List of heavyweight boxing champions

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This is a chronological list of world heavyweight boxing champions since the introduction of the Marquess of Queensberry rules in about 1884. It does not include fights fought under Jack Broughton's rules or the London Prize Ring Rules.

Championship recognition[edit]

All champions

1884–1910[edit]

Champions were recognized by public acclamation. A champion in that era was a fighter who had a notable win over another fighter and kept winning afterward. Retirements or disputed results could lead to a championship being split among several men for periods of time. With only minor exceptions, the heavyweight division remained free from dual title-holders until the 1960s. For an early example, see the 1896 World Heavyweight Championship.

Sanctioning Organizations: 1910-present[edit]

Gradually, the role of recognizing champions in the division evolved into a more formal affair, with public acclamation being supplemented (or in some cases, contradicted) by recognition by one or more athletic commissions, sanctioning organizations, or a combination of them. The most notable examples with respect to the heavyweight division have included:

Other bodies also recognize world champions, with varying degrees of legitimacy bestowed upon such recognition by the public at large. Current examples of such groups include the International Boxing Council, International Boxing Organization, World Boxing Federation and World Boxing Union.

List of champions[edit]

Champion Nationality Recognition Reign Began Reign Ended Notes
John L. Sullivan United States United States Universal August 29, 1885 September 7, 1892 4
James J. Corbett United States United States Universal September 7, 1892 March 17, 1897 5
Bob Fitzsimmons United Kingdom United Kingdom, United States United States Universal March 17, 1897 June 9, 1899
James J. Jeffries United States United States Universal June 9, 1899 May 13, 1905 2,6
Marvin Hart United States United States Universal July 3, 1905 February 23, 1906 1
Tommy Burns Canada Canada Universal February 23, 1906 December 26, 1908
Jack Johnson United States United States Universal December 26, 1908 April 5, 1915 7
Jess Willard United States United States Universal April 5, 1915 July 4, 1919
Jack Dempsey United States United States Universal July 4, 1919 September 23, 1926
Gene Tunney United States United States Universal September 23, 1926 July 31, 1928 2
Max Schmeling Germany Germany Universal June 12, 1930 January 7, 1931 8
Max Schmeling Germany Germany NBA and IBU January 7, 1931 June 21, 1932
Jack Sharkey United States United States Universal June 21, 1932 June 29, 1933
Primo Carnera Italy Italy Universal June 29, 1933 June 14, 1934
Max Baer United States United States Universal June 14, 1934 June 13, 1935 9
James J. Braddock United States United States Universal June 13, 1935 June 22, 1937
Joe Louis United States United States Universal June 22, 1937 March 1, 1949 2
Ezzard Charles United States United States NBA June 22, 1949 September 27, 1950 1,10
Lee Savold United States United States IBU June 6, 1950 June 16, 1951 1,10
Ezzard Charles United States United States NBA & NYSAC September 27, 1950 June 16, 1951 1,10
Ezzard Charles United States United States Universal June 16, 1951 July 18, 1951
Jersey Joe Walcott United States United States Universal July 18, 1951 September 23, 1952
Rocky Marciano United States United States Universal September 23, 1952 April 27, 1956 2
Floyd Patterson United States United States Universal November 30, 1956 June 26, 1959 1,11
Ingemar Johansson Sweden Sweden Universal June 26, 1959 June 20, 1960
Floyd Patterson (Second reign) United States United States Universal June 20, 1960 September 25, 1962
Sonny Liston United States United States Universal September 25, 1962 February 25, 1964
Cassius Clay "Muhammad Ali" United States United States Universal February 25, 1964 June 19, 1964 12
Cassius Clay "Muhammad Ali" United States United States WBC June 19, 1964 February 6, 1967
Ernie Terrell United States United States NYSAC & WBA March 5, 1965 February 6, 1967 1
