Decade Rankings: 1970-1979

Click here for 1890-1899
Click here for 1900-1909
Click here for 1910-1919
Click here for 1920-1929
Click here for 1930-1939
Click here for 1940-1949
Click here for 1950-1959
Click here for 1960-1969
Click here for 1980-1989
Click here for 1990-1999
Click here for 2000-2009

(1)  Muhammad Ali  6’3”, 215- The steady decline of Ali occurred throughout the 1970s. At the start of the decade he was one of the great fighters of all time and at the end he was no more then a shell of his old self. It is pointless to look at who he fought because he fought them all and then some. (27-3) *1121
Assessment: Ali was physically one of the greatest fighting machines ever to enter the heavyweight arena. Lighting speed in his hands and feet and the ability to adapt to almost any style in the ring. Took a punch better than any heavyweight title holder. In his prime I think it is safe to say there were only a handful of fighters who would stand a chance at beating “The Greatest”.

(2) George Foreman  6’3”, 225- One of the most feared fighters of all time, he destroyed George Chuvalo, Joe Frazier and Ken Norton. His 1975 fight against Ron Lyle was a classic. His two losses were to Ali and Jimmy Young.(32-2) *791
Assessment: Foreman is a fighter who was misunderstood during his first reign as the heavyweight champion. His ability to overpower his opponents put him in a class of elite heavyweights in ring history. He had an outstanding jab, power punches that would paralyze his opponents and he could take a powerful wallop himself. He also was a fine boxer who could more than hold his own against fighters who were allusive.

(3) Joe Frazier  5’11”, 205- Smokin Joe Frazier, what a legendary fighter who will always be viewed with greatness. Will their ever be a more courageous fighter. Frazier only lost to two fighters during his entire career, Foreman and Ali. Both of the Ali losses could have went the other way. He owned wins over Ali, Jimmy Ellis twice, Joe Bugner and Jerry Quarry. Hard to argue with his place as number three.  (8-4-1) *786
Assessment: Smokin Joe Frazier was one of the most popular fighters of all-time because of his style and his ability to overcome his physical limitations. Frazier’s peak years were very short because of his style that included taking a great deal of punishment. He will be forever connected to Ali and their three historic matches.

(4) Larry Holmes 6’3”,212- Holmes 1978 contest against Kenny Norton was one of the great fights of all-time. Holmes proved himself in that fight alone. He was undefeated during the decade. His key victories were against Norton, Earnie Shavers, Alfredo Evanlegista and Mike Weaver. Weaver had Holmes hurt in their fight and Shavers had Holmes down in their second fight. This is definitely an indicator that Holmes could be hit. (32-0) *333
Assessment: Holmes came along right at the end of the decade and proved to be the best in the division. His great fight against Ken Norton was a classic. Holmes personality left something to be desired and limited his popularity even today but there can be no argument he was a great fighter.

(5) Kenny Norton  6’3”,215 –Norton came out of nowhere in 1973 to defeat Muhammad Ali. He spent the rest of his career proving it was no fluke. He lost both of his rematches with the Greatest but could have easily gotten the decision in either fight. He also could have gotten the decision against Holmes. All three of these fights were split decision losses. His other defeats were to Foreman in a 2-KO, Jose Luis Garcia in a 8-KO, and Earnie Shavers in a 1-KO. His victory list is impressive. Muhammad Ali, Jimmy Young, Jerry Quarry, Duane Bobick and Jose Luis Garcia all fell to Norton. His draw was in his 3rd to last fight of his career against Scott LeDoux.  (29-6-1) *637
Assessment: Norton battles against Ali, Holmes and Jimmy Young are his claims to greatness. Had Norton fought at any other time in boxing history he would have been a dominate heavyweight. There were so many great heavyweights during the decade that Norton sometimes gets overlooked.

