From Tyson Fury to WBC rival Deontay Wilder, Mike Tyson and Anthony Joshua – boxing’s 20 greatest heavyweights of all time ranked

Who’s the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time? Which Klitschko brother ranks higher? Which Tyson – Mike or Fury – comes out on top? And where on earth is Apollo Creed?

Ranking boxing’s best big men is no easy task, so to make it more manageable talkSPORT has stuck to the last 50 years and – with apologies to Jack Dempsey, Jack Johnson and anyone else called Jack – listed the best 20 modern heavyweights.

‘The Dark Destroyer’ Shavers connected flush with Ali’s chin on countless occasions in the 13th and 14th rounds when they met in the ring
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Though one or two still have the time to move up this list.

  1. Earnie Shavers
    W: 74 (68 KOs), L: 14, D: 1
    1969-1995 (USA)

An absolutely ordinary heavyweight with one neat trick: ‘The Acorn’ could punch as hard as any man born. Two-time world title challenger Earnie Shavers scored 68 KOs (46 in the first three rounds) and every opponent – from Muhummad Ali to Larry Holmes – was shaken by his nuclear right hand.

  1. Michael Moorer
    W: 52 (40 KOs), L: 4, D: 1
    1988-2008 (USA)

A top light-heavyweight who upset Evander Holyfield in 1994 to become the first southpaw heavyweight champion. Unfortunately, best known for losing the title to an ancient George Foreman, which is a shame as Michael Moorer was a surly, enigmatic but undeniably skilful fighter.

Moorer lost his title to Foreman, but let’s not forget this is a man who stopped Holyfield
  1. Chris Byrd
    W: 41 (22 KOs), L: 5, D: 1
    1993-2009 (USA)

A middleweight at the 1992 Olympics, even Chris Byrd knew he wasn’t really a heavyweight. Which makes the slick southpaw’s achievements in mixing it with far bigger guys – beating David Tua and even Vitali Klitschko (admittedly via injury) while winning two world title belts – very impressive.

  1. Deontay Wilder
    W: 42 (41 KOs), L: 1, D: 1
    2008-present (USA)

Limitations as a boxer were clear even before Tyson Fury’s brilliance made them obvious, but Wilder’s elastic, unorthodox power is truly extraordinary. Boasts a 93 per cent knockout ratio, two impressive wins over Luis Ortiz and – if he can pull off the upset in his trilogy fight with Fury – rockets up this list.

Everybody thought Fury was beaten when Wilder put him down
  1. Jimmy Young
    W: 35 (11), L: 3, D: 3, N/C: 1
    1969-1990 (USA)

Don’t judge Jimmy Young on his record, Lost four of his first 11 fights and, by the 1980s, was sadly a journeyman. But at his 1970s peak, this elite boxer beat George Foreman, Ron Lyle and lost some highly dubious decisions (including to an ageing Muhammad Ali in 1976). Underrated.

  1. Michael Spinks
    W: 31 (21 KOs), L: 1
    1977-1998 (USA)

Hard to rank as his heavyweight career was so short, but ‘The Jinx’ – an all-time great at 175lb – pulled off a famous win when he ended Larry Holmes’s long, unbeaten reign as heavyweight champ. Unfortunately, most fans now know him for his final fight and sole career defeat: 91 seconds with an angry Mike Tyson. Ouch.

Spinks was a dangerous heavyweight, but Tyson made light work of him
Sports Illustrated – Getty
  1. Tim Witherspoon
    W: 55 (38 KOs), L: 13, D: 1
    1979-2003 (USA)

‘Terrible Tim’ lived up to his nickname both ways: he could be a fearsome opponent or he could be flat-out awful. Unlucky to lose a split-decision to Larry Holmes, the slippery ’Spoon won world title belts and beat the best of the rest. Never got the shot at Mike Tyson he always craved (and some say Don King made sure that was the case).

  1. Ken Norton
    W: 42 (33 KOs), L: 7, D: 1
    1967-1981 (USA)

Famously gave Muhummad Ali fits in their trilogy, officially losing 2-1 (though many scored the decider for Ken Norton), this awkward, muscular heavyweight was a top contender during the golden era of the 1970s. Slugfest with a prime Larry Holmes is a classic fight and proof of his elite ability.

  1. Anthony Joshua
    W: 24 (22 KOs), L: 1
    2013-present (Britain)

Olympic gold medallist with a ramrod jab and KO power who’s proved his metal by crushing a solid cast of contenders. Shock loss to Andy Ruiz Jr gave critics ammunition to question AJ’s chin and in-ring smarts, but he’s looked leaner and better in the aftermath. Tricky challenge of Oleksandr Usyk up next.

