List of heavyweight boxing champions

From Academic Kids

This is a chronological list of world heavyweight boxing champions, as recognized by the following organizations:

Prior to the rise of sanctioning bodies, champions were acknowledged by the public at large.

Reign Began Reign Ended Champion Recognition
February 7, 1882 September 7, 1892 John L. Sullivan Universal
Sullivan was the first champion under Marquess of Queensberry rules, having defeated Paddy Ryan in a bare-knuckle fight in 1882 to earn championship recognition.
September 7, 1892 March 17, 1897 James J. Corbett Universal
March 17, 1897 June 9, 1899 Bob Fitzsimmons Universal
June 9, 1899 May 13, 19051 James J. Jeffries Universal
Jeffries was the first champion to relinquish the title, announcing his retirement and declaring that the winner of a match between Marvin Hart and Jack Root would be the next legitimate champion. Jeffries would return to the ring to face Jack Johnson.
July 3, 1905 February 23, 1906 Marvin Hart Universal
February 23, 1906 December 26, 1908 Tommy Burns Universal
December 26, 1908 April 5, 1915 Jack Johnson Universal
April 5, 1915 July 4, 1919 Jess Willard Universal
July 4, 1919 September 23, 1926 Jack Dempsey Universal
September 23, 1926 July 31, 19282 Gene Tunney Universal
Tunney announced his retirement from professional boxing on July 31, 1928, relinquishing the championship.
September 26, 1928 June 12, 1930 Jack Sharkey NBA
Sharkey defeated Tommy Loughran for the vacant NBA championship, but was not universally recognized as champion.
June 12, 1930 June 21, 1932 Max Schmeling Universal
Schmeling defeated NBA champion Jack Sharkey to earn universal recognition as champion.
June 21, 1932 June 29, 1933 Jack Sharkey Universal
June 29, 1933 June 14, 1934 Primo Carnera Universal
June 14, 1934 June 13, 1935 Max Baer Universal
June 13, 1935 June 22, 1937 James J. Braddock Universal
June 22, 1937 March 1, 19493 Joe Louis Universal
June 22, 1949 September 27, 1950 Ezzard Charles NBA
September 27, 1950 July 18, 1951 Ezzard Charles Universal
Charles won the vacant National Boxing Association championship, but was not universally recognized as champion until defeating Joe Louis, the former champion who had come out of retirement.
July 18, 1951 September 23, 1952 Jersey Joe Walcott Universal
September 23, 1952 April 27, 19562 Rocky Marciano Universal
Marciano announced his retirement from professional boxing, relinquishing the championship.
November 30, 1956 June 26, 1959 Floyd Patterson Universal
June 26, 1959 June 20, 1960 Ingemar Johansson Universal
June 20, 1960 September 25, 1962 Floyd Patterson Universal
September 25, 1962 February 25, 1964 Sonny Liston Universal
February 25, 1964 June 19, 1964 Cassius Clay Universal
The WBA withdrew its recognition of Clay (now known as Muhammad Ali) as champion for agreeing to an immediate rematch against Liston, a violation of the organization's rules at the time. The WBC and other organizations continued to recognize him. (See Ali versus Liston.)
June 19, 1964 February 6, 1967 Cassius Clay WBC
March 5, 1965 February 6, 1967 Ernie Terrell WBA
February 6, 1967 April 29, 1967 Muhammad Ali Universal
All sanctioning bodies withdrew recognition of Ali as champion for his refusal to be inducted into the United States Army subsequent to being drafted in early 1967.
March 4, 1968 February 16, 1970 Joe Frazier WBC
April 28, 1968 February 16, 1970 Jimmy Ellis WBA
February 16, 1970 January 22, 1973 Joe Frazier Universal
