These boxers have fought Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Vitali Klitschko and Deontay Wilder – but none of them have won, as they are the worst challengers to the world heavyweight title of all time.
With all due respect to anyone brave enough to step into the ring, there have been plenty of terrible heavyweight champions in recent years. So you can only imagine the level of men who barely deserved to challenge (and failed when they did).
The four belt era doesn’t help but let’s be clear we ignore the IBO, WBU, WBF and even the WBO of the early mickey mouse era when it was not recognized at the level heavy weights. Yet each of these boxers fought for a true version of the heavyweight crown – and we’re still trying to figure out why.
10. Audley Harrison
Give credit to the man cruelly dubbed ‘Fraudley’ and ‘A-farce’: his Olympic gold in 2000 helped launch Britain’s amateur glory days and he had some fun domestic rivalries . But Harrison’s dodgy chin and cautious left-handed style added to a mediocre professional heavyweight.
His unlikely WBA title shot came against David Haye in 2010 – and it was bad. Nothing happened for seven minutes until “The Hayemaker” woke up, threw punches, and Harrison was saved by the referee (who also spared the viewers more punishment). A-palling.
9. Albert Sosnowski
It wasn’t really the Klitschkos’ fault, as competition was scarce, but the Ukrainian brothers of destruction had a long list of incompetent title contenders. For every Albert Sosnowski, there is also an Alex Leapai, a Ray Austin, a Francesco Pianeta. They were all, and let’s be fair to them, terrible.
The only surprise for Poland’s Sosnowski in 2010 was that a boxer who lost to his mate Zuri Lawrence even had a chance to win the WBC crown from Vitali Klitschko. He at least tried, lasting 10 one-sided rounds before being stopped. Sosnowski then returned to his natural habitat of losing in Prizefighters at York Hall before retiring in 2017.
8. Eric Molina
A new champion is entitled to an easy first defense, but Deontay Wilder looked like he was going a bit far with Molina in 2015. A fighter who had already been stopped in one round by Chris Arreola and Ashanti Jordan was now facing a monstrous Puncher KO. Pray for Eric.
However, Molina defied expectations, rocking Wilder early and lasting until the ninth round before being stopped. This earned him an IBF title fight against Anthony Joshua the next year, where he suffered a more predictable KO3. Possibly the weakest heavyweight to get two shots at the world title, Molina was last seen being knocked out by Alen Babic. A third shot seems unlikely.
7. Jose Roman
The shocking thing about Roman’s title challenge against the undefeated George Foreman in 1973 is that he arguably should have won it. The 5ft 10in Puerto Rican with a 44-7-1 record was out of his depth against Foreman – who had demolished Joe Frazier and was close to knocking out Ken Norton, but was nibbling Roman in between.
However, after an angry “Big George” knocked Roman to the canvas early in the first round, he landed a blatant jab with his opponent on the canvas. The challenger’s corner protested but the referee clearly thought the boxing gods would be offended by Roman as champion and the fight resumed, Foreman finished Jose before the bell.
6. Steffen Tangstad
While Michael Spinks bided his time waiting to set up a lucrative match with rising star Mike Tyson, he wasn’t about to risk his undefeated record or his heavyweight titles against anyone particularly good – but nevertheless, the Norwegian Tangstad in 1986 went a bit far. .
The hairy-chested European champion had a few decent names on his list (including Britain’s Joe Bugner) but the red flag was a knockout loss to Anders ‘Who?’ Eklund (who was 10-2-1) a year before meeting Spinks. “The Jinx” toyed with Tangsted, dropping him three times in four rounds. The Norwegian never fought again.
Mike Tyson used to fight like he was double parked. This beating of Marvis Frazier was over in seconds. pic.twitter.com/2jCO7QPCHn
— Funhouse (@BackAftaThis) April 21, 2020
5. Marvis Frazier
Poor Marvis, whose career has become a prime example of how a father’s gifts don’t always translate to the son. “Smokin Joe” coached his boy to 10-0 before rushing him into a 1983 fight with undefeated ringside/lineal champion Larry Holmes in the middle of his long reign. It was a humiliating mismatch, with Holmes finishing with the right hand and landing at will for a first-round knockout.
Things got even worse the next time Frazier moved up a level – he lasted 30 seconds with a 20-year-old Mike Tyson (Iron Mike’s fastest knockout ever). At least Marvis has shared the ring with two great heavyweight champions. Unfortunately, he didn’t hear the bell to complete the first lap each time.
4. Okello Peter
Russia’s Oleg Maskaev was a list of forgettable alphabetical world titles, so it’s safe to say that his 2006 defense against Ugandan Okello Peter in Moscow wasn’t exactly Ali-Frazier. Peter was 18-4, beat absolutely no one you’ve ever heard of, and lost to Sinan Samil Sam a year earlier.
Hardly an intimidating resume, but at least Peter lasted the 12 round distance with Maskaev before fading into obscurity. Maskaev lost his WBC belt to a far superior African heavyweight, Samuel Peter (no relation to Okello), in his very next fight.
Nicknamed “What the hell is that?” Beck – who may be the exact question boxing fans asked when they saw he secured a world title against lumbering giant Nikolai Valuev in 2006. The undersized Jamaican lost back-to-back fights in 2005, so what better preparation to take on the 7ft Valuev for the WBA belt?
Valuev wasn’t even a big puncher considering his size, but he still had more than enough to bludgeon Beck around the ring, knocking him down in the second round and knocking him out in the third round. Beck retired with 13 losses in 2016 but at least he fought for a world title. Somehow.
2. Jean-Pierre Coopman
After the “Thrilla in Manilla”, the promoters naturally wanted to give Muhummad Ali a soft touch for his next title defense in 1976. The Belgian Coopman fit the bill, with impressive favorites and nothing else. They even came up with a nickname to make him more intimidating – “The Lion of Flanders” – but that couldn’t hide his limitations in the ring.
Unsurprisingly, a heavyweight who lost to someone called Harald Skog couldn’t do much even with an aging version of “The Greatest.” Ali stopped him in five rounds and Coopman eventually retired with 16 career losses, grateful to have shared a ring with his idol.
1. Pete Rademacher
Rademacher wasn’t exactly a bad boxer, winning Olympic gold in 1956. But he had arguably the worst record of any world heavyweight title contender – as he had literally never won a professional fight. Yes, the American had the “pre-Mayweather Conor McGregor record” of 0-0 when he boxed Floyd Patterson for the undisputed title on his professional debut.
Pete actually knocked down the infamous chinny Patterson once – but was knocked down seven times himself in response and was stopped in six rounds. He also lost his next fight, taking his record to 0-2, before retiring in 1962 with a 15-7-1 record. Based on his career achievements, easily the least deserving world champion challenger of all time.