01 | Rinsing Off the Mouthpiece
By GorDoom

02 | Poem of the Month
By Tom Smario

03 | Pollack's Picks
By Adam Pollack

04 | Top Women Worth Watching
and Televising

By Adam Pollack

05 | Tournament of Champions: Boxing's Lineal Mathematics
By Cliff Rold

06 | Roberto Duran, Unplugged
By Juan C. Ayllon

07 | Appreciating Chuck
By Thomas Gerbasi

08 | Thistle in the Rose
By James Glen

09 | Anton "The Sheik" Greek
By Jerry Fitch

10 | Interview with Don Fraser
By Juan C. Ayllon

11 | Boxing's Good Book [PDF]
By Don Cogswell

12 | "John L. Sullivan: The Career of the First Gloved Heavyweight Champion" [PDF]
By Adam Pollack

13 | Three Book Reviews
By Katherine Dunn

14 | What's in a Name?
By Ted Sares

15 | Audio From the Archives [mp3]
The CBZ presents another classic boxing-themed radio show. This month we bring you an episode of Duffy's Tavern ("Where the elite meet to eat"), from April 13, 1951, starring Maxie Rosenbloom.

Tournament of Champions: Boxing's Lineal Mathematics


Over the course of this series, I will examine the battles between the sport's elite, the who-fought-who and how many times. By limiting the scope to only those men who have held true lineal world championships in the now 17 weight divisions that dot the landscape, I don't expect to find an answer. I do think light can be shed in a way that has not been done before.

I stay awake at nights pondering it sometimes and can't figure it out. For years, it was easy: Muhammad Ali. But the more tape I saw, the more I grew to appreciate Joe Louis. I'll probably never unlock the mystery. One thing that can be unlocked is a look at how the great heavyweights, or in this case, the heavyweight champions, did against one another. Every champion in the division fought at least one other who had held or would hold the moniker "baddest man on the planet"; most fought more. Seeing how that plays out won't tell us exactly who was the ultimate champion of them all, but it can be an entertaining tool.

In compiling this list, I limited the scoring only to those champions who held the clear lineal title. That means you won't find the names Terrel, Ellis, Tubbs, Bruno, Seldon or Damiani on this list (and you sure as hell won't find Vitali Klitschko, either). It also means that a couple of notable heavyweights from the split title era, Larry Holmes and Mike Tyson, get no points for a number of wins over alphabet titlists (enough points to keep both out of the Top 10). The list also looks only at champions since the birth of the Marquis of Queensberry (gloves and rounds) era and slightly favors fighters from Jack Johnson forward, because there were simply more champions and former champions possible to face over the years. It is also to impossible to adjust for bad decisions, so a guy like Joe Walcott doesn't get the shake he should on this list for the first Joe Louis fight. The scoring works simply:
  • One point for each fellow lineal champion faced at any time in one's career (not limited to title fights)
  • One point for a win
  • Minus one point for a loss
  • Half a point for a draw
  • Two points for a knockout win
  • Minus two points for a knockout loss
Click here for the chart that features the accomplishments and scores of every lineal champion in chronological order.

The top 10 names that emerge from this list, not surprisingly, are often among any list of the all-time greats (minus one). They are:

Sure to be the most controversial entrant on list, but this is why they fight in the ring and not on calculators. Baer edges out Larry Holmes by one. Faced four other titlists -- Carnera, Schmeling, Braddock, Louis -- once each (6 points).

He was perhaps the sport of boxing's biggest star ever. Dempsey faced three other lineal champions (Willard, Sharkey, and Tunney) a total of four times, and had KO wins over both Willard and Sharkey (7 points).

King of the ring and grilling machines. Foreman faced five titlist across two title reigns and eras (Frazier, Ali, Holyfield, Moorer, and Briggs) a total of six times. Won both of his heavyweight championships by KO (9 points).

Only British heavyweight champion in the 20th century, and he did it twice. Part of two select clubs: multiple-time champ and retired after defeating every foe ever faced at least once. Should have been able to face Moorer and Bowe, but politics prevented it. Faced four titlists (Briggs, Holyfield, Rahman, Tyson) a total of six times and would be tied for seventh if not for dubious draw in first Holyfield fight (9.5 points).

First black champion of the division and first winner of a "Fight of the Century" versus Jeffries. Tried to get Dempsey and got within a contract signing. Faced five fellow heavyweight champs (Fitzsimmons, Hart, Burns, Jeffries, Willard) once each with shocking loss to little regarded Hart before winning title from Burns (10 points).

Too often forgotten in modern discussions of the greats. Retired undefeated before ill-fated return against Johnson resulting in only career loss. Faced three fellow titlists five times (Corbett, Fitzsimmons, Johnson) with all four wins by KO (12 points).

Big points result for only man to retire undefeated as champ and stay retired. At 5-foot-10 and 185 lbs., I'd still pick him against Nicolay Valuev and Wladimir Klitschko. Faced three former titlists five times (Louis, Charles, Walcott) and KO'd each at least once (16 points).

Tied with Louis for most fellow lineal heavyweight champions faced over the course of a career at eight (Douglas, Foreman, Holmes, Bowe, Moorer, Tyson, Lewis, Rahman) a total of 13 times or a remarkable 21% of his total fights. Lennox Lewis only one of the eight Holyfield did not beat while winning title twice. Caused a stir last time a list like this saw him ranked No. 3, when The Ring ranked him there all-time after first Tyson win. Would be tied with Marciano if not for Lewis draw -- so bad it got mentioned twice (16.5 points).

Of course Louis and Ali would come down to one point. Faced eight fellow titlists (Carnera, Schmeling, Baer, Sharkey, Braddock, Walcott, Charles, Marciano) comprising every other man who held or would hold the championship from 1930 to 1956. Holds three greatest of all heavyweight records with longest reign (12 years), most title defenses in a year (seven) and most title defenses ever in any division (25). If first Walcott fight had been scored correctly, he would have an additional loss but would likely have then been the first man ever to regain the title, as he knocked out Walcott in the return (20 points).

Perhaps the most recognizable athlete in the history of the world. First and only man to win lineal, undisputed heavyweight title three times. Would never have had the chance to win his third title if not for horrendous decision in the third Ken Norton fight (Norton doesn't face, much less lose to, Leon Spinks). Faced every man who held or would hold Heavyweight title from 1960 to 1985, for a total of six fellow titlists (Patterson, Liston, Frazier, Foreman, Spinks, Holmes) 11 total times. Reigned during the most athletically talented era in history of heavyweight division (21 points).

So what does all this number crunching prove? Not a damn thing, of course. But outside of Baer, it's interesting that almost every name on this list regularly shows up on lists of the best ever to lace them up in the sports glamour division. It won't help me sleep the next time I ponder Louis versus Ali, but I guess some arguments are best left to be pondered forever.

(To be continued in the next issue of Wail!)

Cliff Rold is a staff writer at


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