In celebration of the big fight this weekend – David Haye v Wladimir Klitschko – we thought it would be fitting to create a post on the top 10 Greatest Heavyweight Boxers Of All Time. We’ve scoured the annals of heavyweight boxing since the Marquess of Queensberry rules were introduced to give you our list of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time.
Of course, you boxing betting fans might not agree with our top 10 list of heavyweight boxers which is why we’d love to hear your thoughts by using the comments below. Ok, enough waffle, on with the show. Ladies and gentlemen, for your entertainment only, we bring to you … The 10 Greatest Heavyweight Boxers Of All Time!
10 : Joe Frazier
Ever wondered why the famous boxing character Rocky Balboa depicted Philadelphia as his hometown? Mainly it was due to the city’s reputation for producing tough-as-nails boxers in particular one boxer named Joe Frazier.
‘Smokin’ Joe Frazier won 44 of his 48 fights (30 by KO) and was the undisputed heavyweight champion between 1970-72. Frazier was part of a trio of boxers who dominated the heavyweight division during the 70’s (the others being Foreman & Ali).
Joe Frazier’s highest accolade was winning the ‘Fight of the Century’ against Ali in March of 1971. Both fighters entered the ring undefeated at the time. After 15 gruelling rounds, Fraser retained his title with a unanimous points decision. Ali had been dealt his first professional loss and it took him several years to fully recover his form after the Frazier defeat.
9 : Vitali Klitschko
The current WBC world heavyweight boxing champion – the big Ukrainian has come along a long way since his days of being an amateur kickboxer. Since turning professional in 1996, Vitali has won 42 of his 44 fights (39 by KO).
Both of Klitschko’s defeats came early in his boxing career. He lost controversially to Chris Byrd in 2000. A shoulder injury in the 9th round saw his team ‘throw in the towel’ much to the upset of the crowd. It took 3 years before Klitschko gained respect again after his 6th round defeat to Lennox Lewis. The ringside doctor stopped the fight after inspecting an eye wound on Vitali although the big boxer was adamant he could fight on. The judges had Klitschko ahead on points before the stoppage.
Since that technical knockout to Lewis back in 2003, Klitschko has remained undefeated although he did retire in 2004 for 4 years. After coming back out of retirement in 2008, Klitschko went onto to win the WBC belt. So far he has successfully defended his title 6 times.
8 : Sonny Liston
A fearsome boxer with a fearsome reputation. Another Philadelphian heavyweight boxer, Liston was so far over from the wrong side of the tracks his date of birth was unknown. Liston’s boxing potential was first sighted when he was serving an 8 year prison sentence. Such was his natural talent for boxing that Liston was given early parole.
Liston began his professional heavyweight boxing career in 1953 and won a total of 50 fights out of 54 (39 by KO). His greatest win was over Floyd Patterson the then World Champion – Liston KO’d Patterson in the first round. When the rematch took place, once again Liston destroyed Patterson with brute force – this time it took Liston 4 seconds longer than their previous meeting to deal Patterson another 1st round KO.
To say that the American media despised Liston would be an understatement – they reported that Liston was more bar bouncer than boxer and Liston’s links with the underworld at the time didn’t help matters. Liston lost his crown to Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) in 1964. The less said about the rematch the better.
We’ve included Sonny Liston in our top 10 heavyweights greatest list because here was a man with everything against him and yet he still managed to be the best in the world albeit not for very long.
7 : Joe Louis
The world heavyweight boxing champion from 1937 to 1949, one of the longest reigns ever in the world of boxing. Joe Louis nicknamed the ‘Brown Bomber’ won 66 out of 70 fights (52 by KO). Known as an honest, hard working fighter – when you consider he fought thirteen title defences between 1939-41 it’s hard not to give Louis the accolade of hard-working.
Max Schmeling defeated Joe Louis in 1936 giving Louis his first ever professional defeat by KO. The rematch between Louis and Schmeling is now part of boxing folklore.
After Max Schmeling defeated Louis he became a national hero in the then Nazi Germany. The rematch took on all sort of connotations such as Louis fighting against the Nazi’s doctrine of Aryan superiority. The fight itself didn’t last long… Louis knocked out Schmeling in just two minutes and four seconds to retain his world heavyweight crown.
Louis continued to fight way past his prime due to financial needs.
6 : Jack Dempsey
‘The Manassa Mauler’ aka William Harrison “Jack” Dempsey held the world heavyweight title from 1919 to 1926. Dempsey was an aggressive fighter also known for having the hardest hitting left hook in boxing history.
Since turning professional in 1913, Dempsey won 66 out of his 83 fights (51 by KO). In his first title fight Dempsey fought world heavyweight champion Jess Willard and knocked him down seven times in the first round. Willard never made it out from his corner for the beginning of the fourth round.
His greatest fights were against Gene Tunney and in the second encounter between the pair Dempsey had floored the champion Tunney who lay on the mat for 14 seconds, however, because Dempsey had not retreated to his corner after knocking down his opponent the referee had to escort Dempsey back, buying valuable time for Tunney to recover. The fight is known to this day as ‘The Long Count’.
5 : George Foreman
From an early age Big George Foreman could punch and when he became the oldest man (at 45) to win a heavyweight belt it proves it’s an art that has stayed with him throughout his life. Foreman is probably best known for 2 fights during the early 70’s. His 2nd round knockout of Joe Frazier in 1973 and the fight with Ali in the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ in 1974 where the famous ‘rope-a-dope’ phrase was coined.
George Foreman has won 76 out of his 81 fights (68 as KO) and is a twice World Champion (1973 & 1994). After his encounter with Ali in the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ Foreman took 2 years away from the ring to help analyse his life.
