In a jungle full of dangerous beasts, it’s hard to get to the top of the chain, let alone stay on it. That’s how the ladder to the top looks in combat sports, or as far as today’s topic is concerned, that’s how it is in boxing. From the first recorded match in 1681 to today, many great gladiators have passed through the boxing ring. Some succeeded, many failed, but not so many crowned with important championship belts. Some have tasted glory but have always come up short in championship fights.
Faumuina To’aletai Mhabo David Tua was born in 1972 in Fasitootai, Samoa, and started boxing at 7. In his amateur days, this heavyweight represented New Zealand, where he won gold at the national competition in 1986, 1989, 1990, and 1991 and the gold medal at the Oceanian Championships in 1990.
At the 1991 World Championships in Sydney, he won a bronze medal, and he earned the same medal the following year in 1992 in Barcelona at the Olympic Games. He won his debut by knockout and continued that streak with the next eight victories.
Samonian people are defined by toughness, and that’s how Tua stretched his career over two decades. During that time, David achieved 52 wins with 43 knockouts, five losses, and two draws. Despite his fighting spirit and hard work, Tua belongs to the category of boxing greats who could never reach a major title.
Luke “Coolhand” Campbell was born in 1987 in Kingston upon Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, England. Luke didn’t stay on the fighting scene for long. Still, he nailed his amateur record to 153 wins and 24 losses before he switched to professional boxing.
Campbell won the European Championship in 2008, and his biggest success was a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics. He competed in bantamweight, and no one could have guessed that the golden boy of the Olympics would be denied more significant titles in his professional career.
After making his debut in 2013, Luke went on a 12-fight winning streak, winning a few minor titles at the regional level. Still, every time he was in contention for the titles, luck would not favor him. His last two matches were against Ryan Garcia and Vasiliy Lomachenko, and there were more important titles on the line that Luke could not reach and decided to retire.
Bennie “Bad” Briscoe was born in 1943 in Augusta, Georgia, United States, and died in 2010 in Philadelphia. His motive for boxing was the need to help his poor family, which he succeeded in doing, but he is one of the greatest who failed to become a world champion.
Before turning pro, he achieved an impressive record of 70 wins, three losses, and a silver medal at the U.S. national competition in 1962. His professional record in 20 years is 66 wins with 53 knockouts, 24 losses, and five draws.
Bennie boxed around the globe, and every time Black Robot would score a few wins and knock out his opponents, he would get a shot at the title, but when winning meant the most to him, he would be denied the gold.
Michael “The Force” Watson was born in 1965 in London and fought at middleweight and super middleweight. Mike is living proof of how life can suddenly go in the wrong direction. He started boxing at 14 and had a brilliant professional career after achieving 20 amateur victories and only two defeats.
Watson made his professional debut in 1984 impressive, as well as the next five victories by knockout, but suffered his first defeat in 1986. Watson immediately returned to winning ways and achieved 15 victories. At the end of that streak, he won the Commonwealth middleweight title, but in the next match, he lost by knockout when he had a shot at the WBA world title.
In 1991, he fought twice against Chris Ebuanka for the WBO title, where he lost both times and retired as the result of the second fight was a comatose state for 40 days and six brain surgeries.
Andrzej Jan Gołota was born in 1968 in Warsaw, Poland. After a good amateur foundation of 111 wins and ten losses, bronze at the Olympic Games and the European Championship, Golota switched to the professionals, where he managed to be at the top of the competition for as many as 20 years.
He achieved 41 wins with 33 knockouts, nine losses, and one no-contest in that period. He remained undefeated for 28 matches until he was disqualified twice in the well-known battle against Bowe due to low blows.
Golota even lost the next match against Lennox for the WBC title. After returning to winning ways, the Polish man broke his streak every time he got a chance for world titles. Misfortune and failure in top fights followed him since the famous incident against Riddick Bowe in 1996.
Ronald David Lyle was born in 1941 in Dayton, Ohio, U.S., and died at 70 due to stomach complications. Ron was born into a large family and, as a young man, got involved in gang activities, which led to his imprisonment. Despite his complicated life, Lyle fought for many gold medals as an amateur.
He achieved 43 wins with 31 knockouts, seven losses, and one draw as a professional. The two major losses that stain his final resume come against Muhammad Ali, where he had a chance to win the WBA, WBC, The Ring, and lineal heavyweight titles, and against George Foreman for the vacant NABF heavyweight title.
The former American boxer had title fights as his kryptonite, which separated him from eternal championship glory. But it cannot be taken away from him that despite his turbulent life, Lyle nailed himself to the stars with his success.
Earnie Dee Shaver was born in 1944 in Garland, Alabama, USA, and died at age 78. He is one of the top boxers who failed to reach the championship. The heavyweight winner of the Golden Gloves and national championships turns pro with a short record of 20 wins and six losses.
