The Boxing Rematches That Exceeded Expectations

We relive 3 sequel fights that turned out better than we hoped.


Everyone is hoping Wilder vs Fury 2 lives up to its considerable potential.

Sometimes boxing rematches live up to the hype, sometimes they don’t. So let's relive 3 sequel fights that turned out better than we hoped.

Perhaps one of the most famous rematches, if not famous bouts, in the history of boxing is the third meeting of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier - the Thrilla in Manila.

The first time they met in 1971, Frazier had stood at the end of Ali’s quest to regain the heavyweight title stripped from him when he protested the Vietnam draft. Smokin Joe had spoiled the fairytale, handing Ali his first-ever loss by unanimous decision.

Nearly three years later Ali and Frasier met again with no title on the line. Ali adjusted his tactics and took a unanimous decision of his own.

That win earned Ali a title shot against George Foreman, where he finally won back his belt at the Rumble in the Jungle.

In 1975, with the title at play again, it was time for Ali and Frazier to finally settle the ledger. With his newfound penchant for staging big fights in exotic dictatorships, Don King booked the trilogy fight in Manila, Philippines.

The temperature in the ring was insane. Ali reportedly lost 5 pounds during the fight from dehydration. Estimates put the in-ring temperature at over 49 degrees. Plus it was humid. As Ali’s physician Ferdie Pacheco described it, "What you got is boiling water for atmosphere."

Ali’s constant, flicking jab closed Frazier's right eye. Unfortunately he was nearly blind in his left already. Blind, exhausted, and behind on the scorecards, Frazier’s trainer, Eddie Futch, threw in the towel after the 14th round.

"Frazier quit just before I did,” Ali would say later. “I didn't think I could fight anymore."

When Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns first met in 1981, the stakes were sky-high. Both were welterweight champions and the winner would claim the status of undisputed welterweight king.

It was a close fight for twelve rounds. But in the thirteenth, Leonard unleashed hell, before trapping the Hitman on the ropes in the fourteenth and battering him to a stoppage.

Nearly 8 years later they met again. This time they were both super-middleweight champions. Hearns had fought consistently in the years between, whereas Leonard had only four bouts and several retirements to his name.

Hearns came out strong and dropped Leonard in the third. He proceeded to dominate, dropping Leonard again in the 11th. Once again Leonard finished strong, all but finishing Hearns in the last round. But it seemed too little, too late.

It wasn’t. Judge Roth scored it 113-112 Hearns, Judge Kazmarek the same for Leonard, and Judge Shirley scored it 112 even. Leonard escaped with a shocking split draw and one of the more controversial decisions in boxing.

The first time Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez fought in 2004 it was a split draw and a stone-cold classic.

It took nearly four years to make their next fight, but Marquez was still a defending champion and both fighters were in their prime. Pacquiao was at the peak of his powers, able to teleport in and out to land straight lefts.

And that’s exactly how he put Marquez down in the third. Both fighters ended up cut and bloodied and somehow it went to the judges again, where the Pac-Man was declared the winner on split decision. SOUNDBITE (English) Michael Buffer, Announcer

If that wasn’t enough, Pacquiao and Marquez went to war twice more, with Pacquiao taking another tight majority decision for the WBO Welterweight title in 2011, before being knocked out by Marquez in their fourth and final meeting one year later.

We can only hope Fury Wilder 2 can generate a tenth of the drama of any one of these classics.