Joshua took apart Wladimir Klitschko in 2017 to begin his ascent to the top of the game
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  1. Rididick Bowe
    W: 43 (33), L: 1, N/C: 1
    1989-2008 (USA)

‘Big Daddy Bowe’ had the skills, frame and power to be a true all-time great but preferred hitting the fridge than hitting the gym (we can relate). Still boasts an amazing record and won his epic trilogy with Evander Holyfield 2-1, but there should have been so much more to come from this gifted, troubled heavyweight.

  1. Wladimir Klitschko
    W: 64 (53 KOs), L: 5
    1996-2017 (Ukraine)

An impressively lengthy title reign and boasted a rare combination of balletic footwork and brutalising power. However he was stopped in several fights he should never have lost early in his career and the younger Klitschko was a dominant champion but in a rather weak heavyweight era.

Klitschko was one of the most dominant heavyweights alongside his brother
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Fury dethroned Klitschko despite being a huge underdog, ending his long reign as champion
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  1. Tyson Fury
    W: 30 (20 KOs), L: 0, D: 1
    2008-present (Britain)

Tricky, gigantic, versatile ‘The Gypsy King’ was brilliant in outfoxing Wladimitr Klitschko in 2015 and bludgeoning Deontay Wilder in 2018. But his career around that is frustrating; with weak opponents and layoffs. If he can step in the ring with – and beat – Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury enters the discussion for the very top spots.

  1. Vitali Klitschko
    W: 45 (41 KOs), L: 2
    1996-2012 (Ukraine)

The opposite to his younger brother (except for the Herculean size), Wladimir had fewer silky skills but owned an iron jaw. Both of his defeats were excusable, coming via cuts (against Lennox Lewis in a war) and a shoulder injury – and he battered everyone else he faced. An awkward heavyweight to fight and indeed rank.

  1. Mike Tyson
    W: 50 (44 KOs), L: 6, N/C: 2
    1985-2005 (USA)

Ferocious, quickfire, sawn-off wrecking machine who got to 37-0 was one of the most feared heavyweights who ever lived. Critics will say ‘Iron Mike’ peaked early and never defeated a great opponent in their prime, but his early dominance was a marvel to behold even if it did all start unravelling at age 23.

Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in history at age 20
Holyfield’s fights with Tyson are legendary, with the former winning both during their 1990s heyday
  1. Evander Holyfield
    W: 44 (29 KOs), L: 10, D: 2, N/C: 1
    1984-2011 (USA)

Teak-tough cruiserweight great stepped up and mixed it with the best heavyweights of his era, having memorable rivalries with Riddick Bowe, Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis. Unfortunately the ‘Real Deal’ knew no quit inside the ring, nor outside of it as his career went on far too long, even before 2021 reared its ugly head.

  1. Joe Frazier
    W: 32 (KOs 27), L: 4, D: 1
    1965-1981 (USA)

One half of the greatest trilogy boxing has ever seen and an awesome fighter in his own right. ‘Smokin Joe’ was the first man to defeat Muhummad Ali, owned a pulverising left hook, an exceptional will to win and lost to only two heavyweights: Ali in memorable rematches and George Foreman.

Ali had three legendary fights with Frazier, the first of which is known as ‘The Fight of the Century’ in New York at the legendary Madison Square Garden
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  1. Lennox Lewis
    W: 41 (32 KOs), L: 2, D: 1
    1989-2003 (Britain)

Lewis had the perfect combo of size, skill and power. He could also be his own worst enemy, fighting down to the level of his opponent, particularly in his two upset defeats. But at his best, when utilising his sublime jab and crushing right hand, he was a match for anyone. Retired having beaten every opponent he faced.

Lewis is the last undisputed heavyweight champion
  1. George Foreman
    W: 76 (68 KOs), L: 5
    1969-1997 (USA)

Two amazing careers in one for this formidable puncher. The angry, younger Foreman wrecked foes as great as Joe Frazier and Ken Norton in two rounds apiece. The charming, older Foreman took a bit longer to KO Michael Moorer and shock the world by winning back the world title at age 46. Unreal.

In his prime, Foreman was a dominant champion who possessed one of the hardest punches in boxing
  1. Larry Holmes
    W: 69 (44 KOs), L: 6
    1973-2002 (USA)

The ‘Easton Assassin’ was underrated in his era, not as flashy or popular as the No 1 on this list. But he sure could box. A sharp jab, boxing brain, size and miraculous powers of recovery got Larry Holmes to 48-0 and 20 heavyweight title defences before he finally lost a decision to Michael Spinks, a few weeks shy of his 36th birthday.

  1. Muhammad Ali
    W: 56 (37 KOs), L: 5
    1960-1981 (USA)

Forget the fame, social impact, good looks, charisma and unique style that saw this 6ft 3in Adonis float around the ring like a featherweight: Muhummad Ali’s list of conquered foes puts him top of this list alone. From dazzling Sonny Liston with his brilliance to shocking George Foreman with his resilience, the three-time world champ is a clear No 1.

There’s a reason he is still known as ‘The Greatest’