The heavyweight division is the most celebrated in the entire sport of boxing. It's what the sport glorifies more than any other division. When you look at a list of the best boxers of all-time, most of them made their names as heavyweight champs.
While the likes of Sonny Liston, Ken Norton Sr, and Deontay Wilder are legends in their own right, they just missed the cut. These 10 stand out as the greatest heavyweight boxers to ever step foot in the ring.
10. Lennox Lewis
After beating the likes of Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, and Tommy Morrison, Lewis established himself as both the greatest British boxer of all time (sorry, Anthony Joshua) and one of the best heavyweights ever. "The Lion" was known for his strong chin, expert close range fighting, and dominance at the end of the millennium. A giant who fought with finesse, he was near unbeatable in his prime.
9. Wladimir Klitschko
While his brother Vitali almost made it onto this list, as he was a heavyweight champ in his own right, Wladimir gets the edge for holding the record for longest cumulative heavyweight reign, a span in which he defeated 23 challengers. Klitschko's punching power was otherworldly, and his longevity in this division should be commended, as he ran the division for over a decade at the turn of the millennium.
8. Larry Holmes
His losses to Holyfield, Michael Spinks and Tyson might cast Holmes in a bad light, but The Easton Assassin beat Ali and Ken Norton while obliterating Spinks on his way to becoming the preeminent heavyweight of the early 1980s. With a nasty right hook that could send even the toughest opponent to the mat, Holmes might have had a short prime, but his eight-year reign as heavyweight champ was nothing short of dominant.
7. Mike Tyson
The word "phenom" is often overused, but Mike Tyson in his prime was the perfect epitomization of the word. Maybe the strongest puncher in the history of boxing, the strongest men in the world were shaking like a leaf when facing off against Tyson, who won his first title at age 20 and set off upon the most dominant three-year stretch in all of boxing. While his personal demons might have sabotaged his chance at becoming the greatest ever, those who saw Tyson in his prime know how scary he was.
6. Evander Holyfield
By virtue of beating Tyson twice, and famously sacrificing an ear in the process, Holyfield gets the nod over him in this list. While he tailed off significantly following his loss against Lennox Lewis, Holyfield's combination of finesse, power, and toughness has rarely been seen in boxing matches since. You don't beat Tyson twice unless you can take punches and counter with the best of them, and Evander was elite at those two facets of the sport.
5. Joe Frazier
Smokin' Joe was the first man to take down Ali, and that alone solidifies him as one of the all-time greats. When you compare his seminal moment with a career that included 11 straight title defenses and one of the meanest hooks and deadliest jabs the sport has ever seen, Frazier is an opponent no one wanted to face during his prime. For a short period, alongside Ali and George Foreman, the early 70s belong to Frazier.
4. George Foreman
Frazier's run at the top was ended by Foreman, who took Frazier down twice in a career that saw him win 76 fights in a tough weigh class. His loss to Ali in Zaire is remembered fondly, but Foreman is most known for his longevity, as he stepped away from boxing for 10 years in his prime, but still ended up making a comeback at 38 and winning a title at 45. Ageless and fearsome till his last fight, Foreman's legacy is solid gold.
3. Rocky Marciano
Most greats have a bad loss or two hanging on their record. Most greats aren't Rocky Marciano, who went 49-0 with 43 knockouts in his career. From ending the career of Joe Louis in emphatic fashion to his impossibly strong chin and lethal hook, Marciano's unblemished record in the division puts him near the very top of the list. Marciano, who died at age 45 in a plane crash, shouldn't see his perfect legacy lost to time.
2. Joe Louis
The man who made the heavyweight division what is it today, Louis reigned supreme at the top of the heavyweight division for more than 11 years. From avenging his only loss against German sensation Max Schmeling to his uncommon longevity in a rough weight class, the Bronze Bomber has since become a boxing immortal, Detroit legend, and African-American cultural touchstone.
1. Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali is not only the greatest boxer of all time, but he's one of the most outstanding athletes ever, across all sports. Ali boasted lethal punching power, legendary showmanship, and a decade of dominance at the very top of a sport that was on the verge of becoming the biggest spectacle in the country. All the while, his cultural impact as both a sportsman and a citizen put him in the conversation for the greatest athlete in American history.