The 100 Greatest Heavyweights of All Time Part Six: 50-41

By Matt McGrain on July 30, 2014
The 100 Greatest Heavyweights of All Time Part Six: 50-41
Chris Byrd “wanted to fight all the best heavyweights. No matter how big they were.”

Something for everyone might as well mean something for everyone to complain about as far as a list such as this goes…

There were more active heavyweights in the 1940s than there were in the 1990s; but those heavyweights were smaller than their more modern counterparts. Then again, it was rare to see an old-timer step to the ring with an extra roll on his waistband – but having said that, those guys didn’t have access to “modern nutrition.”

Who do you like?

Hopefully there is something for everyone below; from a modern-day old-time heavyweight at #50, to an underrated jobber at #48, a middleweight at #47 and a much maligned 1950s playboy at #41. 

Something for everyone might as well mean something for everyone to complain about as far as a list such as this goes, but that, too, is a version of giving people what they want.


#50 Chris Byrd (41-5-1)

This list is awash with men who were more natural at light-heavyweight but made their battle-scared bones in the open class, beefing up to an unnaturally high weight to take on the best around. Men like Billy Miske, Billy Conn, Jimmy Ellis, Harry Greb and Michael Moorer all waded upstream against a tide of flesh, their own, that of the bigger men they would have to face to justify their existence. But when Lennox Lewis summited to the heavyweight throne, there was a feeling that things had changed, and when Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko followed on behind the sense that the invasion of the 175-pounders might very well be over. And all the while, a man capable of making the 175-lb. limit in his second-to-last fight was carving out one of the modern heavyweight divisions most excellent careers.

For his first fight, against journeyman Gary Smith in 1993, Byrd weighed 169 lbs. By 1994 he was a heavyweight, and over the next twelve years he would box exclusively at heavyweight, and during that same period only two men would beat him, the monstrous Ike Ibeabuchi who stopped him in him in five in 1999 and Wladimir Klitschko who defeated him in 2000 and 2006. Among those that tried and failed were Evander Holyfield, David Tua and Vitali Klitschko. A supporting cast included Fred Oquendo, Ross Purity, Andrew Golota, Bert Cooper, Jameel McCline and DeVarryl Williamson.

“My mindset right from the start was to fight the best fighters I could,” Byrd offered up upon his retirement, “take on the biggest challenges.” Byrd was real. He avoided fights with smaller punching physically manageable light-heavyweights in favor of behemoths. He “wanted to fight all the best heavyweights. No matter how big they were.”

He fought most of the best fighters of his generation and was beaten only by two of the most dangerous. In Vitali Klitschko and Evander Holyfield he dangles from his belt the scalps of men that tower over even the heavyweights in this installment. Holyfield, admittedly, was past his box-stalking best and the Vitali Klitschko win too is compromised, Klitschko quitting on his stool with a shoulder injury. But giving away thirty pounds in weight, and five inches in reach to a man he would have to counterpunch, Byrd picked up this shortfall with a skillset as sublime as any heavyweight post-Holmes and it enabled him to stay in there with Klitschko, almost punch-for-punch.

#49 Michael Moorer (52-4-1)

That Michael Moorer was one of the more schooled heavyweight champions should come as no surprise coming up to heavyweight at 175 lbs. under the consecutive tutelage of craftsman Emanuel Steward, defensive wizard George Benton and finally Teddy Atlas, who was with him when he won (and lost) the world’s heavyweight title. He never posted a defense, but Moorer was the real deal, a lineal champion.

He sat quite an apprenticeship under this tuition, and battered out the very solid Terry Davis in two on his heavyweight debut. Alex Stewart and Mike White were among those that followed before Moorer arrived in earnest against Bert Cooper, a fighter who also stood as a gatekeeper for to the big-time against Ray Mercer – and as was the case with that fight, Moorer-Cooper was a war. 

History very nearly was rewritten in the opening seconds; Cooper had Moorer on his knees and close to shattered, hurting him again after the standing eight. It seemed, perhaps, that Moorer just wasn’t a heavyweight. He seemed physically overwhelmed. For every arriving heavyweight there is a moment where the message “welcome to the heavyweight division” is posted in nine-feet high neon letters and this was Moorer’s, and he survived it. He did more than survive; he bided his time, allowed Cooper to bang him to body then slashed him flat on to his back with a right-hook. Stopping Cooper in five, he never really looked back. He was tough enough, at close to 220 lbs. he was big enough, and as the fifth man to stop Bert Cooper he hit hard enough.

