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Readers pick history's top heavyweights

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

Larry Holmes' professional boxing career spanned the presidential administrations of Richard M. Nixon and George W. Bush.

He began boxing professional as a skinny and unknown 23-year-old months before Nixon resigned during the Watergate scandal and concluded it as a portly 52-year-old grandfather as Bush was beginning to beat the drums for a war with Iraq.

Holmes was one of the game's elite, but didn't get the kind of recognition due a fighter of his caliber because of his unlikely place in history.

He succeeded Muhammad Ali as the heavyweight champion, a task more unenviable than following John Wooden at UCLA or Bear Bryant at Alabama. And Holmes also was the man who first made a serious run at equaling Rocky Marciano's 49-0 record.

Because he touched with two of the game's greatest, and most popular, champions, he much of the time played second fiddle.

Holmes is finally getting the recognition his magnificent career demanded. He'll be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in June and he was chosen by Yahoo! Sports readers as one of the 10 best heavyweights of all-time.

Of course, Holmes, now 58, says the readers got it incorrect when he guessed — correctly — that they hadn't chosen him No. 1.

"If you cut out all the bull (crap) and look at it without emotion, there was no one who ever lived who was better than me," said Holmes, who was 69-6 and reigned as champion for more than seven years.

Of Ali, the self-proclaimed "Greatest," whom Y! readers voted No. 1, Holmes said his jab would have been the difference.

"My jab was much harder and quicker than his," Holmes said. "It would have busted him up. It would have forced them to stop the fight or they would have had a bloodbath."

Of his friend, Joe Louis, who was chosen No. 3 by Yahoo! Sports readers, Holmes said size would have been the difference.

Holmes was 6 feet 3 with an 81-inch reach. Louis was 6-2, but had a 76-inch reach.

"Joe was my buddy and one of the great honors of my life was when I was asked to be one of his pall bearers at the service they had for him at Caesars Palace there in Vegas," Holmes said. "But he was too small. My jab and my lateral movement would have been problems for him."

One of the great things about boxing are the arguments that ensue over who's better. And, undoubtedly, the choices made by Yahoo! Sports readers are sure to spark debate.

But here are the 10 greatest heavyweights of all-time, as chosen over the last month by Y! readers:

1. Muhammad Ali
Record: 56-5, 37 knockouts
Titles: World heavyweight champion, 1964-1967; WBA-WBC heavyweight champion 1974-1978; WBA heavyweight champion 1978.
Notable victories: Sonny Liston twice, Joe Frazier twice, Floyd Patterson twice, Ken Norton twice, Jerry Quarry twice, George Foreman, Jimmy Ellis and Archie Moore. Notable losses: Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, Leon Spinks, Larry Holmes.
Most memorable bouts: Ali knocked out the seemingly invincible Foreman in the eighth round in 1974 in what was known as 'The Rumble in the Jungle" in Kinshasha, Zaire. He also stopped Frazier after 14 rounds in an epic battle in Manila, Philippines, in 1975.

2. George Foreman
Record: 76-5, 68 knockouts
Titles: WBA-WBC heavyweight champion, 1973-1974; IBF-WBA heavyweight champion, 1994-1995.
Notable victories: Joe Frazier twice, Ken Norton, Ron Lyle, Michael Moorer.
Notable defeats: Muhammad Ali, Jimmy Young, Evander Holyfield.
Most memorable bout: At 45, Foreman became the oldest heavyweight
champion ever when, after losing every minute of every round, he knocked out Michael Moorer in Las Vegas to win the title 20 years after he had lost it to Ali.

3. Joe Louis
Record: 69-3, 55 knockouts
Titles: World heavyweight champion, 1937-1950
Notable victories: Jersey Joe Walcott twice, Billy Conn twice, Jim Braddock, Max Schmeling, Primo Carnera, Max Baer.
Notable defeats: Max Schmeling, Ezzard Charles, Rocky Marciano
Most memorable bout: Knocked out Schmeling in an emotionally charged rematch in the first round in 1938 as tensions between the U.S. and Nazi Germany were heightening.

