When we look at the sport of boxing, we used to think Heavyweights. Nowadays the talent pool has been sent to other sports, leaving the small fighters the spotlight. The Heavyweight division now belongs to eastern europeans and doesn’t seem to be coming back to America. There used to be a time when it was a celebrated division, with awesome personalities. Who doesn’t remember Mike Tyson, Joe Louis, Riddick Bowe, Sonny Liston, Cassius Clay, Rocky Marciano? All these boxers where heavyweight greats. Today, with Joe Frazier battling Liver Cancer, we go back to celebrate the best heavyweights of our time. Where does Joe stand in this list?
10.-Mike Tyson: In his prime, this young man, would have challenged any boxer in this list and be a threat to knock them out. One of the most exciting sports figures in history, at his best, he was a combination of speed and power that had never been seen in the heavyweight division. Marred by legal actions and bad behavior outside the ring, Tyson could have been higher on the list if his trainer Cus D’Amato hadn’t died, and he had more discipline outside the squared circle.
9.-Joe Frazier: When he won the heavyweight championship from Jimmy Ellis, Frazier didn’t have the legitimate recognition of the public. He needed to beat Cassius Clay in order to gain that prestige. When Clay came back, they finally met to determine who was the real champion of the world. Frazier went on to beat him and even knock him down to seal the deal in one of the greatest fights of all time. This turned to be the highlight of his career.
8.-Rocky Marciano: The only undefeated heavyweight champion ever at 49-0. Many think that a fighter has to lose in order to prove his true greatness, and that may be why so many rank him lower than he may deserve. His biggest fights were also against older fighters, but those fighter were Jersey Joe Walcott and Archie Moore, two hall of fame inductees that were as tough as hell. He beat them both of course, but still he was never defeated, so we will never know how he would have reacted, and if he had the guts to come back.
7.-Evander Holyfield: Very underrated for many years. Holyfield was one of the greatest, if not the greatest cruiserweight champion ever. He was always overshadowed by Tyson. Just like Frazier, when he finally fought for the heavyweight championship, it wasn’t against whom the people thought was the best, Mike was in prison at the time. It wasn’t until they finally fought in 1996, that The Real Deal proved to everyone that he was the better fighter, knocking him out in 11 rounds in an the fight of the year. He was only the second fighter ever to win the heavyweight championship three times.
6.-George Foreman: Big George was a beast in the seventies. What he did at that time was enough for him to be in the top 15 of all time, but what he did later on is why he is ranked so high. He won the heavyweight championship of the world by destroying Joe Frazier in two rounds dropping him 6 times. He latter obliterated Ken Norton in two rounds also, claiming the heads of the two conquerors of the great Muhammad Ali. He later lost the title to Ali in one of the biggest upsets ever, only to regain it at an unprecedented age of 46 against Michael Moorer in one of the greatest accomplishments by an athlete ever.
5.-Jack Dempsey: The Manasa Mauler was a beloved figure in the early 1900′s, he was a beast in the ring and had one of the most powerful punches by a boxer ever. He used to overwhelm his opponents with sheer violence that was rarely seen by a human. His title winning fight against Jess Willard was so brutal that many thought that Dempsey was cheating. Willard was a larger man and was dropped 7 times in the first round before being stopped in the 4th. He was reported to have a broken jaw, broken ribs and fractured facial bones. He lost the title to fellow hall of famer, Gene Tunney in front of one of the largest crowds ever, 120,000 strong. In the rematch, loosing the fight on points, he knocked Tunney down, the referee took Dempsey to the corner, and then started counting, Tunney was up at nine, but he probably stayed as much as 15 seconds down.
4.-Jack Johnson: In one of the most interesting stories in sports history, Johnson was the first negro to fight for the heavyweight championship in the years when the title was deemed as a white man’s trophy as the strongest man on the planet. No black man was allowed to fight for this title, but it was such the dominance Johnson presented over his opponents that the current champion had no choice but give him the shot. The fight against the current champion Tommy Burns lasted 14 seconds after the police stopped the fight, it was determined by the referee that the title had changed hands by knockout awarding the prize to Johnson. Former champion James J. Jeffries came out of retirement to challenge johnson and redeem the white race, being called The Great White Hope. The fight was a blowout, with Johnson dominating and playing with the champion for 15 rounds before the referee stopped the fight. He finally silenced the critics. After he lost the title, nobody wanted a black champion again.
3.-Larry Holmes: One of the most underrated fighter of all time, Holmes was a force to be reckoned with. His jab, is one of the best weapons in heavyweight history. It was piston like and neutralized anybody. Even when he was over 40, he was still using it to dominate fighters like Ray Mercer throuhgout the fight. He didn’t need anything else, but as any great fighter, he had many more tools. A great heart, chin and stamina, he used all these traits to win 48 consecutive fights against anybody who was anybody. The problem was that it was the Post-Ali era, and everybody perceived the quality of opposition to be the worst ever. This was a lie of course; when you have the greatest crop of challengers and champions in history of heavyweight boxing and time passes by, it’s very difficult to judge the next generation as great. Holmes challenged every heavyweight record by dominating everybody in the division. He eventually lost the title to all time great Michael Spinks. He came back years later to challenge Evander Holyfield and gave him a tough fight but still lost to the champ.
2.-Joe Louis: After Jack Johnson destroyed the chances for other black fighters to challenge for the heavyweight championship, it was really tough for Louis to achieve what he ended up doing. Considered by many the greatest heavyweight who ever lived, Louis holds the record for most defenses by a heavyweight, most years as a champion and is also one of the most beloved boxers in history. His greatest moment came in his rematch agains german Max Schmeling. In the wake of World War II and the Nazi Regimen, Max was perceived as evil, whilst Louis as good. Out came all the racial remarks. It was nation vs nation. In their first fight, Schmeling, the former heavyweight champion of the world, destroyed the undefeated youngster in a big upset. Nobody could believe what happened. Louis came back to win the title from Jimmy Braddock (Cinderella man) but still needed to redeem himself. Louis vs Schmeling is still the most heard radio program in the history of radio. The fight lasted 1 round, with Joe Louis avenging defeat and bringing joy and hope to all americans. From this moment on, it didn’t matter if you were white, yellow, black or brown, the only thing that mattered was being an american.
1.-Muhammad Ali: The Greatest. That was his nickname. His story is one of the great stories in american sports. Winning gold medal, fighting through adversity, people didn’t like him, winning the heavyweight title as an 8-1 underdog against Sonny Liston. Every time the odds were against him he proved us wrong. He is still proving us wrong to this day. He remains one of the most beloved figures in american sports even thought his last fight was almost 30 years ago. He would win the heavyweight title three times in the toughest era in heavyweight history. His fights with Smoking Joe Frazier will forever be remembered as the greatest trilogy in boxing history. His title reclaiming fight against George Foreman is one of the greatest sporting events in world sports history. It was staged in Zaire and it was such an historic event that even the documentary (when we were kings) won an Oscar. He was such an underdog against this monster badass, people feared for his life. Ali won the title for the third time against Leon Spinks but was already battling Parkinson Decease, an illness that changed his life forever. Still, Muhammad Ali is the greatest, and no other boxer can claim that he made as much history as he did. He was the man of the century in many magazines and organizations for his acts for civil rights and his accomplishments in sports.