He lifted the legitimate title in 1994, outpointing the great Evander Holyfield. Controversy surrounds this fight due to Holyfield’s post-fight condition. He reportedly suffered a shoulder injury and a bruised kidney, for which he was hospitalized. During a course of treatment for the latter, a heart defect was uncovered – such was its seriousness that Holyfield retired, only to reverse his decision shortly thereafter.

In some corners this has been seen as a reason to short-change Moorer’s achievement in becoming the first southpaw heavyweight champion. About this I would just say that winning a narrow decision over Evander Holyfield, even as he approached his fifties, never mind in 1994, is something a heavyweight can always be proud of, and second that Holyfield’s condition cannot undermine Moorer’s excellence; and he was excellent, coming off the canvas in the second to fight back against one of the true ring greats.

“Bonecrusher” Smith, Francis Botha and Vassiliy Jirov were some of the other names Moorer added in the following years, but only after losing his title during his first defense, to comeback king Big George Foreman. Foreman was completely outboxed by the smaller man only to be caught by a monster right-hand in the final minutes of the fight, the first southpaw champ giving the title up to the oldest ever champ. The fallen king neither acknowledged Foreman’s brilliance in finding that punch nor made his peace with the loss, I believe to his detriment.

At his best, he would have been a handful for Joe Louis or Sonny Liston. On a bad night he could be cannon-fodder for any given puncher. Brilliant and flawed, Moorer’s technical excellence and surprising punching power lands him in the forties.

#48 Bob Pastor (53-7-5)

They called him “Bicycle Bob” after his 1937 tilt at Joe Louis, a “laughing stock” according to one hard-nosed writer. But Bob Pastor had already stirred great admiration in other, more prestigious minds. Gene Tunney named him one of the heavyweight division’s only “thinking fighters” and speculated as to whether he would come again – whether he might eventually be the man to unseat the already terrifying Brown Bomber.

That would never happen, but by the time of the second Louis fight jokes at the expense of Pastor had dried up. In part, this was thanks to Louis himself, who had become Champion and spent most of the three years between their two fights brutalizing every fighter that dared to step into the ring with him, taking out former world champions Max Schmeling, John Henry Lewis and James Braddock in a total of ten rounds. Suddenly Pastor’s “ridiculous” display against Louis looked like something else in the light of the fact that fighters who were supposed to be considerably better tended to found themselves on the ground looking up. 

“Fast, shifty and ring wise…but without a killer punch,” according to Robert McShane, but the same writer wished him well in the wake of his second defeat to Louis as it would be, McShane reckoned, the fighters “last chance to cut into the heavy swag.” 

Again, a writer had underestimated Pastor. Writers and even fans have a tendency to underestimate the lunchpail fighter, the men who look and fight like they might clock in at the beginning of round one and clock out after the post-fight presser, jobbing fighters with the temperament to match, men who really do reckon fear a state of mind. Pastor was such a man. Before his second loss to Louis he was up to his guts in era-names, outclassing men like Al Ettore, Lee Ramage and Al McCoy. Inevitably given his breakneck schedule he lost one, to Gus Dorazio who defeated him narrowly by virtue of the knockdowns he scored. Pastor’s colossal punch resistance would come into question for this reason, and the stoppage loss he suffered on body-punches to Billy Conn, but nevertheless it must always be remembered that despite fighting as many punchers as just about anybody on this list, Pastor was stopped but three times at heavyweight. 

In his legendary March 1941 contest with murderous hitter Turkey Thompson he was yo-yoed so brutally in the first round that it made Jack Dempsey’s shootout with Firpo seem pedestrian by comparison; didn’t matter.Pastor toughed it out like any other working man of his era to win every single round in which he wasn’t smashed to the canvas. 

In 1942 he gave Gus Lesnevich a boxing lesson in search of a third fight with Louis. The Lewiston Daily Sun reported that the defeat of feared puncher Lem Franklin would deliver him another title shot. Franklin was a big favorite. Pastor stopped him in eight.  No third fight with Louis would materialize, so Pastor instead took on the man who would lift the duration title for the years of World War Two, Jimmy Bivins. An underdog once again, Pastor “slumped wearily” to his stool at the end of the second as Bivins “grinned cockily” across the ring at him. “The smile disappeared from Jimmy’s face,” the Oregon Bulletin continued, as Pastor shot punches to his midsection. “After the sudden, devastating body attack, Jimmy Bivins was finished.”

