Sports

10 American boxers who have held the WBC heavyweight title

Boxing is one of the biggest sports on the planet. The noble art has existed in one form or another for hundreds of years. Ancient texts describe two men engaging in a stand-up fight using only their bare-knuckle fists with the hope of winning prize money or goods.

Boxing became an Olympic sport in 688BC, but the official Marquess of Queensberry rules were published in 1867. World title fights are fought worldwide, with spectators often placing wagers on the outcome at the leading Las Vegas sports betting sites.

Boxing boasts an exciting history

Heavyweight boxing has an exciting history and boasts several memorable American-born world champions. Some are more famous than others, but all played their part in the sports continued success, aspiring the next generation to take up boxing and aim high.

This article looks back on 10 American boxers who have held the WBC world heavyweight title belt during their careers. How many can you remember, have heard stories about or seen old footage of online?

Sonny Liston

The World Boxing Council (WBC) launched in 1963, and its first champion was American Sonny Liston. The fighter from Saint Louis claimed the strap with a devastating first-round knockout of Floyd Paterson in Las Vegas. He was unable to defend the belt, losing it in his next fight.

Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali famously ‘shook up the world’ when beating Sonny Liston in the sixth round to win the WBC title. Liston retired on his stool, claiming an injured shoulder after taking a horrible beating from the fighter known, at the time, as Cassius Clay. Ali made light work of Liston in the rematch, stopping him in the first round. 

Ali had a long and sometimes controversial love affair with the WBC title making numerous defences. His title was stripped from him in 1969 for his conscientious objection to military service.

Joe Frazier

Another huge name in boxing history, Joe Frazier, was the third man to win the WBC belt. He became heavyweight champion of the world in February 1970 in New York City. 

Frazier made four successful defences of his title after stopping Jimmy Ellis inside four rounds at Madison Square Garden. He beat Muhammad Ali on points at the same venue in 1971.

Leon Spinks

Leon Spinks joined the sport’s most exclusive list in 1978 in Vegas. He failed to make any defences of his newly won honour and was stripped by the governing body just a month after winning it. Spinks lost after pushing for a rematch with Muhammad Ali instead of taking on mandatory challenger Ken Norton.

Ken Norton

The title changed hands again when the WBC promoted Ken Norton as the number one challenger to champion after the stripping of Spinks. He was named world champion in 1978 but failed to defend.

Larry Holmes

Larry Holmes won the title in 1978 and was one of the belt’s longest-running champions. He made 16 defences before vacating in December 1983. Holmes sent the WBC belt back following a well-documented row with promoter Don King over his purse to fight Greg Page.

Tim Witherspoon

In March 1984, in Las Vegas, Tim Witherspoon beat Greg Page to win the vacant WBC belt and became the ninth American in-a-row to own the belt. Witherspoon’s reign was a short one, and he failed to make any defences.

Pinklon Thomas

On the final day of August 1984 in Las Vegas, the WBC belt moved into the ownership of Pinklon Thomas. He made only one successful defence of the world championship and was the last American WBC champion until Mike Tyson more than two years later.

Mike Tyson

Iron Mike Tyson ranks alongside Muhammad Ali in terms of memorable WBC champions. He exploded onto the scene when beating Canadian Trevor Berbick in Las Vegas in November 1986, wrestling the title back into American ownership. Tyson held the title until losing to Buster Douglas in 1990 in Japan.

James Douglas

Buster Douglas won the title when knocking out Mike Tyson against all the odds. He failed to make a successful defence, losing to Evander Holyfield, but will always be the fighter who beat the baddest man on the planet.