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Top 19 Heavyweights of all time

Ranking the Top 20 Heavyweights of all time!
Publish Date: 06/20/2024
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

Everybody has differing opinions on almost everything and for boxing fans the top heavyweights of all time always spark discussions and I am sure this article will also.

Criteria

Who you beat, how long you were beating good to great fighters, where you the best of your era. Resume is big here. No, I don’t think that Jack Johnson could beat Riddick Bowe but Johnson’s resume was better than Bowes.

19) Riddick Bowe

Like Mike Tyson, Bowe was his own worst enemy, but when he was at his best, he was special. His three fights with Holyfield were one of the best trilogies in heavyweight history. In fact, the first fight with Holyfield is what gets him on this list. He was damn good that night. He was also tough, against Andrew Golota he took massive beatings and never gave up. If only his determination was as good out of the ring as it was in the ring he would rank much higher.

Video: Riddick Bowe - Heavyweight Monster

Riddick Bowe – Heavyweight Monster

18) Harry Wills

Wills holds wins over a host of top heavyweights, including Luis Firpo, “Big” Bill Tate, Kid Norfolk, Sam Langford, Billy Miske, Sam McVea, Battling Siki, and the great Joe Jeannette. He never got a shot at the title against Jack Dempsey, even though he was more than deserving.

Video: Harry Wills - Boxing's Black Panther

Harry Wills – Boxing’s Black Panther

17) Ken Norton

This man is one of the most underrated heavyweights ever. He could have easily won decisions three times over the great Ali. Styles make fights.  His war with Holmes was razor-close, and Ali and Holmes are two of the greatest heavyweights of all time. Sure Norton had issues against big punchers like Foreman, Cooney and Shavers but he was a great heavyweight.

Video: Ken Norton - Black Hercules (Highlight Reel)

Ken Norton – Black Hercules (Highlight Reel)

16) Ezzard Charles

Charles was the greatest light heavyweight that ever lived who never got a shot at the title. Charles moved up to heavyweight and owns victories over an older but still tough Joe Louis. He also defeated Jersey Joe Walcott and defended the heavyweight title numerous times. He gave Rocky Marciano all kinds of hell losing a 15 round decision to the Rock and then split Marciano’s nose open before Rocky recovered to stop Charles in the eighth round.

15) Mike Tyson

Why so low? The people listed ahead of him were mentally tougher! Tyson was a terror against inferior competition but did struggle against the likes of James Tillis and Bonecrusher Smith. His best win was against an over-the-hill blown-up light heavyweight in Michael Spinks. Tyson was defeated by Holyfield twice and then Lennox Lewis, and before you delusional Tyson fans start screaming, Tyson was past his prime. Remember one thing, Tyson was supposed to beat an over-the-hill Holyfield. In the end, Tyson’s resume does not match up to the guys listed above him. Put it like this, Norton beat Ali, Klitschko was champ for a decade, and Tunney beat Dempsey twice. Tyson was both a Monster and a myth.

Video: Mike Tyson Highlights ● Power ● Speed ● Defense ● Combinations

Mike Tyson Highlights ● Power ● Speed ● Defense ● Combinations

14) Wladimir Klitschko

Klitschko dominated the division for a decade and beat everybody. Early in his career, Wladimir was derided as a glass-chin-white hope, but by the time his career was over, Klitschko was finally getting the credit he deserved.

Klitcshko was a devastating puncher, and during his reign, almost everybody was stopped against him. Emmanuel Steward saved his career, and even though he wasn’t exciting, he got the job done.

Video: Wladimir Klitschko Highlights

Wladimir Klitschko Highlights

13) James J. Jeffries

Jeffries retired as an undefeated heavyweight champion and had wins over  James J. Corbett, Bob Fitzsimmons, Joe Choynski, and Tom Sharkey. Jeffries was an all-time great fighter and was considered that way at the time of his retirement. Unfortunately, he will most be remembered for coming back five years after retirement to fight Jack Johnson. Jeffries was a shadow of himself that day. I will make the case that a prime Jeffries may have beaten Jack Johnson.

Video: The Greats: James J. Jeffries

The Greats: James J. Jeffries

12) Jack Johnson

There are so many false myths about Johnson that people believe that are ridiculous. One thing that is not a myth is the fact that Johnson was a great fighter. Johnson beat the likes of Sam Langford, Tommy Burns, James J. Jeffries, Stanley Ketchel, Jim Flynn, Joe Jeannette, and Sam McVea. He eventually would lose his title after being knocked out by Jess Willard. A lot of people think the fight was fixed. It wasn’t.

Johnson’s career is often glorified when the truth of what kind of man he was was a different story. The Pardon Jack johnson received was not deserved.

Video: The Legendary Jack Johnson

The Legendary Jack Johnson

11) Vitali Klitschko

Why Vitali here and not Wladimir? That’s easy you can’t question Vitali’s chin! His greatest win may have been his loss in a bloody battle with the great Lennox Lewis. Injuries shortened the number of title defenses Klitschko would have but anybody on this list would have trouble in a fight against Vitali.

