The 10 Best Ever Boxing Trilogies

It takes more than one fight to settle certain rivalries. Sometimes, even two aren’t enough. 

A trilogy often comes to fruition through two fighters being unable to fully assert their dominance, making for a third battle to prove their superiority. 

If it’s not results that have paved the way for a rubber match, then controversial endings or questionable decisions also lead to a deciding third clash.

Canelo and GGG could add to the best ever boxing trilogies (Image: Getty).

It’s the turn of Canelo Alvarez and Gennadiy Golovkin to engage in a highly-awaited third match-up on September 17th, as the two rivals look to finally settle their bad blood in Las Vegas. 

Ahead of that anticipated meeting, BOXRAW look back at the 10 best ever boxing trilogies. 

Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier

There’s no denying the greatest rivalry in boxing made for the best trilogy the sport has ever witnessed too. 

Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier went toe to toe for three monumental showdowns in their careers, with their high-profile frictions transcending the sport and leaving a legacy. 

It was Frazier who prevailed in the epic 1971 ‘Fight of the Century’, before Ali rallied back to win both the rematch and the iconic ‘Thrilla in Manila’.  

Marco Antonio Barrera vs. Erik Morales

As far as bitter feuds go in and out of the ring, Marco Antonio Barrera vs. Erik Morales cannot be topped. 

The two Mexican legends came from different upbringings in their native country, which was a factor in their disdain for each other in three fights across 2000, 2002 and 2004. 

Morales claimed the bragging rights in their first encounter, which is still regarded as one of the greatest fights of all time. 

Barrera then bounced back to win the rematch and ended their rivalry with a trilogy victory too. 

Riddick Bowe vs. Evander Holyfield

Between 1992 and 1995, Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield engaged in a famous three-fight rivalry. 

This trilogy produced many explosive moments, but the rematch is remembered mainly for the ‘Fan Man’ incident, which saw an intruder halt the fight for 21 minutes after landing on the ring with a propellor-operated parachute. 

Bowe came out on top in the thrilling first fight between the two heavyweight rivals, while Holyfield edged the controversial rematch before being stopped in the rubber match. 

Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward

Ask any boxing fan to name the best fight ever and many will immediately say Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward. 

The two men went to war across 30 incredible rounds in 2002 and 2003, with their all-action trilogy seeing them become forever linked. 

Ward had his hand held up after the enthralling maiden bout but was outdone in the following two meetings. Their initial clash set the standard for which all subsequent fights have been judged for drama and excitement. 

The intensity of their fights forged a level of respect between Gatti and Ward, as they became friends when the punching stopped. 

Ward even trained his rival later in life and was a prominent figure at Gatti’s funeral (following a mysterious 2009 death) and posthumously Hall of Fame induction ceremony. 

Humberto Gonzalez vs. Michael Carbajal

The fire-fight between Humberto Gonzalez and Michael Carbajal in 2003 became the first light-flyweight clash to ever make a million dollars and headline a pay-per-view. 

Both men produced an instant classic, which was repeated the following year. 

It was Carbajal who secured rematch and trilogy victories after Gonzalez won their first match-up.  

Tony Zale vs. Rocky Graziano

Middleweight sluggers Tony Zale and Rocky Graziano collided in three fights in three consecutive years in 1946, 1947 and 1948. 

All three of their meetings ended in knockouts, with ‘Man of Steel’ Zale ultimately running out the rivalry as a 2-1 series winner. 

The two warriors shared nine rounds full of blood, knock downs and brutal stoppages, which remain among the most memorable among boxing historians, despite the lack of remaining video footage. 

Barney Ross vs. Jimmy McLarnin

Another old-time classic rivalry which produced one of boxing’s best ever trilogies, starring all-time greats Barney Ross and Jimmy McLarnin. 

Ross jumped up divisions to dethrone welterweight champion McLarnin in 1934 but it was the latter Irishman who gained revenge in their return fight later that year – both held at Madison Square Garden. 

Three-division ruler Ross battled to a trilogy triumph over 15 rounds, with both men later being deservingly inducted into the Hall of Fame for their career success. 

Emile Griffith vs. Benny Paret

The three-fight series between Emile Griffith and Benny Paret are an important part of boxing history, but for tragic circumstances. 

Undoubtedly the most saddening of the sport’s trilogies, Griffith earned a stoppage victory in the first before Paret edged a decision in their rematch. Tragedy then struck after the third meeting. 

Griffith, who would later come out as bisexual, was enraged by apparent homophobic weigh-in taunts from Paret in the build-up. 

That set the tone of the trilogy fight, as Griffith unloaded an onslaught on Paret over 12 rounds before the finish came. The badly beaten fighter died in hospital 10 days later from injuries sustained. 

Ingemar Johansson vs. Floyd Patterson

In 1959, Floyd Patterson was floored an incredible seven times in three rounds on his way to losing his world heavyweight title to Ingemar Johansson at New York’s Yankee Stadium. 

The dethroned champion remarkably gained redemption in the second and third fights, winning both by knockout to reclaim then defend his heavyweight crown. 

Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder

Towering heavyweights Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder came together three times from 2018 to 2021 to create a great modern-day rivalry. 

Fury looked to have done more than enough on his return to the top level in the first fight with Wilder, despite a dramatic 12th-round knockdown, but it ultimately ended in a controversial draw. 

This set up a rematch over a year later, which Fury made sure of in devastating knockout fashion, then followed it up with an even more dominant stoppage victory in their trilogy. 

Other notable trilogies: Manny Pacquiao vs. Erik Morales, Muhammad Ali vs. Ken Norton, Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Roberto Duran, Joe Gans vs. Battling Nelson, Roberto Duran vs. Esteban Dejesus. 


Header image: Getty