It seems like fans of everything are obsessed with lists. Who are the top 10 guitar players of all time? What are the top 10 movies of all time? Who are the top 15 finest women on the planet?
I, too, like lists. I am also a fan of Heavyweight Boxing. You can probably make a good guess on what my list is going to be covering. My list will cover the top 10 Heavyweight Champions of all time. I will provide arguments to substantiate each fighter's placement.
I will be doing this NASA countdown style (10, 9, 8, 7, etc.). Here goes.
10. Jim Jeffries
Heavyweight Champ in the early 1900s. The Boilermaker gets unfairly judged by boxing historians because of his only loss to fellow great Jack Johnson. Jeff came out of a long retirement and lost over 100 pounds in a matter of months for his only loss. He still put up a game effort in extreme heat.
In his prime Jeffries never lost and was never even knocked off his feet. He was a large man, even by modern standards, standing almost 6'3" and weighing 230 pounds ripped to the gills. He was a great athlete with tremendous strength and stamina.
9. Joe Frazier
"Joe Frazier, Joe Frazier, Joe Frazier." Smokin' Joe was tough as nails, as proved by his trilogy with Muhammad Ali. Joe was knocked down multiple times by 1,000,000 psi punches from George Foreman and kept getting back on his feet. Frazier was blessed with one of the most devastating right hooks of all time.
8. Jack Johnson
Johnson is one of the most interesting fighters in history. He not only had to fight in the ring, but also had to fight racial tension out of it. Johnson was a very intelligent person and a master of the pugilistic art.
Jack claimed to have thrown the fight to Jess Willard where his title was lost (as evidenced, he stated, by the picture of him shading his eyes while on the canvas). The fight film, however, shows that it was just a reflex action. He was defeated because he stayed past his prime like so many others. In his prime Johnson was a terror in the ring.
7. Mike Tyson
Iron Mike was a fighting demon at the peak of his powers. His talents were based on great speed and power. When he had his full powers, he was almost unbeatable. When Mike aged and lost his skills, he could no longer compete with even decent big heavies. He buggered up his record by fighting too long, but I am ranking these guys at their peaks.
6. Larry Holmes
Nice string of victories when the guys who held the other belts were playing musical chairs. Larry lived off the jab but had some pop. I would have to rate his jab as the all-time best for heavyweights.
5. Lennox Lewis
I know, I know, he had a couple of fights where he got caught cold, but he is just too good. This guy is what the future will look like: an athletic giant with tremendous boxing skills. Lennox could literally box your jaws off. He had a tremendous jab with very good power.
4. Jack Dempsey
The Manassa Mauler developed his bob and weave style by working in the beet fields and "riding the rods" (a not so wise mode of transport for hobos in the early 1900s). Dempsey would ride the rods underneath a moving train to get from place to place. A person would have to squat their body to fit into the area. This helped to formulate his crouch fighting style.
Dempsey would bring ferocious punches up from the crouched position and devastate opponents. He was a nasty, vicious fighter in the ring and a complete gentleman outside it.
3. Joe Louis
Joe was the champion for almost 15 years. He was fitted with an athletic physique and quick hands. He could throw short, quick, powerful punches that caught other fighters completely off guard. The only fight that he lost in his prime was to Max Schmaeling. He did fight a host of tomato cans, but who hasn't?
2. Muhammad Ali
Ali is one of the most famous athletes, no, people in modern history. I guess that goes without saying. Do I even need to go into his bio? I am sorry though; he is not "the Greatest." Let's move on.
1. Rocky Marciano
The Brockton Blockbuster is the only undefeated Heavyweight Champ. His knockout ratio is amazing: 43 KOs in 49 fights. If you don't think a man who weighs 189 pounds can hit, refer to the still picture of him knocking out Jersey Joe Walcott to win the title. It appears, in the photo, that Walcott's cheeks meet. I don't want to hear the excuse that he didn't fight anybody either. That's an easy copout.
I need to apologize to George Foreman (too one-dimensional) and Evander Holyfield (only 10 spots, and I'm ranking Tyson in his absolute prime before he fought you). I need to apologize to great Heavyweights like Sam Langford as well. I require that the fighter held/holds some portion of the Heavyweight Crown to qualify for the list.