The 100 Greatest Heavyweights of All Time Part Two: 90-81

By Matt McGrain on June 20, 2014
The 100 Greatest Heavyweights of All Time Part Two: 90-81
The rampant Canadian champion always fought on, always indifferent to his own injuries.

Jeffries was bathed in the setting sun of the greatest era in the history of the sport but all the great fighter saw was a half century of sanitization…

“The fight game isn’t what it used to be,” former heavyweight champion of the world Jim Jeffries lamented in 1950. “It has deteriorated. And you know why? The lean, hungry days are gone. We are living in a soft age where youth is pampered. A fighter gets what he needs to make both ends meet and he’s satisfied.”

This sounds familiar I’ll bet. It’s very likely your grandfather said something similar about your own generation. And guess what – his grandfather very likely said it about his. Anything repeated too often takes on the ring of nonsense but there is a kernel of truth here. The era of Jim Jeffries was one of intense savagery. Speaking in 1950, Jeffries was bathed in the setting sun of the greatest era in the history of the sport but all the great fighter saw was a half century of sanitization. Not for Joe Louis the twenty-five round contest fought in front of a gathering of two-hundred; nor did Sugar Ray Robinson endure the sodden face of a man beaten blind by a trained killer wearing four-ounce horsehair gloves. “Soft” – the term is relative.

It is not easy to compare the likes of Peter Maher and Joe Goddard to men like Tony Tucker and John Ruiz. Just as Tucker would have been horrified by the ignominies of Goddard’s era so Goddard would have been flummoxed by the civilities of the modern ring and befuddled by the straight jab doubling and tripling in his face. They are different, but one is no better than the other any more than a young man on patrol in Afghanistan tonight is better or worse than the Tommy peering tentatively out of his trench at the Somme in the summer of 1916. Both are worthy of our admiration. Both are valid incarnations of the warrior.

It is important to remember the genesis of this sport and it is important to be able to admire what was great about the men who were there in those brutal and innovative times. Whether it’s Maher battling an Irish draughtsman in the mud for two hours or Gus Ruhlin enduring a terrible mauling at the hands of the aforementioned Jeffries, the durability of body and mind that these men showed is something that never goes out of fashion.

Heart never goes out of fashion.

The second part of the one-hundred greatest heavyweights of all time spans the ages.

#90 Tony Tucker (57-7)

Injury and management issues likely help to explain why Tony Tucker was so deeply protected on the way up, but it is an absurdity typical of his career that it was his sixth year and thirty-third fight before he took a risky match, against James Broad, a prospect in the process of morphing into a journeyman. Somehow, this fight was billed as an eliminator for one of the increasingly meaningless straps the top heavyweights of the 1980s passed between them in a merry-go-round of squandered potential and Tucker found himself fighting for a “world” title in only his second meaningful contest against deluxe journeyman and sometime world-beater James “Buster” Douglas. 

Douglas was arguably Tucker’s best performance, not least because Douglas himself was having one of his better nights. Tucker’s jab was sharp and he showed good head-movement as part of a legitimate defense, a rarity for the heavyweight era. He could slip inside and land a right to the body, he could feint Douglas out of position and he out-sped and even out-jabbed him, for spells. His stoppage of his heavier opponent was understated brilliance, a series of tight, committed uppercuts wobbled Douglas before a right hand drove him back to the ropes, suddenly disorganized and although Tucker gifted his hurt opponent a single chance to counter attack with a wild left-hook, still he was able to press him to the ropes and brutalize him until Mills Lane was forced to intervene.

This is the kind of performance that led me to install Tucker in the seventies in my first draft before the harsh reality of what he actually achieved worked him further and further down the list. Arguably he should be moved further down yet, but at 6’5 and tipping the scales at over 220 lbs. at his very best, he is likely capable of troubling heavies that lie much higher up this list. By the end of 1994 his paper record stood at 51-2 and those two losses came against undisputed all-time greats Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson, neither of whom was able to stop him.

Quality wins may be a little thin on the ground, but before the wheels came off in the mid-nineties Tucker boxed with an imperiousness and excellence that elevates him above the likes of Tony Tubbs and Greg Page.

#89 Tommy Jackson (34-9-1)

“Disturbed, lonely and unhappy” is how one-time sparring partner Floyd Patterson described the childhood of the man they would nickname “Hurricane.” Tommy Jackson was supposedly both an enormous and a slow student, unable to read, write or escape the terrorization to which he was subjected by his peers. He remained strange and unlike other fighters even as he became an era-straddling contender, coming close to a match with Rocky Marciano before eventually being beaten by Floyd Patterson for the World Heavyweight Title. “I lost on purpose,” he once told the press after dropping a decision. “It’s my mother, she treats me like a kid, she won’t even let me have a girlfriend.” He arrived for at least one fight hungover, often fought with ill-discipline and sometimes performed inexplicable calisthenics in his corner between rounds, but the many gifts in his favor made him one of the most dangerous fighters in the world for a number of years.

Like many others, Jackson made his bones in the division against faded stars, cracking an exhausted Rex Layne in his ’54 breakthrough performance, a feat he repeated in the same six rounds via a gaping cut the following year. In between he retired Clarence Henry, a fighter holding on grimly to a ranking until Jackson released upon him an attack that the press was beginning to refer to in terms beholding a natural disaster, “a perpetual storm,” a “a tireless rain of leather.” Jackson was a hellish proposition for a fading fighter with an endless, stabbing attack and the type of punch resistance that pure punchers despise. Rex Layne landed steaming right-hands one after the other to no avail.