Bivins, who fought almost every 1940s heavyweight that mattered, named Pastor one of the toughest he ever met, hard to work out, difficult to fight – he would also take his revenge in a controversial split decision upon which note Pastor promptly retired. Newspaper reports previewing his last fight would refer to “the highly respected Bob Pastor.”

#47 Harry Greb (100-8-3; Newspaper Decisions 158-9-15)

Famous primarily as a middleweight, Greb arguably bettered his haul of world-class scalps up at light-heavyweight; such was his greatness that he ranks, here, as one of the fifty greatest heavyweights in history. Let it be known that he ranks here on merit.

Tommy Gibbons led their series 2-1 when they met for a fourth and final time in March of 1922, their one and only meeting at heavyweight. Gibbons, by then a respected puncher, landed both his best right and best left-hand punch, with little result. According to one fight report, Greb “probably won every round.”

After the fight, Jack Dempsey, who had been ringside to endorse the man he and Kearns had earmarked for their next title defense, Tommy Gibbons, were forced instead to endorse Harry Greb. “A good match for any heavyweight in the world,” is what Dempsey called him, and then it was unquestionably true.  Today, it is likely untrue. Heavyweights are gargantuan now, and Greb never did prove himself against a fighter of the stature of Fred Fulton or Jess Willard. We must presume that with the passing of time, size if not on this occasion, technique will form a barrier to Greb’s success head-to-head. With one absolutely astonishing exception, he is the highest ranked of the “middleweight heavyweights” and in my opinion his résumé likely justifies a slightly higher ranking, but his size creates some drag.

Nevertheless, it is worth reminding ourselves who it is that Greb outhustled, thought, worked and fought in order to become one of the defining heavyweights of his generation whilst weighing in at just over the middleweight limit. As well as that one-sided mauling of Tommy Gibbons, Greb ruthless thrashed Bill Brennan on multiple occasions, took the best of a ten-round no-decision with Kid Norfolk, hammered Willie Meehan who gave the aforementioned Dempsey all that trouble, outclassed Billy Miske and defeated numerous gatekeeper types such as Gunboat Smith, Jack Renault, Bartley Madden and Chuck Wiggins. Journeymen, for all that they might carry more than thirty pounds on him, had absolutely no chance. 

Possibly the fastest man ever to fight at heavyweight, he may only have the likes of Roy Jones for company in that particular department – and unlike Jones, Greb fought everyone that would dare to meet him.

He lost just once at the weight, on the slide, half blind, to the peaking Gene Tunney.

#46 Ron Lyle (43-7-1)

Overrated as a puncher and underrated as a boxer, Ron Lyle was stopped just one ranked heavyweight in a career that spanned twenty-six years. As a statistic it is an undermining one, until you realize that the really astonishing thing is not his dearth of KO victories over legitimate opponents, but longevity that saw him boxing into his mid-fifties having neglected to turn professional until his thirtieth year.

A Renaissance man of sorts, Lyle survived a different kind of life after being jailed for second-degree murder and supposedly having his death certificate signed after a jailhouse attack while serving his sentence. Like so many before him, Lyle bounced from life’s ropes straight into the squared circle, where he made a name for himself as a box-puncher and, according to George Foreman, one of the toughest men to ever pull his trunks high and let his hands go.

It is for this toughness I personally celebrate Lyle, rather than his considerable power, and he demonstrated it most ably during an eight-month spell slap-bang in the middle of the most celebrated decade in heavyweight history, the 1970s. First up was Muhammad Ali, extended over eleven rounds in May of ‘75, a fight in which Lyle outmuscled the enormously strong Champion, frankly outthought him in jabbing cautiously or withdrawing when Ali went into the rope-a-dope, and who he was leading on all cards when the bell for the opening of the eleventh round sounded. In that round, Lyle was stopped on his feet, reeling across the ring in front of as fluid an assault as Ali ever unleashed in the 1970s. If you find the time, count the flush unanswered punches that Muhammad lands as Lyle first tries to cover up and then lolls helplessly on the ropes. They are many.

