Today, our job is to select the greatest living heavyweights, and that list is not easy to compile, especially the top four. Where do you rank the Klitschkos who were dominant, but the competition was questionable? What about Tyson Fury? Has he done enough to make the list?
Fury has knocked out Deontay Wilder twice and beaten Wladimir Klitschko, he has not earned his place all-time yet, but a win over Usyk and Joshua could change that. Fury is a talented fighter with some pop in his punch. The question is the competition worthy of putting him higher on this list? It’s not! Hell, he’s lucky to even be on this list.
Many considered Bowe an underachiever due to a lack of long-term discipline and desire. Yet he managed two titles during his Hall-of-Fam career despite this criticism, with victories against Evander Holyfield as his primary victory and beating Pinklon Thomas, Tyrell Biggs, Tony Tubbs, Bruce Seldon, Larry Donald, and Michael Dokes as notable wins.
“Iron Mike” became the reigning sensation in boxing since Muhammad Ali at his peak, as he decimated every opponent before becoming the youngest-ever champion of heavyweight boxing at 20. He earned that honor by knocking out Trevor Berbick in 1986 and proceeding to beat up on other big men including Larry Holmes and Michael Spinks (he knocked them both out) before eventually running into problems with law enforcement. He regained the title by beating a frightened Frank Bruno in 1996, he got destroyed twice by Evander Holyfield and his career was all but done by then.
Vitali would rank much higher if he could have stayed healthy and would rank above his brother.
Vitali won his first boxing title in 1999 by stopping Herbie Hide in two rounds and successfully defending it two times before losing to Chris Byrd due to an injured shoulder. Vitali tried unsuccessfully to dethrone Lennix Lewis but received a cut, which ended up stopping the fight in Lewis favor. He won a vacant title when he stopped Corrie Sanders two fights later. After that, he successfully defended it nine times before retiring as champion and becoming mayor of Kiev, Ukraine.
Klitschko stands as one of the greatest heavyweight champions ever. “Dr Steelhammer” had some early and midway problems during his career – inexplicably getting knocked out by Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster – before finding his groove and dominating his division for over a decade with his long jab, powerful right hand and impressive ring acumen. He wasn’t fighting in an era replete with quality heavyweights. Still, he proved himself more than worthy of becoming heavyweight champion twice, recording 23 successful title defenses over two reigns – second only to Joe Louis in the history of the sport – making him second in all-time total title defenses over an unprecedented 12-year reign (he lost in two fights; unanimous decision and TKO 11 victory by Tyson Fury and then Anthony Joshua respectively in his final fights – leaving an indelible mark behind.
Holyfield started his pro career as a Cruiserweight and, in his twelfth fight beat Dwight Muhammad Qawi to win that title, he would clean out the Cruiserweight division and then set his sights much higher.
He followed that success in the heavyweight division, where he would become a four-time titleholder, he won the title by destroying Buster Douglas and then defended against the like of George Foreman, Larry Holmes, and Bert Cooper before losing the title in a classic fight against Riddick Bowe. He regained the title in the rematch with Bowe, but then would lose the title to Michael Moorer.
He would go on to dominate Mike Tyson twice, getting revenge on Moorer before his skills started to erode.
He was an incredible force of nature: 1968 Olympic gold medalist George Foreman had two pro careers separated by ten years, both ending as heavyweight champion. The earlier version of Foreman was an imposing, brooding slugger who dismantled anyone who stood in his path; starting 40-0 (37 knockouts). He defeated Joe Frazier with a second-round knockout to claim the belt and Ken Norton by 2nd rd KO, Foreman was seemingly unbeatable until Muhammad Ali stopped him in eight rounds. Continued fighting until 1977, when he retired for ministerial pursuits. Returning to boxing in 1987 and fighting himself back into shape, he defeated Michael Moorer at 45 on an unforgettable evening to regain the championship 20 years after relinquishing it to Ali.
As a professional boxer, the 1988 Olympic Champion showed exceptional all-around skill, unfaltering confidence in himself and an unstoppable right hand that left none standing against him along his journey to success. He only faltered twice along the way, but ended up beating every man he ever faced. Lewis enjoyed three reigns as heavyweight champion following stunning knockout losses to Oliver McCall (1994) and Hasim Rahim (2001) that he eventually avenged. He went 1-0-1 against fellow Hall-of-Famer Evander Holyfield, with most believing he deserved to take home victory from their draw. Mike Tyson was defeated in eight rounds in their most-notable fight and retired shortly after that on an impressive note, stopping Vitali Klitschko bloodied to retire shortly after that as Europe’s greatest heavyweight ever.
“The Easton Assassin” narrowly edged out fellow Hall-of-Famer Ken Norton to win the heavyweight championship in June 1978. He held onto it until Michael Spinks dethroned him via a split decision in September 1985. Fighting behind what many have called history’s greatest jab, His single, uncontested championship reign of seven years and three months ranks third only behind Joe Louis (11 years plus) and Wladimir Klitschko (9 years plus). Holmes held 20 victories in title fights – which is tied for fourth all-time – ranking No. 4. While Holmes may not boast many Hall-of-Famer wins, he knocked off some quality fighters such as Norton, Mike Weaver, Earnie Shavers twice, Ali, Gerry Cooney Tim Witherspoon Ray Mercer. He got dropped as Lewis did on two separate occasions by Renaldo Snipes and Earnie Shavers, but unlike lewis he got off the canvas and won both fights.
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