Worst Heavyweight Champions of All Time

By: Oliver McManus

In my last article, “The Current British Heavyweight Scene”, I lamented those outside the Top 10 globally as “questionable” and proceeded to take pot-shots at the likes of Tony Bellew, Dereck Chisora and David Price. But then I got thinking about past heavyweight Champions and because it’s far easier to moan than it is to laud and applaud, I decided to compile my worst heavyweight champions of ALL time.

Charles Martin

“I walk this earth like a God”, you’d be forgiven for thinking he said “I walk this earth like a cod” given the manner in which he flopped to the floor against Anthony Joshua, a contest in which he promised to “step over” the, now unified champion then, challenger to his IBF title.

What we witnessed from the southpaw Saint Louis fighter was anything but Godly, in fact, a performance which makes even the most mortal of men look heavenly – £6million for getting flattened within two rounds by AJ is a fee large enough to sooth even Martin’s ego.

His ring walk alone saw him ridiculed beyond recovery with THAT purple gown and crown making him look less like royalty and more like King Stupid! If you’re not a British child from the 00’s, you probably won’t understand that reference, but King Stupid was a children’s TV show featuring a, predictably, stupid king.

Nonetheless it was the manner in which he lost to Anthony Joshua that marks him out as someone truly undeserving of the heavyweight champion moniker – a tame, reaching straight right hand which would have been withstood by any half-decent boxer sent Martin to the canvas but such was his arrogance, he refused to learn the lesson and was dropped yet again by a similar punch merely seconds later; a lack of motivation, aspiration and ambition for the “prince” willing to settle for pauper-like performances.

A champion through circumstance as opposed to credibility, Charles Martin only got his initial world title shot against, Ukrainian, Vyacheslav Glazkov as a result of Tyson Fury agreeing to a rematch with Wladimir Klitschko and, therefore, being unable to fulfil his mandatory obligations.

Glazkov was next in line with Martin being deemed the suitable challenger – The Czar fom Luhansk was an unparalleled favourite going into the fight – but was struck down in the third round when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament, causing him to retire as a result.

With that the belt was Martin’s and he was free to live the life of a champion, calling out anyone and everyone that would earn him millions – he milked it for a full 85 days before his reign came to an end, marking him out as the second briefest heavyweight kingpin in history.

Since then he’s been shot in the forearm during an early-hours altercation in Los Angeles and has been seen across social media declaring that kids should “not do drugs” whilst professing to smoke weed himself.

His return to the ring came 54 weeks since his humbling loss, taking place at Fitzgeralds Casino and Hotel, Tunica, as he faced veteran journeyman, The Bear, Byron Polley (at the time 30-20-1). A second round knockout saw him, unfathomably, slotted at Number 12 within the IBF rankings – he’s subsequently risen to ninth place, SEVENTH with the WBC.

The only other fight since that comeback was against Michael Marrone (21-7), in July of last year, who was fighting having lost eight of his last 11 fights, over the span of nine years. For a former champion looking to make a statement, he wasn’t picking particularly tricky opposition.

A first round knockout in the back pocket would suffice and be enough to see him restate his plans “like (they) were originally, undisputed champ.” Hmmm, deluded as ever.

Siarhei Liakhovich

The White Wolf from Belarus, Liakhovich held the WBO belt for the duration of a mere one fight back in 2006 before losing it to Shannon Briggs in his first attempted defence – someone else who I was leaning towards placing on this list.

Born in Vitebsk, Liakhovich certainly had the amateur credentials to warrant him being seen as a valid threat to those at the top of the professional ranks – having competed at the 1996 Olympics, losing out to eventual silver medallist Paea Wolfgramm, and taken home a bronze medal at the ’97 World Amateur Championships, the orthodox fighter turned pro the following year with a record of 145-15 in the amateurs.

Having moved to 15 and 0 within three years there could be no room for criticism as to the way the Belarusian had adapted to life in America and his first step us came on the 17th November 2001, on the undercard of Hasim Rahman vs Lennox Lewis II, against, fellow undefeated fighter, Friday Ahunanya in a fight where someone’s 0 had to go!

