The 100 Greatest Heavyweights of All Time Part Three: 80-71

By Matt McGrain on July 2, 2014
The 100 Greatest Heavyweights of All Time Part Three: 80-71
Rahman is perhaps the definitive example of the ills that beguile the modern heavyweight.

You see it in other weight divisions but you see it most of all up at heavyweight. One single punch can change the fortunes of a fighter forever…

One punch – that’s the difference.

You see it in other weight divisions but you see it most of all up at heavyweight. One single punch can change the fortunes of a fighter forever.

But just like in those other weight divisions, sometimes it is something other than a punch. Left-handed accuracy or size and durability might replace that punch making that life-changing result possible. In Part Three of this series we begin to meet the men who profited by one punch, one victory, one single result that would define them. Despite the fact that we likely would not see them included were it not for that single split second or that stunning determination to succeed, the chances they desperately clutched to their chests as the world turned sickeningly on its fulcrum were such that they are ranked not with the fighters that cling onto their spot on this list by their fingernails, but rather with men who we almost inarguably have to include. 

#80 Jess Willard (22-5-2; Newspaper Decisions 3-2-1)

Jess Willard was the undisputed heavyweight Champion of the entire world and he won it by defeating the great Jack Johnson, a combination that guarantees his inclusion on this list.  But Willard can rank no higher than he does here. His victory over Jack Johnson was significant, and Johnson would go on to do some very decent work even if it is very clear both on film and in terms of his paper record that Johnson was past his best. Nevertheless it is far and away Willard’s best win.

Willard moved up in class on two occasions before taking on Johnson and posted a draw and a loss. The draw, in the summer of 1912, came against Luther McCarty, a fellow “white hope” and the man with whom boxing’s power structure seemed to place most hope in wrestling the title back from Johnson. Willard may even have deserved the nod and the draw appears to have enhanced his standing. So too, bizarrely, did his loss the following year to Gunboat Smith. Smith, outweighed by a colossal fifty pounds and shorter by around five inches was reduced at times to landing a leaping left hand on his giant opponent. This, he did often enough to take the decision although Willard somehow emerged as the man the press, at least, viewed as the liveliest threat to Johnson – despite the fact that, according to the San Francisco Call he was “nervous…[and] knows no more about delivering a punch than a ballet dancer knows about loading wheat on board a river scow.”

Certainly Willard was no natural. Plucked from obscurity at the age of twenty-seven and set to work in the ring, Willard relied upon the colossal size that first drew boxing’s eye and excellent stamina and durability, illustrated best by his twenty-six round knockout of Johnson in prohibitive conditions. He was also credited with fine wins over Carl Morris and Frank Moran before he was butchered by Jack Dempsey in 1919 and he stopped Floyd Johnson in his 1-1 comeback four years later. Like Mike Weaver, he is arguably an overachiever, but an extremely patchy record in conjunction with his defeat of Johnson sees this giant rank just inside the top eighty.

#79 Roland LaStarza (57-9)

Rocky Marciano defines Roland LaStarza. This is a shame. Prior to his first clash with The Rock, whose name runs through this one-hundred like a vein of gold in rock, LaStarza did good work. That original encounter was desperately close and eyewitnesses can be found who believed that LaStarza deserved the ten-round decision, although most sources seem to agree that Marciano “won the exciting scrap on the strength of his powerful right in the fourth round when he floored [LaStarza].”

In the same round, LaStarza was cut above each eye, but he boxed back and there was close to nothing in it by bell.

LaStarza’s dubious honor for this great achievement was a title shot at an even more thundering Marciano three years later. He managed ten rounds again; but was knocked out in the eleventh, but not before he had “showed up the flaws in [Marciano]” according to Nat Fleischer, who named LaStarza a “boxing mechanic.” It is a fair appraisal, made before Marciano’s truth was properly established, and on film LaStarza can clearly be seen to be superior in almost every department – apart from all the ones that mattered.

Those two good efforts against Rocky aside, LaStarza holds wins over Cesar Brion and Rex Layne, and Dan Bucceroni and Rocky Jones – however, he split a pair with these latter two. In addition he fell off badly after Marciano battered him the second time, going 4-5 in the final years of his career, which included an aborted comeback. Neither his record nor his longevity are outstanding and he lacks the marquee win of peer Layne, but he looks superb on film and but for the tiniest of differences on one scorecard would have brought him a win over Marciano; it’s enough to get him a spot in the top eighty.

#78 George Godfrey (90-21-2)

Knockout power that delivered seventy-eight stoppage wins, 240 lbs., fast feet and fast hands, Godfrey is the modern heavyweight “athlete” turning professional in 1919.

Brought up by Sam Langford and Jack Blackburn, later the most celebrated sparring partner of Jack Dempsey, Godfrey had every conceivable advantage a fighter of his color could marshal in that era; and yet a feeling persists that he fell short of his considerable potential.

Two of Godfrey’s best wins came against Jack Renault and Chuck Wiggins, both of whom were briefly considered for this list before falling short. He knocked Wiggins clean out of the ring in their 1929 confrontation, outpointed Renault in a 1925 thriller – unfortunately, both also hold victories over Godfrey, underlining a problematic inconsistency.

