Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier square off for the 2nd time in their epic trilogy of wars. Ali would win via 12 round unanimous decision.
1) Muhammad Ali- Was the quickest heavyweight of all time of hand and foot. Had the best chin in heavyweight championship history. Had an underrated punch as evidenced by his KOs of Oscar Bonavena and George Foreman, neither of which were previously or subsequently knocked out. Fought during what is arguably the best era of heavyweight boxing fighting the likes of: Sonny Liston, Floyd Patterson, Henry Cooper, Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, Jerry Quarry, Earnie Shavers, Ron Lyle, Bonavena, Jimmy Ellis, and George Foreman. Ali's longevity is magnificent. Historically, it is usually the power hitters who are able to hold on longer to their careers because it is said that a fighter's punch is the last thing to leave them while a boxer's skills, speed and reflexes, are the first to leave any fighter. Ali's forte was speed, mobility and reflexes, (although he had an underrated punch), yet he continued to succeed despite his eroding skills. That's very telling about the outstanding fighter he was.
2) Joe Louis- (Pictured knocking out Max Schemling in their historic rematch.) The longest reign of any heavyweight champion, (over 11 years), with the most title defenses, (25). I think most of his opposition would've taken a back seat to Ali's had they all been in the same eras. Jack Sharkey, Primo Carnera, Jimmy Braddock, and Tony Galento were nothing that great. Galento was a Golden Age punching bad/tough guy, and Braddock was a Golden Age Buster Douglas. The only greats Louis fought in his time were an ill-prepared Max Baer, Max Schemling and Jersey Joe Walcott. Even so, he possessed beautiful combinations and unparralleled punching power. A great fighter.
3) Larry Holmes- Probably the most underrated heavyweight of all time. Great record that included the 2nd longest reign, 2nd longest undefeated winning streak AND 2nd most title defenses. Outstanding jab and potent right hand. Opponents available during the time were talented but limited compared to Ali's. Norton, Shavers, Witherspoon, Cooney, Weaver, Bonecrusher Smith, Carl Williams, and I think he beat Michael Spinks in the rematch. I also think he was underrated during comeback. He beat some solid journeymen, such as Jesse Ferguson, and a god top fighter in Ray Mercer. I'm of the opinion that he beat McCall and Nielsen. As far as I'm concerned, he has 3 losses: Tyson (of course), the 1st Spinks fight, and Holyfield.
4) George Foreman- Great power. Blew away all-time greats, Joe Frazier and Ken Norton. I think a combination of the physical aspects of the 70s Foreman combined with the mentality of the 90s Formean would've made for a practically unbeatable fighter, but what might've been doesn't count and I think Foreman accomplished enough in both careers to cement his place in history. The oldest man to win the heavyweight championship of the world and he did it via one punch KO, ala Rocky Marciano. Except, Foreman was the old guy beating the young guy and Rocky was a young guy beating an old guy, which is impressive.
5) Rocky Marciano- (pictured right against a past-his-prime Joe Louis, knocking him out in 8.) Undefeated in 49 fights, great KO power, and unbelievable stamina. Some argue that his opposoition was the best and some say it was garbage. My opinion is in the middle. Ezzard Charles and Jersey Joe Walcott were past their prime, but still incredibly good fighters. Still, as history shown, it's practically impossible to achieve 49 wins without a defeat even with limited opposition. There's always that one guy who gets you, but not with Marciano. He beat all of the best fighters of his time, which is the highest accomplishment and honor that any fighter can claim.
6) Joe Frazier- (pictured below in his first slugfest with Jerry Quarry, a fight that was awarded Fight of the Year in 1969). An amazing warrior who truly loved fighting. This guy actually enjoyed it when you came to go to war, which would explain the shortness of his career. The most famous and probably the best left hook of all time and he beat very good opposition. Jerry Quarry, Jimmy Ellis, Buster Mathis, Oscar Bonavena, Joe Bugner, and Muhammad Ali are fighters on his resume. There isn't a fighter in the history of boxing who was tougher and more of a warrior and I doubt there ever will be.
7)Evander Holyfield- One of the great warriors of all time. It's still hard to analyze where Evander goes in this list because he's still active. I had him in my top 5, but now I got him at #7. Even so, he undoubtably belongs in everybody's top 10. Great combination puncher, good left hook, good chin, and a great heart. Positively scary when it came to rebounding from potentially disastrous moments in fights. Up to now, has beaten all of the top opposition of his time except Lennox Lewis. James Tillis, Pinklon Thomas, Buster Douglas, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Riddick Bowe, Bert Cooper, Alex Stewart, Mike Tyson, and Michael Moorer.
8) Jack Dempsey- The original Tyson. A truly ferocious fighter. Great stopping power, especially when he put together shots. KO of Jess Willard is perhaps one of the most brutal KOs I've ever seen. Dempsey also KO'd Georges Carpentier in 4 memorable rounds; Luis Firpo in 2 of the most ferocious rounds in boxing history; and Jack Sharkey, after Sharkey outboxed him for 6 rounds, in 7 rounds. He also beat Tommy Gibbons via 15 round decision. A great combination puncher.
9) Jack Johnson- One of the most intelligent fighters ever. Great defense. Wins over Sam Langford, Fireman Flynn, Stanley Ketchel and Tommy Burns are a testament to his ability. Extraordinarily brave man who was clearly ahead of his time.
10) Mike Tyson- In his prime, he beat all of the opposition available, except George Foreman, who he hasn't fought. Quite possibly the best finisher in heavyweight history. Knockout power with either hand. Great defense in his prime. First guy to unify the 3 belts (WBA, IBF, & WBC). In his comeback, he regained 2 of the 3 belts. He's still in a quest to regain the championship and has beaten some credible opponents in Franz Botha and Lou Savarese. He's still in the game and carrying fury in each hand, so he's not out of the picture yet.
