Ranking the 7 Greatest Heavyweight Boxers Of All Time

Ranking the 7 Greatest Heavyweight Boxers Of All Time

Isaac Darko
updated at April 4, 2024 at 1:25 PM
  • Boxing, dating back to ancient civilizations, is a combat sport
  • A few skilled boxers are remembered as the greatest in history
  • Here is a look at the seven best heavyweight boxers of all time

Who comprises the top seven heavyweight boxers in history? Determining the answer is challenging, particularly when comparing legendary figures with strong claims to the number one spot.

Muhammad Ali, dubbed 'The Greatest', stands alongside iconic fighters such as Joe Frazier, George Foreman, and Lennox Lewis. Moreover, does Mike Tyson deserve inclusion?

George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, Muhammed Ali, heavyweight boxers
George Foreman (L) and Muhammed Ali (M) are among the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time. Photos by Focus on Sport/ Stanley Weston/Frank Micelotta
Source: Getty Images

We've thoroughly examined the key attributes that define greatness in heavyweight boxing throughout history. Our ranking system considers factors such as reign of dominance, head-to-head competition, and overall impact on the sport.

For now, Sports Brief has assembled the seven greatest heavyweight boxers in history.

Greatest Heavyweight Boxers Of All Time

7. Joe Frazier

'Smokin' Joe Frazier, known for his devastating punching power, made history by being the first to defeat Muhammad Ali.

Despite facing challenges for recognition as champion during Ali's absence, his victory over 'The Greatest' cemented his position as the definitive heavyweight champion, per ESPN.

Frazier defended his title nine times, defeating notable opponents like Jimmy Ellis, Bob Foster, Jerry Quarry, and Oscar Bonavena.

However, George Foreman's surprising stoppage in 1973 marked a setback, and Frazier experienced two more losses to Ali before retiring permanently in 1981.

6. Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson made history as the first black fighter to claim the heavyweight championship by defeating Tommy Burns in 1908.

Johnson faced immense obstacles to even compete for the title due to the rampant racism of the era, resorting to vying for the "world-coloured heavyweight title."

As champion, he incited riots by defeating prominent white fighters, notably causing significant unrest with his dominant win over James J. Jeffries.

Although Jess Willard ultimately ended Johnson's reign in 1915, his flamboyant lifestyle and exceptional ring prowess left a lasting impact on the sport.

5. George Foreman

George Foreman had a career of two halves. He became heavyweight champion after winning gold at the 1968 Olympics, defeating Frazier in two rounds and Norton in three. However, Muhammad Ali defeated him in 'The Rumble In The Jungle'.

Foreman retired after several fights, only to return to the sport a decade later at 38. Despite initial scepticism, he won 23 fights before challenging for the world title again. Although he lost to Holyfield and Morrison, Foreman made history in 1994 by becoming the oldest heavyweight champion at 45, dethroning Michael Moorer.

4. Rocky Marciano

Renowned for his undefeated 49-0 record and retirement as world heavyweight champion, 'The Brockton Blockbuster', Rocky Marciano, was celebrated for his resilience and ability to counterpunch.

In his bout against 'Jersey' Joe Walcott, Marciano turned the tables with a 13th-round knockout after trailing on the scorecards. Similarly, in his final fight against Archie Moore, Marciano recovered from a knockdown in the fourth round to secure a ninth-round knockout victory.

Despite being vulnerable at times, Marciano's opponents found it nearly impossible to halt his relentless forward momentum. He holds the highest knockout percentage among heavyweight champions, stopping 87% of his opponents.

3. Larry Holmes

The 'Easton Assassin', Larry Holmes, was underappreciated during his time despite defending the heavyweight crown 20 times. Holmes faced the challenge of following Muhammad Ali's remarkable reign, with his victory over 'The Greatest' in 1980 not earning him much popularity.

Holmes claimed the title by defeating Ken Norton and successfully defended it against former champion Leon Spinks, as well as future champions Trevor Berbick, Tim Witherspoon, and James 'Bonecrusher' Smith during his seven-year reign.

Although he fell just short of Marciano's record with a 48-0 streak, Holmes controversially lost the belts to Michael Spinks. He continued to fight until 2002, remaining a world-ranked contender throughout much of the 90s.

2. Joe Louis

Louis, breaking through the barriers set by Jack Johnson, holds the record for the most heavyweight title defences in history. Despite facing criticism for his choice of opponents, victories against 'Jersey' Joe Walcott, Max Schmeling, and Billy Conn cement his illustrious legacy.

For 13 years, Louis dominated the division as 'The Brown Bomber', showcasing incredible punching power. Remarkably, 23 of his 26 title opponents were stopped or knocked out, establishing him as one of the greatest punchers the division has ever seen.

1. Muhammed Ali

Ali's legacy as the greatest heavyweight of all time is indisputable. In his prime during the 60s, he showcased unparalleled defensive skills, outclassing opponents like Sonny Liston and Ernie Terrell. via BoxRec.

Despite facing a three-year hiatus for refusing the Vietnam War draft, Ali returned as a tactically astute fighter dominating the 70s.

His iconic matches against Frazier, Foreman, Norton, and Spinks are must-watch for any boxing enthusiast, each marking a historic moment.

While his career ended with losses to Holmes and Berbick, and the onset of Parkinson's disease, Ali's impact remains unparalleled.

Paul mocks Tyson’s ear bite video

YouTuber-turned-boxer Paul is firing shots at Tyson ahead of the fight, Sports Brief reported.

The youngster recently trolled Iron Mike on social media, reminding him of his ear-biting incident.

Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s ear during a heavyweight bout in 1997, a moment that lives on in history.

Isaac Darko photo
Isaac Darko
Isaac Darko is a La Liga, Ligue 1 and Bundesliga editor at Sports Brief with a Degree in Journalism and Communications from Ghana Institute of Journalism (2010)