All Time Light Heavyweight Poll: The Cincinnati Cobra Stands Alone

By Mike Casey on September 2, 2012 All Time Light Heavyweight Poll: The Cincinnati Cobra Stands Alone
It was a keenly contested battle as always, but Charles won the day by an 11-point margin.

The mighty triumvirate of Charles, Moore and Tunney were almost on their own blissful little planet, soaring ahead of the next tier of…

When you’ve gone 3-0 over Archie Moore and 2-0 over Charley Burley, you really don’t need to justify your achievements as a boxer. But just for good measure, Ezzard Charles took care of Jose Basora, Lloyd Marshall, Oakland Billy Smith, Jimmy Bivins, Elmer “Violent” Ray and Joey Maxim.

The sleek and wonderfully talented Cincinnati Cobra also defeated plenty of other five-star opponents during his imperious stroll through a light heavyweight division that dripped with quality in boxing’s golden age. Then Ezzard stepped up to win the heavyweight championship of the world and notch multiple defenses. Well, one does.

Some 64 years after their last meeting, Archie Moore—a pretty good operator in his own right—still couldn’t finish ahead of Charles in our poll to determine history’s greatest light heavyweight.

It was a keenly contested battle as always, but Charles won the day by an 11-point margin in an intriguing three-horse race that also included the great Gene Tunney.

From the time our poll opened, an elite group at the top broke away from the others. The mighty triumvirate of Charles, Moore and Tunney were almost on their own blissful little planet, soaring ahead of the next tier of Sam Langford, Billy Conn, Tommy Loughran, Bob Foster, Harry Greb and Michael Spinks.

After Spinks, the balance of our Top 20 was virtually a separate competition. Note the sudden drop-off in points from ninth ranked Mike to tenth ranked Tommy Gibbons.

Our readers knew who they liked and once again we like our readers for stepping up and having their say.

Details of our Super Middleweight poll will follow shortly, but in the meantime here’s how the Light Heavyweights finished. Gloves off, gents—discuss, praise and rant!

1.  Ezzard Charles (USA) 181
2.  Archie Moore (USA) 170
3.  Gene Tunney (USA) 166
4.  Sam Langford (Canada/USA) 93
5.  Billy Conn (USA) 92
6.  Tommy Loughran (USA) 88
7.  Bob Foster (USA) 81
8.  Harry Greb (USA) 81
9.  Michael Spinks (USA) 74
10. Tommy Gibbons (USA) 29
11. Jimmy Bivins (USA) 26
12. Philadelphia Jack O’Brien (USA) 19
13. Bob Fitzsimmons (England/New Zealand) 18
14. Jack Dillon (USA) 15
15. John Henry Lewis (USA) 15
16. Harold Johnson (USA) 14
17. Young Stribling (USA) 13
18. Jose Torres (Puerto Rico) 8
19. Virgil Hill (USA) 7
20. Maxie Rosenbloom (USA) 5

Mike Casey is the Founder & Editor of ALL TIME BOXING at He is a freelance journalist and boxing historian and a member of the International Boxing Research Organization (IBRO).

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Ezzard Charles vs. Pat Valentino

Ezzard Charles vs. Lloyd Marshall - 2

Ezzard Charles vs. Jimmy Bivins - IV

Ezzard Charles vs. Joey Maxim

Harold Johnson vs. Ezzard Charles - Part 1 of 4

Harold Johnson vs. Ezzard Charles - Part 2 of 4

Harold Johnson vs. Ezzard Charles - Part 3 of 4

Harold Johnson vs. Ezzard Charles - Part 4 of 4

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  1. Tex Hassler 06:58pm, 04/11/2013

    I think Charles is the absolute best light heavy of all times. He beat the toughest competition and belongs at number 1. Conn, Tunney, and Moore were also truly great fighters. Charles eliminated Moore with ease, this speaks volumes of Charles’s greatness.

  2. Eric 05:25am, 11/25/2012

    Virgil Hill? You gotta be kidding me? Billy Conn over Spinks and Bob Foster? And what about light heavyweights of the late Seventies and early Eighties, a period of time that is arguably right up there with the Charles-Moore era. How does some fighter the caliber of Jose Torres rank over a prime Dwight Qawi, Saad Muhammad, Mustapha Muhammad, Victor Galindez,  John Conteh, or Marvin Johnson? Hell, this era had contenders who would have wiped the floor with fighters like Torres, Virgil Hill, and some other names on this list. Yaqui Lopez,  James Scott,  Jerry Martin, Mike Rossman, Richie Kates, Jesse Burnett, and maybe even a Mike Quarry or Eddie or Johnny Davis would beat some of those listed on your list. Also no doubt Roy Jones could’ve whipped all but a few on that list in his prime at 175lbs.

