Lineal Heavyweight Champion – Tyson Fury is the new man to beat – Lineage list from Ali to Fury

Lineal heavyweight champion title goes above WBC, WBA, WBO and IBF titles. It is an informal title but a very important one, both to boxers and to true fans who choose to disregard the various behind-the-scenes decisions. In short, to be a lineal champion you got to be “the man who beat the man who beat the man”. The one and only way to win this informal yet highly regarded title is to beat the current holder in a boxing ring.

On 22 February 2020, the lineal heavyweight champion of the world, Tyson Fury, defeated Deontay Wilder and retained the title. There have been some question marks about whether Fury was the lineal champion at all – since he was away from boxing for a while – but after that fight in Las Vegas there’s no doubt. Tyson Fury is the lineal heavyweight champion.

Let’s take a look at the recent history of lineal heavyweight title, starting with Muhammad Ali as the one man who no one will doubt was the “man to beat”. The history of lineal champions traces back to John L. Sullivan who reigned from 1885 to 1892, but we doubt this is of any interest to you. We’ll look at the modern era of boxing and see how was the title passed down from Ali to finally end up in Tyson Fury’s hands.

This article will be updated whenever someone beats the man. Last update was on 26 Feb 2020.

For clarity, we’ll honour the true champions with an image. Those fighters who held the lineal title temporarily or/and weren’t the best of the best don’t get one.

Click the links in the table to jump straight to that section.

 

Lineal heavyweight champion How did he win? Years of reign
Cassius Clay def. Sonny Liston via TKO on 25 Feb 1964 1964 – 1967
Joe Frazier def. Muhammad Ali via UD on 8 Mar 1971 1970-1973
George Foreman def. Joe Frazier via TKO on 22 Jan 1973 1973-1974
Muhammad Ali def. George Foreman via KO on 30 Oct 1974 1974-1978
Leon Spinks def. Muhammad Ali via SD on 15 Feb 1978 1978
Muhammad Ali def. Leon Spinks via UD on 15 Sep 1978 1978-1980
Larry Holmes def. Muhammad Ali via UD on 2 Oct 1980 1980-1985
Michael Spinks def. Larry Holmes via UD on 21 Sep 1985 1980-1988
Mike Tyson def. Michael Spinks via KO on 27 Jun 1988 1988-1990
Buster Douglas def. Mike Tyson via KO on 11 Feb 1990 1990
Evander Holyfield def. Buster Douglas via KO on 25 Oct 1990 1990-1992
Riddick Bowe def. Evander Holyfield via UD on 13 Nov 1992 1992-1993
Evander Holyfield def. Riddick Bowe via MD on 6 Nov 1993 1993-1994
Michael Moorer def. Evander Holyfield via MD on 22 Apr 1994 1994
George Foreman def. Michael Moorer via KO on 5 Nov 1994 1994-1997
Shannon Briggs def. George Foreman via MD on 2 Nov 1997 1997-1998
Lennox Lewis def. Shannon Briggs via TKO on 28 Mar 1998 1998-2001
Hasim Rahman def. Lennox Lewis via KO on 22 Apr 2001 2001
Lennox Lewis def. Hasim Rahman via KO on 17 Nov 2001 2001-2004; retired
Wladimir Klitschko vacant; def. Ruslan Chagaev via RTD on 20 Jun 2009 2009-2015
Tyson Fury def. Wladimir Klitschko via UD on 28 Nov 2015 2015-2016
Tyson Fury def. Deontay Wilder via TKO on 22 Feb 2020 2020-

 

Cassius Clay def. Sonny Liston via TKO on 25 Feb 1964 1964 – 1967

Muhammad Ali in action after first round knockout of Sonny Liston at St. Dominic's Arena. Cover. Lewiston, ME 5/25/1965. CREDIT: Neil LeiferCassius Clay, who converted to Islam later that year to become known as Muhammad Ali, challenged the mighty Sonny Liston for the WBA, WBC, and lineal heavyweight titles. Liston, The Big Bear, was 34 and was the most feared fighter in boxing, with a 35-1 record (21 KO). This was his 2nd title defense after he first took the title from Floyd Patterson in 1962 and then defended it against him in 1963 in a fight that was also the first time a WBC belt was awarded. Clay was 22 and was a 7-1 underdog against Liston. He was the better fighter as his sheer skill outclassed Liston’s thug style, and eventually won the fight as Liston didn’t answer the bell for round 7 due to a shoulder injury he carried into the fight.