In September, Lyle took the very antithesis of an easy comeback tune-up when he stepped into the ring with perhaps the hardest puncher in the entire history of boxing, Earnie Shavers. The coming war was to be what Steve Bunce called “briefly the measuring stick for courage, suffering and brutality in a heavyweight fight.” In the aftermath of his fight with Ali, the Champion had named Lyle “a scientific fighter” and this he proved once more with a jabbing, circling display in the first matched by his near-mastery of defensive infighting. After fighting the steaming Shavers to a standstill with a savage flow of uppercuts thrown from a neat crouch, he was caught flush in the second. Boneless, vacant, he unquestionably would have been stopped on his feet by a concerned referee only ten years later, but in 1975 Lyle was allowed to continue. He mauled and stalled his way through the first minute of the third as Shavers exalted all over him, but all the while he returned fire to the body, sapping his opponent’s starch and will. He fought like a man who knew the jailhouse as well as the ring; he fought like a man who had twice died on the operating table.

In the fourth it was Earnie who was hanging on, and in the sixth he was on the ground looking up.

This sent Lyle forwards to the moments he is most famous for, those he shared with George Foreman in the slugfest they put on four months later. Lyle flirted briefly with true immortality but Foreman proved too good, too intrinsically savage to be defeated even by a monster like Lyle.

Jimmy Young and Jerry Quarry proved that he could be vulnerable, too, to boxers, beating him twice over the twelve-round distance but it didn’t stop Lyle putting together an excellent résumé. Shavers may have been the only ranked opponent he ever stopped, but he outpointed Oscar Bonavena, Jimmy Ellis, Gregario Peralta, Joe Bugner and Scott LeDeux. He also sparked former light-heavyweight Champion Vicente Rondon, the behemoth Buster Mathis and Boone Kirkman, as well as about twenty-five other guys.

When he died late in 2011, it almost came as a surprise that such a thing would be possible.

#45 Eddie Machen (50-11-3)

It is worth remembering when viewing Eddie Machen’s paper record that he won only three of his last eleven fights. Included among the losses that tore the flesh of his later career was his sensationally brave 1966 performance against Joe Frazier. Frazier rag-dolled Machen in the very first minutes but Machen, always defensively cognitive, slipped and parried his way to the tenth and final round before he succumbed.

As a performance, it typified the fighter and the man he was.

Juvenile delinquency, marital problems, bankruptcy, the most devastating knockout defeat in the history of filmed heavyweight contests, an aborted suicide attempt and a mental breakdown so severe Machen was at one point committed, none of this prevented him from pursuing his dream of holding the heavyweight title – I believe he became the first (and last) fighter to suffer a complete mental collapse yet box his way back to a title-shot.

But he’s not on the list for his incredible fortitude and bravery, though they are certainly attributes any fighter would lucky to bring to the ring. He’s here for his paper résumé and the superb technical style that brought him to the very cusp of heavyweight glory.

He beat Bob Baker, Tommy Jackson, Nino Valdes twice, and Joey Maxim twice, all men who appear on this list and all before he suffered his first loss. So catastrophic was that loss to Ingemar Johansson that obituaries for his career began to appear while he was still in his mid-twenties. A second loss, to Zora Folley, saw him tumble further down the pecking order as did a loss to Harold Johnson, devastating in a different fashion to the Johansson destruction because his being out-jabbed and outboxed meant he was heavyweight technician number one no more. But Machen did not have any quit in him. A pair of wins over Mike DeJohn kept him in the title picture, but perhaps even more prevalent in keeping him relevant was his 1960 extension of Sonny Liston. The champion-in-waiting, Liston had knocked out nine consecutive opponents when Machen, who was clearly outpointed, forced Liston the twelve despite an arm injury. Machen was one of the few Liston opponents who quite clearly was not intimidated. 

He had worse on his mind, including the terrible depression that would addle him for the rest of his life. It didn’t stop him using what would have remained, but for the flamboyant presence of one Muhammad Ali, the most cultured left hand in the division to add Brian London, Doug Jones and Jerry Quarry to his résumé as he battled way past his best in an effort to secure his family’s future.

He was quite a fighter, and quite a man.

#44 Jerry Quarry (53-9-4)

Jerry Quarry can go overrated on such lists. Eddie Machen beat him in 1966, Jimmy Ellis beat him in a freakishly passive performance in 1968, George Chuvalo beat him in a bizarre fight in 1969 when for some reason he forgot, literally, to get up before the referee said “ten!” and Ken Norton knocked him out in 1975 – between ’69 and ’70, Frazier and Ali took turns beating him. He did manage enormously impressive wins over Earnie Shavers (KO1) and a young Ron Lyle (UD12) but in total, Quarry went 2-8 versus the other men on this list – outside of the Floyd Patterson fights.