His career spanned 26 years with 76 wins, an incredible 70 knockouts, 14 losses, and one draw. Unfortunately, on his way to the WBA, WBC, and The Ring heavyweight titles, like many before and after him, he was stopped by Muhammed Ali.
Two years later, Larry Holmes stood in his way for the WBC title, but Shavers lost again by decision. His career continued on a satisfactory course with only a few defeats but no subsequent trains, leading to the world champion title.
Donovan “Razor” Ruddock was born in 1963 in St. Catherine, Jamaica. Already in his amateur days, Donovan boxed against the famous Lennox, whom he won by decision. As a professional, he faced Mike Tyson twice but lost both times.
Although a winner of regional titles such as the Canadian championship twice, the WBA Inter-Continental title, and the less important world IBC heavyweight championship title, Ruddock could not reach the world title. His career was certainly high quality, with 40 wins, 30 knockouts, six losses, and one draw.
His career, not counting the break, lasted about twenty years, and he retired after losing in 2015 for the Canadian heavyweight title. What is important to note is that even a rare respiratory illness could not stop Ruddock from entering the arena and facing the best boxers in the world.
Charles Duane Burley is an old-school boxer born in 1917 in Bessemer, Pennsylvania. He started boxing at 12 and won the junior and senior national Golden Gloves tournaments. Charles fought for the first time as a professional in 1936 and was undefeated in the next 12 matches. In his 14-year-long career, he achieved 83 wins with 50 knockouts, 12 losses, two draws, and one no-contest, and in all those years, he was never knocked out.
Regardless of his frequent activity in the ring, Charley never reached world-caliber titles, so in his rich career, he had to settle for less important titles such as the USA California state middleweight title and the world-colored middleweight and welterweight title.
Charlie unfortunately passed away in October 1992, aged 75, and he is especially known for refusing to participate in the Olympics because he rejected the Nazi regime.
William James Wilde was born in 1892 in Quakers Yard, Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. He started boxing at the age of 16. He was characterized by his toughness and ability to knock out bigger opponents than himself. In 1911, William made his professional debut, after which he was undefeated for 103 matches.
In his 11-year career, he recorded 131 wins with 98 knockouts, three losses, eight no-contests, and one draw. James never had the opportunity to box for a world title, but his resume is more than good. Despite that, he won minor titles such as the inaugural world title, IBU, and NSC British titles, and his domain was the flyweight category.
He died in 1969 and did not live until 1990, when he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and, in 1992, the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame.
Jimmy Young is a former heavyweight boxer born in 1948 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. He performed professionally for the first time in 1969. He won by knockout in the first round, and in the next 20 years of his career, he achieved a record of 35 wins, 18 losses, three draws, and one no-contest.
He got his first opportunity for the title in 1976 for the WBA, WBC, and The Ring heavyweight titles against the famous Ali, to whom he lost. Even in 1982, he failed to reach the IBF heavyweight title because he was stopped by Greg Page. In addition to Ali, Jimmy boxed against such greats as Ken Norton, Earnie Shavers twice, and George Foreman.
He had his moments, ups and downs; he returned after a losing streak and always left his heart in the ring, but he died at 56 from a heart attack.
Gerald Arthur Cooney was born in 1956 in Manhattan, New York City. As an amateur, he did not disappoint because he was the conqueror of national championships in Scotland, England, and Wales, and the Golden Gloves in New York. In 1977, Gerry debuted as a pro with a knockout victory.
He was undefeated for the next 25 matches until he reached Larry Holmes, whom he unsuccessfully challenged for the WBC and The Ring heavyweight title. Five years later, he again fails to defeat Michael Spinks for The Ring title.
Despite this, Cooney achieved 28 wins with 24 knockouts and only three losses in his 13-year career. He recorded victories against Ken Norton, Ron Lyle, and Jimmy Young during the competition. He retired from the sport in 1990 when he was defeated by a knockout by the legendary George Foreman.
Zora “Bell” Folley was born in 1931 in Dallas, Texas, US. He started boxing when he joined the army, where he won the All-Service and All-Army titles. In 1953, Folley made his professional debut and thus began his career that would last 17 years.
During his professional career, Zora recorded 79 wins with 44 knockouts, 11 losses, and six draws. In 1956, Zora won the Southwestern Heavyweight Title. Unfortunately, in the following years, Folley became another of the boxers in a row who got a chance for the WBC, WBA, The Ring, and lineal heavyweight titles but was stopped by Muhammed Ali in 1967, with a knockout in the seventh round.
He ended his career in 1970 when he lost by knockout in the first round against Mac Foster. It is important to note that for 11 years, he was among the top 10 contenders for the title and a difficult obstacle for anyone who stood across from him in the ring.
