In the WWE, perhaps nothing hooks the audience more than a good old fashioned rivalry. From the iconic clash between The Rock and John Cena to the era-defining spat between Steve Austin and Vince McMahon, rivalries have added a dynamic element to the WWE.
This applies to other sports as well. In boxing, for example, some of the WWE’s leading figures have thrown in their two cents on the rivalry between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. With that in mind, it begs the question of which of boxing’s top rivalries could match those in the WWE.
Below are three examples we think are worthy.
Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier
Young and outspoken, Muhammad Ali was known for a swift and powerful fighting style that allowed him to beat heavyweight champion Sonny Liston early in his career. In contrast, Frazier was a tight-lipped boxer who had a more cautious fighting style, preferring to attack the body and take his time in fights. At one point, Ali was 31-0 with 25 knockouts and Frazier was 26-0 with 23 knockouts.
The two met in the ring three times. The first time they met was in 1971, where despite Ali’s trash talking, Frazier won via unanimous decision and handed Ali his first loss. A rematch came just three years later, which Ali won by preventing Frazier from using his left hook and working his body, tactics that then led to Frazier’s first defeat. Their third and final fight was the legendary “Thrilla in Manila”, which went 14 rounds and pushed both boxers to the brink. By the end of the 14th round though, both of Frazier’s eyes were swollen shut and his trainer refused to let him go back in the ring for the 15th round. Ali then raised his hands in victory, before collapsing himself. A true clash of heavyweights that rivals anything in the WWE.
Evander Holyfield vs. Riddick Bowe
The 90s were a standout decade for heavyweights, and it was Holyfield and Bowe who set the tone. The rivalry started as Holyfield moved up from cruiserweight to capture the undisputed heavyweight title in 1990, soon dropping the belts to Bowe in 1992. Bowe then elected to throw one of his titles rather than defend it against Lennox Lewis, allowing Holyfield to win back two belts when they met again in November 1993. In their third and final fight in 1995, Bowe came out on top via an 8th round TKO.
Their first two bouts were widely considered classics, with the first frequently counted as among the greatest ever heavyweight fights. With the two boxers relentless and at their peak during this time, Holyfield vs. Bowe remains a rivalry worth looking back at.
Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao
As mentioned above, the Mayweather-Pacquiao rivalry drew a global audience. Talk of a fight between the two started as far back as November 2009, when representatives from both camps began to outline a fight deal. Though a fight was originally planned for March 2010, disagreements between the two camps delayed the fight until it finally happened in May 2015.
Held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Mayweather vs. Pacquiao brought in 4.6 million pay-per-view buys and over $410 million in domestic PPV revenue, making it the most watched and highest grossing pay-per-view event ever. The fight lasted 12 rounds, with Mayweather eventually winning by unanimous decision.
Since then, Mayweather has continued his undefeated streak by going on to beat Andre Berto and even UFC star Conor McGregor. As for Pacquiao, the defeat hasn’t stopped him from fighting. A bwin Boxing preview of Pacquiao’s fight against Keith Thurman praised the Filipino star as he continues to fight at the age of 40. Pacquiao has been on a winning streak of his own beating the likes of Timothy Bradley III, Jessie Varga, and Thurman. Of course, these performances have sparked speculation over the possibility of a rematch between Mayweather and Pacquiao. CBS Sports notes that social media barbs have only added fuel to the fire. At the moment this rivalry could be far from over.