For decades the heavyweight championship of the world was the richest & most revered title in all of professional sports. Holders of this title were as famous & interwoven at the top of the cultural hierarchy as any film star or political leader. These men were uncrowned royalty in the wider culture. In truth the seeds of the destruction of this institution were sown upon the formation of the World Boxing Association in 1962 & the World Boxing Council the following year. The, at first subtle, but over time more & more glaring distinction been ‘a’ world champion & ‘the’ world champion was born.

Many will question this assertion – largely on the basis that the years 1962-1982 inclusive provided many historically great fights, a fact that I do not dispute. What I do maintain is that a time-lag effect systematically, slowly at first & then at an accelerated rate, destroyed the concept of a heavyweight champion of the world. That is the entire concept of even two globally acknowledged champions in one division started a process that continues to this day with a third ‘major’ sanctioning body being established in 1983 in the International Boxing Federation & a fourth in 1988 in the World Boxing Organization. But unlike almost every other economic endeavor – where the freeing up of markets to competition leads to a better net product for the customer, in boxing, the influx of poorly run, barely legal sanctioning bodies has in effect been a race to the bottom – not the top.

Take The Jackasses Over at the IBF for Example

These clowns have a history of civil racketeering, mail fraud and soliciting bribes. This is all a matter of US federal court public record. There was nothing unusual or out of the ordinary about the theft of Tyson Fury‘s belt in the aftermath of his win over Wladimir Klitschko – who’d held the organization’s belt since April 22, 2006. A not dissimilar thing happened to Michael Moorer after he lost to George Foreman in 1994. Foreman ($250,000), Bob Arum ($100,000 of an agreed $200,000) & Axel Schulz’s promoter Cedric Kushner ($100,000) all paid bribes to the IBF to allow Foreman to fight Schulz instead of Moorer.

The only difference one suspects with the utter shambles that has been the IBF heavyweight title from the moment Fury was stripped of his title – for the mortal sin of honoring the rematch he was legally obliged to agree to in order to get the Klitschko fight in the first place – to the Moorer circumvention is that the bridge of the laughably poor Charles Martin was deployed as Anthony Joshua took possession of a belt he has zero moral claim to. Additionally the circumstances surrounding Martin’s ‘championship win’ – due to an injury in the 3rd round to the only vaguely credible opponent on his card – point to a yet larger conspiracy.

The IBF are of course the same organization who forced Oscar De La Hoya to relinquish his lightweight belt in 1995 for refusing to fight the spectacularly under-qualified Miguel Julio of Columbia. Julio’s record at the time he was made a challenger by the IBF needs to be seen to be believed. He was nominally 29-1-1 at the time – masking the fact that 18 of those wins came against opponents without even a single professional win to their names. His record against opponents who were coming in off a win was 1-1-1.

The Question of Deserving A World Title Shot

By worthy I mean accomplished at the time they ENTERED the ring to fight for the heavyweight title they went on to win. Another way of looking at this is who were the most deserving to the least deserving of a title shot in the first place.

Bob FitzsimmonsJames J. CorbettJames J. JeffriesJohn L. Sullivan due to their status as pioneers, the relative difficulty of global travel during their time & the associated relative lack of sufficient numbers of world level heavyweight competition in their time are all exempt from this discussion.

Note that fighters such as Ezzard Charles, Evander HolyfieldMichael Spinks & Roy Jones Junior are given credit for notable elite international level wins outside of the heavyweight division but in a deflated manner. Despite this devaluation Charles’ body of work pre-challenging for the heavyweight title taken as a whole is vast & immense. The comparison with the ilk of Charles Martin is insulting to the legacy of the great champions of the past.

With the dilution in credibility of heavyweight champions has come a loosely parallel deflation in personalities of mass appeal. There are of course exceptions but their platform has shrunk & their wider cultural significance all but evaporated. On Saturday Anthony Joshua become the 12th man in history by my reckoning to claim a major heavyweight title having beaten zero elite level international opposition in order to be awarded his title shot.