Cassius Clay "Muhammad Ali" United States United States Universal February 6, 1967 April 29, 1967 Unified NYSAC, WBA and WBC titles.13
Joe Frazier United States United States NYSAC March 4, 1968 February 16, 1970 1,14
Jimmy Ellis United States United States WBA April 27, 1968 February 16, 1970 1,14
Joe Frazier United States United States Universal February 16, 1970 January 22, 1973 Unified NYSAC, WBA and WBC titles.15
George Foreman United States United States Universal January 22, 1973 October 30, 1974
Muhammad Ali (Second reign) United States United States Universal October 30, 1974 February 15, 1978
Leon Spinks United States United States Universal February 15, 1978 March 18, 1978 3
Leon Spinks United States United States WBA March 18, 1978 September 15, 1978
Ken Norton United States United States WBC March 18, 1978 June 9, 1978 16
Larry Holmes United States United States WBC June 9, 1978 December 11, 1983 2
Muhammad Ali (Third reign) United States United States WBA September 15, 1978 April 27, 1979 2
John Tate United States United States WBA October 20, 1979 March 31, 1980 1
Mike Weaver United States United States WBA March 31, 1980 December 10, 1982
Michael Dokes United States United States WBA December 10, 1982 September 23, 1983
Gerrie Coetzee South Africa South Africa WBA September 23, 1983 December 1, 1984
Larry Holmes United States United States IBF December 11, 1983 September 21, 1985 17
Tim Witherspoon United States United States WBC March 9, 1984 August 31, 1984 1
Pinklon Thomas United States United States WBC August 31, 1984 March 22, 1986
Greg Page United States United States WBA December 1, 1984 April 29, 1985
Tony Tubbs United States United States WBA April 29, 1985 January 17, 1986
Michael Spinks United States United States IBF September 21, 1985 February 19, 1987 3
Tim Witherspoon (Second reign) United States United States WBA January 17, 1986 December 12, 1986
Trevor Berbick Jamaica Jamaica, Canada Canada WBC March 22, 1985 November 22, 1986
Mike Tyson United States United States WBC November 22, 1986 March 7, 1987
James "Bonecrusher" Smith United States United States WBA December 12, 1986 March 7, 1987
Mike Tyson United States United States WBA and WBC March 7, 1987 August 1, 1987 Unified WBA and WBC titles.
Tony Tucker United States United States IBF May 30, 1987 August 1, 1987 1
Mike Tyson United States United States IBF, WBA and WBC August 1, 1987 February 11, 1990 Unified IBF, WBA and WBC titles.
Francesco Damiani Italy Italy WBO May 6, 1989 January 11, 1991 1
James "Buster" Douglas United States United States IBF, WBA and WBC February 11, 1990 October 25, 1990
Evander Holyfield United States United States IBF, WBA and WBC October 25, 1990 November 13, 1992
Ray Mercer United States United States WBO January 11, 1991 December 24, 1991 2
Michael Moorer United States United States WBO May 15, 1992 February 3, 1993 2
Riddick Bowe United States United States IBF, WBA and WBC November 13, 1992 December 14, 1992 3
Riddick Bowe United States United States IBF and WBA December 14, 1992 November 6, 1993
Lennox Lewis United Kingdom United Kingdom WBC December 14, 1992 September 24, 1994 18
Tommy Morrison United States United States WBO June 7, 1993 October 29, 1993 1
Michael Bentt United States United States WBO October 29, 1993 March 19, 1994
Herbie Hide United Kingdom United Kingdom WBO March 19, 1994 March 11, 1995
Michael Moorer (Second reign) United States United States IBF and WBA April 22, 1994 November 5, 1994
Oliver McCall United States United States WBC September 24, 1994 September 2, 1995
George Foreman (Second reign) United States United States IBF and WBA November 5, 1994 March 4, 1995 3
George Foreman United States United States IBF March 4, 1995 June 28, 1995 3
Riddick Bowe (Second reign) United States United States WBO March 11, 1995 May 1, 1996 2
Bruce Seldon United States United States WBA April 8, 1995 September 7, 1996 1
Frank Bruno United Kingdom United Kingdom WBC September 2, 1995 March 16, 1996
Mike Tyson (Second reign) United States United States WBC March 16, 1996 September 7, 1996
