We’re going back to WhatIfSports again, sport fans. But this time, we’re focusing on boxing.
Growing up in the 1970s, I became an avid sports fan. First, grasping onto Major League Baseball. Then, diving into Steelers Nation based on the “Immaculate Reception.” But professional boxing was also one of my favorites. And watching fights in the 1970s provided me the opportunity to witness some of the greatest ever.
Recently, using the tools of WhatIfSports.com, I ran mythical tournaments to determine the best teams ever in the MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL. WhatIfSports, however, does not have the tools to run such tournaments for boxing.
Because of the rise of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and Bellator, among other MMA groups, pro boxing has taken a back seat. Like, a back seat in a very large bus. Only diehard boxing fans really follow the sport anymore.
As a self-professed sports historian, and without any simulation program like what is found on WhatIfSports for boxing, I’m taking on the subjective challenge to determine who the greatest fighters of all time are in the four biggest divisions of boxing: heavyweight, middleweight, welterweight, and lightweight.
Since the big boys are the most popular, I’ll begin with the heavyweights. Before I begin, one thing that has hurt pro boxing is the number of boxing associations and councils that determine their own champions. We have the WBA (World Boxing Association), WBC (World Boxing Council), IBF (International Boxing Federation), International Boxing Organization (IBO) and the WBO (World Boxing Organization).
Currently, the WBA has no crowned champion. Deontay Wilder wears the WBC belt with a 38-0 record. Anthony Joshua is the champion of the IBF with an unblemished record of 18-0, all by knockout. Then there is the WBO and their title holder, Joseph Parker, from New Zealand. Who, too, is unbeaten with 22 straight victories. 18 of which are by KO.
Tyson Fury reigns as the IBO champ and was the WBA, IBF, WBO as well as the IBO champion. But, he surrendered his belts for all of those organizations while he was under a medical investigation. Fury also indicated he was giving up the belts due to personal issues and that his rematch with Klitschko was cancelled. Not once, once but twice.
The IBF stripped Fury of his championship for opting to fight Wladimir Klitschko instead of a mandatory challenger in Vyacheslav Glazkov. Fury is 25-0 with 18 knockouts. Aside from diehard boxing fans, most people would not recognize the aforementioned names.
To determine who the top heavys all-time are, I used the Boxing Records web site. they have listed the top 20 fighters for every division. That is the basis of my theorizing and working out who the greatest heavyweight of all time is.
So away we go with the top of the pro heavyweight boxing heap. Boxing Records list of top 20 is:
1. Muhammad Ali
2. Joe Louis
3. Evander Holyfield
4. George Foreman
5. Larry Holmes
6. Rocky Marciano
7. Sonny Liston
8. Joe Frazier
9. Jack Johnson
10. Jack Dempsey
11. Ezzard Charles
12. Jim Jeffries
13. Jersey Joe Walcott
14. Mike Tyson
15. Gene Tunney
16. Harry Wills
17. Sam Langford
18. John L. Sullivan
19. Max Schmeling
20. Max Baer
To work out this mythical tournament, Ali and Louis get a bye in the first round for being the top two fighters in this division. The first slate of fights are highest-seed remaining versus lowest-seeded boxers. Therefore, the matchups are:
- Evander Holyfield versus Max Baer.
- George Foreman versus Max Schmeling.
- Larry Holmes versus John L. Sullivan.
- Rocky Marciano versus Sam Langford.
- Sonny Liston versus Harry Wills.
- Joe Frazier versus Gene Tunney.
- Jack Johnson versus Mike Tyson.
- Jack Dempsey versus Jersey Joe Walcott.
- Ezzard Charles versus Jim Jeffries.
Who do you think we’ll take the crown? Well, you’ll have to come back over the next couple of days to find out. And for more from Harv Aronson, check out his website!