Of the Top Ten Heavyweights, Who is the No. 1?

By Boxing News - 10/31/2023 - Comments

By Ken Hissner: I’m looking for your opinions and will give mine at the end on just who is the No. 1 heavyweight of all time among these ten.

Let’s start with the “Galveston Giant” Jack Johnson, 54-11-8 with 34 stoppages from Galveston, Texas. In 1908, he won the world heavyweight title, stopping little, 5:07 Tommy Burns, 43-3. His previous big win was stopping former champion “Ruby” Bob Fitzsimmons, 67-10-14.

In Johnson’s next fight, he had a D-NWS non-title fight against Light Heavyweight champion Philadelphia Jack O’Brien, 144-11-23. In his first defense, he defeated Al Kauffman, 19-1, over ten rounds.

Next, Johnson came off the canvas in the first round, being dropped by Middleweight champion Stanley ‘The Michigan Assassin’ Ketchel, 48-4, scoring a twelfth round knockout.

Known as the first colored champion, he would go on to stop the former unbeaten champion who was coming out of retirement after six years and had to lose 100 pounds, James J. Jeffries, 19-0-2, who he stopped in 15 rounds. He was pushed into fighting one of the Colored contenders and chose No.6 Jim Johnson, ending in a 20 round draw in Paris, France.

In Johnson’s seventh defense, he was stopped by Jess “Pottawatomie Giant” Jess Willard in 26 rounds. Willard would go on to be destroyed by our second heavyweight, Jack “Manassa Mauler” Dempsey, 53-6-8, with 43 stoppages in July of 1919. He had Willard down seven times in the first round, stopping him in the third.

Dempsey stopped light heavyweight champion France’s Georges “The Orchid Man” Carpentier in four rounds. In Dempsey’s fourth defense, he was knocked out of the ring at the end of the round by Argentina’s Luis Angel Firpo, 25-2, after dropping Firpo seven times, all in the first round. Dempsey had the help of some ringside reporters to get back in the ring. There were a total of eleven knockdowns, with Dempsey knocking out Firpo in the second round.

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It would be three years before Dempsey returned to the ring against our third heavyweight, Gene “The Fighting Marine” Tunney, 65-1-1, before 120,557 in attendance at Philadelphia’s Sesquicentennial Stadium, losing his title by decision in September of 1926.

In their rematch a year later, Dempsey dropped Tunney for what would be called “The Long Count” as he stood over Tunney, forgetting the new rule of going to a neutral corner, and the count could have gone to 15 when they resumed fighting. Tunney would go on to retain the title.

Tunney’s next fight was his final one, stopping Tom Heeney, 32-8-5. His lone loss when he was the American Light Heavyweight champion was to former middleweight champion Harry “Pittsburg Windmill” Greb, 196-11-16, whom he had defeated three times, and in a fifth, they fought to a no-decision.

Our fourth heavyweight was Joe “The Brown Bomber” Louis, 31-1, who in June of 1937 stopped champion Jim Braddock, 50-25-7. The contract called for Braddock to receive 10% of any defense Louis made if he won the title. Louis had a record twenty-five defenses.

Louis said he would never consider being the champion unless he had a rematch with the only one to defeat him, Germany’s Max Schmeling, a year before this fight.

After two defenses, Louis destroyed Schmeling, 52-7-4, in the first round. In his fifteenth defense in June of 1941, Louis was behind against Light Heavyweight champion Billy “Pittsburgh Kid” Conn, 58-9-1, after twelve rounds by scores of 7-5, 7-4, and 6-6. Conn got cocky and tried for the knockout and was knocked out in the thirteenth round.

After Louis had three defenses, both Louis and Conn entered the war, postponing their rematch until June of 1946, with Louis scoring a knockout in eight rounds. In his twenty-fourth defense, he won a split decision over future champion “Jersey” Joe Walcott, 42-13-1, coming off the canvas in the first and fourth rounds. In the rematch, Louis was down in the fourth round and was behind after ten rounds before scoring a knockout in the eleventh round and announcing his retirement.

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It would be over three years before Louis returned to the ring, losing to world champion Ezzard “The Cincinnati Cobra” Charles, 66-5-1, over fifteen rounds. He would win his next eight fights before facing our fifth heavyweight unbeaten Rocky Marciano, 37-0, getting dropped twice, the second through the ropes. It was said Marciano cried after the fight, defeating “his hero” Louis. The final record for Louis was 66-3 with 52 stoppages.

