Of course, there are many different measures for evaluating a fight. From the finance of the TV and tickets sales, to the belts on the line, the excitement and anticipation of the contest and the unmatched rivalries that boxing can provide.
In truth, Floyd Mayweather could have a top-five list all to himself, with clashes against Ricky Hatton, Canelo Alvarez and Oscar de la Hoya all worthy contenders. In terms of turnover Money’s clash with UFC star Conor McGregor did huge numbers, but it would be stretching things to call that a boxing match.
1. Mayweather v Pacquiao 2015
Billed as the Fight of the Century, Mayweather’s 2015 contest against Manny Pacquiao had it all. The fight grossed £678million, Mayweather was a five-division world champion and Pacquiao had held world titles at an incredible eight different weight classes.
The WBA (Unified), WBC, WBO and The Ring welterweight titles were on the line, as was the American’s unbeaten record and the fight was watched by nearly half of all the households in Pac Man’s native Philippines.
The fight itself perhaps didn’t quite live up to the billing and it probably came a little late in Pacquiao’s career. However, it was a thrilling contest from the moment it was announced and deserves its place as the number one bout in pay-per-view history.
2. Holyfield v Tyson II 1997
Another fighter who could fill a countdown by himself is Mike Tyson. Iron had clashed with Evander Holyfield only seven months prior to their second bout and Tyson’s WBA heavyweight title was on the line.
The Real Deal was a former undisputed cruiser and heavyweight champion, but he was the underdog for this fight, after previously announcing his retirement from the sport. However, Holyfield dominated the opening rounds and knocked Tyson down in the sixth.
What followed in Las Vegas was something that no one could have predicted. Tyson twice took a bite of Holyfield’s ear, when the heavyweights were enrolled in a clinch and he was subsequently disqualified from the fight.
3. Lennox Lewis v Mike Tyson 2002
Ring magazine named the press conference for this tussle as event of the year in 2002 and the fight started before the pair even got in the ring.
Tyson made a beeline for the British fighter at their New York press conference, before one of Lewis’ bodyguards attempted to intervene. Tyson then threw a left hook in the direction of the minder and the two boxers ended up on the floor.
The bout itself put Lewis’s WBC, IBF, IBO, The Ring, and lineal heavyweight titles up against the former undisputed champ. The Lion eventually defeated Tyson by eighth-round knockout and the whole fight package will always be remembered.
4. Alvarez v Golovkin II 2018
The world’s top-two middleweights clashed for the second time in 2018 in a bout between two ferocious punchers. Gennady Golovkin was the undefeated WBA (Super), WBC, and IBO middleweight going into the fight and Saul Alvarez’s only defeat had come against all-time great Floyd Mayweather.
The bout ended up going the full 12 rounds, with Saul Alvarez taking a split decision win and in terms of ability it was a clash between two superbly skillful fighters.
5. Mike Tyson v Frank Bruno 1996
Frank Bruno had finally won a world title belt and he put in on the line against Mike Tyson when the pair clashed for the second time 1996. Tyson remained one of the most exciting fighters on the planet and no boxer captured the hearts of British fans like Bruno
Unfortunately, this fight would be the last time we heard chants of “Bruno, Bruno, Bruno” from the crowd after a third-round knockout defeat brought about the end of the British fighter’s career.