked The Boxing World

This article will dive into the dramatic backstories behind 7 of boxing’s most hotly anticipated rematches that had fans clamoring for more. 

From the legendary “Thrilla in Manila” between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier to the upcoming Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder trilogy fight, these are the reruns that captured the imagination of fight fans worldwide and etched new chapters in boxing lore.

Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier

Background: The storied rivalry between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier remains among boxing’s most revered. They first met in 1971’s “Fight of the Century”, with Frazier handing Ali his first-ever pro loss and retaining his heavyweight title after 15 grueling rounds.

The Buildup: Following Frazier's upset victory, fans were desperate to see these icons run it back. Ali had since reclaimed his heavyweight belt in 1974’s iconic “Rumble in the Jungle” against George Foreman.

The Fight: Their 1974 rematch saw Ali utilize movement and combinations to largely control the action. Both legends inflicted serious punishment in another 12-round war of attrition. Ultimately, Ali emerged victorious by unanimous decision to even their storied rivalry at 1-1. This hard-fought sequel only enhanced their legacies.

Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Roberto Duran

Background: Sugar Ray Leonard first battled Roberto Duran in the 1980s “Brawl in Montreal”. Duran shocked the previously unbeaten Leonard and wrestled away his WBC welterweight title with a late-round TKO.

The Buildup: Their rematch just 5 months later generated massive hype, with Leonard eager to avenge this upset loss on the biggest stage possible. Duran's infamous "No Mas" surrender mid-fight made it one of boxing's most controversial and perplexing moments.

The Fight: Leonard boxed masterfully in the rematch, using movement and precision punches to force Duran to quit in Round 8 with his "No Mas" declaration, reclaiming his welterweight belt. This role reversal fascinated fans and the media. How did the fighter known for never quitting now wave the white flag? Duran's legacy hinged on this rematch just as much as Leonard's.

Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield 

Background: Evander Holyfield authored one of boxing’s biggest upsets by stopping Mike Tyson via 11th-round TKO in their first meeting in 1996, ending Tyson’s aura of invincibility at his peak.

The Buildup: The 1997 rematch had monumental interest globally, with Tyson seeking vengeance and redemption after this shocking defeat while eyeing Holyfield’s heavyweight titles.

The Fight: Infamously, Tyson bit Holyfield’s ear twice, leading to a DQ in Round 3. This bizarre act of madness defined their rivalry in sheer absurdity. Tyson destroyed his reputation on the sport's biggest stage. Boxing theatre at its most shocking and controversial. The rematch will be forever remembered for this single mad moment rather than any competitive drama.

Micky Ward vs. Arturo Gatti

Background: Micky Ward and Arturo Gatti’s first meeting in 2002 was considered one of boxing's greatest fights, with Gatti winning a fiercely contested majority decision in the Ring Magazine Fight of the Year.

The Buildup: Their 2003 rematch generated enormous anticipation after the initial stylistic slugfest, and the controversial decision left fans demanding more primal violence between these warriors.

The Fight: Another brutal 10 rounds saw Ward, this time, get the debated edge by majority decision. Their shared courage and heart throughout 36 combined rounds etched this as an all-time legendary trilogy defined by the fighters' mutual refusal to take a step back.

Oscar De La Hoya vs. Shane Mosley

Background: Shane Mosley beat Oscar De La Hoya via a controversial close decision in their first about in 2000, giving De La Hoya his first pro loss.

The Buildup: De La Hoya immediately sought to regain his belt and avenge this upset by activating a rematch clause soon after.

The Fight: De La Hoya convincingly outboxed Mosley in the return, winning a unanimous decision to regain his title and pride.

Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder

Background: Fury vs. Wilder II in 2020 was a massively hyped return after their dramatic split draw 2018. Fury had survived two late knockdowns to deny Wilder a win.

The Buildup: Their controversial first fight spawned huge interest in the rematch, with Fury changing trainers while Wilder promised a signature KO to settle the stalemate emphatically.

The Fight: Fury dominated before scoring a 7th-round TKO to definitively capture Wilder's WBC heavyweight title. All debates settled definitely in the heavyweight division's biggest rematch in years.

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Great boxing rivalries have often spawned trilogies and beyond as determined combatants refuse to settle the score or leave any doubt. Rematches like Ali-Frazier and Leonard-Duran provided closure after the initial controversy. Others like Fury-Wilder simply upped the ante after a compelling first act. 

These do-overs capture our imagination by promising new dramatic endings and unmatched drama in the name of redemption, vengeance, or finality. The magic of a big fight feels amplified when we’ve seen these warriors wage battle before. In boxing, the sequels are often even more gripping than the originals, with legacies and bragging rights hanging in the balance.