Marciano would score four knockouts after this, then win the world title while being behind in rounds to champion Walcott, 49-18-1, by scores of 7-4, 8-4, and 7-5. In the thirteenth round, he crushed Walcott with such a vicious punch his whole face was out of shape, becoming champion at 43-0.

A stablemate of Marciano’s, Hank Cisco, went into the dressing room of Walcott’s after the fight and overheard the ring physician say, “This man should never fight again.” There was a fracture under an eye, and the ring physician said he would be knocked out if he did fight again. The mob had Walcott and put him into the rematch eight months later, with Marciano scoring a knockout at 2:25 of the first round.

In Marciano’s first defense, he was in a rematch with Roland LaStarza, 53-3, whom he won a split defense over some three and a half years previously. Marciano scores a knockout in eleven rounds.

Next, Marciano had back-to-back fights with former champion Charles, 85-10-1, by decision and an eighth round knockout.

Two fights later, Marciano came off the canvas against knockout record holder and light heavyweight champion Archie “Old Mongoose” Moore, 149-19-8, in the second round. Marciano would score knockdowns twice in the sixth and a final one in the eighth round, announcing his retirement at 49-0 with 43 stoppages.

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Our sixth heavyweight would be the 1960 Olympic Gold Medalist, then Cassius Clay, later Muhammad “The Greatest” Ali, upon winning the world title, stopping Sonny Liston, 35-1, in February of 1964 in six rounds and announcing he had converted to Islam changing his name and improving his record to 20-0.

In Ali’s first defense, he stopped Liston in the first round with what was called the “anchor punch” that only his trainer Angelo Dundee seemed to see as Ali was backing away when he delivered it.

After stopping former champion Floyd Patterson, 43-4, he took his title out of the country, defeating George Chuvalo, 34-11-2, in Ontario, Canada. Next in London, UK, stopping Henry Cooper, 33-11-1, by cut in six rounds before 45,973 in attendance. Then, returning to London, stopping Brian London, 35-13, in 3 rounds.

Next in Germany, Ali stopped southpaw Karl Mildenberger, 49-2-3, in twelve rounds. In November of 1966, Ali returned to defend his title in America two months later in one of his most impressive wins, stopping Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams, 69-5-2, in three rounds.

In holding only the WBC title, Ali would meet WBA champion Ernie Terrell, 39-4, in February of 1967, winning by a lopsided decision. Both fights were at the Houston Astrodome in Texas.

Ali would have his final fight stopping Zora Folley, 74-7-4, in seven rounds at Madison Square Garden in New York before refusing to enter the military and having his license revoked by the New York Commission. He was 29-0.

Ali would return to the ring, scoring a pair of stoppages over contenders after three and a half years out of the ring. In Atlanta, Georgia, he stopped Jerry Quarry, 37-4-4, on a cut and Argentina’s Oscar Bonavena, 46-6-1, in the fifteenth and final round.

It was obvious Ali no longer could slip punches as he did prior to when he would get a title fight with 1964 Olympic Gold Medalist and world champion “Smokin” Joe Frazier, 26-0, at Madison Square Garden. He would get dropped in the final round, losing by decision. Word was it was Frazier going to the hospital, not Ali, who had a swollen jaw.

Ali would go on to win his next ten fights, gaining the NABF title and fighting in such places as Zurich, Tokyo, Vancouver, Canada, and Dublin, Ireland. In March of 1973, he had his jaw broken, losing to Ken Norton, 30-1, losing a split decision.

This writer shortly after this fight, was in the center of Philadelphia when seeing a crowd that Ali happened to be in went over. One of the old timers said to Ali, “Next time you fight Norton, be a man, not a boy!” Ali replied, “Did you call me Roy?” Two weeks later, not writing yet, I saw in the Daily News Ali’s home in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and went there. His second of four wives, Belinda, answered the door when I asked, “Can I speak to the champ?” She returned and allowed me to enter. Ali came into” the ring, and I asked, “When are you giving Doug Jones a rematch?” That was the last word I got as Ali took me into the dining room, which was full of guests. It would be four years before I saw him again at his Deer Lake, PA, training camp, getting a picture with him.

