The heavyweight division has long been boxing's glamor division. The game's biggest stars – Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey, Mike Tyson – all competed at heavyweight.
Fans, though, have often not been satisfied with the quality of their heavyweight champions. Boxing observers in the 1950s groused about the lack of competition for Rocky Marciano as much as those today complain about the challengers for Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko.
So, before we unveil the results of the current Yahoo! Sports top 10 pound-for-pound poll, I thought I'd take a stroll through heavyweight history and rank the decades 1 through 10 beginning in 1910.
I decided to look not only at a decade's most dominant fighter but also at the depth of quality fighters who competed in that 10-year span. In cases where a fighter's career spanned two or more decades, I considered him in both only if he had at least four quality years in each.
1. 1970 to 1979: The 1970s not only produced horrible clothing at an alarming rate, it also produced top-flight heavyweights as if they were coming off an assembly line. Ali, of course, was the decade's dominant figure, but George Foreman, Joe Frazier and Larry Holmes also did much of their Hall of Fame work in these 10 years. In addition, second-tier heavyweights, such as Earnie Shavers, Ken Norton, Ron Lyle and Jimmy Young, among many others, were very good.
2. 1960 to 1969: Ali again was the decade's biggest name, but he was hardly its only quality big man. The decade started with Tyson-like dominance from Sonny Liston, a powerful and feared man who probably doesn't receive nearly the credit that he deserves. Frazier came of age after the 1964 Olympics and by the end of the decade, had a legitimate claim to the heavyweight championship while Ali was in political exile. Other top-notch fighters in the 1960s were Floyd Patterson, Oscar Bonavena, Jimmy Ellis, Ernie Terrell and Zora Folley.
3. 1920 to 1929: The Roaring 20s were led by a rip-roaring figure, the great Jack Dempsey. Dempsey not only dominated the early and middle part of the decade, but he set attendance and paid gate records nearly everywhere he went. But you can't talk Dempsey without mentioning Gene Tunney, the classy ex-Marine who twice defeated Dempsey in the 1920s and who retired in 1928 with a record of 80-1-3. Tunney never lost as a heavyweight. Other quality fighters in the 20s included Luis Firpo, a powerful puncher who had a wild brawl with Dempsey, and Young Stribling, a Hall of Famer who had an incredible record of 257-15-15.
4. 1980 to 1989: Holmes was the division's dominant figure in the first part of the decade and Mike Tyson took over in the second. But the 1980s featured a slew of quality heavyweight fighters. Men like Pinklon Thomas, Tim Witherspoon and Tony Tubbs were among the secondary figures in the decade who were tough outs.
5. 1910 to 1919: Jack Johnson established himself as one of the game's greatest in the first decade of the 20th century, but he continued to excel between 1910 and 1919. Other great heavyweights in this era included Jess Willard and Jim Jeffries. Dempsey got his start in this decade and won the title in 1919.
6. 1990 to 1999: Mike Tyson missed three years because of a rape conviction, but he was the decade's most notable heavyweight. But he wasn't necessarily its best. Among the other greats in the 1990s were Evander Holyfield, Riddick Bowe and Lennox Lewis. There were quality second-tier heavyweights around, too, such as Michael Moorer, who had two stints with the title.
7. 1930 to 1939: Louis dominated in both the 1930s and 1940s. Other top echelon fighters in the pre-World War II era included Max Schmeling, Max Baer and Primo Carnera.
8. 1940 to 1949: Louis was again the decade's best heavyweight, but this was in an era when his opponents were dubbed "The Bum of the Month Club." He nearly lost the belt to a light heavyweight, classy boxer Billy Conn, who moved up to challenge Louis on June 18, 1941 and was ahead on the scorecards when he was knocked out in the 13th.
9. 1950 to 1959: Rocky Marciano, the great "Brockton Blockbuster," won his world title in 1952 and fought most of his important fights in the decade before retiring undefeated in 1955. Ezzard Charles was a great light heavyweight, but he won the heavyweight title and was a major player. So, too, was Jersey Joe Walcott. Floyd Patterson began to make a name for himself later in the decade.
10. 2000 to 2009: Lewis was the dominant heavyweight of the early part of the decade, but he retired after stopping Vitali Klitschko in 2003. Tyson was a shell of his former self, as was Holyfield. Wladimir Klitschko showed flashes of greatness, but every time he began to look as if he could develop, he suffered a loss. There is a chance that no heavyweight who rose to prominence in the decade will make the International Boxing Hall of Fame. The only two with a shot are the Klitschko brothers.
And with that, let's get to the voting for this month's Yahoo! Sports poll. Vic Darchinyan moved up to bantamweight to challenge Joseph Agbeko, but dropped a decision and fell out of the top 10. Juan Manuel Lopez, who stopped Olivier Lontchi in Atlantic City, N.J., moved into the poll at No. 10.