On 25 May 1965, Muhammed Ali and Sonny Liston had a rematch – in what will be remembered as one of the most controversial bouts of all time. Liston went down after 01:45 to what is now known as Ali’s “anchor punch” and there were immediate shouts “fix!” from the audience. There were allegations Liston dived in exchange for a share of Ali’s future prize money. We’ll never know, but you can see the KO for yourself on YouTube in slow-motion. In any case, Liston’s story is a tragic one. He died young and his life was seriously affected by Ali’s bullying.

Ali would defend his titles 8 times (Floyd Patterson, George Chuvalo, Henry Cooper, Brian London, Karl Mildenberger, Cleveland Williams, Ernie Terrell, Zora Folley) before being denied a boxing licence in 1967 after refusing to be drafted for Vietnam War. Now, during that time, no one defeated Ali in the ring so the lineal title remained with him. It is exactly these kinds of behind-the-scenes political decisions that the lineal title was designed to fight against.

 

Joe Frazier def. Muhammad Ali via UD on 8 Mar 1971 1970 – 1973

While Ali was out of the ring, little has happened – except for the emergence of Joe Frazier. Smokin’ Joe, a relentless fighter, moved up the ranks in the late 1960s to win precisely those titles that Ali was forced to vacate – WBA and WBC. Many sources indicate Frazier also won the vacant lineal title in a 1970 bout against Jimmy Ellis, but we disagree. Ali was still alive and well at the time and no man beat him in the ring at that point. Frazier would, however, do just that in The Fight of The Century against Ali who just had his licence reinstated and won two preparation fights.

In 1971, both fighters had legitimate claims to WBA, WBC and lineal titles as both were undefeated (Frazier 26-0, Ali 31-0). This was indeed the fight of the century as two undefeated fighters were up against one another to determine who the true champion is. Tremendous hype proved to be deserved as the fight was truly special. Two masters of boxing were throwing punches at each other during 15 rounds, and it was Frazier who convincingly won the fight as his left hook connected several times to shake Ali, who was even down on the canvas in round 15 (pictured).

 

George Foreman def. Joe Frazier via TKO on 22 Jan 1973 1973-1974

George Foreman was only 23 at the time, but had an impressive 37-0 record with incredible 33 knockouts – and most of them by round 2. It’s exactly what happend to Joe Frazier that day in Kingston, Jamaica as Foreman scored six (!) knockdowns by 1:35 in round 2 when the fight was ended by the officials. Foreman became the third-youngest champion in history, and would also eventually become the oldest. Foreman would defend his WBC, WBA and lineal titles only two times though, against José Roman and against Ken Norman, before he met Muhammad Ali. Foreman would spectacularly win back the lineal title in 1994, aged 45, but more on that later.

As for Frazier, he would continue to fight to mount his comeback, and would get his chance two more times against Muhammad Ali and one more time against George Foreman (he lost all three boutes). In retrospect, on this day in Kingston, he lost everything and he’d never get back to the throne again.

 

Muhammad Ali def. George Foreman via KO on 30 Oct 1974 1974 – 1978

Muhammad Ali won 12 fights after his defeat to Joe Frazier, and even avenged that defeat as he won the rematch in 1974 by unanimous decision, aged 32. This was a non-title fight, notable for the amount of clinching as Ali clinched 133 times. However, Ali was the better fighter and deservedly won. The stage was set for one of the greatest fights ever.

The Rumble in the Jungle in Kinshasa, Zaire was watched by over 1 billion viewers worldwide as The Greatest was ready to fight for the title again, almost four years after losing to Frazier. And he was up against the most fearsome knock out artist ever, who needed a total of three rounds to dispatch two of his latest opponents. Ali was a 4-1 underdog as everyone expected Foreman to add another KO to his list. He was about to turn 26 and was bursting with power and confidence against what some had thought is a has-been.

Ali did whatever he could to avoid getting knocked out and to tire Foreman, which included his new rope-a-dope tactic of leaning against the ropes and letting Foreman punch him. Ali also clinched a lot and threw lots of quick jabs. Meanwhile, Foreman couldn’t get the KO he was looking for. By round five, Foreman was visibly tired, and by round eight he was completely ineffective. That’s when Ali came forward and knocked Foreman out.

