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86 World Heavyweight Champions with 56 from the United States!

Jack Dempsey Joe Frazier Muhammad Ali

By Ken Hissner: Counting the heavyweight champions from www.boxrec.com they show 86 champions holding titles with such groups as the World with no organizations, such as the NBA, WBA, WBC, WBO, IBF, and IBO.

Of the 86 champions, there were 56 from the United States, 9 from the United Kingdom, 3 each from Russia and Canada, 2 each from Italy, Ukraine and South Africa, 1 each from Belarus, Australia, New Zealand, Haiti, Sweden, Nigeria, Belarus, Syria, and Germany.

The first recognized world heavyweight champion was John L. Sullivan, 38-1-1 (32), known as the “The Boston Strong Boy,” going from bare-knuckle to gloves.

He held the title from 1885 to 1992 and was from Boston, MASS. He lost for the first time and retired as “Gentlemen” Jim Corbett, who was 8-0-2, ending with an 11-4-3 record from San Francisco, CA.

Then came the first non-American to hold the title in Bob “Ruby” Fitzsimmons, 61-8-4 (57), from New Zealand, who also held the middleweight and light heavyweight titles.

Next, there was James “The Boilermaker” J. Jeffries, 19-1-2 (13), who retired undefeated but was pushed back into a title fight, having to lose 100 lbs. after over 3 years of inactivity losing to Jack Johnson. He was from Burbank, CA.

Marvin “The Fighting Kentuckian” Hart, 28-7-4 (20), won the vacant title. He was from Fern Creek, KY, losing his title to Canadian Tommy “The Little Giant of Hanover” Burns, 47-4-8 (34), who was only 5:07. From Windsor, Ontario, CAN, lost his title to Jack “Galveston Giant” Johnson, 54-11-8 (34), being the first black to win the title.

Johnson lost to Jess “The Pottawatomie Giant” Willard, 22-5-1 (20), of Pottawatomie, KS, standing at 6’6 ½”. Many felt Johnson threw the fight.

Willard would go onto suffer a brutal loss to Jack “Manassa Mauler” Dempsey, 54-6-8 (44), from Salt Lake City, UT. He would lose to Gene “The Fighting Marine” Tunney, 65-1-1 (48), before 120, 557 in attendance in Philadelphia. He was from Greenwich, CT, retiring with the title.

Brandenburg, Germany’s Max “Black Uhlan of the Rhine” Schmeling, 56-10-4 (39), won the vacant title defeating by DQ Jack “Boston Gob” Sharkey only to lose to him.

Though a world champion Schmeling was best known for being the first to defeat future champion Joe Louis. Sharkey, 37-13-3 (13), was from Boston, MASS, losing to Italy’s Primo “The Ambling Alp” Carnera, 88-14 (71), at 6:05 ½, who lost to Max Livermore Larupper” Baer, 66-13 (51), from Livermore, CA.

Baer lost to Jim “The Cinderella Man” Braddock, 47-24-4 (27), of North Bergen, NJ, who lost to considered by many the greatest heavyweight champion of all Joe “The Brown Bomber” Louis, 66-3 (52), from Detroit, MI, holding the division’s record of 25 title defenses. He held the title the longest from 1937 to 1949, including several years serving in the Army, before retiring.

Ezzard “The Cincinnati Cobra” Charles, 95-25-1 (52), from Cinn., OH, would win the vacant title defeating “Jersey” Joe Walcott, 49-20-1 (31), from Camden, NJ, before losing it to him in their third meeting.

Ahead on points going into the thirteenth round, Walcott received a devastating knockout defeat to Rocky “The Brockton Blockbuster” Marciano, 49-0 (43), from Brockton, MASS. Marciano would retire as champion.

Winning the Olympic Gold Medal in 1952 as a middleweight Floyd Patterson, 55-8-1 (40), of Brooklyn, NY, would become the youngest to win the title at age 21, defeating Light Heavyweight champion Archie “Old Mongoose” Moore, who still holds a record 132 knockouts.

