Although the golden era of boxing might have ended in the 1970's, the legendary heavyweight boxing champions of the world have always captured the public's fascination. Sure, boxers in lower weight categories like Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao might be equally skilled and their fights might be just as enjoyable to watch. But it is hard to argue that there isn't something truly special about watching big fighters collide in the center ring - going toe to toe round after round. Heavyweight boxers have thus justifiably garnered much deserved attention from the public and the press over the years. The heavyweight division has had its fair share of legends - from the great Ali, to the controversial Mike Tyson. Here is a list of the best heavyweight fighters ever to grace the ring. Rank this list to let me know who you think deserves to be at the top! Source(s): Wikipedia
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Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr.; January 17, 1942 – June 3, 2016) was an American professional boxer and activist. He is widely regarded as one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century. From early in his career, Ali was known as an inspiring, controversial, and polarizing figure both inside and outside the ring. Cassius Clay was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, and began training as an amateur boxer when he was 12 years old. At age 18, he won a gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome and turned professional later that year. At age 22 in 1964, he won the WBA, WBC, and lineal heavyweight titles from Sonny Liston in a big upset. Clay then converted to Islam and changed his name from Cassius Clay, which he called his "slave name", to Muhammad Ali. He set an example of racial pride for African Americans and resistance to white domination during the Civil Rights Movement. In 1966 (two years after winning the heavyweight title), Ali further antagonized the white establishment by refusing to be drafted into the U.S. military, citing his religious beliefs and opposition to American involvement in the Vietnam War. He was eventually arrested, found guilty of draft evasion charges, and stripped of his boxing titles. He successfully appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned his conviction in 1971, by which time he had not fought for nearly four years and thereby lost a period of peak performance as an athlete. Ali's actions as a conscientious objector to the war made him an icon for the larger counterculture generation. Ali is regarded as one of the leading heavyweight boxers of the 20th century. He remains the only three-time lineal heavyweight champion, having won the title in 1964, 1974, and 1978. Between February 25 and September 19, 1964, Ali reigned as the undisputed heavyweight champion. He is the only boxer to be named The Ring magazine Fighter of the Year six times. He was ranked as the greatest athlete of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated, the Sports Personality of the Century by the BBC, and the third greatest athlete of the 20th century by ESPN SportsCentury. Nicknamed "The Greatest", he was involved in several historic boxing matches. Notable among these were the first Liston fight; the "Fight of the Century", "Super Fight II", the "Thrilla in Manila" versus his rival Joe Frazier, and "The Rumble in the Jungle" versus George Foreman.
Joseph Louis Barrow (May 13, 1914 – April 12, 1981), best known as Joe Louis and nicknamed the "Brown Bomber", was an American professional boxer who competed from 1934 to 1951. He reigned as the world heavyweight champion from 1937 to 1949, and is considered to be one of the greatest heavyweights of all time. Louis' championship reign lasted 140 consecutive months, during which he participated in 26 championship fights. The 27th fight, against Ezzard Charles in 1950, was a challenge for Charles' heavyweight title and so is not included in Louis' reign. Louis was victorious in 26 title defenses, a world record second only to Julio César Chávez with 27. In 2005, Louis was ranked as the best heavyweight of all time by the International Boxing Research Organization, and was ranked number one on The Ring magazine's list of the "100 greatest punchers of all time".