Ali would defend his title 10 times, including The Thrilla in Manila against Joe Frazier in 1975, before losing to Leon Spinks at age 36.

 

Leon Spinks def. Muhammad Ali via SD on 15 Feb 1978 1978

The legend of Muhammad Ali wouldn’t be complete without this defeat to young Leon Spinks who was a 11-1 underdog, boasting a record of only 6-0-1 as he turned pro only after having won the 1974 Olympics.

Ali’s physical abilities were deteriorating. It was clear for all to see, as he easily could have lost the decisions against Jimmy Young and Ken Norton in 1974, aged 34. In his previous fight, Earnie Shavers was able to inflict a lot of damage to the champion despite Ali winning the unanimous decision. In this fight against Spinks, it all came together for the old Ali and he lost the split decision. This was the first time anyone took the title away from Ali, as his previous defeats were either non-title fights or it was him who was the challenger.

Spinks would go on to have a very average career, retiring with a 26-17-3 record, and never defeated a top fighter ever again. This only proves that this isn’t a real win over Ali, it was simply due to deteriorating skills of the champion.

 

Muhammad Ali def. Leon Spinks via UD on 15 Sep 1978 1978-1980

Ali had enough in him for one last hurrah. Exactly seven months after losing to Leon Spinks, Ali was able to win back two of the three titles in front of an audience of 2 million viewers worldwide. Ali won back WBA and lineal titles, and became the only man to be the lineal champion three times. Spinks was previously stripped of his WBC belt as he refused to fight the challenger Ken Norton and agreed to face Ali in a rematch instead.

The almost 37-year-old Ali did what he did best. He would jab, jab, punch and then clinch. Ali won between 10 and 12 of the 15 rounds depending on which referee you ask, and in the end it was a unanimous decision for The Greatest. Ali would have two more fights in his career – a defeat to Larry Holmes and a final defeat to one Trevor Berbick in Bahamas, aged 39 and overweight. Ali’s last knockdown was against Richard Dunn when he was 34.

 

Larry Holmes def. Muhammad Ali via UD on 2 Oct 1980 1980-1985

Larry Holmes had quite a long reign for someone who isn’t recognized as one of the best fighters of all time. He lasted for 5 years as the lineal champion after defeating the old Muhammad Ali in late 1980, as there was no real opposition in that era. As soon as it appeared, Holmes lost, and he never defeated another high-profile fighter in his career. He would defend his lineal title 12 times.

In June 1979 Ali announced his retirement, but in February 1980 appeared to have changed his mind as he said he’s 75% sure he would return to the ring. Holmes was Ali’s sparring partner for many years, they boxed hundreds of rounds, and he was to be Ali’s opponent in this fight, dubbed The Last Hurrah.

Before the fight, Ali was examined and was given a licence to fight in Nevada (Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas) despite his worsening medical condition. He showed a slight degree of missing his nose with his finger, he had difficulty coordinating the muscles used for speaking, and he wasn’t able to hop on one foot with expected agility. He admitted to slurring of his speech and tingling in his legs. This was a fight of an ill man against a professional boxer. To Ali’s testament, he was able to box for 10 rounds although he lost every single one of them, before his corner stopped the fight. This fight was an abomination and it never should have happened.

 

Michael Spinks def. Larry Holmes via UD on 21 Sep 1985 1985-1988

The younger brother of Leon Spinks, light heavyweight Michael Spinks stepped onto the scene with his unanimous decision defeat of Larry Holmes, which was his first fight out of light heavyweight division, where he was the WBA, WBC, IBF and lineal champion. In this fight against Holmes he won the IBF heavyweight title as well as the heavyweight lineal title, so he held titles in two weight divisions simultaneously.

Spinks would defend his titles in a rematch against Holmes seven months later, as well as against two anonymous fighters in his next two matches, but would then face a certain 21-year-old who already had WBA and WBC belts and wanted to become a unified champion.

 

Mike Tyson def. Michael Spinks via KO on 27 Jun 1988 1988-1990

From 1964 onwards, all people have ever known was Muhammad Ali. Frazier and Foreman joined the show to make it the most exciting boxing era of all time, but when Ali retired, there was a void that could not be filled by the likes of Holmes or Spinks. Young Mike Tyson had already won the WBA and WBC belts in 1986, aged 20, and had a 34-0 record with 30 KOs (one was notably against Larry Holmes) but it wasn’t until this fight that he would be recognized as a unified champion.

