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This is a list of longest reigning heavyweight boxing champions in professional boxing, measured by the boxer's longest reign and career total time as champion (for multiple time champions). It includes their most consecutive successful title defenses as well as their career grand total title wins.

At the beginnings of boxing, the heavyweight division had no weight limit and the category historically has been vaguely defined. In the 19th century, for example, many heavyweight champions weighed 170 pounds (12 st 2 lb, 77 kg) or less (although others weighed 200 pounds). The first heavyweight champion under the Marquess of Queensberry rules was John L. Sullivan, known as "The Boston Strong Boy". He weighed around 200 pounds when in shape and was a bare-knuckle champion. He was defeated by Jim Corbett on September 7, 1892, in 21 rounds. In 1920, the minimum weight for a heavyweight was set at 175 pounds (12 st 7 lb, 79 kg), which today is the light heavyweight division maximum. Since 1980, for most boxing organizations, the maximum weight for a cruiserweight has been 200 pounds. Boxers who weigh 200 pounds and over (14 st 3 lb, 90 kg) are considered heavyweights by the major professional boxing organizations: the International Boxing Federation,[1] the World Boxing Association,[2] the World Boxing Council,[3] and the World Boxing Organization.[4]

Since the 1960s, the heavyweight title has become fractured amongst various sanctioning organizations, and so what was once known as the single "Heavyweight Champion", is now referred to as the "Undisputed Champion" as the one fighter that has defeated all the other titlists. However, there is no officially declared definition of the term, as major boxing organizations refer to all boxers holding at least two world titles in their respective division as Unified champions.[5][6][7] Some title reigns are not recognized as official reigns due to long periods of inactivity, legitimacy of title, false billing and promotion. In March 1967, Muhammad Ali was systematically denied a boxing license in every state and stripped of his passport because of his refusal to be inducted into the armed forces. He was stripped of WBC and WBA titles but remained The Ring and lineal boxing champion, despite not having a boxing match until October 1970. In 2005, Ukrainian boxer Vitali Klitschko retired as WBC Champion. Following his retirement, the WBC conferred "champion emeritus" status on Klitschko, and assured him he would become the mandatory challenger if and when he decided to return.[8] On 3 August 2008 the WBC awarded Klitschko a chance to regain his WBC Heavyweight title against then-champion Samuel Peter. Vitali regained the title after Peter asked the bout be stopped after the eighth round.

Championship recognition

All champions (updated Dec. 2016)

1884–1910

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

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:

Longest individual title reigns

Joe Louis holds the record for longest individual world title reign in boxing history

Below is a list of longest reigning heavyweight champions in boxing measured by the individual's longest reign. The list includes both The Ring and lineal championships. Career total time as champion (for multiple time champions) does not apply.

Keys:

     Active Title Reign
     Reign has ended
Note: the list includes only the longest title reign of each boxer
The WBO heavyweight title bouts before June, 1999 are not included[9]
Name Title Reign Title Recognition Successful Defenses Opponents beaten
1. United States Joe Louis 11 years, 8 months, 8 days Universal 25 20
2. Ukraine Wladimir Klitschko 9 years, 7 months and 6 days IBF (+WBA, WBO, The Ring) 18 17
3. United States Larry Holmes 7 years, 3 months, 12 days WBC-to-IBF (+The Ring/Lineal) 19 19
4. United States Jack Dempsey 7 years, 2 months, 19 days Universal 5 5
5. United States John L. Sullivan 7 years, 0 months, 9 days Universal 5 5
6. United States Jack Johnson 6 years, 3 months, 10 days Universal 8 8
7. United States Muhammad Ali 5 years, 11 months, 9 days The Ring/Lineal, (+WBA, WBC stripped) 9 9
8. United States James J. Jeffries 5 years, 11 months, 4 days Universal 7 6
9. Ukraine Vitali Klitschko 5 years, 2 months, 4 days WBC 9 9
10. United States Joe Frazier 4 years, 10 months, 18 days NYSAC (+WBA, WBC) 9 9
11. United States James J. Corbett 4 years, 6 months, 10 days Universal 1 1
12. United States Jess Willard 4 years, 2 months, 29 days Universal 1 1
13. United Kingdom Lennox Lewis 4 years, 2 months, 15 days WBC (+IBF, WBA stripped, The Ring/Lineal) 9 8
14. United States Rocky Marciano 3 years, 11 months, 29 days Universal 6 5
15. United States Chris Byrd 3 years, 4 months, 8 days IBF 4 4
16. United States Mike Tyson 3 years, 2 months, 20 days WBC (+WBA, IBF, The Ring/Lineal) 9 9
17. United States Deontay Wilder 3 years, 2 months, 14 days WBC 7 7
18. United States George Foreman 3 years, 0 months, 17 days Lineal (+WBA, IBF stripped) 2 2
19. United States Evander Holyfield 3 years, 0 months, 4 days WBA (+IBF) 4 4
20. Canada Tommy Burns 2 years, 10 months, 3 days Universal 11 9