Patterson would lose and regain the title to Sweden’s Ingemar “Ingo” Johansson, 26-2 (17). He would lose the title to Charles “Sonny” Liston, 50-4 (39), of St. Louis, MO.

Liston would lose the title to Cassius Clay, who would announce his new name after winning the title as Muhammad “The Greatest” Ali, 56-5 (37), of Louisville, KY. In the rematch, many felt Liston took a dive.

Ali has been known as “the greatest” along with Louis. He was certainly the most colorful champion to ever wear the crown. This writer first met Ali in 1973 in Center City, Philadelphia, after his loss to Ken Norton.

I’ve done a half a dozen articles on him, and he was the funniest of all the boxers I’ve ever met. He was stripped of his title after 19 defenses due to refusing induction into the military.

Ali was wrongfully denied his livelihood for some three and a half years, in this writer’s opinion. He was never the same as far as his hand and foot speed again though regaining his title a record three times. His Deer Lake, PA, camp is now called “Fighters Heaven,” a shrine to him by owner Mike Madden.

Ali’s WBA and WBC titles went to Ernie Terrell, 46-9 (21), of Chicago, IL, who defeated Eddie Machen for what was known as the WBA title. This was the start of the “alphabet” organizations. In 1967 Ali would regain his title, defeating Terrell.

In 1971 Ali would attempt to regain his titles, losing to “Smoking” Joe Frazier, 32-4-1 (17), of Philadelphia, PA, at Madison Square Garden in the first of their three bouts.

In 1968 Ali’s title went up for grabs in an eight-man tournament with fellow Louisville boxer Jimmy Ellis, 40-12-1 (24), becoming the WBA champion defeating Jerry Quarry.

Ellis would meet and lose to Frazier in 1970. The former Olympic Gold Medalist would lose to another Gold Medalist “Big” George Foreman, 76-5 (68), from Houston, TX, in 1973, in Jamaica. He would regain his lost title in 1994, having retired from 1977 to 1987.

Foreman would lose his title to Ali in Zaire, Africa, called “The Rumble in the Jungle” in 1974. Ali was encouraged by trainer Cus D’Amato, of future world champion “Iron” Mike Tyson, to come back to regain the title. This writer was fortunate to meet D’Amato in Scranton, PA, and visit his Catskill, NY, home and meet the 15-year-old Tyson.

In 1975 Ali would meet and defeat Frazier in what was called “The Thriller in Manila” in the Philippines in their third meeting. Ali would once again travel the world in defending his titles.

In 1978 Ali would lose to Olympic Gold Medalist “Neon” Leon Spinks, who was 6-0-1 at the time, ending up at 26-17-3 (14), from St. Louis, MO. In the rematch, Ali would win and, in this writer’s opinion, should have retired.

In March of 1978, Ken Norton, 42-7-1 (33), of San Diego, CA, was “awarded” the WBC title from an elimination win over Philly’s Jimmy Young in November of 1977. His reign was short-lived, losing to Holmes three months later by split decision. Bobby Goodman represented Norton and said neither Norton nor Holmes wanted a rematch.

In October of 1979, Olympian “Big” John Tate, 34-3 (23), of Knoxville, TN, won the vacant WBA title stopping then unbeaten Gerrie Coetzee, 33-6-1 (21), of South Africa.

In March of 1980, Tate lost to Mike “Hercules” Weaver, 41-18-1, of Chino, CA, who in 1982 would lose to Michael “Dynamite” Dokes, 53-6-2 (38), of Akron, OH. In September pof 1983 Dokes was stopped by Coetzee. Then the latter lost to Greg Page, 58-17-1 (48), of Louisville, KY, in his first defense.

In August of 1984, Pinklon “Pink” Thomas, 43-7-1 (34), of Pontiac, MI, defeated Tim Witherspoon for the WBC title. In March of 1986, he would lose it to Berbick.