The fight lasted for 91 seconds. Only ten punches have landed (eight by Tyson, two by Spinks) as Tyson trapped Spinks right from the start and knocked him down after a minute. Spinks got up at the count of four, but he got caught by a left-right combination that sent him to the floor, and this time he was unable to rise. This is how the legend of Mike Tyson started, and Michael Spinks retired a month after this match. This was the only loss of his professional career.

One of tragic figures in boxing that suffered a fall from grace, Iron Mike would ruin everything with a worst underdog defeat of all time, and would later never be able to beat his only true nemesis of the era Evander Holyfield, nor Lennox Lewis at age 35. But for two years – and two title defenses against inferior boxers – he was the lineal champion. Deservedly so, as Tyson is one of the greatest boxers of all time. And this fight against Spinks was his highlight.

 

Buster Douglas def. Mike Tyson via KO on 11 Feb 1990 1990

Perhaps the legend of Mike Tyson wouldn’t be what it is, if it wasn’t for this defeat that had a generation-defining impact. The greatest knock out artist of all time loses his unified titles to a 42-to-1 underdog, soon ends up going to jail for three years, then mounts a comeback to fight his nemesis Holyfield twice, goes bankrupt. Only Ali can match the iconic status Tyson has.

This fight was supposed to be nothing more than a warmup for the fight against Evander Holyfield (who was present), but it would later turn the wait was 7 years. It was expected Iron Mike would floor the opponent in 90 seconds as he usually does, but Douglas started to dominate the match with his right jabs as Tyson found his usual strategy ineffective. The already hurt Tyson sent Douglas to the canvas in round 8, but the referee started the count two beats too late, Douglas rose at the count of nine, and then the bell saved him. Don King questioned the validity of the count, and it’s likely this should have been a knockout.

In round 9 Tyson went for the knockout but found his eye closed by Douglas’ constant jabs, and as Douglas went for KO himself, Tyson barely survived the round. In the tenth round, Tyson received a strong uppercut, after which Douglas sent four more punches to knock Iron Mike down for the first time in his career. He wasn’t able to get back up and was counted out. If he went the distance, chances are he would have won the match on points or at least get a draw.

Instead of Iron Mike, it was Buster Douglas who got the chance to meet Evander Holyfield in the next fight.

 

Evander Holyfield def. Buster Douglas via KO on 25 Oct 1990 1990-1992

It was clear Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield were the two best fighters of the era, though they just weren’t able to defeat some good boxers who lacked charisma and skill to be remembered.

It wasn’t until age 25 and a 18-0 record in cruiserweight that Holyfield decided to move up a division. After six matches he was given the chance to fight for the title as the #1 contender. It was unexpectedly Buster Douglas in possession of all those belts and titles, so Holyfield knocked him out in round 3 to take everything and become the new lineal champion.

This was a match between an overweight boxer who wasn’t hungry for success, and a lean and mean pro who was. Holyfield won both the first and the second round. In the third round Douglas missed an uppercut and sent himself off balance, which Holyfield quickly punished with a straight right that sent Douglas to the ground. He had to be helped to get up twice, and was later criticized for a disgraceful performance. Douglas retired after this match, and had a decent comeback six years later.

Evander Holyfield would go on and defend the title against 42-year-old George Foreman, who staged a comeback in 1987 after ten-year absence from the ring. Foreman worked his was up with a perfect 24-0 record since returning to the ring, and was the next #1 contender in line. Foreman’s popularity was at an all-time high so the match was greatly anticipated. It is remembered for round 7 in which both fighters exchanged a flurry of blows, and Holyfield eventually won by unanimous decision though it was Foreman who was the moral victor as he went the distance with a 28-year-old champion at age 42 himself.

Holyfield would defend the title two more times before the defeat to Riddick Bowe.

 

Riddick Bowe def. Evander Holyfield via UD on 13 Nov 1992 1992-1993

Riddick Bowe is one of those boxers that unquestionably have quality, but can’t really be considered true champions or legends of the sport. The man had only 1 defeat in his professional career, but if it wasn’t for this upset against Evander Holyfield he wouldn’t be mentioned among the greats.