Vitali Klitschko (right) retired as champion in 2005. Following his retirement, the WBC conferred "champion emeritus" status on Klitschko, and assured him he would become the mandatory challenger if and when he decided to return

Unofficial long title reigns

Name Title reign Title recognition Successful defenses
N/A Ukraine Vitali Klitschko 9 years, 7 months, 22 days Full WBC-to-WBC Emeritus-to-Full WBC (+The Ring vacated) 11
N/A United States Muhammad Ali 7 years, 0 months, 11 days The Ring/+lineal (+WBA, +WBC) 11
N/A United States James Toney 4 Years, 5 months, 14 days IBA/IBU 3
N/A Denmark Brian Nielsen 3 years, 7 months, 20 days IBO 5

Most consecutive heavyweight title defenses

Keys:

     Active title reign
     Reign has ended
Name Title defenses
1. United States Joe Louis 25
2. United States Larry Holmes 19
3. Ukraine Wladimir Klitschko 18
4. Canada Tommy Burns 11
5. United States Muhammad Ali 10
6. United States Mike Tyson 9
Ukraine Vitali Klitschko
United Kingdom Lennox Lewis
United States Joe Frazier
10. United States Jack Johnson 8
United States Ezzard Charles

Most opponents beaten in heavyweight title defenses

Keys:

     Active title reign
     Reign has ended
Name Opponents beaten
1. United States Joe Louis 20
2. United States Larry Holmes 19
3. Ukraine Wladimir Klitschko 17
4. United States Muhammad Ali 10
5. United States Mike Tyson 9
Ukraine Vitali Klitschko
Canada Tommy Burns
United States Joe Frazier
9. United States Jack Johnson 8
United Kingdom Lennox Lewis
United States Ezzard Charles

Longest combined title reigns

Wladimir Klitschko (left) holds the record for longest combined world championship reign, while Vitali (right) is behind his brother, Joe Louis and Lennox Lewis

As of March 5, 2018. This list includes only major titles, and it does not include lineal championships after 1921.

Keys:

     Active title reign
     Reign has ended
The WBO heavyweight title bouts before June, 1999 are not included[9]
Name Combined reign Days as champion Number of reigns Title recognition Cumulative title wins Opponents beaten
1. Ukraine Wladimir Klitschko 12 years, 0 months, 0 days 4 382 2 IBF, WBA, WBO 25 23
2. United States Joe Louis 11 years, 8 months, 8 days 4 270 1 NYSAC, NBA 26 21
3. United States Muhammad Ali 9 years, 5 months, 5 days 3 443 3 NYSAC, WBC, WBA 22 21
4. United Kingdom Lennox Lewis 8 years, 5 months, 13 days 3 086 3 WBC, IBF, WBA 15 15
5. Ukraine Vitali Klitschko 7 years, 5 months, 28 days 2 735 3 WBO, WBC 15 15
6. United States Larry Holmes 7 years, 3 months, 12 days 2 661 1 WBC, IBF 20 20
7. United States Jack Dempsey 7 years, 2 months, 19 days 2 638 1 NYSAC, NBA 6 6
8. United States John L. Sullivan 7 years, 0 months, 10 days 2 566 1 Universal 5 6
9. United States Jack Johnson 6 years, 3 months, 11 days 2 292 1 Universal 7 7
10. United States Evander Holyfield 6 years, 1 month, 1 day 2 223 4 WBA, WBC, IBF 11 10
11. United States James J. Jeffries 5 years, 11 months, 4 days 2 156 1 Universal 8 6
12. United States Joe Frazier 4 years, 10 months, 18 days 1 785 1 NYSAC, WBA, WBC 10 10
13. United States Floyd Patterson 4 years, 10 months, 0 days 1 765 2 NYSAC, NBA 8 7
14. United States James J. Corbett 4 years, 6 months, 10 days 1 652 1 Universal 2 2
15. United States Jess Willard 4 years, 2 months, 29 days 1 551 1 Universal 2 2
16. United States Chris Byrd 3 years, 10 months, 22 days 1 421 2 IBF, WBO 5 5
17. United States Mike Tyson 3 years, 10 months, 16 days 1 415 2 WBA, WBC, IBF 12 11
18. United States John Ruiz 3 years, 9 months, 21 days 1 390 2 WBA 4 4
19. United States Rocky Marciano 3 years, 7 months, 5 days 1 312 1 NYSAC, NBA 7 5
20. United States Deontay Wilder 3 years, 2 months, 10 days 1 137 1 WBC 8 7