Michael Moorer (Third reign) United States United States IBF June 22, 1996 November 8, 1997 19
Henry Akinwande United Kingdom United Kingdom WBO June 29, 1996 February 17, 1997 1,2
Mike Tyson United States United States WBA and WBC September 7, 1996 September 24, 1996 2
Mike Tyson United States United States WBA September 24, 1996 November 9, 1996
Evander Holyfield (Second reign) United States United States WBA November 9, 1996 November 8, 1997
Lennox Lewis (Second reign) United Kingdom United Kingdom WBC February 7, 1997 November 13, 1999 1
Herbie Hide (Second reign) United Kingdom United Kingdom WBO June 28, 1997 June 26, 1999 1
Evander Holyfield United States United States IBF and WBA November 8, 1997 November 13, 1999 Unified IBF and WBA titles.
Vitali Klitschko Ukraine Ukraine WBO June 26, 1999 April 1, 2000
Lennox Lewis United Kingdom United Kingdom IBF, WBA and WBC November 13, 1999 April 29, 2000 Unified IBF, WBA and WBC titles.
Chris Byrd United States United States WBO April 1, 2000 October 14, 2000
Lennox Lewis United Kingdom United Kingdom IBF and WBC April 29, 2000 April 22, 2001
Evander Holyfield (Third reign) United States United States WBA August 12, 2000 March 3, 2001 1
Wladimir Klitschko Ukraine Ukraine WBO October 14, 2000 March 8, 2003
John Ruiz United States United States WBA March 3, 2001 March 1, 2003
Hasim Rahman United States United States IBF and WBC April 22, 2001 November 17, 2001
Lennox Lewis (Third reign) United Kingdom United Kingdom IBF and WBC November 17, 2001 September 5, 2002 2
Lennox Lewis United Kingdom United Kingdom WBC September 5, 2002 February 6, 2004 2
Chris Byrd (Second reign) United States United States IBF December 14, 2002 April 22, 2006 1
Roy Jones, Jr. United States United States WBA March 1, 2003 February 20, 2004
Corrie Sanders South Africa South Africa WBO March 8, 2003 October 9, 2003 2
John Ruiz (Second reign) United States United States WBA February 20, 2004 December 17, 2005 20
Lamon Brewster United States United States WBO April 10, 2004 April 1, 2006 1
Vitali Klitschko (Second reign) Ukraine Ukraine WBC April 24, 2004 November 9, 2005
Hasim Rahman (Second reign) United States United States WBC November 9, 2005 August 12, 2006 21
Nikolai Valuev Russia Russia WBA December 17, 2005 April 14, 2007
Siarhei Liakhovich Belarus Belarus WBO April 1, 2006 November 4, 2006
Wladimir Klitschko (Second reign) Ukraine Ukraine IBF April 22, 2006 February 23, 2008
Oleg Maskaev Russia Russia WBC August 12, 2006 March 8, 2008
Shannon Briggs United States United States WBO November 4, 2006 June 2, 2007
Ruslan Chagaev Uzbekistan Uzbekistan WBA April 14, 2007 June 20, 2009 22
Sultan Ibragimov Russia Russia WBO June 2, 2007 February 23, 2008
Wladimir Klitschko Ukraine Ukraine IBF and WBO February 23, 2008 July 2, 2011 Unified IBF and WBO titles.
Samuel Peter Nigeria Nigeria WBC March 8, 2008 October 11, 2008
Nikolai Valuev (Second reign) Russia Russia WBA August 30, 2008 November 7, 2009 22
Vitali Klitschko (Third reign) Ukraine Ukraine WBC October 11, 2008 December 15, 2013 2
David Haye United Kingdom United Kingdom WBA November 7, 2009 July 2, 2011
Wladimir Klitschko Ukraine Ukraine IBF, WBA "Super" and WBO July 2, 2011 November 28, 2015 Unified IBF, WBA and WBO titles.
Alexander Povetkin Russia Russia WBA "Regular" August 27, 2011 October 5, 2013 23
Bermane Siverne Canada Canada WBC May 10, 2014 January 17, 2015 1
Ruslan Chagaev (Second reign) Uzbekistan Uzbekistan WBA "Regular" July 6, 2014 March 5, 2016 1
Deontay Wilder United States United States WBC January 17, 2015 Present
Tyson Fury United Kingdom United Kingdom IBF, WBA "Super" and WBO November 28, 2015 December 8, 2015 3
Tyson Fury United Kingdom United Kingdom WBA "Super" and WBO December 8, 2015 October 12, 2016 2
Charles Martin United States United States IBF January 16, 2016 April 9, 2016 1
Lucas Browne Australia Australia WBA "Regular" March 5, 2016 May 12, 2016 1,24
Ruslan Chagaev (Third reign) Uzbekistan Uzbekistan WBA "Regular" May 21, 2016 July 28, 2016 1,2
Anthony Joshua United Kingdom United Kingdom IBF April 9, 2016 Present
Joseph Parker New Zealand New Zealand WBO December 10, 2016 Present

