The 10 Greatest Heavyweight Boxers Of All Time, And Where Does Fury Stand Amongst The Greats
This week we prep for Tyson Fury’s debut in 2022 as he gives Dillian Whyte his long-awaited WBC heavyweightt world title fight, Saturday, April 23 at London’s Wembley Stadium connected by EE, broadcast live on Pay-Per-View in the U.S.
Let’s get ready by looking at who ITRBoxing.com thinks are the greatest heavyweights of the past.
01) Muhammad Ali
Accomplishments: With Ali it isn’t just the in-ring action, Ali stood behind the virtue of not going to fight in a war for United States, when he felt black people didn’t get treated fairly to begin with. Ali stood on his principles, many of which are now very conservative in hindsight, but Ali did something modern fighters rarely do now – Ali fought for legacy, and empowerment of his people. Ali was a symbol of hope and courage. Ali made mistakes, but the excitement he brought in fights with Joe Frazier, Sonny Liston and George Foreman are nearly second-to-none.
Ali in his era, must have been like what it felt like watching Roy Jones Jr. for the first time – something special.
Title Wins: Sonny Liston (WBA, NYSAC & WBC heavyweight title), Ernie Terrell (WBA heavyweight title), George Foreman (WBA & WBC heavyweight title), and Leon Spinks (WBA heavyweight title).
Criticism: Ali never kept his hands up, defied the rules, and broke them again. Ali relied upon reflexes and timing, and when he aged it caught up with him, not unlike Roy Jones Jr.
02) Joe Louis
Accomplishment: The most fundamentally sound heavyweight ever, and who has the longest consecutive title fight streak in the history of the sport at 25. Lewis was the opposite of fighters today, he fought for a nation and pride, and people loved him for it. A true American hero, and one of the best counter punchers ever.
Title Wins: Jim Braddock (one belt heavyweight champion, held the belt for 12-years).
Criticism: Lewis had to leverage political capital to get his world title shot, as racism was high after the Jack Johnson era, and some didn’t like the way Lewis went about like a politician to get his shot at a world title.
03) Jack Johnson
Accomplishment: The greatest heavyweight of his era, who suffered a ton of racial prejudice, in fact comic books were made in which Superman beat up Jack Johnson, if you wanted to understand how much a villain Johnson was portrayed to be. A big man, who made a career defeating white heavyweight who tried to fight him in America, not long after slavery had been abolished. Johnson’s skills don’t translate to the modern era, but the groundwork he laid should be remembered. Johnson truly defined the odds in his times.
Title Wins: Tommy Burns (one belt heavyweight world champion for seven years straight).
Criticism: You can’t compare Johnson to any modern boxer, because he was a pioneer who was learning what to do, and how to be effective, but Johnson was the best in the early days of the sport, and should be remembered.
04) Tyson Fury
Accomplishments: The two biggest world title wins as Fury was the first person to break Klitschko’s dominant world title heavyweight defense streak, as Anthony Joshua would fight him years later, and then defeat Deontay Wilder, possibly the biggest puncher in boxing history, in Wilder’s home turf of the United States in two-out-of-three fights, one being a draw that most thought Fury won. Fury is the boxing video game cheat code, a six-foot, nine-inch boxer-puncher, who moves faster than most big men, can box, and is nasty.
Title Wins: Wladimir Klitschko (WBO, WBA and IBF heavyweight), and Deontay Wilder (WBC heavyweight)
Fury is 4-0-1, 3 KOs in world title fights.
Criticism: The lack of world title defenses. Fury has a habit so far of winning a title not defending it as well some can say his career isn’t as historic as fellow great heavyweights.
05) Lennox Lewis
Accomplishments: The greatest modern heavyweight not named Tyson Fury, Lennox Lewis had a great jab, and was able to break opponents down through a methodical assault. Lewis often gets forgotten, how good he was – but when you’re talking great heavyweight you better mention his name.
Titles Won: Donovan Ruddock (WBC heavyweight), Oliver McCall (WBC heavyweight), Evander Holyfield (WBA & IBF heavyweight), and Hasim Rahman (WBC & IBF heavyweight)
Lewis was 15-2-1, with 10 KOs in world title fights.