In April of 1985, Page lost to Tony “TNT” Tubbs, 47-10 (25), of Santa Monica, CA, who lost the title to “Terrible” Tim Witherspoon, 55-13-1 (38), of Philadelphia, PA, the former WBC champ. He would lose to James “Bonecrusher” Smith, 44-17-1 (32), of Magnolia, NC, who months later lost his title to Mike Tyson.

Ali wouldn’t fight again for over two years until October of 1980 when he met Larry “The Easton Assassin” Holmes, 69-6 (44), of Easton, PA, losing by stoppage for the only time in his career.

One more fight and a loss to future champion Jamaican Trevor Berbick, 49-11-1 (33), who fought out of Canada before Ali calling it quits. This writer questioned his fight with Holmes at his Deer Lake camp due to the shape he was in. “I like my ice cream,” he said as he pounded his gut.

Holmes would make 19 defenses with questionable wins over “Terrible Tim” Witherspoon and Carl “The Truth” Williams he would reach 48-0 before losing to Olympic Gold Medalist and world light heavyweight champion Michael “Jinx” Spinks, 31-1 (21), of St. Louis, MO., and brother of Leon. Holmes would take a lot of deserved heat, claiming after the fight “Marciano couldn’t wear my jockstrap” pertaining to Marciano’s 49-0 record. Holmes lost a disputed decision in the rematch.

Spinks would lose his title to “Iron” Mike Tyson, 50-6 (44), of Catskills, NY, in 1988. Tyson was one of the most feared champions until defending his title in Tokyo, Japan, losing to big underdog James “Buster” Douglas, 37-6-1 (24), of Columbus, OH, after nine even rounds being stopped in the tenth losing his WBA, WBC, and IBF titles. Douglas would lose in his first defense to Olympic Gold Medalist Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield, 44-10-2 (29), of Atlanta, GA.

Holyfield would lose to Riddick “Big Daddy” Bowe, 43-1 (33), of Ft. Washington, MD, who would lose the title back to Holyfield.

He would go onto gain the WBO heavyweight title, knocking out unbeaten champion Nigerian Herbie “Dancing Destroyer” Hide, 49-4 (43), of the UK, who would regain the vacant title later stopping former IBF champion Tony “TNT” Tucker, 57-7 (47), in June of 1997 only to lose it two years later to Vitali “Dr. Ironfist” Klitschko, 45-2 (41), of Ukraine.

In April of 2000, he lost to Chris Byrd, 41-5-1 (22), of Las Vegas, NV, who lost to Wladimir “Dr. Steelhammer” Klitschko, 64-5 (53), of Ukraine.

In March 2003, Klitschko lost to South Africa’s Corrie “The Sniper” Sanders, 42-4 (31), who vacated. Lamon “Relentless” Brewster, 35-6 (30), of L.A., CA, won the vacant WBO title stopping Wladimir Klitschko.

In April of 2006, he lost to Siarhei “White Wolf” Liakhovich, 27-9 (17), of Belarus. In November, he lost to Shannon “The Cannon” Briggs, 60-6-1 (53), of Brooklyn, NY, who in his first defense lost to Sultan Ibragimov, 22-1-1 (17), of Russia, who would lose to Wladimir Klitschko.

Italy’s Olympian Francesco Damiani, 30-2 (24), won the newly created WBO title defeating Johnny Du Plooy in May of 1989. In January, he lost it to “Merciless” Ray Mercer, 36-7-1 (26), of Union City, NJ, who was later stripped of his title.

Michael “Double M” Moorer, 52-4-1 (40), the light heavyweight champion who in April of 1994 defeated Holyfield, only to lose to Foreman. Foreman lost to Tommy “The Duke” Morrison, 48-3-1 (42), of Kansas City, MO, who would get stopped by Michael Bentt, 11-2 (6), of the UK, who lost to Herbie Hide.

In September of 1994, Oliver “The Atomic Bullo” McCall, 59-14 (38), stopped WBC champion Lennox “The Lion” Lewis, 41-2-1 (32), of the UK, then beat Holmes. He would lose to Frank Bruno, 40-5 (38), of the UK, who lost to Tyson.

