Ali vs. Foreman
Rope-a-dope has entered the lexicon as a strategy that means "winning by doing almost nothing." That says everything one needs to know about the Rumble in the Jungle, the strange, almost surreal, fight in October 1974 that was chronicled in the documentary When They Were Kings. The film was brilliant; the fight, won by Muhammad Ali in eight rounds, was not. Ali's strategy of covering up and letting the heavily favored George Foreman (who 21 months earlier had knocked down Joe Frazier six times en route to a second-round TKO) punch himself out was probably the only one the Greatest could've used to win. Ali's coy tactic produced great theater but not great boxing.
Holmes vs. Norton
Larry Holmes was always something of an Ali wannabe during his career, complaining that he was being ignored in favor of the fading former champ. He had a point.
Holmes was a courageous warrior who continues to be underrated by the boxing public. His 15-rounder against Ken Norton for the WBC belt in 1978 (left), rarely mentioned as a great fight (except by the cognoscenti), is a case in point: Despite a torn left biceps, Holmes used his jab, one of the best in heavyweight history, to win four of the first five rounds. "Now it's my turn," Norton told his corner before the sixth. Awkward but relentless, Norton took five of the next six. Both men were nearing exhaustion, but neither backed off—Holmes staggered Norton twice in the 13th, Norton returned the favor in the 14th, staggering Holmes twice.
Going into the final round, the tight was even on all three cards. The 15th was something out of the cinema: two gloved gladiators slugging it out—appropriately enough in the parking lot of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas—both probably aware that victory would go to the winner of three climactic minutes. Just before the final bell Holmes staggered Norton with a huge right that might have won him the bout.
One judge gave the 15th to Norton, but the other two gave it to the Easton Assassin. With it came the title Holmes would hold for seven years and 20 defenses.