4. Rocky Marciano
Record: 49-0, 43 knockouts
Titles: World heavyweight champion, 1952-1955.
Notable victories: Jersey Joe Walcott twice, Ezzard Charles twice, Joe Louis, Archie Moore.
Notable defeats: None. Only champion to finish his career undefeated.
Most memorable bout: In his first bid for the title in 1952, Marciano was well behind on the scorecards when he rallied to knock out Walcott in the 13th round.

5. Larry Holmes
Record: 69-6, 44 knockouts
Titles: WBC heavyweight champion 1978-1983; IBF heavyweight champion 1984-1985.
Notable victories: Earnie Shavers twice, Muhammad Ali, Ken Norton, Gerry Cooney and Mike Weaver.
Notable defeats: Michael Spinks twice, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield.
Most memorable bout: Won vacant WBC title in 1978 by besting Ken Norton in a split decision in arguably the most exciting heavyweight bout ever. The bout was even on all cards heading into the 15th round. Two judges scored it for Holmes and the other had it for Norton.

6. Jack Johnson
Record: 77-13-14, 48 knockouts, 19 no decisions
Titles: World heavyweight champion, 1908-1915.
Notable victories: Tommy Burns, Sam Langford, Stanley Ketchel, James J. Jeffries.
Notable defeats: Jess Willard.
Most memorable bout: Lost his title when he was knocked out by Willard in Havana in the 26th round of a 45-rounder.

7. Lennox Lewis
Record: 41-2-1, 32 knockouts
Titles: WBC heavyweight title, 1993-1994; WBC heavyweight title 1997-2001; IBF heavyweight title, 1999-2001; WBA heavyweight champion, 1999-2001; WBC heavyweight champion, 2001-03; IBF heavyweight champion, 2001-02. br> Notable victories: Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Vitali Klitschko, Hasim Rahman, Ray Mercer, Tommy Morrison, Oliver McCall, Frank Bruno.
Notable defeats: Oliver McCall, Hasim Rahman.
Most memorable bout: Dominated Mike Tyson before stopping him in eighth round on 2002 bout.

8. Joe Frazier
Record: 32-4-1, 27 knockouts
Titles: World heavyweight title, 1968-1973
Notable victories: Jerry Quarry twice, Jimmy Ellis twice, Muhammad Ali.
Notable defeats: Muhammad Ali twice, George Foreman twice.
Most memorable bout: Knocked Muhammad Ali down in the 15th round in 1971 in Madison Square Garden in New York to punctuate a unanimous decision in the most hyped boxing match ever.

9. Mike Tyson
Record: 50-6, 44 knockouts
Titles: WBC heavyweight title, 1986-1990; IBF-WBA heavyweight title, 1987-1990; WBA-WBC heavyweight title, 1996.
Notable victories: Frank Bruno twice, Razor Ruddock twice, Michael Spinks, Larry Holmes, Tony Tubbs, Tony Tucker.
Notable defeats: Evander Holyfield twice, Buster Douglas, Lennox Lewis.
Most memorable bout: Bit a chunk out of Evander Holyfield's ear during a 1997 title rematch; Tyson was disqualified and lost his boxing license in a later disciplinary hearing.

10. Jack Dempsey
Record: 66-6-11, 51 knockouts
Titles: World heavyweight title, 1919-1926
Notable victories: Jess Willard, Tommy Gibbons, Luis Angel Firpo, Georges Carpentier, Jack Sharkey.
Notable defeats: Gene Tunney twice.
Most memorable bout: Lost the infamous "Long Count" bout to Tunney in 1927. Dempsey knocked Tunney down in the seventh and failed to go to a neutral corner, giving Tunney critical extra seconds before the referee began the count. Dempsey long claimed Tunney had been down 14 seconds and not nine.