Footnotes[edit]

  1. Won vacant championship title.
  2. Voluntarily relinquished championship title.
  3. Championship recognition withdrawn by sanctioning organization upon his refusal to fight an opponent of the organization's designation.
  4. In 1882, Sullivan defeated Paddy Ryan to win the bare-knuckle championship of America. A lack of legitimate challengers elsewhere gradually resulted in Sullivan earning worldwide recognition. On August 29, 1885, he defeated Dominick McCaffrey in a bout described as "the Marquess of Queensberry glove contest for the championship of the world."
  5. Corbett announced his retirement from boxing in 1895, nominating Steve O'Donnell as his successor. As tradition demanded the title be won in the ring, O'Donnell was matched against Peter Maher on November 11, 1895 at Maspeth, New York. Maher won via first-round knockout, but the public generally didn't accept Maher and Maher himself expressed a desire to fight Corbett for the "real" title. In Maher's next bout, Bob Fitzsimmons would defeat him via first-round knockout on February 21, 1896. Fitzimmons in turn would be defeated by Tom Sharkey of Dundalk on December 2, 1896 in a contest billed as for the heavyweight title. Corbett would announce his return to the ring shortly thereafter, at which time the championship claims of Maher, Fitzsimmons and Sharkey were for the most part dismissed.
  6. Jeffries announced his retirement, relinquishing the title and promoting a match between Marvin Hart and Jack Root for the championship. Jeffries would return to the ring to challenge Jack Johnson.
  7. The British National Sporting Club withdrew its recognition of Johnson as champion when he refused to defend his title against the British champion William "Iron" Hague. The NSC matched Hague with Canadian Sam Langford for its title on May 24, 1909. Langford won via fourth-round knockout, but never pursued a championship claim.
  8. Schmeling earned championship recognition by defeating Jack Sharkey by controversial disqualification. The New York State Athletic Commission would withdraw its recognition of Schmeling when he refused to grant Sharkey an immediate rematch. The NYSAC would not recognize a champion until Sharkey defeated Schmeling in 1932.
  9. In late 1934 the International Boxing Union ordered Baer to defend his title against European champion Pierre Charles of Belgium. When Baer refused, the IBU sanctioned a bout between Charles and American George Godfrey for their title on October 2, 1935. Godfrey won via fifteen round decision, but never pursued a championship claim. The IBU ultimately recognized Baer's successor James J. Braddock as champion.
  10. Two months after Louis' retirement announcement, the International Boxing Union sanctioned a bout between British champion Bruce Woodcock and American Lee Savold for its version of the title. The bout would not be staged until June 1950 however, due to delays caused by injuries suffered by Woodcock in an automobile accident. Meanwhile, Ezzard Charles defeated Jersey Joe Walcott to win the vacant National Boxing Association championship title. Savold would defeat Woodcock in four rounds to win the IBU title, while Charles would gain New York State Athletic Commission recognition and wide public acclaim as champion upon defeating former champion Joe Louis in September 1950. On June 15, 1951, Joe Louis would defeat Savold via sixth-round knockout, after which the IBU withdrew its recognition of Savold and proclaimed Ezzard Charles as champion.
  11. Following Marciano's retirement, Patterson was matched against Tommy "Hurricane" Jackson in a championship eliminator on June 8, 1956. Winning via controversial split decision, Patterson then faced light heavyweight titleholder Archie Moore for the vacant title. Upon defeating Moore, Patterson would fight (and defeat) Jackson a second time on July 29, 1957.
  12. The World Boxing Association and New York State Athletic Commission withdrew their championship recognition of Clay (by then known as Muhammad Ali) upon agreeing to an immediate rematch against former champion Sonny Liston, in violation of WBA rules. The newly founded World Boxing Council and other sanctioning groups continued to recognize Ali as champion.
  13. The World Boxing Association, World Boxing Council, New York State Athletic Commission and others withdrew their championship recognition of Ali following his refusal to be inducted into the United States Army subsequent to his conscription.