The Most to Least Worthy Heavyweight Champions in Boxing History

  1. Ezzard Charles. Held wins over Teddy Yarosz; Charley Burley (twice at middleweight); Joey Maxim (three times); Anton Christoforidis; Archie Moore (three times at light heavyweight); Lloyd Marshall (twice) &  Jimmy Bivins (three times) before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Champion.
  2. Joe Louis. Held wins over Primo Carnera; King Levinsky; Max Baer; Jack Sharkey & Bob Pastor before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Champion.
  3. Jack Johnson. Held wins over George Gardner; Sandy Ferguson; Joe Jeannette (four times); Sam Langford & Bob Fitzsimmons before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Career pre-dated these rankings.
  4. Rocky Marciano. Held wins over Roland LaStarza; Rex Layne; Joe Louis; Lee Savold & Harry Matthews before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Champion.
  5. Max Baer. Held wins over King Levinsky (twice); Ernie Schaaf & Max Schmeling (in Ring Magazine’s 1933 Fight of the Year) before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Champion.
  6. Gene Tunney. Held wins over Harry Greb (three times); Georges Carpentier &  Tommy Gibbons before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Champion.
  7. Muhammad Ali. Held wins over Archie Moore; Doug Jones; Henry Cooper & Alejandro Lavorante before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Champion.
  8. Ingemar Johansson. Held wins over Henry Cooper; Heinz Neuhaus; Eddie Machen; Franco Cavicchi & Joe Erskine before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Champion.
  9. Sonny Liston. Held wins over Eddie Machen; Zora Folley; Cleveland Williams (twice); Roy Harris & Mike DeJohn before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Champion.
  10. Jersey Joe Walcott. Held wins over Joe Baksi; Lee Q. Murray; Curtis Sheppard; Jimmy Bivins; Lee Oma; Joey Maxim (twice) & Elmer Ray before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Champion.
  11. Joe Frazier. Held wins over Oscar Bonavena; Eddie Machen; Doug Jones & George Chuvalo before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Champion.
  12. Jack Sharkey. Held wins over Harry Wills; Mike McTigue; Jim Maloney; Young Stribling & Tommy Loughran before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Champion.
  13. Floyd Patterson. Held wins over Jimmy Slade (twice); Yvon Durelle (twice); Tommy Jackson & Tommy Harrison before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Champion.
  14. Jim Braddock. Held wins over Pete Latzo; Tuffy Griffiths; Les Kennedy; John Henry Lewis & Art Lasky before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Champion.
  15. Primo Carnera. Held wins over Young Stribling; Neal Clisby; George Godfrey; Jim Maloney; King Levinsky & Ernie Schaaf before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Champion.
  16. Ernie Terrell. Held wins over Cleveland Williams; Zora Folley; Gerhard Zech &  Bob Foster before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 1st.
  17. George Foreman. Held wins over Gregorio Peralta (twice); George Chuvalo & Luis Faustino Pires before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Champion.
  18. Michael Dokes. Held wins over Jimmy Young; Ossie Ocasio &  John L. Gardner before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 1st.
  19. Jimmy Ellis. Held wins over Holly Mims; Johnny Persol; Leotis Martin & Oscar Bonavena before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 2nd.
  20. Michael Spinks. Held wins over Ramon Ranquello; Yaqui Lopez; Eddie Mustafa Muhammad & Dwight Muhammad Qawi before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Champion.
  21. Ken Norton. Held win over Muhammad Ali before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 1st.
  22. Evander Holyfield. Held wins over Dwight Muhammad Qawi (twice) & Carlos De Leon before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 1st.
  23. Larry Holmes. Held win over Earnie Shavers before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Champion.
  24. Max Schmeling. Held wins over Hein Domgoergen; Michele Bonaglia; Michele Bonaglia; Johnny Risko & Paulino Uzcudun before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Champion.
  25. Lennox Lewis. Held wins over Jean-Maurice Chanet; Gary Mason; Mike Weaver; Tyrell Biggs & Donovan Ruddock before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Champion.
  26. Jack Dempsey. Held wins over Gunboat Smith (twice); Bill Brennan; Billy Miske (twice); Fred Fulton & Battling Levinsky before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Champion.
  27. Gerrie Coetzee. Held wins over Mike Schutte (twice); Pierre Fourie & Leon Spinks before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 1st.
  28. John Tate. Held wins over Duane Bobick & Kallie Knoetze before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 8th.
  29. Riddick Bowe. Held wins over Tyrell Biggs; Tony Tubbs & Pierre Coetzer before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 1st.
  30. Roy Jones Jr.. Held wins over Jorge Vaca; Jorge Fernando Castro; Bernard Hopkins;  Thulani Malinga; James Toney; Vinny Pazienza; Mike McCallum; Montell Griffin; Virgil Hill & Clinton Woods before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 4th.
  31. Michael Moorer. Held wins over Bert Cooper & James “Bonecrusher” Smith before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 3rd.
  32. Tyson Fury. Held wins over Dereck Chisora (twice); Steve Cunningham & Christian Hammer before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Champion.
  33. Greg Page. Held wins over George Chaplin (twice); Marty Monroe; Alfredo Evangelista; Jimmy Young; James Tillis & Renaldo Snipes before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 2nd.
  34. David Haye. Held wins over Jean Marc Mormeck & Enzo Maccarinelli before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 2nd.
  35. Francesco Damiani. Held wins over Anders Eklund & Tyrell Biggs before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 4th.