Initially recognized by the powerful New York state athletic commission and the fledgling World Boxing Council, Frazier was recognized by all sanctioning bodies as champion after defeating Ellis; but universal recognition came only upon defeating Muhammad Ali on March 8, 1971. (See Fight of the Century.)
January 22, 1973 October 30, 1974 George Foreman Universal
October 30, 1974 February 15, 1978 Muhammad Ali Universal
February 15, 1978 March 18, 19783 Leon Spinks Universal
March 18, 1978 September 15, 1978 Leon Spinks WBA
March 18, 1978 June 9, 1978 Ken Norton WBC
June 9, 1978 December 11, 19831 Larry Holmes WBC
Holmes relinquished his WBC title to assume the championship of the newly formed International Boxing Federation.
September 15, 1978 April 27, 19791 Muhammad Ali WBA
Believing his career over, Ali relinquished his WBA title in exchange for a payment from promoter Don King, who was trying to stage a bout between then-WBC champ Larry Holmes and John Tate for the undisputed title. The bout never materialized, and Ali would return to the ring in 1980.
October 20, 1979 March 31, 1980 John Tate WBA
March 31, 1980 December 10, 1982 Mike Weaver WBA
December 10, 1982 September 23, 1983 Michael Dokes WBA
September 23, 1983 December 1, 1984 Gerrie Coetzee WBA
December 11, 1983 September 21, 1985 Larry Holmes IBF
March 9, 1984 August 31, 1984 Tim Witherspoon WBC
August 31, 1984 March 22, 1986 Pinklon Thomas WBC
December 1, 1984 April 29, 1985 Greg Page WBA
April 29, 1985 January 17, 1986 Tony Tubbs WBA
September 21, 1985 February 19, 19873 Michael Spinks IBF
January 17, 1986 December 12, 1986 Tim Witherspoon WBA
March 22, 1986 November 22, 1986 Trevor Berbick WBC
November 22, 1986 March 7, 1987 Mike Tyson WBC
December 12, 1986 March 7, 1987 James "Bonecrusher" Smith WBA
March 7, 1987 August 1, 1987 Mike Tyson WBA, WBC
May 30, 1987 August 1, 1987 Tony Tucker IBF
August 1, 1987 February 10, 1990 Mike Tyson IBF, WBA & WBC
May 6, 1989 January 11, 1991 Francesco Damiani WBO
Though Damiani defeated Johnny DuPlooy to become the WBO's first Heavyweight champion, Tyson's reign in the division during this period is virtually undisputed.
February 10, 1990 October 25, 1990 James "Buster" Douglas IBF, WBA & WBC
October 25, 1990 November 13, 1992 Evander Holyfield IBF, WBA & WBC
January 11, 1991 December 24, 19913 Ray Mercer WBO
May 15, 1992 February 3, 19933 Michael Moorer WBO
November 13, 1992 December 14, 19923 Riddick Bowe IBF, WBA & WBC
Bowe was stripped of his WBC championship for refusing to fight Lennox Lewis.
November 14, 1992 January 29, 19933 Pinklon Thomas IBO
December 14, 1992 November 6, 1993 Riddick Bowe IBF & WBA
December 14, 1992 September 24, 1994 Lennox Lewis WBC
Lewis defeated Razor Ruddock on October 31, 1992 in a WBC 'eliminator' fight. When Riddick Bowe's championship recognition was withdrawn by the organization, the WBC immediately awarded Lewis the title.
June 7, 1993 October 29, 1993 Tommy Morrison WBO
October 29, 1993 March 19, 1994 Michael Bentt WBO
November 6, 1993 April 22, 1994 Evander Holyfield IBF & WBA
March 19, 1994 March 11, 1995 Herbie Hide WBO
April 22, 1994 November 5, 1994 Michael Moorer IBF & WBA
August 4, 1994 August 29, 1994 Danell Nicholson3 IBO
September 24, 1994 September 2, 1995 Oliver McCall WBC
October 29, 1994 November 8, 19953 Jimmy Thunder IBO
November 5, 1994 March 4, 19953 George Foreman IBF & WBA
The World Boxing Association withdrew its recognition of Foreman, but Foreman retained IBF championship recognition until it too was withdrawn.
March 4, 1995 June 28, 19953 George Foreman IBF
March 11, 1995 May 1, 19961 Riddick Bowe WBO
April 8, 1995 September 7, 1996 Bruce Seldon WBA
September 2, 1995 March 16, 1996 Frank Bruno WBC
December 9, 1995 September 7, 19963 Francois Botha IBF
