This question: 'who is the greatest heavyweight of all time?' has long been debated, but it's so open to opinion that no answer can be stated as fact.
I intend to give my opinion on who I personally rate as the best heavyweight ever and respect that others will disagree.
There is something magical about watching good heavyweight boxing that cannot be replicated by any other weight division. The thought of two big men standing toe-to-toe and trading huge blows captures the imagination like no other.
Perhaps I am slightly biased in being a fairly big man myself but heavyweights are the fighters who excite me the most. Now the best debate in boxing begins.
Muhammad Ali has got to be the most famous boxer to have ever lived. A hugely charismatic man and brilliant boxer combined to make a true super-star like no ever boxer seen before or to probably ever exist.
Ali was controversial, brash and used to frustrate his opponents both in and out of the ring with his constant bad-mouthing. He was great for the sport raising its popularity and is the talisman of the sport. When you think of boxing Ali comes to mind straight-away.
With a record of 56 wins and five losses, Ali has a very impressive statistical record. With wins against the likes of Henry Cooper, Floyd Paterson, Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier and George Foreman he is a true great of the sport. He had terrific speed and was technically very good. He was tactically brilliant as shown by his sticking to the ropes against Foreman and waiting for Foreman to get tired.
Ali was an idol of so many people across the world and is probably the most famous sportsman to have ever lived. He was also very political which harmed his boxing career at one stage when he refused to go to the Vietnam war. Ali was banned for boxing for a few years as a result which no doubt would have had a big impact on the rest of his career.
Ali was an inspirational speaker who came up with so many brilliant sound-bites and rhymes such as, ‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,’ and ‘Last night I had a dream, When I got to Africa, I had one hell of a rumble. I had to beat Tarzan’s behind first, For claiming to be King of the Jungle. For this fight, I’ve wrestled with alligators, I’ve tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning And throw thunder in jail. You know I’m bad. just last week, I murdered a rock, Injured a stone, Hospitalised a brick. I’m so mean, I make medicine sick. I’m so fast, man, I can run through a hurricane and don’t get wet. When George Foreman meets me, He’ll pay his debt. I can drown the drink of water, and kill a dead tree. Wait till you see Muhammad Ali.’
There is no doubt that Ali is one of the greatest ever heavyweights with a combination of speed, power, technical ability and boxing intelligence that made him an incredible boxer.
Mike Tyson is perhaps the most ferocious and controversial boxer in this debate. He possessed truly phenomenal power and technique. He was a small heavyweight standing at only 5ft 10in but had much taller men shaking in their boots just at the sight of him.
Tyson was a beast of a man with a stocky physique and was hugely muscly. He was meticulous in his preparation when young and was in my opinion unstoppable in his prime. Having retired with a record of 50 wins, six losses and two no contests he also boasts an impressive record.
The baddest man on the planet, as he labelled himself, is a former undisputed heavyweight world champion and the youngest ever heavyweight world champion aged just 20 years, four months, and 22 days old.
An example of Tyson’s unparalleled power is shown by him knocking out all 19 of his first opponents with 12 coming in the first round. He was an extremely exciting boxer who wasn’t scared of anyone and destroyed opponents like no other boxer I have seen. The damage he could inflict is just incredible and scared me just thinking about it.
As mentioned previously Tyson continually made history and was the first heavyweight to hold the WBA, WBC and IBF titles all at the same time. He was an incredible specimen of a man and truly a scary man.
Sadly Mike was erratic out of the ring and was always getting himself into trouble. He was brought up in rough circumstances and had to be violent to look after himself. He also served three years in prison for rape in 1992 and many say he was never the same after this. Up to then his record was 41-1. This is just remarkable for a heavyweight fighting in a great era.
For me Mike Tyson is a serious contender to be the best heavyweight of all time in his prime.
Lennox is unique in ending his career with a clean slate. Upon retirement, his record stood at 41 wins, two losses and one draw. He holds victories against Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Vitali Klitschko, and fellow British fighter Frank Bruno.
Tyson was a ferocious fighter and character, so for Lennox to hold a victory over him shows what a great fighter he was. There is however complaints that this fight took place a few years too late and that Tyson was past his prime by the time they fought. Despite this to have beaten such men is an incredible achievement and solidifies Lewis as a great of the sport.
He was trained by the late, great Emanuel Steward who transformed him into a technical fighter who looked to dominate with his jab. He is an iconic British fighter and the last Undisputed Heavyweight World Champion. Lennox had an incredible career and has recently got involved with passing on his knowledge and vast extensive experience to current promising heavyweight David Price. Lennox is the talisman of British Heavyweight boxers and any up and coming British heavyweight is compared to him. This is daunting for them as everyone loves a great heavyweight.
Lewis was a technically very good heavyweight who had a great jab and right hand. He was also able to take a punch brilliantly as shown in his last fight against Vitali Klitschko. By many he is regarded as the last great heavyweight.
Holyfield is a former undisputed Cruiserweight and heavyweight world champion. This is an incredible achievement and surely cements him as not only one of the greats of heavyweight boxing but as one of the greats of boxing as a whole. Many regard him as the best ever cruiserweight but that is not the debate here.
Hoyfield has a record of 44 wins 10 losses, two draws and one no contest. This record has taken a bit of a hammering in the last decade with Holyfield choosing to carry on his career for too long. This to a certain extent diminishes some of Holyfield’s legacy but I intend to remember him in his prime.
