World Heavyweight Boxing Champions
Heavyweight champions from 1892 to the present day
George Edward Foreman (born January 10, 1949) won the World Heavyweight title with a second round knockout of then-undefeated Joe Frazier in Kingston, Jamaica in 1973. He made two successful title defenses before losing to Muhammad Ali in "The Rumble in the Jungle" in 1974. Following a loss to Jimmy Young in 1977 he became an ordained Christian minister. Ten years later Foreman announced a comeback, and in 1994 at age 45, he regained the Heavyweight Championship.
Joseph William "Joe" Frazier (January 12, 1944 – November 7, 2011), also known as Smokin' Joe, was an American professional boxer, Olympic gold medalist and Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion, whose professional career lasted from 1965 to 1976, with a one-fight comeback in 1981.
Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.; January 17, 1942) is an American former professional boxer, philanthropist and social activist. Considered a cultural icon, Ali was both idolized and vilified. Ali would go on to become the first and only three-time lineal World Heavyweight Champion. Nicknamed "The Greatest," Ali was involved in several historic boxing matches. Notable among these were three with rival Joe Frazier, which are considered among the greatest in boxing history, and one with George Foreman, where he finally regained his stripped titles seven years later. Ali was well known for his unorthodox fighting style, which he described as "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee", and employing techniques such as the Ali Shuffle and the rope-a-dope. Ali had brought beauty and grace to the most uncompromising of sports and through the wonderful excesses of skill and character, he had become the most famous athlete in the world. He was also known for his pre-match hype, where he would "trash talk" opponents, often with rhymes.
Charles L. "Sonny" Liston (Unknown – December 30, 1970) was a professional boxer and ex-convict known for his toughness, punching power, and intimidating appearance who became world heavyweight champion in 1962 by knocking out Floyd Patterson in the first round. Liston failed to live up to his fearsome reputation in an unsuccessful defense of the title against Muhammad Ali; underworld connections and an early death - along with his unrecorded date of birth - added to the enigma. He is ranked number 15 in Ring Magazine's 100 Greatest Punchers of All Time.
Jens Ingemar Johansson (September 22, 1932 – January 30, 2009) was a Swedish boxer and former heavyweight champion of the world. Johansson was the fifth heavyweight champion born outside the United States. In 1959 he defeated Floyd Patterson by TKO in the third round, after flooring Patterson seven times in that round, to win the World Heavyweight Championship. As a result, Johansson won the Hickok Belt as top professional athlete of the year and was named the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year and Sports Illustrated magazine's "Sportsman of the Year". Johansson enjoyed a successful career as a heavyweight. When he retired in 1963 he had a record of 26 wins, 17 by KO, and only 2 losses. He called his right fist "toonder and lightning" for its concussive power (it was also called "Ingo's Bingo" and the "Hammer of Thor"), and in 2003 he was ranked at #99 on The Ring's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time.
Floyd Patterson (January 4, 1935 – May 11, 2006) was an American heavyweight boxer and former undisputed heavyweight champion. At 21, Patterson became the youngest man to win the world heavyweight title. He was also the first heavyweight boxer to regain the title. He had a record of 55 wins 8 losses and 1 draw, with 40 wins by knockout. He won the gold medal at the 1952 Olympic Games as a middleweight. Although Mike Tyson later became the youngest boxer to win a world heavyweight title, Patterson remains the youngest undisputed heavyweight champion.
Rocky Marciano (September 1, 1923 – August 31, 1969), born Rocco Francis Marchegiano, was an American boxer and the heavyweight champion of the world from September 23, 1952, to April 27, 1956. Marciano is the only champion to hold the heavyweight title and go untied, undefeated throughout his career. Marciano defended his title six times. He holds notable wins over Ezzard Charles and Joe Louis.
Arnold Raymond Cream (January 31, 1914 – February 25, 1994), better known as Jersey Joe Walcott, was a world heavyweight boxing champion. He broke the world's record for the oldest man to win the world's Heavyweight title when he earned it at the age of 37 years, 168 days, a record that would be broken on November 5, 1994, by George Foreman, who defeated the 26 year old Heavyweight champion of the world Michael Moorer at the age of 45, to win the WBA and IBF heavyweight titles.
Ezzard Mack Charles (July 7, 1921 – May 28, 1975) was an African-American professional boxer and former world heavyweight champion. He holds wins over numerous Hall of Fame fighters in three different weight classes. Charles retired with a record of 93 wins, 25 losses and 1 draw.