Both took place in 1967 and both took place in LA. The first was a superb contest, Patterson’s superior handspeed and experience more than cancelling out Quarry’s technical excellence and enthusiasm. Four ringside reports made Patterson the winner, 8-5, 5-3, 7-5 and 7-4. He was a winner, too, on my card (6-4), but the judges found a draw. The inevitable rematch was controversial and the decision for Quarry was booed by his home crowd, but it is interesting to note that it is easier to find media scorecards in his favor than it is for the first fight – I myself scored it a draw. This, then, is the fight that Quarry’s legacy rests upon in my opinion. The second fight is close enough that the decision of the judges, though controversial, can be respected, and as a victory it represents the beginning of Quarry’s prime. He would become a blur of snapping left-hooks and high-class engagements, Thad Spencer, Buster Mathis, Brian London, Mac Foster before those secondary keynote wins against Shavers and Lyle.

Talented, technically sure inside or out, mobile and tactically variable, it is hard to hold Quarry’s 3-8-1 record versus the rest of the top 100 against him due to the savagery of the competition, but his presence in the top thirty on some such lists has always dumbfounded me – I am unsure that he has even proven himself to be the clear superior of a fighter like Eddie Machen, who defeated him. Nevertheless, Quarry was a special talent who has earned by my reckoning, a space just outside the top forty.

#43 Zora Folley (79-11-6)

Zora Folley was 50-3-2 when his prime was brutally ended by Sonny Liston in 1960. Of his three losses, two came through retirements after injury and one was a decision awarded over him in London against Henry Cooper deemed “debatable” by the Associated Press report which went on to say that “most ringsiders thought the worst Folley was entitled to was a draw.” Folley was disgusted by the decision and would avenge it with an uncharacteristically brutal display a little over three years later, leaving a befuddled Cooper all but out at his feet. 

This type of aggression was unusual, though, for Folley. He had everything a boxer needs, including an ice-cold temperament which sometimes overrode the aggressive instinct that may have made him great. A superb technician with two fast hands, very good power which brought him a total of forty-four knockouts and a slippery defense that spared him the worst of many punches that seemed to be catching him, Folley numbers among the best heavies never to have held the title. His one shot at the greatest prize in sports, against Muhammad Ali, came five or six years past his prime. 

Ranked as a heavyweight for an astonishing ten years, he holds victories over Eddie Machen, Nino Valdes, Oscar Bonavena and George Chuvalo with a very decent secondary clutch made up of quality heavyweights such as Doug Jones, Henry Clark, Bob Foster and Mike DeJohn.

Folley deserved more from the fight game than a single title shot against perhaps the single best fighter ever to defend a title, 1967 Muhammad Ali, just as this father of eight and war hero deserved more from life than a suspicious and premature death aged just forty.

#42 Harold Johnson (76-11)

Harold Johnson lost just three fights at heavyweight. The first, suffered in February of 1950 is listed as a knockout loss to Jersey Joe Walcott. In truth, Walcott was dominating the contest but it was not one of his sneaky, deadly punches that ended the contest – but an injury to Johnson’s back which everyone from the doctor to athletic commissioner John Da Grosa agreed made his continued participation in what may have been a defining fight for the era impossible. Johnson was retired on medical grounds. The second loss was to Julio Mederos. So sudden an inexplicable was Johnson’s second round collapse, which occurred without a blow being struck, that he was removed from the ring on a stretcher and held overnight at hospital where blood and urine samples were taken. Whether Johnson was drugged as claimed by many and as apparently indicated by one or more of these tests, or took an outright dive, there is little doubt that as a “loss” it does little to impact Johnson’s standing in the fistic sense. Finally, Johnson was beaten on cuts in his very last contest by a heavyweight named Herschel Jacobs, fighting nearly three years after his retirement in the one and only fight of his comeback.

Three losses, three times inflicted in circumstances that are not truly reflective of Johnson’s ability at the weight – every other sojourn from his preferred light-heavyweight division resulted in a victory and Johnson netted some serious, serious scalps. He took Jimmy Bivins in 1949. Bivins was on his way out but still dangerous and coming off a stoppage win over a green Clarence Henry and for a “kid” like Johnson it was an impressive win. He took Arturo Godoy the same year, giving away twenty pounds but few rounds in his domination of the Chilean veteran. He took Nino Valdes in 1953, practically shutting out his much bigger foe over ten one-sided rounds and then, the cherry on the cake, he took Ezzard Charles. To be fair to Charles he had lost to Nino Valdes already that year and was already past his best, but he had that astonishing pair of efforts Rocky Marciano still ahead of him and most of all was the type of fighter who should have dominated Johnson – his technical equal but with more jazz in his battle-worried soul than Johnson would ever display between the ropes. Nevertheless, Harold put on a left-handed clinic, working, risking and forcing his way to the narrowest of points win over one of the best prize-fighters in history. An astounding eight years later, he once again outclassed the best left-hand in the division, outpointing the division’s new supposed technical genius and jabbing-master, Eddie Machen. Again it was close, but again film shows that Johnson deserved the nod. 