Number three ranked Dan Bucceroni followed, as did a loss to Jimmy “The Spoiler” Slade (later avenged) underlining Tommy’s inconsistency. The Cuban contender Nino Valdes then stopped him in two rounds on the three-knockdown rule, ruling out his chances of a shot at Rocky Marciano.

1955 was Hurricane’s keynote year as he twice outpointed former heavyweight champion Ezzard Charles. Charles was ripe for the picking in any contest he fought after his two gruelling wars with Marciano, and Jackson’s limitless stamina and unconventional style was an unpleasant mix for him. A fighter with porous defenses and a weak technique that left him mostly bereft of true punching power, Jackson was a fighter with weaknesses that could be exploited but his huge work-rate, near-iron jaw and unpredictability brought him a pair of wins over the excellent Bob Baker to go with his dual defeats of Ezzard Charles and Rex Layne. By 1958 he was basically washed up behind the savage beating administered to him by Floyd Patterson, who bested him twice, but in his prime years of 1954-1957 he was one of the more dangerous and surprising contenders who lurked beneath the shining figure of Rocky Marciano.

#88 Peter Maher (136-21-4; Newspaper Decisions 6-7-2)

Few heavyweights have assembled the raw statistical data as imposing as Peter Maher. Indeed, no other heavyweight on this list can boast of his 142 victories, his 107 knockouts, although nor will there be many who suffered the ignominy of the knockout defeat as many as 19 times. These details and others uncovered by Matt Donnellon in his superb book The Irish Champion Peter Maher are what battered Maher’s path to the 100 clear, although Maher was worthy of consideration even prior to Donnellon’s loving attentions. Maher did, after all, briefly, and in strange circumstances, wear the greatest prize in sports – after a fashion. 

The heavyweight championship of the world was bequeathed by retiring champion James J. Corbett upon the winner of the fight between Maher and Corbett associate Steve O’Donnell.  O’Donnell had cut his teeth against ring giant and one time mentor Peter Jackson some years earlier, before announcing his arrival with a twenty-one round knockout of the highly regarded Jake Kilrain. Maher trimmed O’Donnell in a single round, little more than sixty seconds in, dropping him three times, once with a left, and twice with right hands to the jaw. That right hand was perhaps the most feared punch of the era and just as it was the instrument of O’Donnell’s demise, so was it the instrument of Joe Goddard’s and Joe Choynski’s, two of Maher’s other keynote wins. In truth, he failed more than he succeeded when he stepped up to the highest level, a weak chin often the culprit in his most devastating losses, losses that mounted as the 1900s dawned and Maher began to look like a man out of time. After 1903 he went 12-14-0-1 but his career, which spanned a quarter of a century, was easily able to absorb this horrible run such was the enormity of his body of work. Between 1889 and 1899, he lost only to Joe Goddard, Bob Fitzsimmons and Peter Jackson.

A genuine powerhouse but not a genuine heavyweight, often weighing it at 175 lbs. or under, his longevity and extensive list of victims sees him make the list partly at the expense of Kid McCoy, a fighter who beat him twice but failed match his overall achievements.

#87 Nino Valdes (48-18-3)

Whilst Maher was on the small side for a heavyweight, Nino Valdes could comfortably have shared a ring with more modern inclusions, all 6’3, and 210 lbs. of him. Still, Valdes was vulnerable to being outboxed and many smaller men, from former light-heavyweight kings Archie Moore (180 lbs.) and Harold Johnson (176 lbs.) to Bob Satterfield (183 lbs.) all beat him at one time or another but usually during one of the seemingly inexplicably disastrous runs that beset him, such as the ludicrous 2-6 form that made up most of his 1955 and ’56. Whilst quality opposition was usually the defining factor when it came to these bleak periods, Valdes was also perfectly capable of letting results slip to journeymen, too. Losing or drawing around a third of his gloved contests is what sees him languishing in the bottom third of the top 100; what was positive about Valdes speaks of a higher ranking.

He arguably peaked with his 1954 two-round drubbing of #5 contender Tommy “Hurricane” Jackson, a fighter as unpredictable as he could be difficult to fight. Valdes stayed right on top of him with both jab and right hand and profited by way of the three knockdown rule, smashing out a fighter he could not have hoped to outwork. 

“Me knock out Tommy then fight Rocky,” one Sunday newspaper quoted Valdes as saying regarding a mooted showdown with the champion. “I beat Ezzard Charles, so did Rocky, so me and Rocky good fight, eh?” A good fight indeed, but one that never came off, something that is probably held against Marciano unfairly given Nino’s form the following year, but that The Cuban beat Ezzard Charles cannot be argued. Eleven months earlier Valdes had defied the six-to-one odds against him to outpoint the former champion with something like ease. Plenty of fighters took advantage of Ezzard’s increasingly faded skills as he ran down one of the greatest ring careers in history, but Nino was not, entirely, one of them – Charles had won nine in a row coming in to his fight with Valdes and the two bruising encounters he was to suffer with Rocky Marciano were still in his future.

As well as Jackson and Charles, Valdes scored good results against Don Cockell, Mike DeJohn and John Summerlin. Matched with his heavyweight’s size and power (Valdes stopped thirty-six fellow giants) this is enough to get him in ahead of many fighters who fought for the title.

#86 Tommy Farr (84-34-17)

Like so many other Joe Louis victims, Tommy Farr is more famous for losing to the Brown Bomber than for any other single thing he did in his career – such are the foibles of fame. But it is possible, likely even, that this loss enhanced Farr’s reputation further than even his wider career deserves. 