He holds victories over the likes of Mike Tyson twice, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Riddick Bowe, Ray Mercer, Buster Douglas and Hasim Rahman. This is a truly impressive set of victories over some truly brilliant heavyweights. Holyfield fought in an incredible era for heavyweights and therefore his achievements are even more impressive.
Holyfield was an intelligent boxer who made it very difficult for opponents. He was tactically astute and a very wily character. He is a much underrated boxer in my opinion and was truly a great of the sport.
Foreman is a former two-time world heavyweight champion and an Olympic golf medalist. Foreman was a huge puncher who could destroy opponents in a short space of time. He was also able to take a shot very well which made him a formidable opponent for anyone.
Foreman’s record of 76 wins with 68 knock-outs and five losses highlights his extreme power. 68 knock outs is just remarkable. He holds victories over the likes of Joe Frazier, Ken Norton and his first loss came in his 41st professional fight to Muhammad Ali.
He also holds history as being the oldest ever person to win a world heavyweight title aged 45. This is an astonishing achievement and won which shows that age truly is just a number. He had regained the world title after 20 years of losing it originally. This is remarkable to think that someone can come back 20 years later and compete at the highest level.
Foreman is an icon of the sport and is well known in and out of the ring. One of his most famous fights was against Muhammad Ali labelled as the rumble in the jungle. This fight was gruelling for both fighters in humid conditions and Ali implemented the rope-a-dope tactics to tire Foreman before knocking him out later in the fight.
Foreman is a true great of the heavyweight division and has achieved things that boxers can only ever dream of.
Frazier is a former Olympic gold medalist and undisputed heavyweight world champion with only losses to two men: Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.
Frazier holds a victory over the great Muhammad Ali during their great rivalry and is well known for his unique boxing style. He ducked and weaved in and out of punches and put the opponent under endless pressure that they often couldn’t handle. Current heavyweight Dereck Chisora labels Frazier as his idol and tries to replicate the style but to a lesser success rate. Frazier also possessed a great left hook which knocked out many an opponent.
His record stands at 32 wins, four losses and one draw. Which in the era that he thought is brilliant. He was an all action-fighter who gave everything that he had each time he stepped into the ring. His trilogy with Frazier was truly remarkable and shows just what an incredible boxer he was.
He was a truly great heavyweight and deserved his place in my discussion of the greatest ever heavyweight.
Louis is rightly regarded by many in the sport as one of the greatest heavyweights ever with an outstanding record of 57 wins, 3 losses and 1 no contest.
Louis was a huge puncher as shown by being placed as #1 on The Ring’s list of the 100 Greatest Punchers of All-Time. He also holds the record of 25 successful heavyweight title defences.
He did much to restore the reputation of boxing at the time which had become famous for corruption. He was a hard-working and honest man who became an icon on the sport.
Louis also had a major impact outside the ring culturally in America and is recognised by many as the first African-American to become a national hero. Breaking such barriers no doubt had an effect on the improving tolerance of society and realisation that your colour or ethnicity is no reason to be discriminated against.
Louis was an incredible performer boasting 57 wins by knock out and for some is the best heavyweight of all time.
Marciano retired with the best record out of all in this debate. An unblemished, undefeated perfect record of 49 fights, 49 wins with 43 knock-outs.
To go a whole career undefeated in indescribably astonishing. With 43 knock outs his power is obvious for many to see but he was a wild fighter who was technically not the best. What he lacked in technique he made up for in determination and power though.
Marciano holds a victory over other great Joe Louis but Louis was at the end of his career so Marciano doesn’t get as much credit for this win as perhaps he should do.
Many say Marciano fought at a time when the heavyweight division was not strong but to go undefeated in a 49 fight career is still some achievement which is unlikely to be repeated by a heavyweight again.
For me Marciano is a great of heavyweight boxing but doesn’t quite make it onto my short list as a contender along with Tyson and Ali so far.
The Manassa Mauler is the last man on my list. He held the World Heavyweight Championship for 7 years and was renowned for his aggressive and exciting style.
He had huge punching power and he was one of the most popular boxers to have ever been born. He finished with a record of 65 wins, 6 losses, 11 draws and 1 no contest.
Dempsey is famous for his brutal victory over the giant Jess Willard. Willard stood at 6ft 6in, which is huge for the time yet Dempsey was able to knock Willard down seven times in the first round alone.
Willard suffered broken ribs, shattered jaw, broken nose, four missing teeth, partial hearing loss in one ear along with many cuts. This was a horrific beating which resulted in Willard retiring on his stool due to the injuries. To inflict such damage on a world champion of that size is incredible and just doesn’t happen.
Dempsey retired as one of the greatest ever heavyweights and is therefore added to my short-list of the men to fight for the position of greatest ever heavyweight along with Ali and Tyson.
To conclude I find myself edging towards declaring Mike Tyson as the greatest heavyweight of all time.
His power was incredible. He had desire, technique, speed, strength the list just goes on. For me he was the most exciting heavyweight and could do things that no one else could do. He could destroy opponents within seconds with just one punch.
For me in his prime he was untouchable. I personally don’t think that at his best anyone could beat him, not even the great Ali or Dempsey. He was ferocious and almost animal like in the ring. It’s just a shame that his out of ring antics had an effect on his boxing later on and lessened his record. Tyson was an incredible boxer who for me can stand proud as the greatest heavyweight of all time.
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