Cox's Corner

Rating the All Time Heavyweights With the Stat Chart Method

Champion Power Physical Attributes Handspeed, Combinations, Accuracy Footwork Defense Durability Killer Instinct Heart Endurance Ring Generalship Score
James J. Corbett 5 6 9 9 8 6 6 10 10 9 78
Jim Jeffries 8 8 6 6 6 10 9 10 10 7 80
Jack Johnson 7 7 7 7 9 8 8 9 10 9 81
Jack Dempsey 10 6 8 8 8 8 10 10 9 7 84
Gene Tunney 5 6 7 9 9 9 5 10 9 10 79
Max Schmeling 7 6 7 7 8 7 8 9 9 9 77
Joe Louis 10 7 10 7 8 8 10 10 9 10 89
Ezzard Charles 6 6 9 9 8 7 5 9 9 10 78
J. Joe Walcott 7 6 7 9 8 6 8 7 9 10 77
Rocky Marciano 10 6 6 6 7 9 10 10 9 7 80
Floyd Patterson 8 6 10 7 7 4 9 10 8 8 77
Sonny Liston 10 8 6 7 7 9 10 6 8 9 80
Muhammad Ali 7 9 10 10 7 10 7 10 9 10 89
Joe Frazier 9 6 8 7 9 8 10 10 9 8 84
George Foreman 10 9 6 7 6 10 10 10 6 7 81
Larry Holmes 7 9 9 9 8 9 8 10 9 10 88
Mike Tyson 10 7 10 8 9 8 10 7 8 8 85
Evander Holyfield 7 7 8 8 8 9 9 10 8 9 83
Riddick Bowe 9 10 7 7 7 9 8 6 8 9 80
Lennox Lewis 10 10 7 8 7 6 8 9 8 9 82

Be sure to read the accompanying article that explains the rating system and the scores: Rating the All Time Heavyweights in 10 Categories

Note: The following does NOT necessarily reflect my personal heavyweight rankings. The chart measures without prejudice the fighters level of skill in a comparison, but does not take into account such factors as style. It is a measuring stick, but not defintive in any way.


1-2. Joe Louis (89) Louis most closely resembles the perfect fighter. He scored high in power, hand speed, killer instinct, heart, and ring generalship. He did well in all categories with his lowest scores in footwork and chin but still "solid." A near fundamentally flawless masterful technician as well as being a devastating puncher. His combination punching to the head and body was the best in division history.

1-2. Muhammad Ali (89) Ali's overall skills and strong showing in all categories give him a high mark. He received the only 10 in Footwork- as his lateral movement and foot speed was head and shoulders above the field. His hand speed, durability, heart and ring generalship were among the best.

3. Larry Holmes (88) Holmes scored very well in all categories showing why he is on the rise in many all time lists. A great technician. Not a true power puncher but good enough.

4-Mike Tyson (85) One of the best in combination of both speed and power in ring history. One of THE 3 finest heavyweights in terms of skill. Tyson also had great killer instinct. His lowest score was in heart as he never showed the ability to come from behind when hurt and was a psychological front-runner, nevertheless the young Tyson did not seem to be as effected by these short comings.

5-6. Jack Dempsey (84) Dempsey's ability to inflict heavy damage, his will and killer instinct and often under appreciated boxing skills show why some consider him to be a heavyweight version of Roberto Duran. One of the greatest attackers and finishers in ring history, Dempsey finished 1st in 1950 AP Poll as the greatest fighter of all time.

5-6. Joe Frazier (84) A strong pressure fighter who gave 3 minutes of work every round, he was also a strong puncher especially with his great left hook. His defense is pretty good, especially against boxer types as his slip and duck rate is the highest I have measured in film studies.

7 Evander Holyfield (83) Holyfield had no weak areas showing he was a good all around fighter in his heavyweight prime. He could punch well, box, move, counter, had loads of heart and durability and was a fine ring general. Not among the greatest punchers he could certainly finish a man when he was hurt. Holyfield mixed great performances with lackluster ones.