His great commitment fostered this longevity and if he strayed to the dark side in what was a darker era it’s generally easy for the purist to forgive him based upon that perfectionist (if not perfect) style. Still, like Greb his physical limitations translates into a rankings limitation, and he is also affected by the exclusion of the “above-the-weight” matches he engaged in with the likes of Archie Moore, technically a heavyweight win but one that will be taken into account on the light-heavyweight list instead.

#41 Ingemar Johansson (26-2)

Too low?

Maybe, but Johansson fought a miserable number of contests compared to his company and although he only lost twice, both times to the wonderful Floyd Patterson, he also spent a lot of time treading water on a European circuit during an era unladen with talent. His third most impressive win may be over Brian London, a popular and heartfuelled boxer who was the clear inferior of Henry Cooper. Cooper, too, is a Johansson victim but one who had fought less than twenty contests and who was in the middle of a four-fight losing streak at the time Johansson and he were matched.

Of his other major victims, an impressive first round knockout of Hein Ten Hoff is tempered by the fact that the German was in his mid-thirties, boxing in his final contest and had not won a meaningful fight in a number of years. Decent wins over top Italian Franco Cavicchi and Welshman Joe Erskine are nice supporting victories, but not the sort of thing top forty résumés are made of.

His appearance just outside is advocated by two wins scored back to back in the late 1950s, the first over top contender Eddie Machen and the second over then Champion Floyd Patterson. Both were quick knockouts and both quick knockouts were among the most devastating ever seen, his first round knockout of Machen, particularly, as brutal as any that can be seen.

Reputed as a playboy who got lucky for one out of three against Patterson for the most part, no film is more instructive of Johansson true qualities than that of the Machen fight. The Swede is light on his feet, almost sprightly, he picks his opponent’s beautiful left hand well. When Machen gets a little fresh with his right, Johansson moves across him, throws a lazy jab and lands his own devastating right on the point of Machen’s chin.

Machen was stopped twice in the final year of his career but just once in his pomp, by Johansson. He had survived twelve rounds with Sonny Liston and ten rounds with Cleveland Williams. His heart and chin were confirmed. But there was no route by which he could climb from the netherworld Johansson sent him to with that celebrated punch; that he was able to regain his feet was nearly as shocking as the hideous coupe-de-grace that followed. Johansson displayed a cold indifference to the hellish violence he inflicted more akin to a sociopath than a playboy. 

Violence, too, defined his series with Patterson. He dropped that trilogy to a superior foe, but the Machen destruction proved that his one-time domination of Floyd was more than lightning trapped. He fought but half a career in comparison to his peers, but it was probably the good half.

The 100 Greatest Heavyweights of All Time Part One: 100-91
The 100 Greatest Heavyweights of All Time Part Two: 90-81
The 100 Greatest Heavyweights of All Time Part Three: 80-71
The 100 Greatest Heavyweights of All Time Part Four: 70-61
The 100 Greatest Heavyweights of All Time Part Five: 60-51
The 100 Greatest Heavyweights of All Time Part Six: 50-41
The 100 Greatest Heavyweights of All Time Part Seven: 40-31
The 100 Greatest Heavyweights of All Time Part Eight: 30-21
The 100 Greatest Heavyweights of All Time Part Nine: 20-11
The 100 Greatest Heavyweights of All Time Part Ten: 10-1

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Chris Byrd vs Vitali Klitschko

Smokin' Bert Cooper vs Michael Moorer.for WBO Heavyweight Championship

Joe Louis vs Bob Pastor, II

Ron Lyle vs Ernie Shavers

Joe Frazier v Eddie Machen

Floyd Patterson vs Jerry Quarry, II

Zora Folley vs Henry Cooper I

Harold Johnson vs. Ezzard Charles

Ingemar Johansson vs Eddie Machen

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  1. Matt McGrain 12:29pm, 08/07/2014

    Maybe…but we can say definitively that it did NOT hurt him at 23, when he made the weight with ease.

  2. Jethro's Flute 11:37am, 08/07/2014

    “But even if it wasn’t so, I feel satisfied that he could have come in at any time in his career weighing in at the light-heavyweight limit.”