Video: VITALI KLITSCHKO || Highlights/Knockouts

VITALI KLITSCHKO || Highlights/Knockouts

10) Jack Dempsey

Most heavyweights before Dempsey were straight-up fighters, Dempsey was different with his bobbing and weaving attack. He was a relentless body puncher who would cut you down to size.

Dempsey was one of the most recognizable men in the World in the 1920s and his fights were major events. The Legend maybe greater than the fighter, but Dempsey was a great heavyweight.

Video: Jack Dempsey - Brutal Destruction

Jack Dempsey – Brutal Destruction

9) Sonny Liston

Liston had a great jab and was a menacing personality in the ring. He destroyed Floyd Patterson in the first round not once, but twice. Liston was a 7-1 favorite over Ali but of course, nobody foresaw Ali someday being the greatest of all time. Liston also knocked out Cleveland Williams, Nino Valdes, Roy Harris, Zora Folley, and Eddie Machen.

Video: Sonny Liston Knockouts / Highlights HD

Sonny Liston Knockouts / Highlights HD

8) Evander Holyfield

Holyfield was the greatest cruiserweight in boxing history and when he moved up to heavyweight most thought it would be a lost cause with a man named Mike Tyson sitting on the throne. Tyson of course was upset by Douglas who Holyfield emphatically wiped the floor in three rounds to win the title. Holyfield then stood toe-to-toe and beat George Foreman. All in all, Holyfield always gave fans their money’s worth and would go on to beat Tyson twice and Bowe once.

Video: Evander Holyfield Career Highlights

Evander Holyfield Career Highlights

7) Joe Frazier

Frazier’s only losses were to Ali and Foreman twice each, but he did win the first fight with Ali and on that night in March he could have beaten anybody who ever fought, that night he was special. He owns wins over Jimmy Ellis, Buster Mathis, Jerry Quarry, Joe Bugner, Oscar Bonavena to name a few.

Video: Smokin Joe Frazier HD

Smokin Joe Frazier HD

6) George Foreman

Foreman was a wrecking machine in the 1970s as he blew through the heavyweight division. He destroyed both Joe Frazier and Ken Norton in two rounds each and would later beat Ron Lyle in an all-time classic slugfest. Foreman retired for a decade after losing to Jimmy Young. While most thought Foreman’s comeback was a joke, he proved it wasn’t by giving a prime Evander Holyfield all he wanted. Finally, at the age of 45, he knocked out Michael Moorer to regain the title he had lost to Ali twenty years before.

Video: George Foreman - In His Prime

George Foreman – In His Prime

5) Lennox Lewis

Lewis is at number six because the two losses to Rahman and McCall make it hard to put him over the guys in the top five. But Lewis was a legend and defeated an older version of Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson. He beat and dominated a prime David Tua and at the end of his career won an epic war with Vitali Klitschko.

Video: The Destructive Power Of Lennox Lewis

The Destructive Power Of Lennox Lewis

4) Larry Holmes

Holmes won the title by beating Ken Norton in one of the greatest heavyweight title fights of all time. He then defended that title over an 8-year span. Holmes had one of the greatest jabs in history and was one of the toughest men in boxing history. He was knocked down by Earnie Shavers and looked like he was about to lose his title. Holmes got up and stopped Shavers in the 11th round. It is true that he did not fight guys like Page, Coetzee, and Dokes but does anybody think he really losses to any of these fighters. None of those guys had the heart to dethrone Holmes.

Video: Larry Holmes - Legendary Jab

Larry Holmes – Legendary Jab

3) Rocky Marciano

I know this will piss the younger generation off. Marciano never lost and beat Jersey Joe Walcott twice. Yes, I know Walcott was 38-years-old, but that was when Walcott was at his best. He beat the great Ezzard Charles twice, and Charles was one of the greatest fighters of all time. His win over Joe Louis is always discounted, but Louis was favored over Marciano and was ranked number one. “The Brown Bomber” had beaten multiple top ten contenders over the previous two years. Marciano fought all of the deserving contenders of his time and deserves more respect than what he gets.

Video: Rocky Marciano Was A Savage

Rocky Marciano Was A Savage

2) Joe Louis

Louis was the champion for almost 12 years and defended his title 25 times. The Brown Bomber scored maybe the greatest win any boxer ever got with his rematch win over Max Schmeling.

Video: Joe Louis - Punching Perfection

Joe Louis – Punching Perfection

1) Muhammad Ali

Nobody comes close to fighting Ali’s quality of competition during his reign. Wins over Liston, Frazier, Foreman, and Norton are pretty special but throw in the Quarry, Patterson, Bonavena, Lyle, Shavers, Folley, Ellis, and Ali is number one.

Video: Muhammad Ali Highlights - The Greatest

Muhammad Ali Highlights – The Greatest

———–

 

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