(6) Jimmy Young 6’1”, 210- In 1974 there was nothing in Young’s history to indicate he had a chance against Earnie Shavers who had knocked him out the year before. Young turned his career around fighting a draw with Shavers and advanced all the way to the top position in the heavyweight division. George Foreman and Ron Lyle twice fell before his talented fist. Two very close losses to Muhammad Ali and Kenny Norton stopped him from winning the heavyweight title. After his 1978 loss to Ossie Ocasio he was pretty much a journey men. A smooth, cute defensive fighter who made all the top heavies of the mid 1970s look bad. (23-9-1) *365
Assessment: Young’s accomplishments are amazing when you look at his record. He lost a highly questionable decision to Ali in 1975, sent Foreman into retirement with his 1977 victory and lost a close decision to Norton 1977. That is incredible company for the fighter from Philadelphia.

(7) Jerry Quarry  6’1”, 205- One of the all-time great battlers in ring history. If there was ever a tougher fighter than Quarry we would love to see him. Jerry feared no fighter. The Irishmen was the first to defeat Mac Foster, Larry Middleton, Ron Lyle and knocked out Earnie Shavers in the 1st round. His losses during the decade were to Muhammad Ali twice, Kenny Norton and Joe Frazier.(18-4) *416
Assessment: One of the tragic figures in heavyweight history and still one of the most loved. He has almost a cult type following from the boxing fans of the 1970s. Nobody ever fought with more heart and determination than the Bellflower Bomber.

(8) Ron Lyle  6’3 ”, 220 –The powerful Lyle defeated Buster Mathis, Larry Middleton, Jose Luis Garcia, Oscar Bonavena, Jimmy Ellis, Earnie Shavers and Joe Bugner. His losses were to Jimmy Young twice, Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and late in his career Lynn Ball. His 1976 war with Foreman was one of the great heavyweight fights of all time. (37-6) *415
Assessment: Entered boxing late in life right out of prison. At the age of 30 he moved up quickly through the heavyweight ranks to be one of the top fighters of the decade.

(9) Earnie Shavers  6’0”, 206- One of the great power punches ever to enter the ring, Shavers defeated Jimmy Young, Jimmy Ellis, Henry Clark, Howard Smith and Kenny Norton. His losses were to Larry Holmes twice, Muhammad Ali, Jerry Quarry, Ron Lyle, and Bob Stallings. He fought a draw against Young in their second match. (47-6-1) *199

(10) John Tate  6’4”, 230-Big John Tate came out of the Olympics as a real up and comer. He beat an up and coming young fighter named Johnny  Boudreaux followed by a 1st round knockout over Duane Bobick. In the WBA heavyweight tourney to find a successor to Ali’s title he defeated Kallie Knoetze in an 8th knockout and then defeated Gerrie Coetzee over 15 rounds. That was pretty much the peak of his success. (20-0) *33

(11) Joe Bugner 6’4”, 230- Bugner was without question the best European heavyweight during the decade. His many victories were against the top heavyweights in Europe and sometimes questioned as top fighters but Bugner met other top contenders from the United States. Bugner was very active defeating Chuck Wepner, Brian London, Eduardo Corletti, Henry Cooper, Jurgin Blin, Rudi Lubbers, Mac Foster, Jimmy Ellis, Jose Luis Garcia, and Richard Dunn. His losses came at the hands of Ali, Joe Frazier, Larry Middleton, Jack Bodell and Ron Lyle. His loss to Lyle was a split decision. (31-6-1) *150

(12) Gerrie Coetzee 6’2”, 222- Coetzee defeated rival South African Kallie Knoetze twice and defeated Johnny Boudreaux and Randy Stephens. The fight that put in spotlight was his 1st round knockout of Leon Spinks in the WBA eliminator contest to find the successor to Ali’s title. In the finals against John Tate he lost a 15 round decision. (22-1) *82

(13) Leon Spinks  6’0”, 196- Spinks upset Muhammad Ali after only seven career fights and captured the heavyweight title. He lost to Ali in the rematch and then was destroyed in the 1st round by Gerrie Coetzee of South Africa. Outside of the Ali victory his career was not much.(7-2-1) *170