    Maybe he still would have hurt himself coming in at light-heavyweight.

    You’re on safer ground saying he was a natural cruiserweight. Having said that, I assume he fought at heavyweight for money reasons as the lower division was pretty moribund for most of the time he was a pro.

    If he’d been a bit younger, I’d like to see how he’d have done against David Haye.

  3. Matt McGrain 02:14pm, 08/06/2014

    Hey JT.  Byrd made 175 late in life (Aged 38) when cutting weight is much, much harder.  I feel that doing so when he was 25 would have been considerably easy.  But even if it wasn’t so, I feel satisfied that he could have come in at any time in his career weighing in at the light-heavyweight limit.

  4. Jethro's Flute 05:24am, 08/06/2014

    ” And all the while, a man capable of making the 175-lb. limit in his second-to-last fight was carving out one of the modern heavyweight divisions most excellent careers.”

    This is a bit misleading. Chris Byrd did indeed make 175 lbs but he had to saw his arms and legs off to make the limit and it weakened him so badly that he was stopped.

    Given the weight he actually did fight at, for most of his career, he was really a cruiserweight and, as such, was a very big overachiever fighting at heavyweight.

  5. The Flea 12:22am, 08/04/2014

    Another engrossing instalment McGrain. Loving this series, and don’t find much to grumble about in terms of the placings.

    Well, I would switch Byrd and Moorer.

  6. Eric 11:01am, 07/31/2014

    Jerry Quarry is probably about right on this list. Quarry could be a little higher but not by much. If you used Ali and Frazier as a measuring stick, than Quarry would be rated lower than Bugner & Bonavena. Bugner & Ringo did much better against the dynamic duo than the did Quarry. Bugner would even whip Ellis, albeit by then Ellis was totally shot. Quarry seems to be one of those fighters who gain status with the passing years, while others like Roy Jones and Mike Tyson lose it for what ever reason. Quarry’s fights with Patterson as mentioned where highly debatable as to who was the victor. I favor Quarry in both fights, but I can see where someone would give the nod to Floyd. Quarry victims like Shavers, Lyle, Mathis, Foster, and Spencer were excellent fighters but they were far from unbeatable. Ron Stander stopped Earnie, and Lynn Ball stopped Ron Lyle. Granted by ‘79, Lyle was past it, but he was far from ancient.

  7. tuxtucis 12:06am, 07/31/2014

    Like said in previous post it’s extremely difficult to compare the heavies till Liston-when the line between light heavies and heavies was very thin- to today super-heavies. Fitzsimmons will deserve to be here wherever he will be. OK for Johannsson, but I would place Billy Conn ahead of Johnson.

  8. nicolas 11:39pm, 07/30/2014

    On Jerry Quarry, yes he lost to Machen, but he was not yet the boxer he would later become, even if Machen was not the boxer he once was. As for his fight with Ellis, did he not go into the fight with a back injury, and would he not have maybe beaten Ellis later. When he finally fought Ken Not on, I think the second loss against Frazier finally ended hope for Quarry that he was still a force in the heavyweight division. Had Norton fought an earlier Quarry, perhaps the result would have been different.

  9. Darrell 10:50pm, 07/30/2014

    Harry Greb!?!  NO!!......and Byrd is easily ahead of everyone in this list, should be somewhere in the next ten (40-31).  Zora Folley is further down, I mean around about number 60-70.

  10. Springs Toledo 05:53pm, 07/30/2014

    This series cannot be done but by the most devoted and able among boxing historians. The name “Greb” jumps out on this section of McGrain’s latest list. At first I figured Greb was too low, given what how much fun he had picking on the heavyweights, but McGrain anticipates dissent well and addresses it. So, I’m comfortable with his reasoning there and with the rest of this segment as well.  PS/ I love the remark at the end about the difference between Greb and Jones.

  11. matt donnellon 03:51pm, 07/30/2014

    Like these ten picks, of course I’d have some higher and lower but overall great selections.
    I like Greb’s position, we are all a tad uncomfortable rating Harry at HW but it stands up. Ingo I’d have a tad higher and I don’t like Miske this high. He’s locked in behind Greb and Gibbons and with Norfolk, Brennan and Fulton in my eyes, bottom of top 100.
    Love your placement of Harold Johnson and Pastor too.

