When you’re going toe-to-toe with another person in a boxing match, you have to get in their head a little bit. To do this, a lot of boxers will trash-talk their opponent to get them rattled, but sometimes it goes too far. Some boxers have gotten incredibly personal prior to their match, and at times, it cost them dearly.
Let’s take a look at five historic boxing matches that had a lot of verbal barbs that were exchanged, taking things to a personal level and making the matches even more hyped.
Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather
No boxing match has had as much hype as the 2015 bout between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. While the fight itself would ultimately be a disappointment for most fans, the lead-up was anything but boring. The two came in as the best of their generation, and both were trading personal jabs in the countless press conferences before the match.
Mayweather had said that Pacquiao was only fighting lower boxers for easier wins and padding his record while Mayweather was taking on the top names. Pacquaio’s camp said that Mayweather was shady and avoided the fight between the two while adding that Mayweather’s father was a terrible cornerman. Mayweather would win, and the two have been talking about a rematch ever since.
Muhammad Ali vs. Anyone
If you were to ask any person on the street to name the first boxer that comes to mind, the answer is probably going to be Muhammad Ali. Ali was known not only for being a great fighter, but also one of the best trash talkers in human history. For him, every match was personal and he wanted to let his opponents know just how personal it was.
There were many matches where some people felt that Ali took things a little too far, including bouts against George Foreman and Joe Frazier. Perhaps the one that got it the worst was Sonny Liston. Prior to their controversial fight in 1964, Ali went all-in on the trash talk. There were some memorable lines which included “He’s too ugly to be world champion. The world champ should be pretty like me!”
Dereck Chisora and David Haye
There are many boxing matches where the fighters had traditional trash talk to try and get inside of their opponents’ heads, but then there are matches where the two sides absolutely hated each other. That was the case between Dereck Chisora and David Haye in their match in 2012. Chisora had just defeated Vitali Klitschko after making it personal between the two, and the extracurriculars spilled into his rivalry with Haye.
Haye was at the press conference for the Chisora-Klitschko fight and Haye had challenged Klitschko to a match. Chisora, as the winner, took it personally and started to call Haye an embarrassment to the sport. The two would get into it several times before and after their fight, and at one point, Chisora threatened to shoot Haye. Haye would end up winning the match in the fifth round via technical knockout.
Canelo Alvarez and Caleb Plant
In just about every sport, there’s a big rivalry between the United States and Mexico, and that even translates into individual sports. In 2021, Mexican legend Canelo Alvarez defeated American Caleb Plant via a technical knockout in the 11th round in Las Vegas. The lead-up to the match was filled with controversy as the two seemed ready to fight at a moment’s notice.
Alvarez is usually calmer in demeanor, but Plant was relentless in his trash talk, with Alvarez saying that the match was personal after hearing all of it. During their press conference two months before the match, the two got into a fistfight that left both of them bloodied, while Alvarez said Plant was taking performance-enhancing drugs.
Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield
One of the most famous matches of all time came when Mike Tyson bit off the ear of Evander Holyfield. At the time, no match had ever been quite as hyped-up, and Holyfield would come out on top. Holyfield remained calm, cool, and collected in the lead-up to the match, but that wasn’t the case for Tyson.
The two have since become friendly, especially as Tyson has calmed down and dwelled upon his past. “He never said nothing bad to me,” Tyson said. “I said miserable things to him.” Holyfield never got rattled, though. “I said, ‘You’ve got to understand, Mike’s younger than me. Mike really don’t know. So I’m not angry. I’ve got nothing to say about it,’” Holyfield said.