I am not going to lie here, my original plan was to do the top-10 from 1970 up to the present day. That was until I started looking at the past twenty years and I realized what crap the heavyweight division has put out, so I altered my course and decided to limit it to the first 20-year period of my life, which happens to be 1970-1990. You know, back when being the Heavyweight Champion of the World meant something.
So here it goes. And before anybody starts bitching, I am limiting this to true heavyweight championship fights. That period in the early 1980s when John Tate and Mike Weaver were titleholders and there were multiple belt-holders in the mid-80s, well let’s just say out of the gate that from 1980-85 Larry Holmes was the true champ, and then Michael Spinks was the champ up until Mike Tyson knocked him out.
Now that we are clear let’s take a look at the top 10.
10) Joe Roman
Roman ran into a prime George Foreman and was easily dispatched in round one. Before that, he owned wins over Terry Daniels, Chuck Wepner, beat Jack O’Halloran twice and was knocked out early in his career by Jack Bodell.
9) Chuck Wepner
Wepner, or as most remember him, the “Original Rocky”, was not a terrible fighter and had some solid wins before taking the big step up to fight Muhammad Ali. He holds a decision win over Manuel Ramos, but lost by brutal stoppage to an older Sonny Liston in the ninth round. He was then beaten by a young Joe Bugner and Jerry Judge. Wepner defeated Randy Neuman in 2 out of 3 fights and then had a win against an aging Ernie Terrell. How he got a title fight against “The Greatest” is still hard to fathom, but worse fighters than Wepner got shots over the next two years and you will see that as we countdown to number 1 on this list.
Wepner’s greatest claim to fame was basically stepping on Ali’s foot and then claiming that he knocked Ali down. Ali won on a 15th round stoppage.
8) Terry Daniels
Daniels had a final record of 35-30, but most of those losses were after his attempt to take Joe Frazier’s title. Daniels’ first loss was to Tony Doyle, then a loss in 1971 to an old Floyd Patterson by unanimous decision where he was pretty much shut out does not make him look like a title contender. He has a solid decision win over a tough Manuel Ramos, but his three fights preceding his title shot were a TKO loss to a tough Jack O’Halloran and then two nondescript wins over Sonny Moore and Ted Gullick. Against Joe Frazier, the odds were so big a line was not even established for the fight! When the fight started you saw there was a good reason for no betting line as Frazier knocked Daniels down five times route to a 4th round stoppage.
7) Lucien Rodriguez
Rodriguez’ greatest claim to fame was probably going the ten-round distance with a young Michael Dokes in 1980. Other than that loss he split four fights with Alfredo Evangelista and beat Jean Pierre Coopman twice. That somehow earned him a shot in a Larry Holmes’ midday title defense on NBC Sportsworld in 1983. What ensued was one of the worst heavyweight title fights you will ever see. Rodriguez was the quintessential survivor as he grabbed, held and ran away for 12 rounds, losing in a shutout decision to Holmes.
6) Marvis Frazier
Marvis somehow got a shot at Larry holmes title by scoring decision wins over James Broad and an old Joe Bugner. I am not kidding, those two wins and the last name Frazier earned him a shot at the title. Larry Holmes wiped him out in less than a round.
Marvis was a talented fighter who should have been a cruiserweight, but his trainer/father wanted him to be a heavyweight and he just wasn’t big enough to pull it off.
5) Richard Dunn
Dunn was a domestic level heavyweight in Great Britain whose biggest competition was a 9-4 Jimmy Young and Young knocked Dunn cold. Somehow this domestic-level fighter got a shot at Muhammad Ali and it was not pretty. An old Ali knocked Dunn down a total of five times before scoring a knockout win in the fifth. The knockout would be the last of Ali’s career.
4) Jean Pierre Coopman
Coopman was stopped by Rudi Lubbers and his biggest win was a DQ win over Joe Frazier victim Terry Daniels before he got a shot at Muhammad Ali’s title. This was a horrid fight with Ali mercifully stopping Coopman in the fifth round. After the fight, Ali said beating Coopman was nothing to brag about because Coopman wasn’t a very good fighter.
3) Lorenzon Zanon
Zanon got knocked down so many times in his career his name should have been yo-yo! He actually held two wins over Alfredo Evangelista but was better known as a knockout victim for Ken Norton and an old Jerry Quarry. He got his shot at Larry Holmes in Caesar’s Palace in 1980 and to nobody’s surprise, he was knocked down three times en route to being a 6th round KO victim to Larry Holmes.
2) Scott Frank
Frank definitely got the shot against Larry Holmes because of his complexion. His biggest win was beating an old Chuck Wepner, his other claim to fame was being given a draw against Renaldo Snipes. I say given because he lost that fight against Snipes. Holmes toyed with Frank, beating him from the proverbial pillar to post and of course when the fight was stopped Frank acted like he was fine. He wasn’t and nobody has heard from him since.
1) Steffen Tangstad
Tangstad owned wins over Alfredo Evangelista, Lucien Rodriguez, and Joe Bugner. All were past their primes at the time. The Norwegian was knocked out by a 10-2-1 Anders Eklund in four and squeaked by a 7-3-2 John Westgarth before challenging (if that’s what you could call it) Michael Spinks for the heavyweight crown in September 1986. Steffen was put on ice, being dropped three times before being knocked out. Tangstad never fought again.