  12. nicolas 02:23pm, 07/30/2014

    Matt, but your argument though, you are making the case that Greb would have beaten Chris Byrd and Michael Moorer at heavyweight, or at least won a series with them as you have him so high, and some of the other heavyweights you have below him.

  13. Matt McGrain 01:11pm, 07/30/2014

    To be regarded as a top heavyweight, you don’t have to be big and you don’t have to have a punch.  You just have to prove yourself against top heavyweights.  This, Greb did, with impunity, often, whatever the style of pedigree of the opponent.

    Again; he went 7-1 against men who fought for the HW title.  How hard he could hit pales in the face of that fact (at least on this list).

  14. nicolas 12:10pm, 07/30/2014

    While we can talk about the “modern nutrition”, I would base the fact on if we had a time machine, and these guys came to fight one another, and let us say trained for the fight, I don’t think that if style were on a new “nutrition” regiment, that it would really matter, and that the heavier man would most likely win, given of course that they are fighting at their primes. In the lower weights, we have to take into account that middleweights today, are most likely not fighting at the middle weight division of some 30 years ago, given that fighters today weight in the day before the fight, not the day of the fight some many years ago. Now in track and field, I think we have to take into account that someone like Jessie Owens could not do the sport for ever because of its amateur status in those days. Also, he did not have access to the modern shoes or the tracks the way they are today. Give Owens at least, if we could have a time machine, getting used to the new shoes and the track, well a race with the modern racers would be interesting.

  15. nicolas 12:01pm, 07/30/2014

    Even though I have Greb like a lot of people as the number one middleweight of all time, mostly based on his reputation, since no footage is available of his flights, I find it hard to place him in the top 100. Eric makes an outstanding case why Greb should not be in the top 100. To be a great heavyweight also, you need that punch. Look at Bob Foster, a devastating puncher at light heavyweight, but when he fought Ali, he was actually outboxing Ali, cut him, but Ali walked through those punches, and decked him numerous times. Interesting point though Matt makes about Bob Pastor, though using Gene Tunney as a source, a man who appeared to have a dislike for Joe Louis, is not for me justified. Tunney always seemed to go out of his way to dismiss the skill of Louis.

  16. Matt McGrain 09:57am, 07/30/2014

    I think you’re cross-comparing head-to-head Eric; as described in the introduction to part 1, that isn’t what this list is about.  Sure big heavies would beat Greb (I say so in his entry) but that doesn’t change the fact that he was, by my reckoning, the #4 heavyweight of a deep heavyweight, and that he dominated - dominated - most heavies who made up the top ten.  The exceptions were Dempsey, who ducked him, Wills, and Tunney.
    That’s what gets him in.
    Greb’s size exhibits drag on his placement, but it cannot exclude him.  Simply put, he did far too much at the weight.

  17. Eric 09:52am, 07/30/2014

    Billy Miske and Willie Meehan were good fighters but they weren’t that big either. Meehan was only 5’9” and built sort of like Don Cockell. Loughran and Tunney were natural light heavyweights. And Gibbons was but 5’9” and a light heavyweight himself. As great as Greb and Walker were, don’t know if they were better “heavyweights” than a Michael Dokes or Gerry Cooney, better fighters,  but not better heavyweights. Remember seeing a vid on a proposed bout with Ray Robinson against then hvywt. champ, Floyd Patterson. Cus D’Amato stated that Robinson would be committing “suicide” by taking on Patterson. Of course, D’Amato might have been a tad biased, but I tend to agree that Patterson would’ve hurt SRR. Granted, Patterson was probably naturally smaller than Joey Maxim, but Patterson hit far harder than Joey Maxim.

  18. Matt McGrain 09:19am, 07/30/2014

    Greb went 7-1 against men who fought for the heavyweight title (at heavyweight).  The only question, really, is whether or not he should be higher.
    Johansson is lower than usual, but with only twenty-six wins at heavyweight, I think a bit of a redress was in order.

  19. Magoon 09:13am, 07/30/2014

    I have problems with this list, but two stand out - Greb has no business on it and Johansson is way too low.

  20. Eric 08:18am, 07/30/2014

    Harry Greb was one of the best middleweights of all time, possibly the best, and even ranks high in the 175lb division, but ranking him along with “real” heavyweights like Quarry, Lyle, or Machen? Greb is even in the top 10 P4P, but I can’t see Greb surviving against the likes of Chuvalo, Bugner, Dokes, Thomas, Weaver, Tua, Cooney, etc., and some other heavyweight fighters who ranked below him. Marvin Hagler was a great fighter, but if he had fought Holmes? OUCH.