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Wilbur’s 100 Greatest Heavyweights of All Time: 80-71

By Brian Wilbur

Welcome to RSR and my countdown of the 100 greatest heavyweights in boxing history. I should note before we go any farther down the list that today’s active top heavyweights were not considered. To be included, boxers don’t necessarily have to be retired, but their legacies have to be secured and their careers are, for all intents and purposes, over. For example, Evander Holyfield is eligible despite his continuing ring campaigns. David Haye though, is not eligible because he is still right in the thick of his career and his legacy is still very much up in the air. Sorry UK fans! Though if you are a UK boxing fan you will be very interested to see who comes in at #79 in this week’s column.

The Klitschko brothers, like Haye, were also not considered for the list so please don’t hold your breath if you are expecting to see where they land. Vitali and Wladimir are terrific boxers and dominate their era so they would surely make it somewhere on my top 100 list once their careers are effectively over. However since they are still actively campaigning I omit them from the list.

To satisfy those curious, if I did rank the Klitschko brothers they would probably land somewhere in the top 30-20 range because of the dominance displayed in their, albeit weak, era.

With that groundwork covered and out of the way I will continue on where we left off last week.

80. Michael Spinks

Michael and his older brother Leon both won Olympic Gold medals in the 1976 Olympic games, with Michael at middleweight and Leon at light heavyweight. Michael turned pro as a super middleweight, quickly moved up to light heavyweight and went on to become a top 3 light heavyweight of all time. Having dominated a terrific era of light heavyweights and becoming the undisputed champion at 175 pounds, Spinks had nothing more to prove and thus moved up in weight to the glamour division. Spinks’s heavyweight career only lasted five fights, but he made enough of an impact in those fights to make it on the list. Spinks had terrific fundamentals that started with a great jab, allowing him to compete with much bigger men in a way that previous great light heavyweights had struggled. Michael’s destructive straight right hand was the inspiration for his nickname: the Spinks Jinx, and he surprisingly kept his power as he moved up in weight as shown from his TKO of Gerry Cooney. Michael retired after his only career loss, a KO against a prime Mike Tyson.

Most Famous Fight(s): UD15 over Larry Holmes to win the Heavyweight Championship in 1985, KO1 loss to Mike Tyson in 1988.

Notable Wins: SD15 over Larry Holmes in 1986 in the controversial rematch, TKO5 over Gerry Cooney in 1987.

79. Henry Cooper

Cooper is probably the most famous and most popular heavyweight contender from England. He was a longtime holder of the European and Commonwealth titles, which are the two most celebrated regional belts. Henry would be considered a small cruiserweight by today’s standards since his fighting weight was approximately 188 pounds at his best. He was a tough, heavy handed boxer with an impressive amateur pedigree. Cooper knew how to box and slugged when he needed to, but perhaps the reason that he won the hearts of the British people was his bravery. He cut easily and quite often looked like a horror movie victim, yet still continued to fight on despite his horrific appearance. Muhammad Ali would have been toppled by the noble Englishman in their legendary scuffle in 1963 had it not been for Angelo Dundee’s questionably legal tactics to stall (claiming a torn glove) and give Ali a chance to recover from a 4th round knockdown. Instead, Cooper was stopped on cuts in the 5th.

Most Famous Fight(s): TKO5 loss to Muhammad Ali in 1963.

Notable Wins: 10 round points win over Zora Folley in 1958, 15 round points win over Brian London in 1964.

78. Tommy “Hurricane” Jackson

When someone uses the term “an old school slugfest”, I think of Tommy Jackson. He did not hit particularly hard, but he would come after you like he did. Hurricane Jackson was a storm of non-stop punches from bell to bell. He loved to trade shots, and had the chin and stamina to hang with the best of them despite his reckless style. Eloquence and public speaking were not his strong points, but put him in the ring and he was a natural born killer. Jackson only got one shot at the title and did not convert but defeated a handful of his era’s best contenders that highlighted a very successful career.

Most Famous Fight(s): UD10 over Ezzard Charles in 1955, TKO10 loss to Floyd Patterson in 1957 for the title

Notable Wins: TKO6 over Rex Layne in 1954, MD over Bob Baker in 1956.

77. Tony Tucker

Tucker, standing at 6’5” and weighing around 245 pounds was a full sized heavyweight who fully used his advantages in height and weight. Tony moved well for a big man, had good reflexes, and turned over on his punches well as shown by his 47 KO’s in 57 wins. Tucker also knew how to protect himself and weather storms as shown by his ability to go the distance against a prime Mike Tyson. Perhaps the biggest downfall of “TNT” was his lack of combination punching. Tucker never wanted to leave himself too open for a counter attack so rarely threw more than two punches at a time. The big man from Grand Rapids certainly looked the part of a future great heavyweight champion but fell short against the best of his generation, probably due to his lack of explosiveness and combination punching.

Most Famous Fight(s): UD12 loss to Mike Tyson in 1987 to unify all the belts.

Notable Wins: UD10 over Jimmy Young in 1984, TKO10 over Buster Douglas in 1987, SD12 over Oliver McCall in 1992.