After winning everything from Buster Douglas, Holyfield was in need of an opponent and Mike Tyson was already in jail for rape. The stage was set for one of the best heavyweight matches of all time, one that Riddick Bowe won via unanimous decision as he floored Holyfield in round 11. It was a miracle that Holyfield survived that round, and then went hunting for KO in round 12 as he knew he was behind, but Bowe managed to withstand the pressure and win the belts.

Bowe definitely deserved to win that fight, though we can’t help but think it was a fight between a big guy (81 in / 206 cm reach) against a natural cruiserweight. The best cruiserweight of all time, but still a cruiserweight who may have lacked punching power to knock down the biggest guys.

 

Evander Holyfield def. Riddick Bowe via MD on 6 Nov 1993 1993-1994

Holyfield was the man to beat again soon enough, as the took what was rightfully his and defeated Bowe in a rematch. Since the first meeting was so exciting that it immediately got recognized as one of the greatest fights of all time, and there were no other good boxers in sight with Iron Mike still locked up and Foreman 42 years old, Riddick Bowe was the choice once again.

The fight went the distance again, but this time around it was Holyfield who was the winner by majority decision. The fight didn’t have any knockdowns. Six months later, Holyfield would lose his WBA, IBF and lineal titles, never to regain them.

After the defeat to Moorer, Holyfield fought against Bowe again and lost by TKO, then had his two wins against Mike Tyson (that didn’t matter for the lineal title), and he did defeat Moorer three and a half years after losing to him. Holyfield already had his WBA belt back and won the IBF belt in that fight, but the lineage of the lineal champion was no longer with Moorer at the time.

If we’d consider Moorer an anomaly – and Holyfield did beat him to get back what’s his – the lineal title would remain with Holyfield a bit longer but would still end up in Lennox Lewis’ big hands. Lewis defeated Holyfied by unanimous decision on 13 Nov 1999, six months after their first bout was declared a draw. Holyfield had a long career, having retired just short of his 49th birthday, but didn’t manage to win the WBA title against John Ruiz and against Nikolai Valuev when he got the opportunity. He would eventually win a belt again, WBF, against Francois Both at age 47.

 

Michael Moorer def. Evander Holyfield via MD on 22 Apr 1994 1994

Evander Holyfield wanted a unification bout with WBC champion Lennox Lewis, but was told he had to fight the undefeated south paw Michael Moorer (34-0, 27 KO) first. Moorer was the only fighter who ended up on the floor that night at Caesars Palace, but one referee scored that round even 10-10 instead of 10-9, and that one wrongly awarded point gave Moorer the mixed decision win. If that referee scored the round 10-9 as he should have, it would have been a draw and Holyfield would have retained his belts and the lineal title.

This fight – and the wrong decision – sent the lineal champion lineage into abyss. It took the long way round to finally end up with Lennox Lewis. Had Holyfield retained his lineal title against Moorer as he should have, he’d lose the title to Lennox Lewis a year and a half later, on 13 Nov 1999. Moorer first famously lost to old George Foreman six months after this match, and Foreman was the lineal champion for three years before losing to one Shannon Briggs in the final match of his career aged almost 49. On 28 Mar 1998 Briggs lost to Lewis.

No pic for him.

 

George Foreman def. Michael Moorer via KO on 5 Nov 1994 1994-1997

Moorer’s reign would be no more than an accidental one, and he is mostly remembered as the man who got knocked out by almost 46-year-old Foreman in an incredibly satisfying story for all boxing fans. Foreman, in the 77th fight of his career (73-4, 65 KO!) finally got what he deserved.

As we already mentioned, Foreman lost to Holyfield on 19 Apr 1991 in The Battle of Ages, and therefore didn’t win the WBC, WBA, IBF and lineal titles. Holyfield was simply too skilled and too lean to be defeated by a 42-year-old, even if it was George Foreman.

And then, on 5 Nov 1994, Foreman got his chance. He was determined to lay his ghost from Rumble in the Jungle with Muhammad Ali (20 years ago), and even wore the same trunks he did that day. Moorer was the better fighter and delivered constant damage, closing Foreman’s eye but Big George managed to stay on his feet. Foreman was losing and it appeared to be another heartbreaking loss. His coach told him before round 10 that the only way to win is to knock Moorer out. Foreman went all or nothing, finally delivering a blow that broke Moorer’s mouth guard in half and cut his lip, and Moorer couldn’t get up before count of ten.

