Mike Tyson and the Top 20 Most Dangerous Heavyweights in Boxing History
What exactly is a dangerous fighter? Is it a fighter that can knock you out with a single punch or a fighter that is wildly unpredictable?
It could even be a fighter that has no punch but can box your ears off without getting hit. When it comes to heavyweights those kinds of fighters don’t really exist.
After thinking about this long and hard my decision on what a dangerous heavyweight fighter is someone who can knock you silly, is unpredictable, and scares you to death.
Sometimes a fighter has the fight won before the men step in the ring and that is a dangerous quality to have.
There are a diverse range of fighters on this list including heavyweight champions, heavyweight title challengers, and guys who never had the chance to fight for a title.
Also the rankings of these fighters is not determined by their skill or how good they were the ranking is strictly how dangerous was this man in the ring.
With that lets get to the 20 most dangerous heavyweight fighters ever to step into the ring.
#20: Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko
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This selection will probably be met by moans and head scratching but they are the most dangerous heavyweights out there now.
They may not be one punching knockout artist but they are dangerous because they are untouchable at this moment in time and for most of their careers.
Vitali has heavy hands and one of the scariest stare down faces you will ever see. He also has one of the best chins the heavyweight division has ever seen.
Wladimir has a good punch and when he gets his offense going it is only a matter of time until his opponent goes down.
This selection wont be popular but someone had to be number 20 and it is The Brothers Grim.
#19: Primo Carnera (88-14 72 KO)
Primo Carnera by all accounts was not a good boxer and he didn’t know how to impose himself on his opponent.
He did win the heavyweight title and defended it two times before beating beaten silly by Max Baer. He was a huge man for his day at 6’5 ½”.
He was dangerous because he was controlled by the mob and it was in your best interest to lose to him. If you didn’t you were risking more than a loss. You were risking your life.
Carnera lost his title and tried to make it on his own but he didn’t have the skill to make it without mob backing and eventually made his way to the professional wrestling world.
#18: Ray Mercer (36-7-1 26 KO)
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Anyone who has seen Mercer’s knockout of Tommy Morrison will never forget it. Mercer got a late start to boxing but still won the WBO heavyweight title and fought many of the top fighters of his era.
His nickname is Merciless and it fight him perfectly. He was a tough fight for anyone and he had a vicious punch. Although he lost to the top fighters he faced he never gave up and always went down swinging.
If you have never seen a Mercer fight I suggest you look him up and see what your missing.
#17: Tommy Morrison (48-3-1 42 KO)
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At one time it was believed that Morrison was the next big thing in the heavyweight division and he had the left hook to back it up.
He had a string of spectacular one punch knockouts that got him a shot at the WBO title which ended in disaster when he was brutally knocked out by Ray Mercer.
He went on to win the WBO title later with a win over living legend George Foreman. He won a close decision and defended the title once before losing it.
Morrison then tested positive for HIV and tried to fight on but never regained his prior glory. If Morrison had a chin to match his punch we may be talking about an all time great.
#16: James J. Jeffries (19-1-2 16 KO)
Jeffries established himself as one of the greatest heavyweight fighters ever in only 21 professional fights. He was the epitome of ruggedness and was one of the most intimidating fighters ever.
He knocked out Peter Jackson, Bob Fitzsimmons (2x), and James J. Corbett. He defended his title a then unprecedented nine times.
He is considered by some to be the greatest heavyweight fighter ever and Jack Johnson said shortly before his death that Jeffries was the best of his era.
#15: John L. Sullivan (38-1-1 32 KO)
Sullivan is the first heavyweight champion under the Marques of Queenbury rules. His nickname was The Boston Strong Boy and he lived up to it.
He knocked out all but six of his opponents and was the last fighter to hold the heavyweight title when fighters still fought bare fisted.
You have to be a pretty dangerous guy to fight with no gloves and Sullivan did it until he couldn’t anymore. If he isn’t a dangerous fighter I don’t know who is.
#14: Max Baer (67-13 52 KO)
Baer had the unfortunate experience of killing a man in the ring. Frankie Campbell died after Baer knocked him out in the fifth round.
He was also disqualified twice in his career and beat some of the best fighters of his time. He had knockout wins over Max Schmeling, Primo Carnera, King Levinsky, and Tony Galento.
The beating of Carnera is legendary because he knocked him down 11 times in 11 rounds.
He also had losses against Joe Louis, Tommy Loughran, and “The Cinderella Man” James Braddock. He is also the only reason that heavyweight boxing was relevant during the Great Depression.
Although Baer was a dangerous fighter inside the ring he was a fun man outside of the ring and was often found spouting off funny one liners to the press.
#13: Earnie Shavers (75-14-1 69 KO)
Anyone that knows heavyweight history knew Shavers would be on this list. It is probably a shock to most that he is this low on the list.
