The Most-Hyped Fights in Sports History
In just over a month, undefeated 11-time champion boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. will take on UFC Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor in Las Vegas – and the hype couldn’t be bigger. Dubbed “The Money Fight,” it will pit two men with vastly different styles in an epic battle that UFC President Dana White said would never occur. But with all the trash talk and the spectacle of Mayweather coming out of retirement just for the occasion, is this truly the most hyped fight of all time? We take a look at some of the biggest and you can decide for yourself.
Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield II: “The Bite Fight” (1997)
Remember that time Mike Tyson ate part of his opponent? Evander Holyfield was a bitter rival to the superstar talent whose reputation had already been tainted by legal troubles. A rematch of Holyfield’s victory just seven months earlier, it was originally billed as “The Sound and the Fury.” Well, Tyson brought the fury and Holyfield wouldn’t hear sound quite the same afterward, so they nailed the name at least.
Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen II: UFC 148 (2012)
Anderson Silva had already dominated the UFC for years at this point, and showed no signs of slowing down. But leading up to this rematch of UFC 117, Chael Sonnen refused to give the dude respect, trash talking him, his trainers, his managers, his family, and even his home country. No wonder Silva came out and crushed him in the second round.
Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling II (1938)
This one was hyped less for the fight itself and more for the politics surrounding it. German Max Schmeling had defeated African-American Joe “Brown Bomber” Louis two years earlier and had found himself unwittingly thrust into the limelight of Adolf Hitler’s “Ubermensch” ideology. He rejected the notion, wanting only to be a fighter, but it had gotten so far out of hand that it became a proxy for the United States vs. Nazi Germany. Watch the fight, then watch the myriad of movies which were made about it in the decades to come.
Jack Johnson vs. James J. Jeffries (1910)
While that last entry may have you feeling patriotic, this fight nearly 30 years earlier may have you feeling less so. Jack Johnson was widely reviled for being one of the most successful black athletes of his time, and was dragged by the media and by none other than author Jack London who had hoped to prove white supremacy in the end. But Johnson defeated London’s candidate James J. Jeffries after a hard fought 15 rounds, and the aftermath led to race riots nationwide.
Chuck Liddell vs. Randy Couture II: UFC 57 (2006)
Now considered ancient history, there was a time when Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell were the top fighters in the UFC. On February 4, 2006, they met for the third time — the UFC’s first major rubber match trilogy. While the UFC had already been gaining in popularity at this point, UFC 57 thrust the MMA decidedly into the mainstream to stay, and they haven’t looked back since — rivaling some of the much older sports leagues for viewership and money without breaking a sweat outside of the Octagon.
Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier: “The Thrilla in Manila” (1975)
Easily the most hyped and storied fight of the last half-century – if not of all time – this fight pitted none other than “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali against his longtime rival “Smokin’ Joe” Frazier in their third, and final, tie-breaking matchup. Advertised for weeks worldwide and pushed by Ali’s inimitable rhyming trash-talk, this one has stood the test of time as one of the greatest sports events of all-time, let alone best fights.
(Image courtesy of Mike Hoff via Flickr.)