A drug test following Botha's victory over Axel Shultz for the IBF title vacated by George Foreman revealed that he had used illegal anabolic steroids. Upon the discovery the IBF "vacated" its championship. The organization has subsequently erased the episode from its own written history, not listing Botha among its recognized champions.
January 12, 1996 September 16, 19993 Brian Nielsen IBO
March 16, 1996 September 7, 1996 Mike Tyson WBC
June 22, 1996 November 8, 1997 Michael Moorer IBF
June 29, 1996 February 17, 19971 Henry Akinwande WBO
Akinwande had been ranked the WBC's #2 contender when he won the WBO title. The WBC, which has feuded with the WBO since the latter's founding in 1988, dropped Akinwande from its rankings altogether. Akinwande subsequently relinquished his WBO title in exchange for the opportunity to meet Lennox Lewis in a bout for the WBC championship.
September 7, 1996 September 24, 19961 Mike Tyson WBA & WBC
September 24, 1996 November 9, 1996 Mike Tyson WBA
November 9, 1996 November 8, 1997 Evander Holyfield WBA
February 7, 1997 November 13, 1999 Lennox Lewis WBC
June 28, 1997 June 26, 1999 Herbie Hide WBO
November 8, 1997 November 13, 1999 Evander Holyfield IBF & WBA
June 26, 1999 April 1, 2000 Vitali Klitschko WBO
November 13, 1999 April 29, 20003 Lennox Lewis IBF, IBO, WBA & WBC
In early 2000 the World Boxing Association and Lewis were sued by representatives of John Ruiz claiming that they had reneged on an agreement by which Ruiz would have fought Lewis for the WBA title. A New Jersey court ruled in favor of Ruiz, and ordered Lewis to either have his next bout against Ruiz or relinquish the title. Lewis elected instead to fight contender Michael Grant, relinquishing his WBA title on the day of the match.
April 1, 2000 October 14, 2000 Chris Byrd WBO
April 29, 2000 April 22, 2001 Lennox Lewis IBF, IBO & WBC
August 12, 2000 March 3, 2001 Evander Holyfield WBA
October 14, 2000 March 8, 2003 Wladimir Klitschko WBO
March 3, 2001 March 1, 2003 John Ruiz WBA
April 22, 2001 November 17, 2001 Hasim Rahman IBF, IBO & WBC
November 17, 2001 September 5, 20021 Lennox Lewis IBF, IBO & WBC
Lewis relinquished the IBF title upon receiving payment of $1 million (US) by promoter Don King, who wished to stage a bout between Chris Byrd and Evander Holyfield for the vacant title.
September 5, 2002 February 6, 20042 Lennox Lewis IBO & WBC
December 14, 2002 present Chris Byrd IBF
March 1, 2003 February 20, 20041 Roy Jones Jr. WBA
March 8, 2003 October 9, 20031 Corrie Sanders WBO
February 20, 2004 April 30, 2005 John Ruiz WBA
Ruiz beat Hasim Rahman on December 13, 2003 to become the WBA's "interim" champion. He was awarded the championship following Roy Jones, Jr.'s announcement that he was relinquishing it to concentrate on lower weight divisions.
April 10, 2004 present Lamon Brewster WBO
April 24, 2004 present Vitali Klitschko WBC
April 30, 2005 May 17, 2005 James Toney WBA
On May 10, 2005, a drug test following Toney's victory over John Ruiz for the WBA title revealed that he had used products containing nandrolone, an anabolic steroid. Toney's victory was changed to a 'no contest' by New York state athletic commission. On May 17, 2005, the WBA advised Toney that it was "vacating (his) title", whereupon it was restored to John Ruiz.
May 17, 2005 present John Ruiz WBA

Footnotes

1 Relinquished championship title.
2 Retired as champion, relinquishing title.
3 Championship recognition withdrawn by sanctioning organization due to champion's failure or refusal to defend title against the organization's #1 ranked contender.
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