Other key victories include a sixth round stoppage of Larry Gains, his 1928 decision over Paulino Uzcudun, a win in ten over Tiger Jack Fox in 1933, and fifth round knockout over a creaking Fred Fulton. Losses to Jack Gross, Walter Cobb, Obbie Walker and Johnny Risko during the same period take the shine off these wins to a degree, as do the numerous disqualification losses he suffered, including one to Primo Carnera in a fight some believe he threw, but it should be noted that Godfrey boxed to a tough schedule, typical of black heavyweights of the era. My impression of his size and skill perhaps buys him an additional spot, but his lack of a marquee win leaves him behind the bitter rival for the so called colored heavyweight title he occasionally claimed, Larry Gains.

#77 David Tua (52-5-2)

David Tua is a fighter that goes underrated and goes overrated. For some, Tua would beat many of the men above him on this list, brutalizing them with some of the hardest punches in the history of the heavyweight division. For others, Tua is not a natural fighter but one whose destiny was changed at the hands of a driven and unhinged father, the result being his inexplicable non-performances in some of his biggest fights, including something of a sleepwalk versus the enormously intimidating Lennox Lewis.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, but Tua’s limitations haven’t stopped him racking up fifty-two victories at the expense of only five defeats, two of which came at the end of a heavily overextended career. In addition to the loss against Lewis, the other two defeats came against the superb Chris Byrd who hypnotized a lethal and apparently finely honed Tua and Ike Ibeabuchi, who outpunched his fearsome foe over twelve in 1997.

But Tua has a nice clutch of wins to go with that elite power and strength. Despite a defensive frailty (held up by a superb chin) and tactical limitations (protected by a good work rate) David Tua’s surprisingly taught in-fighting offense has brought him victories over Oleg Maskaev, Hasim Rahman (via a stoppage that is often questioned but that was alive with danger), Michael Moorer and not least, his devastating arrival via one-round knockout of John Ruiz.  Despite an excellent chin, Ruiz was badly hurt by the first punch Tua landed, a scything, deeply corpulent blow that ran through the face and terminated by Tua’s right hip. Sprawling like a drunk, Ruiz was rendered totally unconscious by the chilling follow-up.

Moorer, too was introduced to as distant a shore as any boxer has ever visited, by a punch behind the ear after very nearly having his ribcage caved in.

David Izon (18-1), Darroll Wilson (17-0-2) and Danell Nicholson (39-3) help to flesh out a resume that probably does not justify Tua’s ranking but that nevertheless help to add weight to the sense that Tua was, in his prime, one of the most dangerous punchers in boxing history. 

#76 Michael Spinks (31-1)

Ranking Michael Spinks at heavyweight is an absolutely nightmarish task. 

Even his career record of 31-1 is anaemic compared to most of the fighters on this list, but his heavyweight tally, a measly 4-1, with one of the wins regarded as deeply controversial, should, on paper, exclude him. He is measured here against career heavyweights and a career comprised of four wins and a loss is no career at all.

That two of those wins come against Larry Holmes rather changes the picture.

Holmes was one of the truly great champions, is among the “great fifteen” I see when I look at this heavyweight division, he is with the Gods. When a man slays a God he becomes in part as God is.

Yes, Holmes was creaking a bit when Spinks got to him in 1985 and yes the judging was questionable when they met again in 1986, but 2-0 over Larry Holmes, taking the title from Larry Holmes, is a colossal achievement for a former light-heavyweight champion. 

Of Michael’s two other victories at the weight, the masterclass box-punching performance against Gerry Cooney is the more significant. Cooney makes this list. The fact that Spinks beat him and was able to do what Cooney could not in defeating the rattlesnake Holmes makes it impossible for Cooney to be ranked above Spinks, but there is considerable drag here. Whilst Michael’s fourth win at heavyweight over Steffen Tangstad is of benefit to his standing, his fifth contest at the weight, the first round obliteration at the hands of Mike Tyson, is less so. Here, Michael’s weaknesses, those of almost all of the light-heavyweights that tricked and trapped their way onto this list, were ruthlessly exposed. At heavyweight he is a boxer, not a fighter. Even a God-slayer is exposed by the broiling mass that is an immortal peaking. The return to earth for Spinks heralded his retirement.

I am not comfortable with his placement, and I hauled him up at the first opportunity. He could validly be ranked lower and he could probably have snuck a little higher – but this is as elevated as a four fight streak gets you on this list.

#75 James J. Braddock (46-24-4; Newspaper Decisions 5-2-3)

“I know I can still fight,” James J. Braddock told press in 1933. “I’m not ready to give up just yet. I still have some good fights left in me. I just have to somehow find them. I know some people are starting to call me a bum but I don’t think I am…”

Braddock was then matched with 20-16-4 Hans Birkie. He lost a ten-round decision and went 1-3 in his next four. At the end of the year this one-time light-heavyweight title challenger faded into apparent fistic obscurity. 