  14. To fill its vacant championship title, the World Boxing Association organized a single-elimination tournament involving eight of their ranked contenders (Joe Frazier, who was ranked #2, declined to participate): Oscar Bonavena, Jimmy Ellis, Leotis Martin, Karl Mildenberger, two-time former champion Floyd Patterson, Jerry Quarry, Thad Spencer, and former WBA champion Ernie Terrell. In first round matches, Ellis defeated Martin, Quarry defeated Patterson, Spencer defeated Terrell, and Bonavena defeated Mildenberger. In the semi-finals, Ellis defeated Bonavena while Quarry defeated Spencer; and Ellis defeated Quarry for the championship title. Frazier, meanwhile, would be matched against Buster Mathis for a championship recognized by the New York State Athletic Commission together with the commissions of Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Similar "world" championship recognition would be bestowed upon him by the Texas Athletic Commission following a victory over Dave Zyglewicz on April 22, 1969.
  15. Frazier defeated Ellis to unify the heavyweight championship, but would not gain universal public acclaim as champion until defeating Muhammad Ali on March 8, 1971.
  16. In an unprecedented move, upon withdrawing its recognition of Leon Spinks as champion, the World Boxing Council immediately recognized Ken Norton as champion, based on an earlier victory over Jimmy Young. As a condition of being named champion, Norton was ordered to face the WBC's new mandatory challenger, Larry Holmes within 120 days.
  17. Holmes relinquished his World Boxing Council championship and accepted championship recognition bestowed by the newly organized International Boxing Federation.
  18. Following its 1978 precedent, upon withdrawing championship recognition from Riddick Bowe, the World Boxing Council immediately awarded championship recognition to Lennox Lewis, on the basis of his victory in an October 31, 1992 "championship eliminator" over Donovan Ruddock.
  19. Following its withdrawal of recognition from George Foreman, the International Boxing Federation sanctioned a December 9, 1995 match between Francois Botha and Axel Schulz for its championship. Botha won the bout by split decision, but the bout result and Botha's championship title would be vacated after Botha's post-fight drug test revealed he had taken illegal anabolic steroids. A subsequent bout between Schulz and Michael Moorer was sanctioned for the IBF championship.
  20. Upon defeating John Ruiz, Roy Jones, Jr. simultaneously held the World Boxing Association's heavyweight and light heavyweight titles. At his request, the WBA suspended its rule prohibiting simultaneous titleholding. It would later declare Jones its "Champion in Recess," and sanctioned a December 13, 2003 bout between Ruiz and Hasim Rahman for its "interim" championship. Ruiz would win the bout. On February 20, 2004, Jones relinquished his heavyweight title to resume boxing as a light heavyweight, at which point Ruiz was elevated to full championship recognition. On April 30, 2005, Ruiz would be defeated by James Toney in a championship defense, but post-fight drug testing determined Toney had taken Nandrolone, an anabolic steroid. The bout's result was subsequently changed to a "no contest," whereupon the WBA reinstated Ruiz as champion.
  21. Following repeated injuries to champion Vitali Klitschko, the World Boxing Council sanctioned an August 13, 2005 bout between Hasim Rahman and Monte Barrett for its "interim" championship. Rahman won the bout, and when Klitschko relinquished his title three months later, the WBC elevated Rahman to full championship recognition.
  22. Following repeated injuries which prevented him from defending his title, the World Boxing Association designated Chagaev a "Champion in Recess," sanctioning an August 30, 2008 bout between former champions John Ruiz and Nikolai Valuev for its "interim" title; a bout won by Valuev. Upon his recovery however, Chagaev opted to face Wladimir Klitschko rather than Valuev, whereuopn the WBA withdrew championship recognition.
  23. The World Boxing Association modified its championship structure, creating a new "Super Champion" status to be awarded to champions who hold multiple titles simultaneously. Now subordinated to this was the status of "World Champion," commonly referred to as the "Regular" champion. The organization then sanctioned a bout between Povetkin and former champion Ruslan Chagaev for this "regular" title. Povetkin's reign as the WBA's "regular champion" ended upon a loss to "Super Champion" Wladimir Klitschko, at which point the "regular" title was vacant.
  24. Browne defeated Ruslan Chagaev for the World Boxing Association's "regular" championship title, but Browne subsequently tested positive for Clenbuterol, a banned substance. Following confirmation of the positive result, the WBA withdrew its recognition of Browne's "regular" championship.

