Ray Mancini vs. Duk Koo Kim Nov. 13, 1982
This nationally televised lightweight championship bout ended in the worst way a boxing match can end — someone was killed. The 21-year-old Mancini, known by his nickname "Boom Boom,'' battered the 23-year-old Kim, especially in the 13th and 14th rounds before the fight was stopped 19 seconds into the 14th round. Kim slipped into a coma and four days later died from his brain injuries. Until then, title matches were 15 rounds, but because of Kim's death, the World Boxing Council immediately shortened its title bouts to 12 rounds. The other major boxing organizations followed suit in the following years.
Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling June 22, 1938
Two years earlier, Schmeling knocked out Louis, and Nazi leader Adolf Hitler used the victory in his propaganda that African-Americans were inferior to his "ultimate race.'' It should be noted that Schmeling did not share the same view and later in life became close friends with Louis, serving as a pallbearer at Louis' funeral. However, the world watched when Louis and Schmeling had a rematch at Yankee Stadium in the summer of 1938. The fight lasted less than a round as Louis landed 31 punches to Schmeling's two, and Schmeling's corner threw in the towel.
Muhammad Ali vs. Chuck Wepner, March 24, 1975
Wepner, known by the unflattering nickname of "The Bayonne Bleeder'' (he was from Bayonne, N.J.), was given a surprise shot at the heavyweight title, but he was a heavy underdog against the great Ali. Incredibly, Wepner knocked Ali down in the ninth round. Ali recovered and won a unanimous decision, but Wepner went the distance, and the night of his life inspired a down-and-out actor from New York City. Immediately after the fight, Sylvester Stallone wrote the script for Rocky in three days. Thirty-five years and six movies later, Rocky Balboa is one of cinema's greatest characters.
Buster Douglas vs. Mike Tyson, Feb. 11, 1990
At the time, Tyson was considered invincible and, perhaps, on his way to becoming the greatest fighter in heavyweight history. He was already one of the most feared, with a 37-0 record with 33 knockouts. Douglas, whose mother died only three weeks before the fight, was a 42-1 underdog. But he shocked the world and pulled off, perhaps, the greatest upset in boxing history, knocking Tyson out in the 10th round. Tyson's career and life would spiral out of control and so would the heavyweight division with various boxing organizations having different champs. Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis would become popular heavyweight champs, but the heavyweight division really hasn't been the same since Tyson's loss in Tokyo.
Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns, Sept. 16, 1981
It was a tremendous fight — Leonard won an action-filled bout with a 14th-round TKO. But its significance was that it ushered in the modern era of pay-per-view. Closed-circuit fights were popular as arenas and movie theatres across the country showed major cards on big screens. But for this fight, Viacom Cablevision in Nashville sold it to more than 50 percent of its subscribers, meaning people could watch the fight from their home televisions. In fact, Leonard even went to Nashville to promote the fight. The success then prompted boxing to look at a whole new source of revenue for its fights. Today, major championship fights are seen almost exclusively on pay-per-view.
Rocky Marciano vs. Archie Moore, Sept. 21, 1955
It was a tremendous fight as Marciano was knocked down in the fourth round, then got to his feet to knock down Moore in the sixth and eighth rounds before knocking Moore out in the ninth. But what made it so significant was that it was Marciano's final fight. He retired the following April at the age of 32. But the bigger number is this: 49. Marciano retired as the only heavyweight champ never to lose a professional fight, going 49-0.
George Foreman vs. Michael Moorer Nov. 5, 1994
Foreman was 45 years old and had not been the heavyweight champ in 20 years when he knocked out Moorer, 26, in the 10th round. The stunning victory was a shot of inspiration for all the seniors out there (well, at least those of middle age and beyond) and also broke ground for athletes as advertising pitchmen. The "Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grill Machine,'' better known as the "George Foreman Grill,'' became a cultural phenomenon. More than 80 million have been sold since 1994.
Jack Johnson vs. James J. Jeffries, July 4, 1910
Known as the "Fight of the Century,'' it featured Jeffries, the former heavyweight champ, against the African-American Johnson, who was the most devastating fighter in the world at the time. Before the fight, Jeffries reportedly said, "I am going into this fight for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a Negro." In Reno, Nevada, Johnson crushed the so-called "Great White Hope.'' The fight was stopped in the 15th round to keep Jeffries from being knocked out. Johnson's victory triggered race riots throughout the country, but it proved Johnson was, indeed, the undisputed heavyweight champion.
Thursday was the 20th anniversary of one of the greatest upsets in sports history. On Feb. 11, 1990, in Tokyo, an unknown named James "Buster'' Douglas knocked out the baddest man on the planet, heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. As it turned out, Douglas' shocking knockout was one of the most influential fights in boxing history. So today we look back not at the best fights of all time, but the ones that had a major impact at the time and for years to come. These are our picks for the most influential fights in boxing history.
Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman Oct. 30, 1974
You can't have a list like this without including Muhammad Ali, but picking one quintessential Ali fight is impossible. Do you go with victories over Sonny Liston? Do you take his legendary trio of fights against Joe Frazier, including the classic "Thrilla in Manila?'' Do you pick his revenge against Leon Spinks when he won his third heavyweight title? Any would do, but we'll go with the "Rumble in the Jungle'' when he used his rope-a-dope to ultimately cut down Foreman, who was thought indestructible at the time. It was Ali's eighth-round knockout that catapulted his reputation into being, truly, one of the greatest boxers of all-time.