Braddock’s big problem was his right hand. He broke it first in October of 1927, against Joe Monte before re-breaking it in his 1928 comeback against Paul Swiderski. Afterwards, he would treat it gingerly, and by the time of his fight with Birkie, it had become a one-shot-punch. Braddock was overwhelmingly right-handed as a fighter and found himself in a situation where he could only use that punch once in earnest before it became too painful to employ. He finished his April rematch with previous victim Martin Levandowski boxing one-handed having broken it once more, dropping a close decision. Penniless, he was out again less than fifty days later. In the first round he landed that right hand on Al Stillman’s jaw and dropped him. Watching Stillman stagger to his feet, Braddock knew the fight was a now over because he would be forced once again to box the remaining twenty-nine minutes of the fight one-handed. 

After another break against Abe Feldman in September he vanished to the docks in search of milk money.

His right hand mangled and supposedly in need of surgery, Braddock pursued the punishing schedule of a dock-worker with one hand – his left. The supposed affect was extraordinary. Braddock was training for ambidextrousness in a near life-and-death situation. By the end of his spell on the docks, his weaker hand was no longer his weaker hand – it had become stronger than his right, and he had a newfound confidence in using it.

Very much the “bum” of his nightmares by the end of his first boxing career, his best tool a warped bundle of nerves, his reputation in tatters, manager Joe Gould never gave up on Braddock, and when an opportunity came up in June of 1934 to earn his one-time charge a few dollars, Gould pounced upon it. His opponent would be Corn Griffin, a prospect heavily favored by Madison Square Garden’s Jimmy Johnson and a man expected by some to hoist the heavyweight title above him at some point in the not-too-distant future. Braddock took the fight on forty-eight hours notice, a patsy for Griffin’s New York debut. When, after being dropped in the second in expectation of his fulfillment of his perceived role, he began to cross it over the Griffin left, there was no pain. Griffin was crushed in three.

A piqued Jimmy Johnson, as he would later cheerfully admit, then set out to “make Jimmy Braddock go away.” His first agent in this mission of destruction was John Henry Lewis. This was natural. Lewis had already outclassed Braddock in 1932 and as one of the era’s foremost defensive technicians with mobility to match represented Braddock’s natural stylistic weakness. Braddock became the first man ever to knock Lewis down in the fifth round, nearly overwhelming him with right hands, out-monstering the next light-heavyweight champion of the world despite his supposedly superior skills. Lewis dropped a wide decision.

The next man named for the Braddock assassination squad was Art Lasky. Braddock’s reclamation of a reputation was clear to see. A 5-1 underdog against Lewis, he was only a 3-1 underdog against a man named among the top contenders to Max Baer’s title. Braddock produced an unheard of “artistic beating” over fifteen rounds that had Lasky “bewildered.” Still attacking mostly right-handed, Braddock dominated aside from a bad fade in the sixth from which he fought back aggressively.

Braddock’s fight back from what is only slightly melodramatically named the brink of starvation to a shot at the world heavyweight title is perhaps the greatest and certainly the most over-told story in the boxing canon. His victory over world champion Max Baer, clear cut, and in huge part earned with his left hand is often explained by historians in light of Baer’s supposedly poor preparation. Whilst it is possible to find indications that Baer was “goofing” during training and even during the fight, this has been more than a little overstated. Of course he fought hard for his title. It is also the case that Baer’s right hand was injured in the build-up – but so were Braddock’s ribs, and he was dealing with the least trustworthy right appendage in the fight game. In short, Braddock’s preparation, plan and execution for that fight were perfect. He got his just desserts.

He beat the world’s best heavyweight prospect, the heavyweight that most defined his Achilles heel in terms of style, then one of the world’s best contenders, then the champion. It was arguably the most astonishing year in heavyweight boxing history.

#74 Hasim Rahman (50-8-2)

What is the bounty on the head of a God? And what if the mere mortal doing the killing is an otherwise ordinary citizen, one of the Clark Kents of the world seemingly incapable of the enormous feats of physical endurance and mental domination necessary to put that God down? How would we appraise such a man? What could he mean to a list like this? Is he among the greatest ever to have lived?

Here is my answer: a resounding “yes.”

For some, there is a doubt still as to whether Hasim Rahman’s most famous victim, Lennox Lewis is to be spoken about in such terms. I do not number myself among them. At the very top of this list there are a group of men so far in advance of these men named in the seventies and eighties that even these superb heavyweights are seen as canon-fodder. Lewis is such a fighter – that Rahman knocked him out so completely in South Africa in April 2001 guarantees his inclusion here, and if he is too high for you personally consider that Lennox Lewis will not be ranked any lower than #15.

Furthermore, consider that in the immediate rematch between Lewis and the then undisputed lineal heavyweight Champion of the world Hasim Rahman, Lewis turned in one of the very best performances of his career. Whilst his attitude to perceived cannon-fodder Hasim Rahman may not have been of the highest order in their first fight, this would put Rahman’s defeat of Lewis slap-bang in the middle of his enormous prime.

Unfortunately, Rahman wasted much of the talent that drove that astonishing right-hand punch in South Africa and his resume is weak in a wider sense. He was perhaps a little unlucky to be stopped prematurely against David Tua in December of ’98 but Oleg Maskaev’s stoppage of him in ’99 while ahead on the cards spoke of a fighter who would often find some way to lose. So it would prove against Evander Holyfield and John Ruiz. He did manage to take out another man in this top 110 however, beating Corrie Sanders (#106) in seven in the year 2000 in an insane shoot-out of a fight that saw him come back from multiple flush left hands and one uncomfortable knockdown to secure victory by knockout. 

