Tyson, Ali, Fury & Joshua: Who are the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time?

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Last weekend’s exhibition match between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr brought two storied heavyweight champions back into the ring.

Fans were divided on the spectacle itself, but enduring appeal of the heavyweight division saw huge numbers tune in.

Now, we’re debating the greatest heavyweights of all time.

Should Tyson and Jones Jr feature on the list? How do your favourite heavyweights rank? Take a look below and get in touch with us to have your say.

TIER 1 – GOAT: Muhammad Ali 

It goes without saying, but let’s say it anyway – Muhammad Ali is the greatest of all time, without question. He’s got remarkable wins over many of the best heavyweights on this list and beyond. It’s telling also that he was ultimately succeeded by a fighter he mentored – sparring partner Larry Holmes. 

TIER 2 – LEGENDARY: Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey, Rocky Marciano, Larry Holmes, Joe Frazier, Lennox Lewis, Jack Johnson, George Foreman

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‘The Galveston Giant’ Jack Johnson was a trailblazer for the sport and became the first African American world heavyweight champ in 1908. His effect on boxing was social, as well as sporting, paving the way for other black champions to follow. 

Rocky Marciano is the only heavyweight champion to have retired undefeated. He was a compact heavyweight with a hard-hitting street-fighting style that took him to the very top. 

TIER 3 – ONE OF THE BEST: Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Gene Tunney

Mike Tyson’s place in heavyweight history is an oft-debated one among boxing fans and writers. He doesn’t appear in Boxing News’s ‘top 10 heavyweights of all time’ list and comes in ninth for lead US publication The Ring. 

Ultimately, the end of Iron Mike’s career saw the quality of his performances drop off a cliff. He lost three of his final four fights, retiring after being stopped in the sixth by Kevin McBride in 2005, (only to reappear for last weekend’s unusual exhibition match). 

More importantly, he just doesn’t have as many huge wins against his name as some of the men who rank above him here. However, his uniquely explosive style guarantees him a place in heavyweight history.

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TIER 4 – HEAVYWEIGHT GREAT: Tyson Fury, Wladimir Klitschko, John L. Sullivan

Wladimir Klitschko – AKA ‘Dr Steelhammer’ – kept a firm grip on the heavyweight championship throughout the noughties. He avenged, or learned from, his defeats and only passed on the torch of the lineal heavyweight championship when he was defeated by Tyson Fury – in a shock upset – in 2015. 

When Klitschko reappeared in 2017 to take on Anthony Joshua, he lost, but still fought convincingly as a top-level heavyweight, knocking Joshua to the canvas in round six. He was leading on one judge’s scorecard when AJ stopped him with a rip-roaring uppercut in round 11. 

Tyson Fury may be a controversial addition here, but both of his world championship wins have been spectacular. Firstly, out-pointing Klitschko on away soil and then, years later, coming back from depression and obesity to defeat hard-punching Deontay Wilder in style. 

TIER 5 – In the Mix: Vitali Klitschko, Anthony Joshua, Riddick Bowe, James J. Jeffries, James J. Corbett, Jersey Joe Walcott

Vitali Klitschko was similarly dominant during his time at the top of the heavyweight division, but – thanks to a lack of top-level opposition – he was unable to show fans the true extent of his powers. 

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Meanwhile, Anthony Joshua’s career seems to be at a crossroads. The Watford man could be on course to cement a place in heavyweight history, but only if he can grab a few more notable wins. He’s fought several champions and top-level contenders, but must take the fight against Tyson Fury to earn his place as a heavyweight to be remembered. 

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

The list of fighters who could, or perhaps should, have places on this list is huge. Potential mentions include Roy Jones Jr, Earnie Shavers, Ezzard Charles, Max Schmeling, Floyd Patterson, Ken Norton and even the likes of Jim Braddock, (who was once played by Russel Crowe in Cinderella Man).

Let us know your opinions on social media – who would you have liked to see included?

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