Wladimir Wladimirowitsch Klitschko (born 25 March 1976) is a Ukrainian former professional boxer who competed from 1996 to 2017. He is a two-time world heavyweight champion, having held the WBA (Super), IBF and WBO titles, as well as the IBO, Ring magazine, and lineal titles. A strategic and intelligent boxer, Klitschko is considered to be one of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time. He was known for his exceptional knockout power, using a strong jab, straight right hand and left hook. As an amateur, Klitschko represented Ukraine at the 1996 Olympics, winning a gold medal in the super-heavyweight division. After turning professional later that year, he defeated Chris Byrd in 2000 to win the WBO heavyweight title. Klitschko's first reign as champion ended in an upset knockout loss to Corrie Sanders in 2003, which was followed by another knockout loss to Lamon Brewster in 2004. It was during this time that Klitschko hired Emanuel Steward as his trainer, which began an eight-year partnership that lasted until Steward's death in 2012. In particular, Steward was credited with Klitschko's transition from an aggressive puncher to a more defensively-oriented boxer, much as he had done with Lennox Lewis in 1995 to 2003. In 2006, Klitschko regained a portion of the world heavyweight championship after stopping Chris Byrd in a rematch to win the IBF and IBO titles. He won the WBO title for a second time by defeating then-unbeaten champion Sultan Ibragimov in 2008. Following his defeat of Ruslan Chagaev in 2009, Klitschko was awarded the Ring and lineal titles, and lastly he won the WBA title from David Haye in 2011. Until his defeat by Tyson Fury in 2015, Klitschko was also recognized as lineal champion by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, while the WBA recognised him as one of its "Super champions", a distinction given to boxers who hold that title in addition to those by other sanctioning bodies in the same division. From 2006 to 2015, Wladimir and his older brother Vitali (himself a former world heavyweight champion) dominated heavyweight boxing, a period typically known as the "Klitschko Era" of the division. Overall, Klitschko holds the record for the longest combined world championship reign in boxing history at 4,383 days, and has the second most total successful title defenses of any heavyweight boxer with 23 (including his initial reign as WBO champion), behind Joe Louis (25) and ahead of Larry Holmes (20) and Muhammad Ali (19).
Larry Holmes (born November 3, 1949) is an American former professional boxer who competed from 1973 to 2002. He grew up in Easton, Pennsylvania, which gave birth to his boxing nickname of the "Easton Assassin". Holmes, whose left jab is rated among the best in boxing history, held the WBC heavyweight title from 1978 to 1983, The Ring magazine and lineal heavyweight titles from 1980 to 1985, and the inaugural IBF heavyweight title from 1983 to 1985. He made 20 successful title defenses, placing him third all time, behind only Joe Louis at 25 and Wladimir Klitschko at 22. Holmes is one of only five boxers—along with Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, Leon Spinks and Trevor Berbick—to defeat Muhammad Ali; he is the only one to have stopped Ali. Holmes won his first 48 professional bouts, including victories over Norton, Ali, Earnie Shavers, Mike Weaver, Gerry Cooney, Tim Witherspoon, Carl Williams and Marvis Frazier, and falling one short of matching Rocky Marciano's career record of 49–0 when he lost to Michael Spinks in 1985. Holmes retired after losing a rematch to Spinks the following year, but made repeated comebacks. He was unsuccessful in three further attempts (against Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Oliver McCall) to regain the heavyweight title, the last in 1995. Holmes fought for the final time in 2002, against Eric "Butterbean" Esch, and ended his career with a record of 69 wins and 6 losses. He is frequently ranked as one of the greatest heavyweights of all time and has been inducted into both the International Boxing Hall of Fame and World Boxing Hall of Fame.
John Arthur "Jack" Johnson (March 31, 1878 – June 10, 1946), nicknamed the Galveston Giant, was an American boxer, who—at the height of the Jim Crow era—became the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion (1908–1915). Johnson went on to become one of the most dominant champions of his time, and remains a significant historical figure in heavyweight boxing history, with his 1910 fight against James J. Jeffries being dubbed the "fight of the century." Johnson was faced with much controversy when he was charged with violating the Mann Act in 1912, even though there was an obvious lack of evidence and the charge was largely racially based. In a documentary about his life, Ken Burns notes that "for more than thirteen years, Jack Johnson was the most famous and the most notorious African-American on Earth".
