The 10 worst heavyweight champions of all time

From the man who ruled for all of 64 days before being ousted by Mike Tyson to Charles Martin’s embarrassing reign and the average Joe professional who once dethroned Muhammad Ali – here are the WORST heavyweight champions of all time

  • There’s been some legendary fighters to have ruled as heavyweight champion
  • But not every man to capture a major heavyweight belt has been a world beater
  • Sportsmail takes a look at the worst champions in boxing’s blue-riband division

It could be down to the senseless number of world titles up for grabs in these modern times or the fact that one punch can change it all in heavyweight boxing, but throughout history there have been some truly shocking and unlikely rulers of the sport’s blue-riband division.

Becoming the heavyweight champion is widely seen as the pinnacle of all sporting achievements, but not every man to have claimed a major belt has been cut from the same cloth as Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson or Wladimir Klitschko.

We are in a golden era of heavyweight boxing now with the likes of Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua helping to restore the glory days.

But it hasn’t always been the cream-of-the-crop fighters who have reigned supreme in the land of the giants.

Here, Sportsmail compiles a list of the 10 worst heavyweights to have been crowned world champion.


We are in a golden era with Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury helping restore boxing’s glory days

This is the short tale of when a prince became king, promised to conquer all and then got dethroned after faltering in his first expedition. 

Charles Martin was only given a world title shot because a boardroom of people decided he was next in line after Tyson Fury was stripped of the IBF belt.

Vyacheslav Glazkov was the man pitted against him. The Ukrainian, though smaller in stature, was fancied to take home the belt, but in the second round suffered an horrific knee injury. Unable to stand, he was subsequently pulled out in the third.

Charles Martin got a rude awakening when his reign as champ was ended by Anthony Joshua

Martin was floored twice before being stopped in the second round of his first title defence

Martin, who had got the shot on a technicality, was then handed the belt without breaking a sweat. Talk about the silver-spoon treatment.

The southpaw American ventured across the pond to make his first defence against Anthony Joshua only to leave swiftly with his tail between his legs. 

Joshua demolished Martin with ease in just two rounds and ended what was one of the strangest and shortest heavyweight reigns in history.

James Buster Douglas

James Buster Douglas will forever hold a place in boxing folklore for knocking out Mike Tyson in the biggest upset in heavyweight history.

No one will ever forget that night.

Douglas came into the fight with an undistinguished record and was facing the most feared man on the planet at that time.

James Douglas stunned the world when he sent Mike Tyson tumbling and out for the count

Douglas’ win was the biggest upset in heavyweight history but his reign would be short-lived

It was supposed to be a knock-over job for Tyson. But Douglas tore up the script and fulfilled his own dream by becoming world champion.

He secured a mega fight against Evander Holyfield next but was horribly out of his depth and was stopped in the third round.

Douglas would never scale those heights in the ring again and bowed out in 1999 as one of the unlikeliest men to hold the undisputed heavyweight championship. At least he will always have that famed night in Japan.

Tony Tucker 

For ability and talent alone, Tony ‘TNT’ Tucker far exceeds most on this list.

This was a man who had real amateur pedigree, finishing his career with 115 wins and just six defeats before turning over to the pro ranks.

As well as skill, Tucker possessed dynamite in his fists, claiming 47 knockouts from his 57 victories as a professional.

Tony Tucker was relieved of his world heavyweight title by Tyson just 64 days after winning it

He also took heavyweight greats Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis the full distance, so he certainly belonged at world level.

Unfortunately, his place in boxing history will always be defined by the fact he is the shortest reigning world heavyweight champion ever.

Tucker ruled for just 64 days as the IBF champion before being outpointed by Tyson in a relatively close fight. 

Bermane Stiverne

Bermane Stiverne is another on this list to win the world heavyweight title and then lose it immediately.

The American was crowned WBC champion after stopping fringe-level fighter Chris Arreola midway through their contest for the vacant belt in 2014.

He came unstuck against Deontay Wilder in a very watchable 12-round clash eight months later.

Bermane Stiverne was crowned WBC champion after stopping Chris Arreola back in 2014

Stiverne lost his title against Deontay Wilder and was flattened in their rematch years later

Stiverne returned to winning ways in late 2015 before vanishing off the scene for two years.

His comeback in 2017 was a re-run of his intriguing encounter with knockout artist Wilder but this time he was grossly out of shape and gunned out in the first round.

He is now a gate-keeper in the heavyweight division and last fought in 2019, losing to British hopeful Joe Joyce. 

Primo Carnera   

He was a modern-day giant of his time but dodgy dealings and suspicious match-making left plenty of question marks over his legitimacy.

At 6 ft 6, Carnera towered over most heavyweights of the 1930s era and on more than one occasion held a six-stone advantage over his opponent – he was the heaviest man to ever win a world title before Nikolai Valuev become champion in 2005.

With a professional record of 89 victories and 14 defeats, Carnera looks, on the face of it, to have been a worthy champion.

Primo Carnera pictured flooring Jack Sharkey during their world title fight in New York in 1931

Carnera (L) was a giant of his time but was alleged to have been run by mobs (not pictured)

He also still boasts the record for winning more fights by knockout than any other heavyweight titlist in boxing history (72).