(14) Jimmy Ellis  6’1”, 196- Ellis met Joe Frazier for the heavyweight title in 1970 losing a 5 round knockout. He also lost a 12 round KO to Ali and a 1st round KO to Earnie Shavers. His only big victory during the decade was against George Chuvalo. Other losses included Joe Frazier, Joe Bugner, Ron Lyle and to Boone Kirkman. After the first Frazier fight in 1970 it was almost a freefall to the bottom of the division. (13-7-1) *212

(15) Oscar Bonavena 6’0”, 205- Bonavena was a mainstay in the rankings during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Most of his best fights were in the 60s but he was still a tough contender into 1970s. His most famous fight of course was his 15 round KO loss to Muhammad Ali in Madison Square Garden. It was Ali’s second fight after his return to the ring. Bonavena had wins over Luis Pires, Alvin Lewis and Larry Middleton. His losses were to Ali, Floyd Patterson, Luis Pires and to Ron Lyle. His untimely death in 1976 ended his career. (18-4)*362

(16) Kallie Knoetze  6’1”, 211-Kallie lost both fights against Coetzee but  did gain international fame with his knockout victory over Duane Bobick. His other victories were over little known Richard Dunn and Randy Stephens. (19-4) *111

(17) Duane Bobick-  6’3”, 215- Duane Bobick came into professional boxing out of the Olympics where he lost in the heavyweight finals against Tefilo Stephenson in one of the most watched Olympic matches in history. Bobick’s winning streak went to 40 in a row as a professional with wins over Larry Middleton, Mike Weaver, Scott LeDoux, Bunny Johnson and Chuck Wepner before his big 1st round knockout loss to Ken Norton. Later Kallie Knoetze Ko’ed Bobick in three rounds and his career really came to a holt with KO losses to John Tate in the 1st round and George Chaplin.  (48-4)*181

(18) Floyd Patterson  6’0”, 188- The heavyweight champion of the late 1950s and early 1960s was still going strong in the early part of the 1970s. His biggest victory during the decade was against Oscar Bonavena. His rematch with Ali ended his career and was his only loss during the period. (9-1)*132

(19) George Chuvalo  6’0”, 221- Said to have been able to take a punch better than any fighter who ever entered the ring according to legendary Ring boxing editor and founder, Nat Fleisher. Chuvalo ability to absorb punishment made him a top contender throughout the 1960s and 70s. His biggest win during the decade was against an over the hill Cleveland Williams. The rest of his wins were against a bunch of no names. His three losses were to Ali, Jimmy Ellis and George Foreman. (17-3)*88

(20) Mac Foster -  6’2”, 210 -Foster went all the way up the rankings until his big knockout loss to Jerry Quarry in 1970.  He never recovered from the defeated. He faced Ali and lost a 15-decision. Losses continued after that as Foster was never able to turn things around. He lost to Bob Stallings, Joe Bugner, Henry Clark and Stan Ward all by decision. He had no meaningful victories during the decade. (8-6)*193

{average weight 211 of the top heavyweights of the 1970s}

  • Fighters Ring Rankings Totals for the Decade:
  • (Record is from the decade of the 1980s)

Top Heavies During the 1970s
1970  Joe Frazier  Bonavena Quarry  Mac Foster Jimmy Ellis
1971  Joe Frazier   Muhammad Ali  Foreman Bonavena    Quarry
1972 Joe Frazier  Muhammad Ali Foreman Quarry Patterson
1973  Foreman    Joe Frazier Muhammad Ali Ken Norton Jimmy Ellis
1974  Foreman Muhammad Ali Joe Frazier Ken Norton Quarry
1975  Muhammad Ali Foreman Joe Frazier Ken Norton Joe Bugner
1976  Muhammad Ali Ken Norton Foreman Jimmy Young Bobick
1977  Muhammad Ali Jimmy Young Ken Norton Foreman Holmes
1978  Muhammad Ali   Ken Norton Holmes Leon Spinks Jimmy Young
1979  Holmes Muhammad Ali Leon Spinks  Ken Norton Coetzee