The incredible man remembered for his rivalry with Muhammad Ali was still there in 1994 and won the lineal title for the second time (21 years after the first one) through sheer determination. This KO gave him a legendary status, and it would be the last one of his rich career in which he put 66 people to sleep. He’d fight four more times, winning three matches and losing one, all through majority, split or unanimous decisions.

He gets a pic. Not because of winning the lineal title against an average boxer, but for the story, for the KO, for the miraculous comeback after being retired for a decade.

 

Shannon Briggs def. George Foreman via MD on 2 Nov 1997 1997-1998

Shannon Briggs would reign as the lineal champion for only one match, as he lost to Lennox Lewis immediately after winning the lineal title by defeating George Foreman in the last match of his career. For all practical purposes, Briggs just carried the torch from Foreman to Lewis. To add to that, Foreman probably should have won this fight as he landed 61 more punches (284-223) and was the aggressor throughout 12 rounds while Briggs sat back. Briggs was eventually worn down by Foreman’s powerful punching and even got his nose broken, but didn’t fall.

Foreman and his promoters appealed the decision, but it was upheld. Briggs should have never won that fight and should have never been on this list.

This was supposed to be just a mandatory fight for Foreman as he was supposed to go up against Lennox Lewis, but that never happened. Chris Byrd, Hasim Rahman and Buster Douglas were among the candidates but Foreman ultimately picked Briggs.

 

Lennox Lewis def. Shannon Briggs via TKO on 28 Mar 1998 1998-2001

After the Muhammad Ali era and the crazy 90s with Tyson, Holyfield, Foreman and the many upsets, the Lennox Lewis reign was about to begin. He was already the WBC champion entering this fight and had a 32-1 score (was knocked out by little known Oliver McCall in his 26th fight), and he wanted the lineal title from Briggs. Of course, that’s exactly what happened as Briggs only lasted for five rounds before a TKO was declared.

Lewis would have ten more fights in the next five years. His fights were rarely entertaining as the big man with a 84 inch reach (213 cm) would sit back and jab the opponents. The inside fighters couldn’t get close, and the outside fighters were all too short to match Lewis’ reach. This ensured long dominance of probably the most disliked champion when it comes to boxing style. Lewis can be admired through his list of achievements but not by actually watching those fights.

He defeated Željko Mavrović, Evander Holyfield, Francois Botha, Hasim Rahman (after losing to him first), Mike Tyson and Vitali Klitschko, most by TKO or KO. The two fights against Holyfield (draw by SD; UD) were legendary. Holyfield worked hard but was just too short to hurt Lewis, and the second match, won by Lewis, gave boxing its first unified champion in almost seven years. After three title defenses, Lewis would lose everything to Hasim Rahman in one of the greatest boxing upsets of all time, but would win everything back in the rematch.

 

Hasim Rahman def. Lennox Lewis via KO on 22 Apr 2001 2001

Hasim Rahman would temporarily be the lineal champion of the world, and the only man to not only knock out Lennox Lewis in his prime but hurt the big man. Lewis was winning the fight but 20-1 underdog Rahman was relentless, and finally ended up being given the opportunity for a knockout blow when Lewis dropped his gloves for a second.

He took it, the champion was on the floor, and Rahman was instant sensation. He was to be the next man to be the face of boxing, started signing contracts, but alas Lewis had a rematch clause in his contract and took it to court.

 

Lennox Lewis def. Hasim Rahman via KO on 17 Nov 2001 2001-2004

This time around, Lewis boxed a perfect fight by his standards. Concentrated and intelligent, he used his trademark left jab to keep Rahman at distance, and it didn’t take long for him to start searching for knockout opportunities. The KO came in round 4. A left-right combination sent Rahman crashing to the floor, unable to get up, and Lewis was the champion once again (WBC, IBF, IBO, lineal).

On 8 June 2002 the greatest spectacle of the era took place. The best inside fighter ever, the knockout artist Mike Tyson, was back after all his troubles and was the only man who could possibly stop the boring outside fighter Lennox Lewis who refuses to get hurt. In this particular match, by round two Lewis was already being warned for holding, as this was the strategy he used whenever Tyson got close and started pounding him with combinations. In round 4 Tyson got knocked down and started getting worn out, eventually getting knocked down twice in round 8. He was counted out and Lewis was the winner. After that fight, Lewis only had one more in his career, against Vitali Klitschko, and would retire a few months before his 39th birthday.