The Louis loss aside, Farr’s best efforts were, as is traditional, against the fading dawn of two of the better fighters of the passing generation, Tommy Loughran and Max Baer. 

The Baer win is actually reasonably impressive. Baer had hammered a solid handful of middling fighters since his 1935 slaughter by Joe Louis, but nor was his heart really in it. Still a huge puncher and the heaviest man by more than ten pounds, the 6’0, 198 lb. Farr had his work cut out in taming Baer. This he did “unimaginatively,” according to one ringside reporter, but clearly nonetheless. So complete was the drudgery of Farr’s left-handed superiority that Baer announced his retirement at the end of the twelve one-sided rounds; by the end, Farr’s attack had become two-handed as he “banged Max around.”

That was the puncher – a little over a year earlier, it had gone less well for Farr against the boxer Tommy Loughran. The bloated version of Loughran, a genius whatever his physical condition, seems to have beaten Farr out of sight – only to have the British referee to rule in Farr’s favor. “The decision was so unpopular with fans,” wrote one American reporter, “that cries of ‘Robbery’ and boos filled the hall for twenty minutes after the decision was announced. British sportswriters were almost unanimous in giving the American 7 of the 10 rounds.”

Perhaps these two fights unlock the heart of Tommy Farr. Give him something to dig in against, as he dug in against the obscene poverty that beset his family in his native Wales, or how he dug in to the coal face he mined in conditions deemed equally obscene by today’s standards, or how he dug in against older, bigger opposition in the fighting booths that made Jimmy Wilde, give him an offensive machine to test his manliness against and you have yourself something special. Give him a less direct challenge and perhaps he would always struggle. This might explain why after the beating he suffered at the hands of the Brown Bomber (“My face looked like a dug up road after he’d finished with it. I only need to think about Joe Louis and my nose starts bleeding.”), he staggered through ’37 and ’38 without a win, losing to Louis, Jim Braddock, Baer in a rematch, Lou Nova and even Red Burman, who he managed to avenge himself against next time out.

Nevertheless, Farr creeps in to the top 100 just ahead of Valdes – and yes, that losing effort against mighty Joe is a factor.

#85 Gus Ruhlin (37-10-5)

Sometimes a fighter doesn’t need both a rock and a hard place to consign him to a historical footnote – the rock will do. Gus Ruhlin’s rock was Jim Jeffries, a fighter he met not once, but twice, first in 1897, when he scored a controversial draw, and once in 1901 when Jim Jeffries, then in his pomp, brutalized and stopped him.

Inconsistencies also dogged Ruhlin and he was capable of inexplicably drab performances against apparently inferior opposition, but it must nevertheless be stressed that were Jim Jeffries to remain a boilermaker, Ruhlin likely would have held the title. Rangy, pushing 6’3 and very capable of scaling comfortably at 200 lbs., he was a giant for the era and one that picked off most of his fellow contenders for the title, including Sailor Tom Sharkey, Joe Goddard, Peter Maher, Joe Choynski and John Finnegan. Of course, had Jeffries not come along then one of these men would have to have beaten Bob Fitzsimmons to release the title, and this was something that Ruhlin couldn’t do, losing to Ruby Robert in 1900 – perhaps there was a hard place to Jeffries’ Rock, after all – but he nevertheless remains a serious landmark upon an often forgotten boxing landscape.

#84 Arturo Godoy (89-21-12)

Chilean Arturo Godoy went north early, much earlier than the first heavyweight to come foraging from South America, Luis Firpo, waiting only two years to Firpo’s four before he arrived on American soil. Tough southern journeyman Gordon Fortenberry was his most impressive win in these early 1930s but he went an impressive 34-3-1 and visited Spain, Cuba and Argentina before graduation night arrived, against a slipping Tommy Loughran. Godoy went 1-1-1 with Loughran in a three-fight series and it was enough to announce his arrival at world level. His Philadelphian opponent was still highly thought of and highly ranked, but it was his dispatch of the creaking Firpo and his New York draws with Al Ettore and Leroy Haynes that saw him crack the Ring top ten, fights in which Godoy impressed the world’s toughest crowd with both his speed and his “willingness to trade punches” according to the Milwaukee Journal. Twin defeats of Tony Galento followed and even when the occasional loss began to creep in it was not enough to keep the Chilean from a 1940 shot at the title of one Joe Louis. Odds of up to 20-1 were available on his finding a way to decision the champion.

Based upon surviving footage, it cannot be exaggerated how close Godoy came to defying those odds. Joe’s punches skit and whistle of Godoy’s surprisingly speedy concrete form as he burrows in from his tree-trunk crouch and whenever he gets hit with a hard punch he goes even lower to slip what comes behind it. Bouncing punches off the Chilean like “rain on a tin roof” according to The Herald, Louis was generally regarded as having done the sharper work, which gave him the shade of the fight, but it had been close, if probably less close than the surviving highlights indicate. Nearly decapitated in the rematch, Godoy’s form was afterwards patchy, but he added serious names to resume, including revenge over two men to have previously beaten him, Roscoe Toles (always a problem for him) and Alberto Lovell as well as contenders Gus Dorazio, Tony Musto and Buddy Knox.

Lacking the depth for a higher ranking, Godoy’s success on the South American scene and two exciting surges at world level in conjunction with his thrilling tilt at Louis cement his place.

#83 John Ruiz (44-9-1)

Reviewing footage for this entry was fun.