  36. Mike Tyson. Held win over Marvis Frazier before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. James Tillis is commonly regarded as Tyson’s best pre-Championship opponent largely due to his status as the first man to take him the distance but its noted that at the time they met Tillis had lost 4 of his last 5 bouts & he was without a win over anyone with a winning record for more than 2 years. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Champion.
  37. Tim Witherspoon. Held win over Renaldo Snipes before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 3rd.
  38. Mike Weaver. Held win over Stan Ward before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 1st.
  39. Samuel Peter. Held win over Jeremy Williams before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 2nd.
  40. Trevor Berbick. Held wins over John Tate before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 5th.
  41. Wladimir Klitschko. Held wins over Axel Schulz & Monte Barrett before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Champion.
  42. James “Bonecrusher” Smith. Held win over Frank Bruno before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 2nd.
  43. Marvin Hart. Held wins over Philadelphia Jack O’Brien & Jack Johnson before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Career pre-dated these rankings.
  44. James “Buster” Douglas. Held wins over Randall Cobb & Greg Page before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 4th.
  45. Frank Bruno. Held wins over Lucien Rodriguez; Anders Eklund & Gerrie Coetzee before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 7th.
  46. Ray Mercer. Held win over Bert Cooper before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 4th.
  47. Ruslan Chagaev. Held win over John Ruiz before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 3rd.
  48. Nikolay Valuev. Held wins over Marcelo Fabian Dominguez & Larry Donald before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 5th.
  49. Oleg Maskaev. Held win over Sinan Samil Sam before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 2nd.
  50. Tony Tucker. Held win over James Broad before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 3rd.
  51. Pinklon Thomas. Held win over a 22-1 peaking James Tillis before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 1st.
  52. Hasim Rahman. Held win over Corrie Sanders before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 2nd.
  53. Oliver McCall. Held wins over Francesco Damiani & Bruce Seldon before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 2nd.
  54. Alexander Povetkin. Held wins over Eddie Chambers & a 2007 version of Chris Byrd before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 2nd.
  55. Shannon Briggs. Held win over George Foreman before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 5th.
  56. Corrie Sanders. Held wins over Johnny Du Plooy; Bert Cooper & Ross Puritty before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 3rd.
  57. Bermane Stiverne. Held wins over Ray Austin & Chris Arreola before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 2nd.
  58. Tony Tubbs. Held win over James “Bonecrusher” Smith before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 4th.
  59. Leon Spinks. Held win over Alfio Righetti before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 3rd.
  60. Jess Willard. Held win over George Rodel before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Career pre-dated these rankings.
  61. Siarhei Liakhovich. Held win over 2004 version of Dominick Guinn before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 6th.
  62. John Ruiz. Held win over Jimmy Thunder before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 2nd.
  63. Henry Akinwande. Held wins over Jimmy Thunder & Johnny Nelson before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 7th.
  64. Tommy Burns. Held wins over no one at elite international level before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Career pre-dated these rankings.
  65. Deontay Wilder. Held wins over no one at elite international level before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World – only shot names such as a 41 year old Audley Harrison & a 37 year old Siarhei Liakhovich. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 3rd.
  66. Vitali Klitschko. Held wins over no one at elite international level before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: Champion.
  67. Tommy Morrison. Held wins over no one at elite international level before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 9th.
  68. Herbie Hide. Held wins over no one at elite international level before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 6th.
  69. Sultan Ibragimov. Held wins over no one at elite international level before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 6th.
  70. Anthony Joshua. Held wins over no one at elite international level before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 10th.
  71. Chris Byrd. Held wins over no one at elite international level before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 1st.
  72. Lamon Brewster. Held wins over no one at elite international level before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 4th.
  73. Bruce Seldon. Held wins over no one at elite international level before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 6th.
  74. Michael Bentt. Held wins over no one at elite international level before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: 5th.
  75. Charles Martin. Held win over no one at elite international level before challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Peak Ring Magazine end of year ranking: never made the Top 10.

Matt Hamilton

SEO & PPC Specialist Consultant Based in London Servicing the UK. I am an organic search engine specialist & help businesses stay ahead of the Google algorithm to the best effect for ranking, conversions & online derived revenue.

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