Ranking the 70s Heavyweights

By Charles Jackson - 01/13/2024 - Comments

They are the greatest bunch to ever lace em up for the marquee division. The heavyweights of the 1970s are so worthy of admiration that longtime fans won’t hesitate to set the record straight with any casuals who show disrespect. I’ve set out to definitively rank them in a tier list.

Muhammad Ali was the recently returned ex-champion, out to reclaim his title he never lost in the ring. He had some considerable hiccups, but emerged as a historic figure in spite of the setbacks and earned EVERYONE’s respect and adulation. He’s considered the king by most and his ranking should reflect that…right?

YouTube video

Then you have Joe Frazier; Smokin’ Joe won the match some consider to be the most significant in boxing history against Ali. He won it emphatically, scoring the only knockdown in their trilogy. There are some who claim the Fight of the Century to be the best of the trilogy; champions of the Thrilla in Manila will contest. Frazier has the historical distinction of only having lost to Ali and George Foreman who are, depending on who you ask, two top 5 heavyweights of all time. No one else could dent his resume. And, yet, today there exist some who claim Frazier was overrated and shouldn’t be mentioned with the best. His ranking on this Tier List may ruffle some feathers.

You can’t talk about the era without mentioning BIG George Foreman. The master of grills today, but back then the invincible and terrifying destruction machine. Matching with Foreman was almost akin to a death-wish in the 70s, a fact he made unavoidable when he crushed Joe Frazier and Ken Norton in short time. Those two men scored definitive wins over Muhammad Ali. Foreman’s power was so legendary that it lasted deep into the Silver Age of Heavyweights (the 90s) where he reclaimed the title he lost 20 years earlier. Foreman was only defeated by Ali and Jimmy Young in the 70s, two similar styled fighters who benefited from “perfect storm conditions” and some other “shady” play depending on who you ask (conspiracists, anyone?). There’s not much arguing against Foreman winning rematches against either one of them.

Beyond the “rock-paper-scissors” of Ali-Frazier-Foreman, there were other prime-time contenders who didn’t make it easy for them. Oscar Bonavena, Joe Bugner, Ron Lyle, Earnie Shavers, Larry Holmes, and Ken Norton are amongst the fighters we’ll also be ranking. There is no F ranking as none of these men are failures. “C” is average, “B” is good, “A” is stellar, “S” is outstanding, and “Z” is one of a kind. You are also not allowed to use their accomplishments from outside of the 70s. This means no 60s for Ali and no 80s for Holmes.

Happy New Year from TheCharlesJackson, author of the Boxing Encyclopedia. Happy ranking and enjoy my ranking in the linked video!