Disorganized, slow, uncoordinated, with a wallop that could end a horse’s life, Rahman is perhaps the definitive example of the ills that beguile the modern heavyweight – and a demonstration of why they remain perennially dangerous.

#73 Mike Weaver (41-18-1)

Vietnam veteran and human tombstone Mike Weaver was a serving Marine when he got his start in boxing, “by accident” according to an interview he gave to CyberBoxingZone, knocking out a bigger Devil Dog who took the ill-advised step of trying to push him off the jukebox. That man had supposedly been the Marine Corps heavyweight champion. Weaver’s punching power, it seems, was natural.

Nevertheless, after twelve fights his professional record was 6-6, yet he ranks here the highest of lost generation of heavyweights that underachieved so dramatically between the reigns of Holmes and Tyson. Why?

Weaver’s explanation for his slow start was a familiar one, a love of wine and women and a pronounced aversion to training, although he seems to have avoided any dealings with that white powder so beloved by the other top heavyweights of the 1980s. It was none other than Ken Norton who pulled Weaver aside and advised him that there was real money to be made for a man of his talents and the message seems to have hit home. A moderate 13-2 run between the summer of ’74 and the summer of ‘79 probably didn’t qualify him for his tilt at Larry Holmes but he brought the good stuff and enormously enhanced his reputation, turning what was meant to be a tune up for the champion into “the hardest fight of his career so far” according to one ringside reporter.

Holmes moved well in that fight but Weaver followed, grimly and determinedly, undermining criticism of his chin by taking some of Larry’s best whilst prodding out a jab and looking for hard blows to body and head.  Again and again he would catch up with Holmes and land punches, but never with enough venom or brilliance to really dominant the champion for more than a spell of seconds, even in the tenth when it seemed momentarily that Holmes might have been in some distress. In the very next round, class asserted itself as Holmes, hemmed in and hurt once more, nearly took Weaver’s head off with an uppercut. He survived, but was put away early in the twelfth. 

As is so often the case, it was this loss, not a win, which represented the turning point in a career. Weaver boxed extremely well over the next couple of years, beating Scott LeDoux (UD12), sensationally stopping John Tate (KO15), Gerrie Coetzee (KO13) and outboxing James Tillis (UD15) showing stamina, skill, power and generalship against a wide variety of styles and made men. He was then extremely unlucky to be stopped against Michael Dokes and to get no more than a draw in the rematch. Pinklon Thomas signalled the end of the good times in 1985 with an eighth round stoppage of the man they called “Hercules,” but he added to résumé even in his fistic dotage, taking out Carl Williams, James Pritchard and Bert Cooper, on his way to a strange but somehow warming 2000 rematch with Larry Holmes twenty-two years after his career had begun.

From journeyman hell to feared contender, Weaver was that rarest of things – an ‘80s heavyweight who overachieved.

#72 Steve Hamas (35-4-2)

Steve Hamas retired at just twenty-eight years of age to become a physical fitness instructor to corporate clients, the only knockout loss of his career, to Max Schmeling, apparently spelling for him the end. It is likely that Hamas was not a “natural” fighter to use an old-time turn of phrase, an athlete with excellent power and speed but perhaps not born to box. Raised in New Jersey, Hamas is probably typical of the type of sportsman who we now like to say would have found his way into professional American football – tough, smart, 6’2 and 190 lbs. he these days would likely have the makings of a rather splendid quarterback.

Nevertheless, Hamas made a firm mark on the heavyweight division, going 28-0 a run that included an astonishing two-round TKO of Tommy Loughran and an even more disturbing stoppage of the underrated Armand Emanuel, who he retired. He was then defeated by Lee Ramage, over whom he took his revenge not once but twice during the same spell in which he three times rematched Tommy Loughran, their final tally at the end of an under-celebrated series a very respectful 2-2.

Then, in 1934, he scored his best win, over European giant Max Schmeling who he “jabbed and slugged all around the ring…Schmeling won only three rounds,” at least according to The Reading Eagle. The German was only two years from his defining win over one Joe Louis.

That win made him the number one contender to Max Baer’s heavyweight title and a desperately close decision over a future #1 contender in Art Lasky, a title shot seemed all but assured – Schmeling was one of the heavyweight division’s great re-inventors of self, however, and his revenge over Hamas was devastating.

Hamas retired, health intact, “what if” ringing in his uncauliflowered ears.

#71 Rex Layne (50-17-3)

There are many fighters who will appear on this list, both in the lower reaches and the upper slopes who hang their ranking firmly upon a single win. Layne did a lot of good work, but it is his 1950 victory over Jersey Joe Walcott that sees him ensconced inside the 100. Many men made a name for themselves by beating Walcott, though a lot of them didn’t know it at the time such was Joe’s reputation at given points in his career, but Layne beat a Jersey Joe in his absolute prime, less than a year from his lifting the title. He had also rendered Layne a 5-1 underdog making the victory the shock of the year. Cut, fouled and at twenty-two years of age, hugely inexperienced compared to the future King he shared the ring with, Layne employed savage right hands to the body of the older man, showing real tactical awareness in rushing and bulling, earning a clear decision over ten rounds. 