  3. ocelot 04:21pm, 09/04/2012

    Can’t argue with the Big Three, but Spinks fought in arguably the strongest LHW era ever and dominated. He just didn’t have the volume of fights that some of the other greats had. Plus, he gave one of the greatest HWs of all time a serious run for his money. But, again, can’t argue with names like Charles, Moore and Tunney.

  4. tuxtucis 12:45am, 09/04/2012

    Roy Jones Jr. is not here simply why he never beat a great light heavy in his prime…his best win was over an old Virgil Hill…I prefer to rate him as supermiddle…About the presence of Gene Tunney in this ranking I would remember he was American champion of this weight class…The reason i put Tunney and not F.Patterson on here is simply cause the first one fought most at light heavy, while the second fought most at heavy…

  5. Mike Casey 02:20pm, 09/03/2012

    Gaijers, the poll was open to any of our readers/writers who cared to vote and the field at their disposal was all light heavyweight fighters throughout history. There were no conditions. The points totals shown here are the combined totals of everyone who voted. Only one person voted for Roy Jones Jr , placing him 7th (4pts). A vote from you would have pushed Roy up the ladder quite a bit! We’re doing the Super Middles next, so please give us your Top 10 - it CAN make a big difference!

  6. Gajjers 02:05pm, 09/03/2012

    Nice & enlightening list Mike, but I wanna know why Roy Jones doesn’t even appear anywhere. If it was about UNDISPUTED champs, did Virgil Hill accomplish that at anytime in his commendable career? And you’re right Ted - Spinks only lost once, and that was to Mike Tyson at his absolute dynamite best, when Spinks was in way over his head as a heavyweight. No 175 lb fighter EVER got the better of Spinks as a pro…

  7. Matt McGrain 01:43am, 09/03/2012

    FOR comparison’s sake, here is the “lower rated” Greb’s LHW resume, built from concrete:Allentown Joe Gans, Rosenbloom, Tunney, Delaney, Slattery, Loughran, Flowers, Bogash, Kid Norfolk, Shade, both Smiths, Tommy Gibbons, Battling Levinsky, McTigue, Mehan, Madden, Miske.

    Note that this includes two men from our top 10.

    Sam who? (-;

  8. Mike Casey 01:37am, 09/03/2012

    I wrote one on good old Terry Downes yesterday and it was a stroll in the park by comparison!!

  9. Matt McGrain 01:32am, 09/03/2012

    I agree with a lot of that Mike, but when I rank a fighter at a given weight he should have a proven resume at that weight IMO - Langford’s resume at HW is clearly superior to his resume at LHW where there is arguably not a single great name.  Some weights are not known, and some research is called for before you rule him out/in, but I suspect that he actually fought and won in very few meaningful contests at LHW.  Troubling.

    Speaking personally, he doesn’t make my LHW top 10 at this time.

  10. Mike Casey 01:06am, 09/03/2012

    Hellishly difficult to know where to place Sam, Matt, since he bounced around all the divisions. He was probably best at middleweight, where he won the English version of the world championship. It has become the vogue to rank him at light heavy, as it has to redefine other fighters. Charles himself was always ranked at heavyweight, ditto Tunney. I still have my doubts about all this. Like it or not, these guys were best known to the general public as heavyweight champions. Tommy Burns was always a middleweight but won the heavyweight championship. Some people are now re-assessing Patterson as a cruiser/light heavy, but where do we stop if we go there? We can’t re-write history because somebody changed the weight limits. If you could get to over 175lbs in those days, you were a heavyweight. I’m going to stop now - my head hurts!!

  11. Matt McGrain 12:50am, 09/03/2012

    Lovely stuff!

    For the gents that voted for Langford - I’m not saying he doesn’t belong, but of what is his LHW resume composed?  Who, of merit, did Langford actually beat whilst both men weighed uner the LHW limit and over the MW limit - because i’m not seeing an awful lot?

  12. Mike Casey 11:23pm, 09/02/2012

    Haha! You’re so kind, Ted!

  13. the thresher 03:09pm, 09/02/2012

    Nice job Mike. This is fun, especially when I go to your site and copy your picks. :)

  14. the thresher 03:07pm, 09/02/2012

    Surprised Spinks was so low. He only lost once and was one of the very few light heavies who could handle true heavies.

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