AP

Before Álvarez-Golovkin III, remember boxing’s top trilogies

Sep 15, 2022, 4:38 AM | Updated: Sep 16, 2022, 9:26 am

FILE - Tyson Fury, of England, walks away after knocking out Deontay Wilder in the 11th round of a ...

FILE - Tyson Fury, of England, walks away after knocking out Deontay Wilder in the 11th round of a heavyweight championship boxing match on Oct. 9, 2021, in Las Vegas. Wilder and Fury both scored knockdowns early in the third bout in October 2021, but Fury finished Wilder in the 11th. (AP Photo/Chase Stevens, File)

(AP Photo/Chase Stevens, File)

Canelo Álvarez’s rivalry with Gennady Golovkin reaches the ultimate standard of modern boxing excellence this weekend when these vaunted fighters complete a trilogy.

From Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier to Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, most of the great rivals in the sport’s recent history have engaged in at least three memorable bouts. Only the most compelling matchups can attract fans for three meetings, and the sagas often define the fighters’ careers.

It’s tough enough to make one bout between top boxers in this fractured promotional era. But when two elite fighters follow one compelling show with another, they’re sometimes rewarded with a chance at boxing immortality — and hopefully the riches that come with it.

The first two fights of this trilogy have qualified for history. Álvarez and Golovkin fought to a contentious split draw in 2017 even though most ringside observers thought Golovkin deserved the victory. Álvarez handed Golovkin the only loss of his career in the 2018 rematch by a razor-thin majority decision that also infuriated Golovkin.

“I’m glad we are fighting for a third time, because I want to leave no doubt about who is the best,” Álvarez said. “I know he feels the same way, and that’s what makes the best fights.”

Four years after Álvarez and Golovkin staged their second meeting, they’ll conclude their trilogy in Las Vegas on Saturday night. This high-level rivalry has a chance to join the best, even if it hasn’t featured the knockdowns and blood that characterize most of the others.

Before Álvarez and Golovkin settle the score, here’s a look at some of the greatest trilogies (or more) in the past half-century of boxing, in no particular order:

Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier

The gold standard of trilogies, both because of the fighters involved and for the way they fought. Frazier won the first meeting between two unbeaten heavyweight champions in 1971, one of the most anticipated events in sports history. Ali won the rematch by a narrow decision in 1974, and he also won the sensational third matchup — the Thrilla in Manila — when Frazier trainer Eddie Futch stopped the brutal bout after the 14th round.

Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward

Two relentless brawlers with iron chins and inextinguishable wills created a classic rivalry. Their first brawl in May 2002 is still a sensationally barbaric chapter in boxing history and an all-time favorite fight among many fans. Ward won a close majority decision, and Gatti evened the series with a decision six months later. Ward claimed the bruising third bout by majority decision again, and both fighters ended up in hospital trauma units.

Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Roberto Duran

These two greats clearly brought out the best in each other. Duran won their initial bout in 1980, but Leonard dug deep to become a tougher, harder-hitting version of himself. He demonstrated it in the rematch when he forced Duran to turn his back and quit in the eighth round of the famed “No más” fight. The third bout nine years later was an anticlimax, but Leonard cemented his superiority with a decision.

Marco Antonio Barrera vs. Erik Morales

Two Mexican greats gave their all in three bouts over nearly five years, providing the defining moments of both fighters’ careers. Morales won the all-action first meeting in February 2000 by split decision, infuriating Barrera. Barrera won the more tactical second bout by unanimous decision, infuriating Morales. The third meeting in November 2004 was a razor-thin majority-decision victory for Barrera in another unforgettable slugfest.

Jeff Harding vs. Dennis Andries

An underrated classic trilogy known only to true fight fans. Harding became the first Australian light heavyweight world champion by stopping Andries in the 12th round of a violent first meeting in 1989, but the Brit stopped Harding to reclaim his belt a year later. Harding won the rubber match by majority decision in 1991 in yet another slugfest. This rivalry deserves more acclaim.

Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Márquez

This one was a tetralogy: The Filipino champion and his Mexican rival met four times over eight years. They fought to a draw in 2004 even though Pacquiao knocked down Márquez three times in the first round. Pacquiao eked out a split decision when they met again in 2008, and Pacquiao’s majority-decision victory in the third match further infuriated Márquez. He ended the rivalry in December 2012 with a spectacular sixth-round knockout that left Pacquiao unconscious, facedown on the canvas.

Riddick Bowe vs. Evander Holyfield

Two gifted fighters from a rich era of heavyweight contenders met three times over three years. The first meeting in 1992 was an exemplary heavyweight bout, and Bowe rarely looked better than he did in his decision victory. Holyfield won a close majority decision in a rematch best known for James “Fan Man” Miller crashing his paraglider into the ring. The third meeting was brutal, with both fighters scoring a knockdown before Bowe became the first man to knock out Holyfield.

Israel Vázquez vs. Rafael Márquez

Another tetralogy between two Mexican super bantamweights still remembered fondly by anybody with a taste for heedless violence. Márquez broke Vázquez’s nose in the first round of the first meeting, and Vázquez eventually quit on his stool. Vázquez won the rematch, stopping Márquez in another brutal fight. The third bout occurred less than a year after the first, and Vázquez won by a narrow split decision. Two exhausted, damaged fighters met a fourth time, and Márquez finished Vázquez.

Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder

The most recent trilogy on this list had a wealth of exciting moments between two heavyweights with sharply contrasting strengths and styles. Fury was on his way to a tactical victory in the first meeting in 2018 before Wilder flattened him in the 12th round. Fury improbably rose and survived to the bell for a split draw. Fury dominated the rematch, knocking down Wilder twice before it was stopped in the seventh. Wilder and Fury both scored knockdowns early in the third bout in October 2021, but Fury finished Wilder in the 11th.

___

More AP boxing: https://apnews.com/hub/boxing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

1 year ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

1 year ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

1 year ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

1 year ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

1 year ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

1 year ago

Before Álvarez-Golovkin III, remember boxing’s top trilogies