In general, I try to defend any style deployed by any fighter that works within the rules. It’s a tough sport, the toughest sport, and you do what you have to. But Ruiz, at times, borders on unwatchable. His best fight is likely to be his catastrophic one-round destruction at the hands of David Tua, uniquely thrilling and above all, exceptionally short. 

But Ruiz cannot, despite appearances, be dismissed. 

First of all, he was on the end of rough decisions in a number of fights including his two losses prior to his disastrous meeting with Tua, SD losses over 10 and 12 against Sergey Kobozev and Danell Nicholson respectively. These fights weren’t robberies, just close scraps that could have been scored otherwise, as they were on my own cards, painting an alternative picture where, aside from his definitive loss to Tua, Ruiz goes unbeaten between his turning professional in 1992 and losing to all-time great Evander Holyfield in 2000 – in a decision that was widely disputed. I scored it for 116-112 for Ruiz, something close to a robbery in my eyes, but Ruiz presented his muggers with his own purse. Having won at least four and probably five of the first six rounds, he became almost passive. Whilst for periods he had proven himself capable of out-jabbing and outfighting the best heavyweight technician since Ezzard Charles, he fell back into his grabbing style in the second half of the fight, giving the judges reason to find against him in rounds he may have won. The close decision loss should have been a clean decision win but Ruiz was complicit in his own persecution.

The rematch was Ruiz’s greatest moment. Cut to the forehead by an accidental cut, his left eye closed by Holyfield punches, he showed tremendous heart and toughness in outlasting and outfighting the fading great in front of him. A third fight was ruled an ugly, badly officiated draw but a legitimate win over Holyfield to add to the first fight in which he was likely robbed against an opponent who only months earlier had extended Lennox Lewis is what gets Ruiz over the line and onto the hundred. Victories over Kirk Johnson, Hasim Rahman and Andrew Golota nudge him a little further up the list but are tempered by a famous loss to former middleweight champion Roy Jones and two controversial losses to Nikolay Valuev and the fact that Ruiz’s signature win did not bring him the lineal title.

#82 George Chuvalo (73-18)

George Chuvalo is likely the only gatekeeper type to appear on this list, but he was the gatekeeper to the greatest heavyweight division in history and from the mid-sixties until the mid-seventies he patrolled the shore of a sea filled only with sharks. Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Zora Folley, Ernie Terrell, Oscar Bonavena, Floyd Patterson – it is possible that no other heavyweight on this list will have met as many heavyweights on this list. Of course, Chuvalo lost to the great fighters he tangled with – that is what a gatekeeper does – but in repelling more than a few he built up a superb and varied resume all of his very own.

Doug Jones, the first man to really test Muhammad Ali was turned away by an on form Chuvalo who basically outfought the stylist with a surprisingly fluent if wide attack supplemented by a surprisingly spritely double jab and snapping left-hook. Jones was thoroughly weary when he was bowled over by two clubbing right-hands in the eleventh and final round but he was also behind on two of the three scorecards. World title challenger and Mexican champion Manuel Ramos, too, was cast from a heavyweight ranking to journeyman hell after being forced to quit during a war with the rampant Canadian champion who fought on, as always, indifferent to his own injuries. He also edged out Cleveland Williams in ’71 and, most famously, he holds a win over Jerry Quarry who basically forgot to get up after being dropped by a Chuvalo left whilst leading on the cards.

Chuvalo’s innate toughness lent him great and notable longevity meaning that even before he established himself as the division’s in-between man he did some damage to some good men from the fifties, including James Parker, Yvon Durelle, Bob Cleroux, Alex Misteff and Mike DeJohn. A career scattered with losses but defined by some excellent wins sees him perched just outside the seventies, a sort of gatekeeper to the eighty greatest, too.

#81 Joe Goddard (32-17-10)

It is difficult to exaggerate the status or ability of Peter Jackson in 1890. The Australian was at the absolute height of his considerable powers, was arguably the best heavyweight in the world and very probably the best technician.  When Joe, weighing around 180 lbs., met with the 194-lb. Jackson in Melbourne, Australia over the distance of eight rounds, not a great deal was expected from him. Goddard was brutal and direct fighter but was seemingly outclassed by a bigger, seemingly stronger, much more brilliant fighter.

“The excitement rose very high,” wrote The Barrier Miner, “when it became evident that Goddard had a very strong lead, and looked like winning.”

Goddard landed hard punches in the first round, and although Jackson “just smiled” according to The Newcastle Morning Herald, the punches got harder in the second, and while both men landed, it was Jackson who found himself on the ropes. In the third, Jackson, according to two primary sources, dropped Goddard with a punch although the Singleton Argus saw it as a slip. Either way, Goddard was confirmed as down in the following round, and both men hit the deck in a tangle in the next. Goddard’s attack was so brutal and so insistent that it created enough chaos to keep Jackson’s superiority in check over the shorter distance; the sixth was the round where the smile was finally “wiped from Jackson’s face.” Goddard attacked the body – Jackson responded to the head.

The result, a draw, was not quite Tyson-Douglas, but it should not be underestimated as an affirmation of Goddard’s ability. The “best fighting ever seen in Melbourne” made Goddard a contender.

He would never fight for the title, and arguably never achieved a greater result in the ring, but he did do some other exceptional work. A young Joe Choynski fell to him twice in 1891; the same Choynski would go on to stop Jack Johnson, Mick Dooley, who holds victories over the young Bob Fitzsimmons fell to him, Peter Maher fell to him.