William Harrison "Jack" Dempsey (June 24, 1895 – May 31, 1983), nicknamed "Kid Blackie" and "The Manassa Mauler", was an American professional boxer who competed from 1914 to 1927, and reigned as the world heavyweight champion from 1919 to 1926. A cultural icon of the 1920s, Dempsey's aggressive fighting style and exceptional punching power made him one of the most popular boxers in history. Many of his fights set financial and attendance records, including the first million-dollar gate. Dempsey is ranked as tenth on The Ring magazine's list of all-time heavyweights and seventh among its Top 100 Greatest Punchers, while in 1950 the Associated Press voted him as the greatest fighter of the past 50 years. He is a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, and was inducted into The Ring's Boxing Hall of Fame in 1951.
George Edward Foreman (born January 10, 1949) is an American former professional boxer who competed from 1969 to 1977, and from 1987 to 1997. Nicknamed "Big George", he is a two-time world heavyweight champion and an Olympic gold medalist. Outside the sport he is an ordained minister, author, and entrepreneur. After a troubled childhood Foreman took up amateur boxing and won a gold medal in the heavyweight division at the 1968 Summer Olympics. Having turned professional the next year, he won the world heavyweight title with a second-round knockout of then-undefeated Joe Frazier in 1973. Two successful title defenses were made before Foreman's first professional loss to Muhammad Ali in "The Rumble in the Jungle" in 1974. Unable to secure another title opportunity, Foreman retired after a loss to Jimmy Young in 1977. Following what he referred to as a religious epiphany, Foreman became an ordained Christian minister. Ten years later he announced a comeback and, in 1994 at age 45, he regained a portion of the heavyweight championship by knocking out 27-year-old Michael Moorer to win the unified WBA, IBF, and lineal titles. Foreman remains the oldest world heavyweight champion in history, and the second oldest in any weight class after Bernard Hopkins (at light heavyweight). He retired in 1997 at the age of 48, with a final record of 76 wins (68 knockouts) and 5 losses. Foreman has been inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame and International Boxing Hall of Fame. The International Boxing Research Organization rates Foreman as the eighth greatest heavyweight of all time. In 2002, he was named one of the 25 greatest fighters of the past 80 years by The Ring magazine. The Ring ranked him as the ninth greatest puncher of all time.
Joseph William Frazier (January 12, 1944 – November 7, 2011), nicknamed "Smokin' Joe", was an American professional boxer who competed from 1965 to 1981. He reigned as the undisputed heavyweight champion from 1970 to 1973, and as an amateur won a gold medal at the 1964 Summer Olympics. Frazier was known for his sheer strength, durability, formidable punching power, and relentless pressure fighting style. Frazier emerged as the top contender in the late 1960s, defeating opponents that included Jerry Quarry, Oscar Bonavena, Buster Mathis, Eddie Machen, Doug Jones, George Chuvalo, and Jimmy Ellis en route to becoming undisputed heavyweight champion in 1970, and followed up by defeating Muhammad Ali by unanimous decision in the highly anticipated Fight of the Century in 1971. Two years later, Frazier lost his title when he was defeated by George Foreman. He fought on, beating Joe Bugner, losing a rematch to Ali and beating Quarry and Ellis again. Frazier's last world title challenge came in 1975, but he was beaten by Ali in their brutal rubbermatch, the Thrilla in Manila. He retired in 1976 following a second loss to Foreman. He made a comeback in 1981, fighting just once before retiring. The International Boxing Research Organization rates Frazier among the ten greatest heavyweights of all time. In 1999, The Ring magazine ranked him the eighth greatest heavyweight. He is an inductee of both the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame.
Rocco Francis Marchegiano (September 1, 1923 – August 31, 1969), best known as Rocky Marciano, was an American professional boxer who competed from 1947 to 1955, and held the world heavyweight title from 1952 to 1956. He went undefeated in his career and defended the title six times, against Jersey Joe Walcott, Roland La Starza, Ezzard Charles (twice), Don Cockell and Archie Moore. Known for his relentless fighting style, punching power, stamina and iron chin, Marciano has been included by boxing historians in lists of the greatest boxers of all time. His knockout-to-win percentage of 87.75 remains one of the highest in heavyweight boxing history.