Bertram “Smokin” Cooper was born in 1966 in Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania, USA. This heavyweight was coached by Joe Frazier in his younger days and is the epitome of unlucky when it comes to title fights. His career began in 1984 and lasted until 2012, and Cooper achieved 38 wins with 31 knockouts, 25 losses, and one no-contest.
In 28 years, he boxed with the greats, such as Holyfield, Bowe, Foreman, Mercer, Sanders, and many others. Although he won the NABF heavyweight and cruiserweight titles, the WBF, and the USA state championship, Bertram slipped up every time a major title was on the line.
But his toughness, coming back after a series of defeats and enjoying wild fights will surely remain something for which we will remember him because that is what being an uncrowned champion is all about.
Jerry “The Bellflower Bomber” Quarry was born in 1945 in Bakersfield, California, USA. With his father’s support, he started training in boxing at age five and was already winning his first prizes at eight. Quarry made his professional debut in 1965, after which he achieved an incredible streak of 19 victories interspersed with a couple of draws.
In his 18-year career, he has faltered every time in title fights where he has had opportunities for the WBA title, the NYSAC title, and twice the NABF title. Regardless, his fame consists of 53 wins with 32 knockouts, nine losses, and four draws.
Half of Jerry’s losses came from top fighters such as Muhammed Ali twice, Joe Frazier twice, and Ken Norton. This uncrowned boxing great died at 56 from cardiac arrest after a year of battling pneumonia.
James Louis Bivins was born in 1919 in Dry Branch, Georgia, USA. Like every old-school boxer, he had many matches in his career. As a professional, he made his debut in 1940, celebrating with a knockout, and in the next 19 fights in the same year, James was undefeated.
His boxing record eventually stretched to 86 wins, 25 losses, and one draw, which is impressive considering his career lasted only 13 years. James knew how to keep himself busy in those years, and although he never had a chance for world titles, he boxed against all the great fighters of that time and still had to settle for the Duration light heavyweight and heavyweight titles.
He ended his career with a four-fight wins streak. With all the wars he went through, James was lucky enough to live to a very old age and died at 92.
Another aging boxer who makes this list is Georgie “Freedom” Abrams, born in 1918 in Roanoke, Virginia. In 1937, he appeared as a professional boxer in a match-winning by knockout. Georgie fought 17 matches in the same year and was undefeated until a knockout defeat by Jimmy Jones.
Still, he came for successful revenge in the next battle. Lou Brouillard, Billy Soose, and Sugar Ray Robinson are just some of the names of his interesting career, which counts 48 wins, 10 losses, and three draws in the decade of its duration.
He got his first and last chance for the NBA, NYSAC, and The Ring middleweight championship in 1941 against Tony Zale but lost unanimously after 15 rounds. Abrams retired after four consecutive defeats in 1948 and unfortunately died of a stroke in 1994. He could not live up to his Hall of Fame induction in 2005.
Hilton Edward Booker was born in 1917 in Alto, Texas, U.S. He won several national, local, and state titles as an amateur. In 1935, he turned professional and won his debut with a knockout in the first round. A short career of only nine years is lined with many matches that make up 66 wins with 33 knockouts, five losses, and eight draws.
In all his glory, Eddie could not get his hands on the world crown because he never had a chance for it. He ended his career in 1944 with four consecutive victories. Eddie was the winner of the USA California State middleweight title, which he lost several times, regained, and managed to defend.
He could boast that he had never been knocked out in his career. Near the end of his life, Booker went blind from eye injuries and died at 57.
Herol Bomber Graham was born in 1959 in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England, has Jamaican roots, and is one of the best British boxers. As an amateur, he was crowned the Junior World Welterweight Championship in 1976.
In 1978, as a senior, he became the ABA Middleweight Champion. From his debut in 1978 to 1987, he was undefeated in 38 matches, winning six regional titles in light middleweight and middleweight, which he managed to win several times.
However, those titles remained the highlight of his career because the world title was unattainable for him. After two decades of arduous wars, Herol achieved 48 victories with 28 knockouts and only six defeats and retired in 1998.
We leave today’s discussion with Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams, born in 1933 in Griffin, Georgia, U.S. Williams made his debut at the age of 15 and secured a 31-match winning streak over the next four years. Only after 17 years of competition did he get the opportunity to taste the WBC, NYSAC, and The Ring heavyweight titles for the first time, but he was stopped by a knockout from Muhammad Ali.
In a career spanning 24 years, Cleveland recorded 82 wins with 62 knockouts, 13 losses, and two draws. However, his boxing story has a happy ending because he ended his career with a three-fight winning streak where he at least managed to win the Texas State heavyweight title. Unfortunately, he died at the age of 66 from injuries sustained in a hit-and-run accident.
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