Current Status of Prominent Championship Titles[edit]

International Boxing Federation

  • Anthony Joshua is the organization's currently recognized champion.
  • Joshua is scheduled to participate in a sanctioned defense against Eric Molina on December 10, 2016. Should he win, the organization has sanctioned a proposed bout between Joshua and former champion Wladimir Klitschko for both its title and the WBA's "super" championship.

World Boxing Association

  • The organization's "regular" championship title is vacant. A bout between Lucas Browne and former WBO champion Shannon Briggs has been ordered to be held by December 31, 2016 for this title. As of November 26, 2016 however, a contract for the bout has not been signed and Browne has been reported as having failed a drug test for the second time in eight months.[1] The winner of the Browne-Briggs bout would be required to defend the "regular" title against Fres Oquendo within 120 days, the result of a court order issued in the State of New York.
  • The organization's "super" championship title is vacant. The WBA has sanctioned a bout between former champion Wladimir Klitschko and current IBF champion Anthony Joshua for this title, pending Joshua defeating Eric Molina in a defense of his IBF title on December 10, 2016.

World Boxing Council

  • Deontay Wilder is the organization's currently recognized champion. In his last defense against Chris Arreola, Wilder suffered a torn bicep, an injury for which the WBC has granted special dispensation until he recovers.
  • The organization has sanctioned a December 17, 2016 bout between former WBA "regular" champion Alexander Povetkin and former WBC champion Bermane Stiverne for its "interim" championship in the division. Under WBC rules, Wilder would be required to face the winner in his first post-recovery bout in order to retain championship recognition.

World Boxing Organization

  • The organization's championship title is vacant. A December 10, 2016 bout between Joseph Parker and Andy Ruiz has been sanctioned by the WBO for its title.

List of combined reigns[edit]

As of November 28, 2015. Only Top 10 of them are shown there. This list includes only major titles, and it does not include lineal championships.

Keys:

  •      with boldface indicates the current champion and his days as champion
  • WHC = officially recognized as World Heavyweight Championship too
Name Days as champion Number of reigns Title recognition Cumulative title defenses
1. Ukraine Wladimir Klitschko 4 382 2 IBF, WBA, WBO 23
2. United States Joe Louis 4 270 1 NYSAC, NBA 25
3. Ukraine Vitali Klitschko 2 735 3 WBO, WBC 12
4. United States Larry Holmes 2 661 1 WBC, IBF 20
5. United States Jack Dempsey 2 638 1 WHC, NYSAC, NBA 5
6. United States John L. Sullivan 2 566 1 WHC 4
7. United States Muhammad Ali 2 363 3 NYSAC, WBC, WBA 19
8. United Kingdom Lennox Lewis 2 346 3 WBC, IBF, WBA 14
9. United States Jack Johnson 2 291 1 WHC 8
10. United States Evander Holyfield 2 235 4 WBA, WBC, IBF 7

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Florio, John; Shapiro, Ouisie (2013). One Punch from the Promised Land: Leon Spinks, Michael Spinks, and the Myth of the Heavyweight Title. Lyons Press. p. 279. ISBN 978-0-7627-8300-7. 

References[edit]

External links[edit]