8. Lennox Lewis (82) Lennox results should be no suprise. He has the size, reach and frightening power to knock out virtually anyone. He can box well, has maneuverability, and is an adequate ring general. He could be more aggressive at times and was inconsistent in this manner. His chin was also not at the highest level.

9-10 Jack Johnson (81) Johnson was a master at glove blocking, parrying, feinting, and smothering blows, and was a great counter-puncher, things most heavyweights are not good at. His defensive prowess is in question against a more sophisticated attack, that problem and a relatively weak chin kept him from ranking higher.

9-10. George Foreman (81) George's power, killer instinct, and strong chin make him a tough opponent. In my view few who stood in front of him would have hope to survive. His weak scores in hand speed, defense and endurance kept him from a higher rating.

11-14 Rocky Marciano (80) Marciano was a bullish swarmer who broke down foes through pressure and non stop punching. He scored high in power, durability, and heart. He scored less well in footwork, defense, hand speed, and ring generalship.

11-14. Jim Jeffries (80) Big enough to compete with modern heavyweights, Jeffries was also a world class athlete with a 6' high jump and could run the 100 yard dash in 10.5 seconds. Jeffries combined great stamina with a great chin which made him a very tough opponent. Big Jeff was a strong puncher who fought out of a crouch. A bit crude but no more so than Marciano or Foreman.

11-14. Sonny Liston (80) A strong puncher with a powerful jab which came behind an 84" reach equal to that of Lennox Lewis and among the best in division history. He was a good technician with under-appreciated boxing skills. He had a decent chin. On the downside he is the only heavyweight champion to quit/surrender his title on his stool so his heart is suspect.

11-14. Riddick Bowe (80)The best inside fighter among the giants. He was a strong puncher whose poor training habits and lack of dedication kept him from being among the top 10.

15. Gene Tunney (79) A master boxer who could find the weakness in any opponent's style and exploit it. He had nice footwork and a great jab, and a strong chin. Perhaps at his peak at light-heavyweight he was nontheless a very fine heavyweight boxer.

16-17. James J. Corbett (78) A truly clever boxer whose innovative ring technique; jab, left hook, footwork and defense revolutionized the sport and brought on the modern age of boxing in 1892 when he beat Sullivan. Rated # 5 amongst all time heavyweights by Ring Magazine founder Nat Fleischer in 1958.

16-17.Ezzard Charles (78). A sleek and slick boxing artist who was at his peak as a light-heavyweight where most of his greatest victories occured. Nevertheless he was a solid heavyweight champion defeating an old comebacking Louis on a decision and making 9 successful title defenses, only Louis, Ali, and Holmes had more defending the linear heavyweight title.

18-20.Max Schmeling (77). An intelligent boxer and counter-puncher who possessed a solid right hand knockout punch. Fairly durable against most opponents, Max defeated a young Joe Louis and lost by devastating knockout in the rematch. Likely would have beaten Braddock and became first man to regain title if given opportunity.

18-20.Jersey Joe Walcott (77). A clever boxer and spoiler with excellent footwork, feinting ability and the required punch. Oldest heavyweight champion until Foreman regained title. Sporadic results.

18-20.Floyd Patterson (77). The youngest heavyweight champion in history until Tyson. Fought in the same peek-a-boo bob and weave defense as did Tyson. Had a pair of the fastest hands in heavyweight history, possessor of a powerful left hook. On the downside had the weakest chin among the champs, downed 16 times and knocked out 5 times.

There you have it. A fair rating analysis of the fighting attributes of the greatest heavyweight boxers in history. In the end styles make fights, but that is a different subject!

For a discussion on styles see my article, "It's a Styles Thing"

Monte Cox


Below is some discussion material from some message board posts and e-mail responses on my chart. My comments are in black.

Marciano was knocked down by the hardest punchers he fought (Walcott and Moore- and they were old) and he never faced a big puncher his chin score should be lowered

I think Marciano's chin stays where it is. He was only down twice in his career and I have a hard time lowering it from a 9. Some would argue a 10 for Rocky, but because he never faced a huge puncher with physical attributes above a 7, I lowered him 1 point.