A relatively one sided fight saw Liakhovich win by unanimous decision (116-112, 118-110, 116-112) before, yet again, a spell in the relative nomadic strays of heavyweight near-contenders saw him there-and-thereabouts for five further years until his big shot came against Lamon Brewster for the WBO title in that classic big-fight location of Cleveland, Ohio.

Despite working his way to the world title shot the hard way, the awkward-looking White Wolf had already displayed frailties to contrast with his explosive knockout power; the main issue was his defensive capabilities which, to be honest, were lacking in the extremity and perhaps only unexploited due to the level of opposition faced – often keeping is hands low, Liakhovich’s chin was susceptible and this was found out in his fight against Maurice Harris some years before the bout with Brewster.

With all odds against him, the 29 year old came out punching in an enthralling fight that saw Brewster lose his vision from the left eye within the first round – perhaps unsurprising that Liakhovich would triumph but, nonetheless, an entertaining fight.

I’ll say very little on his bout with Shannon Briggs except to note that he was beaten with relative ease by an opponent who was five years his elder – the first 11 rounds were boring and defensive from Liakhovich before Briggs bounced to life, dropping him twice, sending him out of the ring once, causing the referee to wave off the bout.

It is, however, his career post-Briggs that has really rammed home his inadequacy at the highest level – defeats against Robert Helenius and Bryant Jennings, both in the ninth round, saw him drop drastically from his stock back at the beginning of his career into someone that was just an easy yet recognizable name to add to a record.

His performance against Deontay Wilder on the 9th August 2013 was the most alarming display of a past-it boxer I’ve seen in a long time, Wilder was still an unknown animal at the time but sent Liakhovich down to the floor, stiff as a board, convulsing on the canvas from a thunderous attack – a truly harrowing image.

And whilst he’s attempting to make a comeback – the now 41 year old beat Ramon Olivas in Mexico in November of last year, his first fight in three years – it is perhaps more evident than ever before that Liakhovich was never really at a world level and was guilty of letting his amateur pedigree get ahead of his actual ability.

The white wolf ain’t howlin’ no more.

Bermane Stiverne
Bermane Stiverne, Bermane Stiverne, oh it’s hard to know where to start when discussing the protracted saga that is the WBC Heavyweight title situation but nonetheless Stiverne found himself top of the cherry tree when the political merry-go-round matched him against Chris Arreola for the vacant title in 2014.

The title itself only became vacant as a result of Vitali Kilitschko’s retirement – ending the Ukranian’s five year domination of the division – and was to be fought on the 10th May at the Galen Center, Los Angeles.

Straight from the outset the result always seemed like a foregone conclusion – Stiverne went into the bout at 24-1-1 with victories over Ray Austin and Kertson Manswell being his stand out names whereas Arreola (the nipple) held a 34-2 record and a past failed drugs test.

Oh and there’s one other thing to mention, Stiverne and Arreola met just over a year before this world title fight for the WBC Silver title, a fight in which the Haitian cruised past Arreola by scorecards of 117-110, 117-110 and 118-109; who could possibly be the favourite?

When it came to the big night, the time for action as opposed to talk mere verbals, B. Ware managed to get the job done even more convincingly than the last time with a 6th round knockout to end the hopes of his American counterpart.

But thereon began the farce that has seen him placed on this list for it would appear to me that the only credentials Stiverne has for being seen as “elite” is that he, so far, has been the only boxer to take Deontay Wilder a full 12 rounds – as he did in January 2015.

That fight was nifty for Stiverne in that he had a ready-made excuse for when he, inevitably, succumbed to the Bronze Bomber and it’s not that his excuse was fake, it was very legitimate, but it was also convenient in that it somehow made everyone forget just how dire he was in that fight.

Diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis – a condition that causes rapid muscle breakdown – it was obvious that the 240lb fighter wasn’t at full fitness but by no means could it fully explain how slow, lacklustre and, to be honest, mopey he seemed across the 12 rounds of boxing. He didn’t push Wilder and Wilder didn’t push back.