11) Charles "Sonny" Liston- In pop culture, Liston is basically the guy who lays flat on his back while a prime, taunting Muhammad Ali stands over him, yelling for him to get up. An unfair way to remember the great Liston. Liston had one of the best jabs of all time, and possessed a powerful left hook. Before capturing the heavyweight title, he forced a match with then champion Floyd Patterson by cleaning out the division. After losing the title to Ali, Liston would try to force a third match with Ali by beginning a comeback. He won several easy fights. He fought and defeated a young Henry Clark primarily with jab. Liston looked slow and ponderous but his jab was still accurate. He went on to fight Leotis Martin and was beating him convincingly, even scoring a knockdown with his feared left hook in the 4th round. But Martin would rebound and score and brutal one punch knockout in the 10th. It was the only time Liston was knocked cold. However, Liston would fight once again, this time stopping Chuck Wepner on cuts. It would his last fight. Liston was found dead in a hotel room not long after. Liston was a tremendous champion, a good puncher and one that would've given any great heavyweight a war.
12) Ezzard Charles- (Picture: Charles, left, with arch-nemesis Jersey Joe Walcott) Very underrated although more and more, aficionados are starting to give him his due. Very good boxer who made his name beating Jersey Joe Walcott in both of their first two out of four encounters (Walcott won fights #3 and #4), beat Archie Moore (thrice), Joey Maxim (thrice) and Joe Louis, and for giving Rocky Marciano his two toughest fights. Charles won the title Joe Louis vacated when he beat Walcott in their fight #1. Throughout the course of reign, Charles beat Gus Lesnevich in 7; coming-backing Joe Louis by 15th round decision; Walcott in their fight #2 by 15th decision; and Joey Maxim by 15th round decision. After the Maxim fight, Charles met Walcott for a third time and would lose the title when Walcott nailed him with a perfect left hook. And as previously mentioned, he failed to beat Rocky Marciano in two hard fights. One of which Marciano himself would later claim to be the toughest fight of his career.
13) Jersey Joe Walcott- Great boxer who can hit. He was given a raw deal in his first fight with Joe Louis, a fight that Louis won on the cards, but that many believed should go to Walcott. In Louis-Walcott II, Walcott was again beating Louis convincingly when Louis unleased a lethal barrage of shots that knocked Walcott out in round 13. After losing to Ezzard Charles in their first two meetings, Walcott would go on to beat Charles for the heavyweight title with a devestating left hook in their 3rd meeting and therby making him the oldest man to win the title at age 37, (Foreman would break this record at age 45). Walcott defended the title against Charles in their fourth and final meeting and won by decision, but he would lose the title to Marciano in yet another fight in which Walcott was ahead when he was knocked out with one shot by Rocky Marciano. Walcott retired after losing by 1st round KO in the Marciano rematch. He died on February 1994 and never saw his record as "oldest man to win the heavyweight title" broken since Foreman would break his record in November of the same year.
14) John L. Sullivan- I'm always extremely apprehensive about rating fighters who have no known fight footage avalable on them, but the influence of "The Great John L." can not be denied. He was the reason boxing became a prominent and famous sport in the United States. He was also partially responsible for bringing the rules of boxing as we know it today into fruition. In doing this, Sullivan made himself the turning point in boxing, bridging the gap between bare-knuckle fighting and the gloved "Sweet Science." As a fighter, he had great longevity, winning his title by knocking out Paddy Ryan in 9 rounds back in February 1882 and losing it over 10 years later, on September 1892, to "Gentleman" Jim Corbett by 21st round KO. It would be his last fight. Sullivan announced after his defeat that it was obvious he was past his best days and time for him to hang them up. He died on February 2, 1918.
15) Floyd Patterson- Patterson always prided himself by saying, "I got knocked down more than any champion and I got up more than every champion." Patterson was a good fighter. He was perhaps the quickest fighter in boxing history until Muhammad Ali became "The Greatest." Patterson won the title vacated by Marciano by knocking out Archie Moore in 5 rounds. He was a protected fighter for some time and lost the title to Swedish champion Ingemar Johanson by KO. A rematch between Patterson and Johanson would be set and Patteson would become the first man to win the heavyweight title twice after knocking Johanson out. Patterson would fight Johanson once more and would win their rubber match by yet another impressive KO. Patterson lost the title to Sonny Liston by 1st round blowout and Patterson would lose the rematch in equally brutal fashion. Despite these brutal losses to Liston, you have to admire the way Patterson took the fights. Neither Patterson himself or his trainer, Cus D'Amato, believed he could beat Liston, but he took the fights on principle. Still, it was not the end of Patterson's career. Patterson would rebound and challenge some very tough contenders after losing the title. Patterson would beat Oscar Bonavena and George Chuvalo, two extremely tough contenders who were top fighters in their own right. Patterson would lose to a prime Muhammad Ali by 12th round KO. But Patterson came back again, this time losing controversial decisions to Jerry Quarry and WBA champ Jimmy Ellis, both who were top fighters. Patterson's last fight was a 7th round KO loss to Ali. Overall, Patterson had 8 losses. 2 to Liston, 2 to Ali and 1 to Johanson. The rest of the losses were questionable ones to: Joey Maxim early in Patterson's career; Ellis and Quarry. Patterson fought many elite fighters successfully. He is considered the fastest heavyweight ever, second only to Ali, and he was a good puncher.
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