Unofficial long title reigns

Name Combined reign Days as champion Number of reigns Title recognition Cumulative title wins
N/A Ukraine Vitali Klitschko 10 years, 4 months, 29 days 3 802 2 WBO, Full WBC-to-WBC Emeritus-to-Full WBC (+The Ring vacated) 15
N/A United States Muhammad Ali 10 years, 1 month, 16 days 3 689 3 The Ring/+lineal (+WBA, +WBC) 22

Most wins in heavyweight title bouts

Keys:

     Active title reign
     Reign has ended
Name Title bout wins
1. United States Joe Louis 26
2. Ukraine Wladimir Klitschko 25
3. United States Muhammad Ali 22
4. United States Larry Holmes 20
5. United Kingdom Lennox Lewis 15
Ukraine Vitali Klitschko
7. United States Mike Tyson 12
8. Canada Tommy Burns 11
United States Evander Holyfield
10. United States Joe Frazier 10

Most opponents beaten in heavyweight title bouts

Keys:

     Active title reign
     Reign has ended
Name Opponents beaten
1. Ukraine Wladimir Klitschko 23
2. United States Joe Louis 21
United States Muhammad Ali
4. United States Larry Holmes 20
5. United Kingdom Lennox Lewis 15
Ukraine Vitali Klitschko
7. United States Mike Tyson 11
8. Canada Tommy Burns 10
United States Evander Holyfield
United States Joe Frazier

Most wins in heavyweight title bouts in different eras

Before 1921

Tommy Burns

At the very beginnings, before the establishment of the sanctioning organizations, the title recognition passed through lineage in the fights under Marquess of Queensberry Rules. The champion was informally called "the man who beat the man". The fight between John L. Sullivan and Dominick McCaffrey is recognized by many boxing historians, including those at The Ring, to be for the inaugural World Heavyweight Championship under the Marquess of Queensberry Rules (however, some dispute that claim for various reasons, including the short distance of the bout, McCaffrey's small size and the fact that both fighters were Americans).[10] The lineage was the only universally recognized form of a world championship until July 2, 1921, when Jack Dempsey became the inaugural NBA Heavyweight Champion.

Name Title recognition Title bout wins
1. Canada Tommy Burns Universal 11
2. United States Jack Johnson Universal 9
3. United States James J. Jeffries Universal 8
4. United States Jack Dempsey Universal 3
5. United States James J. Corbett Universal 2
United States Jess Willard

Era of sanctioning bodies

The inaugural NYSAC and NBA Heavyweight Champion Jack Dempsey

The growing popularity of boxing led to a birth of various regional sanctioning organizations, with each recognizing their own champion. The major governing bodies were the National Boxing Association, formed in 1921, the New York State Athletic Commission, found after the Walker Law legalized prizefighting in New York in 1920, and the International Boxing Union, created in 1911 in Paris in attepmt create a unified international governing body for professional boxing. Both NBA and NYSAC made then-lineal champion Jack Dempsey their inaugural champion on July 2, 1921, and July 24, 1922, respectively.[11]

Name Title recognition Title bout wins
1. United States Joe Louis NYSAC, NBA 26
2. United States Jack Dempsey NYSAC, NBA 3
United States Gene Tunney
Italy Primo Carnera NYSAC, NBA, IBU
5. United States Sonny Liston NYSAC 2
United States Jersey Joe Walcott NYSAC, NBA
Germany Max Schmeling NYSAC, NBA, IBU
8. United States Jack Sharkey NYSAC, NBA, IBU 1
United States Max Baer NYSAC, NBA, IBU
United States James J. Braddock NYSAC, NBA, IBU

Worldwide expansion era

Wladimir Klitschko won 25 world championship bouts
Muhammad Ali's record of 22 wins in heavyweight title bouts was unbeaten for 35 years

The growing popularity of boxing outside of the USA led to creation of various boxing organizations, each strengthening their influence (most notably BBBofC) and having their own champion. This resulted in a growing number of boxers claiming to be legitimate champions. The disruption in boxing was solved after the World War II when the World Championship Committee (WCC) was created with NBA as its unanimous authority. The committee, however, was disbanded in 1955 when NBA, along with its new members (which included the Orient, Mexican and South American federations and boxing commissions of the Philippines and Thailand) left WCC citing lack of control over the organisation. The NBA's voting scheme guaranteed one vote for each state commission as well as one vote for each foreign country.[12][13] On August 23, 1962, the NBA officially became the World Boxing Association and moved their headquarters to Panama City, Panama.