History of the Heavyweight Division 1970-79

1970-Champion, Joe Frazier                   
#1 Muhammad Ali 
#2 George Foreman                          

def. Jimmy Ellis 5-KO
def. Bob Foster 2-KO 
def. Jerry Quarry 3-KO
def. Oscar Bonavena 15-KO
def. George Chuvalo 3-KO
def. Boone Kirkman 2-KO

1971-Champion, Joe Frazier                   
#1 Muhammad Ali                             
#2 Jerry Quarry                                    

def. Muhammad Ali 15-D
loss Joe Frazier 15-D
def. Buster Mathis 12-D
def. Tony Doyle 10-D

1972-Champion, Joe Frazier                   
#1 Muhammad Ali                             


#2 George Foreman                          


def. Mac Foster 15-D
def. George Chuvalo 12-D
def. Jerry Quarry 7-KO
def. Alvin Lewis 11-KO
def. Floyd Patterson 7-KO
def. Bob Foster 8-KO

1973-Champion, George Foreman        
#1 Muhammad Ali                             

#2 Joe Frazier                                    

def. Joe Frazier 2-KO

def. Joe Bugner 12-D
loss Ken Norton 12-D
def. Ken Norton 12-D 
loss George Foreman 2-KO
def. Joe Bugner 12-D

1974-Champion, Muhammad Ali                           
#1 George Foreman                          

#2 Joe Frazier                                     

def. Joe Frazier 12-D
def. George Foreman 8-KO
def. Ken Norton 2-KO
loss Muhammad Ali 8-KO
loss Muhammad Ali 12-D
def. Jerry Quarry 5-KO

1975-Champion, Muhammad Al

#1 Ken Norton 
#2 Jimmy Young

def. Ron Lyle 11-KO
def. Joe Bugner 15-D
def. Joe Frazier 14-KO
def. Jerry Quarry 5-KO
def. Jose Luis Garcia 5-KO
def. Ron Lyle 10-D

1976-Champion, Muhammad Ali 
#1 George Foreman                          
#2 Ken Norton                                    

def. Jimmy Young 15-D
def. Ken Norton 15-D
def. Ron Lyle 5-KO
def. Joe Frazier 5-KO
def. Larry Middleton 10-KO
loss Muhammad Ali 15-D

1977-Champion, Muhammad Ali                           
#1 Ken Norton                                    
#2 Jimmy Young                                 

def. Alfredo Evangelista 15-D
def. Earnie Shavers 15-D
def. Duane Bobick 1-KO
def. Jimmy Young 15-D Split
def. George Foreman 12-D
loss Ken Norton 15-D Split

1978-Champion, Muhammad Ali                           
#1 Larry Holmes                                 
#2 Ken Norton                                    

loss Leon Spinks 15-D Split
def. Leon Spinks 15-D
def. Earnie Shavers 12-D
def. Ken Norton 15-D Split
def. Alfredo Evangelista 7-KO
loss Larry Holmes 15-D Split

1979-Champion, Vacant
#1 Larry Holmes                                
#2 John Tate                                       

#3 Gerrie Coetzee                             

def. Michael Weaver 12-KO
def. Earnie Shavers 11-KO
def. Duane Bobick 1-KO
def. Kallie Knoetze 8-KO
def. Gerrie Coetzee 15-D
def. Leon Spinks 1-KO
loss John Tate 15-D





Liston Ali

jeffries book

Jim Carney Looks
at Boxing Greats

Fred Fulton

Joe Frazier

Ernie Terrell

Senya13 and the Annals of Boxing History

Boxing Illustrated April of 1964
Harry Wills article and The Year in Review




news results ratings champs yearly ranks decade ranks dream matches forum links contact home home Heavyweight Prospects Ring Mag Rankings