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Top 10 Heavyweight Boxers of All Time

Updated on April 20, 2020

Introduction to the Heavyweight Greats

These rankings are not going to be based on who I think would win against who? I would pick Lennox Lewis to beat Joe Louis but I rank Joe Louis ahead of Lennox because these rankings are based on accomplishments, longevity at or near the top and quality of opposition instead of opinions alone. One more thing: Active prizefighters are not included since their career is not complete yet.

Mike Tyson

Framed Photo I have at home of Iron Mike
Framed Photo I have at home of Iron Mike

5 Runner Ups

1. Jack Dempsey: The Manassa Mauler brawled his way to a 54-6-8 mark with 44 wins coming before the final bell. Dempsey won the heavyweight crown by knocking out Jess Willard with a savage attack. Dempsey fought and defeated Jack Sharkey, Angel Firpo, Gunboat Smith, Battling Levinsky and Georges Carpentier during his destructive run. While it is true that Dempsey did not possess great footwork and his jab was average, he made up for those shortcomings and his defensive issues by delivering nonstop pressure and knockout power in both hands. I have always enjoyed watching videos of his bouts because he was swinging for the fences as soon as the bell rang.

Strengths: Jack Dempsey had power in both hands, a no fear pressure style and heart.

Weaknesses: Poor defense, could be out boxed by opponents with a chin and boxing skills.

2. Gene Tunney: The Fighting Marine finished his fighting career with a near flawless resume that stands at 65-1-1 with 48 knockouts. A master boxer who had slick footwork and an outstanding stick. Tunney knew distance and used it with counter punching and jabs and footwork to outbox his foes. If forced to battle on the inside, Tunney could bang away their also especially with a nice body attack that he featured in his arsenal. Nice defense with blocking and slipping shots. Tunney beat Jack Dempsey for the heavyweight crown and beat him again in the rematch. He also defended his title by beating top contender Tom Heeney. I've always respected his poise and skills in the ring.

Strengths: Tunney had an excellent jab, great footwork, solid defensive skills and descent power as well.

Weaknesses: Tunney was not very good at fighting going forward and even though he could fight on the inside with body shots he did not excel boxing in that manner.

3. Wladimir Klitschko: Dr. SteelHammer compiled an impressive record which reads: 64-5 with 53 knockout victories. Klitschko won a gold medal in the 1996 Olympic games and turned pro, winning the heavyweight championship twice. His best wins came over the likes of Chris Byrd, Sam Peter, Ray Mercer, Lamon Brewster, David Haye and Alexander Povetkin. Wladimir Klitschko had a shaky chin but he had an excellent jab and an accurate, powerful right hand to keep opponents at bay. Also, even though his movement was a bit robotic, Klitschko could use his footwork to create a buffer zone really well. To be honest, I never really was a big fan because of his jab and hold style but he was effective.

Strengths: Klitschko had power especially in his right and an accurate, hard jab. He had a good understanding of distance.

Weaknesses: Weak chin, Lack of competition and early in his career, poor stamina.

4. Vitali Klitschko: Dr Ironfist stood tall above most of his opponents and his record was a fantastic 45-2 with 41 wins coming early. klitschko had a solid amateur career and then turned pro. He has an excellent chin and he was a master of distance. Klitschko could win bouts with his jab and movement but he also used a style with his hands down sometimes and could land very accurately with the jab and right hand. Klitschko held world titles three times and beat among others: Herbie Hide, Sam Peter, Corrie Sanders, Shannon Briggs, Dereck Chisora and Tomasz Adamek. I liked Vitali okay but he never really beat anyone good enough to get my blood boiling but the Lewis loss proved his mettle.

Strengths: Excellent chin, accurate puncher with the jab and straight right hand.

Weaknesses: Somewhat mechanical with his style and like his brother, lack of solid foes on his resume.

5. Sonny Liston: Charles Sonny Liston retired with a mark reading 50-4 with 39 knockouts. Liston gets a bad rap because people think of him as the boxer Muhammad Ali beat twice. Sonny Liston had a long reach of 84 inches and he possessed an excellent jab. Liston had devastating power in his jab, left hook and his right hand as well. Liston starched Floyd Patterson in one round for the crown and knocked him flat in one round again in the return bout. Liston also beat Zora Folley, Cleveland Williams, Eddie Machen, Willi Besmanoff and Roy Harris. I liked Sonny Liston but he was definitely a front runner.

Strengths: A powerful jab and devastating punching power with both fists.

Weaknesses: could be out boxed and he was a front runner who would fold once the going got to tough.

Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson ruled the heavyweight division from 1908-1915.
Jack Johnson ruled the heavyweight division from 1908-1915.

Muhammad Ali

G.O.A.T.

Top 10 Heavyweights in Boxing History

1. Muhammad Ali: The Greatest had a record of 56-5 with 37 knockouts. After winning a gold medal in the 1960 Olympic games, Ali went on to win the heavyweight title 3 times. He beat hall of fame boxers and top notch contenders during the 60s and 70s including: Joe Frazier twice, Ken Norton twice, George Foreman, Sonny Liston, Floyd Patterson, Jimmy Ellis, Ron Lyle and Earnie Shavers among many more. Ali had speed, reflexes, amazing footwork, a great jab, a terrific chin and his heart and will has been proven. Another thing that made Ali so great was his unbelievable confidence.

Strengths: Great chin, reflexes, jab, speed, accuracy, heart, stamina and outstanding footwork.

Weaknesses: Not a big puncher

2. Joe Louis: The Brown Bomber compiled a record of 66 wins, 3 losses with 52 knockouts to his credit. Louis holds the record for the most consecutive title defenses with 25. He also holds the record for length of a reign. Louis held the title from 1937 to 1949 which is a 11 year and 10 month reign. He meet and beat Jersey Joe walcott, Billy Conn, Max Schmeling, Max Baer and Jack Sharkey just to name a few. Louis had slow footwork but he is a terrific puncher with both hands. He had great accuracy, power and he threw excellent combinations and they were very short hooks.

Strengths: Power, accuracy, heart, skills on offense

Weaknesses: Slow feet, average chin

3. Jack Johnson: The Galveston Giant finished his career with a mark reading: 56-11-8 with 35 stoppage wins. Johnson was the first African American heavyweight king and he ruled from 1908-1915. Known for his defensive prowess which consisted of feints, slipping, footwork and blocking shots. Johnson also had power and his jab could keep opponents at bay most of the time. His wins included top names of the era like Sam Langford, Joe Jeannette, Bob Fitzsimmons, Tommy Burns, Stanley Ketchel and James J. Jeffries.

Strengths: Defense, boxing skills, footwork and confidence

Weaknesses: sometimes loses focus

4. George Foreman: Big George has a tally reading: 76-5 with 68 knockouts. Foreman won a gold medal in the 1968 Olympics and his career took off. Foreman is known as one of the hardest punching boxers in the history of the sport. He has bombs in both hands and an excellent jab but his footwork is sloppy. Foreman has shown a great chin. This two time heavyweight champ won the title from Joe Frazier in 1973 and 20 plus years later he won it for a second time. 20 years, incredible! Foreman beat Joe Frazier twice, Ken Norton, Jerry Quarry, Michael Moorer and Gerry Cooney among lots more top contenders.

Strengths: One of the hardest punchers ever, solid jab, great chin and heart

Weaknesses: Slow footwork

5. Evander Holyfield: The Real Deal retired sporting a record reading: 44-10-2 with 29 knockout victories. Holyfield won a bronze medal in the Olympics and then proceeded to become the best cruiserweight boxer ever. As a heavyweight, Holyfield became the first and only 4 time heavyweight champion in history. He is a very underrated boxer who had an outstanding chin, great stamina and his jab and left hook were excellent. His heart and will is Holyfield's best in ring qualities, however. Among his victims are Mike Tyson twice, Riddick Bowe, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Ray Mercer and Michael Moorer.

Strengths: Heart, will, Speed, chin, boxing skills, footwork and stamina.

Weaknesses: Average power, brawls when he should stick to the game plan.


6. Lennox Lewis: The Lion retired with a resume that stands at 41-2-1 with 32 big k.o. wins. Lewis won a gold medal by knocking out Riddick Bowe in the 1988 Olympics. Lewis is a three time heavyweight champion who is known for his great jab, ring smarts and deadly right hand. Even though he had a sometimes shaky chin, he showed his heart in wins over Ray Mercer and Vitali Klitschko. Lennox Lewis also has victories over the likes of Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, David Tua, Shannon Briggs and Razor Rudduck.

Strengths: Jab, power, size and overall boxing skills.

Weaknesses: Average chin and he can be clumsy at times even though his footwork was still on point.