Layne’s other marquee win was his controversial 1952 defeat of Ezzard Charles, making him one of few men to defeat both he and Walcott but referee and sole arbiter Jack Dempsey, who turned in a bizarre 2-1-7 card, was named a “thief” by Ray Arcel and the decision was named “the lousiest I’ve seen” by Ezzard’s manager. The Associated Press noted that many ringsiders saw Charles earning “at least a draw.” In the end, it’s probably reasonable to say that Layne won a very close fight.

So why shouldn’t he be ranked higher given that he is in possession of such a laudable double? Well, he was dogged with terrible inconsistency once he reached contender status, going 4-4 between summer 1951 and summer 1952 and 7-5-1 in 1953 and 1954. Solid wins over top punchers like Turkey Thompson and Bob Satterfield are tempered by unimpressive losses to fighters like Dave Whitlock and Earl Walls. A lower ranking can be justified, but those wins over champions Charles and Walcott pardon a swathe of ugly sins.

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

Jack Johnson vs Jess Willard (Full Film)

rocky marciano vs roland lastraza

Primo Carnera-George Godfrey. Shibe Park, Filadelfia.EE. UU.

David Tua Vs John Ruiz

Larry Holmes vs Michael Spinks I

James J Braddock Fights Max Baer Heavyweight Championship

Hasim Rahman knocks out Lennox Lewis

Mike Weaver vs John Tate KNOCK brutal KNOCK OUT

Max Schmeling TKO 9 Steve Hamas II

Rocky Marciano vs Rex Layne

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  1. Matt McGrain 08:56am, 07/04/2014

    Frankin, it’s very very hard to leave Willard off, and although I basically say why above, i’ll reiterate it here.  Willard beat Jack Johnson.  Johnson was old and the deck was stacked against him, but he was also still the heavyweight champion of the world.  Not prime, but the most significant fighter on the planet.  Hard to leave any fighter with a win like that off the list, but Willard was more than that win.  Demspey found Willard out, but Willard was expected by many to win that fight.  So until round one in Toledo, Willard was counted as the single best fighter anywhere on the planet.  He had been regarded as such for four calender years.  That appraisal is far from the be-all and end-all, but the opinion of his peers must be respected if not entirely condoned.  Either way comfort yourself with this - of all the guys to be regarded as the very best boxer on the whole planet for any length of time, Willard is the lowest ranked.
    But I submit that leaving him off would be impossible.

  2. Matt McGrain 08:52am, 07/04/2014

    Hey MD, good to see you off the reservation.
    Yes, I wouldn’t really argue with anyone who wants someone in the bottom twenty out.  I think you could find twenty names to replace them and if memory serves, I said so in the intro to part 1.  Where Chuvalo is concerned, he’s caused equal consternation to those who wish to see him higher, and those who see him lower…this comforts me, always, that i’ve got him about right.  I do hold Weinhart in high regard though, and he was briefly considered for the hundred.  It was brief but it did happen…

  3. mattdonnellon 01:44am, 07/04/2014

    One punch, that’s the difference, indeed it is the difference between your approach and mine as we discussed before.
    Of course I don’t agree with all of your picks as I prefer consistency and longevity to the big marque win but there is nobody in your selection that I would take major umbrage with. 91-100 is made up of many guys that missed out on my current list but made previous ones. Firpo in particular has fallen out of favour with me. No depth at all, the only worthwhile win he has is Weinert, who might be a top 200 contender?
    Valdez i have stopped rating in the top 100 also, just too damn inconsistent. Interesting argument on Chuvalo, I agree with everything you say on him, especially the underrated jab but to me he’s a top 120 gatekeeper. Layne and Hamas I dont rate as high as you but that OK too,I think it was you who talked me into rating them in the first place. Most of the 70 to 100 fighters could be replaced by twenty equally worthy.

  4. FrankinDallas 07:24pm, 07/03/2014

    So Tye Fields is in the #70 and below rankings?
    I applaud the assembling of this list…tough to do.
    Seriously I wouldn’t have Jess Willard in the top
    1,000 HW. Guy had the athletic skills of a sloth.
    Just used his arms like clubs. Didn’t take long for
    Dempsey to expose him.

  5. Eric 09:23am, 07/03/2014

    Weaver weighed in at just 202 lbs. when he fought Holmes for the title in ‘79, and only weighed 207 1/2 lbs against the 232lb Tate. At 202 lbs., Mike would’ve been just a cruiserweight today, and not a very big one at that.

  6. Eric 08:16am, 07/03/2014

    @Darrell…I always liked Weaver too. It was a shame how he lost his title to Dokes. No way that fight should’ve been stopped. Weaver definitely won the rematch with Dokes. The thing about Mike that might suprise people is he wasn’t a huge heavyweight even for his day. He got heavier as he got older, but I believe he weighed under 210lbs for the Holmes fight, and his prior fights leading up to Holmes. I think he weighed under 210lbs against Tate also. Not sure. He was like middleweight great Marvin Hagler, in that his muscles always made you think he was bigger.