 

Wladimir Klitschko vacant; def. Ruslan Chagaev via RTD on 20 Jun 2009 2009-2015

With Lewis retired, the lineal title would be vacant for the first time in a long time. When Lewis retired in Summer of 2003, Klitschko brothers were already in full swing, though Vitali failed to beat Lewis and take the lineal title. Wladimir was at 40-2 (33 KO) and had just lost his WBO title to Corrie Sanders – it would take five years for Wladimir to get his WBO title back in a fight against Sultan Ibragimov.

The fight against Ruslan Chagaev (pictured) is considered to be the battle for the lineal title. Chagaev, The White Tyson, was an amazing inside fighter and he was deemed the only one could possibly pull an upset against Dr. Steelhammer. It didn’t quite work out, Chagaev either wasn’t able to get close enough or failed to make it count when he did, and the fight was stopped in the ninth round.

Wladimir Klitschko – continuing the boring tradition of Lennox Lewis – was invincible. At least, he couldn’t get hurt by the boxers of his era. Chagaev was likely his biggest test ever. Wladimir never held the WBC title so he was never a unified champion, as his brother Vitali held that one, along with a plethora of average boxers such as Oleg Maskaev, Samuel Peter or Bermane Stiverne. Deontay Wilder won it from Stiverne (by unanimous decision!) in 2015, which will play an important role later.

Klitschko’s reign was long, predictable, deprived of good opponents, and lacked the unification of belts. Before him, Lennox Lewis was even more boring, and we’d have to go back all the way to 1997 to find a real champion – the old George Foreman. In 2015, that was already 18 years of predictability as well as decline in interest in boxing. The sport was aching to get a new champion that actually has a good opponent to fight against.

 

Tyson Fury def. Wladimir Klitschko via UD on 28 Nov 2015 2015-2016

And then, things suddenly got interesting. “The heavyweight division has been dull for over a decade, I’m going to shake it up and bring back the sparkle.”, Fury said and he wasn’t lying. He was eager to fight Klitschko before he retires, and the two finally met on 28 Nov 2015. Klitschko was 39 at the time and was undefeated for 11 years, and Fury was 27. It was plain for all to see that Fury is indeed a special fighter, and dominated his opponent not because of age difference but because of incredible skills. The fight went the distance but the decision was clear. Fury became the new WBA, IBF, WBO, IBO and lineal champion while Wladimir Klitschko had only one more match in his career, losing to Anthony Joshua and proving that his time has come.

The stage was being set for a rematch but Fury entered a downward spiral regarding mental health and almost killed himself. The rematch was canceled and Fury was stripped of all his titles. At the time, Deontay Wilder was the WBC title holder while WBA and IBF were snatched by Anthony Joshua in Fury’s absence. There was no lineal champion, and there wouldn’t be one for four years. After all, Fury was still alive and at a boxing age, it’s just that he was semi-retired. This conundrum would be set straight.

 

Tyson Fury def. Deontay Wilder via TKO on 22 Feb 2020 2020-

Tyson Fury came back to boxing and this was about to be the most interesting boxing match in ages. A bout for WBC and lineal titles, two of the most prestigious of all – while Anthony Joshua holds the others. Undefeated knockout specialist Deontay Wilder (42 wins, 41 KOs!) was up against an undefeated boxer who came out of temporary retirement, and one of them would win almost everything.

Right from the start, it was clear Fury was the man. He attacked the lights-out knockout artist Wilder and forced him to retreat, giving him no chance to go forward. In a marvelous display of skill and courage, Fury completely dominated Wilder but couldn’t quite knock him out. The fight was eventually stopped as Wilder was taking too much punishment and it was only a matter of time before he falls down.

Fury therefore became the new/old lineal champion and the only big guy ever who was actually an aggressive fighter who went forward. That alone is enough to put him among the best of all time, but we’ll just have to wait if he can unify his titles in a fight against Joshua or we’ll be seeing a rematch against Wilder first.

The Gypsy King gets two pics.

For a full list of lineal heavyweight champions, dating back to 1885, check out http://www.cyberboxingzone.com/boxing/achamp.htm

Oh and if you were surprised to see a boxing article on a gambling site, let us just say this – weren’t most of these fights held in a casino?

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