7. Rocky Marciano: The Brockton Blockbuster retired as undefeated champion with a blemish free mark of 49-0 with 43 knockouts. While it is true that Marciano had poor footwork and he was somewhat crude but that is only part of the story. He had K.O. power in both fists and a great chin. The stamina he showed in his bouts was amazing and his ability to pressure his opponents without pause is hard to match. Marciano knocked out Jersey Joe Walcott for the title and knocked him out in one round in a title defense rematch. Marciano also beat Ezzard Charles twice, Joe Louis, Roland LaStarza and Archie Moore.

Strengths: Rocky had power in both of his hands, heart, a solid chin and his pressure style was second to none.

Weaknesses: very short and his arms were really short as well. Easy to land punches on with his weak defense.

8. Larry Holmes: The Easton Assassin left the sport with a mark that stands at 69-6 with 44 wins coming inside the distance. Like Evander Holyfield, Holmes is underrated by many. He may have started off under the radar being a sparring partner for Muhammad Ali but he learned the trade. Holmes has, what many consider, the best jab in heavyweight history. He had a beautiful right hand an uppercut as well. Holmes did not have a steel chin but he had heart. Holmes won the championship from Kenny Norton and went on to defend the title 20 times. Holmes beat Gerry Cooney, Earnie Shavers, Ray Mercer, Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks during his career. Many feel he believe he beat Michael Spinks in at least one of their fights.

Strengths: Holmes had one of the best jabs in history and his right hand and uppercut were nice too. Holmes had heart.

Weaknesses: Average power, lack of enough quality opponents and slightly weak whiskers.

9. Joe Frazier: Smokin' Joe ended his pro career with a record of 32-4-1 with 27 stoppage wins. Frazier brought home gold during the 1964 Olympics and began his career without much fanfare which is baffling. Smokin' Joe was somewhat similar to Marciano with the constant pressure, great stamina and knockout power. However, Frazier used his left hook, instead of the right, to do most of the damage. And man did he have heart! Frazier tasted the canvas over and over with Foreman and still kept rising. Joe Frazier fought in the golden era of heavyweights and fought them all beating Muhammad Ali, Jimmy Ellis, Bob Foster, Jerry Quarry, Oscar Bonavena and Buster Mathis.

Strengths: Crushing power in the left hook, will power and a relentless pressure style.

Weaknesses: shaky chin and because of his short stature and short reach, Frazier could be lose rounds with a stiff jab and footwork presented to him.

10. Mike Tyson: Iron Mike finished his prizefighting career with 50 wins, 6 losses and he stopped 44 of his victims. Tyson is the youngest heavyweight champion ever, winning the wbc title at 20 years of age. Tyson unified a fractured division with speed, power in both hands, intimidation and a nice peek a boo defense. Tyson regained the title later in his career. For all of his flaws, Iron Mike had an iron chin and he could rip combinations to head and body from all angles. On his best days, Tyson could make you miss and make you pay like nobody in the game. Tyson knocked out the then undefeated lineal heavyweight champion Michael Spinks in 91 seconds. Mike Tyson crushed Larry Holmes in four rounds. Tyson's other victims include Razor Rudduck twice, Andrew Golota, Tony Tucker and Frank Bruno.

Strengths: Brutal power, great chin, excellent head movement, fast hands.

Weaknesses: Could be out boxed, he was a short heavyweight and he would lose concentration when things were going south.


Muhammad Ali Collectors Edition

THE MEDIA SOURCE PRESENTS, ALI 50th ANNIVERSARY EDITION (BEYOND THE ROPES)
THE MEDIA SOURCE PRESENTS, ALI 50th ANNIVERSARY EDITION (BEYOND THE ROPES)
This is a magazine I personally have listed, a great collectors item to add to your collection.
 

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Holyfield VS Tyson

The original bout was suppose to take place in 1991, like this poster shows. The fight did not take place until 1996.
The original bout was suppose to take place in 1991, like this poster shows. The fight did not take place until 1996.

Let's Get Ready to Ramble

I started watching boxing in 1988. The very first boxing match I watched was Mike Tyson vs. Michael Spinks and I was hooked as a 10 year old. But then I discovered Evander Holyfield and fell in love with the sport. So I guess Holy and Tyson are not only my personal favorite heavyweights ever but they are among my top fighters regardless of the weight division. Being from Alabama, my current favorite heavyweight has to be Deontay Wilder but i have a feeling Daniel Dubois is going to eventually reach the pinnacle.

Looking back to the 1990s i can see why it is thought of as the best era along with the 1970s for boxing. It was thrilling to watch Holyfield, Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Ray Mercer, Larry Holmes, George Foreman, Riddick Bowe, Tommy Morrison and even Micheal Moorer battling it out for pride and money.

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© 2020 Joseph Marshall

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