Forget Tyson Fury, Lennox Lewis And Mike Tyson, These Are Boxing’S Worst Heavyweight Champions Who Earned Millions For A KO


Not every boxer can rule a division in the way Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Mike Tyson or Lennox Lewis did – but the following really did fail in the ‘champion’ part of being a heavyweight king.

1. Charles Martin

Charles ‘I walk the earth like a god’ Martin’s 85-day reign as heavyweight champion is the second shortest ever, but almost certainly the worst. Even his winning the vacant IBF title was highly fortunate as Vyacheslav Glazkov – the pre-fight favourite – twisted his knee in round three and could not continue.


2. Bruce Seldon

Plenty of forgettable heavyweights held alphabet titles in the 1980s but at least most of them tried when they got in the ring. Seldon had already lost to Oliver McCall, Riddick Bowe and Tony Tubbs when he found himself with the WBA belt after beating a faded Tony Tucker in 1995. A $5million payday for fighting a post-prison Tyson loomed and Seldon was not one to hold up the party, flopping to the canvas in the first round from some punches that seemed oddly off target. Maybe the wind from them was just really strong.

3. Gerrie Coetzee

Nicknamed ‘The Bionic Hand’, which sounds great and like he’s boxing’s own Winter Soldier until you realise it’s just because he had lots of surgery on his injured hand. Oh. South African Coetzee’s best year was 1983 when he took on two talented but troubled heavyweights, drawing with Pinklon Thomas then upsetting Michael Dokes to claim WBA gold (his third attempt at the belt). Lost in his first defence and was knocked out by Frank Bruno in 1986.

4. Leon Spinks

‘Neon Leon’ pulled off an almighty upset when the 7-0-1 novice outpointed an ageing Muhammad Ali in 1978, which makes him a real, lineal world champ. But Spinks struggled with drink and drugs throughout his career and, after losing the rematch to a 36-year-old Ali, Spinks suffered 16 more defeats then had a brief career as a pro wrestler. Forever in the shadow of Ali and his more dedicated brother, Michael, but at least Leon had one iconic win.


5. John Tate

‘Big John’ seemed to have potential as vast as his broad shoulders when the 1976 Olympic bronze medallist and undefeated pro captured the WBA belt in 1979. However he suffered two back-to-back knockouts in his next two fights – the first a brutal 15th-round KO at the fists of Mike Weaver that left Tate face first unconscious on the canvas. The American was never in world title contention again and sadly died in a car accident at the age of only 43 in 1998.


6. James ‘Buster’ Douglas

Like Leon Spinks, Douglas has one terrific signature win: in Buster’s case, the greatest upset in boxing history when he climbed off the canvas to end Mike Tyson’s reign in 1990. Douglas showed his skills in that fight, controlling a rusty ‘Iron Mike’ with a ramrod jab. But the rest of his career was a bust. He trained for his first defence against Evander Holyfield by drinking Long Island iced tea cocktails and was polished off inside three rounds. A true one-fight wonder.

Tyson lost his titles to Douglas in one of boxing’s biggest ever upsets in what was the beginning of a downward spiral for the seemingly invincible heavyweight

7. Frank Bruno

It truly hurts us to put Britain’s brave, beloved Big Frank here. But still. While many of his US rivals had all the skills but no discipline, Bruno was a bit more the other way around. He was in tremendous shape and a big puncher but lost against every good heavyweight he faced until he finally won the WBC belt in 1995, defeating the erratic Oliver McCall in a fight that is a good cure for insomnia. Gave his all in the ring, however, and well worth the hero worship. Forgive us, Frank.


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