  7. Darrell 10:54pm, 07/02/2014

    Liking this parts selections.

    Was a fan of Mike Weavers, and yes, he definitely overachieved.

    As for my compatriot David Tua, it’s an interesting placing, and ultimately probably just about right for someone who was both totally formidable & intimidating whilst also lacking just that little extra…...“something” which would’ve/should’ve pushed him to the greatest sporting crown of them all.

    He sure was something to watch at his best though… doubts about it.

  8. Matt McGrain 12:13pm, 07/02/2014

    Don’t misunderstand me - I type as hard as you, but I don’t consider that we’ve had a falling out.  My opinion is and has always been, if you read (which you clearly have) you can talk anything you like in the space below - so type on.
    I enjoyed our talk.  I like your sources.  I have no objection to your objection BUT, you must understand that if I feel strongly and differently from you I must say so?
    Please continue to comment on the 100, good or bad, and I’d invite you to email me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) too, if you feel like it, I feel sure i could learn plenty talking to you more about the fights.

  9. ch. 12:08pm, 07/02/2014

    M.M. you have undertaken a tough task to rate the 100 best heavyweights and I have written two opinions. The first I congratulated your choice of Rosenbloom and I gave you the reasons I agreed.
    Now I completely disagree with you about LaStarza. Its my opinion and I gave my reasons. You call the Layne-Charles bout # 1 when you know it was their second match (Charles stopping Layne the 1st time). Layne had lost to novice Willie Cadillac James and crafty Harry Matthews leading up to Charles #2, while winning against average competition. Dempsey scored the bout 2 to 1 with an unbelievable 7 rounds even (which made the verdict easy to steal). Its my opinion Rex was fading when he met LaStarza.
    It is my belief that Roland is over rated and he never took on the best + toughest fighters (except for Marciano) to prove he was entitled to his high rating.
    This does not mean I disrespect you or dismiss all your choices, just your choice of LaStarza. I value your opinions I just disagree on this one for which I believe I gave rational reasons.

  10. Clarence George 11:28am, 07/02/2014

    Ha!  You sound like Lana, Alexander Rusev’s manager.

  11. Ivan Drago 11:15am, 07/02/2014

    I vote for the Klitschko brothers and Mother Russia. I feel both will be in the top 30. I think they would destroy tiny, weak, American champions, but I could be biased. If it was up to me, Klitschkos reign supreme somewhere in top 10. Little, weak, Americans beating Klitschkos, nothing but propaganda.

  12. Matt McGrain 11:13am, 07/02/2014

    @ch. - Of the four newspaper articles by ringsiders I have exactly 0 picking Charles, 1 indicating Layne had the better of it(AP - “Layne bulled and punched Ezzard Charles all over the ring”) and all agreeing it was an close fight.  It is also true that most ringsiders scored the fight for Charles based upon two third person accountings, one of which you mention - and it is also true that the referee scored the fight for Layne based upon his superior aggression.  This is not that unusual for the era, as you will know.
    But how does this, in any way shape or form indicate that Layne was “faded” as you are inexplicably claiming, for the LaStarza fight?  There is literally no indication of that at all of that which I have seen. Charles I, very possibly, was the best performance of his career by many accounts - how was it he came to slip so far in the following six months?  Your claim makes no sense to me I’m afraid.
    And as to who LaStarza didn’t fight, and what he said about those fights, how does that in any way impact the claim that he somehow “ducked” someone like Jimmy Bivins who was more than faded, and rather washed up at the time you seem to think he was a deadly threat that would have proved Layne a contender?  This claim makes no sense to me.  And why is you think he was NOT a contender without fighting someone like Bivins when he was ranked up at #2, and Bivins was completely unranked? 
    What i’m saying to you is a lot of the claims you are making about this fighter make no sense, that seem to be at the very extreme of any possible surmise.

  13. Clarence George 10:54am, 07/02/2014

    I think anyone who became Heavyweight Champion of the World, at a time when it meant something, should be on this list.  But where?  Not a matter of chronology, but of appraisal and discernment.

  14. ch. 10:48am, 07/02/2014

    No doubt Layne (6-W, 4-L in his last 10 bouts) fought his greatest fight against Charles (2) but only referee Jack Dempsey, who voted two rounds for Layne , one for Charles and seven even and some local partisans thought he won. According to Nat Fleischer’s report (Oct. 1952, p. 10 RING) Of eleven reporters, ten voted for Charles. I respect Layne who took on all comers (black + white) but he was fading fast. (LaStarza didn’t take on all comers especially black ones).
    According to LaStarza himself (BOXING + WRESTLING,  July 1953 p.16) “...During the interim, I refused bouts with Joe Louis, Rex Layne, Jersey Joe Walcott, Ezzard Charles, Bob Murphy which were offered to me..”
    I have been involved in boxing for 58 years and have talked to many fighters, promoters, managers and trainers and have heard that Henry, Bivins, Baker, Wallace, Satterfield, etc. aggressively sought matches with Roland but were ignored. And I would bet that even the long in the tooth Bivins’ reach would have easily neutralized LaStarza.
    What does my friendship with Rocky Jones have to do with Jimmy Bivins?  Rocky Jones was a man of integrity who had great respect for Marciano and all of his opponents, never made excuses for his losses. He even liked LaStarza as “a gentleman.”

