It’s no secret that African Americans have a rich history in the sport of boxing. From Jack Johnson to Muhammad Ali and beyond, Black boxers have always been some of the most exciting and talented fighters in the ring.
In this article, we will look at some of the greatest Black heavyweight boxers of all time and take a closer look at their careers and accomplishments.
The Top 9 Black Heavyweight Boxing Champions in History
- Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson, “The Galveston Giant,” was born in Galveston, Texas. In 1908, Jack became the first African-American to win the Heavyweight Championship after knocking out Tommy Burns of Canada in Sydney in the fourteenth round.
Johnson held the title for several years until he lost it to Jess Willards in 1915.
- Joe Louis
Joe Louis is one of the most well-known black heavyweight champions in history. After twenty-two years since the Galveston Giant, he became the second African-American to become a heavyweight champion.
He was the first black heavyweight holder to hold the belt from 1937 until his retirement in 1949. In his heydays, Joe was nicknamed “The Brown Bomber” and had the longest solo reign as champion.
- Ezzard Charles
Ezzard Charles, “the Cincinnati Cobra,” is famously known for his slippery defense. Ezzard became the third heavyweight boxing champion to hold the title.
The Cincinnati Cobra outpointed Joe Louis in 1949 but became the heavyweight champ over Joe Louis the same year. Charles had a fascinating boxing career from 1940 to 1959, having fought 122 fights with 96 wins (and 58 KOs).
- Floyd Patterson
At 21, Patterson became the youngest black heavyweight champion until Tyson. Floyd Patterson was the first heavyweight boxing champion to win the championship back after losing it. He held the title twice in his career; the first reign followed his victory over Rocky, and the second followed his defeat of Ingemar Johannson.
The Boxing Writers Association of America and Ring Magazine voted Patterson as the Fighter of the Year in 1956 and 1960, respectively.
- Sonny Liston
Sonny Liston, “The Big Bear,” knocked out Floyd Patterson in the first round of their bout to become the new heavyweight champion in 1962. However, he had a short tenure as a title holder and lost to Muhammad Ali in 1963. Liston had a distinguished professional boxing career (1953–1970); he competed 54 times, winning 50 fights (39 by knockout) and losing 4.
- George Foreman
George Foreman, a two-time world heavyweight champion, was the ninth black heavyweight boxing champion in the heavyweight division’s history. George had an impressive 81-fight professional boxing record, with seventy-six victories and five defeats.
Additionally, George became the oldest professional fighter to win the heavyweight title at 45. He lost the title to Muhammad Ali in 1974. He regained the title during his second comeback after retirement against Moorer in 1994.
- Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali is one name that is most associated with boxing history—and perhaps the entire sporting world. The professional boxer was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., but in 1964 he changed his name to the famous “Muhammad Ali.”
Ali was a two-time Heavyweight Champion of the World. He also won a gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympic Games. However, he was stripped of his title during his first reign in 1967 for refusing to enlist in the US army.
Soon after his return, in 1974, Ali defeated George Foreman in a fight tagged “The Rumble in the Jungle” to kick-start his second reign as Heavyweight Champion.
His career lasted from 1960-1981, with a professional record of 56-5 with 37 knockout victories.
- Joe Frazier
Joe had a pressure cooker fighting technique that earned him the nickname “Smokin’ Joe.” Joe competed professionally from 1965 to 1981 and held the heavyweight title from 1970 to 1973.
Smokin’ Joe received many awards, including being a three-time Fighter of the Year (1967, 1970, & 1971) and ranking as one of the greatest heavyweights.
- Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson is yet another legendary black heavyweight boxing champion. “The Baddest Man on the Planet” was his nickname during his boxing career.
Mike was the heavyweight champion from 1987 to 1990 and was the youngest to ever do so at the age of 20. All his first 19 professional fights were won by knockouts, 12 of them in the first round. Mike had 58 fights, 50 wins, and six losses in his career.
Other great black heavyweight boxing champions include J J. Walcott, Buster Douglas, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, and Leon Spinks. These boxing legends have made history and will live on in our hearts forever.