Your older crowd tends to rank Dempsey in the top 5. He doesn't make a lot of the younger crowds entire lists. It would seem to me that the discrepancy is due to those who really knew the scene back in the day, getting kind of swept up in the Dempsey mystique. Younger people tend to look at his record and say "I don't know, I don't see it."

Some of the "younger fans" tend to think the veteran boxing observers only consider Dempsey great because of his historical legacy, but I think he should be respected for his fighting prowess. The record doesn't tell you what an animal Dempsey was in the ring, although there is nothing wrong with Dempsey's record. Just because the names aren't as familiar to you doesn't mean they were not good fighters.

The records of some of his opposition are very incomplete. One CBZ historian, who contributes to Boxrec, noted that Boxrec has only about 5% of every fight ever fought. The sheer quantity of bouts in the 20's and 30's is staggering compared to nowadays. In the small state of Washington alone, for example, during the first year of the Washington State Athletic Commission from July 1, 1933 to June 30, 1934 there were 770 boxing shows. In the late 1920's, prior to the depression, there were many more shows in small towns that didn't do boxing later on due to the depression and added costs from the establishment of a commission. Now that is just one state, and a smaller one at that, as boxing goes. Not everyone aspires to enter bouts in to BoxRec with information that they may have. Trying to create something that gives a whole picture like you want is not easy. It requires going through endless amounts of microfilm, just to get the results from the newspapers. --Matt Tegen, Historian.

One must consider the opinions of those who saw the "old-timers" fight when forming an opinion. In the 1950 AP Poll, which was done by sportswriters who actually saw the greats of the first half of the 20th century, (they did the Poll so we today would know who they thought were the greatest fighters of their day), Dempsey was picked #1.

I think the younger fans just tend to under-estimate Dempsey because they don't know much about him, or understand his record or the times in which he fought. There is nothing wrong with Dempsey's record, between 1918-1923 when at his peak his record was 32-0, 28 kayo's, 17 in the first round and included many of the top contenders of the time including Carl Morris, Fred Fulton, Battling Levinsky, Gunboat Smith, and Jess Willard (for the championship). He has the most first round knockouts of any heavyweight champion at 25, more than Tyson. Dempsey also had as many as 100 unrecorded professional fights that are not on his record.


Let me say this about the old-time fighters. The one place they have a big edge over modern fighters is in experenice. Todays heavyweights are lucky to fight 3 times a year, even coming up the amount of fights they have is very low compared to the old timers. They fought often 13-20 times a year in some cases which means they obtained real experience while still in their physical prime.

Think about it. Holyfield peaked late at about 34 when his experience really paid benefits. Why was Toney so much better in 2003? Its his ring experience. The old timers obtained that kind of experience while at their physical peak, that is one of the things that made them great.

As for polls from the '50s and '60s....Racism was pervasive then, which is a major reason those polls you mentioned didn't have Jack Johnson or Joe Louis ahead of Dempsey.

It's interesting how writers and reporters play the "race card" without considering the socio-economic component and how times used to be tougher for everyone, not just blacks and that as one goes back in time, the white fighters get better. Dempsey lived in tough times and was a very tough character.

Attributing Demspey's strong showing in the AP Mid-Century poll to racism is unjustified. Louis was #2 in that poll, and Johnson, Gans, Walcott, Langford and Armstrong all received votes. The view that everyone voting for Dempsey was a racist and everyone voting for an African American was an unbiased scholar is not only not fair, but completely untrue.

I am immediately skeptical of anybody all over Johnson's jock. Maybe its the cynic in me. But my first impression when I see a list with him ranked super high is that the list author is bulls--tting.

He did a lot of things that heavyweights of today are not good at like glove blocking, feinting, parrying, and counter-punching. Johnson could also smother inside better than Ali. He also had excellent hand speed. He didnt have the greatest chin where he scored lower than most. The question of Johnson is does his defensive tactics hold up against a really sophisticated attack like that of Joe Louis, or a pressure fighter like Joe Frazier or Mike Tyson, probably not but he was still a great talent.

