By William Hill
Last Updated: 15th April 2020
The boxing world loves a treble, especially a decider. Here we look to keep lovers of the noble art entertained with a flick through a few of the biggest boxing trilogies the world has ever seen.
Arturo Gatti vs Micky Ward
Many younger sports fans may know ‘Irish’ Micky Ward best from the movie The Fighter (2010), starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, but the story runs deeper; much deeper. Gatti vs Ward I took place at Mohegan Sun Casino, Uncasville, in 2002 with Ward taking a majority decision in a barnstormer.
The performances of both men in that grudge match propelled them towards the big time, selling out major venues in the two that followed. Gatti ultimately won both on points – neither for a recognised title – which is staggering as they fought like champion gladiators. The pair deserved to make much more money than they did from the saga, with two of the three bouts named fight of the year by Ring Magazine.
“Sugar” Ray Leonard vs Roberto Duran
The trilogy that’ll be forever remembered for the muttering “no mas”. Power-punching Panamanian great Duran upset the odds to win a 15-round points decision over the much-loved “Sugar” Ray Leonard at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, 1980 for the WBC world welterweight title. With the cards as close as you’d want to see, in 145-144, 148-147, 146-144, the pair were always going to meet again.
Sugar looked below par during that fight but was back to his silky best when stopping Duran in eight rounds in a rematch fought at the Superdome in New Orleans. We’d challenge boxing followers to find a more polished performance in a major fight, with Ray picking Roberto apart as he walked forward, frustrating his man before finishing it.
Tied at 1-1, money men had their say and Leonard put the argument to bed with a 12-round unanimous decision in Las Vegas. That was to be his final win, losing to Terry Norris and Hector Camacho before throwing in the towel in 1997. Duran, the warrior that he is, continued until 2001, ending with a record of 103-16-0, with 70 of those wins coming by way of knockout.
Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier
The most-talked-about trilogy through the ages, the deciding ‘Thrilla In Manilla’ was voted Ring Magazine fight of the year in 1975, ‘The Greatest’ winning in the 14th of a 15-round contest that will be loved forever. The scores were tied at 1-1, with Frazier winning fight one in 1971, dropping Ali in the last before Muhammad fired back with a point’s victory over his rival in 1974; this time, over 12 rounds, the new legal maximum duration.
The odds were stacked against Muhammad Ali in the decider. He was old, past his best, had endured too many years out of the ring fighting other fights, and not a lot of people liked him – but by the end of that night in Quezon City, Ali had secured his place as boxing’s main man.
The backstory of this trilogy will instantly win over any who doubt the brilliance of the noble art. They don’t make them like that anymore, that’s for sure.
Marco Antonio Barrera vs Erik Morales
This is one of the more famous trilogies in the boxing world as there was a well-documented hatred between the two fighters. This intense tension between the two Mexican fighters led to some superb competition inside the ring.
The two champion fighters had a trilogy that was riddled with contentious decisions. The first fight took place in 2000 and saw Morales win by a close split decision, though many believed that the result should have swung towards Barrera. The bout was named ‘Fight of the Year’ and set up a rematch two years later.
The second bout took place in Las Vegas and saw Barrera leave victorious by unanimous decision. But again, there was controversy as many thought the fight should have been given to Morales. As for the third deciding fight, it took place a further two years later in the super featherweight division with Barrera winning and claiming bragging rights.
Ingemar Johansson vs Floyd Patterson
If you are looking for a trilogy fight with explosive finishes, then look no further. Johansson vs Patterson had the most brutal battles with none going the distance. In the first fight, Patterson was battered by Swedish boxer Johansson, being knocked out in the third round after being put on the canvas seven times within a three-minute span.
The rematch took place the following year with Patterson returning the favour and knocking out Johansson in the fifth round. With both boxers all square after the rematch, a third fight had to take place. During the decider, both fighters had been dropped, but it was Patterson who had his arm raised at the end of the clash after the referee stopped the fight in the sixth round.
Manny Pacquiao vs Juan Manuel Marquez
Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez actually went head-to-head on four separate occasions, but such was the force of this tetralogy we had to include it on this list, with all but the final fight proving controversial in their own way.
The first meeting in 2004, Pacquiao managed to knock his rival down to the ground a stunning three times in the opening round, yet the clash still went on to result in a split decision draw, meaning the Filipino boxer retained his WBA super featherweight title.
The 2008 rematch saw Pacquiao this time win a split decision to retain his WBC super featherweight title in close fashion, while the third fight in 2011 saw Pacquiao again win, this time by a majority decision to keep his WBO welterweight title.
Marquez would go on to exact revenge a year later, however, in a bout billed as the ‘Fight of the Decade’, which did not fail to live up to the hype. Pacquiao was knocked down in the third round with Marquez down in the fifth before the Mexican eventually went on to knock out ‘PacMan’ in the sixth round with a mega right hand to have the final say in the matter.