Criticism: The loss to Hasim Rahman, and Oliver McCall will always be used as example to detract from Lewis. Lewis in his losses was stopped which was a contrast to his sheer domiance in other bouts.
06) Evander Holyfield
Accomplishment: The greatest cruiserweight ever, or second best if you think Usyk is the best, who moved up and became a boxing icon with his fights with Mike Tyson. Holyfield saved the prime of his career for Tyson, but never had much more after that – as once he had two wins over Tyson, it felt like Holyfield was a bit more at peace with his career.
Titles Won: Dwight Qawi (WBA cruiserweight), Ricky Parkey (IBF cruiserweight), Carlos DeLeon (WBC cruiserweight), “Buster” Douglas (WBC, IBF and WBA heavyweight), Riddick Bowe (WBA and IBF heavyweight), Mike Tyson (WBA heavyweight), Michael Moorer (IBF heavyweight), and John Ruiz (WBO heavyweight).
Criticism: Holyfield was viewed as a dirty fighter, from headbutting, to allegations around taking illegal substances prior to the fight. Holyfield was viewed as a win at all costs fighter, a contrast to the absolute kind person he is in real-life.
07) Mike Tyson
Accomplishment: The most exciting heavyweight boxer ever, who inspired a generation of fight fans to want to be like him. Tyson wasn’t just a boxer, he became a universal symbol of strength and toughness. Using the word, Tyson almost always would put fear into someone’s heart. One of the best in his prime when Cus D’Amato was alive.
Titles Won: Trevor Berbick (WBC heavyweight), James Smith (WBA heavyweight), Tony Tucker (IBF heavyweight), Frank Bruno (WBC heavyweight), and Bruce Seldon (WBA heavyweight).
Criticism: People fault the opponents he faced, and view his success based on matchmaking. Personally – I think that is rubbish.
08) Larry Holmes
Accomplishment: The greatest jab in boxing, and some of the most underrated movement ever in the sport of boxing. Holmes was a master of his craft, but never really caught on with the general public, as it wasn’t flashy, it was effective. Often gets forgotten, but in his prime and honestly after his prime Holmes was a legend.
Titles Won: Ken Norton (WBC heavyweight world champion), and James Smith (IBF heavyweight champion).
Criticism: Always complained. Holmes was the king of telling you he never got enough credit, and you know who fans don’t like talking about, the guy who says you don’t like him enough.
09) George Foreman
Accomplishment: The most fearsome power puncher to ever become a world champion. You can maybe say a fighter or two hits harder, but none made it to a world title and hit as hard as Foreman. He was the scariest person I had ever seen punch someone when I watched him for the first time. Foreman was the closest thing to a modern Jack Johnson.
Titles Won: Olympic Gold Medalist – super heavyweight, Joe Frazier (WBA & WBC heavyweight world champion), and Michael Moorer (WBA and IBF heavyweight)
Criticism: His long absence from the sport, after the Ali fight, Foreman left the sport, and reinvented himself. Many felt Foreman had mental issues, whereas if he didn’t get his way in the ring, he simply couldn’t handle it. Some questioned his mental toughness.
10) Joe Frazier
Accomplishment: One of the greatest boxers to ever come out of Philly, and it is either him or Bernard Hopkins, are viewed as the best to ever do it for the city. Frazier had a left hook of legend, one that was good enough to give the great Ali fits, so that should tell you something.
Titles Won: Olympic Gold Medal, Buster Mathis (NYSAC heavyweight), Jimmy Ellis (WBA and WBC heavyweight), and Bob Foster (Ring belt).
Frazier ended his career with a world title record of 10-2, with 8 KOs
Criticism: Quite possibly the slowest starter in boxing history, and it cost him in some of his biggest fights.
Rocky Maricano, Riddick Bowe, Jersey Joe Walcott, Floyd Patterson, Wladimir Klitschko, Ken Norton, Chris Byrd, Archie Moore, and Ron Lyle