A year later NYSAC along with European Boxing Union and BBBofC supported creation of the World Boxing Council. WBC was officially established on February 14, 1963, in Mexico City, Mexico by 11 countries (the United States, Puerto Rico, Argentina, United Kingdom, France, Mexico, Philippines, Panama, Chile, Peru, Venezuela and Brazil) that were invited by the President of Mexico Adolfo López Mateos to form an international organization to unify all commissions of the world to control the expansion of boxing.[14] The reason for the move were concerns about WBA's alleged lack of desire to support professional boxing outside of the USA.[15] In April 1983, members of United States Boxing Association along with Robert W. Lee (a former WBA vice-president) voted to expand the organisation and form the USBA-International. The organization later changed the name to International Boxing Federation.[16] The inaugural IBF Heavyweight Champion was Larry Holmes, who relinquished the WBC title to accept IBF's recognition, thus helping the newly formed organization to establish its legitimacy. Another major sanctioning body, the World Boxing Organisation, was established in 1988 in San Juan, Puerto-Rico by a group of local businessmen. At the beginnings, when most of the challengers for WBA, WBC and IBF titles were Americans, WBO had a wider variety of countries, mainly European, represented in title bouts. In the inaugural bout, Italian boxer Francesco Damiani defeated Johnny du Plooy from South Africa by KO in the 3rd round. Before the Klitschko Era, United Kingdom tied USA for most wins in WBO Heavyweight title fights with 8.[17] WBO struggled with receiving credibility at first, but by the beginning of the 2000s, the WBA was giving the same recognition to WBO champions as it did to WBC and IBF champions.

WBO, WBC, IBF and WBA are all recognized as major boxing organizations by each other and the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Riddick Bowe remains the only heavyweight boxer to win all four world titles (WBA, WBC and IBF in 1992-93 and WBO in 1995), while Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko are the only brothers to hold them at the same time (from 2011 to 2013).

Keys:

     Active title reign
     Reign has ended
The list includes both WBA Super and WBA Regular Champions
The WBO heavyweight title bouts before June, 1999 are not included[9]
The list of most consecutive defenses includes all title reigns of each boxer

See also

References

  1. ^ "4. Weight Classes". IBO and also the sumo board of control. But Championship Rules & Regulations. International Boxing Organization. Retrieved 2007-08-11. Heavyweight Over 200 lbs. 
  2. ^ "11. Weight Category" (PDF). World Bpxing Association World Championships Regulations. World Boxing Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-08-09. Retrieved 2007-08-11. Heavy More than 200 Lbs. 
  3. ^ "Ratings Heavyweight (over 200-90.719)". World Boxing Council. Archived from the original on 2007-08-10. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  4. ^ "3. Weight Classes" (PDF). Regulations of World Championship Contests. World Boxing Organization. Archived from the original (pdf) on 2007-09-26. Retrieved 2007-08-11. Heavyweight Over 200lbs or 90.91 kg. 
  5. ^ International Boxing Federation rules: governing championship contests
  6. ^ World Boxing Organization: regulation of world championship contests
  7. ^ World Boxing Association rules and regulations
  8. ^ Davies, Gareth A. (12 October 2008). "David Haye confident he can take down both Klitschko brothers". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. Retrieved 1 November 2009. 
  9. ^ a b c James B. Roberts, Alexander G. Skutt: The Boxing Register: International Boxing Hall of Fame Official Record Book, p. 331—332. The record of Michael Carbajal indicates his opponent Jorge Arce as WBO "World Champion" on July 31, 1999, meanwhile his previous opponent Josue Camacho (fought on July 15, 1994) didn't receive the same recognition.
  10. ^ "1885-08-29: John L. Sullivan vs. Dominick McCaffrey". BoxRec. Retrieved 2017-10-11. 
  11. ^ "Jack Dempsey biography on BoxRec". BoxRec. Retrieved 2017-10-11. 
  12. ^ "Reveille vol. 38, Nov. 4, 1964 (p. 23)". Reveille. Archived from the original on 2018-03-18. Retrieved 2018-03-29. 
  13. ^ James B. Roberts,Alexander G. Skutt: The Boxing Register: International Boxing Hall of Fame Official Record Book (p. 50)
  14. ^ "History of the WBC". World Boxing Council. Retrieved 2017-10-11. 
  15. ^ John Sugden: Boxing and Society: An International Analysis (p. 49)
  16. ^ "History of IBF/USBA". International Boxing Federation. Retrieved 2017-10-11. 
  17. ^ former champion Michael Bentt holds both British and American citizenship.

External links