Updated: Aug 11, 2020
OK so we've had the top 5 heavyweight fights of the last 50 years and that was a good thing. I felt it was time for us to put forward a list of my top 5 fighters. The greatest fighters aren't always in the greatest fights. So I put my thinking cap on and came up with my own very personal list of the top 5 fighters of the last 50 years. OK, my top fighter, of the last 50 years was easy; every other individual on the list and their position in it took some thought. Well here's my list. Do you agree with it? If you don't whose on yours?
5. Lennox Lewis: The only British born fighter on the list ( I know he represented Canada at the Olympics - but he was born here). Lennox was a complete fighter who ruled the division during a great era in the 1990s. He was big, had a punishing jab and stopping power in both hands. A formidable fighter, Lennox Lewis cleaned up the division during his multiple reigns as champion avenging both career defeats via knockout to regain his titles. He was a three-time world heavyweight champion, a two-time lineal champion, and remains the last heavyweight to hold the undisputed title.
Tale of the tape:
Height 6 ft 5 in (196 cm)
Reach 84 in (213 cm)
Born2 September 1965 (age 54)
Total fights 44
Wins by KO32
4. Mike Tyson: Anybody who is my age (mid-50s) who likes boxing will remember the thrill that went through them when they first saw Mike Tyson as a brash 19-year-old in 1985. Not so much a wrecking ball more a freight train, he ran over his opponents. Smaller than almost everyone he fought ( standing at no more than 5ft 10inch), but with the biggest neck any of us had ever seen, he carried knock out power in both hands and turned boxing orthodoxy on its head. We watched in awe as a good littlen not only beat but destroyed every good biggen put in front of him.
A frenetic ball of rage and aggression when at the age of 20 he destroyed Trevor Berkick (the respected WBC champion) in 1987, many felt (me included) that Mike Tyson really was the baddest man on the planet and that he would rule the heavyweight division for the next 15 years. Sadly despite being the dominant figure in boxing for the next decade he only reined as a champion for three years. A combination of self-destructive tendencies, a chaotic personal life, personal tragedy, poor judgment, bad advice, and a conviction for rape meant that he never became the fighter many of us thought he would.
Despite that, he was the undisputed world heavyweight champion from 1987 to 1990, was the youngest heavyweight champion ever, and was the first heavyweight boxer to simultaneously hold the WBA, WBC, and IBF titles, as well as the only heavyweight, to successively unify them.
Even today, almost 15 years after his retirement he remains one of the biggest names in boxing.
Tale of the tape:
Real name: Michael Gerard Tyson
Born: June 30, 1966 (age 54)
Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
The Baddest Man on the Planet
Reach 71 in (180 cm)
Total fights 58
Wins by KO44
No contests 2
3. Evander Holyfield: Holyfield arguably the greatest cruiserweight in boxing history and for me one of the greatest heavyweights of the last 50 years. A small man in a world of giants. A skilled boxer, with good foot speed and damaging power in both hands, he came to fight every time he put a foot in the ring. A fighter who won and lost but never backed down.
A classic trilogy of fights against the much bigger Riddick Bowe; his back to back wins over Mike Tyson, along with countless all-action confrontations puts this warrior in my top 5 heavyweights of the last 50 years. He remains the only fighter to be crowned undisputed champion at two different weights, Cruiserweights and Heavyweight.
The tale of the tape:
Real name: Evander Holyfield.
Nickname(s)The Real Deal
Height 6 ft 2 1⁄2 in (189 cm)
Reach 77 1⁄2 in (197 cm)
Born October 19, 1962 (age 57)
Atmore, Alabama, U.S.
Total fights 57
Wins by KO29
No contests 1
2. Larry Holmes: Despite starting his career with a 48-0 winning streak and ruling the heavyweight division between 1978 and 1985, Larry Holmes will in my mind always be one of the unlikeliest men in boxing history. Yes, he had victories over some of the greatest names from boxing golden 70s heavyweight era including Earnie Shavers (twice), Ken Norton, Muhammad Ali, Trevor Berbick, Leon Spinks, Gerry Cooney and Tim Witherspoon, but I still say he was unlucky! Why? Well, it's simple he was the champion after Ali and no matter how great he was he could never escape the shadow of the man who came before him. A sparring partner of the Greatest, Larry Holmes had a ramrod jab, a good right hand, great feet, a heart that would not stop and almost mystical powers of recovery. Despite being overshadowed by his predecessor, Larry Holmes skills, victories and longevity means that he forces his way into the number 2 slot on my list of top 5 heavyweights of the last 50 years.
Real Name: Larry Holmes
Nickname(s)The Easton Assassin
Height 6 ft 3 in (191 cm)
Reach 81 in (206 cm)
Born November 3, 1949 (age 70)
Cuthbert, Georgia, U.S.
Total fights 75
Wins by KO 44
1. Muhammad Ali: "The Greatest," what can I tell you that you don't already know about Muhammad Ali. A man whose unique combination skill, will and charisma make him, in my mind, not simply the greatest heavyweight of the last 50 years but the most significant athlete of the 20th century. His legendary career can be broken up into two halves thanks to a nearly four-year exile at the peak of his powers for opposing the Vietnam War.
In the first half of his career, between 1960 and 1966 he was a dancing destroyer. He was better known as the "Louisville Lip" during that period. Physically beautiful and blessed with a speed of thought and movement never before seen in the heavyweight division. At his devastating best, Ali's combinations were a thing of beauty. In some magical way when the young Ali stepped into the ring he turned the brutal art of boxing into something beautiful.
Always a man of conviction and never willing to back away from a fight throughout this period Muhammad Ali was a leading voice in the black civil rights and black power movement. In fact, after winning the championship by defeating the monster that was Sonny Liston in 1963 Cassius Clay (as he was then) changed his name to Muhammad Ali announcing to the world that he was a black Muslim. He rejected what he stated was the slave name his ancestors had been given when they were kidnapped from Africa and forced to work as slaves in America. In the turbulent, segregated and deeply racist world of 1960s America, this put a target on Ali's back. Ali's stance put him in conflict with American mainstream at the time. A conflict that reached its peak in 1966 when he refused to be drafted into the US Army and fight in the Vietnam war.
“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No, I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. "
For this act of defiance, Ali was stripped of his boxing license and ban from the ring for four years. Fours years in which many believe he would have been at his peak.
While Ali clearly wasn't the same fighter when he regained his license in 1970, in many ways it is because of the fights he had in the decade to come that he is so beloved today. During the four years out of the ring, he had lost some of his speed. He could be hit and hurt, he was human. Now he was forced to find other paths to victory. Speed was replaced with craft and courage. He had some of his most memorable fights during this period including trilogies with Joe Frazier and Ken Norton in addition to his upset knockout of George Foreman in 1974's "Rumble in the Jungle." Ali showed how the human spirit can overcome.
Tale of the tape:
Real Name: Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr.
Born: January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
Died: June 3, 2016 (aged 74)
Resting place Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky
Monuments Muhammad Ali Center
Muhammad Ali Mural, Los Angeles
Height 6 ft 3 in (191 cm)
Reach 78 in (198 cm)
Total fights 61
Wins by KO 37