Charles L. "Sonny" Liston (unknown – December 30, 1970) was an American professional boxer who competed from 1953 to 1970. A dominant contender of his era, he became world heavyweight champion in 1962 after knocking out Floyd Patterson in the first round, repeating the knockout the following year in defense of the title; in the latter fight he also became the inaugural WBC heavyweight champion. Liston was particularly known for his toughness, formidable punching power, long reach, and intimidating appearance. Although widely regarded as unbeatable, he lost the title in 1964 to Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay), who entered as a 7–1 underdog. Controversy followed with claims that Liston had been drinking heavily the night before the fight. In their 1965 rematch, Liston suffered a shocking first-round knockout which led to unresolved suspicions of a fix. He was still a world-ranked boxer when he died under mysterious circumstances. Underworld connections, along with his unrecorded date of birth, added to the enigma. The Ring magazine ranks Liston as the seventh greatest heavyweight of all time, while the respected boxing writer Herb Goldman ranked him second. In his book, The Gods of War, Springs Toledo argued that Liston, when at his peak in the late 1950s and early 1960s, could be favored to beat just about every heavyweight champion in the modern era with the possible exception of Muhammad Ali.
Lennox Claudius Lewis, CM, CBE (born 2 September 1965) is a former professional boxer who competed from 1989 to 2003. He is a three-time world heavyweight champion, a two-time lineal champion, and remains the last heavyweight to hold the undisputed title. Holding dual British and Canadian citizenship, Lewis represented Canada as an amateur at the 1988 Summer Olympics, winning a gold medal in the super-heavyweight division after defeating future world champion Riddick Bowe in the final. In his first three years as a professional, Lewis won several regional heavyweight championships, including the European, British, and Commonwealth titles. After winning his first 21 fights, he defeated Donovan Ruddock in 1992 to take over the number one position in the WBC rankings. He was declared WBC heavyweight champion later that year after Riddick Bowe gave up the title to avoid defending it against Lewis. He defended the title three times before an upset knockout loss to Oliver McCall in 1994. Lewis avenged the loss in a 1997 rematch to win back the vacant WBC title. Lewis won the lineal title by defeating Shannon Briggs in 1998. Two fights against Evander Holyfield in 1999 (the first of which ended in a controversial draw) saw Lewis become undisputed heavyweight champion by unifying his WBC title with Holyfield's WBA and IBF titles, as well as the vacant IBO title. In 2000, the WBA stripped Lewis of their title when he opted to face Michael Grant instead of mandatory challenger John Ruiz. Lewis was knocked out by Hasim Rahman in a 2001 upset, but this defeat was avenged later in the year. In 2002, Lewis defeated Mike Tyson in one of the most highly anticipated fights in boxing history. Prior to the event, Lewis was awarded the Ring magazine heavyweight title, which had been discontinued in the late 1980s. In what would be his final fight, in 2003, Lewis defeated Vitali Klitschko in a bloody encounter. He vacated his remaining titles and retired from boxing in 2004. Lewis often referred to himself as "the pugilist specialist". During his boxing prime he was 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) tall, with an 84 in (210 cm) reach, and weighed about 245 lb (111 kg). He is regarded by many as one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time, and also one of the greatest British fighters of all time. In 1999 he was named Fighter of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America, and BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