Later in his career he was punished by the quill, including Tom Sharkey and, more brutally, Jim Jeffries, after which the tracks fell off this threshing machine. Of his final eighteen recorded fights, Goddard won just one, compromising his paper record badly but blowing away old foe Peter Maher in just one round for his final fight was a fitting end for one of the last great pure savages of the ring.

More diluted, more terrifying savagery lies ahead.

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

Tony Tucker vs James Douglas

Floyd Patterson vs Tommy Jackson (July 29, 1957) -XIII-

Nino Valdes TKO 2 Tommy "Hurricane" Jackson

Max Baer vs Tommy Farr - Newsreels

Jim Jeffries -vs- Gus Ruhlin, San Francisco 11/15/1901 (Rare Film Restoration)

Joe Louis vs Arturo Godoy, I

Evander Holyfield vs. John Ruiz II

Jerry Quarry vs George Chuvalo

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  1. tuxtucis 12:30am, 05/10/2015

    Oh yes, Ruiz was the greatest pound for pound boxer of all time, but cause My bias against latinos, I can’t admit that…

  2. ChanginTheGamd 12:00am, 05/10/2015

    Tuxtucis… Your ignorant… It’s a top 100 list of Heavyweight fighters. 2x WBA Heavyweight Champion. His style may not be what sells, but “styles make fights”. And the truth is few heavyweights during this time cared to fight Ruiz. Not Klitschko, not, Tyson, not Lewis. Mind you, Ruiz was Lewis’ sparring partner for a few years. After a Google search, I couldn’t find one fighter that this man avoided. This goes without saying he was the first (and only to date) Hispanic Heavyweight Champion. Which in itself is enough to put him on the 100 list… Oh and wins don’t count when Toney decided to use steroids. Roy Jones vacated the title because he didn’t want to go back in the ring with Ruiz. Jones can say what he wants, but he didn’t agree to a rematch. I could educate you all day, but would waste my time. Have a stronger argument than that pathetic 3 line comment.

  3. Springs Toledo 09:11am, 07/12/2014

    A quibble here and a quibble there is no reason for anyone who isn’t a hopeless cynic or unconscionable crank to dismiss this list. I’m on board with it.

  4. mattdonnellon 06:31am, 07/03/2014

    just seen this Matt, I’ll be on shortly!

  5. John A. Bardelli 03:27pm, 06/28/2014

    Someone mentioned that Carnera would not be included in the top 100? That would be a shame. 

    A strong case that Carnera should be included, at a minimum, within the top 15, can and should be made.  Consider, for example, that until he sustained first round injuries injuries to his right foot and ankle in the fight with Max Baer, injuries which totally hampered him for the balance of his career, he would have totally cleaned up the division.  As it was, Carnera was never deposited on the canvas for a 10 count throughout his career and even the hard slugging Max Baer couldn’t put him down for the full count of 10 despite the fact that Carnera fought the entirety of the fight on one foot. 

    As it was, Carnera had Baer in significant trouble through many of the middle rounds of that fight before it’s rightful stoppage. 

    It is interesting that Baer, really the American syndicate, did not give Carnera a rematch although they engaged in two exhibition matches. Following the second exhibition, Baer told the media “I’m glad the championship was not on the line tonight.”

    And, oh yes, the libel and slander directed towards Primo by a distraught manager and an American press, bent on keeping the heavyweight championship in America, concerning alleged thrown fights, none of which, incidentally, have been proven, should be eliminated from the equation in evaluating Carnera’s greatness as a fighter.

  6. Eric 06:45am, 06/25/2014

    @Irish…..And Tommy was beating Mercer up to the time he got caught. Offensively, Tommy was right up there with Tyson. People will obviously point to Tommy’s chin or lack of chin, but Mercer was a helluva puncher and Bentt won the lottery that day. Not only do I think that Tommy would destroy Bentt in a rematch, but I think he would beat Mercer had they had a second go. Tommy was having his way with Mercer in the earlier rounds. Maybe we are underestimating Tommy, maybe he will show up in the top 40 or 50, I certainly wouldn’t argue that ranking. Dempsey was kayoed by Fireman Jim Flynn (although some say the fix was in) and other greats have less than stellar performances against inferior opponents. Of the twenty fighters already mentioned, I could see a prime Morrison beating every single one of them, some pretty easily. You know Ken Norton will rank high, and most of that is largely based on his fights with a faded Ali, and maybe his win against an out of shape Jerry Quarry. Morrison would more than likely destroy Norton in a prime vs prime matchup.

  7. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 06:27pm, 06/24/2014

    Eric- You’re spot on regarding Tommy Morrison…..Quick Tillis, Pinklon Thomas, Carl Williams, George Foreman, Ross Purrity, Razor Ruddock, Joe Hipp….some total all out wars….only two bad losses to Mercer and Lennox and you know damn well he would’ve gotten Bentt in a rematch. For some it’s as if he never existed…..let’s get real here….there are some on this list that wouldn’t have lasted a round with him.

  8. Eric 07:35am, 06/24/2014

    @tuxtucis…Absolutely!! Not only that, Jeffries had to lose about 100lbs when he began training. He was 35 years old and had been retired for YEARS as you mentioned. The Ali who fought Larry Holmes looked slimmer than he had in years, but cosmetic shape doesn’t equal fighting shape. Ali had taken diuretics to shed the flab and had looked terrible in training. Look at Jeffries face going into the Johnson fight, Jeffries looked much older than 35, haggard, almost sickly, despite the trim body. The Jeffries that Johnson beat is comparable to the Ali that Holmes beat, or the Louis that Marciano beat. Only Ali and Louis didn’t have to lose 100lbs and hadn’t been retired for over 5 years. The Jeffries and Fitzsimmons that Johnson beat, were OLD MEN.

