Yesterday Ken Irons shared the first half of his top ten heavyweight boxers of all-time, now it’s time to step into the ring with the elite, as he reveals his top five!
5) JOE LOUIS
Record: 66-3 (52 KO’s)
Joe Louis is a boxing icon who held the title (before it became fragmented) from 1937 until 1949, the longest period ever for a champion to reign.
He was undefeated until sustaining a 12-round loss to Germany’s Max Schmeling in 1936. After winning the title he had a return fight with the German in 1938, a fight which triggered deep emotions owing to the anti-Nazi feelings prevalent at the time (Hitler had reportedly personally encouraged Schmeling to win the title for the honour of the third Reich, although there was never any question that the fighter himself was involved in politics in any way). The fight lasted 124 seconds with Schmeling knocked senseless having been floored 3 times.
Louis retired in 1949 but then had to come back due to financial problems as he owed a large sum in taxes. This caused anger amongst fans and the general public as a whole because Joe had served his country well, both in wartime (in the U.S. Army) and as a unifying personality, loved by both blacks and whites.
The Government displayed no such sentimentality and Joe was reduced to working as a wrestler to pay off his debt, having first lost comeback fights to both Ezzard Charles and Rocky Marciano. He did receive official approval in death however, when the then U.S. President, Ronald Reagan, requested that he be buried at Arlington Cemetery.
4) GEORGE FOREMAN
Record: 76-5 (68 KO’s)
Foreman, at 6 feet 3 inches, was not a stylish fighter but he was a devastating puncher, winning the title in 1973 against the seemingly invincible Joe Frazier when he demolished him in 2 rounds.
The following year, at age 25, he lost the crown to 32 year-old Muhammad Ali in the famous ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ in Zaire. Foreman was expected to win the contest but was overcome by Ali’s ‘rope a dope’ tactics whereby the latter leaned on the ropes, raised both gloves in protective mode and encouraged Foreman to eventually punch himself out.
Foreman always maintained that he had not felt right during the fight leading to some speculation that his water may have somehow been ‘spiked’, but this idea never got beyond the unsubstantiated rumour stage.
Foreman retired soon after and practised religion as a preacher. He came back to regain the title against Michael Moorer, at age 45. This made him the oldest man to win the title. He finally hung up the gloves for good in 1997.
3) LENNOX LEWIS
Record: 41-2-1 (32 KO’s)
London born but having spent part of childhood in Canada, Lewis holds dual nationality. At 6 feet 5 inches and 245 pounds, he was a superb boxer with a knock-out punch in either hand.
Dispensing of all of the elite pugilists of his era, Lewis achieved amateur success when representing Canada at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, defeating future great Riddick Bowe for the gold medal, subsequently turning professional and switching allegiance to Britain during the same year.
He held the undisputed world title and never suffered an unavenged defeat, retiring in 2004, having stopped Vitali Klitschko via TKO in his final bout.
2) LARRY HOLMES
Record: 69-6 (44 KO’s)
Holmes has suffered more in his rightful claim to immortality than perhaps any other fighter due to the unfortunate timing of his rise to fame.
The fact that Muhammad Ali’s career was still ingrained in the hearts and minds of fans the world over when Holmes, Ali’s ex sparring partner, came into prominence, detracted greatly from the new champion’s overall standing.
He was, however, at 6 feet 3 inches, a consummate boxer/ fighter who could, in truth, match Ali in most aspects of his craft. As a one punch knock-out specialist he was perhaps superior to his old ‘employer’ who was more of a‘damaging’ puncher and his left jab is generally considered to be the best ever in the division.
Holmes was champion from 1978 – 1985 and his 19 consecutive defences of the title ranks second only to Joe Louis.
1) MUHAMMED ALI
Record: 56-5 (KO’s 37)
Muhammad Ali was a man whose fame transcended the sport due to his strongly held and fearlessly expressed political and religious beliefs (including his refusal to fight in Vietnam) and his generally extrovert personality.
He was the first champion to overtly ‘wind up’ his opponents, often causing trouble at press conferences, pre fight interviews and the like. This however was all part of his deliberate practice of getting the better of an opponent mentally which he invariably did, and which usually paid off for him in terms of results.
Ali’s dancing style, lightening fast reflexes and astonishing hand speed, wherein, in his own words,he “floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee”,were just too much for most of his bewildered and disheartened opponents to cope with.
He is the only three time lineal world heavyweight champion, winning the title in 1964, 1974 and 1978. It should also be remembered that his ‘prime years’, 1967 – 1971, were taken from him when his license was taken away following the Vietnam draft incident.
So there it is, the top ten heavyweight boxers of all-time and not a Rocky Balboa or Butterbean in sight! Let us know your thoughts on Ken’s choices in the comment section below.