You’ve probably seen your favorite heavyweight champs fight it out in the boxing ring, with cheering fans and bright lights rooting for their favorite athletes. It’s an exciting sport that continues to be one of the most well-watched programs on television.
Most of the reason for the popularity of boxing comes down to the people who have cemented themselves as legends in the sport. And in the same ways that Jackie Robinson and Michael Jordan are symbols of their sport, boxing is filled with a rich history that has been sculpted by its athletes.
Let’s take a quick journey down memory lane to look at boxing’s all-time greats from the past and present. By the end, you might want to be just like one of them!
Despite the flashing lights and technical arenas that you see today, boxing is one of the oldest sports known in our history. The earliest evidence of the sport dates back to ancient Egypt around 3000 BC, where it was introduced as an Olympic game for its 7th annual event. Back then, leather thongs were used to bind boxer’s hands for “protection,”... though we’re not quite sure how much cushion those really offered.
Later on, the Romans adapted the sport and swapped out those leather thongs for the next best thing -- gloves plated with metal. Referred to as a cestus, these things really packed a punch. So much so that many of these gladiator fights ended in severe injury or even death.
Luckily, this version of the sport dissolved at the same time as the Roman Empire, allowing it to resurface again in 17th century England. This was when different weight classes came to fruition: Bantam, Feather, Light, Middle, and Heavy.
These five weight classes have since grown to 17 different classes in men’s boxing divisions. However, the most recognizable class is most definitely heavyweight, which incorporates all weights and sizes.
This makes being a heavyweight champion particularly impressive, as it means you’ve been able to conquer individuals who may not match your exact body weight.
Because of the popularity of boxing, there are a ton of recognizable names in the sport’s hall of fame. There are specific reasons why each one is now known as a legend, and while there are so many to choose from, let’s take a look at some of the most influential.
Nicknamed the “Brown Bomber,” Louis was the heavyweight boxing champion for almost 12 years in a row from 1937 to 1949. When he beat James Braddock in 1937, he became the first black heavyweight champion in 22 years.
His accomplishments are especially renowned given the significance of this time period because, during the Great Depression, black athletes were generally disregarded and maltreated in the segregated sports world. His prowess was an inspiration to African Americans across the country, paving the way for even more heavyweight champions of color.
Notably, Louis fought 71 times from 1934 to 1951, and he won a whopping 68 of them! Better yet, 54 of those ended with knockouts. Professionals believe that his talent stemmed from the fact that he had a tight defense and perfectly exhibited the boxing basics. He had a flawless stance, keeping his hands up and his chin down, making him extremely difficult to hit.
You really can’t talk about boxing greats without mentioning perhaps the greatest. Ali has one of the most impressive records in heavyweight history, boasting an impressive 56 wins.
Born as Cassius Clay Jr, Ali chose the name Muhammad after converting to Islam. He became a household name after securing a spot on the US Olympic boxing team in 1960, where he won the gold medal. He was seen as a hero in the eyes of Americans, and his strength was truly unmatched.
But one of the reasons for Ali’s legendary status comes from his actions outside of the ring. His outspoken views on the Vietnam War actually landed him in the middle of a Supreme Court case in the late ‘60s. The ruling nearly ended his career, but the decision was overturned in 1971, allowing him to fight again.
It’s representative of Ali’s grit and determination that has inspired many other amateur boxers to aspire to his greatness.
Named the “Easton Assassin” after his Pennsylvania hometown, Holmes was known for his solid defense and his killer jabs. He defended his heavyweight championship twenty times before being bested. He is known for having beaten some of the most formidable foes during his career.
In the mid-1970s, Holmes was a sparring partner with Muhammad Ali, who often mentored the young boxer throughout his career. After Ali’s Supreme Court bout, he challenged Holmes in a match where he was beaten in 11 rounds. This was a tough battle emotionally for Holmes, who basically had to pummel his mentor.
Some of boxing’s newest competition would give the legends a run for their money. Here’s a look at a few of boxing’s most recent heavyweight champions.
The current 2020 World Boxing Association heavyweight champion is Anthony Joshua, a British fighter with an impressive record. He first won the heavyweight championship in 2016 and defended it until 2019, where he was defeated in a stunning loss to Andy Ruiz Jr.
Before that, Joshua won the Olympic gold at the London 2012 Olympics, helping to further cement his technical prowess. And at just over 30 years old, Joshua has proven that he is a force to be reckoned with inside of the ring.
The current World Boxing Council heavyweight champ is Tyson Fury, known as “The Gypsy.” As his name implies, Fury is nearly unstoppable inside the ring, boasting impressive hooks and jabs.
Although he and Joshua have never fought each other, it is a highly contested topic in the world of boxing. If these two ever do spar in the near future, the winner may emerge as the most respected boxer of their time.
Klitschko entered the 2010s as the heavyweight champion, having defeated the heavyweight champion ranked best in the world two times.
Until then, he had a reputation for being a fairly vulnerable fighter, often struggling defensively. However, from 2004 to 2015, Klitschko had been undefeated. Tyson Fury unseated him after over ten years at the top.
He had a unique fighting style where he seemed to keep his opponents far away enough to stay safe, but just close enough to nail them with a powerful jab.
Boxing legends of yesterday and today are all extremely different in their fighting styles and personalities outside of the ring. But if there’s one thing they all have in common, it’s that they all had to start somewhere.
Whether you want to become the next heavyweight champion or you just want to have some fun learning a new hobby, boxing is perfect for any skill level. Learning boxing is safe, exciting, and super valuable, letting you stay fit in a truly unique way.
One of the toughest obstacles in the way of your success, as well as the legends, is the person that looks back at you in the mirror. To be free of judgement and learn this amazing sport in a safe environment, Legends Boxing might be a great place for you to start. You’ll learn the basics and work towards whatever goal you decide to set for yourself.
Not to mention, you can try it the first time for free! So if you’re still a little unsure if this type of physical activity is right for you, no worries! Give it a go, no strings attached. And then when you realize you love it, you’ll be one step ahead.
Plus, boxing classes that are geared towards fitness will be able to teach you boxing basics in addition to healthy habits at any given time of day. So even if you’re not quite ready to invest in that punching bag, these unique workouts can help put you on the right track towards a healthy lifestyle.
Boxing was built on the foundation of those who revolutionized the sport. Joe Louis is perhaps the forefront of boxing’s popularity, having been joined by greats like Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes.
But now, as the boxing landscape shifts, the personalities remain just as influential. Champions like Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, and Wladimir Klitschko have positioned themselves to rival the legends who preceded them.
Hearing all this, it’s almost impossible not to want to follow in their footsteps! Luckily, you can take boxing classes in a judgement-free zone at your own pace. The only thing stopping you is yourself!