In April 1995, Bruce “The Atlantic City Express” Seldon, 40-8 (36), of Atlantic City, NJ, defeated Tony Tucker for the vacant WBA title. Two fights later, he was stopped by Tyson.

In June of 1996, Henry Akinwande, 50-4-1 (30), of the UK, won the vacant WBO title, stopping Jeremy Williams and gave up the title to later challenge Lewis getting stopped.

In March of 2001, after losing to Holyfield, John “The Quiet Man” Ruiz, 44-9-1 (30), of Chelsea, MASS, in a rematch defeated Holyfield for the WBA title and drew with him in a third match. He would go onto lose to Roy Jones, Jr., 66-9 (47), but two fights later won the WBA title back defeating Puerto Rico’s Fres “The Big O” Oquendo, 37-8 (24), of Chicago, IL, for the WBA title. In December 2005, Ruiz lost to Russia’s Nikolai “The Russian Giant” Valuev, 50-2 (34).

In April 2007, Valuev lost to Ruslan “White Tyson” Chagaev, 34-3-1 (21), of Uzbekistan, who fought out of Germany. He would eventually lose to Wladimir Klitschko.

Hasim “The Rock” Rahman, 50-9-2 (41), of Baltimore, MD, in April of 2001, knocked out Lennox Lewis but was knocked out in the rematch. Russia’s Oleg “The Big O” Maskaev, 39-7 (28), stopped Rahman in August 2006 for the WBC title. Two fights later lost to Samuel “The Nigerian Nightmare” Peter, 38-9 (31), of Nigeria. Peter was stopped by Vitali Klitschko.

David “Hayemaker” Haye, 28-4 (26), of the UK, won the WBA title from Valuev in November of 2009. Two years later lost to Wladimir Klitschko. Russian Olympic Gold Medalist Alexander “Russian Vityaz” Povetkin, 36-3-1 (25), in August of 2001 defeated Chagaev for the vacant WBA title only to lose it to Wladimir Klitschko. Bermane “B.WARE” Stiverne, 25-5-1 (21), of Haiti in May of 2014, won the vacant WBC title defeating Chris Arreola.

In January of 2015, he lost to Olympian Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder, 42-1-1 (41), of Tuscaloosa, AL, who in December of 2018 drew with Tyson “The Gypsy King” Fury, 30-0-1 (21), of the UK, and lost to Fury in a rematch.

In January of 2016, “Prince” Charles Martin, 28-2-1 (25), of Carson, CA, won the vacant IBF title stopping Vyacheslav “The Czar” Glazkov, but lost it in his next fight to Olympic Gold Medalist Anthony “AJ” Joshua, 24-1 (22), of the UK.

Joshua would win the WBA, WBO, and IBF titles before losing to Andy “The Destroyer” Ruiz, 34-2 (22), of Imperial, CA. He won the title back in a rematch.

Lucas “Big Daddy” Browne, 29-3 (25), of Australia won the WBA title in March 2016, defeating Chagaev but was later stripped of the title. Mahmoud “Diamond Boy” Charr, 32-4 (18), of Lebanon, fighting out of Germany, won the vacant WBA title in November 2017, defeating Aleksandr Ustinov, but never defended it, causing him to be stripped.

Becoming the 86th boxer to win the heavyweight title and 56th from the US, Trevor Bryan, 21-0 (15), of Schenectady, NY, in January of 2021, defeated former champ Bermane Stiverne for the vacant WBA title.

That wraps it up for all 86 boxers who have won some portion of the heavyweight title. Current WBC champion Tyson Fury is scheduled for the third match with Deontay Wilder, July 24th.

WBA, WBO, and IBF champion Anthony Joshua is scheduled to fight former WBA, WBO, WBC, and IBF cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, 18-0 (13), of Ukraine on September 25th. If the two winners meet, it would be the first time in some time there was one heavyweight champion.




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