Thursday, January 5, 2017

THE TOP TEN HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONS OF ALL TIME

It is true that I rarely ever talk sports, I just don't care to discuss athletics most of the time; however, I am a bit of a boxing aficionado, so I will write about it. There is always debate about who is the best athlete, or who is the best boxer, or who would have beaten who. There are more opinions than there are boxers, nonetheless, there are some fighters whose story and legendary abilities have withstood the test of time. 

The first question. Why Heavyweights? Because the heavyweight champion is supposed to represent the absolute best the division has to offer, and there is a more subtle reason. Boxers in the heavyweight division are built larger, sometimes much larger, than any other weight class.They should possess greater strength, punching power, and ability to withstand punches thrown by other large sized men, more so than any member of the lighter weight divisions. This is the reason why boxing, and other contact sports, are divided into weight classes. 

When facing a heavyweight, smaller athletes will be quickly overwhelmed under normal circumstances. This was proven a number of times throughout the Twentieth Century. Legendary fighters such as Light Heavyweight champions Archie Moore and Bob Foster, and the incredibly brave Welterweight Mickey Walker, all failed against quality Heavyweights. In today's era, boxers of different weight classes rarely ever move up and try to challenge the "big boys" of boxing, although there have been a few exceptions. 

There are many great Heavyweight boxers that have earned the title "Champion". In today's era, with multiple organizations awarding sometimes worthless belts, it is difficult to separate one from the next; however, quality boxers will stand out and make their mark. With the rise of the giant sized boxers like the Klitschko brothers, the division has lost much of it's luster and popularity in the past fifteen years. There is too much disparity in size between some the boxers: however, good skills, determination, and heart, are still qualities which can lead an aspiring boxer to stardom.

So which qualities does a Heavyweight Champion need to make it to the All Time Best list? The simple answer is they must have scored consistent victories over other quality boxers, and defended the title while doing so. Below are my choices, you may disagree with them, but I don't mind.

10. Rocky Marciano

There will be debate about this one, after all, until recently Rocky was the only champion to retire undefeated. Rocky was a short, stocky, incredibly tough man, with a solid chin, that never got tired or tried to clinch. He was also slow moving, prone to cuts, and had short arms. He was almost a pure puncher, his short arms and slow legs did not allow for flashy boxing moves; but when he connected, it hurt! Rocky looked a bit small for a Heavyweight, he normally weighed in at about 195 pounds, but in person he didn't look so small. The reason for his light weight was that he trained himself fanatically, that's also the reason he never tired in ring. However, all things being considered, he would have some difficulty with fighters of the modern era. Fighters today tend to be much larger than the boxers of Rocky's era. It would be a bit much to expect Rocky at 195 pounds to be effective against someone like a Klitshcko that weighs a slim 260 pounds and is more than a foot taller.


9. Evander Holyfieled
What was Holyfield's greatest attribute? His heart. How would his opponents describe him? Tough. He did not begin his boxing career as a Heavyweight. He started out at Cruiserweight, and moved up, beyond his natural weight, to defeat some of the biggest names in the Heavyweight division. He fought them all, and in his prime he defeated them all. He had effective punching power, good skills, a steel chin, and a huge heart, the perfect combination that kept him competitive far past his prime. At his best, he was a match for just about anybody.

8. Lennox Lewis
At 6'5" and 260 pounds, Lennox Lewis is a true representative of a modern heavyweight. His shear physical size alone makes him tower over some of the great heavyweights of earlier times. A solid boxer, with tremendous power in his right hand, he dominated most of his fights. He was perhaps not as well prepared for some of his fights, thus he acquired losses, all of which he would eventually avenge. But when he was focused, he was awesome.