  9. tuxtucis 02:52am, 06/24/2014

    @Franklin Dallas: what? When Jeffries fought Johnson, he was a former boxer from 6 (!) years…I agree Tucker would be higher and Ruiz lower…

  10. FrankinDallas 07:05pm, 06/23/2014

    Nice to see that old film of Jeffries as it clearly shows what an awful
    style/stance he had. He kept his left hand down by his waist and was nearly always squared up. It’s no wonder Jack Johnson wiped the canvas with him…and don’t tell me Jeffries was out of shape…he was lean and muscular that day.

    Didn’t Tucker.go 12 rounds with Tyson when Iron Mike was in his “invincible ” stage or am I thinking of Tubbs?

  11. Eric 07:24am, 06/23/2014

    The 175lb division has always been seen as sort of a bastard division from the beginning. But a lot of excellent fighters have fought at 175. The top 10 lists of 175 vary more than say heavy or middle, depending on each list. I’ve only recently seen Charles and Tunney included in 175lb lists and usually one or both are at the top. Much harder than the more glamourous heavyweight or middleweight divisions. Good luck.

  12. Matt McGrain 10:59am, 06/22/2014

    No Eric, don’t apologise.  Just talking.  If you read (and you clearly have) you can say whatever you like that’s what I think.  Then, I read what you write and I get to say whatever I like.  There IS a top 500 Heavyweights out there, computerised, and therefore confusing.  Just google “top 500 heavyweights”.
    I’m thinking about doing LHW next, one traditional division a year.  But it will be much, much tougher.  So we’ll see.

  13. Eric 10:15am, 06/22/2014

    @Matt McGrain…No doubt you’ve put a tremendous amount of work into this, and the most interesting thing is (at least to me) is who will be numbers 11-100. Or possibly if some newer models will push aside more traditional names in the top 10 or top 20. You definitely had a monumental task to perform in ranking the top 100. How about a top 500? teehee. Only kidding. How about the a top 100 middleweights? That division is loaded with great fighters. Thanks for the work. Sorry about jumping ahead.

  14. Matt McGrain 09:52am, 06/22/2014

    Well hell Eric, I hope we got some interesting things to talk about before that!  There are literally thousands of heavyweight top tens on the internet, but coherent 100s (which I hope this will be) are very rare…i do hear you on the Klitschkos and considering these problems was fascinating and difficult I admit…but we got Young, Bivins and Ellis to sort out before that, all of whom were just as difficult and fascinating - and that’s just the Jimmys!

  15. bikermike 09:52am, 06/22/2014


    ...on becoming greater after a fighter retires, than when he was active.

    In Larry Holmes case….I’d say it was more of a case that Holmes beat Norton (who had a massive fan base), and he had to beat Ali (perhaps best known athlete of all time..)  Both of these conquests by Holms made the fan base at that time, more dificult to break into by Larry Holmes (not well known at all ‘cept an Ali sparring partner) time passed, folks softened up to Larry Holmes.  He is a very successful businessman, who supports Boxing all over North America.  His conduct up to..and during his CHAMPIONSHIP was very professional….and his after ring career has done him well.

    I always remember one of his quotes ...when asked ..“How do you want to be remembered , after your ring career has ended…..?.../

    Larry replied….‘I want to be remembered as the OLDEST LIVING FORMER HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION OF ALL TIME

  16. Eric 07:34am, 06/22/2014

    Be interesting to see where the much maligned Klit brothers will rank too. Also Bowe, Lewis, Holyfield, and of course Tyson. Will these modern giants and greats like Holy & Iron Mike rank higher than the Dempseys, the Marcianos, the Fraziers, etc? Fighters like Marciano and Holmes, weren’t nearly as highly ranked while they were active, but both seemed to ascend the rankings and became greater after their retirements, at least in the opinions of boxing experts. Tyson, on the other hand, seems to keep slipping in the rankings. Holmes routinely makes the top 10, sometimes the top 5-6, and he was criticized quite often as a champion for his lackluster competition. Back in the day it almost seemed automatic to rank Ali-Louis-and then Dempsey, Marciano, and Johnson would vary slightly in the how they ranked in the 3-5 positions.

  17. Matt McGrain 04:27am, 06/22/2014

    Henry is a no-show.  He made the 120 though.  I think you cold put him in instead of Firpo or Neusel without giving me the hump for sure.

  18. Clarence George 03:47am, 06/22/2014

    Sorry, but guess not surprised, that Clarence Henry didn’t make the cut.  He’s a favorite of mine.

  19. Matt McGrain 02:59am, 06/22/2014

    A word about Hurricane Jackson.
    Jackson literally cleared out the previous era and “modernised” the division for his time.  He holds pairs over Ezzard Charles, Bob Baker and Rex Layne.  Quantifying these wins is difficult but they DO translate, by almost any standard, in a positive direct comparison to the men who missed out on the list.  Guys like Clarence Henry, Frank Slavin and Lamon Brewster, they just didn’t match this achievement.  Comparing him to the guy who is ranked directly behind him, Tony Tucker, we see that it is reasonable to have Jackson above him…I feel he belongs, though as I said to Clarence George about a different fighter, you CAN reasonably leave him out - although I would reject the notion that he flat out doesn’t belong and that others were clearly more deserving.
    Onwards and upward!

