Eddie Hall vs Hafþór “Thor” Björnsson is one of strongman’s greatest ever rivalries. The pair were once friends but have been feuding for years. And now they’re due to go toe to toe in the much anticipated “heaviest boxing match in history”.
A lot has happened since the fight’s announcement in 2020 — new venues, gruesome injuries and postponements — but now it’s finally just around the corner.
Saturday 19th March is the day Eddie plans to finally desolate Thor. But why did their rivalry turn sour? It all started in 2017, the year of Eddie’s historic World’s Strongest Man victory...
Europe’s Strongest Man 2017
In preparation for the 2017 strongman season, Eddie seriously packed on the pounds. On top of an intense training routine, Eddie was feasting on meals of between 5,000 to 8,000 calories. In the words of Bill Kazmaier, three-time World’s Strongest Man, “the things he did to gain weight were superhuman”. But it came with consequences.
Eddie had worrying chest pains after the car walk event, seemingly linked to his rapid weight gain. Thor went on to win the event, leaving Eddie in second place. But Eddie didn’t let it get to him — he was a gracious runner up, congratulating Thor and enthusiastically celebrating with him.
After the event, and four weeks prior to the 2017 World’s Strongest Man, Eddie was advised to obtain a thorough medical scan on his heart, having failed an ECG the week before. There was genuine worry he wouldn’t be able to compete, would be forced into early retirement without achieving his dream, or worse.
World’s Strongest Man 2017
While the competition was full of excellent strongmen, Eddie Hall, Thor, and Brian Shaw, winner of back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016, were the contenders to watch.
Thor had been on the podium five times, but the title still eluded him. He was feeling the pressure.
All had been going smoothly enough for him until the Viking press. The referee clearly stated beforehand that no double dipping —bending your knees twice to help push the weight up — would be allowed. He even used Thor’s technique as an example for other competitors.
Thor went on to complete 14 good reps, although the referee did give him a warning and disallowed his final rep.
Eddie went next and achieved one more rep than Thor, just enough to place first in the event. Thor kicked off, claiming unfair judging. Despite this, the referee’s ruling stood.
The competition carried on. By the time of the final event, Eddie was in first place, four points ahead of Shaw and Björnsson. All he needed to achieve was fourth place in the atlas stones to claim the title of World’s Strongest Man.
And he did so, lifting all five stones to become the first British competitor in 24 years to win the title.
It had been a bitterly contested final. It had been a bitterly contested final. Only seven weeks earlier, Eddie celebrated alongside Thor after he won Europe's Strongest Man. Yet no other competitor congratulated Eddie immediately after his win.
After the event, a later-deleted post on Thor’s Instagram account said: “This weekend I was robbed. The integrity of my beloved sport is in question”.
This is what Eddie had to say after the event:
“The one person I am disappointed with is Thor. He‘s claimed some disallowed reps, some bad reffing, whatever. He claimed he would have won world’s strongest man had it not been for that. The guy’s deluded. The thing that hurt me the most is Brian shook my hand. Every athlete shook my hand and said well done, and every member of staff. I actually went to shake Thor’s hand, to say ‘sorry you didn’t win it, Thor, but well done.’ And he just point-blank blanked me. Shook my hand but didn’t say well done. And that hurt.
Take Home Message
After five years of ill feeling, it’s all coming to a head this Saturday. Tensions are high, and there’s serious unfinished business between these two. Will it be an end to the rivalry, or is this just another chapter in its long history? We can’t wait to find out.
The 'Heaviest Boxing Match In History' goes down in Dubai, at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium. Don't worry if you couldn't get a ticket, you can livestream the bout via Segi.tv
Coverage is set to begin at 20:30 UK, and with no undercard the bell should sound in the 5,000-seat arena at around 21:00 UK.