But since that night he’s been selling it as though he would have one, he should have one and managed to blag himself a fight against Alexander Povetkin who, to be fair, is a brave opponent to face after just one comeback bout but Povetkin always looked like doing a job on Stiverne and I imagine the money was what got him on that plane to Russia.

As luck would have it Povetkin failed a drugs test – as by the way did Stiverne but no-one mentions that – which meant he was robbed again, allegedly. All this bad luck and constant talking made sure he maintained his position as mandatory challenger for the WBC title until Deontay Wilder agreed to take him on again in November of last year.

If you thought we hadn’t seen enough of B.Ware then November 4th was YOUR day, a pummelling first round knockout at the hands of his former foe saw Stiverne wave goodbye to his title shot with just one second left of the opening stanza; if Stiverne had any credibility left to purport his arguments as to why he should have beaten Wilder or, indeed, any other world level contender than that door was slammed firmly shut that night.

Hopefully, for all of us, the lock remains jammed.

Primo Carnera

At the beginning of this article I did say these would be the worst champions of all time so for this last one we’re going to have to stretch our minds back all the way back to 1933 – the days where 15 round bouts were still existent.

Primo Carnera may, on the face of it, look like a not too shabby boxer with a record of 88-14 but that flatters to deceive – The Ambling Alp appears to exist as a mere bizarre footnote for those immersed into the boxing culture rather than a former World Heavyweight Champion.

Unlike the other guys featured here Carnera actually had the cheek to defend his title successfully not just once but twice before losing via an 11th round knockout against Max Baer, a fight in which Carnera hit the canvas on 10 occasions.

Now that probably gives you a glimpse of how favourably he had been matched throughout career but also highlighted that whilst the Italian was an aggressive gung-ho fighter he really lacked any stand out quality apart from his size – often coming to the ring in excess of 270lbs.

It may even be that he only ever won the world title (NBA & NYSAC, as the governing bodies were called back then) due to a sheer freak incident; Carnera faced off with Jack Sharkey (36-9-2) in Queens, USA, on the 29th June 1933 for the two titles but it was Carnera’s last opponent, Ernie Schaaf, that Sharkey claimed had beaten him.

Schaaf died shortly after fighting Carnera and Sharkey claimed “I had no trouble with him in the second, but all of a sudden – and I can’t convince anybody of this – I see Schaaf in front of me. I saw Schaaf. A vision. The next thing I know, I’d lost the championship of the world”. Whether that’s true or not, we’ll never know, but it ensured the Italian would always go down in the history books as, quite possibly, the most bizarre world champion of all time.

Add atop all of that the constant allegations of “mob control” and connections with the mafia which saw him banned in California for, again ALLEGEDLY, fixing his bouts and you really start to garner why it’s hard to take him particularly seriously.

Having had his boxing career abruptly stopped owing to the Second World War, Carnera returned to the ring with five fights afterwards – three of which were losses to the same opponent – he turned his hand to wrestling and acting, two paths which suited him just as much as boxing did.

Nonetheless his ever-present role as a quirk of boxing has kept him present in the mind of many a fan which is more than most achieve so, for that, I doff my cap.

Honourable mentions

This’ll be brief, I’ll try to keep it to a sentence for each boxer;

Francesco Damiani – the first WBO world champion, won the title against Johnny du Plooy via a third round knockout in 1989, a champion through opportunity who only defended it once and looked hopelessly out of his depth against Ray Mercer.

Ruslan Chagaev – two time world champion fortunate enough to face Matt Skelton, Carl Drumond and Fres Oqueno in title fights, possessed good footwork but who’s chin was found wanting against Lucas Browne despite leading on the scorecards.

Corrie Sanders – let’s take nothing away from the South African who gained notoriety for his fluke win over Wladimir Kilitschko but, let’s be honest, that’s all it was – a fluke.

There we are then, hopefully you found that an entertaining read, I’ll try to be a bit more positive next time you read something of mine but, for now, let’s just appreciate the 3 heavyweight champions of the world – Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Joseph Parker, thank you for never being boring!

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