1. Manny Pacquiao
Points: 260 (26 of 26 first-place votes)
Record: 49-3-2 (37 KOs)
Title: Ring Magazine super lightweight champion
Last outing:: TKO2 over Ricky Hatton on May 2
Previous ranking:: 1
Up next: Likely vs. No. 6 Miguel Cotto on Nov. 14
Analysis: A Pacquiao-Mayweather fight in 2010 could be richest bout ever
2. Juan Manuel Marquez
Record: 50-4-1 (37 KOs)
Title: WBA, WBO, Ring lightweight champion
Last outing:: TKO9 over Juan Diaz on Feb. 28
Previous ranking:: 2
Up next: Versus Floyd Mayweather Jr., Sept. 19
Analysis: Brilliant all-around fighter remains mired in shadows
3. Paul Williams
Record: 37-1 (27 KOs)
Title: Interim WBO junior middleweight champion
Last outing:: W12 over Winky Wright on April 11
Previous ranking:: 4
Up next: TBA
Analysis: Still unable to land a significant fight
4. Bernard Hopkins
Record: 49-5-1 (32 KOs)
Title: Ring light heavyweight champion
Last outing:: W12 over Kelly Pavlik on Oct. 18
Previous ranking:: 5
Up next: TBA
Analysis: No fights in the offing; does retirement beckon?
5. Shane Mosley
Record: 46-5 (39 KOs)
Title: WBA welterweight champion
Last outing:: TKO9 over Antonio Margarito on Jan. 24
Previous ranking:: 4
Up next: Negotiating for November-December match with WBC champion Andre Berto
Analysis: Can't land super fight against Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather Jr.
6. Miguel Cotto
Record: 34-1 (27 KOs)
Title: WBO welterweight champion
Last outing:: W12 over Joshua Clottey on June 13
Previous ranking:: 6
Up next: Likely versus No. 1 Manny Pacquiao on Nov. 14 in Las Vegas
Analysis: Showed much moxie fighting for 10 rounds with deep gash above eye
7. Chad Dawson
Record: 28-0 (17 KOs)
Title: IBF light heavyweight champion
Last outing:: W12 over Antonio Tarver on May 9
Previous ranking:: 8
Up next: Rematch with Glen Johnson on Nov. 7
Analysis: Hopes to make statement with clear cut win over veteran Johnson
8. Ivan Calderon
Record: 32-0-1 (6 KOs)
Title: WBO light flyweight champion
Last outing:: TD7 with Rodel Mayol on June 13
Previous ranking:: 9
Up next: Nothing scheduled
Analysis: Is age catching up with superb boxer?
9. Rafael Marquez
Record: 38-5 (34 KOs)
Last outing:: TKO3 over Jose Francisco Mendoza on May 23
Previous ranking:: 10
Up next: Nothing scheduled
Analysis: Looking at a fourth fight with Israel Vazquez later this year
10. Juan Manuel Lopez
Record: 26-0 (24 KOs)
Title: WBO super bantamweight champion
Last outing:: TKO9 Olivier Lontchi on June 27
Previous ranking:: 7
Up next: Versus Rogers Mtagwa on Sept. 26
Analysis: Rising star has tremendous knockout power
Others receiving votes: Arthur Abraham, 29. Wladimir Klitschko, 29. Nonito Donaire, 20. Chris John, 18. Mikkel Kessler, 9. Fernando Montiel, 9. Celestino Caballero, 8. Kelly Pavlik, 4. Tomasz Adamek, 1. Timothy Bradley, 1. Vic Darchinyan, 1. Hozumi Hasegawa, 1.
Voting panel: Raul Alzaga, Primera Hora; Carlos Arias, Orange County Register; Ron Borges, Boston Herald; Steve Cofield, Yahoo! Sports; Dave Cokin, ESPN Radio 1100, Las Vegas; Brian Doogan, London Sunday Times; Andrew Eisele, About.com; Doug Fischer, Ringtv.com; Scott Fyfe,Sunday Post, Scotland; Thomas Gerbasi, MaxBoxing.com; Lee Groves, MaxBoxing.com; Thomas Hauser, Seconds Out.com; Kevin Iole, Yahoo! Sports; Michael Katz, Gaming Today; Scott Mallon, Asian Boxing News.com; Rich Marotta, KLAC AM 570, Los Angeles; Franklin McNeil, Newark Star Ledger; Gunnar Meinhardt, Die Welt; Robert Morales, Los Angeles Daily News; Marty Mulcahey, MaxBoxing.com; Kieran Mulvaney, Reuters; Santos Perez, Miami Herald; Martin Rogers, Yahoo! Sports; Michael Rosenthal, Ringtv.com; Tim Smith, New York Daily News; T.K. Stewart, Boxingscene.com.
- Jack Dempsey
- Mike Tyson