Carnera claimed the NBA, NYSAC, The Ring, and lineal heavyweight titles after knocking out Jack Sharkey in 1933 but his reign was short-lived as he lost the belts after making just two successful defences.

He was stripped of his titles by Max Baer and was reportedly knocked down during that fight 12 times. Carnera was backed by a group of prosperous but shady entrepreneurs and was alleged to have been mob controlled with the majority of his fights reportedly being fixed.

Siarhei Liakhovich

The Belarus heavyweight enjoyed a decent amateur career and even represented his country at the 1996 Olympic Games.

But his professional career, aside from the night he became world champion, was far from spectacular.

Siarhei Liakhovich claimed the WBO world title after earning a unanimous points decision over Lamon Brewster in 2006.

Siarhei Liakhovich became an unlikely champion in 2006 and is pictured here with Don King

The Belarus heavyweight became a gatekeeper and was beaten by Robert Helenius in 2011

He was soon vacated as champion though, Shannon Briggs stopping him in the 12th round in what was his first defence.

Liakhovich lost his next fight against Nikolai Valuev and was used as a stepping stone for upcoming heavyweights towards the backend of his career. 

Robert Helenius, Bryant Jennings, Deontay Wilder and Andy Ruiz Jr all beat Liakhovich between 2011 and 2014. He last fought in 2019, being stopped by Canadian Simon Kean, and his current record stands at a modest 27 wins and 8 losses.  

Leon Spinks

An Olympic Gold medallist who once defeated ‘The Greatest’ but had the record of a journeyman, Leon Spinks is an enigma who defied all logic.

His shock victory over Muhammad Ali in 1978 in what was just his eighth professional fight remains even today one of the biggest upsets in heavyweight history.

The win saw Spinks become the first and only man to strip Ali of a world title in the ring.

Leon Spinks is held aloft after shocking the world to strip Muhammad Ali of his world titles

Ali avenged his defeat months later and Spinks’ career was consigned to the gutter afterwards

Ali avenged the defeat by dazzling his way to a points win in the rematch seven months later, with a record 2 billion people tuning in to watch the fight.

Spinks gained notoriety for the calamity which befell his career following the loss to Ali. 

Although he would challenge for the heavyweight world title again, in 1981, and the cruiserweight belt five years later, Spinks was left crumpled in a heap on both occasions and would finish his career with a record of 26 wins and 17 defeats.

Ingemar Johansson

Ingemar Johansson’s right-hand was appropriately described as the ‘Hammer of Thor’.

The late great Floyd Patterson knew all about taking a right-hand flush from Johansson. He was floored seven times in one round in his world title stoppage defeat against the big-punching Swede in 1959. 

They say revenge is a dish best served cold but Patterson wasted no time in righting the wrongs and left Johansson out for the count in an immediate rematch and a succeeding trilogy bout.

Ingemar Johansson viciously battered Floyd Patterson to become the champion in 1959

Patterson got his revenge by leaving the Swedish boxer knocked out cold in their rematch

Johansson’s reign as champion had lasted just shy of a year and although he bounced back after the consecutive defeats against Patterson, he would never scale those heights again.

He was even floored by journeyman fighter Wim Smoeak in 1961 and called it quits just four more fights after his greatest night. 

A colourful character outside the ring, Johansson was renowned for his penchant for night clubs as opposed to fight clubs and even had a hit-record back in his native Sweden.

Corrie Sanders

Another unlikely champion, Corrie Sanders seized his moment and then faded into boxing obscurity.

The South African was questionably sanctioned to face Wladimir Klitschko for the WBO world strap in March 2003 despite having only fought three rounds in the two years prior. 

Sanders was given only a puncher’s chance but stunned the world by blitzing the Ukrainian inside just two rounds.

Corrie Sanders upset the odds to destroy Wladimir Klitschko and become the world champion

Vitali Klitschko avenged his brother’s defeat by stopping the South African in his next fight

Determined to prove his knockout win wasn’t a fluke, Sanders targeted Wladimir’s brother Vitali next.

But lightning didn’t strike twice and Sanders was brought crashing back down to earth after being completely dominated and dismantled in eight rounds.

Sanders was known for being a heavy hitter and was hailed by Klitschko and Hasim Rahman – who he had floored in a closely fought knockout defeat earlier in his career – in the years after his retirement, but as champions go, he would be filed under the very ordinary.

Shannon Briggs  

‘Let’s go Champ’ has become Shannon Briggs’ relentlessly irritating campaign slogan to remain relevant.

Briggs thinks if he keeps shouting loud enough and long enough, opportunities will arise out of the blue.

That, unsurprisingly, has not worked so far. After all, his career began 28 years ago and even at the height of it, Briggs was not considered one of the major players in the heavyweight division.

Lennox Lewis left Shannon Briggs on his backside during their world title fight back in 1998

Briggs lost WBO world title in his first defence against Russian heavyweight Sultan Ibragimov

His own catchline could have only been accurately directed at him for all of 126 days: that’s how long his reign was as the WBO heavyweight champion.

He has had four world title fights in his career and won only one of them, losing to Lennox Lewis, Sultan Ibragimov and Vitali Klitschko.

Briggs has won 60 times during his pro career but has no outstanding names on his record aside from George Foreman and Ray Mercer, who were far past their prime when they shared the ring with him.  




Share this article

Source: Read Full Article