Clash of the titans – Top 10 greatest rivalries ever!

Disclaimer – All opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the site.

The world of sports has seen some of the greatest encounters between budding sportsmen but when it comes to the “all time best”, the number of options drop significantly. While some rivalries are born in a single era, others stretch over generations. However, true legends of the game need not be present at the same time to for the rivalry to flourish. The battle just commences on its own.

Before the scroll is unfurled, let’s take a look at the parameters governing it:

1. Achievements.

2. Popularity.

3. Ongoing comparisons.

So, hold your breath and let the countdown begin!

10.Tiger Woods And Jack Nicklaus

Arguably the best golfer of all time, Tiger Woods, who has always chased Jack Nicklaus’ records, proved to be one of the best golfers in the world. If you forget the controversy surrounding him, Tiger is still a ferocious hunter. The hunter may be in decline and has hunted the best of the best, Jack Nicklaus being the only survivor. Jack has 18 major championships and is unofficially called “The Greatest Golfer in History”. These two together are capable of providing exhilarating contest.

9. Usain Bolt and Carl Lewis

The world’s fastest man and the greatest athlete ever together combined are the one who can fire to the wettest of the tracks. Such are the achievements by Bolt and Lewis that record books would need some extra few pages to accommodate them. These two athletes are fortunate enough not to compete together because the track simply couldn’t take the heat. When the era of Lewis is compared to the Jamaican era, people and media can only wonder as to what the result can be.

8. The Rock And Stone Cold Steve Austin


WWE is the biggest sports entertainment and the fan following that this sport gets, is unmatchable. When the industry is so famous and vast, how can its superstars be any less? There have been some great wrestlers to name, but when you talk about the top 2 or the best of the best, the answer is quite straightforward – Austin 3:16 and The Brahma bull, the greatest rivals and the biggest names of WWE. Austin and the Rock have had numerous battles, the best taking place in Wrestlemania where Austin had the better of Rock with 2 wins and 1 loss. These two sportsmen are no less than each other.

7. Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting

Australia v India - 2011 ICC World Cup Quarter-Final

The greatest modern batsman and God of cricket, “Sachin Tendulkar” carried the weight of his team on his shoulders for over 2 decades. There was one man who was inching closer to demolish the Indian legend however. The Australian blockbuster sensation and arrogant yet dynamic leader, Ricky Thomas Ponting gave Sachin a  fierce competition but eventually fell short of Master’s achievements. Sachin’s closest rival remained a threat to his records until he retired in his last game against South Africa.

6. Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel

F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi

There have been endless Formula 1 races, great drivers and top quality teams. But when you talk about F1, the first name that comes to your mind is that of 7 time World Champion Michael Schumacher. The German, in his famous Ferrari conquered almost all the circuits and is undoubtedly the greatest Formula 1 driver. Schumi retired from his love and came back shortly, only to realise that this industry wasn’t big enough to hold both him and Sebastian Vettel. Like Schumacher, Vettel also hails from Germany and is currently the World Number 1. He is the 3 time World Champion and also the youngest to achieve this feat. The dynamic Germans are at number 6.

5. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer

BNP Paribas Open - Day 13

How frequently do you see two charismatic rivals in the same era? Tennis provides you with this answer. Both Federer and Nadal were once the dominant figures of this sport. Though the Swiss’ supreme time is almost over and the Spaniard is injured, the current world number 1 Novak Djokovic and some legends of the past like Pete Samprass or Andre Agassi couldn’t reach the heights of popularity and achievements that these two illustrious figures reached. They share a mammoth amount of 33 Grand Slams and are undoubtedly the most charismatic and the dangerous tennis duos ever.

4. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo

Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristia

Have you seen any rivalry in football that can be as close as the famous ‘Ronaldo vs Messi’? Though the 4 time Ballon d’Or winner weighs more than a ton over the 2008 winner in terms of achievements, the difference between the two is very less. These two young footballers form a destructive pair who are known to annihilate defences. When you talk about football, Messi vs Ronaldo debate is the big headline. These two pillars are so huge that the 3rd position in today’s football has got almost no importance whatsoever. Brand ambassadors of the biggest brands like D&G, Armania, Nike, Adidas, etc, they are is undoubtedly the biggest names in the sport today.

3. Michael Jordan and LeBron James

The best basketball player of all time, “Jordan” and the best at present, “The ever so lethal Miami Heats’ LeBron James” together form the most destructive force in basketball. Numerous titles and only one goal, to become the best, had been their philosophy. Like other great duos in sports, basketball’s legendary figures possessed great skills on the court. Both these high-flyers have changed the game single-handedly and possess some skills that other players can only wish to achieve.

2. Pele and Maradona

Football League XI v Rest Of The World XI

Ranked 2nd is the famous South American combination. There is no one who is as big as these two in football. Some people put the tag of “Best ever” on Pele whereas some support the Argentine. The achievements of both these gentlemen are quite a huge story to tell. From club glories to bringing the World Cup to their home, they have done it all. Football will continue forever, but will we ever see someone rise above this dynamic pair? These two heavyweights are unarguably the greatest football rivals ever!

1. Mohammad Ali and Joe Frazier

Muhammad Ali v Joe Frazier - 1971 WBC/WBA Heavyweight

The greatest two boxers of all time have accounted for major earthquakes inside the ring. “The fight of the century” in Madison Square Garden on March 8, 1971 had spectators dancing on their seats. Pre-fight record of Ali was 31-0 whereas Frazier’s 26-0 was no less impressive. The first bout was won by Frazer but it had little bearing on Ali who returned to the same venue 3 years later and demolished him. This rivalry set the tone for “The best of the best” and with both legends squared at 1-1, the year 1975 became significant as Mohammad Ali won the third and last encounter in the 14th round. This rivalry deserves the number one position in my list and there is no doubt as to why no other rivalry can be ranked higher. Hats off to Ali and Frazier.


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