10 Heavyweight Champions With The Most Title Defenses

Heavyweight Champions Who Had The Most Title Defenses

Collage of Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Larry Holmes, Tommy Burns and Joe Louis
From top left to bottom right: Joe Louis, Larry Holmes, Muhammad Ali | (Credit: Stanley Weston/Getty), Mike Tyson & Tommy Burns

Who Has The Most Successful Title Defenses In Heavyweight History?

Considering what a competitive sport boxing is, we are always shocked when a champion can hold onto their title for multiple years.

There are only two current world champions in the division: the United Kingdom’s Tyson Fury (WBC) and Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk (WBA, IBF, WBO). Fury recently defended his title against mandatory Dillian Whyte by impressive sixth round knockout April 23.

Usyk became a unified champion when he acquired the three titles from Anthony Joshua in September 2021. The two are rumored to have a rematch despite the ongoing issues in Usyk’s home country. You can find the best Sports Lines on that match and other boxing events here. 

Now, we are going to look at the 10 Heavyweight Champions who have defended their titles for the longest time in a single run. 

#10 – Ezzard Charles

8 Defenses (Champion for 9 months, 22 days)  

Although Charles was only a Heavyweight Champion for less than a year, he is one of the most decorated champions in the boxing world. He won several Amateur, Middleweight, and Welterweight Championships as well as the National Boxing Association before taking the leap to Heavyweight.

#7 – Lennox Lewis

9 Defenses (Champion for 4 years, 2 months, 15 days)  

Lewis is a British-Canadian fighter who won Olympic gold, Commonwealth gold, and European champion golds – as well as being the Heavyweight Champion of the world. 

After Lewis retired in 2003 post a win over another dominant champion in Vitali Klitshcko, he was challenged by many for one more fight. His answer was always the same: “if they really thought they could beat me then they should have challenged me before I retired.”

#7 – Mike Tyson

9 Defenses (Champion for 2 years, 3 months, 11 days)

When Tyson entered the ring, there were high hopes for his career. He was an instant favorite in the bookie’s eyes, and we could all see why. He became the undisputed Heavyweight Champion due to his explosive yet technical punching technique, and his classic combo move of crouching into a right hook, followed by an uppercut to the chin. This contributed to many opponents exhibiting fear of having to enter the ring with the champ and it showed in many of their performances.

#7 – Joe Frazier

9 Defenses (Champion for 4 years, 10 months, 18 days) 

Frazier won gold in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics then became Heavyweight Champion four years later. He would defend his status nine times; one of which etched him in boxing history as the first man to beat Muhammad Ali as a pro. However, we want to make sure he is remembered for much more than that. He truly had an incredible career that should be talked about more.

If you make a list of the big names in Heavyweight boxing in the 1960s you will struggle to name anyone that Frazier didn’t beat.

He eventually lost his status to another Hall of Fame inductee, George Foreman in 1973.

#5 – Muhammad Ali

10 Defenses (Champion for 5 years, 11 months, 9 days) 

It’s safe to say that Muhammed Ali is one of the most famous boxers of all time in any weight class! Ali was named Sportsman of the Century by both Sports Illustrated and the BBC Sports Personality Awards.

He won a gold medal in the Olympics at the age of 18 then became Heavyweight Champion at 22 when he stunned one of the most feared fighters in boxing history, Sonny Liston in 1964. Ali was an objector of the Vietnam war and refused to fight. He was found guilty of draft evasion, stripped of his titles, and banned from fighting.

The decision was eventually overturned but Ali had missed his prime fighting years during his 4-year ban. 

Ali was part of the three biggest boxing matches of the 20th century – The “Rumble in the Jungle” (against George Foreman), the “Fight of the Century”, and the “Thrilla in Manila” (the latter two were against Joe Frazier).

Ali was heavily involved in the American Civil Rights movement and was mentored by Malcolm X. 

#5 – Deontay Wilder

10 Defenses (Champion for 5 years, 1 month 5 days) 

Wilder is known for making his opponents concuss from his power. This has arguably given him the title of the hardest punching heavyweight of all-time and made him one of the most exciting American talents of the last 20 years. He held the WBC Heavyweight title from 2015 to 2020 before losing to current champion Tyson Fury in a rematch.

#4 – Tommy Burns

13 Defenses (Champion for 2 years, 10 months 3 days)

Burn’s first stance as a Heavyweight Champion was a grueling one. He had to endure a 20-round fight with Marvin Hart. It came down to a tough decision where Burns came out as the victor and is known as one of the more popular events in boxing history.

#3 – Wladimir Klitschko 

18 Defenses (Champion for 9 years, 7 months, and 6 days) 

Between 2005 and 2015, the world of Heavyweight Boxing was dominated by the Klitschko brothers. Wladimir was Heavyweight Champion twice and he holds the record for the longest total time as a champion.

Wladimir was one of the most popular fighters in his era and his fights would regularly sell between 300,000-500,000 Pay Per View tickets. 

He started his career fighting in the Super-Heavyweight division as an amateur. He won an Olympic gold medal for Ukraine in the 1996 games in that division.

#2 – Larry Holmes 

19 Defenses (Champion for 7 years, 3 months, 12 days) 

Holmes was renowned for his jab as the boxing consensus views it as one of the best in the history of the sport! That jab netted him 19 title defenses and helped him become one fight removed from reaching Hall of Fame Inductee Rocky Marciano’s heavyweight record of 48 consecutive wins without a loss.

Holmes started fighting in 1972 and retired in 2002 at the age of 52. He only lost 6 fights in his career, all of which were in fights where he was attempting to win the world championship again.

#1 – Joe Louis

26 Defenses (Champion for 11 years, 8 months, 8 days) 

This defense record of 26 matches is the highest of any weight division! Louis competed from 1934 to 1951. He is still considered one of the most successful boxers of all-time and is seen by many along with Muhammad Ali as the best heavyweight in the sport’s history.

As well as being an incredible boxer, Louis did a lot to start color integration across American sports, particularly in the sport of golf. He played under a sponsor’s exemption in a PGA event in 1952, becoming the first black American to play golf at a professional event in America.

He also played a key role in American World War 2 propaganda.

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