Lewis' heart is not 9.

Why not? This is one category where unless you are a proven quitter then its almost automatically a 10. Of the 20 fighters 13 have a 10, the most 10's for ANY category.

The only other fighters who scored 9 were guys who had some controversy, like Johnson claiming he threw a championship fight against Willard (which is not true as the film shows him get hit on the chin) but one must question his heart after such a statement.

Lewis never quit in a fight and he never ducked anyone. Larry Holmes comment that Lewis was "scared" is baloney. Bowe is the one who threw his WBC belt in the garbage can so he wouldn't have to face Lewis, and the only reason he didn't meet Tyson earlier is because Tyson offered Lewis step aside money. Lennox Lewis fought and beat the best of his generation.

The only people who rank below 8-9 in HEART are those who are proven quitters or tended to fold mentally when they got behind. Liston quit on his stool as champion, Tyson never came from behind ONCE in his career when hurt, EVER! How can one give him better than 6 which is "above average" for a heavyweight fighter, he was a front runner who annihilated his opponents with his power, speed, and killer instinct where he rates among the best, BUT his heart is not the same category as durability, he sometimes quit mentally when he got behind especially later in his career.

Tyson's Heart: "Its tough to come from behind when you are running everybody over."

True, but when he had chances to come from behind, he didn't really. Well, he did keep trying against Douglas and drop him and almost knock him out. But he still never came back and won a fight he was losing, except Botha but he was never hurt in that fight, He did take some heavy artillery against a big, hard hitting Ruddock so an above average score of 6 seems correct.

"Foreman's Heart should be lowered."

Foreman shouldn't have a 10 in heart? Who did he quit against? He got off the deck twice against Lyle and won that is what heart is all about! He showed lots of heart against Holyfield taking 25 unanswered punches and refusing to go down. His entire comeback was mocked and laughed at until he regained the title. It took HEART! I don't buy the claim by some he gets up against Ali, his tank was empty a round earlier.

"Bowe's chin and durability should be higher. The guy went down once in his career to Holyfield, only to get up and knock him out 2 rounds later. He showed his durability and chin perhaps best in his fights with Golota. Bowe could sure take a ton of punishment."

Perhaps your right. I do personally feel he should be in the top 15. (This has been adjusted).

"You also might want to look at increasing Ali's defense."

I cannot in all honesty. He was hard to hit because of his speed and footwork, that does not mean he was a good defensive fighter. I gave him a 10 in ring generalship and the only 10 in Footwork. But as far as real defensive skills, he could not block a jab (why Norton, Jones gave him fits), he could not parry, he was not a glove blocker, the only real defensive skill he mastered was the clinch.

This is a skill category not just how good he was at evading blows. He leaned away from punches which is a suicide tactic against someone who knows how to feint well, but Ali's incredible speed and sense of distance allowed him to get away with it. But when he slowed down he started taking alot more punches for his lack of true defense.

"Joe Louis had no footwork."

Louis footwork was subtle, he inched towards opponents, then took small steps back to draw them into his punches. It is what it was for a reason. Louis footwork was designed for a long fight, to waste no energy and maintain his knockout punch to the last second of the last round so if he nailed his opponent he would have the energy left to go all out and finish him. He had fights scheduled for as long as 20 rounds, so dancing around like a bunny rabbit is not a good idea if you have to fight 20 round fights, you are going to run out of gas or be dead tired in the late rounds, then the guy who has conserved his energy is going to send you to dreamland. All of the durability in the world wont save you when you have ran out of gas. Further Louis could cut the ring pretty well, and make guys use up there energy running from him. As Ali once said, (The Greatest- Auto-biography p 405) "It's impossible to last 15 rounds if you have to take six steps to your opponents three." Joe also used his footwork to draw his opponents in and then explode on them. Don't under-estimate Louis footwork, a 7 is completely appropriate, that is still 3 points behind Ali.