Shavers nickname was The Black Destroyer and he lived up to it with his punching power.
He falls a little short because he always fell a little short against the best fighters he faced. He knocked out Joe Bugner, Jimmy Ellis, and Ken Norton and that was about it.
He lost to Jerry Quarry, Ron Lyle, Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes, Randall Cobb, and James Tillis. He never won the heavyweight title but was usually near the top of the contender list.
Ali and Holmes said that Shavers was the hardest hitting fighter they ever faced. That says a lot for his punching power as Holmes also shared a ring with Mike Tyson
#12: Evander Holyfield (55-10-2 28 KO)
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This is the first name that may come as somewhat of a surprise because Holyfield can punch but he wasn’t a devastating puncher at heavyweight.
This is where the debate of what does dangerous means comes into play. Holyfield could punch and knocked out some decent heavyweights but he wasn’t a one punch knockout artist.
He is dangerous because he used his head as a third punch and it would take its toll on any fighter. We all know how Tyson reacted to his repeated head butting.
We also saw what his repeated head butting to Hasim Rahman’s head. That is one of the worst looking injuries you will ever see in a boxing ring.
#11: Joe Frazier (32-4-1 27 KO)
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Frazier was one of the best heavyweights to ever step into the ring and one of the most dangerous. He was a big puncher and could knockout any heavyweight of his era.
He is best known as the man you gave Muhammad Ali his first loss and he was the third man to knock down Ali in the 15th round of their first fight.
His four losses came to Ali (2x) and George Foreman (2x). His best punch was his left hook and it took out some good fighters.
His knockout victims included Eddie Machen, George Chuvalo, Buster Mathis, Jerry Quarry, Jimmy Ellis, and Bob Foster.
He was also an intimidating fighter with his bob and weave style and dangerous left hook.
#10: Jack Johnson (73-13-9-9 40 KO)
Johnson was a solid puncher but he wasn’t a massive puncher. More times than not he was just so good that he sat back and never really pushed himself.
When he was pushed he could punch with the best of them. He even knocked out the teeth of Stanley Ketchel when he decided to make a exhibition bout into a real fight.
He was most dangerous to American (or so they thought) because he was an African-American. His wins were usually met by rioting and at times resulted in the deaths of African-Americans.
He also lived dangerously by racing fast cars and having relationships with white women. He was an all time great and one of the most colorful heavyweight champions you’ll ever find.
#9: Andrew Golota (41-8-1-1 33 KO)
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This is the one guy on the list that probably seems like a shot out of left field for most people. Golota was always on the cusp of the heavyweight title but never won it.
He usually had more talent than the guy across from him and a bigger punch than him to. He also found himself on the losing side of all his big fights. How? He was mentally unstable in the ring.
He was a big strong guy and was almost unmatched when it came to pure strength. He packed a big punch and knocked out some good heavyweights.
The first sign of his crazy side came when he hurt Danell Nicholson with a huge head butt and then knocked him out in the following round.
His losses were always on the bizarre side and usually left you scratching your head. He was ahead on all cards in both fights against Riddick Bowe when he got disqualified for low blows.
He was ahead again on all cards against Michael Grant when he told the referee he didn’t want to continue after he got up from a knockdown in round 10.
He then quit again when he fought Mike Tyson and was caught cold by Lamon Brewster and lost in :52 seconds. He was dangerous because of a big punch and a crazy brain.
#8: Rocky Marciano (49-0 43 KO)
Marciano as well know is the only heavyweight champion to retire undefeated. What that means to you may be different than what it means to me but the man could hit you like no one else.
He usually had less skill than the guy across from him but he had two things few had. A blockbuster of a punch and the desire to win against all odds.
He had 43 knockout wins in his 49 fights and landed what many consider the greatest punch of all time. Ezzard Charles was the only fighter to go 15 rounds against him.
Many boxing insiders consider his right hand 13th round knockout of Jersey Joe Walcott to win the world heavyweight title as the perfect punch. He was named the 14th greatest puncher by The Ring magazine.
He was also dangerous because he could go 15 rounds with ease. He had the best conditioning of any heavyweight champion.
#7: Sonny Liston (50-4 39 KO)
Liston was Mike Tyson before Tyson was. He was a menacing, scowling, hateful fighter that would do anything to secure a win. He was also a massive puncher and had most guys beat before the fight.
You factor in that he was an ex-convict and had mob connections and he was not a guy you wanted to meet in the ring.
He knocked out Zora Folley in three, and fought Floyd Patterson two times for the heavyweight title knocking him out in the first round both times.
Although he lost to Leotis Martin he gave Martin a detached retina in the fight. In his last career fight he knocked out tough guy Chuck Wepner in round 10.
