Top Iconic Sporting Events of the 80s

There are several iconic moments that make up the 80s decade overall. However, the sporting moments of that time period are really something to remember. 

We know that in every sport, there’s at least one figure that breaks out and makes a name for themselves. Such events and more are what make 80s sporting events so fascinating. Even non-sports fans would be interesting in the iconic events that changed the sporting world in the 80s. 

Below are some of the events in question:

The Performance of Mary Lou Retton

Mary Lou Retton is a known name for those growing up in the 80s, regardless of whether they were interested in sports or not. She recently appeared in ‘Dancing With the Stars’, but her star factor was actually decided back in 1984. 

In that year, Mary Lou Retton was actually lagging behind Romania’s Ecaterina Szabo in the All-Around finals for Women. She was also competing with knee surgeries, so it was unlikely that she’d win the gold. However, Retton managed to get a perfect score in the last two routines—the vault and the floor exercise. She finally defeated Szabo by one-fifth of a pint, an unbelievable margin. 

In this manner, Retton actually became the first female American to take home the all-around gold medal. She was undefeated in this record for a further two decades. Her resultant fame extended beyond the sports industry, as she was also featured with Wheaties cereal and portrayed the character ‘Tiny Tim’ in ‘Scrooged’. 

Rose Banned in Baseball

Iconic sporting events cannot be discussed without also touching upon the controversies. In 1989, Pete Rose was banned from playing baseball. He was commonly dubbed ‘Charlie Hustle’ when he was a player. 

The ban was mostly due to accusations against him regarding bets on baseball games—both as a manager and player. While he actively played for three years, he agreed to this permanent ban. The ban on his playing and his presence in the Baseball Hall of Fame remains solid to this day. 

Muhammad Ali’s Fight Against Larry Holmes

The 1980s was the time when the renowned boxer Mohammed Ali was facing a downturn in his career. He was weakened by thyroid medication according to some sources, which he had taken in order to lose some weight. However, he had previously retired and was called back to fight with Holmes after only a short respite. 

The fight between Ali and Holmes was scheduled in Las Vegas during October 1980. In spite of Ali’s hands tingling and voice stuttering, he still came to the boxing ring. Doctors had cleared him for fighting, but it was clear he wasn’t up for it. Even the actor Sylvester Stallone, another iconic figure of the 80s and a live observer, commented that the match was like watching ‘an autopsy on a man while he was still alive’. 

The fight would later be known as ‘The Last Hurrah’—while there wasn’t a knockdown, this was the first fight that Ali lost by stoppage. His trainer Angelo Dundee put a stop to the fight following the tenth round. Needless to say, this was the last match of Ali’s career and perhaps one that eventually contributed to his Parkinson’s syndrome. 

Mike Tyson’s Rapid Destroying

Boxing was a huge sport in the 1980s, especially with the Sylvester Stallone ‘Rocky’ series ruling the box office. However, names like Mohammad Ali and Mike Tyson also made sure of some legendary events taking place. 

In the case of Mike Tyson, the year 1988 saw him become the champion of the world in a lineal fashion. He did so by defeating Michael Spinks in no less than 91 seconds. As Spinks was running undefeated for 31 fights before this match, the feat is truly amazing. 

In fact, Tyson served such a heavy left uppercut that Spink sank to his knees. Seconds later, Spinks was paralyzed due to another heavy hit from Mike Tyson. In this manner, boxing and sporting history was changed forever. 

However, it wasn’t as if Tyson was a beginner boxer at this point. By 1988, he has a record of 34 undefeated matches and had the title of unified heavyweight champion of the world. He was seemingly unstoppable, though Spinks was hailed to be the better boxer in a technical fashion. Almost everyone expected Spinks to stop Tyson, but it was not to be. The fight ended up being one of the shortest in boxing history. 

A Miracle Win

While matches of any kind are usually unpredictable, there are some that make a whole nation weep in joy (or sorrow). One of these was the performance of the US Men’s Olympic hockey team in 1980. AT that time, the Cold War was in full force and the Iranian hostage crisis was a black mark against America. 

The hockey team itself didn’t present very high hopes; it was made up mostly of college players and amateurs. The Russian team, on the other hand, has a legendary and undefeatable status. The play began, and eventually, the underdog defeated the giants. 

The win was actually so surprising that announcer Al Micheals couldn’t contain himself near the end. He shouted ‘Do you believe in miracles? Yes!’ and thereby symbolized the joy of the whole country. 

The First Live League Game

With the television subscriptions and streaming services we have now, it’s hard to imagine a time when watching league football was a challenge. It was only in October 1983 that the first ever live league football game was broadcast through BBC. 

The teams playing were Tottenham and Manchester United, with the latter winning by two goals. Of course, the clarity has improved multifold since that day, but it was a milestone for sports fans in any case. 


While sports might not be pop culture, the two industries definitely cross over at times. The events above are just a few examples; we’re sure you can find many more if you just look!