The Top Ten Greatest Heavyweight Champions In History

19.02.06 - By James Slater: It’s always fun to compile a top ten list. Of anything. But when it comes to boxing, I’d say our sport holds the monopoly on interest when it comes to debating the best from differing eras. Neither football, tennis or any other sport generates as much passion from its followers when speculating as to who would have been superior to who as boxing fans. Us guys, when on the subject of “dream match-ups”, can argue all day in defence of one fighter’s superiority over another.

I remember reading, years ago, in the excellent Boxing Illustrated, a feature that surmised as to what would have happened to Mike Tyson, who was then at his peak and seemed unbeatable, if he’d fought legendary heavyweights from bygone years in “dream fights”. He was fictionally let loose against greats such as; Ali, Dempsey, Louis, Marciano, Frazier and Liston. Although some of the picks angered me - for example; Bert Sugar’s magazine had Tyson KO’ing Frazier in five rounds and had “Iron Mike” TKO’ing “The Rock”, Rocky Marciano in ten - it was still enjoyable reading. And after all, it’s only someone’s opinion isn’t it?

Which brings me to the crux of this article. My personal choice, listing the ten finest heavyweight boxing champions in history. And I make clear now, the list is of heavyweight champions, not heavyweights period. Therefore you will not find the likes of Harry Wills who, without doubt a superb heavyweight, was never Champion.

A list of the greatest “Heavyweights” would almost certainly produce an entirely different set of choices. Also, I do not include Gene Tunney or Ezzard Charles, because , although both did capture heavyweight honours, I believe both men’s peak years and true talents were witnessed down at light heavyweight.

Anyway, the following are, in my opinion, the ten greatest heavyweight champions of all-time.

1. Muhammad Ali - Simply The Greatest, he fought every deserving contender in an era absolutely crammed with them. Also, earns points as the first man in history to win the title three times.

2. Jack Johnson - Way ahead of his time, he was a defensive master. Neither before or since has a heavyweight champion been so blessed in the ability of avoiding blows. Also had hurtful punching power.

3. Jack Dempsey - Revolutionised the sport with his savage fighting style. Also had an absolutely granite jaw.

4. Joe Louis - The longest reign in heavyweight history - an astonishing, never to be beaten, record 25 title defences. Pure one punch KO power, never wasted a shot.

5. Rocky Marciano - Retired unbeaten! Seemingly impossible to hurt. Also had endless stamina and vicious punching power.

6. George Foreman - The oldest heavyweight champion in history. Had freakish strength and thudding punch power. Also had more stamina in later career. Only ever stopped once, by the guy at the top of this list.

7. Larry Holmes - Vastly underrated, second only to Louis in number of title defences. Possibly possessed the finest jab in heavyweight history.

8. Sonny Liston - Had sheer brute force and power. Also a decent boxer, with a ramrod of a jab. Was at his peak in late 1950’s, an old man against Clay/Ali.

9. Joe Frazier - Owned probably the best left hook in heavyweight boxing. Also had amazing heart and an unlimited ability at taking punishment.

10. Evander Holyfield - Proved all his critics wrong when they said he wasn’t big enough. Used incredible guts and courage to defeat the huge Riddick Bowe. Also shocked the world by smashing Tyson. Finally, earns points for becoming the only four time heavyweight champ (although only twice in linear terms).

Article posted on 19.02.2006

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