  15. nicolas 10:37am, 07/02/2014

    regarding the losses that many of the fighters mentioned here lost to Marciano. After they fought Marciano, many of them were never the same. As for George Godfrey. I have always been under the impression that many of his losses were fixed. I am also puzzled by Mr. McGrain’s comment that he is behind Larry Gains, when he beat Gains most of the time, only losing once by disqualification I think. Ring Magazine named him once one of the greatest 100 punchers of all time. I believe that had things been a bit more fair in the 30’s, he would have been heavyweight champion. As it is, he did hold the ‘colored heavyweight championship, and even the IBU had him as heavyweight champion.

  16. tuxtucis 10:21am, 07/02/2014

    Great fifteen? Alì, Bowe, Dempsey, Foreman, Frazier, Holmes, Holyfield, Johnson, the Klitschkos,  Jeffries, Lewis,  Liston, Louis, Marciano, Tyson..they are at least sixteen :-)

  17. Stu Nahan 10:05am, 07/02/2014

    I think Rocky Balboa belongs in here somewhere.

  18. Matt McGrain 09:23am, 07/02/2014

    Like each and every other fighter he is judged on what he did rather than what he didn’t do; furthermore, my point wasn’t that he almost beat Marciano but rather that your attempt to write off his first performance as lucky due to Marciano’s state of mind is rather undermined that he reproduced it almost exactly (losing by MD after ten) against the unencumbered version.  Surely this makes dismissing his most impressive performance impossible?  I mean what’s the explanation for the ten rounds second time round?  What was bothering him on the second night?
    Also, writing off Layne as “faded” is odd.  Layne was six months removed from perhaps the greatest night of his career, a win over ATG Ezzard Charles.
    Finally, some of your accusations of “ducking” are just bizarre.  Bivins was a losing fighter by the time LaStarza came along. Even right after he lost to Rocky, Bivins was in the midst of a year out having lost five of his last ten fights.  There is absolutely no sense in which he can be accused of having “ducked” Bivins he was not so much faded as finished.  I think yours is a very very extreme view, perhaps influenced by your relationship with your friend.  He wasn’t “lethal” to anyone but himself by that point in his career i’m afraid.

  19. ch. 09:07am, 07/02/2014

    LaStarza “almost” winning the 1st Marciano match and giving a good account of himself for the first half of the second Rocky bout and wins over Layne, Bucceroni, Jones and Brion while ducking Charles, Henry, Wallace, Bivins, Baker ( a coincidence, I’m sure, that they were all lethal black contenders) are, you say, credentials enough for Roland to be rated in the top 100 heavyweights. That is your opinion. My opinion is “LaStarza is over rated and benign.”

  20. Matt McGrain 09:03am, 07/02/2014

    Yeah, Cockell was pretty decent.  He made #2 which less than .1% of fighters manage (totally made up stat).

  21. Eric 08:59am, 07/02/2014

    @ch…And even Don Cockell beat La Starza. Nothing against Cockell, he showed tremendous courage in the Marciano bout, but it isn’t like Cockell was a great fighter. Cockell wasn’t even a real heavyweight, I believe he had some kind of medical condition that made it easy for him to gain weight, and he could no longer make 175, not sure.

  22. Matt McGrain 08:44am, 07/02/2014

    Unfortunately for that theory, LaStarza also did very well with Rocky in the second fight, again running him extremely close and again a point swing away from upsetting the Champ with a draw over the first ten rounds.  Over ten, LaStarza was just as competitive with the supposedly traumatised Rocky as he was with the brutal Rock of the Championship run.
    Nobody “benign” does ten rounds with that beast.  Nobody.  You have to be a brutal animal just to make out of the third, I think.

  23. ch. 08:37am, 07/02/2014

    I recently watched the LaStarza - Rocky Jones (2) match from Eastern parkway Arena and I believe that LaStarza was the most benign and over rated heavyweight contender I ever saw. Too much emphasis on LaStarza is given to the 1st Marciano fight. Are we forgetting that this was Rocky’s first fight back after the traumatic events of the Vingo match, which shook Rocky to the point that he seriously pondered quitting boxing.
    Of course Rocky would be somewhat gun shy and less aggressive than normal. Roland in his 37 previous bouts was carefully matched (Brion being the only fringe contender) before they took the gamble with what his board of directors thought might be a now timid Marciano.
    After that fight Roland avoided and refused matches that were offered to him against Ezzard Charles, Clarence Henry, Coley Wallace, Jimmy Bivins, Bob Satterfield, Bob Baker, etc., when a victory over any one of these would have established Roland as a live contender. His win over a faded and cumbersome Rex Layne and dull return bout victory over lt.heavy Jones and a decent win over Bucceroni, after losing the 1st match, should never have made him eligible for the title fight but Weill knew that Rocky would destroy him and the fight would draw good money in New York so the bout was made.
    Rocky Jones was a close friend of mine and he always gave respect to all his opponents, but when he discussed LaStarza, before the second fight he told of being approached by Jimmy (Amato) White, a contact man for the Manager’s Guild and IBC, and was told “We don’t want any of that stuff you pulled in Akron.”
    After the second round Rocky was told in his corner to “ease up,” and Roland won a very careful, play safe decision. LaStarza’s career post Marciano (2) could best be described as “catatonic.”