Michael Gerard Tyson (/ˈtaɪsən/; born June 30, 1966) is an American former professional boxer who competed from 1985 to 2005. He reigned as the undisputed world heavyweight champion and holds the record as the youngest boxer to win a heavyweight title at 20 years, 4 months and 22 days old. Tyson won his first 19 professional fights by knockout, 12 of them in the first round. He won the WBC title in 1986 after stopping Trevor Berbick in two rounds, and added the WBA and IBF titles after defeating James Smith and Tony Tucker in 1987. This made Tyson the first heavyweight boxer to simultaneously hold the WBA, WBC and IBF titles, and the only heavyweight to successively unify them. Tyson became the lineal champion in 1988 when he knocked out Michael Spinks in 91 seconds of the first round. He successfully defended his titles nine times, which included victories over Larry Holmes and Frank Bruno. In 1990, Tyson lost the titles to underdog Buster Douglas, who knocked him out in the tenth round. Attempting to regain the titles, Tyson defeated Donovan Ruddock twice in 1991, but pulled out of a fight with then-undisputed heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield (who had defeated Douglas later in 1990) due to a rib injury. He won the WBC and WBA titles in 1996, after defeating Frank Bruno and Bruce Seldon by knockout. With his defeat of Bruno, Tyson joined Floyd Patterson, Muhammad Ali, Tim Witherspoon, Evander Holyfield, George Foreman as the only men in boxing history to have regained a heavyweight championship after having lost it. After being stripped of the WBC title in the same year, Tyson lost the WBA title to Evander Holyfield by an eleventh-round stoppage. Their infamous 1997 rematch ended when Tyson was disqualified for biting Holyfield's ears.
Evander Holyfield (born October 19, 1962) is an American former professional boxer who competed from 1984 to 2011. He reigned as the undisputed champion in both the cruiserweight and heavyweight divisions, being the first and to date only boxer in history to do so, which earned him the nickname of "The Real Deal". Holyfield is the only four-time world heavyweight champion, having held the WBA, WBC, IBF, and lineal titles from 1990 to 1992; the WBA, IBF, and lineal titles again from 1993 to 1994; the WBA title from 1996 to 1999; the IBF title from 1997 to 1999; and the WBA title for a fourth time from 2000 to 2001. As an amateur, Holyfield represented the United States at the 1984 Summer Olympics, winning a bronze medal in the light heavyweight division. He turned professional at the age of 21, moving up to cruiserweight in 1985 and won his first world championship the following year, defeating Dwight Muhammad Qawi for the WBA title. Holyfield then went on to defeat Ricky Parkey and Carlos de León to win the WBC, IBF, and lineal titles, thus becoming the undisputed cruiserweight champion. He moved up to heavyweight in 1988, later defeating Buster Douglas in 1990 to claim the undisputed WBA, WBC, IBF, and lineal heavyweight titles. He successfully defended the undisputed heavyweight title three times, scoring victories over former champions George Foreman and Larry Holmes, before suffering his first professional loss to Riddick Bowe in 1992. Holyfield regained the crown in a rematch one year later, defeating Bowe for the WBA and IBF titles (Bowe having relinquished the WBC title beforehand). Holyfield later lost these titles in an upset against Michael Moorer in 1994. Holyfield was forced to retire in 1994 upon medical advice, only to return a year later with a clean bill of health. In 1996 he went on to defeat Mike Tyson and reclaim the WBA title, in what was named by The Ring magazine as the Fight of the Year and Upset of the Year. This made Holyfield the first boxer since Muhammad Ali to win the world heavyweight title three times. Holyfield won a 1997 rematch against Tyson, which saw the latter disqualified in round three for biting Holyfield on his ears. During this reign as champion, he also avenged his loss to Michael Moorer and reclaimed the IBF title. In 1999 he faced Lennox Lewis in a unification fight for the undisputed WBA, WBC, IBF, and lineal titles, which ended in a controversial split draw. Holyfield was defeated in a rematch eight months later. The following year, he defeated John Ruiz for the vacant WBA title, becoming the first boxer in history to win a version of the heavyweight title four times. Holyfield lost a rematch against Ruiz seven months later and faced him for the third time in a draw. Holyfield retired in 2014, and is ranked number 77 on The Ring's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time.
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