  20. peter 05:52pm, 06/21/2014

    Tommy “Hurricane” Jackson—a very colorful character—is a off-key note within this fine opus. There are many other more deserving heavyweights.

  21. bikermike 05:16pm, 06/21/2014

    Patterson and Chuvalo gave us all FIGHT OF THE YEAR in 1965….very busy match up..close fight !! Chuvalo was better than many believe…upon a closer , fair minded view….Chuvalo was a very good Heavyweight.

    I’m not tryiing to rain on Matt’s great article…...the article is very well researched.  I just like George Chuvalo and his contributions…..took Ali match on about two weeks notice…fight of the year in ‘65…and got REEEEEEEMED on the Terrell Title Match

  22. bikermike 05:02pm, 06/21/2014

    Great read…I love these walks through the History of Boxing.

    Just a point, about George Chuvalo…..Anybody who saw the Title match with Terrell and Chuvalo will agree that Chuvalo was the clear winner of that match.  George Chuvalo , indeed , had won the Heavyweight Championship that night..up until the scores were announced.

  23. Eric 04:08pm, 06/21/2014

    Ingo is definitely in there somewhere. The only heavyweight champs who probably won’t get in are some of the paper champs ala Tony Tubbs, Bruce Seldon, etc., and guys like Willard, Hart, and Carnera. Curious if small champs like Burns or Fitz will rank, but Walker got in, so who knows? The battle for 1 & 2 is going to come down to Ali or Louis. And the top 10 is going to include the usual suspects like Dempsey, Marciano, Holmes, Johnson (ugh!), Frazier, Foreman, etc. ( least I think so?) I’m curious as to where fighters like Norton, Braddock ( if he makes it), Quarry, and a few others will rank. Personally, I would rank a prime Tommy Morrison in the top 100, but I would probably be one of the few to do so. I figure Morrison was right up there with some of the ones that have already been mentioned.

  24. Clarence George 02:10pm, 06/21/2014

    And I hope to see Patterson’s friend, Ingo.  Not among the top 10, certainly, but Johansson had an amazing right and tends to be underrated.  Besides, as an elderly gentleman, he looked remarkably like my grandfather.  By the way, guys, he appeared (along with Mort Sahl!) in a little-known war movie, “All the Young Men,” starring Sidney Poitier and Alan Ladd.

  25. Eric 12:07pm, 06/21/2014

    Cooper did have a beautiful left hook, I would say it was without a doubt worthy of being considered “world class.” Another great left hook artist planted Cooper with a right hand, some timid fellow named Patterson. I’m thinking Floyd will show up sometime on this list. Underrated punching power, and pretty fast hands too. Like Cooper, Floyd needed just a tad more size. Cooper and Patterson, both class acts.

  26. Matt McGrain 09:41am, 06/21/2014

    Cooper knew his limitations, and flat out avoided Liston, too, but I think Chuvalo didn’t really like a world-class left…Cooper very nearly had one.

  27. Clarence George 09:35am, 06/21/2014

    I agree, Eric, and that was my point.  No disrespect to Cooper, But Chuvalo would’ve beaten him…and Cooper knew it.

  28. Eric 08:17am, 06/21/2014

    Chuvalo would’ve beaten Cooper, IMO, Cooper was pretty light for a heavyweight, and George would’ve roughed him up. I had read somewhere that Cooper put lead weights in his boxing shoes when he weighed in against Ali, to appear heavier. Chuvalo was a strong, legitimate heavyweight while Cooper was never really a true heavy. Cooper did do well against Bugner, and Bugner was a huge heavyweight for his time, but Bugner was a kid, and wasn’t nearly as aggressive as Chuvalo would have been. George is top 5 P4P of all time whiskers, however.

  29. Eric 07:57am, 06/21/2014

    It is kind of difficult to rate the heavyweights who came before Jack Dempsey. Those were tough, tough, men, and would mop the floor with modern “pampered” fighters in a barroom brawl, but don’t know how they would do against a modern day trained boxer in a boxing ring. Now if it were Jim Jeffries or Tom Sharkey fighting a modern heavy in an alley, Im betting on Jeffries or Sharkey.

  30. Clarence George 07:52am, 06/21/2014

    Henry Cooper refused to fight Chuvalo, which I think is telling.

  31. Eric 07:42am, 06/21/2014

    Cooney and Bugner, are better than this entire list, IMO. Always liked George Chuvalo and admired him for his character, as well as mental and physical strength. George was essentially a gatekeeper as you described and he also lost most of all his “big” fights with the exception of his controversial win over Quarry. Quarry was beating Chuvalo quite easily before the questionable ending. Cleveland Williams was totally shot by 1971, and even Ron Stander would go on to beat Manuel Ramos. Doug Jones was little more than light heavyweight. You have to wonder why Bugner never met the Canadian for some sort of Commonwealth, or British title. Of the 4 big “white hopes” of the sixties/seventies which included Chuvalo, Bugner, Quarry, and Bonavena, I would rate Chuvalo at #4. Chuvalo deserves top 100 but maybe he should’ve been in the first list of fighters.

  32. Matt McGrain 07:01am, 06/21/2014

    No, no problem at all you’re entitled,  If you read it you can speak to it I think. - and I could see him higher without too much complaint myself.

