By Ken Hissner: It all started with the JOHN “THE BOSTON STRONG BOY” L. SULLIVAN, 38-1-1 (32), coming over from bare knuckles to boxing, defeating American champ Charlie Mitchell coming off the canvas stopping him. He would end his career losing for the first time to “Gentleman” Jim Corbett.
JAMES “THE BOILERMAKER” JEFFRIES, 19-1-2 (16), knocked out “Ruby” Bob Fitzsimmons in 1899. He retired unbeaten but returned six years later, losing to champ JACK “THE GALVESTON GIANT” JOHNSON, 54-11-9 (34), who won the title, stopping Tommy Burns in 1908. In 1915 he lost to Jess Willard, accused of it being a “fixed” fight.
JACK “MANASSA MAULER” DEMPSEY, 53-6-8 (43), in 1919, destroyed Willard in 3 rounds.
In 1925 he lost to GENE “THE FIGHTING MARINE” TUNNEY, 65-1-1 (48), before 120, 557 in Philadelphia. A year later, in what was called “the Long Count,” Dempsey in a new rule, refused to go to a neutral corner after scoring a knockdown. The ref waited five seconds before he started the count of ten, meaning fifteen seconds had gone by.
JOE “THE BROWN BOMBER” LOUIS, 66-3 (52), was 24-0 when he was stopped by Germany’s Max Schmeling in 1936. In 1937 Louis won the title by stopping Jim Braddock. He said, “until I beat Schmeling, I am not the champion!” It would be almost a year before they met again, and Louis knocked Schmeling out in the first round.
After twenty-one defenses, Louis decided to enter the Army. While there, he would make exhibitions to raise money for the Army Relief Fund but was wrongly later found owing the IRS more than $100,000.
Louis lost his title to Ezzard Charles. Then he would lose to ROCKY MARCIANO, 49-0 (43), in 1951. He took the fight to pay his IRS debt. Marciano would come from behind to stop champion “Jersey” Joe Walcott in twelve rounds.
After defeating Charles, Marciano had his nose split in the rematch, being told by the ref he had one more round before it would be stopped. Marciano came out, ending it with a knockout in the next round.
Marciano would end his career after stopping light heavy champ Archie “Old Mongoose” Moore in 9 rounds after coming off the canvas earlier.
In 1960 Olympic Gold Medalist, then Cassius Clay later MUHAMMAD ALI, 56-5 (37), won the world title by stopping Sonny Liston. He was 28-0 before getting stripped of his title for not entering the Army. Three years later, returning to the ring, he lost to champ “Smokin” Joe Frazier in 1971. Ali would defeat him twice after that.
Ali would suffer a broken jaw by Ken Norton losing a decision, but defeat him twice later. He would become the first 3-time champ stopping former 1968 Olympic Gold Medalist “BIG” GEORGE FOREMAN, 76-5 (68). He lost to Olympic Gold Medalist Leon Spinks but won the rematch. Then he lost to LARRY “THE EASTON ASSASSIN” HOLMES, 69-6 (44). Holmes was 48-0 when he lost to Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Spinks twice. He was also stopped by “IRON” MIKE TYSON, 50-6 (44), who was the youngest boxer at twenty to win the world title, stopping Trevor Berbick in 1986. He would go onto stop former champs Holmes, Pinklon Thomas, and James Smith while later adding titles, stopping Tony Tucker and Michael Spinks. In 1990 at 37-0, he lost to James “Buster” Douglas.
Foreman, after losing to Jimmy Young, would retire and return to the ring ten years later, winning the title seven years after that, stopping champ Michael Moorer.
LENNOX “THE LION” LEWIS, 41-2-1 (32), 1988 Olympic Gold Medalist in 1997, won the vacant world title, stopping Oliver McCall, whom he had previously lost to. He lost to Hasim Rahman but defeated him in their next fight. Then he’d go on to defeat former champs Tyson and Vitali Klitschko.
Today we have two unbeaten heavy champs in WBA, WBO, and IBF champ Oleksandr Usyk, 20-0 (13), and WBC champ Tyson “Gypsy King” Fury, 33-0-1 (24). Though it’s being said Usyk would take 30% to Fury’s 70%, it fell through with Fury rejecting the offer.