Foreman retired altogether from boxing in 1977 yet 10 years later returned citing he ‘wished to fight Tyson’ as his reason. Foreman never did fight against Tyson but did contend in two world heavyweight title fights against Evander Holyfield and Tommy Morrison – losing both on points. Eventually, Foreman did find success in 1994 when he shocked the world by defeating Michael Moorer in a tenth round KO to win the IBF and WBA heavyweight titles.
4 : Lennox Lewis
The British/Canadian boxer is the last Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion of The World. Lewis has won 41 out of 44 professional fights (32 by KO) and although he has lost only twice in his career he went on to defeat those opponents in rematches.
Lewis won his first title without ever throwing a punch. In 1992 Lewis defeated Razor Ruddock by KO to set himself up as the number one contender against WBC champion Riddick Bowe. Bizarrely, Bowe refused to fight Lewis and relinquished his title by throwing the belt in a trash can.
1999 saw Lewis fight Evander Holyfield for the first time in an unification bout. The fight ended in a draw. Eight months later, Lewis and Holyfield fought again, this time Lewis won on points to become the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of The World.
Lewis lost only once in his remaining fights before he retired in 2004 and that was to Hasim Rahman – Lewis won the rematch by KO’ing Rahman in the fourth round. He went on to defeat Mike Tyson and Vitali Klitschko before eventually hanging up his gloves in 2004.
3 : Rocky Marciano
Everyone is aware of just how tough it is in the heavyweight division. Which is why we have Rocky Marciano in at our number three spot. Just how difficult is it to go through your professional boxing career without losing a fight. Well, Marciano fought 49 times and Marciano won 49 times (43 by KO).
In a rather short boxing career, lasting just seven years (1948-55) Marciano conquered the world of heavyweight boxing. Marciano was also the boxer who retired the once great Joe Louis by KO in the eighth round.
Perhaps, it is surprising to learn that Rocky Marciano wasn’t a very technically gifted boxer but he was strong and had a head like a ‘Bull’. When Rocky Marciano won the title against Joe Walcott with a KO it took Walcott’s team over 3 minutes to wake the fighter up.
Rocky Marciano retired in 1955 – he had defended his title six times all by KO bar his fight with Ezzard Charles which Marciano won on points.
2 : Mike Tyson
Much has been written about Mike Tyson and although his personal demons took over his boxing career, no-one can argue that during his early years in professional boxing there were few greater.
Out of Mike Tyson’s 58 heavyweight fights he won 50 (44 by KO) and is a former Undisputed Heavyweight champion of the World. Tyson won the WBC Heavyweight title when he was aged 20 by defeating Trevor Berbick in the second round. Just one year later, Tyson held the WBC, IBF and WBA Heavyweight titles.
For three years Tyson ruled supreme before losing to a sucker punch in the 10th round by underdog Buster Douglas. This became the catalyst for Tyson’s life to quickly spiral out of control. Time spent in prison for a rape charge soon followed. Tyson served three years of a ten year sentence.
Tyson set about a comeback after his release from prison and in 1996 he won the WBC title by defeating Britain’s Frank Bruno. Tyson quickly followed up this success by defeating Bruce Seldon for the WBA title. However, Tyson was stripped of his WBC title after he refused to fight Lennox Lewis.
Tyson’s ring legacy was now about to take on a whole new persona with his next two fights against Evander Holyfield. After Tyson lost his WBA title to Holyfield a rematch was ordered. The fight will only be remembered for one thing – Tyson biting the top of Evander Holyfield’s ear right off! Tyson was immediately disqualified. In 1997 Tyson’s boxing license was withdrawn and he was fined around $3M for his actions.
In 2002, Tyson once more fought for the heavyweight championship against Lennox Lewis. However, Lewis proved too strong for the former champ and eventually KO’d Tyson in the eighth round. A flurry of fringe fights then proceeded for Tyson as he looked to cash in on his name before retiring in 2006.
1 : Muhammad Ali
When your nicknamed ‘The Greatest’ that’s a good indicator as to just how respected a boxer Muhammad Ali was in the heavyweight division. Out of 61 professional fights, Ali won 56 (37 by KO) and is also a three times heavyweight champion.
It all began in 1960 when Ali boxed under his birth name of Cassius Marcellus Clay. His unorthodox style soon found him fighting for the heavyweight championship of the world in 1964 when he fought and beat Sonny Liston. Clay successfully defended his WBC title eight times over the next three years. During this period Cassius Clay became a member of the Nation of Islam and was given the name Muhammad Ali.
Ali was stripped of his heavyweight titles in 1967 after refusing the US Army draft to fight in Vietnam. He wasn’t allowed to fight again until 1970.
Ali fought Joe Frazier in 1971 for the heavyweight title in a fight dubbed ‘The Fight of the Century’ as both boxers hadn’t suffered a defeat in their careers. Ali lost the fight on points.
In 1974, Ali, once again was fighting to regain his heavyweight championship against the hard hitting, current champion George Foreman. The fight was billed as the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ and was to take place in Zaire. The fight is famous for Ali’s ‘Rope-A-Dope’ technique, where he leaned on the ropes and basically took everything that Foreman could throw at him. By the eighth round, Foreman was spent and Ali KO’d him to regain his title.
Eventually, Ali lost his grip on the heavyweight title by losing to Leon Spinks in 1978 after successfully defending his belt ten times. Ali won the rematch some eight months later and became the first boxer in history to retain a heavyweight title three times.
We’ve selected Ali as our Greatest Heavyweight Boxer Of All Time because he was the man that sat at the top of the pile for so long when boxing was no doubt at its peak. Sure, he lost his titles but he won them back again – three times – and it for these reasons that we unashamedly claim him as the greatest of the greats.
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