  33. Bob 06:55am, 06/21/2014

    As I said before, I appreciate the thought you put into this endeavor.  Your explanation about John Ruiz is right on point. Fans loved to dismiss him as inept, clumsy etc, but he went very far with the talent he had and competed against a who’s who of top fighters. Less thoughtful researchers would have left him out or ridiculed him, so once again GREAT work. I still have a problem Chuvalo being where he is, but in no way does that diminish your Herculean effort to be fair and objective in these ratings.

  34. Matt McGrain 06:21am, 06/21/2014

    Here’s the problem with ranking Chuvalo higher: Bob Cleroux, Joe Erskine, Tony Alongi, Zora Folley, Ed Coroletti, Oscar Bonavena, Buster Mathis, Jimmy Ellis; all guys who are not Foreman, Ali, Frazier or Patterson who busted him in or near his prime.  His resume IS pretty good, but it’s not difficult to paint Goddard’s as better.  Goddard is ranked one step ahead of him.  Of course, it is close enough that you can rank Chuvalo ABOVE Goddard, but it is close enough that you can comfortably do the reverse, too.

  35. Bob 06:11am, 06/21/2014

    I commend you for the work you put into this list, but feel that Chuvalo should be placed much higher. He was relevant for quite some time, and quite competitive with the best the division had to offer (which was very lofty in the 60s and 70s). He has this undeserved reputation as a punching bag, which upon closer inspection is based solely on his performances against the likes of Ali, Frazier and Foreman. Take them out of the picture, and he was very formidable indeed against scores of fighters that I assume will appear much higher in your rankings.

  36. Clarence George 05:34am, 06/21/2014

    Curses!  But though I be foiled today, my time will come.

  37. Matt McGrain 05:20am, 06/21/2014

    Hahahahaha…comfort yourself with this knowledge - when I left him out I thought about you specifically and whether it would be right to make you feel so sad.  He finished outside the 110 I’m afraid.

  38. Clarence George 05:17am, 06/21/2014

    You’re right about Godoy, especially in terms of sheer ruggedness.

    Matt, there a few favorites I hope to see on this list (leaving aside, of course, Joe Louis and the other inevitables).  I’m thinking, especially, of a particularly portly heavy (and I do mean heavy) of Italian extraction.  I’ll say no more. 

    Oh, apropos of nothing at all, do you like rhinos?  I’m a big fan.  And speaking of big, I’d say we’re talking about a TWO TON animal over here.  Of course, you’d know better than I if that TWO TON guess is right or not, what with your being from Scotland and all.  Oh jeez, I keep hitting that cap key, don’t I?  Sorry, but I have fingers like sausages—too much beer, spaghetti and meatballs…

  39. Matt McGrain 04:44am, 06/21/2014

    Farr was more skilled than Godoy in the traditional sense,  I agree.  But I think Godoy was more rugged, more durable, more powerful and more difficult to fight.  I think Risko could definitely go in 81-100.  He was a guy I considered and removed rather than a guy that got “moved out” by the development of the list, but like I said in the intro to part one, you could reasonably move out 81-100 and replace them with twenty different fighters and defend the decision.  Risko would certainly be among the top 120.  There are around 180 elite heavies by my mathematics. 
    I think it’s literally at #80 where the guys start being near-locks for the 100.

  40. Clarence George 04:33am, 06/21/2014

    Johnny Risko…I like that.  His paper record is deceiving, what with plenty of losses.  Still, he was only stopped three times out of more than 120 fights.  Moreover, and almost literally with one hand tied behind his back, beat guys like Jack Sharkey, Max Baer, Mickey Walker, King Levinsky, Tommy Loughran, Tony Galento, and Paulino Uzcudun.  And he gave Gene Tunney a hard time.

    I have nothing against Godoy…quite the contrary, in fact.  But I think Farr was more skilled.  I was at first surprised to see the former, but I think you’re right to have included him.  The latter, definitely, but I’d have him higher.

  41. Matt McGrain 03:46am, 06/21/2014

    Tucker has been included on every major attempt at a top 100 since his retirement that I am aware of - and higher than this, too.  Leaving him off probably would have been more eccentric.  I do agree though, that you COULD leave him off.  I think it’s reasonable.But i don’t think there is a “more reasonable” candidate to replace him - Greg Page, Ruslan Chagaev, Johnny Risko, Jack Dillon, Corey Sanders?  Yes.  But lucid objections could be raised to any of them, and Tucker’s paper record at heavy is better. 
    Godoy - beat more ranked guys than Farr, and gave Louis a harder time than Farr.  I think you could give Tommy a bump but you need to start pretending he beat Louis to move him significantly IMO.

  42. Clarence George 03:10am, 06/21/2014

    Some eccentric choices, but I’m no stranger to eccentricity.  I’m stunned by the inclusion of Tony Tucker and was initially taken aback by that of Arturo Godoy.  But, well, maybe (for the Chilean, not for “TNT”).  Tommy Jackson…I don’t see it myself.  Well, I won’t comment on every selection, or the placement, but I will say that I’d rank George Chuvalo and Tommy Farr higher…especially true of the Welshman.

  43. Matt McGrain 02:02am, 06/21/2014

    Very hard to ignore him i’m afraid Tux, with his arguably superiority over an ageing Holyfield and supplementary wins over good heavies.  I think you could just, just leave him off, but he’s clearly, clearly “greater” than a peer like Ruslan Chagaev, for example.

  44. tuxtucis 11:52pm, 06/20/2014

    No, no, no…John Ruiz in top 100 no…The only heavy titleholder to have lost to two former middleweights champs (Jones and Toney)....