Joseph Louis Barrow (May 13, 1914 – April 12, 1981), better known as Joe Louis, was the world heavyweight boxing champion from 1937 to 1949. He is considered to be one of the greatest heavyweights of all time. Nicknamed the Brown Bomber, Louis helped elevate boxing from a nadir in popularity in the post-Jack Dempsey era by establishing a reputation as an honest, hardworking fighter at a time when the sport was dominated by gambling interests. Louis's championship reign lasted 140 consecutive months, during which he participated in 27 championship fights, 26 championship fights during his reign; the 27th, against Ezzard Charles, was a challenge to Charles' heavyweight title and so is not included in Louis' reign. All in all, Joe was victorious in 25 successful title defenses, a record for the heavyweight division. In 2005, Louis was named the greatest heavyweight of all time by the International Boxing Research Organization, and was ranked number one on The Ring's list of 100 Greatest Punchers of All Time.
James Walter "The Cinderella Man" Braddock (June 7, 1905 – November 29, 1974) was an American boxer who was the world heavyweight champion from 1935 to 1937. Fighting under the name James J. Braddock (ostensibly to follow the pattern set by two prior world boxing champions, James J. Corbett and James J. Jeffries), he was known for his powerful right hand, granite chin and an amazing comeback from a floundering career. He had lost several bouts due to chronic hand injuries and was forced to work on the docks and collect social assistance to feed his family during the depression. In 1935 he fought Max Baer for the Heavyweight championship and won. For this unlikely feat he was given the nickname "The Cinderella Man" by Damon Runyon. Braddock was managed by Joe Gould.
Max Baer (February 11, 1909 – November 21, 1959) was an American boxer of the 1930s (one-time Heavyweight Champion of the World) as well as a professional wrestler and referee, and had an occasional role on film or television. He was the brother of twice World Champion boxing contender Buddy Baer and father of actor Max Baer, Jr. (best-known as Jethro Bodine on The Beverly Hillbillies). Baer is rated #22 on Ring Magazine's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time.
Born in Sequals, then in the Province of Udine, now Province of Pordenone, Friuli-Venezia Giulia (Italy), Carnera was a remarkable 6 feet 7 inches (197cm), tall and weighed 284 pounds (129 kg), at a time when the average height in Italy was approximately 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m). Until December 19, 2005, when the 7 ft 1 in, 147 kg Nikolay Valuev won the WBA title, Jess Willard who stood 6' 6½" was the tallest champion in boxing history. Carnera was an inch shorter but around 40 lbs heavier and was the heaviest champion in boxing history. He enjoyed a sizable reach advantage over most rivals, and when seen on fight footage, he seems like a towering giant compared to many heavyweights of his era, who were usually at least 60 pounds (27 kg) lighter and 7 inches (18 cm) shorter than he was. One publicity release about him read in part: "For breakfast, Primo has a quart of orange juice, two quarts of milk, nineteen pieces of toast, fourteen eggs, a loaf of bread and half a pound of Virginia ham." Because of his size, he earned the nickname "The Ambling Alp."
A fast and well-schooled fighter with no lack of heart and determination, Jack Sharkey is nonetheless overshadowed by the other heavyweight champions of his era. Sharkey?s indefatigable willingness to fight any opponent is best illustrated by his distinction in being the only man to have faced both Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis in prizefights. Though he consistently fought the best, Jack did not always win when up against the true upper crust of the division. In fact, his finest performances are perhaps his losses to Dempsey and Max Schmeling. Outspoken about his own confidence in his abilities and often surly or uncooperative in business, Jack had the talent to back up his ego. He remained a constant presence at or near the top of the heavyweight division for nearly a decade and solidified in his place in boxing lore by becoming heavyweight champion.
Maximillian Adolph Otto Siegfried Schmeling (September 28, 1905 – February 2, 2005) was a German boxer who was heavyweight champion of the world between 1930 and 1932. His two fights with Joe Louis in the late 1930s transcended boxing, and became worldwide social events because of their national associations. He was ranked 55 on Ring Magazine's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time. While Schmeling cooperated with the German government's efforts to play down the increasingly negative international world view of its domestic policies during the 1930s, he was not a member of the Nazi party. In fact, it became known long after the Second World War that Schmeling had risked his own life to save the lives of two Jewish children in 1938. During World War II, Schmeling served with the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) as an elite paratrooper (Fallschirmjäger).
James Joseph "Gene" Tunney (May 25, 1897 – November 7, 1978) was the world heavyweight boxing champion from 1926-1928 who defeated Jack Dempsey twice, first in 1926 and then in 1927. Tunney's successful title defense against Dempsey is one of the most famous bouts in boxing history and is known as The Long Count Fight. Tunney retired as an undefeated heavyweight after his victory over Tom Heeney in 1928.
