Like all great sports, the history of boxing has long been colored by intense rivalries. There isn’t a boxing fan out there who is immune to the extra spice that a good ol’ rivalry adds to the build-up to a bout, especially when it comes to backing their favorite fighters. With fights like the recent rematch between Usyk and Joshua capturing the attention of boxing punters keen to use their free bet offers from the likes of Oddschecker, let’s take a look at some of the greatest rivalries to have played out in modern boxing.
Anthony Joshua vs Dillian White
Joshua and White cemented their rivalry back in their amateur days. The pair first met in 2009 – prior to Joshua’s Olympic success – with Whyte handing AJ his first loss during the three-round contest. Come 2015, both heavyweights remained unbeaten in the professional ranks (Joshua at 14-0 and White at 16-0) and, with egos blazing, they strutted into ‘Bad Intentions’ at the O2 Arena.
Not only was this a showdown between two of Britain’s brightest heavyweight prospects, but for boxing fans this was the ultimate North vs South London bout. The build-up to the fight saw Whyte dragging AJ’s name through the mud, claiming the gold medalist’s clean-cut persona was “fake”. Joshua struck back by engaging Stormzy to perform a diss track during his opening walk.
It was no surprise that, after just one round, the fight descended into a brawl, a brawl that would stretch out for a further six messy rounds until Joshua landed a clean KO during the seventh.
Arturo Gatti vs Micky Ward
You would be forgiven for thinking that the Gatti vs Ward rivalry of the early 2000s was an installment of the Rocky franchise. The pair dealt out all manner of savagery during their three-fight epic.
On May 18th 2002, fight one set the scene perfectly, delivering a rumble that many deemed the “fight of the century”. It seemed that all hope was lost for Gatti as he suffered the worst of Ward’s blistering body attack during round nine. But, somehow, the Italian-Canadian clawed his way back to fire the Irishman with some brutality of his own.
Ward won that first meeting via split decision, but installments two and three were Gatti’s to take. In true Rocky style, the pair became close friends afterwards and even trained together a la Rocky and Apollo Creed. When Gatti sadly passed away in 2009, Ward was one of the first boxers to pay his respects.
Brandon Rios vs Mike Alvarado
In 2012, the boxing world was sure that Rios vs Alvarado would shape up to be Gatti vs Ward version 2. During a fierce seven-round fight on HBO’s Boxing After Dark that October, the two welterweights relentlessly tore into each other until Rios stopped Alvarado in his tracks.
Fans had to wait until March 2013 for the second part of the trilogy, during which Alvarado handed Rios his first official loss as a Welterweight pro. Topping their first meeting in terms of the brutality and technique on display, the pair pulled out some of the best boxing of their careers, leaving fans salivating for a third battle.
When Rios vs Alvarado 3 came along in 2015, the boxing world was sure that this would be the fight to end all fights. Unfortunately, the action in the ring didn’t quite live up to their first two contest, ending with a bit of a whimper as Bam Bam Rios demolished Alvarado after just three rounds. Nevertheless, the duo deserve their placement in this list.
Manny Pacquiao vs Juan Manuel Marquez
The title of the greatest boxing rivalry of the 21st century unmistakably belongs to Manny ‘Pacman’ Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. Stretching over a total of four fights, no feuds before or since have come close in terms of fan engagement and sheer historical significance.
Incredibly, the rivalry that played such a significant role in defining both fighters’ careers almost never happened at all.
During their first meeting in May 2004, it seemed the Pacman had the upper hand as he dropped the Mexican no less than three times during the first round. The win was surely his, but, remarkably, Marquez battled on and stayed the course – even managing to take enough control during rounds to earn a draw.