56-5 (37), 1960-1981
ENJOYED three reigns as world champion during a 21-year-career which spread over the greatest era in the division’s history. Any man who defeated Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Ken Norton – among many others – has no equal in heavyweight boxing. You all know the drill regarding “The Greatest”.
66-3 (52), 1934-1951
THOSE who scoff at Louis’ credentials have never studied him in the ring. A beast of a fighter, and a highly intelligent one at that, “The Brown Bomber” changed the face of the game. He certainly splatted his fair share of undeserving challengers, but that goes with the territory of 11-year world championship reigns.
69-6 (44), 1973-2002
STRUGGLED to gain respect during a lengthy spell atop the division that coincided with the hangover from the euphoric Ali-Frazier-Foreman era. The owner of the finest jab in heavyweight history and astonishing recuperative powers, Holmes also became a fixture in the Top 10 in the 1990s, more than a decade after his peak, which was another underrated achievement.
4. JACK JOHNSON
56-11-8 (36) , 1897-1931
BROUGHT finesse to a ragged trade, and paved the way for the likes of Louis and Ali to thrive. A spiteful puncher with exceptional ring craft, Johnson – to his own personal detriment – dared to be different inside the ring and out, teaching the sport and society some valuable lessons along the way.
5. ROCKY MARCIANO
49-0 (43), 1947-1955
A BULLDOZER of a man, Marciano’s brute strength – of body and mind – saw him amass the most famous record in boxing. Critics point to his crude style and quality of opposition, but when you consider the delectable talents of Jersey Joe Walcott, Ezzard Charles and Archie Moore couldn’t cope with the “Brockton Blockbuster” it’s hard to deny him a place among the elite.
6. GEORGE FOREMAN
76-5 (68), 1969-1977/1987-1997
BEFORE Ali humbled him in the Jungle, Foreman was the most terrifying creature the sport had ever seen. The nature of his victories over Frazier and Norton confirmed his greatness before, against all odds, he upset Michael Moorer in 1994 to regain the title at the age of 45 to take his legend to another level.
7. JOE FRAZIER
32-4-1 (27), 1965-1981
HIS 1971 victory over Ali is among the greatest performances in the sport’s history. Frazier’s bob-and-weave style oozed class and Philly menace, his left hook was the perfect punch upon which all others should be judged, and his bravery bordered on the insane. A fighter’s fighter and a man’s man, “Smokin” Joe will never be forgotten.
8. JACK DEMPSEY
54-6-9 (44), 1914-1927
THE violent coronation that ruined Jess Willard in 1919 and subsequent beatings of Georges Carpentier and Luis Firpo blazed a formidable trail. His reign was interrupted (and some might argue suspended) by his lavish lifestyle – an almost inevitable consequence of his transformation from penniless hobo to filthy rich superstar. By the time he returned in 1926 to lose his title to Tunney, he was not the same animal.
9. LENNOX LEWIS
41-2-1 (32), 1989-2003
ALTHOUGH he didn’t always do it at the first time of asking, Lewis takes his place alongside Marciano as the only heavyweight king to beat every man he shared a ring with. Looked virtually unbeatable at times and topped a 90’s pack that included Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, and Riddick Bowe. The final victory over Vitali Klitschko was the icing on the cake.
10. EVANDER HOLYFIELD
44-10-2 (29), 1984-2011
PROBABLY better remembered for what he achieved while past his peak. Victories over Buster Douglas, Foreman and Holmes struggled for respect until – when everyone thought he was finished – he revenged Bowe in 1993, ruined Tyson in 1996, levelled the score with Moorer a year later, and gave a peak Lewis all he could handle in their 1999 rematch.