Friday Fights: Top 10 Heavyweights

In this week’s edition of Friday Fights, we take a look at the top 10 heavyweight boxers of all time.

Photo by Cliff, courtesy of creativecommons.org. No changes made.

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Hello readers, and welcome to a new weekly staple from the Tennessee Journalist: Friday Fights. To begin the column, I will take a look at my personal top 10 list of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time. The heavyweight division is by far the most recognizable in boxing because it possesses numerous all-time greats and is the most widely known. In this article, I will attempt to narrow them all down into a top ten list. No UFC or mixed martial artists are included, only boxers.

10. Wladimir Klitschko – 64-4-0-(53 KO’s): The most recent in-ring competitor on the list, Wladimir checks in at No. 10. Wladimir is an imposing figure in the ring and stands 6’6″ and weighs approximately 245 pounds. This size combined with his sheer power allow him to be a wrecking machine. He has one of the highest knockout-to-fight ratios in boxing history to add to his decorated career. He won a gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympic games and had held at least a portion of the world heavyweight championship since 2006, when he lost to Tyson Fury. He won the International Boxing Federation (IBF) and International Boxing Organization (IBO) championships in 2006. He won the World Boxing Organization (WBO) championship in 2008. By the time he won the World Boxing Association (WBA) championship in 2011, he was considered to be the lineal heavyweight champion. However, the accomplishment that solidifies his spot on the list is that he is the second longest reigning heavyweight champion of all time. He was champion for nine years, seven months and seven days.

9. Jack Dempsey – 65-6-11-(51 KO’s)-1 no contest: Jack “The Manassa Mauler” Dempsey is one of the most popular fighters ever. After gaining popularity throughout his early career, Dempsey earned a title bout against Jess Willard in 1919. Despite being outsized considerably, Dempsey was able to pull off the win. On Sept. 22, 1927, nearly one year after losing his title to Gene Tunney, the two had a rematch. Tunney won again. This marked Demspey’s final professional fight, ending a career that many hold as one of the best ever.

8. Lennox Lewis – 42-2-1-(32 KO’s): Lewis was also a fairly recent competitor, retiring from the sport in 2004. The longer he has been gone, though, the more respected his accomplishments have become. Across his two reigns as world heavyweight champion, he defeated each opponent he stepped into the ring with. He avenged his only two losses against Hasim Rahman and Oliver McCall. Lewis has been credited with being one of the first “super heavyweights,” attesting to his size, speed, and skill as a boxer. He also won a gold medal at the 1988 Olympic Games and is widely considered to be the last undisputed heavyweight champion.

7. Jack Johnson – 80-13-12-(45 KO’s)-14 no contests: Decades before Jackie Robinson made history for baseball, “The Galveston Giant” became the first African-American world heavyweight champion on Dec. 26, 1908. After nearly two years of begging for a title bout, he defeated Tommy Burns to make history. Outside of the ring, Johnson was braggadocios. He often taunted his opponents and lived in excess compared to modern-day athletes. Johnson is credited with helping bring a more scientific approach to boxing.

6. Larry Holmes – 69-6-0-(44 KO’s): Dubbed “The Easton Assassin,” Holmes was one of the greatest boxers of all time, although he was often underappreciated. Holmes was a model of greatness and consistency throughout his storied career. He possessed one of the best jabs in the history of the sport, which propelled him to win his first 48 fights. He won the heavyweight championship on multiple occasions. Holmes is currently third all-time with 20 successful title defenses.

5. Joe Frazier – 32-4-1-(27 KO’s): “Smokin’ Joe” Frazier was one of the best heavyweights ever despite not having the number of fights that some others on the list do. Frazier won a gold medal at the 1964 Olympic Games and was an undisputed heavyweight champion. He is also widely known for his three fights against Muhammad Ali, including being one of only five men to defeat Ali in a bout named “Fight of the Century” in 1971. Another impressive statistic from Frazier’s career is that his only four losses came at the hands of Muhammad Ali (twice) and George Foreman (also twice).

4. George Foreman – 76-5-0-(68 KO’s): Speaking of George Foreman, he checks in at No. 4 on my list. He was one of the hardest punchers in boxing history. Foreman was a gold medalist at the 1968 Olympic Games and captured his first world heavyweight championship by knocking out Joe Frazier in just the second round of the “Sunshine Showdown” in 1972. After losing the title to Muhammad Ali at the “Rumble in the Jungle” in 1974 and losing to Jimmy Young in 1977, Foreman announced his retirement. It would not be permanent, however, and he eventually made a comeback. In 1994, Foreman became the oldest heavyweight champion in history by knocking out Michael Moorer at the age of 45. Oh, and he also makes some great grills, too.

3. Rocky Marciano – 49-0-0-(43 KO’s): Rocky Marciano is a name that cannot be avoided when speaking about the history of boxing. “The Brockton Blockbuster” was known for his ability to take a punch, his high-pressure style, and his strong right hand. His punching power allowed to him to acquire one of the highest knockout-to-fight ratios in boxing history. Marciano is also the only heavyweight to retire undefeated, an incredible feat. His career was considerably shorter than some of his counterparts, something attributed to his high intensity, pressure-based boxing style. His final fight came in September of 1955 when he successfully defended his title against Archie Moore.

2. Joe Louis – 66-3-0-(52 KO’s)-1 no contest: Joe Louis had just as much of an impact culturally as he did in the ring. Louis is often cited as the first black sporting hero in America, and he completely changed what it meant to be the heavyweight champion. Louis had an incredible blend of skill, size, and punching ability that led him to become a force to be reckoned with. He is the longest reigning champion of any weight division in boxing history after being champion for 11 years, eight months, and eight days. His reign also included a record 25 successful title defenses.

1. Muhammad Ali – 56-5-0-(37 KO’s): “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see.” Was there any doubt who would be No. 1?

Ali is one of the greatest boxers — and athletes — in the ring and outside of it. In the ring, Ali was known for his unusual speed and quickness for a heavyweight fighter his size. He also possessed significant power in his strikes, something he demonstrated when he knocked out George Foreman, the only time Foreman ever lost by KO. What makes his in-ring abilities and accomplishments even more impressive is the talent he faced in the ring. He fought — and dominated — in what many consider the greatest time period in the heavyweight division’s history, including one victory over George Foreman, two over Sonny Liston, and two over Joe Frazier. He won a gold medal at the 1960 Olympic Games and was a 3-time undisputed heavyweight champion, good for the most in boxing history.

Outside of the ring, Ali was just as, if not more, influential. He famously converted to Islam and changed his birth name, Cassius Clay. Later, he was stripped of his title and arrested for refusing to be drafted into the military, citing his religious beliefs. He was also one of the most-celebrated trash talkers in history, revolutionizing the way athletes and individuals would talk about themselves and to one another.

Well that is my list, did I get it right? Was I totally wrong? Feel free to let me know, and be sure to check back next week for the next edition of Friday Fights!

Featured image by Cliff

Edited by Cody McClure and Nathan Odom