7. Sonny Liston
This was the true bad boy of boxing. His early life was not at all promising. The son of a very abusive sharecropper, he eventually got involved with gang activity, and served time in prison for various criminal activities. While in prison he found a mentor that taught him the fundamentals of boxing, and the rest is history. After leaving prison he quickly rose through the ranks and became champion with a First round KO of champion Floyd Patterson. He was a big, strong man, with a mean, angry look that terrified his opponents. He was completely dominant in his fights, until he ran into a much younger, and faster, Cassius Clay. Some have suggested that Liston was pressured by criminal elements to throw his fights against the young Muhammad Ali.  Regardless of what happened in the Ali fight, by that time in his life he was visibly ageing, and was beginning to lose his physical prowess.

6. Jack Johnson
The first black man to hold the Heavyweight title, Jack Johnson boxed at the very beginning of the Twentieth Century. At six feet tall, and weighing just over 200 pounds, he was considered a giant for his era. A clever defensive tactician, he toyed with his opponents, wearing them out over many rounds. Some of his fights lasted beyond 20 rounds, as was common at the time, yet he retained enough strength and stamina to score knockouts in later rounds. Johnson confounded his opponents and the public with his cagey techniques, and added to his legacy with his scandalous behavior outside the ring. The world had never seen a man such as Jack Johnson, and many of the early sports writers declared him the greatest heavyweight of them all; however, his style would be considered too boring for today's televised fights.


5. Joe Frazier
"Smokin" Joe Frazier had what is known as the "Philadelphia left hook", a big heart, the tenacity of a pitbull, and a unbeatable determination to win. Joe liked to move fast, attack the body, and wear down his opponents with his left hook. He used his determination, and his left hook, to score decisive victories against many of the great heavyweights of his era. His series of fights with Ali have gone down in history as some of the greatest fights of all time.

4. Larry Holmes
Larry Holmes had the misfortune of being champion right after the great Ali, and is always compared to his predecessor. He had the best left jab of any heavyweight, perhaps the greatest left jab in the history of the sport, and he used that left jab to do great things. His left jab was coupled by a steel chin, excellent boxing skills, and a decent right hand. He defeated all comers, and was unbeaten in his prime.

3. George Foreman
Here's a man that literally smashed the opposition, in his younger days, and would score a knockout victory over a man half his age to become champion for the second time at the age of 45. George Foreman was perhaps the hardest punching heavyweight in history, he had frightening power in both hands. Add an angry demeanor to his impressive physical appearance, and he became truly formidable. His record includes knockouts and victories over a long list of great opponent, from two very different boxing eras.

2. Muhammad Ali
Let's make one thing clear, when we are discussing the great Ali, we are talking about the man that was at his very best during the mid-1960's.The man that fought so many heroic battles during the 1970's pales in comparison to his younger self. Great fighters, such as Joe Frazier and Ken Norton that scored victories over the ageing Ali, would not have gotten anywhere near the younger version. His speed and reflexes were unmatched by any heavyweight, before or since. Nobody could move and dodge punches like Ali. He wasn't a hard puncher, but he hit hard enough and often enough to add knockouts to his record. Perhaps his greatest contribution to the sport came outside the ring, where he was boxing's greatest showman, spokesman, and brought a certain flair and panache to the sport that can never be equaled.

1. Joe Louis
Joe Louis "The Brown Bomber" was the greatest heavyweight of them all. He was also the greatest puncher in the sport of boxing. He had dynamite in both fists, nobody could finish a man like the great Joe Louis. He had the hand speed of a much smaller man, and the power to knockout the largest of men. When Joe knocked a man out, they would stay out. Joe commanded an arsenal of weapons to choose from. In boxing mode, his left jab would open a fight up and work wonders. When he found an opening, every punch could end the fight. Coming from the old school, Joe didn't throw just one punch, he threw combinations that would smash even the toughest opponent. No other heavyweight will top his achievements, while carrying himself with the same quiet dignity of this man that was buried as a national hero in Arlington National Cemetery.

Honorable Mentions
Max Bear- The clown prince of heavyweights, his overhand right was legendary.
Jack Dempsy- The Manassa Mauler, he literally mauled the opposition
Floyd Patterson- A nice, decent man. He had great ability, but a very weak chin.

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