William Harrison "Jack" Dempsey ("The Manassa Mauler") (June 24, 1895 – May 31, 1983) was an American boxer who held the world heavyweight title from 1919 to 1926. Dempsey's aggressive style and exceptional punching power made him one of the most popular boxers in history. Many of his fights set financial and attendance records, including the first million dollar gate. He is listed #10 on The Ring's list of all-time heavyweights and #7 among its Top 100 Greatest Punchers. He is a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Jess Willard (December 29, 1881 – December 15, 1968) was a world heavyweight boxing champion. He won the heavyweight title from Jack Johnson in April 1915 (earning the nickname "The Great White Hope") and lost it to Jack Dempsey in July 1919. At 6 ft 6 1⁄2 in (1.99 m) and 235 lb (107 kg), Willard was the tallest and the largest heavyweight champion in boxing history, until the 270 pounds (120 kg) Primo Carnera won the title on June 29, 1933, and the 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) Vitali Klitschko won the WBC title in 2004.
John Arthur ("Jack") Johnson (March 31, 1878 – June 10, 1946), nicknamed the “Galveston Giant,” was an American boxer. At the height of the Jim Crow era, Johnson became the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion (1908–1915). In a documentary about his life, Ken Burns notes, "for more than thirteen years, Jack Johnson was the most famous and the most notorious African-American on Earth." Johnson attests that his success in boxing came from the coaching he received from Joe Choynski, whom became his cellmate after the pair were arrested for fighting in Texas; where boxing was illegal at the time. The ageing Choynski saw natural talent and determination in Johnson and taught him the nuances of defence; stating A man who can move like you should never have to take a punch.
Tommy Burns (June 17, 1881 – May 10, 1955), born Noah Brusso, is the only Canadian born world heavyweight champion boxer. The first to travel the globe in defending his title, Tommy made 11 title defenses despite often being the underdog due to his size. Burns famously challenged all comers as Heavyweight Champion, leading to a celebrated bout with African-American Jack Johnson. According to his biographer, Burns insisted, "I will defend my title against all comers, none barred. By this I mean white, black, Mexican, Indian, or any other nationality. I propose to be the champion of the world, not the white, or the Canadian, or the American. If I am not the best man in the heavyweight division, I don't want the title." Burns was also the first heavyweight champion to give a Jewish boxer a shot at the crown. Burns defeated Joseph 'Jewey' Smith in a fight staged in Paris. He also fought a bout with a Native American on his way to the Championship. According to one biography, he also had two black sparring partners and was married for a brief time to a black woman. At a time when most white fighters adhered to the so-called "color-line", refusing to fight African Americans, Burns had half a dozen contests with black boxers prior to his clash with the legendary Jack Johnson.
Hart, nicknamed "The Louisville Plumber" because of his former trade, gained considerable prominence after a 1905 win over future champion Jack Johnson. That year, the heavyweight title was left vacant as a result of the retirement of champion James J. Jeffries and Hart's record earned him a chance to fight for the championship against top-ranked Jack Root (1876–1963), a much more experienced boxer, who had already beaten Hart in November, 1902. Jefferies, the retiring champ, refereed the championship fight on July 3, 1905 in Reno, Nevada. Hart knocked out Jack Root in the 12th round to win the vacant championship. After one successful exhibition match, Hart lost his championship to Canadian Tommy Burns on February 23, 1906 in Los Angeles, California.
James Jackson Jeffries (April 15, 1875 – March 3, 1953) was a world heavyweight boxing champion. His greatest assets were his enormous strength and stamina. Using a technique taught to him by his trainer, former welterweight and middleweight champion Tommy Ryan, Jeffries fought out of a crouch with his left arm extended forward. He was able to absorb tremendous punishment while wearing his opponents down. A natural left-hander, he possessed one-punch knockout power in his left hook. Jeffries stood 6 ft 1 1⁄2 in (1.87 m) tall and weighed 225 pounds (102 kg) in his prime. Though he would not be thought of as a particularly big Heavyweight by modern standards, he was considered a giant in his time. He could run 100 yards (91 m) in just over ten seconds, and could purportedly high jump over 6 feet (180 cm).
Robert James "Bob" Fitzsimmons (May 26, 1863 – October 22, 1917), was a British boxer who made boxing history as the sport's first three-division world champion. He also achieved fame for beating Gentleman Jim Corbett, the man who beat John L. Sullivan, and is in The Guinness Book of World Records as the Lightest heavyweight champion. Nicknamed Ruby Robert or The Freckled Wonder, he took pride in his lack of scars, and appeared in the ring wearing heavy woollen underwear to conceal the disparity between his trunk and leg-development.
James John "Gentleman Jim" Corbett (September 1, 1866 – February 18, 1933) was an Irish-American heavyweight boxing champion, best known as the man who defeated the great John L. Sullivan. He also coached boxing at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. He stood at 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m), with a reach of 73 inches (185 cm).