  24. Matt McGrain 08:32am, 07/02/2014

    You could just list the Champions chronologically and be done?
    I agree with you about Braddock though, he gets the lowball a little too often for me. 
    Active fighters went on the 100 Greatest Fighters too…I don’t consider it a bar to inclusion it’s just that you can end up looking really stupid.  Ranking someone who is about to get knocked out badly in your top thirty, for example.

  25. Clarence George 07:30am, 07/02/2014

    What counts very high with me, Matt, is that Braddock was Heavyweight Champion of the World at a time when that was the most coveted and honored title in the sports world, a crown he won from a still dangerous Baer.  A.J. Liebling’s description of him as a “champion of little worth” is indefensible.  That said, I certainly don’t consider him to be up there with Joe Louis and the other true greats.

    By the way, Rahman is still active.  I tend not to include current fighters in all-time lists, but I’m curious to see how doing so shakes things up.

  26. Matt McGrain 07:08am, 07/02/2014

    Tell you what CG..I’m struggling to find a set of criteria you could use to rank The CInderella Man above Rahman, never mind rank Braddock and leave off “The Rock”.  I worked very, very hard to justify Braddock’s ranking (one of the longest entries of the series) because I think it’s a reach for him.  Witness:
    Rahman beat more fighters.  Rahman beat more heavyweights.  Rahman fought for longer at heavyweight. Rahman has many fewer losses despite fighting more fights.  Rahman is bigger.  Rahman is a bigger puncher.  Rahman has a better “best win” (prime Lewis over slipping Baer).  Braddock arguablly - arguablyl - has the better second and third best wins, but then his heavyweight resume dries up almost completely.
    I’d say Rahman is the superior from almost the ground up…Braddock has a better left for basically two fights of his career and is a better general.  Better chin?  More accurate.  But the concrete stuff all goes to Rahman. 
    Still, fascinating to read your observations as always.
    Cheers Bob.
    Couldn’t leave Tua off Eric, though I did expect to run into some objections…he’s higher than resume/achievement warrants.

  27. Clarence George 06:28am, 07/02/2014

    By the way, I note that one of my favorites, Turkey Thompson, is mentioned and gratifyingly referred to as a “top puncher.”  I hope he makes it on.  Perhaps the next installment?

  28. Eric 06:02am, 07/02/2014

    Weaver might be the only fighter in the top 100 that lost to Bobick, Duane and Rodney. Weaver’s fights with Tate and Coetzee are very memorable, as was his first fight with Peanut Head Holmes. In a top 100 best physique contest for boxers, Weaver takes the number 1 slot over Norton. Norton needed to do some work on those skinny legs. I believe it was Norton who gave Mike the nickname, “Hercules,” to Weaver while Weaver was a sparring partner for Norton. Damn, Scott Ledoux fought just about everybody who was anybody back then. Nice to see the “Fighting Frenchman’s” name makes the list, if just as an opponent for Weaver. Anyone who knocks off Cosell’s rug on national television deserves some recognition. Adios amigos.

  29. Eric 05:44am, 07/02/2014

    Tua runs the table on this list. Tua had so much potential,  he could and should have been one of the all time greats. The non-performance against Lewis was puzzling, but no shame in losing to the Jimmy Young of his era, Chris Byrd. The fight with Ibeabuchi is a classic. Tua vs. Tyson would have been a match for the ages, at least on paper. I think a prime Tua beats a less than prime Tyson in a 90’s matchup. Prime vs. prime is a pick’em. At the risk of committing boxing’s version of blasphemy, I think a prime Tua had the potential to clean house on his fellow swarmers, Dempsey, Marciano, and Frazier. Styles do make fights. Tyson or Tua would be a nightmare match for Dempsey, Marciano, or Frazier, especially Tyson. Bigger, faster, stronger versions of themselves.

  30. Bob 05:18am, 07/02/2014

    Once again, I commend you for tackling such a daunting challenge as this, and for the thought and explanation you put into your reasoning, especially with fighters such as LaStarza, Spinks, Rahman, Rex Layne etc.  I can’t imagine how I’d even begin to to formulate such a ranking system. Great work.

  31. Clarence George 04:02am, 07/02/2014

    Some very interesting selections.  I fully agree with both the inclusion and placement of the somewhat underrated Willard.  I was at first surprised to see LaStarza and Layne, but the respective arguments, while not irrefutable, are indeed compelling.  I’m not so sure about Godfrey, Tua, and Hamas, and I’d have Braddock higher.  I’m not persuaded about Spinks, Rahman, or Weaver.  And I see that Matt and I are going to strongly disagree about Holmes, whom I think stunningly overrated.

    By the way, some nice lines here.  I particularly like that Marciano “runs through this one-hundred like a vein of gold in rock.”  And that bit about pardoning “a swathe of ugly sins.”

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