Six months after losing to Norton, Ali returned to the ring, defeating Norton by split decision. Two fights later, the rematch with Frazier, 30-1, now a former champion. If my memory serves me right, Frazier tried to box, and Ali, the puncher with Ali, won by decision.

In October of 1974, Ali would regain the title by stopping our sixth heavyweight champion and 1968 Olympic Gold Medalist “Big” George Foreman, 40-0, in “The Rumble in the Jungle” stopping Foreman in eight rounds and introducing his “rope-a-dope” style allowing Foreman to beat on mostly his arms before near exhaustion.
Three fights later, Ali in the third match with Frazier in “The Thrilla in Manila,” Frazier couldn’t come out for the final round.

Getting back to Foreman, he won the title over then-champion Frazier, 29-0, in Kingston, Jamaica, in January of 1973, dropping him three times in each of the first two rounds. Two fights later, he destroyed Norton in three rounds in Venezuela before losing to Ali.

The ninth heavyweight was “Iron” Mike Tyson, who in November of 1986 became the youngest at age twenty to win the world title, stopping WBC champion Trevor Berbick, 31-4-1, in two rounds.

Tyson would add the WBA title by defeating James “Bonecrusher” Smith, 19-5, and two fights later adding the IBF title defeating Tony “TNT” Tucker, 34-0.

Next, Tyson knocked out 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist Tyrell Biggs, 15-0, before meeting former champion Larry “The Easton Assassin” Holmes, 48-2, in January of 1988.

At ringside was future US President Donald J. Trump sitting with former champion Ali. Ali was introduced into the ring, tapping the glove of Ali, and then went over and whispered something in Tyson’s ear. The first solid punch Tyson delivered and off to the races went Holmes until being dropped in the fourth round, landing on his back with his feet in the air, ending it improving to 33-0. It was the only time Holmes was stopped in his career, ending 69-6 with 44 stoppages. If there were eleven heavyweights, Holmes would have been it.

After stopping former champion Tony “TNT” Tubbs, 24-1, in Tokyo, Tyson would meet IBF champion and 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Spinks, 31-0, stopping him in the first round. Spinks looked like he was defeated in his ring walk to the ring.

Two fights later, what looked like a quick call by the referee Tyson dropped Carl “The Truth” Williams, 22-2, in the first round. Williams had lost a controversial decision to Holmes prior to this.

Next, in February of 1990, Tyson, 37-0, returned to Tokyo and faced James “Buster” Douglas, 28-4-1, dropping him in the eighth round but couldn’t finish him. After nine rounds, the scores were 87-86 Tyson, 88-82 Douglas, and 86-86. In the tenth round, Tyson was dropped, and crawling on the canvas trying to retrieve his mouthpiece was counted out. Douglas would lose to Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield, erasing a possible rematch with Tyson.

In Tyson’s next match, he stopped Olympic Gold Medalist Henry Tillman, 20-4, who defeated him twice in the Olympic Trials in 1984. Seven wins would follow before losing back-to-back fights to Holyfield.

Then, going 4-0 with two no-decisions, Tyson would face our tenth heavyweight, the 1988 Olympic Gold Medalist, the UK’s Lennox “The Lion” Lewis, 39-2-1, the former champion being stopped in eight rounds. Tyson would end his career with a 50-6 record with 44 stoppages.

Lewis, 25-0, in May of 1993 Lewis won the title, defeating Tucker, 48-1. Two fights later, with his hands to his side, he was stopped by Oliver “The Atomic Bull” McCall, 24-5, in two rounds. Four wins later in the rematch, Lewis stopped McCall from regaining the title.

In back-to-back fights with IBF and WBA champion Holyfield, 36-3, they drew, and Lewis won the second one. Three wins later, Lewis lost to Hasim “The Rock” Rahman, 34-2, ahead after four rounds being stopped in the fifth round. He won the rematch in four rounds, regaining the titles. Then defeating Tyson in his next and final fight, he faced former champion Vitali “Dr. Ironfist” Klitschko, 32-1, behind on points after five rounds stopped Klitschko in the sixth round on a cut then announced his retirement. His final record was 41-2-1, with 32 stoppages.

So we have Johnson, Dempsey, Tunney, Louis, Marciano, Ali, Frazier, Foreman, Tyson and Lewis. My pick was Ali and Louis as the top two. What are your opinions?