76. Leotis Martin

Martin, despite doing enough to make the list, is a hard luck story who potentially could have achieved so much more. A decorated amateur background and success against limited opposition early in his career earned him a spot in the WBA heavyweight tournament of 1967. Martin sustained a cut in the third round against Jimmy Ellis that caused the fight to be stopped; unfortunate for Leotis since he was still very much in the fight. The Philadelphia native continued to work his way up the ranks over the next year, having a busy and productive year in 1968. His career peaked and ended on the same night in 1969 against feared former champion Sonny Liston. Martin boxed brilliantly and succeeded in knocking Liston out but suffered a detached retina which permanently ended his fighting career. Due to bad timing and unlucky injuries, Leotis’s career was over just as it was starting to heat up. If Martin fought in today’s world of advanced medicine, a detached retina would not have ended his career.

Most Famous Fight(s): KO9 over Sonny Liston in 1969.

Notable Wins: TKO9 over Thad Spencer in 1968, TKO9 over Alvin “Blue” Lewis in 1968, KO7 over Karl Mildenberger in 1968.

75. Steve Hamas

Hamas is the only boxer on the list who made a name for himself at the collegiate level before turning professional. Though amateur boxing is and has always been a large presence in boxing, boxing at the college level has never received much attention. Today, most colleges don’t even have a boxing program since the NCAA stopped sanctioning the sport after a tragedy at the 1960 championships. Hamas stands as one of the greatest college boxers of all time for the relatively short time that it existed. Steve was able to capture the Inter-Collegiate Heavyweight Boxing Championship in 1927 and 1929. Boxing was not the only sport that Hamas participated in. He played 12 sports for Penn State, most notably football. Hamas was a natural athlete more than a natural boxer so his boxing skills were not as polished as most of the other names on the list. According to a TIME magazine article from 1934, Hamas only turned pro to help his brother out with medical bills, yet he found instant and surprising success starting his career with a record of 29-0 with 26 KO’s and gave as good as he got against some of the best contenders of his era.

Most Famous Fight(s): 12 round points win over Max Schmeling in 1934, KO9 loss to Max Schmeling in 1935.

Notable Wins: TKO2 over Tommy Loughran in 1932, SD10 win over Tommy Loughran in 1932, SD10 over Art Lasky in 1934.

74. Rex Layne

Layne captured the attention of the boxing world in the early 1950’s and was slated to be the next champion. Experts were impressed with the big tough slugger because he was able to out-punch big hitters like Bob Satterfield, but had the adaptability to outpoint a slick boxer like Jersey Joe Walcott. That kind of ability to overcome many different fighting styles is the sign of a potential great champion. Perhaps Layne could have done some damage and won the title if he had not ran into young Rocky Marciano who derailed his title hopes. Marciano knocked out Layne’s teeth with a vicious right hand KO punch and Rex was never the same after that hellacious beating he suffered.

Most Famous Fight(s): KO6 loss to Rocky Marciano in 1951.

Notable Wins: UD10 over Jersey Joe Walcott in 1950, TKO8 over Bob Satterfield in 1951, 10 round points win over Ezzard Charles in 1952.

73. Razor Ruddock

Donovan had a nickname that described him so well that it replaced his actual name in the eyes of millions of boxing fans. I consider Ruddock as the opposite of Tony Tucker. He was explosive, threw combinations, and took chances. That made Razor one of the most feared contenders of his era, being avoided by boxers like George Foreman and Evander Holyfield, but also left him overexposed and vulnerable to counter punches. His two most famous fights were keeping Mike Tyson busy in Iron Mike’s last two fights before going to jail. Ruddock wobbled Tyson a few times and performed well in defeat. Tyson was often quoted in saying that Ruddock was the hardest hitter he ever faced. Razor fells short against the top names and big punchers during his career but you could not deny the exceptional talent of this underachieving contender from the early 1990’s.

Most Famous Fight(s): TKO7 loss to Mike Tyson in 1991, UD12 loss to Mike Tyson in 1991.

Notable Wins: TKO4 over Michael Dokes in 1990, TKO8 over Greg Page in 1992.

72. Joey Maxim

Maxim was mainly a light heavyweight during his career, and a very good one at that having won the Light Heavyweight Championship on two separate occasions. Unlike most light heavyweights who also fought at heavyweight, Maxim did not move to heavyweight and stay there. He moved between the two divisions looking for the best fight. That made Maxim a very well-traveled pug. Joey was battle tested and learned his craft through his over 1,000 career rounds boxed. Maxim definitely knew how to box. How could you not with that much experience and against that level of opposition? Opponents described him as extremely tough, durable, wily, and smart. Well regarded by both fans and scribes, Maxim had a knack for drawing large crowds.

Most Famous Fight(s): MD15 loss to Ezzard Charles in 1949, UD15 loss to Ezzard Charles for the title in 1951.

Notable Wins: 10 round points win over Jersey Joe Walcott in 1946, UD10 over Bob Satterfield in 1948.

71. Elmer Ray

If you are ever up against a boxer whose nickname is “Violent” then you should be cautious. That was Ray’s nickname and the shoe fit for this murderous puncher from Florida. Elmer had an up and down early part of his career, but then something clicked, as we’ve seen from many boxers previous and since, that allowed him to finally put his game all together. Starting in October of 1943 until March of 1947, Ray was undefeated and was the clear top contender for a shot at Joe Louis’ crown. That title shot never came as he was shortly after bested by the two great heavyweights whom he made his name off of: Ezzard Charles and Jersey Joe Walcott. Ray was a beast during that period though and remains one of the best heavyweight contenders to never receive a title shot.

Most Famous Fight(s): SD10 over Ezzard Charles in 1947.

Notable Wins: SD10 over Jersey Joe Walcott in 1946, KO2 over Lee Savold in 1946.

Thanks for reading again, I hope you comeback to see the next ten!

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