#6: Jack Dempsey (66-6-11 51 KO)
Dempsey was known as The Mannasa Mauler and he lived up to the nickname. He was the heavyweight champion from 1919 until he lost to Gene Tunney in 1926.
He was also the first fighter to generate a million dollar gate.
He was known as a hard hitter and a total savage in the ring. He won five title fights and won four of them by knockout.
In the craziest heavyweight title fight of all time he beat Luis Angel Fripo with a second round knockout. He had Fripo down seven times in the first round before going down himself.
He was knocked through the ropes and into press row but composed himself enough to get back into the ring and finish the round.
He was criticized after the fight because he would stand over Fripo after each knockdown and not let him regain his composure. If that isn’t vicious I couldn’t tell you what is.
He was named the tenth best heavyweight and the seventh hardest puncher by The Ring magazine.
#5: George Foreman (76-5 68 KO)
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Foreman was dangerous for a number of reasons. He could beat you up when he was young and he could beat you up when he was old.
He had one of the biggest punches ever and the younger version of him was far from cuddly. He usually had the other man mentally beat before the fight started.
His knockout victims include George Chuvalo, Joe Frazier (2x), Ken Norton, Ron Lyle, Dwight Muhammad Qawi, Bert Cooper, Gerry Cooney, Jimmy Ellis, and Michael Moorer.
He is the oldest man to ever hold the heavyweight title and was named the ninth greatest puncher by The Ring magazine.
#4: Joe Louis (65-3 51 KO)
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Louis is one of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time and he didn’t always fight the best competition but he certainly knew how to knock someone out.
He fought under many nicknames but was most popularly known as The Brown Bomber and he lived up to that moniker with his 51 knockouts.
He defended his title 25 times which is still a heavyweight title record. He retained his title 22 times by knocking out the man across from him.
He was also named as the greatest puncher ever by The Ring Magazine.
#3: Sam Langford (200-47-46 130 KO)
Their were a lot of names that could of gone here but few people if any guessed Sam Langford. He was named the greatest fighter nobody knows by ESPN and is rated as one of the ten best heavyweights ever.
Langford battled such great fighters as Sam McVea, Battling Jim Johnson, Joe Jeanette, Jack Johnson, Joe Gans, Barbados Joe Walcott and Harry Wills.
Johnson refused to fight him after beating him in their only encounter.
Langford fought Wills 22 times and had a record of 2-6 with 14 no decisions. The two wins were by knockout.
He went 6-2-6 against McVea and 8-3-2 against Jeanette. He was the second greatest puncher of all time by The Ring magazine.
He got the greatest compliment from Jack Dempsey. Dempsey said "The hell I feared no man. There was one man I wouldn't fight because I knew he would flatten me. I was afraid of Sam Langford.”
Jeanette also said that he was the toughest fighter he ever faced.
#2: Harry Wills (79-10-4 49 KO)
Wills is the second straight surprise in the top three and another one of the great black heavyweight fighters never to get a chance against the world heavyweight champion.
He won the “colored” heavyweight title multiple times and fought such greats as Sam Langford, Sam McVea, Joe Jeanette.
He also beat Willie Meehan who had beaten Jack Dempsey, Gunboat Smith, and Charley Weinart. He also fought a no decision with Luis Firpo. He also lost to future heavyweight champion Jack Sharkey.
He was 6-2 with 14 no decisions against Langford, beat McVea three times, and fought two no decisions with Joe Jeanette.
He had a title fight signed with Dempsey but it never happened and he never was close to fighting for the title again.
He was named to The Ring’s greatest punchers of all time list.
#1: Mike Tyson (50-6-2 No Contest 44 KO)
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I hate to be predictable but who else could it have been. He ran through the heavyweight division unlike anyone before him and anyone since him.
He is the youngest man to win the heavyweight title and was just as likely to commit a foul against you then he was to knock you out.
Only six opponents saw the final bell against him and he was involved in some of the most bizarre incidents the ring has ever seen.
He won his first 19 fights by knockout and has 23 first round knockouts. He has knockouts in 49, 38, 30, 50, 54, 37, and two in 39 seconds.
He also broke the jaw of Razor Ruddock but was involved in just as many bizarre incidents. His fight with Orlin Norris was ruled a no contest after he hurt his knee when Tyson hit him with a late punch.
He continued to punch Lou Savarese after the fight was called and knocked down referee John Coyle in the process. He also tried to break the arm of Francois Botha when the two were tied up.
We all know what happened when Evander Holyfield wouldn’t stop head butting him in their second fight. In the most bizarre boxing incident in my lifetime Tyson bit part of Holyfield’s ear off.
Tyson was one of the most dangerous men ever to step into the ring regardless of weight class. He could knock you out or go out of his mind and bite you or try to break your arm.
That is why he is the most dangerous heavyweight fighter ever to step into the ring.